Category Archives: MLB

Trade Grade: Chapman to the Yankees

Earlier today, news broke that Aroldis Chapman was being traded to the Yankees in return for four prospects, Tony Renda, Caleb Cotham, Eric Jagielo, and Rookie Davis.

Cincinnati Reds

This trade is similar to the Todd Frazier trade in that the Reds again traded away a superstar for some decent prospects.

Renda is yet another second baseman, joining Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Brandon Phillips at the position. Cotham is a good reliever, with seventy-four strikeouts over sixty-six and two-thirds innings,  but he’s twenty-eight so he lacks upside. Jagielo, a third baseman, was a first round pick in 2013, and hit well this past season in the fifty-eight games he spent in Double-A. However, there are questions about whether he is capable of playing third base at the major league level. Finally, Davis is a starter who, at 22, had a good season split between Single and Double-A, striking out nearly a batter an inning.

According to MLB Pipeline, Jagielo and Davis are the sixth and tenth-best prospects in the Yankees’ farm system, so the return for Chapman is much better than what the Reds received for Frazier.

It’s surprising that the Reds got more for Chapman than for Frazier for a couple of reasons. One, Chapman is a free agent after this season, while Frazier will reach free agency after the 2017 season. Two, after a domestic violence incident in October, Chapman could be facing a lengthy suspension. That occurrence already caused the Dodgers to pull out of a trade for him, so being able to trade him while still receiving something of value is an impressive feat for Cincinnati.

Grade: B

New York Yankees

This trade makes New York’s bullpen utterly ridiculous. Between Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and now Chapman, the Yankees now have three of the best relievers in baseball. Teams are trying to copy Kansas City’s strategy of coping with poor starters by building a spectacular bullpen, but this relief corps is far better than the Royals’.

Now, as we noted earlier, Chapman could be facing a suspension for domestic violence. However, there is a potential silver lining. First, the suspension would take place at the beginning of the season, rather than at a pivotal moment in the pennant race. Second, if the suspension is lengthy enough, it could result in the Yankees receiving an extra year of control of Chapman, which would be spectacular for the team.

If New York can make the playoffs, it’s primed for a deep run thanks to their star-studded bullpen. Even factoring in the loss of a pair of good prospects and the public relations hit from Chapman’s domestic violence situation, this trade is a big win for the Yankees.

Grade: A-

Trade Grade: Frazier to the White Sox

Last week, news broke that Todd Frazier was being traded to the White Sox in a three-team trade. Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, and Micah Johnson headed from the White Sox  to the Dodgers, and the Reds received Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler from the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

There’s little to say about the Dodgers, who acted as facilitators in this trade. They exchanged three prospects for three better ones, who are closer to the majors.

Johnson and Peraza are similar players, so that part of the trade is a wash. Both are second basemen, both don’t hit well, and both are speedy. The only important difference is that Johnson is two years older than Peraza, so he has a lower ceiling.

Every time I see Trayce Thompson’s name mentioned, immediately afterwards, the writer notes that he’s the brother of Klay Thompson. Out of respect to the former, we won’t mention the latter in this article (hey, wait a second…). Anyways, Thompson, a righty outfielder, was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox last season, hitting .295/.363/.533 across the 44 games he spent in the majors. He’ll be a useful bench player in Los Angeles.

Montas is another solid pick-up. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ GM, said that the team plans on trying him out as a starter, but he views the twenty-two year-old as a potential  “impact bullpen arm”. Los Angeles’ bullpen was shaky last season behind Kenley Jansen so Montas could help shore up the relief corps.

Although the trade overall was a blockbuster, the Dodgers were not directly involved in the Frazier aspect of it. However, the deal helps Los Angeles improve without incurring a significant cost, making it a solid, if unspectacular trade.

Grade: B+

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were expected to trade away Frazier. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as the team is currently rebuilding and Frazier will be a free agent after the 2017 season. However, one would expect the team to receive a tad more for their star third baseman.

Looking at their return, it’s easy to wonder what they were thinking. It was the right move to trade Frazier, but the combo of Peraza, Dixon, and Schebler isn’t particularly special.

The latter two players are largely insignificant. Dixon, a second baseman, turns 24 in January. He’s a non-prospect; despite hitting nineteen homers over the past season, one that he split between High-A and Double-A, his OBP was a dismal .303. The 25-year-old Schebler is better than Dixon, but only slightly. He made it to the majors earlier this season for nineteen games, and didn’t acquit himself too poorly, but he struggled in Triple-A and, due to his age, he’s not as likely to improve as a younger player.

Peraza, the apparent headliner of the deal was a top prospect only a year ago, but has since been traded twice, going from Atlanta to Los Angeles and now to Cincinnati. He’s a second baseman and offers a nice amount of speed. However, that speed is mainly appealing to fantasy owners, and a slash line of .293/.316/.378 over 118 games last season in Triple-A isn’t anything to write home about.

In case this wasn’t bad enough for the Reds, they’re not going to have second base available for Peraza and Dixon because their Brandon Phillips trade with the Nationals fell through after Phillips refused to waive his no-trade clause. Phillips is owed $27 million over the next two seasons, so either the Reds will have to eat his contract or find somewhere else for Peraza and Dixon to play.

Not only was the return for Frazier awful, but there’s not even an open spot to play the players received, making this trade an utter catastrophe.

Grade: F

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are the big winners in this trade. The three players they gave up are all solid, as we discussed above, but Frazier is a genuine star. In 2014, he hit 29 home runs before following that up with another 35 this past season. That kind of power is increasingly rare and Chicago did well to snatch Frazier up once he became available.

Frazier will pair with Jose Abreu to form a fearsome duo of right-handed power hitters. That one-two punch should wreak havoc in the cozy confines of US Cellular Field. Chicago’s lineup is solid from top to bottom, with Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, and others flanking the pair of sluggers.

In addition to Frazier being very good, this trade is beneficial for the White Sox because they will no longer have to start Gordon Beckham at third base. Beckham, put simply, is not good, and Frazier is a massive upgrade over him. In an American League ridden with parity, one big addition can result in a massive improvement in playoff odds, and, as we all know, once you get into October, anything can happen.

Grade: A

Signing Grade: Heyward to the Cubs

Last week, news broke that Jason Heyward was signed to an eight year, 184 million dollar contract by the Cubs. The contract includes a pair of opt-out clauses, after year three and year four. Those clauses are contingent on Heyward reaching a certain number of plate appearances.

The big winner here is obviously Heyward. 184 million dollars is a massive amount of money, and, thanks to the opt-out clauses, he’ll be able to re-enter free agency at age 29 or 30, where he’ll be able to land another big contract.

Heyward has to thank Atlanta for its help. The Braves brought him up to the majors at age 20, allowing him to reach free agency at 26, unlike most others, who reach free agency in their late twenties.

This is a great deal for Chicago as well. Due to his relative youth, a lengthy contract isn’t much of a burden. The deal keeps Heyward (barring any opt-outs) in Chicago until he’s 34, when, while he’ll have left his prime, he’ll still be a solid player.

The best thing about this contract from Chicago’s point of view is that Heyward, despite being a free agent, is roughly the same age as the rest of their young studs. Heyward is 26, a day younger than Anthony Rizzo, while the rest of the young core consists of the 23-year olds Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez, the 22-year old Kyle Schwarber, and the 21-year old Addison Russell. That lineup is loaded, and it’ll be loaded for the rest of the decade.

There’s only one potential problem. Heyward derives much of his value from his spectacular defense in right field. However, that’s where Soler plays, so Heyward, as of now, is expected to play in center field. He’s played there before, although not extensively; throughout his career he’s spent a total of 233 innings in center field.

The Cubs are fine with Heyward playing center field, but another option open to them is trading Soler, putting Heyward in right field, and then signing one of the free agent center fielders including Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, and Dexter Fowler, who played for the Cubs this past season.

Either way, when the only quibble with this contract is the mild problem of whether Heyward will be a good or great center fielder if he ends up playing there, it’s a pretty good deal.

Grade: A

Trade Grade: Castro for Warren and Ryan

Earlier this week, the Cubs traded Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.

New York Yankees

Castro is a solid player. He can play both shortstop and second base, and flexibility at a pair of hard-to-fill positions is a valuable commodity in today’s MLB.

To get Castro, the Yankees gave up Warren and Ryan. Warren was expected to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation this spring after pitching well last season, but now that he’s gone, New York will likely turn to CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to compete for the fifth slot, behind Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi. Ryan was nothing more than an occasional starter at second base, the position that Castro will now occupy, so his absence won’t be missed.

Castro is an interesting asset. Although this will be his seventh season in the big leagues, he’s still only 26 and is signed through 2019, his age-29 season, with a club option for 2020. His contract isn’t onerous, as over the next four seasons, Castro is owed 37 million dollars, plus the club option, which will cost sixteen million dollars (or a one million dollar buyout).

On the other hand, since a spectacular first couple of seasons in the majors, Castro has regressed badly, with a .296 OBP last season. However, there may be reason for optimism. After moving from shortstop to second base last season, across 44 games, Castro played better defense while hitting .353/.374/.594. Obviously, Castro won’t put up those stats over a full campaign, but if he can approach his production from his first couple of seasons, then this trade will be a coup for the Yankees.

Grade: B

Chicago Cubs

I’m not sure why the Cubs made this trade. Yes, Castro was expendable because Addison Russell and Javier Baez will be occupying the middle-infield positions for the foreseeable future, but couldn’t Chicago have gotten something a little more useful for a young, relatively cheap player?

Ryan has a reputation for being a spectacular defensive shortstop, with his four year peak producing 12.4 WAR (as per Baseball-Reference). However, that peak was from 2009 to 2012, at which point his defensive production fell off a cliff, going from 3.6 dWAR (defensive WAR) in 2012 to .7 dWAR in 2013. Last season, he reached his nadir, producing negative value as a defender. He can’t hit for his life, which was acceptable when he was a world-class defender, but now that he can’t play defense any more, simply put, he’s an awful player.

The Cubs don’t need him whatsoever, with shortstop reserved for Russell for years to come, so I imagine he was just a throw-in and that Warren was their main target.

Warren pitched well last season, with a 3.29 ERA across 131.1 innings, including seventeen starts. This isn’t a fluke as his combined ERA across his three full seasons is 3.23. The problem is that there’s no space in the rotation for him, with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks occupying every spot in the strangely J-heavy Chicago rotation.

Warren has also pitched in the bullpen, so he’ll likely begin next season as a reliever. He’ll be perfectly fine in relief, but is a solid reliever really worth Castro? Apparently, the Cubs think so, but I’m dubious.

Grade: C+

Trade Grade: Walker for Niese

Earlier today, news broke that the Mets were trading Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be going after pitching, and they got a decent starter on a great contract. To get this valuable asset, they gave up a good offensive second baseman.

By moving Walker, Pittsburgh frees up a starting spot. Last season, for six positions (CF, LF, RF, 3B, 2B, SS) they had seven players who needed to start. Now that Walker is gone, Josh Harrison, a flexible defender and a decent hitter, can move to second, and the players who deserve to start will start.

Niese is a great acquisition for Pittsburgh. The Pirate rotation is shaky behind aces Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Niese is as dependable as they come. The lefty has an ERA of 3.65 over the last four seasons combined, which is a #3 starter nearly any team would be happy to have.

Additionally, Niese is even more valuable because of his contract. Niese is owed nine million dollars this season, with two club options for the two seasons after for ten and eleven million dollars, respectively, along with a five-hundred thousand dollar buyout if the option is declined. While thirty million dollars seems like a sizable amount of money to spend on a solid pitcher, in today’s league, where half-decent pitchers are seeking eighty-million dollars over five years in free agency, that’s a very good contract.

The Pirates didn’t get a coup with this deal. They didn’t rip the Mets off. Instead, they got exactly what they needed without giving up anything they couldn’t live without.

Grade: A

New York Mets

The Mets needed a second baseman after Ben Zobrist signed with Chicago and other than perhaps Daniel Murphy, Walker was the best available.

Niese was expendable due to the Mets’ wealth of pitching. New York currently has four of its five rotation slots occupied, between Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. With Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season, there wasn’t going to be anywhere for Niese to pitch as a starter.

The Mets needed a second baseman to replace the departed Murphy, and Walker certainly fits the bill. Walker gains value due to his flexibility as a switch-hitter and, similarly to the player he was traded for, is remarkably consistent. Every season, Walker hits about .270 with a home run total in the mid-teens and an above-average OPS+. Anthony DiComo also noted Walker’s consistent production:

Walker is only under contract for this season, which means that the Mets can feel free to move on from him after the season and hand the reins to Dilson Herrera or Wilmer Flores. Until then, though, it’ll be nice to have yet another solid player to add to a roster full of them.

It’s tough to give up Niese because of his great contract and the fact that he was effective as both a starter and reliever, but Walker is a good player. I bet the Mets could have found a better offer, especially if they waited until the end of free agency for the teams who missed out on their starting pitching targets, but, again, Walker will help the team this season without bogging them down for years to come.

Grade: B+