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Winter Moves Update: Minor, Mikolas, and Boxberger

We are finally starting to see some moves trickle in during what has been a relatively quiet offseason thus far. The Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani sagas remain out in front this winter, but at least we’ll have a resolution on the latter no later than December 23rd after Ohtani’s posting and the three-week window he has to get signed. In the meantime, let’s look at the flurry of activity over the last few days:

No offense to Johnson or Kelly, but the bonus money is the real gem of this deal. It boosts LA’s pool to $1.315 and if they aren’t able to lure Ohtani with that, then they can enrich their system with the newly available Braves prospects. Imagine the cruel irony of the Angels using that money to sign Kevin Maitan. The 35-year old Johnson had a brutal 2017 and really shouldn’t be anywhere near their closing job after they built a pretty solid pen on the fly this past season. Kelly is a pitcher who pitches in professional baseball. Oh, and he’s left-handed.

Edit: Virtually as I was posting this,  I learned that the Angels indeed signed Maitan to a $2.2 million dollar deal. Thanks to asaw780 in the comments. 

The high-end version of the Johnson trade where both pieces are better. Injuries have limited Boxy to just 53.7 IP the last two years, but he looked like himself in ‘17 (3.38 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) after a rough ’16 (4.81 ERA, 1.73 WHIP). He’s always had solid swing-and-miss and his tremendous changeup actually makes him a reverse platoon arm with a 137-point split favoring his work against lefties (.599 OPS). While I still think Archie Bradley is the best reliever in that pen and should hold the ninth, Boxy could definitely push him if he proves healthy and at his best. As for Taylor, let’s refer to Eric Longenhagen’s tweet on him:

After a surprising rookie year in 2016 (133 wRC+), Diaz was one of the biggest busts in 2017 (78 wRC+ in just 301 PA) as his power disappeared (77-point drop in ISO to .133) and walk rate melted in half (4%). The emergence of Paul DeJong kept Diaz in Triple-A for most of the summer and his numbers weren’t any better there (77 wRC+, .135 ISO). He’s better than his ’17, but not as good as his ’16. He was never going to be a long-term option at SS because of his defense, but of course that’s where his bat plays best. He definitely works best as a bat-first utilityman and I could see him getting the bulk of his time at 2B if Devon Travis continues to battle injuries. AL-Only leaguers, take note.

I’m not here to bullshit y’all, so I’ll admit I know zero about Woodman. Even with the obvious shortcomings of stat scouting, I don’t think it’s out of bounds to question his hitting as he fanned 38% of the time at A-ball as a 22-year old. It’s hard to overlook a 38% K rate in any circumstance, but when you’re old for the level you’re doing it at and it’s a lower level, that’s bad. The Cards wanted to free up a 40-man roster spot and the Jays wanted protection for a pair of injury-risk middle infielders (Travis and Troy Tulowitzki).

We don’t know the terms of the deal yet, but it won’t really change the fantasy outlook in any way so I included it in this rundown. I was slightly surprised to see that Texas will shift Minor back into the rotation after a brilliant season out of the bullpen, but starters are always worth more and the Rangers specifically aren’t in dire need of lefty relievers with Alex Claudio and Jake Diekman leading the charge. Minor returned from two years off in 2017 so he hasn’t started a major league game since 2014.

I wonder how much of his pitch improvements and mix changes will go with him back into the rotation. He was up at a career-best 94.4 mph out of the pen after sitting 90-91 in his five years as a starter. He also relied a lot more on the slider with a 36% usage, more than double his previous high of 15% reached in 2013 and 2014. The slider surge didn’t completely push aside his other secondary offerings. He dropped his fastball usage to 46% (previous low was 55% and usually sat ~60%) so he still had 18% for his changeup (10%) and curve (8%).

My friend Tim McLeod (@TimothyLMc on Twitter) mentioned Mikolas to me at the AFL back in November and few fantasy analysts follow the NPB more intently than McLeod so I was eagerly awaiting to see where Mikolas would land. The Cardinals get the 29-year old righty after three excellent seasons in Japan as a command specialist. He posted a 2.18 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 424.7 IP with a 23% K rate and 4% BB rate. Check out this tweet highlighting his nasty curve:

Mikolas could be the bridge to Alex Reyes, who will start the season in the bullpen after returning from Tommy John Surgery. Mikolas will likely be battling Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty in that time to see who keeps their spot when Reyes is ready. I do wonder how much Adam Wainwright will be allowed to struggle after two down seasons and if maybe he could be the odd man out when a Reyes decision is made. I’m going to research Mikolas a bit more this winter and have more on later, so in the meantime I’ll point you to Jeff’s piece from yesterday and then immediate follow up today when he signed.