A look back at the best moves of last offseason

Last January we debated some of the best and worst deals of the offseason. For the most part, you’ll need more than one year to judge the merits of a move, but I figured it would be entertaining enough to check out the early returns. This time we’ll look at the (supposed-to-be) good deals. Later on, we’ll check out the bad ones.

Boston Red Sox acquire Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego Padres for right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo, center fielder Reymond Fuentes, and center fielder-second baseman Eric Patterson

This one will obviously take a couple of years to fully evaluate, as the Boston Red Sox signed Gonzalez to a hefty seven year, $154 million contract extension in April. Gonzalez delivered about all you could expect, hitting .338/.410/.548 in 714 plate appearances while playing a superb first base. His .338 batting average and .410 slugging percentage were career highs. Gonzalez surely enjoyed getting out of Petco Park and into Fenway, though his home run rate dipped to a career low.

It wasn’t all roses in Boston, though, as Evan Longoria’s walk-off capped a September collapse that kept the Red Sox out of the playoffs for the second straight year. You can’t fault Gonzalez for the collapse (it was largely the pitching, anyway), but it sure doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth.

The Red Sox and Gonzalez reached the aforementioned seven-year, $154 million deal that makes Gonzalez the highest-paid current Red Sock.

Year Proj. WAR Proj. $/WAR Proj. Value Act. Salary
2012 6.0 5.0 30.0 21.0
2013 5.5 5.3 29.2 21.0
2014 5.0 5.6 28.0 21.0
2015 4.5 5.9 26.6 21.0
2016 4.0 6.2 24.8 21.0
2017 3.5 6.5 22.8 21.5
2018 3.0 6.8 20.4 21.5

It looks like the Red Sox signed Gonzalez to a very team-friendly extension. Of course, we may be a bit aggressive with Gonzalez’s projected WAR or our $/WAR numbers, but overall it looks like Boston may have gotten Gonzalez at an under-market price.

The San Diego Padres acquired three prospects in the deal. Kelly had a solid year in Double-A, pitching 142.3 innings with a 3.98 ERA. He walked only 46 and allowed eight home runs, but his 6.6 strikeout rate is a bit worrisome.

First basemen Rizzo raked in Triple-A Tucson, hitting .331/.404/.652. He had 61 extra base hits in 413 PA. Rizzo was promoted to the big club and scuffled mightily, hitting .141/.282/.242 in 153 PA. There’s not much to like there except the sample size (the walk rate isn’t bad, either). Rizzo will have ample time to prove himself in San Diego and, overall, his first season with the Padres has to be viewed as a success.

Center fielder Fuentes had a relatively uninspiring season at High-A Lake Elsinore, putting up a .275/.342/.369 line (almost right on his career minor league marks). He has a lot of speed and the defensive chops to handle center, but at some point he’s going to have to show that he can handle minor league pitching. Fuentes will be just 21 in February, so he’ll have plenty of time to develop, and he remains a sleeper in this blockbuster deal.

Overall, it’s impossible to give this move any type of final judgment. It’s a long-term deal, and at this point I’d imagine both teams are satisfied with the early results.

Chicago White Sox sign Adam Dunn to four-year, $56 million deal

Okay, this is a long-term deal too, but this one got off to a disastrous start. Dunn hit .159/.292/.277 in 496 plate appearances for the 79-83 White Sox, shocking numbers for a guy who has been so consistent for so long (all while moving into home run-friendly U.S. Cellular Field).

Dunn had recorded wOBAs between .353 and .403 during his first 10 seasons. In 2011, his wOBA was .266. That’s like Christian Guzman—2005 Nationals bad. He was three wins below replacement level; that is, you know, three wins worse than freely available talent. Dunn cost $12 million.

Attempting to evaluate his struggles probably would be silly without plenty of video tape and detailed pitch data, but in looking at the results, his strikeout rate (which has always been very high) skyrocketed to 36 percent. His previous high was 31 percent (2010), but usually he sits in the mid-to-high twenties.

Even when he made contact, however, there wasn’t much good to come, as his BABIP was .240 and his ISO was .118 (career low, by far). Dunn simply collapsed as a hitter last year. On defense, he’s a DH who occasionally plays first base.

While the White Sox likely wouldn’t have made the playoffs even with normal Dunn production, they may have competed. Had he produced as expected, they arguably could have picked up four or five wins at least, putting them in the mid-eighties. It’s not hard to see things turning out a bit differently, perhaps allowing the White Sox to compete for the Wild Card with Tampa Bay and Boston.

Dunn still has three years to turn things around, and I certainly anticipate that he’ll come back with some solid offensive years. Still, it’s hard to see this move ending up a positive one. Dunn will really have to get back to mashing for that to happen.

San Diego Padres sign Orlando Hudson to a two-year, $11.5 million deal (plus $8 million mutual option)

Hudson performed about as expected in 2011, hitting .246/.329/.352 in 119 games, worth anywhere from 1-2 WAR depending on how you evaluate his defense. His offense was down a little, even accounting for PETCO, but not far off for a 33-year-old second basemen working on a bargain deal.

Hudson made only $4 million last season. If he was a 1.5 WAR player, the Padres paid just $2.7 million per win for his services, a deal you won’t often find on the free agent market. He’ll make just $5.5 million next year and has an $8 million option for 2013 ($2 million buyout).

That said, there’s nothing too sexy about this deal. Hudson would be far more useful on a competitive team, and that’s how I evaluated the move. The Padres disappointed last season, finishing 71-91 and while Hudson is still a good value, he just doesn’t have that much appeal on a cellar-dwelling ballclub. Looking back, the trade to acquire Cameron Maybin from the Florida Marlins, a potential long-term solution in center field, would have been a better fit here.

Kansas City Royals acquire shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and right-handed pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi from Milwaukee Brewers for right-hander Zack Greinke (and Yuniesky Betancourt)

Like the Adrian Gonzalez trade, it’ll take years until we reach a verdict here. The Royals, seemingly in a constant state of rebuilding, traded ace pitcher Greinke for four young players.

At 24, Escobar started at short in 156 games for the last-place Royals. He hit a pedestrian .254/.290/.343, adding 26 steals (in 35 attempts). In parts of three seasons for Milwaukee, Escobar hit .250/.298/.335. His offense didn’t really develop any in his first season with KC, which is a bit of a concern.

There are plenty of positives with Escobar, though. First, he’s only 24 and he’s already played in 350 major league games. He’s clearly talented, and his best years should come in the near future. Second, he’s great defensively at short, both by the scouting reports and the numbers. UZR, for example, had him at +10 runs last year (+12.5 for his career). Finally, he’s under contract through 2015 and doesn’t reach arbitration until 2013.

Outfielder Cain (25), spent most of the year with Triple-A Omaha, hitting .312/.380/.497. After a solid major league debut in 2010 with the Brewers, Cain only played in six MLB games last year. Those are solid numbers he put up in Triple-A, but it’s hard to get too excited until Cain gets another chance to face MLB pitching.

Right-hander Jeffress did not have a good year in the minors. He posted a 4.26 ERA in 31.7 innings as a starter in Double-A, but he did so while walking 22 and striking out 20. In 24 innings at Triple-A (primarily as a reliever), the bad peripherals caught up to him, and he recorded a 7.12 ERA.

He did pitch 15.3 innings for the Royals in April and May, putting up a 4.70 ERA with 13 whiffs, 11 walks, and one home run allowed. Clearly, he has some positive attributes, but he’ll have to get that walk rate down to become effective in the majors.

The other arm picked up in the deal, right-hander Odorizzi, had an excellent stint at High-A Wilmington. He struck out 103, walked 22, and allowed four home runs in 78.3 innings (2.87 ERA). In Double-A, he regressed a bit, striking out 54, walking 22, and allowing 13 homers in 68.7 innings (4.72 ERA). It will be interesting to watch Odorizzi’s peripherals as he continues to rise towards the majors. So far, though, he’s put up a very impressive minor league resume.

The Brewers cashed in four promising players for the rights to two years of Greinke. He proceeded by helping lead them to 96 wins and their first division crown since joining the National League in 1998. He was quite unlucky runs-wise, giving up a 3.83 ERA in 171.7 innings. He fanned 10.5 per nine, walked just 2.4, and gave up one home run per nine innings.

His FIP was 2.98 (xFIP 2.56). His WAR could be calculated as high as four or as low as 1.7, depending on what stats you use (regular ERA or a FIP-like number). Still, Greinke had a fine year and it would be surprising if the Brewers regret the trade at this point. It definitely has the potential to turn into a win-win move.

St. Louis Cardinals sign outfielder Lance Berkman to a one year, $8 million deal

Well, we hit this one out of the park. After struggling in 2010 with the Astros and Yankees (.248/.366/.413), Berkman returned to form in 2011, putting up a .301/.412/.547 line in 587 plate appearances. In fact, Berkman recorded his highest OPS+ (166) … ever. Even taking into account his defense, he was a five-WAR player in 2011 and one of the catalysts to the St. Louis Cardinals’ improbable World Series run.

To cap it off, Berkman had a great World Series (.423/.516/.577), including a season-saving single in the 10th inning of Game Six.

Really, you can’t credit St. Louis enough for taking a flyer on Berkman. The guy mashed every year since debuting in 1999, and thanks to a rough 2010, the Cards were able to pick him up at a very reasonable price. The Cardinals promptly resigned Berkman to a very reasonable one-year, $12 million deal for 2012.

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12 years ago

Nothing about Victor Martinez signing with Tigers?

12 years ago

Other than mentioning that Yuniesky Betancourt was “included” in the Greinke trade, you rather conveniently ignored him in your post-analysis of the deal.  Surely his presence with the Brewers has some effect on the overall perception of that transaction.

Myron Logan
12 years ago

Ron, these moves were decided last offseason before the season began, so that’s why Martinez isn’t on there and the Adam Dunn move is.

ecp, I did completely overlook Betancourt in my recap here. But to be honest, there isn’t much to say. He hits a bit like Escobar without the upside or defensive chops. He did have a very nice postseason, though.

12 years ago

ML, the Royals were not the last place club.  Alas, the Twins were…..


Jim G.
12 years ago

Martinez signed with the Tigers Nov. 23rd. Is that not before the season began?

Myron Logan
12 years ago

Keven, good catch. It’s almost like I was programed to write that wink

Jim, I should have been more clear in my comment and intro paragraph (and perhaps title). I hand selected five moves I liked last offseason (wrote the article in January 2010)—this article is simply a review of how those moves have turned out so far.

So I’m not actually dubbing these moves the five best of last offseason.