Acquired OF-L Anthony Gose from the Blue Jays in exchange for 2B-R Devon Travis. [11/12]
So much for Dave Dombrowski needing a new center fielder. Gose, 24 years old, is known first and foremost as a talented defender. He combines good reads with high-end speed and a strong arm, giving him all the tools to become one of the better outfielders in the game. As such, the Tigers should have a strong up-the-middle defense, with Gose, Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias, and Alex Avila (provided he's still a Tiger and a catcher come April) atoning for the shoddy fielding at the corners.
That's the good news. The bad news is Gose remains a mess at the plate. He's a slapper through and through, and infield hits account for more than a quarter of his career hits. Unfortunately, his pitch tracking and recognition skills are poor, resulting in more swing-and-miss than you'd expect. The upshot here is that Gose is an upgrade versus right-handed pitchers when compared to Rajai Davis, and he's shown the ability to take some walks and steal some bases. Otherwise, it's not a great profile, nor one likely to ever ascend from the bottom of the order.
Presumably the Tigers aren't too worried about the bat, since Gose gives Detroit a young, cheap starting option who could be around for years to come. Right now, all the Tigers are concerned about is him running down balls in Comerica Park's deep alleys. —R.J. Anderson
At first glance this isn’t a huge change for Gose, as there’s at least a small likelihood he would have been starting in Toronto to open the season (depending a bit on Melky Cabrera, and others). Still, he’s almost definitely going to receive more at-bats in Detroit over the course of the season than he would have with the Blue Jays, as the Tigers lack the requisite Dalton Pompey to displace Gose from the lineup. A superlative defender, Gose has been anemic at the plate to date, though he has managed 34 stolen bases in 616 plate appearances. That’s a very good rate for fantasy owners, and something worth rostering on the chance he manages to hit at some point, though it’s important to note that it’s unlikely he ever does so. He did show improvement in getting on base last year, walking more often despite hitting less, so it’s possible that he can keep that approach while hitting for a little more average. If that happens he’s a very useful 4th outfielder who can swipe bags without killing you in other categories. As is, he’s less than that, but is a nice speculative play in deep mixed and AL-Only leagues. There’s upside to be had, don’t ignore the risk on the other side.
Davis received a career high number of plate appearances, and while he hit .282/.320/.401, this transition back to a part-time role might not hurt him as much as you think. The counting stats won’t be great, but that’s not really why you have Davis in the first place. He stole 36 bags, which is great but managed 45 the previous season in significantly fewer plate-appearances. He should still get to pinch-run late in games, and he’s going to be able to save his legs a bit in the process. Not to mention that Davis battered lefties to the tune of a .356/.382/.557 slash line in 2014, and has always done well against them. Not having the right-handed at-bats to drag down his number mitigates the overall loss in at-bats. Again, since you’re not drafting Davis for those stats in the first place, higher averages and equivalent stolen bases seem like a win. He should be valued as he was last season. —Craig Goldstein
Acquired LHP Justin Wilson from the Pirates in exchange for C-R Francisco Cervelli. [11/12]
After spending the past year inspecting various left-handed relief options, Brian Cashman decided to acquire himself a promising, plausible long-term fit.
Wilson spent the last two seasons in the Pittsburgh bullpen, where he proved to be a capable two-way threat by holding lefties and righties to sub-.600 OPS. His arm strength is among the most impressive in the game (non-Chapman division), as his fastball lives in the mid-to-upper-90s—and if that weren't fast enough, the deception in his delivery causes his pitches to play even faster. Oh, and by the way, Wilson also throws a low-90s cutter and curveball, making the hitter's job almost impossible.
If there is a complaint about Wilson, it's that he's too loose with his location. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild faces a difficult decision—does he leave Wilson be, or does he tinker with some of the tics in his mechanics with an eye toward making him even better? If Rothschild chooses the latter, then keep an eye on Wilson's closed landing, glove-tap timing mechanism, and wrist hook as potential areas of adjustment.
Whatever gains Rothschild and Wilson make with his command could be the difference between his status as seventh- or eighth-inning guy. Either way, Wilson and Dellin Betances should form one of the nastiest late-inning pairs around for the next few years—and that's without David Robertson, who could well return through free agency.
As for Cervelli's replacement, the internal favorite is J.R. Murphy—a 23-year-old who hit well during his brief big-league stint last season and profiles as an adequate defender. Presumably the Yankees will bring in a veteran choice as well, if only to serve in a spring competition. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired 2B-R Devon Travis from the Tigers in exchange for OF-L Anthony Gose. [11/12]
After a prestigious college career at Florida State, Travis was selected in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. He tore up Low- and High-A in 2013 to the tune of a .936 combined OPS, and followed that up with an .817 OPS at a more age-appropriate Double-A. While Travis has put up very solid minor-league numbers so far, the tools don't necessarily match the statistical profile. He has the potential to be a solid average hitter with limited power, and his limited athleticism and quickness limits his value defensively. Even though the steal totals have been impressive, Travis is a below-average runner, although a max-effort one, routinely clocking 40-grade times to first base. The defense is fringy, as his range is limited and the arm is not a strength either. By all accounts, the makeup is excellent, he takes a leadership role in the clubhouse, and he should get the most out of his tools at the big-league level. The profile is that of a second-division starter, although he doesn't have the defensive value or secondary skills of a utility player. Ultimately, it's going to come down to the bat—whether Travis hits at an above-average clip will determine his ultimate outcome. —Jordan Gorosh
I’m not sure there’s a better situation for Travis owners out there. Not only does he get out from behind Ian Kinsler (and Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez) on the depth chart in Detroit, but he goes to a good hitting environment in Toronto, with the speedbump that is Ryan Goins the only thing standing in his way. Travis is somewhat divisive as a prospect, because he taunts believers with the potential for a .280 average, 8-12 home runs and 10-12 steals but still has to answer questions as to whether he can adjust to advanced pitching. Whether he can do so will likely play a large part in whether his power can play to a functional level in the majors. There’s also the matter of his defense, which helps the whole package play down. If he can’t stay on the field due to defense, it’s going to cost him in any counting categories, and thus cost fantasy owners. It’s also important to keep in mind that he’s got below-average speed, but has stolen bases thanks to strong instincts on the basepaths. Whether he can continue to do that against pitchers with better pickoff moves, and catchers with better pop times, is an open question. He’s played in 100 games at Double-A and would likely benefit from some Triple-A seasoning, but given the desperate nature of the keystone position in Toronto, Travis could replace the Goins/Munenori Kawasaki combination sooner than later. At this point he’s relevant in 18-team+ mixed leagues as an end-game play, and AL-Only leagues as well.
One more obstacle removed, even if it was a curiously low hurdle. The Jays promoted Pompey aggressively, as he played at four different levels in 2014, though he ran out of gas in his short stint in the majors. Pompey brings speed and contact to the table, and he’s got some pop to go with it. So while he won’t be an empty wizard, he’s not going to put many over the fence — especially in the early going. Speed is going to be the main attraction with Pompey for fantasy leaguers in 2015, as the rest is seemingly up for grabs. A smooth transition to the major leagues could mean a .270 batting average, while a rough one could mean something in the .220s. He’s got a plan at the plate so should be able to get on base fine, but whether it ends up being value added or a saving grace depends on his batting average. The Jays have cleared the way for him to start, and they’ll likely live with a down offensive season as Pompey adapts to the big leagues, as long as he can play the defense they know he’s capable of. Dynasty leaguers should already have him rostered in some capacity, and he’ll be worth a grab in the early-late rounds. If you really want him he’ll probably go ahead of that. The upside if it clicks immediately is very good (think 2011-2012 Austin Jackson) but the likelihood of him reaching that point immediately is slim. Most Pompey owners will have overpaid in the near term in hopes they underpay going forward. —Craig Goldstein
Acquired C-R Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees in exchange for LHP Justin Wilson. [11/12]
Give Neal Huntington credit for consistency, as he's acquired an ex-Yankees catcher in three consecutive offseasons. Cervelli splits the uprights between the previous two (Russell Martin and Chris Stewart) as a good defensive backstop equipped with some offensive skills.
The Pirates value receiving as much as any franchise these days, and Cervelli fits the mold. He's a talented receiver whose prorated numbers put him among the best in the majors (provided, of course, you put faith in those metrics' degree of accuracy). Cervelli's other strengths as a catcher—game-calling and staff-handling—also rely on evidence found in the human experience rather than through demonstrable facts. His arm is functional as well, though no one will confuse him for a human red light anytime soon. Overall, he's an above-average defender whose exact value is tough to pin down.
Ditto for Cervelli's offensive production, which is hard to suss out because of his status as an oft-injured backup—he's spent time on the 60-day disabled list in each of the past two seasons. You have to go back through the 2010 season to grab a sample size larger than 600 plate appearances. Do that, and you'll discover that Cervelli has been a hair better than the average hitter. Whether he maintains that level of production as he moves into an expanded role is anyone's guess. His skill set does offer some basis for pessimism, however, because he's a low-wattage hitter without a good hit tool who relies on walks and singles to buoy his numbers. As such, there's always the threat that, no matter how patient and disciplined he is, pitchers will pound the zone and keep him from walking as much as he needs to.
In addition to complicating the evaluation process, the unreliability of Cervelli's bat and body has impacted his value in another way: the time spent on the big-league DL has him on schedule to become a free agent after the 2016 season. You can understand why the Pirates took him on anyway—they need an upgrade over Stewart; the free-agent market is short on backstops; and pop-up prospect Elias Diaz could be ready for starting duty before long—but this is far from a given to work. If it does, the Pirates will look pretty smart. If not, expect fans to continue clamoring for Martin until long after he's gone. —R.J. Anderson