This is The Stew’s running list of trades and signings that happen during baseball’s Winter Meetings. We’ll update this post as news happens.
Mariners get Chris Heston in trade with Giants
Because Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto wasn’t leaving the Winter Meetings without making at least one trade, the M’s struck a deal with the Giants to acquire pitcher Chris Heston. There’s no immediate return for the Giants. They’ll get a player to be named later. Jon Morosi of MLB.com was first to report the news.
BLS Take: Heston, 28, is best known for throwing a no-hitter in 2015 as a rookie. Beyond that, his MLB career has been pretty unremarkable. He’s 13-12 with a 4.16 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Giants. In 2016, though, he didn’t see much time at the big-league level. He started 14 games in Triple-A (2-9, 4.54) and worked his way through injuries. The real reason the Giants are making the deal? Well, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, they needed to move someone off the 40-man roster to make room for Mark Melancon. In Seattle, Heston should just be considered rotation depth at this point. — Mike Oz
Adam Eaton goes to Nats in latest White Sox trade
The White Sox are the wheelin’-and-dealin’ team of these Winter Meetings. They did it again by striking a deal with the Washington Nationals sending centerfielder Adam Eaton to D.C. in exchange for three prospects. Pitcher Lucas Giolito, the Nats’ No. 1 overall prospect, goes back to Chicago, as do Reynaldo Lopez (No. 3) and Dane Dunning (No. 6).
BLS Take: It’s a win-now move for the Nats, and maybe a win-now overpay when you consider the level of prospects they’re giving up. But Eaton was a 6.0 WAR player last season and is on the extremely team-friendly contract. You can read more about the deal here.
A.J. Ellis signs with Marlins, reunites with Don Mattingly
A busy day for the Miami Marlins continues with the signing of veteran catcher A.J. Ellis to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. It reunites the former Dodgers catcher with longtime manager Don Mattingly. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney.
BLS Take: Ellis, 35, isn’t much on the stat sheet. He hit two homers last season with a .216 batting average. But he’s beloved by teammates and looked at as one of the best clubhouse guys in baseball. Not to mention he served as Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher while in L.A., before he was traded to Philadelphia last summer. Ellis will serve as a backup to youngster J.T. Realmuto, who had a breakout season in 2016. Now if the Marlins could just figure out a way to get Kershaw. — Mike Oz
Cubs acquire Wade Davis from the Royals in exchange for outfielder Jorge Soler
The long-rumored deal is finally official. The reigning world champs have picked up closer Wade Davis for one season. In exchange, they shipped Jorge Soler to the Royals.
BLS Take: Where to begin? Opinions on Soler range pretty wildly depending on who you ask. Some see a 24-year-old who has struggled with injuries and hit just .258/.328/.434 over 765 plate appearances. Others see a former top prospect who is still relatively young and oozing with potential. The only way to find out which side is right is to give Soler a ton of plate appearances and see what happens. That’s precisely what the Royals will do. Soler is under team control through 2020 at a reasonable price, so if he hits at all, he’ll provide plenty of value for Kansas City.
For the Cubs, they pick up an elite closer after Aroldis Chapman became a free agent. Davis has put up phenomenal numbers with Kansas City since 2014, but was limited by forearm issues last year. As long as injuries aren’t an issue, he should be a fantastic add for the Cubs. The only negative here, aside from the arm trouble, is that Davis is in the last year of his contract. He’ll be a free-agent following 2017.
Marlins bring back Dustin McGowan on a one-year deal
After posting a 2.82 ERA over 67 innings with the club last season, Dustin McGowan has decided to return to the Miami Marlins on a one-year deal, according to Jon Heyman
BLS Take: McGowan isn’t a great bet to replicate his 2.82 ERA from last year. While he struck out a fair amount of hitters, he struggled with his control, walking 11.8 percent of the batters he faced. That could make him a candidate for regression. Injuries have also been a major issue for McGowan in his career, and that has to be factored in here. With that said, he’s probably not going to make a ton of money, so it’s not the type of deal that will haunt Miami. If he stays healthy, he’ll strike out a fair amount of batters and could post a league-average ERA. That’s a lot of ifs, but that’s expected with McGowan at this point.
Marlins reportedly sign pitcher Jeff Locke to one-year contract
According to multiple reports, the Miami Marlins and left handed pitcher Jeff Locke have agreed to a one-year contract worth $3 million.
BLS Take: Things have been a little rocky for 29-year-old Locke since his breakout year with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. He hasn’t really been able to replicate his success that season, and has seen his ERA balloon. In 2016, he pitched to a 5.44 ERA in 127.1 innings, and by the end of the season he was moved to the bullpen before it was revealed he was dealing with some shoulder soreness. But he’s capable of pitching well, and the Marlins definitely see that. It’s not clear right now if the Marlins intend to use Locke in the rotation or in the bullpen, but they need starting pitching help Even though Locke is a backend starter at best, he can probably eat some innings and provide a little stability. And at $3 million for one year, he’s worth the gamble. — Liz Roscher
Ian Desmond signs a five-year contract with Rockies
The Colorado Rockies have snuck in and signed Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million contract, as Yahoo Sports’ own Jeff Passan has reported. The Rockies will be giving up their No. 11 pick in the upcoming draft as a consequence, since Desmond was extended a qualifying offer by the Texas Rangers and turned it down.
BLS Take: Desmond’s bouceback year in 2016 has done exactly what he hoped it would. After a down year with the Nationals in 2015, he rounded back into form with the Rangers, hitting .285/.335/.446 after a very successful move to center field. Prior to this season, Desmond had played shortstop his entire career, and he’ll play yet another new position in 2017: the Rockies apparently want him to play first base as well as some outfield.
The Rockies love getting guys with some power, and Desmond is that guy. He’s hit at least 20 home runs in four of his last five seasons, and in that one outlier season he hit 19. Coors Field is famous for its towering home runs, aided by the thin mountain air, so Desmond will probably enjoy playing there (though it won’t do much for his strikeout totals). Despite that, it’s unclear what the Rockies are doing right now; they appeared to be on the edge of heading into a rebuild, especially after the departure of manager Walt Weiss, but signing Desmond adds more pop and stability to their lineup. (And giving up a No. 11 pick isn’t exactly the action of a rebuilding team.) Between Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, and now Desmond, they may end up seeing where this season takes them before going back to square one. — Liz Roscher
Carlos Gomez returns to Rangers on one-year deal
The temporary marriage between the Texas Rangers and Carlos Gomez at the end of last season turned out well enough that Gomez will reportedly be back in Arlington next season. He agreed to a one-year deal with the Rangers that will pay $11.5 million. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan was first to report a deal was close. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports said it was agreed upon.
BLS Take: We already know this is a good fit, as Gomez turned around his season in 2016 after he signed with the Rangers in August, two days after being released by the Houston Astros. Gomez hit .284 with eight homers in 33 games for the Rangers after hitting .210 with five homers in 85 games for the Astros. Rangers skipper Jeff Banister is said to be a big fan of Beltran, so that helps too. The Rangers have been looking to improve their outfield, but GM Jon Daniels has gone on record recently saying they wouldn’t make any splashy moves. If that’s the case, then getting Gomez (who had an 8.5 WAR season just three years ago) for $11.5 million is a worthwhile risk. — Mike Oz
Fernando Rodney signs one-year pact with D-backs
Get ready to catch some invisible arrows, Arizona. The D-backs have reportedly signed relief pitcher Fernando Rodney to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million plus incentives. That’s per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, who also says the D-backs plan to use Rodney as their closer.
Rodney agreement with dbacks is for $2.75M plus many, many inventives. Plan is for him to close.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 7, 2016
BLS Take: The three big closers on the free-agent market are going to get paid more than $200 million this offseason. That includes Mark Melancon, who got $62 million over four seasons from the Giants this week. In that context, the D-backs giving Rodney $2.75 million is a prudent and potentially smart deal. If it works out and they get a decent closer, great. If not, hey, it’s $2.75 million, which isn’t anything in baseball money. Rodney is 39, so he’s on the decline, but he still saved 25 games last season and has notched 89 saves over the past three seasons.
Rays agree to two-year deal with catcher Wilson Ramos
The Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the quieter teams so far this winter. That changed on Tuesday, however, as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports they’ve reached a two-year agreement with free agent catcher Wilson Ramos, pending a physical. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, Ramos will get $12.5M, though playing time incentives could take the deal to $18.25M.
BLS Take: The results of Ramos’ physical will actually be worth monitoring, as he’s currently recovering from October surgery to repair damage to the anterior cruciate ligament, medial meniscus and lateral meniscus in his right knee. Ramos suffered the injury on Sept. 27, right before the Washington Nationals postseason run, and is expected to require six-to-eight months of recovery. As such, the injury could make a return to full health in 2017 difficult.
The injury was an unfortunate turn of events for Ramos, who figured to score big in free agency beforehand. He was enjoying a career year, batting .307/.354/.496 with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs in 523 plate appearances. Those numbers would have played very well in this market. As it stands, the Rays could have a relative bargain and an attractive trade chip down the road should Ramos prove healthy. Also helping matters is the fact he can DH while working his way back. — Mark Townsend
Red Sox sign first baseman/designated hitter Mitch Moreland
The Boston Red Sox busy Tuesday continues. After acquiring pitchers Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox and Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers, they’ve reached a one-year agreement with free agent first baseman/designated hitter Mitch Moreland, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. FanRag Sports Jon Heyman adds the deal is worth a little over $5M.
BLS Take: Dave Dombrowski isn’t messing around on Tuesday. Before taking the stage on MLB Network to discuss his blockbuster acquisition of Chris Sale, the Red Sox president could be seen working the phones. Apparently that was in effort to finish the Moreland deal, which was reported just moments later.
The Red Sox were originally believed to be in the mix for Edwin Encarnacion, but those talks had died down at the Winter Meetings. When they stepped up to make the Sale deal, it became apparent they would move down a tier in searching for a bat. That’s where they found Moreland, who will help the void left by trading Travis Shaw earlier in the day more so than the void of David Ortiz. The 31-year-old Moreland had a down year in 2016, hitting .233/.298/.422 22 homers and 60 RBIs. — Mark Townsend
White Sox trade Chris Sale to Boston for Yoan Moncada and three minor-leaguers
The biggest move of the Winter Meetings? It’ll be hard to top this. The Chicago White Sox traded ace Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, getting back uber prospect Yoan Moncada and fireball pitcher Michael Kopech (who were the Red Sox’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospects) plus low-level minor leaguers Victor Diaz and Luis Basabe.
Brewers send Tyler Thornburg to Red Sox for three players
The Milwaukee Brewers are sending late-innings reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Travis Shaw and two minor leaguers: infielder Mauricio Dubon, and pitcher Josh Pennington.
BLS Take: The Red Sox are shoring up their bullpen, as Thornburg was excellent for the Brewers last season. In 67 innings, he had a 2.15 ERA with 90 strikeouts. He took over as closer when Jeremy Jeffress was traded to the Rangers along with Jonathan Lucroy on August 1, and he flourished. Thornburg notched 11 saves from that point on (for 13 total on the season), and a 1.85 ERA. He won’t close for the Red Sox, as they’ve got Craig Kimbrel, but most likely will setup games for him.
The Brewers can hopefully figure out how to maximize Travis Shaw’s value. He played the outfield and first base, which is helpful, but his stats against left-handed pitchers were not helpful. He hit just .187/.235/.364 against them last season, dragging his overall triple slash down to .242/.306/.421. He did hit 16 home runs though, which is definitely valuable. Infielder Mauricio Dubon has made it to Double-A and he’s looking pretty competent with the bat, and he’s also No. 12 on MLBPipeline.com’s list of Red Sox prospects. Josh Pennington is 22 on the same list, and he’s made it to Low-A ball. Three players is an impressive haul for just one reliever, but that’s what the market demands these days. — Liz Roscher
Phillies add Joaquin Benoit to their bullpen
Journeyman reliever Joaquin Benoit has a deal in place with the Philadelphia Phillies, according to multiple reports. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly was first. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Benoit is getting $7.5 million for one year.
Joaquin Benoit’s one-year deal with the Phillies will pay him $7.5 million, according to a source. That is what he made in 2016, too.
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) December 5, 2016
BLS Take: Benoit’s 2016 was essentially a Tale of Two Seasons. He started out with the Seattle Mariners and did pretty terribly in 26 games. He pitched 24.1 innings and racked up a 5.18 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 15 walks. Woof. In late July, the Mariners traded Benoit to the Blue Jays, and that’s when things turned around. He pitched 23.2 innings for Toronto, almost exactly what he pitched for Seattle, but the result could not have been more different. His ERA was 0.38, with nine walks and 24 strikeouts. His time in Seattle was almost surely an anomaly: before the 2016 season started, his ERA since 2010 was 2.35.
The Phillies desperately needed to upgrade their bullpen, especially since it kept vomiting all over itself in the 2016 home stretch. In the final month of the season, the Phillies had an MLB-worst 7.88 bullpen ERA, more than two runs worse than the second-to-last team. Over the whole season, the Phillies had the third-worst bullpen ERA in baseball (5.05). Benoit can’t fix it all on his own, but he’s a definite upgrade. — Liz Roscher
Dodgers sign Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million deal
The Los Angeles Dodgers liked what they saw from Rich Hill in the second half of the season. The team agreed to bring back the 36-year-old lefty for three more years, signing him to a deal worth $48 million, according to Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown.
BLS Take: Three years and $48 million seems like a significant amount of money for a guy who was pitching in an independent league just a few years ago, but there’s no reason to doubt Hill’s resurgence on the mound the past few seasons. When healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game.
Health is a major issue, though. Hill was limited by blisters last year, tossing just 110 1/3 innings. While his path to stardom has been unique, it was only the second time in his career that he’s thrown over 100 innings in a single season. On top of that, there’s some concern about his age. Few pitchers remain effective well into their late 30s. Hill might continue to be great next year, but there are legitimate reasons to worry about how his skill set will hold up a year or two from now.
With that said, he’s a good fit for Los Angeles. He clearly enjoyed his time there, and the team has the luxury of being able to make it if Hill needs to miss a month with an injury. It’s tough to call the Dodgers’ rotation dependable considering all the injury-prone players on the roster, but they do have depth at the position. — Chris Cwik
Giants ink Mark Melancon to four-year deal
The San Francisco Giants finally have some relief help. After blowing an incredible 30 saves last year, the Giants signed closer Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal to shore up the bullpen.
BLS Take: Melancon’s deal is a record-breaker for a relief pitcher, and considering his 1.80 ERA over the past four years, it makes sense. With that said, giving long-term deals to relievers, even the best ones in the game, rarely work out. Melancon is great, and fills a huge need in San Francisco, but it’s tough to expect him to live up to that deal three or four years from now. Next season, though, he should be great, and will prevent Giants’ fans from having heart palpitations as often in the ninth inning.
While the cost is crazy, everyone knew the relief market was going to be nuts this year. Both Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman remain available, and should receive more than Melancon. If you want an elite closer, you have to pay. That doesn’t mean it’s a smart way for teams to spend their money, it’s just the way things are heading this offseason. — Chris Cwik
Blue Jays sign Steve Pearce to two-year deal
Super-utilityman Pearce, who had been on the Baltimore Orioles three separate times (most recently in 2016 with stints with the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays in between), has a new home with the Blue Jays.
Sources: The Jays and Steve Pearce agree to a two-year, $12.5 million deal.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
BLS Take: Pearce plays first base, second base, outfield, and he has some power, so he could have found a home nearly anywhere. He hit ten homers in 60 games with the Rays in 2016, and his triple slash was an impressive .309/.388/.520. When the Rays traded him to Baltimore on August 1, his stats took a massive nosedive, and he hit just .217/.329/.400 in 25 games with the Orioles. He would have played more, but he went on the DL with a whole host of right arm issues and ended up having surgery to repair the tendons in his forearm.
Even though he spent a decent chunk of the season nursing right elbow/forearm issues, he’s not a reclamation project by any stretch of the imagination. Despite his injures (and he’s racked up more than a few in the past several years) he’s versatile, and in a park like Rogers Centre, his bat is likely to play well. Even when he’s not hitting great, he can still pop it out of the park. In 2015, he hit .218/.289/.422, but he had 15 home runs. — Liz Roscher
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