MLB – 2015 OFF-SEASON TRADES & ACQUISITIONS THAT WILL BE IMPACTFUL

We may not have baseball to watch during the off-season, but we do have trades and acquisitions to look forward to.

Already, even before the start of the Winter Meetings (Dec 7-10), we’ve seen some early moves that I loved and feel will be impactful to the 2016 season.  I give my grade to each below.

In no particular order:

LOS ANGELES DODGERS HIRE DAVE ROBERTS AS MANAGER

Upon hearing this news, I said to myself: “Who?”

This makes it obvious to any southern California baseball fan that I am not from there, because Roberts, a former MLB player, played 8 of his 10 years as a Dodger & a Giant (2002-2008).

And while he has admitted that he wasn’t a particular good player (career BA: .262 with only 4 HR on average), Roberts did make contributions in vital ways.

For instance, he was great on defense (1.000% in 2002 & 2006) & was very aggressive on the bags (Stole 40+ bases in 2002, 2003 & 2006).

All the while, Roberts survived the steroid era and made a difference to his teams while standing only 5’10 tall and 175 lbs.

Given this background (being small in stature and not tremendously talented, but still impactful) it shows that Roberts had what he calls “grit” as a player, an awesome attribute for any MLB manager.

In fact, during the press conference to announce his hiring this past week, Roberts said as a player he had to “grind and try to create opportunities for myself.  I believe in grit.”  He spoke of having “unrelenting passion” and working “for a common goal” that he will not waiver from.

I think that having this type of person to manage a ball club will be a great fit for any team, but particularly the Dodgers who seem to have a collection of unruly superstars, expensive veterans, and raw young talent.

Mattingly wasn’t able to effectively harness these players and bring their talent together with chemistry.  But, I think Roberts has a good opportunity to do so given his feisty personality and reputation for literally “grinding” out all the talent he could squeeze from himself.

Another thing going for Roberts is his openness to saber metrics.

In this new era of computer generated statistics becoming such a huge part of the game, it seems important that an old school player like Roberts, who was driven by his own desire to be great, embrace technology.  And, the Dodgers front office is very sabermetrics-driven.

In this regard, Roberts is the best of both worlds and a relief to hear about.

Chatter through the MLB grapevine is that GMs in the future will be seeking managers without baseball experience to whom they can pay lower salaries and control like puppets on strings laden with saber metrics.

I believe this kind of computer-driven leadership could be devastating to the game of baseball.

Even if we employ saber-metrics, we still need experienced people in the dugout to make decisions on game days and bring teams together through chemistry.  This is the winning combination for championship teams.

The idea of having just a bunch of stooges sit on the bench as managers for posterity sake and take all direct orders from the front office is troublesome.

Thank goodness for Dave Roberts.

His type of personality and background is refreshing and will help keep the past alive, but bridge the road to allow saber metrics in.

At least the 43 year-old has experience wearing the uniform as a player and did time 2 seasons as San Diego’s bench coach.  He knows what it feels like to come close to winning despite lacking real talent.

Imagine what he could do for players who are the real deal and who just need a leader to help frame it all up for them?

I think this will be a good acquisition for the Dodgers and Roberts’ presence in the dugout great for continuing the traditions in MLB.

Grade: (A)

BYUNG HO PARK TO THE MINNESOTA TWINS

This past week, the Twins announced the signing of a former Korean budding superstar they hope to make their next Designated Hitter.

His name: Byung Ho Park.  Remember it.

The 29 yr old 6’1, 222 pound former Korean player stats are mighty impressive. In 2015 while playing in Korea (KBO), he hit 53 HRs, 146 RBIs, and had a .714 SLG %.

During his 9 year career, he was also MVP (2x), Gold Glove (3x), HR title (4x), RBI title (4x), SLG % title (2x), and (2x) KBO All Star.

A first baseman in KBO, he hopes to make the transition to DH in the states and be able to handle the high velocity pitchers of MLB.  (Few pitchers in KBO throw harder than 90 mph.)

Despite these obvious transitions Park needs to make, Twins scouts think he can handle it.

David Kim, the Twins’ full-time scout in Seoul has been observing Park since he was in high school.  Given this consistent history with Park and his reputation for being “confident and [ambitious]”, there seems to be confidence that he will make the transition fine due to his tremendous ability.

And, the Twins sure hope he does well too.  Even though they signed him for a 4 yr, $12 mil contract, that is a great deal of money for a mid-market team.  It’s a big gamble.

But, if Park is successful and helps the Twins win, he could become the most “cost effective free agent in Twins history”.

Personally, I love this move.

An untapped international power hitter in the AL who is the right age (29) with enough experience to break into MLB is great for the game.

I think he’s making a good decision too going with the Twins in a smaller region and not too splashy on the coasts where the onslaught of tough spoiled fans and oversaturation of media can intimidate the most confident of players (well, not Derek Jeter).

Also, I think he’ll do well after he learns some lessons.  Word is that Park is very strong and can swing to any part of a ballpark.

And, a look at his stats from the 9 years he played for KBO shows a steady improvement every year since 2005 in BA, SLG %, & HRs.

I think this bodes well for Park who seems very talented, but which there is some uncertainty.

GRADE: (B+)

DAVID PRICE TO THE RED SOX

This acquisition for Boston seems to be getting the biggest attention in the world of baseball this week.

Certainly, the contract was huge: 7 years and $217 million.

But, even more, bringing in a Cy-Young winning, 5 time All Star starting pitcher into the fold gives Boston a legitimate chance to play in October 2016.

The overall consensus is that the Red Sox failed to do well in the last 5 of 6 seasons due to lack of quality consistent starters.

Yet, I can’t help but to feel luke-warm about this trade.

Throughout Price’s history, he has shown to be a very emotional player who lets the mental side of things get to him.

And, Boston is a tough baseball town.  If you can’t cut it, the fans and the media will let you know.

How will Price handle it?

I smell trouble.

A) David Price has a lackluster post-season record:

During the regular season, Price’s career ERA is 3.09 and 1.132 WHIP in 8 years.  During the 6 years he’s played in the post-season, his ERA drops to 5.12 and 1.168 WHIP.  He’s also 2-7 in 14 outings and 8 starts.

B) Price has lashed back at critics (and fans) in the past when his struggles have come to light:

After he got ripped in Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS by veteran TV analysts for his poor performance after Boston beat him (7 ERs, 9 Hits, 2 HRs to Ortiz, 2 BBs), he stormed back on Twitter to degrade the reporters in the middle of the night and called them “Nerds”. (Well, that’s actually probably true.)

That same night, he got into a contentious back and forth with fans and vented on Twitter about his poor performance.

Ultimately, he apologized, but said in his final tweet, “Baseball and I have a love/hate relationship…I’ll love you again tomorrow baseball have no worries!! If you don’t like it…PITCH BETTER.”

C) Price has also had several confrontations with other players over the years and has openly criticized them:

During the 2013 AL Division Series between Boston and Tampa Bay, Price criticized David Ortiz for the way he circled the bases after hitting a home run in a 7-4 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

In May 2014 in Boston, the next meeting between the teams, Price hit the slugger with a pitch in the first inning.

During the All-Star festivities this year in Cincinnati, Price said that Ortiz, who had been in nine of the 10 previous Midsummer Classics, wasn’t the same hitter as before.

So, while it’s obvious that David Price is extremely talented, Boston has shown to be a tough place to play in.  And, Price seems to be very feisty and sensitive with criticism.  Will this affect his pitching?  How will he handle the bright lights, big city and Boston?

I think he’s going to have a rocky road.

Grade: (B-)

PITCHER JORDAN ZIMMERMANNN TO THE DETROIT TIGERS

Just as quickly as Boston acquired the best free agent pitcher on the market, the Detroit Tigers quickly signed the 3rd best pitching talent in Jordan Zimmermann, a 6’2, 225 lb., 29 year old right hander.

Not only did the Tigers need him badly to help build back up their foundation of good starting pitching again, but I think he will really shine in a place where he really wanted to be.

A Wisconsin native, Zimmermann said on Monday after signing with the Tigers for five-years and $110 million that he was excited to know that the Tigers had him first on their list, while the other teams had him 2nd and 3rd.  It was important to him to know he was wanted.

Despite the fact that his stats show he is just shy of being an elite pitcher, having Tommy John surgery in 2009 has hurt his worth on the market.

The good news for Detroit is that Zimmermann has turned out to be a “workhorse” and extremely durable since the surgery.  In each of his last 4 years with the Nationals, Zimmermann had 32 starts and at least 195 innings pitched.  He also is one of only six pitchers who produced at least 3.5 wins above replacement in each of the past 4 seasons (the others: Scherzer, Kershaw, Hernandez, Hamels & Greinke).  And, his career 3.13 ERA ranks 11th and his 1.13 WHIP ranks 15th in the majors.

For a team that had the 3rd WORST ERA in MLB in 2015; tied for 3rd WORST Saves in MLB; had the 3rd most ERs; the 3rd least Strike Outs; and 10th most BBs, this is just what the doctor ordered for Detroit.

In the end, I think Zimmermann will fit in nicely with the Tigers and hit his stride, helping Detroit get back to the post-season again.

Yes, there are negatives like reduced fastball velocity in 2015 & a rising ERA on the road, but I think that this is a nice fit for both & he will come into his own even further than he has because he wants to be there.

Besides, scooping up Zimmermann prevents him from going to the competition.

After Price went to Boston & Greinke eventually signs, its slim-pickings out there for the other teams desperately needing pitching like Detroit.

GRADE:  (A-)

 

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