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Acquired 3B-R Brett Lawrie from the Athletics in exchange for LHP Zack Erwin and RHP J.B. Wendelken. [12/9]

It took a somewhat embarrassing episode involving shortstop prospect Trea Turner, but MLB finally modified its rules with regard to trading recent draftees. Whereas one used to need to wait a full year after signing a player before including him in a deal, drafted players can now switch teams beginning at the end of the World Series in their draft year. The rule change was meant mostly to alleviate the strain of situations like that of Turner, who was the player to be named later in the Padres’ trade for Wil Myers—and spent six months in that limbo. The man who might be ticketed for the Nationals’ starting shortstop job next spring played half his 2015 season for what was already his former organization.

However, the consequences of this change are going to reach much further than MLB intended. (Stop me if you’ve heard that before.) (Wait, don’t, because of course you have, and we don’t have time to stop just now.) Dansby Swanson being dealt to the Braves a half a year after the Diamondbacks made him the first overall pick in the draft was and is the headliner, and it sounds like the Astros used 2015 second-rounder Thomas Eshelman to round out their blockbuster deal for close Ken Giles, but now look at this deal. The White Sox, who just keep doubling down on this roster (and manager Robin Ventura’s ability to do something with it), have used Erwin (their fourth-round pick this summer, but only their second actual selection, thanks to having signed David Robertson and Melky Cabrera the previous winter) to acquire Lawrie.

What allowing earlier trading of picks is doing, and is going to keep right on doing, is deepening the pool of potential prospect matches for teams looking to make trades by something like 20 percent. That’s figuring that most teams probably have 15 or so prospects who fit these two criteria, on some level:

1. A given trading partner might value the player closely enough to the way his current team does to make a deal possible; and

2. The player isn’t vital to the organization in a way that makes him practically untouchable.

It’s also figuring that in most teams’ Draft classes, there will be three or four prospects that some given prospective trade partner also scouted, also liked, and that fits the criteria above. In other words, during this winter trading period, we’re going to see teams who want to trade prospects (or trade for them) working with a wider range of options. Anything that increases the number of targets for a seller is going to boost the likelihood of two teams matching up on enough of those targets to get a deal done. Honestly, it feels like this rule change could have a lasting, significant impact on the volume and the shape of offseason trading. (It also underscores the fun we could all have if baseball made draft picks truly tradable, but we’ll leave that discussion for another time.)

One last unforeseen consequence, though: This will permit teams to chase some competitive windows, even at the cost of long-term viability. Between their big free-agent signings last winter and this trade, the Sox have just one player (first-round pick Carson Fulmer) among the first 140 taken in the 2015 Draft. They’re cutting a pretty wide swath through their corn fields just to give Jose Abreu and Chris Sale room to play for a ring (maybe).

So, Lawrie. He’s an interesting fit for the White Sox. They do need help at third base, and badly. Come to think of it, they also need help at second base, at least as badly, which is probably why it sounds like they’re keeping their options open and talking to the Reds about a Todd Frazier trade even after acquiring Lawrie. The idea behind a Frazier deal would be to lengthen the Sox’s lineup and get very serious about contending again, very quickly. Frazier would turn an atrocious weakness into an admirable strength in the blink of an eye, the way the Cubs turned their catching situation inside-out last winter by trading for Miguel Montero. Lawrie is something more akin to the Brewers (and then, a year later, the Mariners) trading for Adam Lind. The improvement is vast, in that the team was prepared to field a sub-replacement level collection of dreck before making the move, but the result is just okay: Lawrie has been a one-and-a-half-win player, give or take, for the last three years.

Until 2015, of course, some people convinced themselves that Lawrie had huge upside he simply wasn’t tapping because of injuries. It’s true, he did play just a hair over half of his team’s games over the two years prior to this one. With Oakland in 2015, though, Lawrie played 149 games, batted over 600 times—and posted an exquisitely average .266 TAv, good (along with slightly above-average defense) for 1.9 WARP.

Lawrie solves problems for the White Sox. Along with their (totally backward-ass, counterproductive, but undeniably sincere) effort to improve their catching situation by moving on from Tyler Flowers, and in combination with the deafening silence where there recently were rumors of Jose Quintana being a trade candidate, this move signals that the Sox believe (rightfully so, I think) the AL Central to be weak, leaderless, and winnable. This trade doesn’t get them there, but via an avenue that wasn’t available to them until this winter, they took a step toward serious contender status, and kept their principal trade capital intact, in case the move that will get them there eventually presents itself. —Matthew Trueblood

Fantasy Impact

Brett Lawrie

Most fantasy owners (and fans of the teams he's left behind) have likely given up on Lawrie being much more than a mild disappointment at this point. However, that certainly doesn't mean there's no room for value in drafts and auctions this coming season and beyond. The 16 homers he hit in Oakland last year could certainly turn into 20-plus while playing half his games at U.S. Cellular; and even if that is accompanied by a .240-ish average, he's still a top-20 third baseman with some lingering upside on top of that.

Mike Olt

Oh, you forgot he existed as well? Don't have to worry about remembering him anymore! —Bret Sayre

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Signed RHP John Axford to a two-year deal worth $10 million. [12/9]

Think David Forst prioritized finding bullpen help this winter? He'd already signed Ryan Madson and traded for Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski before arriving at the winter meetings. Now Forst adds another potential late-inning fix in Axford, who was non-tendered last week by the Rockies.

Axford is coming off another wacky and wild season, during which he walked more than five batters per nine for the second year in a row. Though his control is often problematic, he remains employable because he can coerce whiffs and grounders with his upper-90s fastball and curveball. The catch is Axford's sloppy location has been known to cause home-run problems—a nasty combo that makes him a high-leverage liability. You'd assume pitching in Oakland's spacey ballpark would limit the likelihood of his longballitis reappearing, yet, as some other relievers have proved, that's far from a given.

As for the deal itself, it comes a day after the Rockies handed the same pact to Jason Motte. While the Motte signing remains odd for reasons that are specific to his prospects, it might be time to accept this as the going rate for free-agent relievers with end-game experience. That doesn't mean you should like giving Axford a second year, but it's possible that this is where the market is headed. We'll see. —R.J. Anderson

Acquired LHP Zack Erwin and RHP J.B. Wendelken from the White Sox in exchange for 3B-R Brett Lawrie. [12/9]

Erwin was the White Sox fourth round pick out of Clemson, and while most felt that he was a relief prospect, reports are that he looked like a potential backend starter upon entering the Chicago organization. The Pale Hose raised his arm slot from low three-quarters, and in return it allowed him to throw a heavier 89-91 mph fastball and a solid-average curveball. The change comes and goes, but when he doesn't slow the arm action, it's a 50-plus offering as well. There's almost zero upside here, but it's reasonable to think he can become a fifth starter if the development goes according to plan.

Wendelken was originally acquired by the White Sox in the Jake Peavy trade, and is your classic up-and-down relief profile. His fastball has some sink at 90-92 mph, but the out pitch here is a change that he has good feel for with plenty of movement. He also pounds the strike zone and generally hits his spots, so he's the type of guy can count on to not create a ton of self-inflicted damage. Ultimately the lack of a competent breaking-ball limits his value, but it's not impossible he carves out a career as a middle-inning reliever because of his lack of volatility. —Christopher Crawford

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Acquired 1B/DH-L Adam Lind from the Brewers in exchange for RHPs Daniel Missaki, Carlos Herrera, and Freddy Peralta. [12/9]

Doesn't it feel as though Lind has been a Mariner forever?

If not, you probably won't have a chance to develop that identification bond between player and team. Lind is entering the final season of his contract, which calls for him to earn $8 million (hence the restarting Brewers' decision to trade him elsewhere). The profile here is straightforward: he's an excellent hitter against right-handed pitching (see his .315 multi-year True Average) and a poor one against lefties (.195). At his best, he offers a patient approach and above-average power without the strikeouts that tend to come with the package. On the downside, Lind isn't a good defender, and he's had foot and back issues that could theoretically pop up again at any time. The Mariners haven't had good first-base production in a long, long time, however, so this more than qualifies as a risk worth taking.

Just whom might the Mariners use as Lind's platoon partner at the cold corner? The current internal favorite is Jesus Montero, who never could get back into the previous regime's graces. Montero probably isn't good enough for Jerry Dipoto's heaven, either—or at least not so good with the bat as to make up for his spotty glove—meaning the M's are likely to pursue one of the various right-handed mashers still on the market—be it Ryan Raburn, Steve Pearce, the bellicose Sean Rodriguez, or whoever else they fancy. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Adam Lind

Moving from one of the hitter-friendliest National League parks to one the pitcher-friendliest American League parks is…well, there's no way of getting around the fact that it's a huge bummer. Sure, Safeco isn't nearly as tough on left-handed bats as on right-handed ones, but Lind gets a sizeable step back here. He would have likely been one of the first 15 first basemen off the board in fantasy leagues for 2016 had he stayed in Milwaukee, but he may have dropped completely out of the top-20 now. Expecting much more than a .270 average and 15-18 homers is likely a fool's errand. It's just a bad all-around day for the #AdamLindAppreciationSociety.

Jesus Montero

Come on, we all knew that Montero wasn't going to start the season as the primary first baseman in Seattle, but we also didn't know it wasn't going to happen. Now we know it's not going to happen, and at best Montero is an AL-only endgame pick and short-side platoon mate for the newly acquired Adam Lind. —Bret Sayre

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Acquired RHPs Daniel Missaki, Carlos Herrera, and Freddy Peralta from the Mariners in exchange for 1B/DH-L Adam Lind. [12/9]

The best of these is Missaki, a right-hander who is most famous for being the youngest pitcher to ever pitch in the WBC, back in 2013. He throws four different pitches, led by an 88-90 mph fastball that he has pretty good feel for, and a split-finger pitch that has some tumble. He'll also show a fringe-average slider that can get slurvy, and a change that doesn't do much but does have some deception. He also underwent Tommy John surgery last year, so we'll have to see how he responds to the operation. If forced to bet on one of these young men to end up a starter, it's him.

Peralta was given over $100,000 as an intriguing right-hander in 2013, but his stuff took a step backward this summer. He sits 88-90 without much projection left, and both the slider and change are closer to fringe-average than average. He pounds the strike zone, though (eight walks in 57 innings), so if he can go back to throwing 92-94 like he previously was, there's a chance he's a backend starter.

Herrera is the most projectable of these arms, but also the most volatile/lowest floor. He already touches 92 with more likely to come as he fills out his frame, and his curveball has solid spin. He's very much a work-in-progress, but if there's a lottery ticket here, it's Herrera. —Christopher Crawford

Fantasy Impact

The 27-year-old had a good enough showing in 2015 in limited playing time (.296/.367/.441 with 4 HR in 152 AB) to get the first crack at replacing the irreplaceable Adam Lind. Given that the next name down the first base depth chart might still be Yuniesky Betancourt, I'd say Rogers will likely get quite a bit of rope (barring another Brewers move) and could his his way into deep mixed relevancy and a $8-10 player in NL-only formats. —Bret Sayre

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Signed RHP Yusmeiro Petit to a one-year deal worth an undisclosed amount. [12/9]
Signed RHP Shawn Kelley to a one-year deal worth an undisclosed amount. [12/9]

Petit’s career with the Giants ended the way it began: with very little fanfare, and copious misspellings of his first name. After lighting it up as the team’s secret weapon during the 2014 World Series run (and the year before as well, if we’re being honest), Petit’s peripherals fell back to earth this season. The Giants non-tendered him rather than pay an estimated $2.4 million, and the Nationals are, maybe, the beneficiaries.

Petit’s curveball (perhaps the best in baseball two years ago) is a deceptive thing that plays off his effortless fastball command and induced a 29 percent whiff rate in 2014. This past year, no such luck; his curveball whiff rate dipped to 26 percent, partially due to an early summer vacation, during which hitters nearly doubled their slugging percentages against his other three pitches while swinging and missing less on the hump. His other pitches stopped getting whiffs too; everything just got slightly worse, all at once. So goes it when you don’t have Jose Fernandez’s raw stuff.

Entering his age-31 season, Petit is still relatively young—which is weird to say about a guy who debuted in 2006—and his velocity is as steady as ever. Though his whiff and strikeout rates dipped quite a bit this past season, it’s more possible that he can right the ship and get back to his old self than if he had lost dramatic movement or miles off his fastball. For Nats fans who are disappointed about the team’s loss of Craig Stammen—there’s one of you, I’m sure—take solace: this is your new right-handed multi-inning guy with some strikeouts, just one year younger and with a little higher upside.

It’s eminently possible that this could end up looking like a low-cost, savvy move by a team looking to rebuild a shaky bullpen. He’s no longer the king of swing(men), but his acquisition is maybe worth a tug at the corner of the lips, if not a full grin. —Bryan Grosnick

Regardless of whether Mike Rizzo trades Drew Storen or Jonathan Papelbon, he needed to bolster the Nationals' middle-relief corps. Craig Stammen was non-tendered; Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett haven't lived up to their potential; Matt Thornton is a free agent; and so on. Kelley isn't as good as Darren O'Day, but he comes cheaper and nonetheless makes sense for the Nationals.

The most unusual part about Kelley, who is otherwise a fine middle reliever, is his pitch selection. He doesn't deploy his fastball-slider combination like the typical reliever. Rather, Kelley pitches off his slider. Last season was the second in a row he'd thrown more bendy things than heaters, and the result was the best campaign of his career by any measure. There are a couple of reasons why more pitchers don't follow suit: for one, not everyone can pitch backward; for another, there's the whole platoon advantage thing (though Kelley has fared okay in that regard); and lastly, not everyone wants to, due to the fear that throwing sliders correlates with arm trouble. The last point is concerning by itself, but worse when consider that Kelley has already underwent two elbow surgeries.

Not that anyone knows how many effective seasons Kelley has left. He could burn out quickly like Michael Wuertz (who was roughly a year older than Kelley is now when he threw his final big-league pitch), or slowly like Luke Gregerson and Sergio Romo, whose slider predilections haven't prevented him from being workhorses. Beats us. The only thing for certain is that, on paper, Kelley seems like a boost to the Nats' bullpen. —R.J. Anderson

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What the %$#$ are the A's doing?

It was bad enough giving away Donaldson for Lawrie (and trying to come up with some metrics to justify it).

How bad does Josh Donaldson for Zach Erwin and JB Wendelkne sound?

Now they get rid of Lawrie to bring back some combination of Jed Lowrie and Danny Valencia to play in their infield.

This really is indefensible.
To be fair, it's Donaldson for Zach Erwin, JB Wendelkne, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and a year of Brett Lawrie, but yeah even with that you're point still stands.

Hard to see this one working out for the A's in the long run.
A Bay Area media person told me "the A's hated Lawrie." I asked if it was because his bat was not as loud as advertised, or a personality thing. I was told the latter. When that's the case, sometimes you have to do what you can to clear the decks.
If there's a team in desperate need of a tear-down, it's the White Sox. Their moves remind me of that "this must be the last" flopping of the caught fish at the bottom of the boat. You think that they're finally goners, but then, out of the blue, there comes one "last" pathetic flop. They should have been the team to trade a pitcher to Arizona.