MLB Hot Stove Lowdown: Sonny in St. Louis

It's officially Hot Stove season as we come out of the Thanksgiving weekend. We'll have you covered with the return of the Lowdown series, examining the fantasy fallout of every notable transaction as free agency gets underway and trade rumors swirl.

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Cardinals Bolster Rotation With Sonny Gray

The Cardinals made a significant move to start the week. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that St. Louis has agreed to terms on a three-year, $75 million contract with right-hander Sonny Gray. The 34-year-old right-hander had declined a $20.35 million qualifying offer to remain with the Twins in 2024. Instead, Gray capitalized on one of his best seasons with a long-term deal in St. Louis, where he becomes the ace of a pitching staff currently featuring Miles Mikolas, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, and Steven Matz.

After joining the Twins in 2022, Gray put together back-to-back solid seasons in Minnesota. A reoccurring hamstring issue limited him to 119 2/3 innings in 2022, but he produced an excellent 3.08 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 117/36 K/BB ratio. He followed that with a 2.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 183/55 K/BB across 184 frames. Each year came with a near carbon copy of underlying skills, including a 3.66 xFIP in 2022 to 3.64 in 2023 and a 16.6 percent K-BB rate in 2022 to 17 percent last season. An excellent 7.3 percent walk rate combined with a 0.39 HR/9 that was the lowest in baseball by a wide margin is a great way to maintain run suppression. Gray seems like a relatively safe pick from a skills perspective and should return value as a top-40 starting pitcher as long as he can stay on the mound.

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Tigers Add Veteran Kenta Maeda To Young Staff

According to the New York Post's Jon Heyman, the Tigers reached an agreement with Kenta Maeda on a two-year, $24 million contract on Sunday. In doing so, Detroit adds a veteran presence to what will likely be one of the youngest starting pitching staffs in baseball next season, led by ace Tarik Skubal. The 35-year-old right-hander has spent the last four seasons with the Twins, missing the 2022 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Maeda returned last season, posting a 4.23 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and a 117/28 K/BB ratio across 104 1/3 innings, limited by elbow and triceps injuries. He did get off to a slow start, ending April with a ten-run outing in a loss against the Yankees. Maeda did finish the season strong. After returning from the injured list in June, he went on to record a 3.36 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a 103/25 K/BB ratio over his final 88 1/3 frames. That came with an excellent 22 percent K-BB ratio and a 13.3 percent swinging-strike rate. If Maeda can build on his second half in a more pitcher-friendly Comerica Park, he could be a decent late dart throw to round out a pitching staff in fantasy drafts. Just don't expect a high volume of innings.

Diamondbacks Acquire Slugging Suárez From Mariners

The National League champion Diamondbacks filled a big need early in the offseason, trading for third baseman Eugenio Suárez and sending pitcher Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala to Seattle. Arizona lacked consistency at the position in 2023, cycling through the likes of Josh Rojas, Emmanuel Rivera, Evan Longoria, and Jace Peterson. Meanwhile, Suárez started 159-of-162 games at the hot corner for the Mariners. The 32-year-old third baseman slashed .232/.323/.391 with 22 homers, 68 runs scored, and 96 RBI across 694 plate appearances. His strengths at the plate are taking walks, with a 10.1 percent walk rate, and hitting homers. Suárez has been consistent in his batted ball profile, having produced at least 50 barreled balls in the last four full seasons. Despite 50 barrels last year, he was a bit unlucky, with only 22 leaving the yard. I'd expect a few more to go over the fences in Chase Field. What you shouldn't expect is a good batting average. Suárez has struck out at about a 30 percent clip for the last five seasons. His walk rate isn't enough to overcome the strikeouts, so Suárez is unlikely to be on base enough to score a lot of runs. Home runs and RBI are what we're chasing here late in drafts with the corner infielder. Just make sure you have a solid batting average foundation.