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American League

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Signed 1B/OF-L Brandon Moss to a two-year, $12 million contract. [2/1]

Just like Darrell Porter, Lonnie Smith, and Al Hrabosky before him, Moss does the Missouri Shuffle, heading from St. Louis to Kansas City. A classic grip-and-rip masher, the well-traveled hand suffered a total collapse at the end of last season but still posted a .279 True Average, dead-on his career mark. Before his late-season descent into Lovecraftian chaos, Moss did his usual walk-and-dinger thing, but the walks started to come a little less frequently than before. Approaching middle-age, he’s best cast as a part-time player. As the strong side of an everyday platoon, he’s likely not to embarrass, and his .269 projected PECOTA True Average outstrips more expensive first base options like Mark Trumbo (.268 PECOTA TAv for 2017), Mike Napoli (.265), and—sigh—Ian Desmond (.258). He’s good, but probably moving downhill on the ol’ aging curve.

While one could argue that Moss has a bit more flexibility than your average 1B/DH masher, you could also argue that the Royals aren’t exactly dying to slot his glove into the outfield. Along with the Braves of about half a decade ago the Royals are one of the poster teams for outfield defense, and before Moss entered the mix there was Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Jorge Soler in play, as well as Paulo Orlando and Billy Burns. According to BP’s depth chart projections, Moss is only likely to see perhaps 10 percent of the left field playing time, with the bulk of his reps coming at DH or behind Eric Hosmer.

The contract is backloaded—surprisingly so—with only $3.75 million going to Moss in the first year of his deal. (There’s also a $1 million option for 2019.) That kind of makes sense, given that the Royals are probably looking to make their last go of it in the 2017 window, and if they’re out of contention by midseason it’ll be about time to sell before Hosmer, Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and a cast of thousands exit via free agency. By 2018 he might be one of those slightly-overpaid vets on a rebuilding team, but that’s just fine. For 2017, and probably in the aggregate, Moss is a valuable role-playing cog and a snug fit for the Royals.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Signed 1B-R Chris Carter to a one-year, $3 million contract. [2/7]

All hail the impulse buy. I mean, who among us hasn’t wandered into a store and seen something we don’t need, but the price is just too good to pass up. Maybe you go into a GameStop and spot a video game that you’ll never have a chance to play or pick out a pair of shoes that you’ll wear once a year, simply because the deal is too good to pass up. I guess baseball teams do that too, as the Yankees’ acquisition of the reigning NL home run leader gives them enviable depth at first base and DH, despite already having three or four players for those two positions.

Carter is only available because he’s a one-dimensional player: a 75-grade power bat who creates more wind than a Dyson Airblade. The Brewers cut him loose despite last season’s 42 dingers because they’d rather have KBO export Eric Thames than Carter’s moth-eaten glove at first base. Make no mistake, his defensive liabilities and contact woes make Carter a not-even-average contributor despite his massive power. But in the league with the DH, the Yankees can hide that one deficiency and let his bat do the talking. PECOTA projects 32 dingers­—he’s averaged that many homers over the past four seasons—but only a .267 True Average. I know the shape of that offensive output makes his hitting talents look more impressive than they really are, but o give you some idea of comparable value: Ichiro Suzuki had a similar .266 True Average last year.

Once again, the trick will be finding enough plate appearances to make everyone happy in New York, a problem that has cropped up for the Yankees once or twice before. But the Yanks tend to find a way to manage their roster and injuries are always waiting in the wings. If everyone’s healthy, then either Carter or Matt Holliday will sit more often than anyone would like, as one of the two of them will displace Tyler Austin as the team’s caddy for Greg Bird but spend extra time on the bench. Holliday’s health is hardly assured and Bird still has shoulder issues that could impair his everyday readiness.

Holliday could—in theory at least—displace Aaron Judge or Brett Gardner in the outfield if the team decides to push for a trade to shore up the rotation, and by midseason you can pretty much guarantee that all of these problems will work themselves out. In the meantime, the Bronx Bombers added another bomber at a price that could make even the penny-pinching Rays jealous. They’ll control Carter’s rights for the next three seasons, and whether they get good use out of their new purchase or keep it in a closet he’s nice to have around.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Signed 1B-L Logan Morrison to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. [2/7]

I know Dave Cameron has talked about teams punting first base recently, but this is just ridiculous. The Rays have a reputation for making strange decisions at the three, but this one seems a bit weirder than most. Morrison, who’s famous for not quite living up to potential, getting injured, and skirting the replacement-level WARP line for the last five years, is returning to Tampa with a bum wrist and a history of middling performances. And he may well be this team’s everyday first baseman.

The trouble with this big lefty isn’t his approach, it’s his lack of top-flight power and a surprisingly bad hit tool that projected much better when he was a younger man. Our data also shows that he’s not a very good defender (averaging about -2.0 FRAA per season over the past five), and he always seems to be dealing with a nagging injury. Wrist surgery will have him recovering when spring training kicks off, so perhaps he’s just getting the wounded wing out of the way? The silver lining is that he does tend to be pretty consistent with his bat in terms of a seasonal aggregate, always hovering somewhere close to the .260 True Average mark that designates a league-average hitter. But with Brad Miller coming into his own last year and plenty of other options both in the Rays’ system and on the free agent market, it comes as a bit of a shock that they’d bring LoMo back for another go-round.

Unless Morrison hits well to start the season, the Rays could always go out and shift Miller back to the cold corner or move Corey Dickerson or—most likely of all­—promote either Jake Bauers or Casey Gillaspie to the show. Does anyone really think that the famously polarizing Morrison is part of this Tampa Bay team to provide some sort of winning veteran presence? In a market where top range-deficient slugger types are hooking up with teams for low rates, one might’ve imagined Morrison getting a minor-league deal rather than a full MLB contract. Instead, we’re left to imagine what the Rays see in him.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed 1B-R Mike Napoli to a one-year, $8.5 million contract. [2/7]

Third time could be the charm for Napoli, as the three-time Ranger is ready to suit up in Arlington again. It’s strange how the veteran slugger was almost the final domino to fall in a winter of defensively-challenged masher musical chairs, but this fit and the price is seems about right for someone of his pedigree. Despite only spending about a fifth of his career with Texas, his .277/.381/.548 line well outstrips his performance in any other uniform.

Of course, those numbers take into account Nap’s magical 2011 season and a ripping-hot run in 2015. Don’t expect anything quite as magnificent as a sky-high OBP and slugging percentage over .500 in 2017—he’s simply not that good anymore, if he ever truly was. No, Napoli’s 2016 numbers with Cleveland would be a much better benchmark, though they might get a slight bump from the favorable environment in Arlington. While he belted 34 of The Productive Biscuitsthanks, David Roth—and his double-digit walk rate puts him on the bags, he’s merely an average-ish overall offensive player.

Unfortunately, his contact skills appear to be fading a bit and he’s closing in on a strikeout once in every three plate appearances. As a baserunner he’s no Victor Martinez, but he’s still awful. Beyond that, his defense at first base isn’t exactly Mientkiewiczian, and he’s no longer able to snag additional value by posting up behind the plate every now and again.

So that’s a laundry lists of mild faults, but dingers, man! Napoli obviously fits in well during those sweltering Texas summers and he’s a relatively reliable source of offense. Being able to snag a player like that on a one-year contract for under $10 million is a pretty fair deal, even with his warts. Compared to Chris Carter’s contract, this may seem a little rich. Compared to the man who stole his job in Cleveland, Edwin Encarnacion­, it may seem like a bargain. For the Rangers and their fans, who’re probably tired of watching Mitch Moreland wag his bat between Napoli’s stints with the team, his signing is reason enough to party.