Archive for 2016 Winter Meetings

Dexter Fowler Fills Glaring Hole for Cardinals

Since the middle of 2009, the Cardinals’ left fielder has been Matt Holliday. Injuries kept Holliday from playing a full season each of the last two years. For that reason and perhaps others, the team decided not to exercise his $17 million option, instead paying a $1 million buyout. Similarly, the team opted not to give a qualifying offer to Brandon Moss, who hit 28 homers but also struck out 30% of the time, somewhat limiting his value offensively. As a result, the Cardinals entered the offseason with two starting outfielders, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, and a hole. Following Ian Desmond’s deal for $70 million with Colorado and the White Sox’ trade of Adam Eaton to Washington in return for major package of prospects, the Cardinals elected to fill that hole with Dexter Fowler on five-year contract worth $82.5 million.

Fowler is coming off the best campaign of his career, having slashed .276/.393/.447 and produced a 129 wRC+ for the Cubs while recording average defensive numbers in center field. The result: nearly a five-win season. Fowler’s best attribute on offense has been his ability to get on base. He has a career walk rate at 13%, and of active players with at least 2,000 plate appearances, only Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Carlos Santana, Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, and Joey Votto have walked more frequently. He has generally been a high-BABIP player, only once (2015) recording a mark lower than .320. He doesn’t steal a lot, but he does so with an acceptable success rate, has hit double figures in every big-league season, and has posted good baserunning numbers throughout his career.

His success getting on base will make him an ideal fit for St. Louis, who have been itching to move Matt Carpenter down the order since Carpenter’s power surge in 2015. The team tried to shoehorn some players who weren’t good fits occasionally last season, but Fowler’s numbers profile well in the leadoff spot. Fowler should also help the Cardinals’ baserunning, which was awful last season. Also ideal for the Cardinals is Fowler’s aging profile. This deal will take Fowler through his age-35 season. Fortunately for St. Louis, Fowler’ skills at the plate should age pretty well. I looked for Fowler comps when I profiled him earlier in the offseason, and I found that hitters like Fowler have historically recorded a 110 wRC+ from ages 31-34.

Whether this turns out to be a good deal for the Cardinals isn’t likely to depend on Fowler’s bat, but his glove. The Cardinals wanted to find a center fielder capable of moving Randal Grichuk to a corner-outfield spot and improving the team’s defense. Fowler should improve the club’s outfield defense relative to the 2016 season, but there’s considerable debate over how well Fowler’s glove profiles in center field. Fowler’s defensive numbers in Colorado and Houston were pretty terrible; the last two seasons in Chicago, on the other hand, they’ve been close to average. Generally speaking, using three years of defensive numbers will give you the best idea of a player’s defensive talent level, but there has been a strong narrative to Fowler’s improved positioning helping him get to a lot more plays in the outfield.

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The Case for Keeping Andrew McCutchen

About a month ago at this site, Dave Cameron argued that any offers for Andrew McCutchen this offseason would likely reflect McCutchen’s potential for a rebound from a poor and (until recently) anomalous 2016 season. Last week, Jeff Sullivan argued that the Washington Nationals represented an ideal fit for McCutchen. Finally, this past week, it seemed — for a time, at least — as though a deal between the Pirates and Nationals would come to fruition, with the latter club prepared to offer major prospects for the former’s star.

The deal didn’t happen, though, and the Nationals, after having negotiated for and failing to get Chris Sale from the White Sox, ultimately acquired Adam Eaton from that same team. That haul, or something close to it, could have gone to Pittsburgh in the Pirates’ quest to contend beyond 2017. This seems like a bad outcome for the Pirates, but it could prove to be a blessing in disguise for a team that still has a shot at contention next season.

The conventional wisdom around the Pirates’ interest in trading McCutchen is that they perhaps know something the rest of us don’t about one of the best players of the last decade. From 2011 through 2015, Andrew McCutchen averaged nearly seven wins above replacement per season. That’s a Hall of Fame-level peak, but last season, McCutchen’s bat went from spectacular to slightly above average. Add in below-average defense, and at the still-young age of 29, McCutchen went from Hall of Fame to below average in the blink of an eye. Given the height of the aforementioned peak, it’s entirely reasonable to expect a bounce-back season for McCutchen. That Pittsburgh would move McCutchen might suggest that the bounce back isn’t quite as likely as one might think. I’m not so sure.

The Pirates are in a unique situation: they have a corner outfielder in Starling Marte who could play quite capable defense in center field, another young corner outfielder in Gregory Polanco who has improved in his time in the majors, and one of the best prospects in baseball in Austin Meadows, who also plays the corner outfield. Marte is locked up through 2021 on a cheap, team-friendly deal. Polanco is in the same situation through 2023, and if the team calls up Meadows sometime in 2017, they will retain his services through the 2023 season. Andrew McCutchen has two team-friendly seasons left, totaling $28.5 million. While his 2016 campaign was disappointing, his value on the trade market remains incredibly high.

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Who Wants Brian Dozier?

Brian Dozier had himself quite the 2016 season. If you want to be technical, you could say he had quite the second half of the 2016 season, but that’s splitting hairs — he was still pretty good in the first half. It wasn’t historically superlative, but for second basemen in this millennium, it was pretty impressive. Now the Minnesota Twins have essentially made him available, and “four to five” teams are said to be interested in acquiring his services. Let’s take a look at who those teams could be.

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The Reality of Aroldis Chapman

As of yesterday afternoon, both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen had been courted by the Yankees. Both had received offers. And both those offers were believed to exceed the four-year and $62 million deal that had just rendered Mark Melancon the most well-compensated relief pitcher in history.

Brian Cashman said his preference was for Chapman because, among other reasons, Chapman wouldn’t cost a draft pick, and the closer had pitched well in New York. Cashman told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch that he “[didn’t] believe that Jansen would have any issues pitching in New York either, but it’s nice to have that box checked, too.” You have to figure Champan’s 100 mph fastball certainly helped matters.

Cashman got his wish. Chapman is a Yankee once again, to the tune of five years and $86 million. There are reasons the deal makes sense from a baseball point of view. It’s also possible that the spectacle of Chapman’s velocity will have some marketing value. Hal Steinbrenner himself has reportedly stated that he liked the buzz Chapman created at the stadium. By those criteria, it’s possible that they choose wisely, and I’ll address those points in a moment.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Adam Eaton Trade

Just one day after they dealt away Chris Sale for an impressive crop of young talent, the White Sox continued their tear-down yesterday by flipping Adam Eaton for another nice haul. This time, they landed three young pitchers (roughly in order of consensus future value): Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Here’s how the minor leaguers headed to Chicago grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

Lucas Giolito, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 5.8 WAR (47th overall)
KATOH+: 10.8 WAR (9th overall)

Giolito is one of those cases where the scouting reports outstrip the on-field performance. Scouts have long raved about Giolito’s fastball-curveball combination, and he parlayed it into dominance at the lower rungs of the minor leagues in 2014 and 2015. He was a consensus top-five prospect at this time last year, but things got a little rough for him in 2016.

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Scouting the White Sox’ Return for Adam Eaton

The White Sox continued adding to their suddenly robust farm system yesterday, acquiring a trio of pitching prospects from Washington in exchange for star outfielder Adam Eaton. Below are my scouting reports on the prospects involved. Lucas Giolito (60 Future Value) will slot in behind Yoan Moncada on the next revision of the White Sox prospect list, the completions of which I might delay until Rick Hahn’s purge of the major-league roster appears complete. Reynaldo Lopez will slot between Michael Kopech and Zack Collins as a 55 FV, while Dane Dunning will be the top 45 FV on the list.

The once Prodigious Lucas Giolito has more recently become the Enigmatic Lucas Giolito. While he remains one of baseball’s best pitching prospects after an inconsistent 2016, Giolito is no longer head-and-shoulders the game’s best. The opinions of scouts who saw Giolito this year make for an interesting collage of hope, fear, tempered expectations and patience, but all agree that front-end starter upside is still extant, if a bit less likely.

That kind of upside has been apparent since Giolito’s days at Harvard-Westlake, where, before suffering a season-ending elbow injury that would later require Tommy John surgery, he was generating potential 1-1 buzz and had a legitimate chance to become the first right-handed high-school pitcher ever taken with the draft’s first pick.

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Adam Eaton Is the Nationals’ Newest Star Player

You might remember that, last year, the Nationals didn’t get who they wanted. They made a strong run at Yoenis Cespedes, but they obviously didn’t win. They made runs at Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, too, but they didn’t win there, either. They ultimately wound up with Daniel Murphy, and Murphy worked out fantastic. The season worked out fantastic. The Nationals pulled off a significant pivot.

There’s been more pivoting this week. The Nationals made a run at Chris Sale, and they lost to the Red Sox. They made a run at Andrew McCutchen, and they couldn’t reach an agreement. So the front office quickly turned to Adam Eaton. You could think of Eaton as being the Nationals’ Plan C, and he’s not so sexy a splash as the others. And yet he’s good, incredibly good, arguably even McCutchen-good, and he’s the newest star player on the Nationals’ roster. All the Sale talks made the deal move fast. It must have been an exciting trade to complete.

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Nationals Land Adam Eaton, Quiet Star

A day after the Nationals failed to send a bunch of talent to Chicago for Chris Sale, the Nationals have reportedly agreed to send a bunch of talent to Chicago for Adam Eaton.

According to reports yesterday, both Lucas Giolito and Reynoldo Lopez were in the Nationals offer for Sale, so the two teams appeared to have just reworked the rest of the package to get Washington an outfield upgrade instead of a rotation upgrade. And while Eaton is definitely not Chris Sale, this might be just as impactful an upgrade for the Nationals.

First off, Eaton is really good. August Fagerstrom called him “Baseball’s Quietest Superstar” back in May, and he justified the commentary over the rest of the season. Eaton’s put up three straight years with a 115-120 wRC+, and after moving to right field last year, his defensive numbers took off. He’ll have to move back to center field in Washington, but there’s definitely real defensive value here, and he runs the bases too. Eaton is a terrific all around player with an above-average bat, and he fits well at the top of the Nationals line-up.

Whether he’ll be as good back in center field is an open question, and if the defense is just okay, then Eaton won’t put up +6 WAR again. But with his bat and legs at an up-the-middle spot, his floor is probably +2 WAR as long as he’s healthy, and there’s obviously room for value well above that if the defense still plays back in center field.

And, of course, there’s the contract. Eaton is signed for $18 million over the next three years, with club options that could push it up to 5/$38M; that’s a remarkable value. As a free agent, Eaton would have gone well over $100 million, and maybe over $150 million; Jason Heyward got 8/$184M for the same kind of package of skills last winter, though he had a longer track record of success than Eaton. But there’s similarities there, and the market paid big for Heyward last winter, so this is not a player type the Nationals could have acquired cheaply.

For the White Sox, they get what looks like a great return in young pitching, though as Jeff Sullivan wrote yesterday, there are reasons the Nationals are willing to trade Lucas Giolito. But Giolito and Lopez both have a lot of upside, and Dunning was the Nationals first round pick last year, so there’s a lot of options for how this could work for Chicago. Even if you only get one good starter out of the three, that’s still probably more valuable than betting on Eaton to age well enough to still be around the next time the White Sox are good.

With this deal, Eaton’s acquisition means Trea Turner heads back to shortstop, which pushes Danny Espinosa back into a part-time role, where he can spell Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon. The upgrade from Espinosa to Eaton is probably worth a couple of wins, plus this gives the team more depth, and adding Sale to the rotation and then dumping Gio Gonzalez to free up a rotation spot wouldn’t have been a dramatically larger improvement.

So the Nationals got better, but at the cost of a couple of good young arms. The White Sox get upside arms to throw at the wall and see what sticks. A good team gets better, a rebuilding team gets younger, and this looks like the kind of deal that might work for both sides.


Let’s Get Weird: Ian Desmond Is a Rockie

Hoo boy, here we go. Welcome to prime hot-stove season, everyone. Ian Desmond is going to the Colorado Rockies, and he’s going to be paid $70 million to play there for five years. And, according to various reports, the Rockies may be looking at him as a first baseman. This move is the equivalent of the Denver Broncos signing Lionel Messi. It’s unexpected. It’s bonkers. It’s newly legal in Colorado, and Jeff Bridich is into it.

Man, let’s think about this for a minute. Ian Desmond was a lost cause a year ago. He had imploded in glorious fashion in Washington and then took a pillow contract with the Rangers to play a super-utility man. He wound up moving the outfield and recorded roughly average overall defensive numbers there. He also put together a 106 wRC+ for the year… but just a 65 wRC+ in the second half. Did he go back to being his 2015 self? Was it just a prolonged slump. Was he really a decent hitter once more?

We’re going to find out. We’re also, apparently, going to find out if he can play first base. Or… are we?

I mean, is Ian Desmond really going to play first? Committing $70 million to a guy to play a position entirely foreign to him seems strange. Asking him to play first base after he’s just finished a roughly average offensive season is also strange. If the Rockies wanted to move an outfielder to first base, they could’ve just done so with Carlos Gonzalez, whose defensive skills have been declining for some time now. Instead, the Rockies are going to stick Desmond there and cross their fingers.

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Wilson Ramos Is Something Completely Different for the Rays

Last night, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Wilson Ramos for two years and $12 million, with nearly $18.25 million available in all if he meets certain incentives. Ramos represented an interesting case for potential suitors. At 29, he’d just produced the best season of his career. He’d also sustained, and is currently rehabbing, the worst injury of his career — one that will prevent him from returning until midseason at best. From the Rays’ perspective, the move is unusual in at least one way, too: they just signed a catcher who can hit.

Were Ramos to repeat his 2016 campaign, he’d immediately become the best catcher the Rays have ever had. Were he to repeat his second-best season, he’d become the best catcher the Rays ever had. Were he to repeat his third-best season, Ramos would be the third-best catcher the Rays have ever had. By wins above replacement, Ramos — once he’s healthy in 2018 — is very likely to become the best Rays catcher ever. Even if he just hits to his career level (exactly league average), once he sees 100 plate appearances, he’ll be the best hitting catcher the Rays have ever had.

Of course, there’s a lot more going on than offense and positional value in this deal, which slots in nicely with the two-year, $10-ish million contracts that have been handed out to volatile veterans like Matt Joyce, Steve Pearce, and Sean Rodriguez. There’s plenty to worry about, just like in those deals.

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Carlos Gomez Has a Home in Texas

Think about the teams that need to make the most of the year ahead. The Red Sox, certainly, will now be under a lot of pressure to roll through the playoffs. That’s the consequence of working how they’ve worked. The Royals will face a lot of pressure in a different way, because it looks almost certain that 2018 and beyond will be a challenge. For Kansas City, this could be their last competitive season in a while. And then you get the Rangers. The Rangers’ situation and the Royals’ situation aren’t too dissimilar. The Rangers are probably a little better off, but the long-term picture isn’t so sunny. This’ll probably be the last year with Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy.

So the Rangers need to maximize what they have. They also need to try to do that without doing any more harm to the long-term outlook. Enter Carlos Gomez on a one-year deal. It’ll be an important year for both parties. Gomez is looking for a pillow season, a chance to re-establish some value in a friendly place so that next offseason he could really score. The Rangers are trying to give it what could be one last go. Gomez still isn’t without his big giant upside, as the Rangers try to keep up with the Astros.

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Ian Desmond Signs with the Rockies

The curveballs just keep coming at the 2016 Winter Meetings, as Ken Rosenthal just reported a whopper:

While we were all trying to process exactly where Ian Desmond would play for the Rockies, since they’re nominally all set at the positions he plays, Rosenthal struck again:

This is interesting on so many levels, more of which will be sussed out later in a piece from Nicolas Stellini. What the trade appears to suggest most immediately, however, is that the Rockies are ready to push their chips into the middle of the table as they enter Year Three of the Jeff Bridich Era. This is news. The Rockies have made a habit of lying in the weeds or rebuilding for the better part of this century, having typically stayed out of the deep end of the free-agent market. With the five-year, $70 million commitment to Desmond, they have officially returned.

How much first base Desmond plays will ultimately be determined by whether the Rockies decide to move one of their outfielders. Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez constantly see their names in trade rumors, and that’s unlikely to cease now that Desmond is in the fold. But what could perhaps be more interesting is if the Rockies choose to use Desmond in a Ben Zobrist role, letting him shuttle in for Trevor Story to help keep the latter fresh, as well as manning first base and cycling among the outfield spots.

The bottom line is that the Rockies are now officially interesting. They had already been trending that way, but this signing confirms it. They have a rotation that contains four pitchers projected at 2 WAR or better, plus an interesting rookie in Jeff Hoffman, as well as decent starting-pitching depth. The promotions last year both of Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray added much-needed substance to the rotation. They likewise have solid incumbents at second, short, third and the outfield. Now they’ve added Desmond. Their bullpen could be bolstered, but most teams can say that and the Rockies bullpen doesn’t project to be awful. There’s a good chance that there are more moves coming from the Rockies, moves that allow Desmond to shift back to a more natural outfield position, but in any event, there is now very real optimism around the 2017 Rockies.


The Win-Win Trade of Jorge Soler and Wade Davis

Yesterday, while ruminating about the Royals opportunities this winter, I suggested the following.

If I’m Kansas City, I’d rather send Davis to a team like the Cubs or Dodgers, a team that doesn’t really have a ninth-inning guy with whom they’re currently comfortable, and would pay a bigger premium for the upgrade they’d get in their bullpen. The idea of swapping Davis for Jorge Soler and something else is more interesting to me, for instance. Soler is, in some ways, the outfield version of Kolten Wong at this point; a mid-20s guy who hasn’t shown he can be an above-average regular yet, but has a long-term deal at cheap prices that makes him somewhat useful even if he just is what he is. Except Soler still has mythical upside: if he figures out how to hit like people think he could hit, his value would skyrocket.

The Royals, it seems, had similar thoughts.

The deal isn’t done quite yet, because reviewing the medicals on a guy who went on the DL twice last year with elbow problems is no minor matter. But assuming the Cubs are confident that Davis is healthy enough, the deal sounds like it will go through, and likely as a one for one.

So, let’s talk about Soler and Davis. In a challenge trade, it’s usually hard to pull off a win-win deal, given that the performance of the two players isn’t going to be identical. This one, though? This looks like this could work well for both teams.

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Mitch Moreland and Travis Shaw Are Offensive Doppelgangers

BOSTON’S BIG DAY
Cameron on Sale
Cistulli on Dubon
Laurila on Dubon
Longenhagen on Sale
Mitchell on Sale
Mitchell on Thornburg
Sullivan on Thornburg

Travis Shaw stepped in when the Red Sox needed him and provided league-average power and solid defense over the past two seasons. He’s gone now, off to Milwaukee in the trade that saw Boston acquire relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg. But that didn’t stop the Red Sox, who signed a player who is basically his offensive clone in Mitch Moreland to fill his shoes.

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The Time to Trade Chris Archer Has Arrived

Around this time of year, the free-agent and trade markets begin to feel like stacked dominoes – one domino falling sets many more in motion. The big domino to fall yesterday was, of course, Chris Sale’s trade to Boston. It’s only natural to wonder what the fallout from that trade will be. The Nationals were reportedly very interested in Sale: Will they look elsewhere for elite rotation help now that he’s no longer available? Other teams still said to be interested in top-of-the-rotation arms include the Braves, the Astros and even the World Champion Cubs. (I’m still practicing adding that “World Champion” qualifier on the Cubs. It hasn’t stopped looking weird, has it?) As long as teams continue to look for elite starting pitching, one name will continue to be thrown around: Chris Archer. Now that the Red Sox have added Sale and are clearly attempting to build the American League’s “team to beat,” is the time right for the Rays to finally pull the trigger and deal Archer?

A few weeks ago, Jeff Sullivan compared the potential trade value of both Archer and Sale. The first conclusion he reached – that Sale has been better than Archer – quickly passed the sniff test. The second conclusion is significantly more intriguing. Here’s what he had to say:

“Chris Archer might be a worse pitcher than Sale is, but his contract is more team-friendly still. And one should expect that to make a difference, these all being negotiations taking place in the 2016 industry landscape. If you want to trade for one of these starters, Chris Sale could be the more affordable of the two.”

Archer and Sale are six months apart in age and both under contract for just under $40 million, but Archer’s contract includes team options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Sale’s contract, meanwhile, expires after the 2019 season. So, for essentially the same amount of money a club can acquire either three years of Sale or five years of a pitcher who has been nearly as good. Consequently, Archer’s contract provides — to use the hip lingo — more surplus value. In fact, due to those extra two seasons Jeff found that “Chris Archer’s surplus value is 152% of Chris Sale’s surplus value.” The White Sox just pulled in a player who has previously been listed by some publications as the No. 1 prospect in the sport. If the Rays can reasonably command an even higher asking price for Archer, then, at the very least, they have to be listening to offers.

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The Price for Jose Quintana Should Also Be Sky High

With the Chicago White Sox’ decision to trade Chris Sale to the Red Sox for an impressive array of prospects, the club has made clear their intentions to begin selling. They are rebuilding, and are going to get younger with an eye on the long-term future. Yoan Moncada — maybe the best prospect in baseball — and Michael Kopech are a very good start. If we start to go down the list of players the White Sox have who might fetch a good deal on the trade market, we begin with Chris Sale. With Sale crossed off the list, the obvious next name belongs to the White Sox other ace, Jose Quintana.

To be clear, Jose Quintana is not Chris Sale. His stuff is not quite as electric, he doesn’t strike as many batters out, and he doesn’t dominate a game in the way that Sale does. But not being as good as Chris Sale isn’t much of an insult. One can be less good than Chris Sale and still really freaking good, and that basically describes Jose Quintana.

Here is a list of the top-10 pitchers in baseball over the last three years, by our version of pitcher WAR.

Top 10 in Pitcher WAR, 2014-2016
# Name IP BB% K% GB% ERA- FIP- xFIP- WAR RA9-WAR
1 Clayton Kershaw 580 4% 33% 51% 52 49 55 22.7 22.5
2 Corey Kluber 672 6% 28% 45% 74 70 75 18.0 17.7
3 Max Scherzer 677 6% 30% 35% 74 75 80 17.3 18.6
4 David Price 698 5% 25% 42% 80 76 78 17.0 16.0
5 Chris Sale 609 5% 29% 42% 74 71 75 16.6 16.0
6 Jake Arrieta 583 7% 26% 53% 62 69 77 16.1 19.1
7 Jon Lester 627 6% 25% 46% 69 78 82 14.9 16.9
8 Jose Quintana 614 6% 21% 44% 81 77 90 14.6 13.7
9 Johnny Cueto 675 6% 23% 46% 72 84 88 14.2 18.5
10 Madison Bumgarner 662 5% 27% 42% 78 83 82 14.1 14.9

That’s eight guys generally agreed to be legitimate No. 1 starters, plus Quintana and Cueto, who have performed like aces despite not having classic ace stuff or ace strikeout rates. But by limiting walks and home runs, Quintana has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, in a league with guys who are unquestionably elite arms.

So that’s what he’s done. You can’t buy the past, but the past does help us predict the future to some degree. So, looking forward, we have the Steamer projections. What does Steamer think about Quintana for 2017?

Well, it thinks he’ll be a little worse, because pitchers generally do get worse as they get older. But by “worse,” that means he projects as a +4 WAR pitcher instead of a +5 WAR one, and that forecast calls for him to be as valuable as Cueto, Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, and Dallas Keuchel. Again, these are great names with which to be associated. Steamer thinks Quintana is a top-15 or -20 starting pitcher in major-league baseball next year. And oh yeah: he’s signed for less money over the next four years than Sale is due over the next three. And that means there’s an argument that the package the White Sox receive for Quintana shouldn’t be wildly different than the one they got for Sale.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Chris Sale Trade

The Red Sox acquired a second pitcher on Tuesday following their trade for reliever Tyler Thornburg — in this case, receiving talented left-handed starter Chris Sale from the White Sox in exchange for an impressive return (roughly in order of consensus future value): Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz.

Here’s how the minor leaguers headed to Chicago grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

Yoan Moncada, 2B (Profile)

KATOH: 6.2 WAR (36th overall)
KATOH+: 14.0 WAR (4th overall)

There’s no denying that Yoan Moncada was one of the most productive hitters in the minors this year. In 61 High-A games, he hit .307/.427/.496. In 44 Double-A games, he slashed .285/.388/.547. He 45 stolen bases across both levels. Moncada excels in multiple areas: he hits for power, runs like crazy, and plays a semi-premium position. His tools are top-notch, which is why he was the consensus No. 1 prospect last summer.

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White Sox Begin Teardown in Best Way Possible

At least as far as recent history goes, Chris Sale might’ve been unprecedentedly valuable as a trade asset. We just haven’t seen trades with pitchers so good, signed for so long, to such affordable salaries. It’s fitting, then, that the White Sox convinced the Red Sox to make the recently unprecedented decision to move baseball’s top prospect. There’s nothing fun or painless about initiating a rebuild. It can get fun pretty quick, though, when you land a player like Yoan Moncada.

In all honesty, it’s not entirely clear the White Sox got more for Sale than the Braves got a year ago for Shelby Miller. There are two ways you could interpret that. One, you could choose to believe the White Sox didn’t get enough. But, two, no, that’s not right. This is the price of an ace-level starter, and this just further goes to show how badly the Diamondbacks screwed up. I guess that’s not what’s important now. What’s important now is the White Sox have officially decided to pivot, and this is a hell of a first step.

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Scouting the White Sox’ Monster Return for Chris Sale

In what will probably be the blockbuster deal of the entire offseason, the White Sox sent LHP Chris Sale to Boston this afternoon in exchange for two of the highest-upside prospects in baseball, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, as well as tools-goof outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and arm-strength lottery ticket Victor Diaz. Below are my scouting reports on the prospects involved. I’ll update the White Sox prospect list with these reports later this evening. Moncada will be No. 1 and Kopech No. 2, with Basabe slotting in toward the back of the org’s top 10 and Diaz falling toward the bottom of the 40 FV section.

It’s strange that one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the minor leagues is involved in this deal and yet somehow not its headliner. Such is the prodigious talent of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, who I believe to be the best prospect in all of baseball despite his swing-and-miss issues. A generational talent who possesses one of the most robust collections of tools I’ve seen, Moncada has an SEC running back’s body at an athletic and strong 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. There are very few, if any, comparable physiques across baseball.

He’s also a plus-plus runner, both from home to first and on the bases, scattering large swaths of dirt behind him as he traverses the bases. I think Moncada is going to retain that speed for quite a while despite already appearing to have maxed out physically. Even if he does lose a step with age (and it will probably happen at some point), I expect Moncada to retain impact plus speed into his late 20s or early 30s, even if he’s no longer an elite runner at peak.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Tyler Thornburg Deal

The Red Sox have landed right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg in exchange for a trio of players: big-league corner infielder Travis Shaw and prospects Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington. Here’s how the minor leaguers headed to Milwaukee grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

Mauricio Dubon, SS, (Profile)

KATOH: 4.6 WAR (92nd overall)
KATOH+: 3.5 WAR (138th overall)

After hitting respectably in the low levels of the minors, Dubon broke out big time last year. He opened the year by hitting a rock solid .306/.387/.379 at High-A, pairing a 9% strikeout rate with a 12% walk rate. He continued raking following a June promotion to Double-A, but did so a bit differently. His walk and strikeout rates both trended in the wrong direction, but for the first time ever, he hit for power.

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