Grading the trades and free agent signings from the wildest day of the Winter Meetings
Who were the winners and losers of the wildest day of the Winter Meetings? The rich teams that didn’t need any help, mostly.
Jon Lester did this. He stood on the hose, and when he jumped off, the transaction rapids swept us away, with our heads slamming against rocks the whole way down. I’m dizzy. You’re dizzy. We all have transaction priapism, and it’s Jon Lester’s fault.
In the last, oh, 15 hours as of this writing, there were a dozen trades or free agent signings, involving about 30 players. We’ve seen some wacky trade deadlines and Winter Meetings before, but nothing quite like what happened in the span of a few hours. Here, then, are some grades and quick write-ups for all of the recent transactions.
Dodgers acquire Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Hatcher, and Austin Barnes from Marlins for Dee Gordon, Miguel Rojas, and a player to be named or cash
Dodgers grade: A
Marlins grade: F-
We’ll start with the least ambiguous of the bunch. Forget that Dee Gordon isn’t even a decent hitter, or that he’s already arbitration-eligible. Forget that Andrew Heaney, a former first-round pick, was locked up and under team control for the next six years. Forget that Austin Barnes, something of a throw-in, just spent his time in Double-A walking more than he struck out, playing catcher, second base, and third. Forget that the Marlins weren’t exactly a Dee Gordon away from contending. Here’s the only thing you need to know about this: Enrique Hernandez, who went to the Dodgers in this trade, is a second baseman who projects to be about as valuable as Gordon next year.
Now you can remember the other stuff. It doesn’t help.
At some point, the Marlins tipped their hand and let the Dodgers know they were completely in love with Gordon, and that their offseason would be a sad failure without him. Or, possibly, the Dodgers pretended that Gordon was an organizational building block that wasn’t likely to be traded, and the Marlins kept coming back and adding prospects to the deal. Here, just replace Joe Shlabotnik’s name with Dee Gordon’s, and this is how I’m picturing the trade:
That kind of package probably could have netted, oh, the entire remaining 25-man roster for the A’s, based on current exchange rates. I don’t get it. Gordon is dandy if he can hit, even a little, like he did last year. But that’s just about his absolute upside, and it still wasn’t very good.
Red Sox sign Justin Masterson (one year, $9 million)
In come the sinkerballers, which means it’s a good thing that Pablo Sandoval can play a mean third. Xander Bogaerts isn’t exactly a defensive wunderkind yet, but this is still a harmless, buy-low move. Either Clay Buchholz or Masterson will be out of the rotation by June, but it’s also possible that one (or both) of them is as productive as they were just a couple years ago. The more keno squares you play, the better odds you have.
Marlins acquire Mat Latos from Reds for Anthony DeSclafani, Chad Wallach
Marlins grade: B
Reds grade: B-
Latos doesn’t have the same fastball, but he’s always had excellent command, and it’s not like he turned into Jered Weaver overnight and became a complete dooky-thrower. The Marlins didn’t give up a top prospect, and they got help for their fascinating win-now dreams. It doesn’t grade higher because Latos is going to be a free agent after next year, but there’s a chance of a draft pick that would make up for the prospects going the other way.
Wallach is a very interesting prospect for the Reds, but it doesn’t make sense to fete the trade because the Reds should be going for it. Walt Jocketty was supposed to be “all in or all out,” and it looks like the outs have it. That’s a danged shame. The Reds had enough talent to take a chance on 2015 and look for returns at the trade deadline if it didn’t work out.
Tigers acquire Alfredo Simon from Reds for Eugenio Suarez, Jonathan Crawford
Tigers grade: B+
Reds grade: B-
There’s no way to evaluate this deal for the Tigers without the one below it, but Suarez and Crawford don’t seem like a steep price for an averageish pitcher with one season left on his contract. Simon’s strikeout rate and slow finish were both red flags, though, and I’m skeptical about his ability to repeat his 2014 season.
Same thing applies here for the Reds: The return wasn’t bad, but the idea to sell now instead of July bugs me. There probably wasn’t a way to turn Simon into better prospects, though, so the timing is the only problem with the deal.
Red Sox acquire Rick Porcello from Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson, Gabe Speier
Tigers grade: A
Red Sox grade: A
Everyone’s a winner! Hooray!
Think about the transaction string for the Tigers: They downgraded their rotation, but improved their lineup while reclaiming some of the prospects they dealt. Cespedes might not be the star it looked like he was going to be in his rookie year, but he’s still a player with power, and those are rare creatures right now. Cespedes + Simon helps the Tigers more than just Porcello would. It was a nifty juggling trick.
As for the Red Sox, Cespedes became superfluous for them once they signed Hanley Ramirez. To match up with another win-now team and fill their glaring need in the rotation was also a nifty juggling trick. You might see a situation like this in another offseason — a win-now team looking to deal a win-now player for a different kind of win-now help — and not come close to matching up with anyone. This was a trade that made so much sense, I’m surprised it didn’t happen the day after the World Series.
Royals sign Kendrys Morales (two years, $17 million)
It’s a passing grade, at least. I don’t mind taking a chance on Morales to DH, and it’s not like the money is onerous and restricting. But you try giving a grade higher than C to anything involving a player like Morales. He’s the purest 2.0 grade point average in the game right now.
Mets sign John Mayberry, Jr. (one year, $1.45 million)
Okay, maybe Mayberry is the purest 2.0 GPA in baseball right now, but you can’t find fault with the terms of the deal. The Mets’ bench and depth are both better, and it didn’t cost much more than the major league minimum.
Padres acquire Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz from Dodgers for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Weiland, Zach Eflin
Dodgers grade: A
Padres trade: D+
It’s not like Kemp’s knees are going to get better and allow him to reclaim a sliver of his defensive prowess. The decline will continue, unabated. You can hide Kemp in left a little at Petco — and he certainly was a nuclear force in the second half of last season — but he should have gone to an American League team. He has a chance to rack up some historically poor defensive stats over the next five years.
I don’t mind the idea of trading for Kemp and taking that risk a) if the rest of the Padres roster is stronger or b) if he doesn’t cost any talent in return. Instead, the Padres cashed in a lot of their possible trade chips, and all they have to show for it is an expensive 30-year-old player with a history of serious, limiting injuries. Now what?
From the Dodgers perspective, the lineup is weaker (and it already was without Hanley Ramirez, too), but they filled a need at catcher, possibly for the next several years, and they freed up cash to pursue … everyone. Everyone in the world. Not only that, but they got rotation depth and a former first-rounder, too. Like Cespedes/Porcello, it was tricky matching Kemp up with another team looking to contend. Luckily the Padres are convinced they’re one of those teams. Okay.
There’s going to be a team in the postseason next year that surprises the absolute heck out of all of us, and it might as well be the Padres. They have pitching. They have a nice ballpark. Don’t poke too much fun yet, even if this trade is puzzling.
Red Sox acquire Wade Miley from Diamondbacks for Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and as-yet unnamed minor leaguer
Red Sox grade: B+
Diamondbacks grade: C+ (pending as-yet unnamed guy)
Both of the pitchers have potential. Neither of them are ever likely to pitch as well as Miley would have over the next three years, though. The Red Sox are dealing from a surplus in so many ways, it’s hard to chide them for giving up too much for anyone, and yet they keep holding on to their top prospects.
It’s a good value trade for the Red Sox, but it’s not a straight A because, well, Miley was kind of lousy last year, by most metrics. He’s probably the same pitcher that he was in 2012 and 2013, but if he’s not, he’ll be a mighty unpopular player in Boston.
Dodgers acquire Jimmy Rollins from Phillies for ???
Source familiar with Jimmy Rollins deal says teams still aren’t sure what exact final makeup of trade will be, amazingly enough.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 11, 2014
So that’s a big incomplete. Still, I’ll give the Dodgers a preliminary A because Rollins is a big improvement on their internal options, and it’s going to be scary to see what that pitching staff can do with a real shortstop, and I’ll give the Phillies a preliminary because Rollins was the face of that franchise for so many years. I wrote earlier that the Phillies shouldn’t settle, and it sounds like they aren’t. The package from the Dodgers will be worth their while, most likely, whatever it ends up being.
Dodgers acquire Howie Kendrick from Angels for Andrew Heaney
You can’t really evaluate this one without …
Angels acquire Josh Rutledge from Rockies for Jairo Diaz
… this one. So:
Dodgers grade: A
Angels grade: B+
The Rockies exchanged one of the utility infielders they grow in a petri dish for a bullpen strikeout deity with a tantalizing arm. You don’t care, so I figured we’d get that out of the way.
I’m tempted to give the Angels an F on principle, just because they’re trying to cut salary. If they had a budget with a ceiling low enough to bump into, why were they spending like fools in the first place? On the other hand, getting six years of a mid-rotation starter for one year of a good second baseman is a lopsided swap, and finding an immediate replacement for a minor league reliever was smart and effective, even if Rutledge is a clear downgrade.
The Dodgers gave up long-term value to get Kendrick for just a season, but they essentially got him and three prospects for Dee freaking Gordon. That’s obnoxious.
Dodgers sign Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48 million)
Ha ha, there goes your perfect GPA, Dodgers. Hope you picked out some good safety schools, losers.
Four years is a long time for a pitcher without the best track record of health. On the other hand, if McCarthy is hurt or ineffective … they’ll just buy another one. Or get creative on the trade market. Or, well, anything that isn’t related to Kevin Correia. Those days are over.
This makes the deal the Pirates gave out to Francisco Liriano look better, though. That extra year just doesn’t seem like it has much of a chance of working out. If the Dodgers cared, maybe this would be a lower grade.