By: Rossy Pasternak and Adam Pasternak
Adam: Well, the MLB offseason is proving to be entertaining yet again this year. Big names have seen a change in scenery, both through trades and free agency. The MLB landscape has changed immensely over the last two months, and there is still more to come. What I want to talk about first though is the most recent big trade, seeing Wade Davis go from the Kansas City Royals to the defending champs – the Chicago Cubs (still getting used to saying this…not sure I ever will). It was a one-for-one deal, seeing one time top prospect, Jorge Soler, go the other way. Personally, I like the deal. Soler gives the Royals a right fielder who still has 4 years on his deal and has yet to reach his ceiling. It also helps that he should be entering his prime now, having gone through the ups and downs with another organization. Davis gives the Cubs the closer they need, after not being able to afford to retain Aroldis Chapman’s services. Both teams win, in my opinion. I have a feeling that you feel differently here though, Rossy…
Rossy: How did you know! So typical of me to have a (different) opinion than you about sports. But yes, you are right – this isn’t a win-win. I absolutely hate this trade for the Royals. While trading Davis for sure was the right thing to do, I feel as though they got fleeced. Kansas City has created their own success through attacking the base-paths and making small-ball cool again. This trade is a sign that GM Dayton Moore is differing from his master plan. Soler is not a player that gets on base much, relying on his power and athletic prowess for much of his success. Unfortunately, Soler doesn’t have enough power to rely on blasting the ball out of the park every time. In fact, since reaching the MLB in 2014, Soler has hit only 27 homers in 765 plate appearances. This would be okay for the Royals, who don’t rely on power much, as long as Soler reached base a lot – but he is just average at that, with a .320 OBP. Sure, Soler at one point was a top MLB prospect, and is under control for X years, but he has shown nothing of substance in his MLB experience to prove he is worth trading Davis for. For the Cubs however, this is a steal. They avoid shelling out big money on a closer like Chapman, which is more important than people think due to next year’s stacked free agent class and the Cubs’ future rotation problems. But for as good as this deal was for the cubs, – trading a player they wouldn’t use anyways for a premier reliever is a great deal – there were other, potentially cheaper, options…right, Adam?
Adam: Right, Rossy (don’t get used to me saying that!). Coming into this year’s free agency, there were a lot of questions regarding closers and more specifically, their market. Would teams feel comfortable paying a lot of money for a closer via free agency? Or would teams rather find a closer via trade, like the Cubs just did? There hasn’t been a lot of good history regarding big deals for closers (cough, cough – B.J. Ryan and the Blue Jays), and so the big question coming into all of this was…where are these guys going to go and how much will they get? The three top free agent closers, Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen, all were predicted to break the record for a contract given to a relief pitcher, and then some. Aroldis Chapman has been asking teams for 6 years and $100 million…would anyone pay that much for a closer? Well, I guess the answer is yes – because the San Francisco Giants signed Melancon to a huge 4 years, $62 million deal a few days ago. It seems like Jansen is close to nearing a deal as well, either to return to the Dodgers or join his former manager, Don Mattingly, in Miami. Chapman looks poised to go for round two with the Yankees, as I don’t think any other team would come near to the amount of money they would offer him. The amount of money going around for closers is record shattering…not breaking…SHATTERING! I’m really scared for the Jays for when they have to extend Roberto Osuna…but this isn’t a Jays post! What do you think of all this money flying around for big name closers? Are these guys (closers in general too, but more specifically these three big names) worth the big bucks? Are they really this valuable, and should they really be this expensive?
Rossy: Well, frankly, I think teams are becoming much more aware of the danger of committing big money on a long term in general, but dive deeper into that later. I do think that those three closers in particular are worth that kind of money, but only if used properly. Terry Francona revolutionized the use of a closer with his deployment of Andrew Miller throughout the playoffs, and many teams (like the Yankees, Dodgers, Marlins and Giants) are looking to do the same. Of course, this cannot be done regularly during the regular season, as the pitchers would wear down. However, for the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees at least, these signings would be about October. What I am trying to say here is that yes, these closers are worth this amount of money – they are the best at what they do, and truthfully it isn’t really close. I think for teams that are on the precipice of a championship run, a shutdown reliever is a piece that can take you from the brink of contention to full-fledged favourite. To get to that elite ranking in the league though, you need great starting pitching – and that takes me to Chris Sale. A couple days ago, I wrote how him becoming a National made to much sense, but I was wrong, and they were outbid by the Red Sox. Now, Adam, we can get into a debate about the package the Red Sox had to send in exchange for sale, but I think it was well worth it. Sale is one of the best pitchers in the league, and is now part of possibly the best rotation as well. Sale, fellow lefty David Price, and 2016 AL Cy-Young winner Rick Porcello, make up the top three of a rotation that reminds me of Halliday, Hamels and Lee circa 2010. Sale is one of the most valuable commodities in the league due to his bargain contract and term, and this offseason was the perfect time to move him. I thought at the trade deadline that the White Sox made a mistake not trading Sale and waiting until the offseason – not anymore. GM Rick Hahn showed why he is an MLB executive and I’m a university blogger by waiting until an offseason where there are no top-of-the-rotation starters available either by trade or via free agency. Sale was not only the best ace on the market, he was also the only one, and that netted the White Sox a King’s Ransom.
Adam: I honestly don’t have a problem with the package the Red Sox gave up – I think Moncada is incredibly overrated and the White Sox should have pushed a little harder for Andrew Benintendi (Boston refused to include him, but if they wanted Sale that bad, maybe the White Sox could have forced their hand). I’m not saying they didn’t get a good package of prospects, in fact combined with the return they just got in a deal for Adam Eaton – the White Sox may just have the best farm system in all of baseball. They got top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Torres, along with the Nats first round pick from last year, Dane Dunning. If they keep Carlos Rodon (there were rumours earlier in the year that they were maybe going to trade him), and add him to the list of prospects they now have – I wouldn’t want to play the White Sox in 2019. The White Sox are well on a fast track to fully rebuilding their franchise, and majority of it happened today in the span of a couple hours. Truly brilliant work by GM Rick Hahn (also, great name – shoutout to our boy Ricky). With the White Sox rebuild in mind, I can’t help but think of the Jays right now. The Red Sox went out and got Chris Sale, Mitch Moreland and Tyler Thornburg all in one day. The Yankees found their DH in Matt Holiday as well as trading Brian McCan. The Orioles will make a big signing eventually, and their returning crop is substantially better than the Jays. The Rays have even improved, signing catcher Wilson Ramos. Although he might not be ready until mid-season, he will have a huge impact when he plays. They also seem to want to trade a few starters (Archer, Cobb, Smyly, etc.). With the rest of the division making significant upgrades and big moves, should the Jays take this opportunity to rebuild their depth, specifically their farm system, in hopes to have a better future? The odds of the Jays making the playoffs are dropping by the day now, and with the picks they could get for Eddy and Jose along with some of the other players they could potentially offer in deals next offseason – they could bring in some younger talent to build around Donaldson and eventually, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Vlad Guerrero Jr. I know having a down year will not be something fans will be happy about, but it could be extremely beneficial to the longevity of the future success the Jays would then have, which is ultimately what sports fans want most: consistent success… what do you think?
Rossy: Oooohhh now we’re getting to the good stuff! I love the AL East debate, not only because our beloved Jays are in the division. The division used to be a two-horse race, but the Jays, Orioles and Rays have all stepped it up big time recently. Yes, I agree that the Red Sox have taken it to a whole other level with what they did in one day, and the Yankees do have a lot of scary young guns, and yes the Orioles and Rays are always a threat. I don’t agree, however, that this is a time to unload veteran players. Firstly, I don’t think the Blue Jays are much worse than they were last year. Although Encarnacion is a huge loss, both on the field and off of it, the Jays have done a decent job of replacing his bat with the signings of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. Bautista has been the face of the franchise for the past six years, but in actuality, his potential loss will not be too hard to handle for the Jays. The team is actually used to playing without Bautista, as he has only played 160 games or more once in his tenure with the team. Even while playing last season, it was a down year for the grizzled slugger. And finally, his fielding has become so poor that he may be relegated to first base or DH, reducing his value even more. Add all of this together, and the team is probably better off allocating resources elsewhere. I would argue that it would be smarter for the team to invest in stop-gap free agent players, like Pearce and Morales, that fill needs until they can be replaced by prospects. And don’t get me wrong, I think Pearce and Morales will be more than good enough to give the Jays a fighting chance at the playoffs – even in the crowded AL East. Someone like Dexter Fowler is a player who would fill a dire need in the Jays lineup, adding some offence to the outfield in addition to providing exceptional defence. An outfield of Fowler, Pillar, and a platoon of Carrera and Melvin Upton would provide exceptional defence and adequate hitting. The Blue Jays will have to lean more than ever on their great rotation (I never thought I would say that) to win, but it would be possible.
Adam: I agree, Fowler would put the Jays back into the mix for sure. He would be the leadoff hitter the Jays have been missing for a while now, and he would only add to the already great outfield defence the Jays possess. Where we stand now, though, there are still quite a few players out there and lots of moves still to be made. Greg Holland is out there, looking to make a return after having a successful showcase earlier this fall, and is gaining lots of interest. With Wade Davis now wearing a Cubs uniform, the Royals have admitted to having interest in having a reunion with Holland. There has been interest from many other teams as well, apparently. The Jays still need a left handed relief pitcher and backup catcher, along with the outfield need we previously discussed. Eddy and Jose don’t really have a market anymore and it will be interesting to see how they progress. Andrew McCutchen is another name that has been thrown around in trade rumours this year. The Nats went after him, but ultimately ended up trading for Adam Eaton. The Rangers were checking in here and there, but they couldn’t meet the Pirates high asking price. It seems like Pittsburgh wants to get him out of there now, while he still can bring back a significant return package. They have a ton of young prospects who are nearly ready to play every day, and with the low budget that they have and ‘Cutch’s hefty salary, a trade would make sense. They’ve also been shopping utility man Josh Harrison, with very little success. There are lots of moves to be made.
Rossy: Just an idea, but with McCutchen’s market drying up, will the Pirates lower their asking price? If so, the Blue Jays could have a chance to sign the former MVP, and not feel as bad about it because of the draft pick compensation from Jose and EE. Draft pick compensation has been a hot topic around the league recently due to the new CBA agreement, which eliminated the first round compensation for free agents. This will have a huge affect on free agency in the future, as players like Yoenis Cespedes (his first free agency) and Encarnacion would have more suitors willing to meet their demands. As for the Eaton trade, I don’t understand why the names that were discussed in a trade for Sale are the same names in the Eaton trade. There is no reason both Giolito and Reyes needed to be included in the trade. Eaton has been an underrated superstar, nearing the same production as McCutchen over the past few years, just behind 0.5 points in WAR. Eaton also has a team-friendly contract, only being owed $38.4M over the next 5 years. Even with these pros, the potential cons of trading away two top tier pitching prospects, not to mention the other prospects in the deal, are substantial.
It has been an exhilarating week so far, and there are still many big pieces on the board. What will happen next, do you have any predictions? What do you think of the moves so far?
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