The Best Transactions of the 2014 Off-Season

Yes, there are still free agents on the market, but with Spring Training officially underway, I think it’s fair to say that the off-season is over. From November through the first half of February, we’ve seen over $2.2 billion handed out in free agent contracts, and that doesn’t even account for the big money being thrown around in contract extensions for players who weren’t yet up for open bidding. We also saw several notable trades, with some big names and big contracts changing cities over the winter.

So, let’s go ahead and do a little recapping, starting off with my 10 favorite moves of the last three and a half months. This is the third year I’ve done this here on FanGraphs, with the 2012 list working out a little better (in retrospect) than the 2013 version, which included praise for deals like the Melky Cabrera and Scott Baker signings. We’ll aim for better results this year.

Keep in mind, just because a trade is listed here as a win for one franchise doesn’t mean that I think the decision was necessarily a poor one for the other side. There are several deals below that I think served both teams interest because I think both teams got exactly what they needed in the transaction. There are win-win deals, so the support for one side of a transaction should not be read as condemnation of the other side. We’ll look at the worst transactions of the winter tomorrow, and it won’t simply be the flip side of the trades listed below.

Also, we’re evaluating not just the deal’s impact on 2014, but the longer term ramifications as well, so larger, more impactful deals will generally get more weight than good deals that only last a year. Short term moves aren’t excluded from the analysis, but it would be easy to create a list of low-risk, short term commitments that could work out wonderfully for the signing team, but the moves that end up having the biggest impacts on a franchise are the ones that have an impact beyond just the upcoming season. There are a few one year deals on this list, but overall, the attempt is to acknowledge teams that made significant acquisitions that will move the needle for their franchise, and not just provide a short term boost.

Before we get to my favorite 10 deals, here are a few that just missed the cut, but I still like quite a bit:

Honoroable Mentions: Mets sign Chris Young, Dodgers sign Paul Maholm, Indians sign David Murphy, Royals sign Omar Infante, Rays acquire Ryan Hanigan, Yankees sign Kelly Johnson, White Sox acquire Matt Davidson.

And now, on to what I view as the 10 best transactions made this winter

10. The Padres sign Josh Johnson.
Cost: One year, $8 million.

Like Scott Baker last year, this is an example of a deal that will probably either be a big win or a big nothing, as Johnson’s value depends almost entirely on whether or not he’s physically capable of taking the mound. If his forearm problem from 2013 is a thing of the past, the the Padres may have signed the most effective free agent hurler on the market, and if it doesn’t work, well, they’re out a little more than what Jason Hammel cost the Cubs. And even on a one year deal, this deal has real potential long term benefits for San Diego, because a bounce back season makes Johnson an easy qualifying offer target next winter, setting the Padres up to either re-sign him at a discount or get a draft pick if he walks. The amount of risk the Padres took on was pretty minimal, but they got a lot of upside in return.

9. The Dodgers sign Dan Haren.
Cost: One year, $10 million.

The Dodgers are making a similar bet on Haren as the Padres are on Johnson, only Haren’s downside is even lower, since he’s been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball over the past decade. Even if his recent home run problem persist, Haren’s likely to be something like an average innings eater, and that alone is worth the $10 million investment, but there’s a good chance that Haren doesn’t keep up giving up home runs at the rate he has lately, and he returns to being an above average starter for the Dodgers. Like with Johnson, the qualifying offer is certainly in play if the rebound happens, so this deal has 2015 value even with only a one year commitment.

8. The A’s sign Scott Kazmir.
Cost: Two years, $22 million.

You may be getting the feeling that I like short-term, moderate cost deals for pitchers with upside. You are correct, and while the A’s took on a bit more risk in betting on Kazmir’s rebirth, I think there is real value in locking in his 2015 season rather than trying to use the qualifying offer to get him to stick around another year. This kind of deal not only gives the A’s a boost in 2014, but if they’re right about his resurgence — and I think they are — it will give them a highly valuable trade chip should they want to shop him around next winter. A bunch of pitchers signed contracts in the 2/$20M range this winter, but for me, Kazmir’s deal was easily the best of the bunch.

7. The Astros acquire Dexter Fowler.
Cost: Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles.

It’s easy to rattle off Fowler’s flaws, ranging from his big home/road splits to his propensity for striking out without offsetting it with a ton of power. However, even with his warts, Fowler has been an above average outfielder for the last three years running, and is just 28 years old, so a short term spike can’t be ruled out. In exchange for two reasonably priced arbitration years of a quality player with remaining upside, the Astros gave up two fringe talents that they won’t miss in any real way. This move flew under the radar because it was completed during the busiest day of the off-season, but the Astros picked up a ton of value in this deal.

6. The White Sox acquire Adam Eaton.
Cost: Hector Santiago and Brandon Jacobs.

In an era where teams are putting a higher value than ever on young, cost-controlled talent, the White Sox still managed to pick up a 25 year old center fielder who they control for the next five years, and they did it without giving up anything of serious value. Santiago is a major regression candidate who probably fits better in the bullpen than the rotation, and Rick Hahn managed to sell high on his artificially low ERA and turn that into a guy who could be a quality regular for the rest of the decade. This is perhaps the very best example of buying low and selling high of any trade this winter.

5. The Yankees sign Brian McCann.
Cost: Five years, $85 million.

Of the big splashy free agent signings this off-season, this is the one that I think has the best chance of working. McCann is an underrated player whose core skills have showed few signs of decline, and his left-handed pull power should play extremely well in Yankee Stadium. Even if he’s only a catcher for the next few years before moving to 1B/DH as he gets older, he’ll accumulate a ton of value in the first few years of the contract, and is a good enough hitter to provide some value at the end of the deal, Victor Martinez style. Similarly valuable players were going for $50M to $100M more this winter, so $85 million for McCann looks like a great price compared to other premium free agents.

4. The White Sox sign Jose Abreu.
Cost: Six years, $68 million.

Yes, another White Sox deal. I really liked their off-season, if you haven’t noticed. And I think this is the deal that has the potential to turn out to be the best move any team made all winter, even though it comes with some pretty decent sized risk. $68 million in guaranteed money is a lot for a bat-only guy who has never played in the U.S., but if the White Sox are right about his offensive potential, this deal will be a massive bargain over the long term. Rather than just focusing on the $68 million, keep in mind that the White Sox just signed up for an $11 million AAV, which in today’s dollars gets you in the bidding for a guy like Bronson Arroyo. Even if Abreu is just an average first baseman, this contract probably works for Chicago, and if he turns into a monster, they’ll be one of the few teams with a locked-in bargain rate on premium power.

3. The Tigers dump Prince Fielder.
Cost: $30 million, plus Ian Kinsler‘s remaining $62 million.

While the Prince Fielder era in Detroit wasn’t a total disaster, it was clearly time for the experiment to end, and Dave Dombrowski did a great job of not only getting out of the worst years of one of baseball’s worst free agent signings in recent years, but of acquiring a similarly valuable player in return. There’s a pretty good case to be made that Kinsler is likely to be more valuable over the next four years than Fielder is, and the Tigers managed to drop $70 million in committed salary while getting a player that isn’t a demonstrable downgrade, and allows them to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base. I didn’t love the rest of their off-season, but this move was a great one for the Tigers.

2. The Cardinals acquire Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
Cost: David Freese and Fernando Salas.

While Jon Jay isn’t a bad player, watching him try to run down balls in the post-season was pretty painful, and the Cardinals correctly identified their outfield defense as an area where they could make a major improvement. In landing Bourjos, they now have one of baseball’s truly elite fly catchers, and a guy who is a better offensive player than he’s given credit for. Like with Eaton, the Cardinals didn’t just acquire a quality upgrade for 2014, but also multiple years of team control over an underrated player who probably won’t be properly compensated by the arbitration process. And by keeping Jay around, the Cardinals aren’t counting on Bourjos to play 160 games, so his injury issues aren’t the liability they would be for a team with less depth. Freese had some real value, so they didn’t get Bourjos for free, but this move allowed them to get Kolton Wong into the line-up and improve their outfield at the same time. Big win for St. Louis.

1. The Nationals acquire Doug Fister.
Cost: Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol.

You probably knew this was coming. I’m going to guess that this move will show up at the top of every best-transactions-of-2014 list, as the Nationals basically stole Doug Fister from the Tigers in a trade that no one still understands very well. When you look at the prices being commanded for quality starting pitchers, getting Fister — who will make less than $20 million over the next two years, most likely — for a trio of bit pieces is a huge theft. We haven’t seen a player this good get traded for this little in years, and it’s mystifying how Mike Rizzo managed to get Fister for this price. This deal put the Nationals right back in playoff contention, and it did so for such a low cost that I still haven’t found anyone who thinks the Tigers made a good trade. When a deal is universally accepted as a heist, you’ve done something very right.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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jjdouglas
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jjdouglas
2 years 7 months ago

Are 5 and 6 out of order?

Anon21
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Anon21
2 years 7 months ago

Why would you think that? Just because he started #4 by saying “Yes, another White Sox deal”? All that indicates to me is that he assumes his readers have an attention span of longer than a single paragraph.

Pinstripe Wizard
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2 years 7 months ago

When the article was first posted, the list went 10,9,8,7,5,6,4,3,2,1.

Anon21
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Anon21
2 years 7 months ago

Ah! Then yes, I guess by definition 5 and 6 were out of order.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 7 months ago

I liked the Cubs off-season. Chuckle.

Bob
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Bob
2 years 7 months ago

Wait, where are all the Jays transactions on this list? Oh that’s right, they didn”t make any.

TKDC
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TKDC
2 years 7 months ago

How much upside is there really in the Abreu deal? Maybe it’s a good deal over other deals given to big-bat, no-glove players, but aren’t those usually terrible deals (see: Prince Fielder).

In the Freddie Freeman post, somebody posted just how rare it is for first baseman to even have 4 WAR seasons. I can’t see the chances of this being a huge upside deal as very high at all. Then again, he’s never faced big league competition, and I think the mistake has been made before of overvaluing or undervaluing players from foreign leagues way too much based on a minuscule sample of players that have come before them, particularly the most recent players. There is real possibility that he just doesn’t hack it as an MLB starter (of course, there is risk that any player signed might turn into a pumpkin overnight, but I think his is much higher).

TKDC
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TKDC
2 years 7 months ago

Steamer projects him at a wRC+ of 141 this year. That his been achieved 13 times by first basemen in the last 3 years (a total of 10 players, 3 of whom did it twice). Is that not a bit aggressive?

ankle explosion hr celebration
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ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 7 months ago

If you look at Abreu in the context of other Cuban -> MLB transitions, the wRC+ doesn’t look out of place. As good as Puig has been, for instance, Abreu absolutely crushed his stats in the Cuban league. Abreu posted Ruth-ian numbers there.

The big question is: will that great performance in Cuba translate linearly to performance in the US? (as the models assume)

ankle explosion hr celebration
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ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 7 months ago

To actually back my assertion up with evidence, Abreu’s line last year in Cuba was apparently .382/.535/.735. Ridiculous. Of course Cuban competition is probably not as good, but in the same league Puig put up .330/.430/.581. You may notice a significant difference between those lines.

Also see here…
http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/07/yasiel-puig-is-great-but-the-best-cuban-ballplayers-may-be-yet-to-come/

Yinka Double Dare
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Yinka Double Dare
2 years 7 months ago

Might be aggressive, but the light-tower power is real, and both scouting and numbers indicate he has a good approach at the plate too. Will be most interesting to see how he handles MLB pitching busting him inside, but the scouting reports so far sound good overall and the reports on his work ethic are positively glowing.

tyke
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tyke
2 years 7 months ago

the upside is in the AAV. at just over $11/yr, that’s not even market value for 2 wins. so he just has to be a league average player over the span of the deal for it to be okay, but the potential is there for him to be more than that, earning surplus value.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

If he’s worth 3 WAR a season for the next 6 years, that’s 36-40 million in surplus value.

Most people think he can do more than that.

Evan
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Evan
2 years 7 months ago

I will take the under on 18 WAR over the next 6 years. I think he comes in around 15 (which still produces quite a bit of surplus value)

Preston
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Preston
2 years 7 months ago

There aren’t many players I wouldn’t bet the under on 18 WAR over the next 6 years. Most players who have proven that kind of production are likely to decline over a period that long, and not many young players have enough production to be safe bets for that kind of production. Off the top of my head I’d say Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Mccutchen would be my only sure fire bets. I’d also probably bet on Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano considering that I think they could have enough value in the first few years to offset any decline. I’d probably bet over on Votto and Goldschmidt but 1b is really tough to accrue that much value at. Posey, Longoria and Harper would all make me nervous due to injury. I wouldn’t be on any other pitcher, because it can all fall apart pretty quickly. So all of this is just rambling to say that betting on a guy who’s never taken a MLB AB to get 18 WAR is a big leap.

warisuseless
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2 years 7 months ago

Great answers if WAR wasn’t a useless number. A number based on guesses does not have any value.

RMD
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RMD
2 years 7 months ago

“While the Prince Fielder era in Detroit wasn’t a total disaster”

Um… considering they won their division the past two years by 1 game and 3 games I’d agree Prince Fielder on the team wasn’t a total disaster!!!!

Seriously though, if they had stood PAT after Martinez’s knee exploded they wouldn’t have made the playoffs those two years despite already putting a lot of money into payroll. Now they’re nearly a marquee franchise instead of a high payroll disaster.

It’s pretty clear Fielder didn’t put in full effort last season and going through a divorce put a lot his plate. I think a fresh start will do him a lot of good in Texas and the Tigers will win the division again this year with a better defense. What’s obvious is that the Prince Fielder signing was a success.

NS
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NS
2 years 7 months ago

“Standing pat” was not the only alternative to signing Prince Fielder to the deal they did, so comparing his results only to that scenario is misleading.

RMD
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RMD
2 years 7 months ago

Nobody else they could have signed would have put up 5 WAR in 2012 when they won the division by the skin of their teeth. Fielder was absolutely the difference.

southie
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southie
2 years 7 months ago

or they could’ve signed Jose Reyes and CJ Wilson for the same price and probably would’ve won their division easier.

Dan
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Dan
2 years 7 months ago

considering Reyes and Wilson signed contracts more than a month before Martinez injured his knee, well they weren’t on the market at the time

Tom Cranker
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Tom Cranker
2 years 7 months ago

Thank you, Dr. Phil

Izzy
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Izzy
2 years 7 months ago

“Put a lot on his plate.”

That’s never been a problem in the past.

Alex Anthopolous
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Alex Anthopolous
2 years 7 months ago

Let’s not forget I was the architect of the 2013 transaction awards champ, which should give real meaning to the value of this type of discussion.

NS
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NS
2 years 7 months ago

No, it shouldn’t.

Jim
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Jim
2 years 7 months ago

How many people had the RA Dickey trade at the top of their best transactions list?

Chuck
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Chuck
2 years 7 months ago

Well, Jim, as a Mets fan, I did! And even though I love RA and what he brought to the Mets, getting back Travis D’Arnaud, a young top catcher, which was such a big need for the Mets, made the trade well worth it for me. And now we see that the “throw in” prospect, Noah Snydergaard, is going to be “throwing” W’s for years in a Mets uni, which that makes us Met fans VERY pleased with the trade!

Melky Cabrera
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Melky Cabrera
2 years 7 months ago

Come on, Dave! A bad year? I hit .360 last year. Slugging! And I improved my GB/FB ratio by 26%. Now that I got that benign back tumor behind me, you’ll see the real Melky step up to the plate in 2014.

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
2 years 7 months ago

I’m hoping that Tim Hudson has something left in the tank, The Giants could use a big turn around in their pitching.

mangraphs
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mangraphs
2 years 7 months ago

Garza?

Mike
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Mike
2 years 7 months ago

Obviously he makes the Brewers better, but I question the timing, since the Brewers are still the clear favorites for 4th place after the signing.

SecondHandStore
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SecondHandStore
2 years 7 months ago

They don’t need to be competing for it to be a good deal. He’s arguably a better pitcher than Jimenez and Santana and they got him for approximately the same as Orioles paid Jimenez, except the Brewers didn’t give up a draft pick.

Also, there’s nothing clear about their potential standing in the central. PECOTA, for example, has them in third only two games back of the second place Reds.

I imagine Garza’s health is the reason it’s not on this list.

JS
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JS
2 years 7 months ago

The Reds and Pirates have both lost players without replacing them (Choo, Arroyo, Burnett), if the Brewers can stay healthy it would not surprise me to see them finish in second place.

Bip
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Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

Even for a team that really needed him, I don’t see how you can call Garza’s deal particularly great. It’s a fair deal, in my opinion.

A lot of these deals are low-cost high-upside deals. Garza’s deal is not low cost, and it may have less upside than Haren’s or Johnson’s. Considering Garza’s injury history, his deal has considerable downside as well.

Robert L
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Robert L
2 years 7 months ago

Surprised that trading Trumbo for Skaggs and Santiago didn’t get an honorable mention

Mike
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Mike
2 years 7 months ago

It’s pretty clear from the section on Eaton that Dave doesn’t really like Santiago.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

But Skaggs is very good.

Bip
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Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

I agree, Skaggs alone for Trumbo would probably be a decent deal, considering Skaggs is under team control for a while, and the Angels desperately need pitching, and Skaggs is basically a major league ready starter. I don’t know about his upside, but if he has any, that makes it even better.

I think we underestimate Trumbo’s value. He’s the prototypical player who old-school fans like and analytical fans don’t, but he’s been about average for his career, and it’s not like he has a terrible contract.

It’s definitely a good deal for the Angels, and I think it could have made the honorable mention list, but it’s not a steal, IMO.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

Yeah, Santiago’s just a throw in for the Angels, because Trumbo’s a bit more valuable than we think he is.

Angelsjunky
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Angelsjunky
2 years 7 months ago

I agree. That trade has a lot of upside and addressed a major need for the Angels.

Also, Dave, I think you’re ignoring the fact that Ian Kinsler continues to decline. Or if not decline, at 32 in June, he’s stabilized as merely a pretty good ballplayer – 10th among qualifying 2B in WAR over the last two years (5.5), right between Howie Kendrick (5.7) and Neil Walker (5.4). Good players, but not great or even very good ones.

Billy
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Billy
2 years 7 months ago

Sometimes when people I talk to propose trades that are absolutely nuts, I respond by saying, “Sure, if you go to General Manager X’s office with a gun.”

I feel like that’s legitimately the best explanation I can come up with for the Fister trade.

Machaut
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Machaut
2 years 7 months ago

I think there’s a non-zero chance that Rizzo is in possession of some highly embarrassing 8×10 glossy photos of Dombrowski with one of his “analytics interns.”

jg941
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jg941
2 years 7 months ago

Dave, RE: tomorrow’s list of the worst – after flipping some of the above deals (particularly Fister-as-it-relates-to-Tigers), I would presume that the Pirates’ non-offer of the QO to AJ Burnett would be at/near the top (bottom?) of that worst-deal list.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

I don’t know why people think this. The Phillies wouldn’t have offered 16 million to Burnett if the Pirates had given him a QO. Considering his desire to stay in PIT, and the fact he probably wasn’t expecting to get much more than 14 million on the market anyway, AND that he or his agent would be aware of how much the QO would kill his value, I think there’s a legitimate possibility he would have taken it. If the Pirate were prepared to give Burnett that much and stay within their budget, they probably would have offered it to him.

jg941
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jg941
2 years 7 months ago

Precisely why they should have offered it – if you assume he would have turned it down and gone elsewhere, the Pirates get the draft pick. If you assume his value drops in the open market because of the QO, then, guess what?……he comes back to the Pirates at a lower value.

If he retires, he retires, can’t control that. The fact that they ended up with nothing for the sake of another $1 or $2 million for Burnett (that’s it) – only one year money, BTW – (and “replacing” him in the rotation by spending $5 million of that offer amount on Edinson Volquez) is one of the dumbest non-moves I’ve seen in a while.

A no-brainer, delivered on a silver platter, and they gakked it.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

Like I said, if they thought they had enough room in their budget for 14 million on AJ Burnett, they probably would have offered it to him.

In order to give a player a QO, a team basically has to be willing to give a player that contract, or be totally certain the player will reject it. It wasn’t certain Burnett would reject it. Therefore, the Pirates had to be willing/able to give him that contract. They most likely weren’t. Pittsburgh’s estimated payroll for next year is $70 million. I don’t think they wanted to tie 20% of that into Burnett.

White Blood Cells
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White Blood Cells
2 years 7 months ago

Pomeranz for Brett Anderson probably deserves a mention.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

For the A’s, right?

Because getting a guy who used to be a prospect for someone who hasn’t thrown 100 innings since 2010 is a coup and a half.

Nick O
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Nick O
2 years 7 months ago

Which way? That deal seemed pretty fair.

Ben Suissa
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Ben Suissa
2 years 7 months ago

what about AOki deal?

Bill
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Bill
2 years 7 months ago

I expected to see the Infante signing closer to the top. Nothing outside of a video game would beat the Fister trade, but considering how many teams are in the market for a second baseman, KC got him for a steal. Kudos to the man with a “Process”.

tz
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tz
2 years 7 months ago

Maybe Dave has an interview with Brian Cashman that he doesn’t want to have cancelled.

JunkyMonkey
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JunkyMonkey
2 years 7 months ago

You forget the #1 rule of Fangraphs…never approve of a Royals move. If they traded a bag of baseballs for Trout tomorrow, there would be an article about how they could have paid half a bag.

Tim
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Tim
2 years 7 months ago

Well thought out. Thanks for sharing.

Valuearb
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2 years 7 months ago

Yea cause everyone was so wrong about the Myers/Shields trade. It forced KC to increase payroll a ton, Shields was good but Davis awful, so in combination similar production at similar payroll cost as signing a mid tier FA pitcher. And to do it they gave up not just their best prospect in years, as well as a more valuable pitcher than Davis, but other prospects! And despite going all in on the win now strategy, they still missed the playoffs with terrible right field production while Myers it up in the tougher AL East.

And now Tampa has Myers and Odorrizi as super cheap starters for the next 5 years or so. KC has to throw a ton more cash at Shields or he walks in a year or two, and will happily dump Davis for that bag of balls you mentioned.

Yea, Dayton Moores hidden genius remains hidden, ie how he still has a job.

Preston
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Preston
2 years 7 months ago

He’s a 33 year old 2b signed to a 4 year deal. He doesn’t take walks, doesn’t hit for a lot of power, and doesn’t provide any extra value on the bases. All his value is basically tied up in two things, his ability to make contact at an elite level with an above average BABIP and play above average defense at the key stone. If either of those skills erode (likely given his age) then he starts to become replacement level pretty quick. That said, as long as the erosion doesn’t happen this year then it’s a pretty good deal for them, I just don’t think it makes this list because there isn’t a lot of upside.

tz
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tz
2 years 7 months ago

From what I’ve observed with this guy, he’s become a steady, above average player once he settled in as a regular 2B over the past 4-5 seasons rather than being an adequate super-sub. And he has always stayed in good shape, so his skill erosion might be more favorable than average.

Oliver projects him to decline slowly from a 2-3 win player early in the contract to a 1.5-2 win player at the end. If you agree with a $5m/WAR valuation, his expected value is slightly over $10m per season.

And if you replace WAR with WACG (Wins Above Chris Getz), the Royals made a severe steal.

ALZ
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ALZ
2 years 7 months ago

There isn’t a whole lot of potential value in that signing.

Tom Cranker
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Tom Cranker
2 years 7 months ago

Great work, as always, Dave. Did you change your process for this column at all based on last year? I agreed with a lot of your calls then and I still think the process was pretty sound, but curious to know if you changed your thought process at all. Thanks!

E. K.
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E. K.
2 years 7 months ago

Definitely expected to see Aoki on there.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 7 months ago

Why? Aoki kind of sucks at baseball.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

Yeah, he’s a decent producer, though.

Matt
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Matt
2 years 7 months ago

That’s not true. Aoki is a good ballplayer who fills a massive need by residing at the top of the KC batting order.

It doesn’t make this list because Will Smith is a great actor. Welcome to Earth.

Huss
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Huss
2 years 7 months ago

As a Tigers fan, it never gets any easier for me to accept the Fister trade. DD has done so many good things for this organization, but that one move was just so. freaking. bad. I still can’t wrap my head around it. Listening to talking heads on ESPN talk of Fister being traded as part of some salary dump (ha), it just makes it even worse.

If the Tigs had gotten 3 top 100 propsects for him, I would still feel a bit underwhelmed by the trade. We didn’t even get one. Sad face.

brett
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brett
2 years 7 months ago

DD has done so many good things for this organization…

Exactly. DD has made heaps of trades just like this one, contingent on his evaluation of upper-level prospects or young big-leaguers. Almost every one of them has worked in the Tigers’ favor. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt from where I’m standing. Let’s see what six years of Robbie Ray looks like before writing this one off.

Balthazar
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Balthazar
2 years 7 months ago

The Fister deal was very strange. The only one stranger was when the Mariners dealt him to Detroit for even less than Dombrowski got back.

Doug Fister is a reality distortion field apparently. Or there’s . . . something about him his managements have known that we don’t. (No idea, but the the notion keeps coming back.) But when he’s on the mound, he’s very, very effective, so yeah, I have to really like this for the Nats.

—And the funniest part of it all is remembering how down DC was on Fister when he came up because, y’know, his K% was so poor and he didn’t have enough secondaries. “Marginal major leaguer . . . Players really don’t add much by the time they make the major leagues . . . Good GB% but lack of velocity won’t play up.” Well, times to change; sometimes skills, too.

Jack Handy
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Jack Handy
2 years 7 months ago

Doesn’t Josh Johnson’s deal include a crazy affordable team option if he doesn’t make more than 10 starts or something?

Spencer Jones
Member
Spencer Jones
2 years 7 months ago

$4M if he makes less than like 7 or 8.

southie
Member
southie
2 years 7 months ago

if he makes less than 7 or 8 starts it means something went terribly wrong with his arm so that option doesn’t really add or subtract value IMO

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 7 months ago

Tell you what. Though it doesn’t apply to Johnson, this clause would be totally perfect for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery. In those cases, sometimes the guy comes back near 100% after the year off, and you get 25+ good starts and value on the deal. But if there are complications and a slower recovery time, better for both the player and the team to be cautious in year one, and have the team that took a chance on the guy reap some benefit if he’s back in form a year later.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 6 months ago

That’s silly southie.

If his arm blows up this year, they get next year basically for free. of course that’s adds value.

Do you think the Red Sox’s option on Lackey for a year at league minimum if he missed a season was worthless?

rusty
Guest
rusty
2 years 7 months ago

I know you say that some trades are win-win, but you’re not referring to the Fowler trade, right? We’ll see that one tomorrow?

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
2 years 7 months ago

I appreciate the mea culpa on Baker and Cabrera, as even at the time those were bad calls, but if you’re being total forthright, you missed on McCarthy and RA Dickey as well. Its looking like McCarthy is on the edge of losing his rotation spot, despite being owed $8M, and while I believe it was a fluky year, Dickey did exactly what you said he wouldn’t — regress below a valuable level. I get those were ballsy calls, but they were ballsy because they were suspect and high risk….so maybe shouldn’t have been “Best Transactions”

My only beef with your 2014 is the Fielder deal — its really a win-win deal, not so much a great move for DET. On a pure WAR basis, Fielder didn’t cut it last year, but that WAR value is hugely impacted by Defense and Baserunning. In terms of contract dollars, Defense and Baserunning WAR are much cheaper to buy than Offense WAR, and even in his worst statistical season since his rookie year, Fielder’s 15 Offense WAR is top 50 in MLB. If he hits his Steamer projection he’ll be at 27 WAR and be a top 20 contributor. From the TEX side of the deal, that is a major impact for $10M more salary/year over 7 years.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 7 months ago

Also on the Fielder deal, while I tend to agree with Dave on Fielder’s relative value vs. Kinsler, I gotta agree with you that this is more of a win-win. Texas had 3 middle infielders worth playing, but after giving Andrus the big extension and after Profar’s rookie struggles, the market for those two probably underwhelmed the Rangers. But, chasing a pennant right now with Mitch Moreland as your regular 1B, and having Kinsler and his contract and age as the trade bait, they filled a real-life hole. So in context the Rangers won.

Or to look at it another way, what if all Texas could get for Kinsler was a package of Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

“On a pure WAR basis, Fielder didn’t cut it last year, but that WAR value is hugely impacted by Defense and Baserunning. In terms of contract dollars, Defense and Baserunning WAR are much cheaper to buy than Offense WAR…”

So you’re saying that Fielder does very well in a category that’s overvalued by the market and poorly in two other categories that are undervalued by the market? And on that basis, you’re saying that the trade was good for the team that acquired him?

I like the Fielder trade just fine for Texas, by the way, but breaking Fielder’s WAR up into components is meaningless. Runs gained on the basepaths and saved in the field are just as valuable as runs gained at the plate.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

This.

It is true that dWAR is easier to acquire than oWAR. However, it’s not like you can just substitute some good defensive player for Fielder. Either you play him at first, and you suffer the penalty of his bad defense, or you put him at DH, at which point you’re paying quite a lot for a DH. And, in both cases, you have to suffer his bad baserunning too. Maybe you can pinch run occasionally, but that’s a very tiny mitigation.

I think the Fielder deal isn’t too bad for Texas. Fielder is definitely a very good hitter, and they got him for $30 million less than Detroit did, while freeing up space in their crowded middle infield. However, when Fielder plays, there’s no way for them to avoid losing value on defense and on the bases.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Absolutely agreed.

A better, more nuanced argument might be to say that because the rest of the Rangers infield is so good, they’re able to cover more ground and limit the impact of Fielder’s terrible range. If Beltre plays a step further from the line, he’ll allow Andrus to cheat a little up the middle, which means Profar can play that much closer to first and get to some balls that Fielder can’t reach. Of course, one could argue just as easily that having a great anchor at first would make the rest of those infielders even better.

Regardless, there’s nothing you can do to get around his baserunning.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
2 years 7 months ago

I get the argument and agree its a valid point. The purpose of WAR is to quantify the win-value of these skill sets; hence a Defense WAR should equivocate an Offense War.

But think about this argument — what if you put together a team of Gerrardo Parra’s; 4.6 WAR, 26 DEF, -3.7 OFF. With 8 guys, you’d have a team WAR of 36.8, making the best team in baseball for 2013 — but we all know that team wouldn’t win. Teams just have to have some offense. Look at the 2013 Teams stat page sorted by DEF WAR to prove that out — DEF WAR leaders for 2013 are the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Royals, Giants.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

“Look at the 2013 Teams stat page sorted by DEF WAR to prove that out — DEF WAR leaders for 2013 are the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Royals, Giants.”

Two of those teams had winning records. The Giants actually had pretty good hitting last year – their problem was a horrendous starting rotation (other than Madison Bumgarner). The Cubs are the only team that really fit your good field/no hit narrative.

In 2012, the highest dWAR totals in the league belonged to the Reds and Braves. Both teams made the playoffs. #3 was the Cubs again, but the fourth-place Giants won the World Series.

The top teams in 2011 were the Diamondbacks and Rays, both playoff teams.

So, no, I don’t think a look at the standings proves that out.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

But you don’t have to pay as much for them, usually, so it’s not smart to.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

To the contrary – it’s smarter to pay for fielding and baserunning, at least when you can get a premium fielder or baserunner, because you’ll pay less for the same number of wins.

Anyway, the main reason those skills are underpaid is that the best fielders and baserunners tend to be young players under team control. Hitting peaks later, so post-free agency players contribute more hitting value and less speed value.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

I agree, but I’m saying that if the market rates Fielding and Running at $4M/Win and Batting at $7M per win, you shouldn’t pay $6M/Fielding and Running Win

Red
Guest
Red
2 years 7 months ago

I heard the Nat’s actually turned down that Fister trade at first when the Tigers offered it to them. The main rub I see against Fister is that he had troubles getting right handed batters out last season.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
2 years 7 months ago

I heard the Nat’s actually turned down that Fister trade at first when the Tigers offered it to them.

Maaaaaybe they said “We’ll call you back,” hung up the phone, threw a wild impromptu party while laughing hysterically at their good fortune, called back and said “On further consideration, we’ll do it.” Turned it down? No fucking way.

Red
Guest
Red
2 years 7 months ago

Everyone here is just going to look awfully stupid. Again. This is probably Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Denard Span all over. Fister may already be declining and he’s a free agent in just 2 years. Meanwhile the Tigers hauled in 2 touchdowns worth of club control from some undervalued players that they targeted and hand selected. When it’s all said and done, this could look like an impulse buy on the Nats behalf. It won’t be the last time another GM gets hustled by Dave Dombrowski either. It’s just too bad that the analysis of the trade has been such a shortsighted failure.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
2 years 7 months ago

Yes, you’re probably right.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

Denard Span is good and cheap, and Alex Meyer isn’t a pretty good starting pitcher with shoulder problems.

I’m not sure how this being “Denard Span all over” is a bad thing for the Nats or a great thing for the Tigers.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

Alex Meyer is* a pretty good pitching prospect* with shoulder problems.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

How do you know the players Detroit got back are undervalued? It looks to most people like Fister is undervalued. The Tigers wouldn’t even be the first team to totally undervalue him.

brett
Guest
brett
2 years 7 months ago

Thank you. This is the first post on the internet that sort fits my opinion here. Dombrowski is a master at evaluating young, big-league ready talent and swinging this type of deal. I’m excited to have Robbie Ray on board for several cost-controlled years.

sam
Guest
sam
1 year 7 months ago

i know it’s cheap because hindsight is 50/50 but my goodness you were so wrong it’s funny

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
2 years 7 months ago

The Tigers’ trade of Doug Fister might not rate as the worst for a team, since they are trying to free up money for Max Scherzer’s extension (…eventually). I think Cano for $240 million has to be among the worst.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

If their goal was to free up money, it really doesn’t make it much better because

1. They could have traded Porcello who makes more money
2. Just because they had incentive to lose Fister doesn’t mean they had to take anything to do it.

They traded a player who has much higher value than the value of what they got in return. There’s no reason for that to happen, even if the Tigers benefitted in other ways from losing Fister.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 7 months ago

Unless Robbie Ray turns out to be a beast, of course.

Dave, as in Fred
Guest
Dave, as in Fred
2 years 7 months ago

Cameron; writes of most impacting transactions in mlb, ignores that Ellsbury and Drew would have cost $35 mil to keep, so promoting B&J was among them.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

Wait, so you’re saying that the Red Sox not re-signing Ellsbury and Drew are among the best transactions of the offseason?

jwise224
Member
2 years 7 months ago

Can’t wait to see the inverse of this list. Hope my fellow D-backs fans are ready.

jacaissie
Member
2 years 7 months ago

Isn’t the inverse of this list just this list, but from the point of view of the other side?

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 7 months ago

Not really. There aren’t really opposite deals for the free agency transactions – unless not signing Cano for $240 million counts…but then there’d be a 29 way tie for that one.

gabriel
Member
gabriel
2 years 7 months ago

it’s mystifying how Mike Rizzo managed to get Fister for this price

No real mystery – a dead girl or a live boy in Dombrowski’s bed; and Rizzo has the pictures.

Matthew
Member
2 years 7 months ago

I hope Robbie Ray becomes the next Chris Sale and Dave Dombrowski laughs at us for calling him an idiot.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Even if that happens – and I agree that it would be pretty awesome – there’s the question of whether they could’ve gotten Robbie Ray for a lesser price than Doug Fister.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 7 months ago

I can’t say I’ve ever seen the faulty use of hindsight as a good reason for doing something applied so early.

walt526
Guest
walt526
2 years 7 months ago

I’d at least give an honorable mention to the Hudson signing by San Francisco ($23M/2yr). The Giants have a decent shot of contending in 2014 (with some urgency given Sandoval’s likely departure as a free agent), but had a glaring hole in the back end of their rotation. Because of having Cain and Bumgarner signed long-term plus several very promising pitching prospects in the system, offering a 4 year deal for someone like Garza/Jimenez/Santana didn’t make any sense. Hudson has a decent chance of providing decent value on his contract (i.e., 2+ wins) and it just being a two year deal really limits the potential downside (after 7 years of Hudson’s former teammate–whose name must never be spoken–only spending $11-12M for a year or two on an ineffective or injured starting pitcher doesn’t seem so bad). It’s a good signing in the abstract and an excellent signing for the Giants in their situation.

I really don’t like the Abreu signing (I’m also skeptical of Tanaka), particularly given the current and likely future competitiveness of the White Sox. I realize the hip thing right now is signing foreign stars on spec, but in my mind there’s too much uncertainty in the abstract. He could be an All Star (in which case $11M/yr is a bargain, but he could be a below average 1B/DH (in which case $11M/yr is a small albatross). But he can opt out of his contract when he’s arbitration eligible, so he could make a lot more in the later years of the contract than ~$11M if he’s really good which really limits the potential upside of the contract. The White Sox aren’t going to contend in 2014 and I’m not sure that they have much in the system to make them contenders in 2015 or 2016. So perhaps best case, Abreu helps them contend in the second half of his contract (when he’ll be in his early 30s), but then he’s going to cost them more than ~$11M/yr. And if he flops relatively speaking, they still have to pay him around 10% of their payroll.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 7 months ago

Contracts are so big nowadays that there is basically no way for a 11 million a year to be a huge stumbling block for anyone. Any contract will look bad if a player turns into a below average player, but based on his record in Cuba and the success of other Cuban players, Abreu has a legitimate shot to be a star, and the White Sox are paying him to be no even average.

zenbitz
Guest
zenbitz
2 years 7 months ago

Where does not exercising Barry Zito’s option fall? Or does “Best” disqualify absolute no-brainers?

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 7 months ago

I really like the Kelly Johnson pick up for the Yankees. He flashed some real talent at the hot corner in a small sample last year with the Rays. As a LHB in YS I could see him having a repeat of the power he showed in his 2010 season in Arizona (another hitter friendly park) where he posted a career best .212 ISO. Sure he’s going to strike out a bunch, and that will prevent him from hitting for average. But if the Yankees can get 20+ homers, with league average defense, baserunning and walk rate for 2.4 million dollars on a one year commitment, then that would be an absolute steal.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 7 months ago

The pre-season lists often look much different than the post season lists. To bad we don’t often get to see such analysis looked back on retrospectively

My guesses for additions in the post seasons top 10 (no order)

Dean Anna could be a dark horse.

I also think Phil Hughes could surprise with the change of scenery.

Salty could be a nice signing for the Marlins as well.

And whoever signs Drew and Morales is going to be the biggest winner of all

The Orioles could also get lucky with Jiminez if his 2nd half last year was not a blip.

Ellsbury and Tanaka might be co-MVP’s

Red Sox pick up of Mujica is going to be big too.

Balfour

Biggest dogs

Cano
Fielder trade
Peralta
Kazmir
Johnson trade
Fister trade
Beltran
Choo
Arroyo
Burnett

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 7 months ago

7 Words as to why the Fister deal happened: Doug Fister Sex Tape. With Dombrowski’s Wife.

vp19
Guest
vp19
2 years 7 months ago

People forget Rizzo has a pretty good track record on trades, too. No GM is infallible.

Chad
Guest
Chad
2 years 7 months ago

I think it is a mistake to doubt Dave Dombrowski. He doesn’t lose too many trades; I have no doubt that the Fister trade will turn out better for the Tigers than people realize.

RSF
Guest
RSF
2 years 7 months ago

Most of DD’s past great trades were recognized as such at the time (or at least recognized as reasonably solid). He has never had a trade as universally panned (by those both inside and outside of the game) as this one. Assuming that this trade, his first widely panned trade, will end up like his other trades is wishful thinking at best.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 7 months ago

I bet the Angels wish this type of thinking actually meant something. (See: Pujols)

Balthazar
Guest
Balthazar
2 years 7 months ago

I agree with the ranking of the Bourjos trade. Really great for St. Lou from the need standpoint, gave up nothing they needed or of particular use, and Bourjos is an underrated performer who’s skills mesh with what the Cardinals do best.

I also like the Kazmir signing; might even rank that deal higher up the list. He’s no more risk to regress than Jimenez or Santana or several other guys with longer deals. He was very effective. It’s a short deal for not that much dough, and he’s a fungible asset if Oakland wants it that way too. And he’s a LHP. I thought Kazmir was the best risk-reward-cost matrix on the free agent pitching market (with exception of the impossible to rate Tanaka situation). Of course Beane got it right and done early while others muddle and stew, a characteristic to remember about BB when evaluating how he operates relative to also-ran GMs.

That Guy
Guest
That Guy
2 years 7 months ago

It’s funny to see it that way, but most Royals Fans think GMDM works way too fast in free agency to the Royals detriment.

Thomas
Guest
Thomas
2 years 7 months ago

I shave in all places.

SHANIQUA
Guest
SHANIQUA
2 years 7 months ago

EVERYBODY KNOW THE REAL REASON FOWLER GONE FROM CO IS HE HOOKED UP WITH 4 OTHER PLAYER WIVES AND GOT 1 OF THEM PREGGO!!! DUMP HIM FAST AND GET RID OF A CLUBHOUSE CANCER

J Peterman
Guest
J Peterman
2 years 7 months ago

Well that certainly is a lot of words.

The planet earth
Guest
The planet earth
2 years 7 months ago

lolwut

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 7 months ago

You are a cruel person indeed. I got excited to read salacious rumors. Instead my google-ing only revealed boring stories of Dexter Fowler and his wife doing boring charity work. Counting the time it is now taking to reply to you, you have wasted 7 minutes of my valuable time that could have been spent not being productive in other creative ways.

That Guy
Guest
That Guy
2 years 7 months ago

Or even, less creative ways, such as reading my response.

Bookbook
Guest
Bookbook
2 years 7 months ago

I could definitely see the ultimate Drew and. Capuano signings working out well, because both are seemingly under allied at this point. Though obviously there’s only so much surplus value in a cromulent player

hookstrapped
Guest
hookstrapped
2 years 7 months ago

Maybe an amendment for Nelson Cruz at 1 year / 8 million, with a good shot at a higher pick next year?

Matthew
Member
2 years 7 months ago

Here is an underrated transaction. Mets sign Chris Young for 1Y/$7.2M. With his defense, he can probably be a 2 WAR player with upside.

An Outfield of Lagares in CF, Granderson in LF, and Young in RF is incredibly solid defensively and one of the better OF in the game.

Rick
Guest
Rick
2 years 7 months ago

The White Sox signed Abreu to be a power stud. I know according WAR $$ he only has to be average. But if he is only average it will be a failed signing. With Konerko and Dunn gone next year where will the power come from? Flowers (bad). Beckham (average). Alexi ( average). Davidson ?? Eaton ( no power). Avisail ?? Viciedo swings at everything. The White Sox have everything riding on Abreu.

Electric
Guest
Electric
2 years 6 months ago

Surprised the annual one-year Kuroda deal didn’t make the cut

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