The Hot Stove sure was burning. The 2014 off-season was a great preface to what is sure to be a great 2015 season. Coming up, I will write, in my opinion, each teams biggest move of the off season. What do I mean by “biggest move”? Well, the transaction that will make the biggest difference to the team. Said transactions can be trades, free agent signings, re-signing one of their own, ect. Some will include obvious choices, some will be subtle. That is what makes baseball so great, the smallest detail can provide the biggest reward.
This is the National League rankings. The American League rankings can be found here
Without further ado, heeeerrreeee wwwweeeee gggooooooo!
Looking towards the future, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a splash by signing Cuban free agent Yasmany Thomas to a six-year, $68.5 million deal. Thomas was listed as a left-fielder, but moved him to play third base.
Thomas is billed as a prototypical slugger. Scouts have said they can see Thomas hitting .250-.280, with 25-30 homeruns.
The past offseason saw the Braves become sellers, shipping outfielders Jason Hayward and Justin Upton for future pieces. Atlanta was able to acquire one of the better right-handed pitching prospects in Mike Foltynewicz, but I think Mike Fried has higher upside.
Fried is a left-handed pitcher who offers a fastball, changeup, and a good curveball. Fried has a rough go of it last year, but was troubled by arm trouble. Fried had Tommy John surgery last year and will be out for most of the 2015 season, but eventually he can be a 2 starter for Atlanta.
This has been an offseason where the Cubs front office started to transition from rebuilding to trying to contend. They signed prized free agent Jon Lester and catcher David Ross, traded for Miguel Montero, and Dexter Fowler.
But the biggest get is Joe Maddon.
Maddon (somewhat surprisingly) exercised an out clause in his contract with the Rays, and the Cubs swooped in (somewhat unethically).
Nonetheless, Maddon is a great manager. Known as a players manager, Maddon keeps things loose, employs many defensive shifts, and gets results. 90+ wins from 2010-2013, with a high of 97 in 2008. One American League pennant (2008). Two Manager of the Year awards (2008, 2011).
In acquiring Byrd, the Reds find a solution to their lack of left-field power. In 2014, Byrd has a slash line of .264/.312/.445 with 25 home runs and 85 R.B.I.s. In a lineup featuring a healthy Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Devin Mesoraco, look for Byrd to get some quality pitches.
The best part of the deal is that Byrd has only one year left on his contract, so if things go south, there is no commitment past 2015.
It has generally been a quiet offseason for the Rockies. They made a few quiet deals, but the hope is that the injury bug that hit the Rockies in 2014 is long gone.
And they signed Nick Hundley.
Hundley is a catcher who spent last year split between San Diego and Baltimore. Hundley is known to be able to handle a pitching staff, and calls a good game. With prized pitching prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray set to spend time with the big club, Hundley is a good veteran to have behind the dish. Also, pplayer to have behind the dish. Also, playing half of his games in the thin air, look for his offensive numbers (.233/.273/.352 in 2014) to increase a tad.
It has been an off-season to remember for the Dodgers, and that includes the Front Office. On October 14, 2014, Friedman announced he would leave the Tampa Bay Rays to become President of Baseball Operations with the Dodgers. Friedman brings with him a sterling reputation (2008 Executive of the Year) and results. With the Dodgers, Friedman hired General Manager Farhan Zaidi. Friedman and Zaidi have traded for shortstop Jimmy Rollins, catcher Yasmani Grandal, and second baseman Howie Kendrick.
As I have previously stated, I am a HUGE fan of veteran players mentoring younger guys on the cusp.Who better to have as a mentor as one of the greatest hitters EVER? Here is an AMAZING statistic about Ichiro’s greatness.Ichiro is 41-years old, and is signed to be the Marlins fourth outfielder, but this is a situation where his off-field mentoring can prove bigger dividends than his on-field output.
With it being a quiet off-season for the Milaukee Brewers, they got their big move out of the way early in trading for first baseman Adam Lind.Lind is coming off an injury shortened 2014 campaign, relegated to 96 games. When healthy, Lind is almost guaranteed for a .250 BA, 20 doubles, and 20 homeruns. He is also a left-handed bat, which will mesh well with the right-handed power coming from Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, and Aramis Ramirez.
The Mets have been stuck in neutral the past couple years. Lately they have tried signing big name free agents (Bartolo Colon, Curtis Granderson, ect) to mixed results.
Enter Michael Cuddyer.
David Wright’s best friend growing up, Cuddyer is coming off an injury shortened season, and it ultimitely cost Cuddyer his spot in Colorado. Cuddy is a 2x All-Star, and won the 2013 National League batting title. Cuddyer is a doubles machine, but I think his power numbers will decline with him leaving Colorado.
I went in a bit of a different route with the Phillies, with their biggest move not being someone they brought in, but shipping someone out, and what that move means.
The Phillies trading Jimmy Rollins, (and Rollins accepting the trade) to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two young pitchers, signifies a change in culture in Philadelphia. Ruben Amaro and Pat Gillick have finally acknowledged the need for a rebuild. Trading the Phillies all-time hit leader was just the first salvo, with Marlon Byrd being dealt to Cincinnati as well.
The Pirates landed most intriguing international prospect (with respect to Yasmany Thomas) in Jung-Ho Kang. Kang had an absurd slash line of 356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs in 117 games in Korea last year. The only question is how his game will translate to the MLB, but playing in PNC Park will help. I don’t expect another .356 BA, 40 homeruns, but there is no doubt Kang can handle the bat. Kang is said to be a good athletic defender.
The Padres are another team who completely revamped their team, and they have one man to thank. New General Manager A.J. Preller traded for Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris. They also acquired Ryan Hanigan, but flipped him to Boston for Will Middlebrooks.
The best part is that with all the deals they made, they didn’t part with top prospects Austin Hedges, Matthew Wisler, or Hunter Renfroe.
The Giants are coming off their second World Series in three years, so the Giants don’t have many holes. However, when Pablo Sandoval left for Boston, the Giants moved fast to fill his spot with Casey McGehee.
McGehee spent 2013 in Japan, then signed with Miami in 2014 to good results. McGehee won the 2014 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, with slash line of .287/.355/.357, with 29 doubles. Playing in AT&T Park, if McGehee can stay healthy, I don’t see those numbers dropping dramatically.
The Cardinals didn’t do much this off-season, but they made a bang in November by acquiring Jason Heyward from the Atlanta Braves.
Heyward is a 2x Gold Glove winner, and was the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year. He can handle the bat, has some power, and will steal some bases. Look for Heyward to hit near the top of the lineup to set the table for Matt Holiday and Jhonny Peralta.
This is another instance where I kind of go off the rails, because Trea Turned isn’t officially part of any trade yet.
If Turner is included in the deal, the Nationals get a guy who can contribute as soon as 2016. He would be Ian Desmond’s replacement at shortstop if the Nats chose to deal him or let him walk via free agency. Turner is projected as a leadoff hitter with lots of speed. A gap hitter, he should still be able to knock ten out of the park. Decent fielder, but needs to work on his consistency there.