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National League

MIAMI MARLINS
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Signed RHP Brad Ziegler to a two-year, $16 million contract. [12/17]

Signed RHP Junichi Tazawa to a two-year, $12 million contract. [12/16]

Age remains the greatest progenitor of inefficiency in the market for relief pitchers, which is really saying something. This is a market that overvalues any pitcher who’s consistently accrued saves, has frequently placed too great an emphasis on velocity, and has tended to irrationally undervalue pitchers with anything less than stellar command. Still, the easiest way to get a good reliever really cheaply remains this one: buy used.

If Ziegler weren’t 37 years old, he’d surely have made quite a bit more money. His last six seasons have all seen him post an above-average cFIP, and a DRA- no higher than 86.6. He’s been more than 10 percent better than a league-average pitcher, even through the lens of statistics that cast skeptical eyes on his lowish strikeout rate, biggish platoon split, and limited role. He’s been worth at least 1.3 WARP for each of the last six seasons. In each of the last four, he’s even been better than an average pitcher against left-handed batters, who used to knock him around.

If Ziegler threw hard, would he have gotten much more than this? It’s doubtful; look at Fernando Rodney’s bargain-basement deal with Ziegler’s former team in Arizona. If he had a higher profile as a closer, would he have hit paydirt? Well, Koji Uehara has a World Series-ending strikeout on his resume and more saves than Ziegler, but he only got a one-year deal worth $6 million. Ziegler has that wacky arm angle, strange splits, and is reliant on his eye-popping ground-ball rate. Yet, it’s clear that what held back his market was his age. Given that he’s been extremely durable and has relatively few miles on his arm, there’s not much cause to believe that he should have suffered such a handicap.

The Marlins, as they seem to do with some frequency, fell ass-backward into the right plan here. They tried to woo Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, offering huge sums from a coffer we know has a solid and shallow bottom. When they missed out on them, they were left to choose the best of what was still laying around, and will pay Ziegler and Tazawa about 20 percent less than either Chapman or Jansen will make while probably getting more total value. —Matthew Trueblood

Tazawa has been one of the more steadily under-appreciated pitchers in baseball since he burst onto the scene as a reliever in 2012. He’s not intimidating in stature and doesn’t have any single overpowering pitch, but the 30-year-old has been a model of consistency. You can typically find him near the top of the K/BB leaderboards and Tazawa has never posted a below-average DRA or a cFIP below 95.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to leave out the fact that the right-hander was poor by his standards in 2016, throwing a career-low 49.2 innings with a career-high 2.5 BB/9 and 1.6 HR/9. He dealt with injuries all year, and was suffering the consequences of being John Farrell’s favorite toy over the previous three seasons. In Miami, that won’t be an issue. Even before he was brought into town, the Marlins boasted a strong top-three in their bullpen with A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps. They’ve since added Ziegler to the fold, which makes Tazawa the fifth-best arm in their relief corps

The Marlins’ rotation is still reeling from the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez, but the additions of Tazawa and Ziegler give Miami a very deep bullpen that should shorten a lot of games for its starters. —Matt Collins

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Signed RHP Daniel Hudson to a two-year, $11 million contract. [12/19]

Here’s a slight change of pace. Instead of attempting to fix a pitcher and create value out of nothing, the Pirates have placed their faith in Hudson, who perhaps already fixed himself with the Diamondbacks. A quick recap of his story: After a solid start as a hotshot prospect back in 2011, he ran into a laundry list of arm injuries headlined by two consecutive zippers. Unlike most pitchers who deal with back-to-back Tommy John surgeries, he managed to get back into the groove with a conversion to the bullpen, where his velocity ticked up and he started racking up whiffs.

Over the past two years, Hudson turned himself into a pretty good reliever, striking out a hitter per inning and letting his velocity tick up higher than ever. Hudson altered his delivery along with his ulnar collateral ligament, and now all he needs to do is survive in order to thrive as a high-leverage arm. Sure, he’s not an elite reliever, and he’s probably not a one-to-one replacement for the recently departed Mark Melancon. Instead of making a longer-term commitment to Melancon or another top-flight reliever, the Pirates spent roughly $50 million less and are betting on Hudson's continued health and vibrancy. —Bryan Grosnick

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Signed RHP Jhoulys Chacin to a one-year, $1.75 million contract. [12/17]

The bane of spell-check programs everywhere has had a surprising renaissance that started in 2015 with Arizona, earning him a spot in my NRI Watch column and in the Braves’ rotation. He was functional in that role–his 5.40 ERA was a bit of a smokescreen hiding the same solid-average performance he’s had for much of his career–so Atlanta shipped him off to Anaheim, where pitching was a hot commodity in the Jered Weaver/Tim Lincecum wasteland of 2016. He was also decent enough there, finishing out his year with a respectable 3.94 DRA and a 51 percent ground-ball rate.

According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, Chacin turned down “significantly more money elsewhere” to sign with the Padres, ostensibly because their starting rotation consists of various Triple-A-quality guys and Petco Park can help his raw numbers. Because of that, I’m willing to go out on a limb and dub this the best value signing of the entire offseason. I was certainly the high man on him in my Free Agent 50 rankings–giving him the 47th spot–but I never imagined he’d sign for less than $2 million.—Bryan Grosnick

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Signed SS-S Jimmy Rollins to a minor-league contract. [12/19]

As strange as it seems, each of Philadelphia’s former Big Three infielders is a free agent. While Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are yet to find their next homes, Rollins signed with the Giants for what could be the only minor-league deal of the trio. Unlike Utley–the greatest of the three, in my view–Rollins has found himself goind down the Howard path, bleeding away the last of his value while drifting to other metropolises in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Where he used to have solid pop and good contact ability, his batting average and slugging percentage did their best Thelma and Louise impersonation and went off the cliff together. Never an impressive defender at shortstop according to FRAA, today Rollins brings just one above-average skill to the table: veteran presence. If he’s going to work as a multi-position backup for his hometown(ish) Giants, he’ll need to adapt to the entirety of the infield playing behind clear starters Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Eduardo Nunez.

I’m not sure that J-Roll is anything more than an emergency injury replacement if things get dark during spring training; a replacement-level infielder with name recognition. Maybe everything will break right for him and he’ll play well enough as a reserve to make a last run as a worthwhile role player for a competitive team. If not, well, we’ll always have Philadelphia. —Bryan Grosnick

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mwright
12/21
Does anyone else find it odd that Pittsburgh is willing to give a mediocre reliever over $5 million per year? Just last year they sent two prospects to Toronto so they didn't have to pay Liriano $13 million this season.