Offseason moves: Trades
With labor negotiations at the forefront of all NFL discussions for the foreseeable future, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to ponder the beginning of spring training.
Sure, we’ll marvel at the arbitration process and the huge dollars spent on pitchers such as Ross Ohlendorf (who will earn $2.025 million after posting a record of 1-11). We’ll listen to myriad trade rumors and doomsday scenarios.
Regardless of where our water cooler discussions lead, we’ll still be looking forward to a first pitch at the end of March. There are no guarantees as to when we’ll hear a quarterback yelling “Omaha!” again.
This time out, I’m taking a moment out of the ranking process to review some of the offseason moves orchestrated by general managers across Major League Baseball. I’ve already celebrated the glory of the free agent negotiation process and contract writing in a previous column. This column logs the trades consummated during the winter break. Let’s get started with a pair of deals made to bolster the rotation in Milwaukee.
Zack Greinke, SP, Milwaukee (from Kansas City)
Greinke was unable to replicate the dominance of his 2009 season. His ERA rose by two full runs. Greinke’s strikeout rate fell, while his hit, walk and home run rates all rose. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Greinke will enjoy pitching in the National League and replacing designated hitters with pitchers. Owners will take a rebound in line with his 2008 breakthrough (3.47 ERA with 13 wins and 8.1 strikeouts per nine IP). I do anticipate that his ERA comes in lower than the 2008 total with a huge strikeout number.
Shaun Marcum, SP, Milwaukee (from Toronto)
Marcum recently inked a new contract with the Brewers as the third man in the rotation alongside Greinke and Yovani Gallardo. He pitched to a sub-4.00 ERA during back-to-back years in the rough-and-tumble AL East, while earning 22 wins and averaging 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Marcum’s home run rate is moderately concerning, but I’m intrigued to see how his game changes in the National League.
Frank Francisco, RP, Toronto (from Texas)
After spending the 2010 season as the setup man for Neftali Feliz, Francisco likely returns to the closer role in Toronto. Francisco converted 25-of-29 save opportunities for the Rangers in 2009, while averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He equaled that strikeout rate in 2010, though his hit rate did rise.
Mike Napoli, C, Texas (from Los Angeles Angels and Toronto)
Napoli experienced a wild week in January. He was settled in as the starter in Los Angeles when he was traded twice in a matter of days. Napoli now calls Texas home with the Rangers in a great ballpark with a loaded lineup. Napoli hit at least 20 home runs in three consecutive seasons (including 26 in 2010) for the Angels.
The Rangers will likely slide Napoli into the DH slot on occasion to keep him fresh for the stretch run.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston (from San Diego)
Fantasy owners finally got their wish this offseason when Gonzalez was traded away from the pitchers’ paradise of PETCO Park to a better lineup in Boston. In five complete seasons in San Diego, Gonzalez averaged 32.2 home runs, 35.2 doubles and 100.2 RBI with a tremendous .288 batting average. He’ll continue to strike out a bunch, but think about him flipping the ball off the Green Monster or pulling it into the right field seats.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta (from Florida)
Uggla batted a career-best .287 in his final season for the Marlins, while maintaining his huge power stroke. He averaged 30.8 home runs, 34 doubles and 93 RBI in five years with the Marlins. Uggla won’t hit for a huge batting average (.263 lifetime batting average), but the power numbers will rank among the league’s leaders.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Baltimore (from Arizona)
What else is there to say? Reynolds is going to hit for huge power and he’s going to strike out a ton with a wildly fluctuating batting average (has a .242 career batting average). Reynolds has averaged 34.7 home runs and 94.7 RBI in the past three years as a full-time hitter in Arizona (he also stole 42 bases). The strikeout totals will drive you insane, but dig the long ball and deal with the low batting average.
Jose Lopez, SS, Colorado (from Seattle)
Lopez was a victim of some bad luck in 2010. His contact rate didn’t change much, but his batting average dropped 33 points. Lopez’s biggest downfall, from a fantasy perspective, is that his power numbers disappeared. He hit 17 home runs in 2008, had 25 home runs in 2009 and launched only 10 home runs in 2010. Lopez also hit fewer doubles than he did in each of the two prior seasons and drove in 38 fewer runs than he did in 2009.
Lopez may be on the move again, as his name has been swirling in the “Get Michael Young out of Texas” rumors. Either way, I anticipate a rebound in his batting average (.266 career batter) and power numbers (he drove in 89 and 96 runs in 2008 and 2009, respectively).
J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore (from Minnesota)
Hardy was limited to 101 games in his single season in Minnesota, a familiar refrain to his career. He’s played in more than 115 games in a season only three times since coming onto the scene in 2005. Hardy owns a career .263 batting average and holds great power potential, provided that he can avoid the ever-circling injury bug. He hit 50 home runs with 61 doubles in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Jason Bartlett, SS, San Diego (from Tampa Bay)
Bartlett struggled in his final season with the Rays. His batting average dropped 66 points, and his power output disappeared just as quickly as it came (hit 14 home runs in 2009 to just four in 2010). Bartlett possesses a career .281 batting average, so I suspect that we see a moderate bounce-back in that category. His stolen-base total probably rises as well (has 20 or more steals in three straight seasons between 2007 and 2009), but the power numbers aren’t returning in PETCO Park.
Josh Willingham, OF, Oakland (from Washington)
Willingham returns from knee surgery as a member of the A’s after two productive, albeit injury-shortened, campaigns in Washington. Since becoming an everyday player in Florida five years ago, Willingham has averaged 20.4 home runs, 25.8 doubles and 66.2 RBI. I don’t suspect much of a shift in his power numbers in Oakland. He’s hit well in a cavernous ballpark previously (with 26 home runs in 2006 with the Marlins).
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Milwaukee (from Kansas City)
Where did that come from? In 2010, Betancourt blasted a career-best 16 home runs for the Royals (his previous high was nine in 2007) and established a new career mark with 78 RBI. He owns a solid .272 career batting average, so his .259 mark in 2010 was actually a moderate disappointment. I don’t think anybody was complaining, as the power barrage made him fantasy relevant. Watch for those numbers to regress this season. Although a season with 8-10 home runs and 50-60 RBI would make him a serviceable middle infield (MI) candidate.