Brewers’ New Backstop
The Milwaukee Brewers became major players in the free agent market on Wednesday, adding some significant punch behind the plate. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported that the team had secured a one-year commitment from Yasmani Grandal, the top catcher on the free agent market this winter.
The deal, which is still pending a physical, will pay the 30-year-old backstop $18.25 million, as reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.. It’s a massive raise over the $7.9 million that he made in his final season with the Dodgers in 2018 and just a hair more than the $17.9 million qualifying offer that he rejected from the Dodgers in November.
It’s a shocking and surprising turn of events for Grandal after he reportedly rejected a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets earlier in the offseason. After that, the Mets signed Wilson Ramos and several other teams that had expressed interest in Grandal settled on cheaper alternatives, leaving him without any serious suitors on a long-term deal.
Instead, he signs a one-year pillow deal with the Brewers where he should put up fantastic offensive numbers in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park. Remember, this was already one of the top hitting catchers in all of baseball, slashing .240/.341/.441 with 113 homers over 726 games in his career, playing his home games at Petco Park and Dodger Stadium.
Likely to bat sixth in a loaded Brewers’ lineup, it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see Grandal soar past his career-high of 72 RBI. I also think that 25 homers looks to be his floor as long as he remains healthy and he could eclipse that 30-homer plateau.
Prior to this signing, Grandal was the eighth catcher coming off of draft boards on average, behind J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez, Salvador Perez, Wilson Ramos, Willson Contreras, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. Considering he landed in one of the best possible landing spots, expect to see his ADP of 157 rise considerably. When all is said and done, I expect he’ll land fourth or fifth at the position, either just ahead of or just behind Ramos.
Mets’ new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has jumped right into his new gig headfirst, utilizing every possible avenue to rebuild and revamp the Mets’ roster.
That continued on Thursday, when he agreed to a two-year deal with a former client of his, Jed Lowrie. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the contract will pay the 34-year-old infielder $20 million.
It’s a very interesting -- and a bit surprising -- pickup for the Mets, who already picked up second baseman Robinson Cano in a trade from the Mariners earlier this offseason. With Cano entrenched at second base, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the Mets plan to play Lowrie everyday at various positions; possibly even first base until Peter Alonso is "ready."
The 34-year-old is coming off a career season that saw him hit 23 homers and drive in 99 runs with a .267/.353/.448 line for the playoff-bound Athletics.
Lowrie has been an afterthought in many early fantasy drafts to this point, with his ADP sitting outside the top 300 players overall and 28th at second base. Ultimately, his fantasy value may end up being determined by where exactly he hits in the lineup. If he somehow lands in the second spot, perhaps his stock could rise slightly, but overall he’s nothing more than a late-round middle infield option with no speed whatsoever.
The big loser in this transaction is Jeff McNeil. The 26-year-old had an impressive showing in his first taste of big league action last season, slashing .329/.381/.471 with three homers, 19 RBI and seven swipes in only 248 plate appearances. The fantasy community had taken notice, and McNeil had been coming off draft boards about a full round ahead of Lowrie, just inside the top 300 overall. With the additions of Cano and Lowrie this winter, McNeil is now slated to function in a utility role. Even with additional time in the outfield, it’s difficult to project McNeil for full-time at-bats, barring injury or additional moves by the Mets.
Dozier Heads to Washington
The Mets weren’t the only team in the National League East that brought in a hard-hitting second baseman on Thursday. As reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Nationals agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract with Brian Dozier.
The deal, which is still pending a physical, should be announced on Friday. The 31-year-old is coming off of one of the worst all-around seasons of his career, slashing just .215/.305/.391 between the Twins and Dodgers. Even so, he still slugged 21 homers, stole 12 bases and drove in 72 runs while scoring 81 times. Fantasy owners are generally willing to accept the poor batting average if it comes with that type of production in the other four categories, especially from a middle infielder.
Even after the down season, the overall stance on Dozier from the fantasy community is still pretty favorable. Even as a man without a team for much of the offseason, Dozier has seen his average draft position sit right around 150 overall, a mark that should now rise based on the favorable landing spot.
The move also crushes the fantasy appeal of Wilmer Difo, who was poised to take over as the club’s everyday second baseman prior to this signing. Now, he’ll be relegated to a utility infielder role, making him pretty much useless outside of NL-only formats.
It’s Miller Time
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Rangers agreed to a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Shelby Miller.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com added shortly thereafter that the deal would be for $2 million guaranteed, with incentives that could drive the total as high as $5 million.
The 28-year-old hurler, who was once considered one of the top young pitchers in all of baseball, logged just 16 innings at the big league level with the Diamondbacks in 2018 in his return from Tommy John surgery.
He should have the inside track on a spot in the Rangers’ Opening Day rotation, but having to pitch half of his games in the homer-happy Globe Life Park in Arlington isn’t going to help his fantasy value.
He’s nothing more than a late dart throw in the final rounds of deep mixed league slow drafts at this point. Prior to the signing, Miller sported an ADP of just over 700 overall.
Stacking the Deck?
The White Sox made waves earlier in the offseason when they acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians. It wasn’t just that the team already had Jose Abreu entrenched at first base though that made it newsworthy, it was the fact that Alonso was the brother-in-law of Manny Machado, the superstar free agent that the White Sox are actively targeting.
On Thursday, the team brought another familiar face to town, signing free agent outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year, $4 million contract. Jay, Machado and Alonso have all been close friends since they were kids and all work out together in Miami each winter, so the White Sox are hoping that the camaraderie will be the extra boost that they need to lure Machado to the South Side.
There was a plethora of agreements made between players and their respective clubs on Thursday, opting to settle rather than go to arbitration. Here’s a quick rundown of those deals:
The Indians and Kevin Plawecki avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $1.1375 million contract.
The Padres and Robbie Erlin settled at $1.45 million on a one-year contract.
The A’s avoided arbitration with Ryan Buchter, agreeing to a one-year, $1.4 million pact.
Hector Neris and the Phillies settled on a one-year contract worth $1.8 million.
Jon Ryan Murphy and the Diamondbacks avoided arbitration as well, agreeing to a one-year, $900,000 deal.
Curt Casali and the Reds settled as well, inking a one-year, $950,000 deal.
J.C. Ramirez and the Angels settled on a one-year, $1.901 million contract.
Jerad Eickhoff and the Phillies settled on a one-year, $975,000 deal.
Joe Ross and the Nationals agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright and the Red Sox came to an accord at one-year, $1.375 million.
The Padres and Travis Jankowski agreed to a one-year, $1.165 million contract.
Domingo Santana and the Mariners settled on a one-year, $1.95 million deal.
Scott Oberg and the Rockies met at $1.3 million for one year.
Greg Bird and the Yankees settled on a one-year, $1.2 million contract.
The Angels and Nick Tropeano agreed to a one-year, $1.075 million deal.
Shane Greene and the Tigers came to an agreement on a one-year, $4 million contract.
Quick Hits: MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reports that the Marlins are "engaged in substantive discussions with six clubs" regarding a J.T. Realmuto trade. Those teams, according to Frisaro, are the Braves, Dodgers, Astros, Padres, Rays and Reds… The Blue Jays signed David Phelps to a one-year contract with an option for 2020. It’s worth at least $2.5 million guaranteed and could go as high as $8 million with incentives… According to Henry Schulman and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Athletics first-rounder Kyler Murray will declare for the NFL Draft… According to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, the White Sox and Phillies are monitoring the Mike Moustakas market… Morosi also notes that the Rangers continue to show interest in former Pirates’ utilityman Josh Harrison… The Cubs signed Colin Rea to a minor league contract, who will likely begin the season at Triple-A as he continues to try to regain his form following Tommy John surgery in 2016… The Mariners brought back Dustin Ackley, the second overall selection from the 2009 draft, on a minor league contract… Jaime Garcia announced his retirement from professional baseball at age 32… Will Middlebrooks also decided to hang up his cleats… Ronny Rodriguez has stopped playing in the Dominican Winter League due to a shoulder injury… The Mariners signed former top overall pick Tim Beckham to a one-year, $1.75 million contract. He’ll compete with J.P. Crawford for the starting job at shortstop… ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that the Giants are "talking with teams" about a potential Joe Panik trade… According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Giants are among the teams showing interest in free agent DJ LeMahieu. Jon Heyman of Fancred notes that the Rays are among the interested teams… The Mariners signed right-hander Cody Gearrin to a one-year contract… ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Braves continue to be "in discussions" with free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock… Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) told MLB Network Radio that he expects to be ready to go by spring training… Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports tweets that the Reds are still interested in acquiring Sonny Gray from the Yankees.