MLB Hot Stove 2018: Better Late than Never
In most offseason, deals get made fast and they get made often. Heading into this offseason, with so many big names on the market, people expected the owners to open up their checkbooks and start paying the top-level free agents. However, few free agents actually signed massive contracts throughout the fall and majority of the winter. The players that did get contracts were relievers, but most of the big-name players were still on the market heading into Spring Training. Now, in the last week, several top-level free agents have chosen their teams and it has shaken up the MLB landscape.
Now, in the offseason when players and teams couldn’t agree on a fair deal, teams started to find solutions through trades. The Miami Marlins began their rebuild by giving away some of the best players that the organization ever had. They shipped Giancarlo Stanton to New York, Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis, and Christian Yelich to Milwaukee. The Tampa Bay Rays shipped away several of their best players, sending Evan Longoria to San Francisco (thank you for that, by the way), and Jake Odorizzi to Minnesota. Another team that decided to blow it up was the Pittsburgh Pirates. They sent their franchise cornerstone, Andrew McCutchen, to San Francisco (again, thank you), as well as sending their ace, Gerrit Cole, to the reigning World Champion Houston Astros. The trade market was much more impactful to the landscape of the MLB than the free agent market could have been, but the recent free agent signings were still very impactful.
The first big free agent signing to take place as Spring Training began was that Yu Darvish agreed to a 6-year $126 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Darvish now joins a Cubs rotation that also features Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood. The rotation projects to be one of the best in the league, but that doesn’t change my opinion that this was not a great contract. First of all, Darvish is 31-years old, and the Cubs team is relatively young, with many of their key pieces still in their early 20’s. Signing a 31-year old to a contract for six years and that much money doesn’t seem too smart, especially because they are going to have to pay their young core eventually, and they will be very expensive to extend. Another reason that I am not a fan of the Darvish deal is that he has not been great in the postseason, which is important for this iteration of the Chicago Cubs. They won their first World Series in 2016, and are looking to add more trophies to their trophy case. On the biggest stage, he has a 5.81 ERA in 26.1 innings. He looked good last postseason before the World Series, but he imploded and proceeded to give up eight runs in 3.1 innings across two starts. He has been a relatively average starting pitcher in the regular season, and has only had an ERA below 3.00 one time, in 2013, when he went 13-9 with a league-high 277 strikeouts. The Cubs don’t need him to come in and be an all-time great pitcher, thanks to their offensive prowess, but they need him to come in and win games for them in October, and he has struggled to do so throughout his career.
The next move was that the Giants brought in prized reliever, Tony Watson, to help solidify the back end of their bullpen in their hopes to rebound from last year’s disastrous season. I already wrote about this, so check it out here.
Eric Hosmer then signed with the San Diego Padres. He signed on an 8-year deal worth $144 million, and this deal is interesting. He is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career, playing in all 162 games, hitting 25 home runs, driving in 94 runs, while hitting a career-high .318. Now, while I think Hosmer is worth the money, as he is one of the most talented all-around first basemen in the league, having won a gold glove four times in the last five years. The question is, why San Diego? The Padres are years away from contending for any sort of championship, and are buried at the bottom of a very talented National League West. They also already had a very talented first basemen in Wil Myers. Myers is coming off of a very productive season that saw him smash 30 home runs and drive in 74 runs. Myers has been one of the best young first basemen in the MLB over the last two seasons, smashing a combined 58 home runs and driving in a combined 168 runs. Myers is now going to move back to the outfield to make room for Hosmer, but the issue with that, is that Myers is not a good defensive outfielder by any stretch of the imagination. I imagine that the Padres made this move in an attempt to try and build a core to build around in upcoming years in order to try and compete in the West, but adding another first baseman just doesn’t make much sense for this team. This is A.J. Preller’s biggest move since the 2014 offseason that saw him bring in several big-name players and have them all flop and get shipped out with the exception of Wil Myers.
The last big deal that happened, was that J.D. Martinez signed a 5-year $110 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. This move makes sense for the Red Sox, who were looking to add power to their outfield in order to try and keep up with the New York Yankees. Martinez is 29 years old, and will now be a part of a relatively young Red Sox outfield that boasts a perennial MVP candidate in Mookie Betts. Martinez exploded in the second half of the season last year after he was traded to the Diamondbacks. In just 62 games in Arizona, he smashed 24 home runs and drove in 74 runs. In total during 2017, he hit 45 home runs and drove in 128 runs while hitting .303. He was inarguably the hottest hitter in the National League, if not the entire MLB, during the second half of the year. He will add a lot of power to the Red Sox lineup, and this deal makes as much sense as any move that was made this year.
Now, there are still several other big-name players that are still waiting to sign with a team for the upcoming year, and it will be incredibly interesting to see where guys like Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn land, especially if they land on a contending team like Milwaukee. Spring Training is just beginning, with the first games being played on Wednesday, which means that Baseball season is officially upon us.