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March 5, 2014
The Lineup Card
11 of Our Least-Favorite Offseason Moves
1. Tigers trade Doug Fister to Nationals for Robbie Ray, Ian Krol, and Steve Lombardozzi
It almost doesn’t matter how good Robbie Ray—the centerpiece return for Detroit—ends up being because everyone on the outside continues to believe they could’ve gotten more. It’s also a wonder how the Nats got away with just sending Ian Krol for the bullpen as opposed to a more substantial piece like Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, or even Rafael Soriano… just someone more proven and capable of being an impact relief arm.
As news trickled out of the trade and pieces were added to Detroit’s side, everyone was waiting for that final piece with Ray, Krol, and Steve Lombardozzi, but it never came resulting in a resounding “that’s it?” from Motown. There is a scenario where this is really the best they could do and/or they really believe that Ray shares Fister’s mid-rotation potential, but for a GM who has repeatedly shown his savvy at the trade desk, this particular transaction left this Tigers diehard a bit cold. —Paul Sporer
2. The Fister Trade
3. Marlins sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million deal
I don't think the financial terms are that bad, but the entire transaction just feels a little icky. (And it's not just his auto mechanic's hair.) Now the Marlins can straddle the line by saying they bought a World Series catcher, all the while traipsing the ghosts of Casey McGehee and Rafael Furcal into the very same infield. Additionally, Saltalamacchia will be teammates with Adeiny Hechavarria, and I'm sorry, but as a baseball purist, that's way too many letters for one lineup. —Matt Sussman
4. Mariners sign Willie Bloomquist to a two-year, $5.8 million deal
5. Diamondbacks sign Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $23.5 million deal
The two-year pact, which includes an option for 2016 that carries a $4 million buyout, is unlikely to be a disaster. Pitchers who can be counted on for 200 innings have value, and Arroyo has worked 199 or more frames in every season since 2005. The problem is that he's hovered around (or below) replacement level in four of the last five years. He probably won't be more than a win better than Randall Delgado, whose spot in the rotation he usurped, and he certainly shouldn't stand in the way of Archie Bradley, who might be the top pitching prospect in the upper minors.
If the Diamondbacks were going to add a non-elite starter, they needed one with upside—the sort of pitcher who could propel them from .500 territory toward wild card contention if everything broke right. Scott Kazmir, a 2.7 WARP pitcher for the Indians last year, who got $22 million over two years from the Athletics, might have been a worthwhile gamble. Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez might have cost a bit more in the short run, but the Diamondbacks had money to spend, and the greater risk might have been worth a shot at a much greater reward.
Instead, the Diamondbacks got Arroyo. At best, they'll pick up a win or two—inching toward the playoff mix but likely falling a few games short. At worst, Arroyo will finally show signs of wear at the age of 37 or 38, and they'll win one or two fewer. He won't be an albatross. But for $23 million, Towers probably could have done better than a move that leaves you wondering, what's the difference? —Daniel Rathman
6. Mariners trade Carter Capps for Logan Morrison
Hart plays right field as much as he can; Morrison plays right field as much as Hart can’t; and the Mariners have used up all the positions on the field to update their offense. There’s still a long offseason ahead, and there’s still a lot of years left for the Mariners to win something with this core. But, though Hart and Morrison make them better than they were this morning, it’s a pretty unambitious way to upgrade two very upgradeable positions.
We now know that the Mariners wouldn't make another significant move until signing Fernando Rodney at the start of spring training. When Robinson Cano lobbied for Nelson Cruz, or when he lobbies for Kendrys Morales, the glut caused by Morrison's presence surely is a factor in Seattle’s sitting still. DH, the corners, and the bullpen should be the relatively easy parts for a front office, but the Mariners blocked themselves by adding a player who can't field and barely hits but is juuuuuust good enough to convince a front office that the job is filled. The open spot on the depth chart arguably would have been worth more in December and January than the player who filled it. —Sam Miller
7. The universal rejection of qualifying offers
One can understand a player's desire to parlay a good year into the biggest payday of his professional life, leading to situations like Ervin Santana's refusal to back down from demands of four years and $50 million despite being one year removed from a sub-replacement season. In the case of Stephen Drew, the qualifying offer would have amounted to $4.6 million more than he has earned in any year of his career, yet the oft-injured infielder was counting on cashing in after a 2013 campaign that was his first season above 2.0 WARP since 2010. The outlook is even worse for Kendrys Morales, who would have equaled his six-year earnings to date had he accepted the one-year deal.
The X-factor in the calculus of these players’ values is the draft-pick compensation tied to their signing, which creates a large value gap between extending a qualifying offer and signing a player who has already rejected one. For an offer-rejecting free agent, the theoretical gap bridges the combined value of a first-round pick (lost by his future team) plus a compensation pick (gained by his former team).
Free agents may choose not to focus on factors that are out of their control, but agents now have two years of evidence with which to recalculate the risk factors when advising their clients. Draft-pick compensation is an albatross, and future qualifying offer recipients will have to consider the pros and cons carefully before saying “no” to a qualifying offer that would guarantee them the highest single-season payout they’ve ever earned. —Doug Thorburn
8. The Diamondbacks extend Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers
To be clear, my issue isn't with the extensions qua extensions so much as the way the organization went about them and what this says about the likely hell it is to work there. If Ken Kendrick is going on the radio ripping players and can't decide how long he wants to have you (general/) managing his team, how are you supposed to get anything done as either a FOT or a field person? What's your horizon for success? What's your gameplan? Can you gameplan? Is Kevin Towers a gunslinger or is slinging guns the only thing you can do when you don't know where the shots are coming from? Wouldn't we all be gunslingers if our boss were Yosemite Sam? —Jason Wojciechowski
9. Dodgers decline option on Mark Ellis
This sequence of events worked out fine for Ellis, who went to another winning team and got more money than he would have had the Dodgers exercised the option. But Los Angeles may already regret not bringing him back. Guerrero, a former shortstop, might need “extensive time” at Triple-A to regain his timing and learn second base after missing last season, and the team’s other realistic options at the position are Dee Gordon, Chone Figgins, and Justin Turner (a pretty good pickup on a minor-league deal, but not Ellis' equal on defense).
Between Ellis, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, and Jerry Hairston (not to mention Michael Young), the Dodgers probably had too many scrappy utility infield types last season. Without Ellis, they might not have enough. —Ben Lindbergh
10. Giants extend Tim Lincecum for two years and $35 million
11. Pirates decide not to extend a qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett
12. The Rockies Trade Dexter Fowler and a PTBNL to the Astros for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes; Sign Boone Logan for three years and $16.5 million