MLB: Which Players Will Succeed Most in a New Uniform?
Even when the baseball season ends, there is still plenty of news floating around MLB, especially involving free agency. Plenty of players test the waters as free agents and determine if they’ll stay with their previous team or join a different squad. But which players that joined a new team in the 2016-17 offseason will succeed the most in 2017?
Out of the four major American sports, baseball sees players change teams the most. Many MLB players join a new team because of an increased offer of money, but some do it for a change of scenery or for a better chance to win.
However, switching teams doesn’t always equate with success. Big names can sometimes turn into a nightmare for their new teams. For instance, the Josh Hamilton deal with the Angels: Hamilton, coming off multiple hugely successful seasons for the Rangers, was a complete flop in Los Angeles. Hamilton struggled in his first two seasons with the Angels and suffered a substance abuse relapse. He lasted just two years in what was a five-year deal.
Plenty of big names changed teams this offseason, but only time will tell which players succeed the most in a new uniform. Here’s a prediction of which players are going to do the best on their new teams.
Flashback to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. On the fourth pitch of the game, Dexter Fowler launched a leadoff home run over the center field wall. He played a pivotal role in the Cubs’ postseason success.
In the offseason, though, Fowler signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with one of the Cubs’ biggest rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Cardinals parting ways with veteran Matt Holiday, a spot opened in the outfield for the club. Fowler will take over in center field, joining two young and talented outfielders in Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.
Fowler has played for three different teams in his career (Cubs, Astros and Rockies). In his nine years so far, Fowler has hit .268 with 78 home runs and 339 RBI. He earned his first All-Star Game selection last season. Fowler’s bWAR reached a career-high 4.2 in 2016.
Expect Fowler to have a big 2017 season, especially when he plays the Cubs. The Cardinals and Cubs play each other 19 times this coming season, including the season-opening series.
After seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, Edwin Encarnacion packed his bags and headed back to the States. The Indians and Encarnacion agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal, which includes a club option for a fourth year.
An All-Star in three of the past four seasons, Encarnacion has blossomed into one of the best power hitters in the game. He played third base, first base and designated hitter for the Jays. The Indians will likely use him primarily at DH, with occasional starts at first.
Encarnacion had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016. He tied his career-high in home runs with 42 and knocked in a career-best 127 RBI.
With a now-healthy Indians squad, Encarnacion looks to get Cleveland back to the World Series, but this time to take home the title. Look for big things to come for the 34-year-old and the Indians in 2017.
In 2014, Ian Desmond declined a seven-year, $107 million contract extension offered by the Nationals. With free agency lurking after the 2015 season, he tested his luck, but failed miserably. Desmond had his worst season in 2015, and in turn earned just a one-year, $8 million deal with the Rangers.
The Rangers moved Desmond, an everyday shortstop, to the outfield. Desmond exploded in the first half of the 2016 season and finished with splendid numbers by season’s end. Compared to his disappointing 2015 season, in 2016 Desmond scored 38 more times, drove in 24 more runs, earned himself 42 more hits, increasing his batting average .052 points.
His 2016 season earned him a nice payday with the Rockies. The two sides agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal. Desmond should enjoy playing in the high altitude of Colorado.
Expect Desmond’s power numbers to increase with the Rockies, due to the elevation. Something else to look forward to is another position change for the 31-year-old. The Rockies plan to start Desmond at first base this upcoming season.
In a division primarily owned over the past five seasons by the Dodgers and Giants, expect Desmond and the Rockies to compete this season.
Melancon, after playing for the Pirates and the Nationals last season, signed a four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants. Clearly the Giants needed a closer and they got one of the best in today’s game.
Since the 2013 season, Melancon has 147 saves, and he has a career ERA of 2.60. A big reason Melancon will find success in San Francisco is due to AT&T Park being pitcher-friendly. The ball doesn’t tend to travel, so that’ll help Melancon, who is a pitch-to-contact pitcher.
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Anytime a player can join a successful franchise like the Giants, it gives them an edge and a spark to perform better. The Giants led baseball in blown saves last season with 30. So even if Melancon doesn’t dominate like he has the past three seasons, a decent season should still help the club tremendously.