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National League

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Signed 1B-R Chris Carter to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. [1/7]

The Brewers have had an inconsistent go of things for the past few years. They followed up a playoff berth in 2011 with a disappointing, yet still solid 2012 campaign; after that came a poor 2013, then a surprisingly respectable 2014, then an awful 2015. This roller-coaster ride has finally reached its zenith, and to expedite their journey back to the top, the Brewers have brought in Carter.

In a few ways, Carter fits the Milwaukee mold. His performance, like that of the team, has fluctuated in recent years—after a breakout TAv of .315 in 2012, he posted a .281 in 2013, a .293 in 2014, and a .266 in 2015. Tired of that volatility, the Astros declined to tender him a contract in December, which allowed the Brewers to swoop in and sign him.

What's behind Carter's erratic production? His swing-for-the-fences strategy means he misses often: Since he debuted in 2010, no one with as much playing time has a higher strikeout rate. That approach can pay off, as it did two years ago, when he makes sufficiently solid contact. It does leave him vulnerable to a collapse, however, a fact that he realized last season. The Brewers can empathize with that plight, as their history of aggression finally came back to bite them in 2015; as without enough power to negate the eighth-most punchouts in baseball, they plummeted to a .251 TAv, besting only the Twins and White Sox.

Of course, the Brewers have undergone some changes as of late. New GM David Stearns may not stick to the style of his predecessor, perhaps meaning a lower tolerance for strikeouts. Whatever happens, Carter is a solid fit for a rebuilding Milwaukee club. With Adam Lind now in Seattle, he can slot in as the regular first baseman; if he manages to bounce back, the team could trade him for a respectable return. Or maybe they'll hold on to him—after all, he has three years of team control left. Once the Brewers find themselves in contention again, they may be thankful, one way or another, for the signing of Carter. —Ryan Romano

Fantasy Impact

Chris Carter

It’s hard to envision a softer landing spot for Carter than the launching pad that is Miller Park, which is actually a better home park for right-handed power than his former residence in Houston. At first glance, the Brewers revamped lineup has an endearing Bash Brothers-like quality to it when you look at the free-swinging sluggers they’ve compiled with Carter, Kris Davis and Domingo Santana hitting behind Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun. Get that slide ready Bernie Brewer!

Carter remains the quintessential batting average anchor (.217 average to go along with an eye-popping 33.4% strikeout rate over 2,001 career plate appearances), but his prodigious power makes him a worthwhile target in the later rounds of NL-only formats. Since 2013, only seven hitters have slugged more home runs than the 29-year-old, who is now in line for everyday at-bats at first base with Adam Lind having been jettisoned to Seattle already this offseason. He’s not a flashy name, but in deeper formats and mono-leagues, the power keeps him relevant. —George Bissell

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Signed OF-L Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract. [1/7]

The Giants—winners, lest you forget, of half of all World Series titles awarded this decade—came into this offseason with one obvious need and one less-obvious one. The obvious need was starting pitching. As things stood in November, there wasn’t a great deal of proven depth in the San Francisco rotation beyond Madison Bumgarner. There is now, in the persons of Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. You can quibble about the acquisition cost, maybe, or the alternatives that could or should have been available in free agency or trade, but the fact is that the Giants needed starting pitching two months ago and no longer really do. So, check.

The less obvious need was in the outfield, and in particular in center field. Though Angel Pagan has done many good things for the people of San Francisco over the years (he produced, for example, 7.5 wins for the Giants between 2012 and 2014), he was pretty darn terrible last year. To wit: over 551 plate appearances in 2015, Pagan put up a .236 TAv to go alongside three home runs, a -10.6 FRAA and a -0.7 WARP. That’s not what you want out of your starting center fielder, even when he’s a fan favorite, and especially when your plausible backup (Nori Aoki) has departed in free agency to the Seattle Mariners.

Enter Denard Span. Span’s quietly put together a pretty solid career for himself, with a peak WARP of 5.6 (in 2014) and a career total of 20.2, which is more than 99 percent of the American population and the balance of big-league ballplayers in the bargain. Most relevantly for the Giants: there’s reason to believe (barring injury) that he can still hit, and still field his position. PECOTA still likes him for 5.3 WARP over the next three years, and about eight runs saved in the outfield each year. That’s not extraordinary production, but it’s also not nothing: at $7 million a win, inflating by a half-million annually, it’ll probably be worth about $40 million over the next three years, and the Giants are getting it for $31 million. That’s an even deal, more or less, and it fills a need for the Giants. So, all’s well by the Bay?

Not quite. In Span’s case, you can’t just hand-wave the risk of injury away. He lost most of 2015 to a hip injury, and all the tire-jumping videos in the world (cc: Twitter) won’t matter much if he can’t stay on the field for the length of this deal. If he can, the Giants have an excellent all-around ballplayer on their hands, and have a very good chance of getting value in excess of the $31 million they’ve just paid. If he isn’t healthy, on the other hand, then the Giants will learn the hard way why Span was available for just a hair over $10 million a year—indeed, from what I’ve heard privately from other teams connected to Span, his medicals scared a lot of suitors off.

The Giants evidently felt the upside was worth the risk. They might be right. If they are, Span’s a pretty-much perfect player for their needs right now, at a very reasonable cost. If they’re wrong, $31 million just isn’t a ton of money in today’s game, and they’ll probably survive. That’s not a bad position to be in at this point in the offseason, and it means the Giants should be well-positioned to keep up with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks, neither of whom seem to be very interested in ceding the division to the three-time champs. —Rian Watt

Fantasy Impact

Denard Span

Normally a move to AT&T Park garners an automatic down arrow for a hitter but Span has 37 home runs in his eight year career. Power is a negligible part of his game. Sure, he’ll probably cross the plate a time or two fewer than he might in a more favorable park, but he’s poised to lead off for a lineup that looks solid from top to bottom. What will really drive Span’s fantasy value in today’s speed-deprived environment is his stolen base production. The Giants have finished 24th, 10th, 22nd, 29th, and 10th in baseball in swipes over the past five seasons, perhaps exhibiting a slightly conservative tendency on the basepaths. With contact specialists Joe Panik and Buster Posey hitting behind him, and to a lesser extent Matt Duffy, Span ought to be given the green light, and accordingly, 20+ steals is a reasonable expectation if the hip is back to full health. – Greg Wellemeyer