Winter Meetings Done Deals: Cubs and Twins each sign a right-handed reliever

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.

THURSDAY
Fernando Rodney signs one-year deal with the Twins
Minnesota Twins fans, get those lightning bolt arms ready, because Fernando Rodney is coming to town. According to Craig Mish of SiriusXM, the Twins have signed the righty reliever to a one-year deal that will contain $4.5 million in guaranteed money, with incentives worth another $1.5 million. Rodney was a free agent after closing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017.

Our take: Relievers were the position du jour during the Winter Meetings, and the Twins got this one in just under the wire. Rodney is 40, but it looks like he has more left in the tank. He gave the Diamondbacks 39 saves in 2017, though a 4.23 ERA came with that. But the Twins are willing to overlook some of his less pleasant numbers because they need a closer. After trading Brandon Kintzler at the deadline, they used Matt Belisle to close in August and September. He did pretty well, but it didn’t seem to be permanent. Rodney will be their closer, and at $6 million for a single year, it’s definitely worth it.

Fernando Rodney will close for the Twins in 2018. (AP Photo)
Fernando Rodney will close for the Twins in 2018. (AP Photo)

Cubs sign reliever Steve Cishek to a two-year deal
Steve Cishek has signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, according to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune. There are no details on how much Cishek will make over the life of the contract, or any other performance incentives, but the deal will be official once Cishek passes his physical.

Our take: Cishek is a sneaky good signing, but it’s not totally clear why he’s still “sneaky good.” Cishek has been more than good for several years now. He absolutely murders right-handed batters, keeping them to a .205 lifetime average against him. And lefties have a lifetime .231 average against him, which is also really great. He’s had one bad season over his seven in the majors, has a lifetime ERA under 3.00, and averages around a strikeout per inning. Maybe a stint with the Cubs will bring Cishek the recognition he deserves.

Brandon Kintzler signs two-year deal with the Nationals
Multiple reports have right-handed reliever Brandon Kintzler signing a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals. Kintzler started 2017 with the Minnesota Twins, but was traded to the Nats at the deadline. He earned his first All-Star bid with the Twins last year, and now he’s reportedly got a $10 million guaranteed contract that will shake out at $5 million per year.

Our take: Kintzler was decent for the Nats in 2017, with a 3.46 ERA in 27 games and 26 innings. He was better for the Twins ERA wise (2.78), but his peripherals stayed the same or improved after the trade. He’s not a big strikeout guy, but not all successful pitchers are. Kintzler (along with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson) helped the Nationals stop the constant flow of runs that kept leaking from their bullpen, and considering how difficult that’s been to accomplish over the past several years, that was reason enough to bring Kintzler back.

The Nationals have locked up Brandon Kintzler for two years. (AP Photo)
The Nationals have locked up Brandon Kintzler for two years. (AP Photo)

WEDNESDAY
Cardinals trade outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the A’s
The St. Louis Cardinals ended Wednesday the same way they started, completing a trade involving an outfielder. Before lunch, St. Louis pulled off a major deal to land Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. In the nightcap, St. Louis shipped outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland A’s for two minor leaguers.

Our take: The move served two purposes: It freed up space in the Cardinals outfield for the newly acquired Ozuna, and it allows Piscotty to play close to home, where he can spend more time with his mother after she was diagnosed with ALS. In many ways it’s a trade that goes beyond baseball, which is definitely unique and is pretty cool too. On the baseball side of things, while Piscotty disappointed in 2017 by hitting just .235/.342/.367, he still has enough upside to be very helpful for Oakland.

Joe Smith agrees to two-year deal with Astros
Not to be outdone by everyone else, the World Series champion Astros hopped on the reliever train Wednesday, picking up Joe Smith on a two-year deal, according to Jake Kaplan. Terms of the deal are not known at this time.

Our take: At 33, Smith is older, but he’s been an effective reliever since he entered the league in 2007. While his 3.33 ERA last season was right in line with his career figure, he saw his strikeout rate jump dramatically while keeping his walk rate down. He could be a solid bargain addition depending on the price of the deal.

Veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler was traded to the Los Angeles Angels at the MLB Winter Meetings. (AP)
Veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler was traded to the Los Angeles Angels at the MLB Winter Meetings. (AP)

Angels acquire Ian Kinsler in trade with Tigers
The Los Angeles Angels walked into the Winter Meeting with a newly signed Shohei Ohtani. Now they’re walking out with a new second baseman after acquiring Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers will receive minor leaguers Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery, Katie Strang of The Athletic reported.

Our take: Kinsler isn’t the impact player he once was, but he’ll add depth to an Angels lineup that has been supplemented with veteran additions over the past few months. Kinsler, who will turn 36 next season, is a four-time All-Star who has slashed a very respectable .273/.342/.447 over 7,484 career plate appearances. Those numbers dipped to .236/.313/.412 in 2017, though he did remain a power and speed threat with 22 homer and 15 stolen bases.

Juan Nicasio is heading to Seattle for two years. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Juan Nicasio is heading to Seattle for two years. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Mariners agree to two-year deal with reliever Juan Nicasio
Relievers appear to be all the rage Wednesday, and you know Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto wasn’t going to be left out. Nicasio agreed to a two-year deal with the Mariners, according to Ken Rosenthal. It’s believed the deal is worth $17 million, according to Bob Nightengale.

Our take: Nicasio moved around a lot last season, but was successful at all three of his destinations. He posted a strong 2.61 ERA between three teams. A full-time move to the bullpen seemed to help, and he managed to cut down on his walks. The cost is fine for a non-closing reliever. Nicasio should be a solid back-end option for them.

The Mets picked up Anthony Swarzak on a two-year deal. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
The Mets picked up Anthony Swarzak on a two-year deal. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Reliever Anthony Swarzak agrees to two-year deal with Mets
The New York Mets finally picked up the reliever they’ve been seeking, securing Anthony Swarzak on a two-year, $14 million deal, according to Marc Carig of Newsday. The 32-year-old had a resurgent season with the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, posting a 2.33 ERA over 77 1/3 innings.

Our take: Swarzak seemed to find himself with the White Sox, not only drastically cutting his ERA, but upping his strikeout rate. For Mets fans worried he was a one-year wonder, many of his stats carried over with the Brewers. He was a much different pitcher last season, and if he can retain the gains he made, he’ll be a significant add for the Mets.

The Twins have signed ex-Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda to a two-year deal, but he’ll miss 2018 after Tommy John surgery. (AFP)
The Twins have signed ex-Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda to a two-year deal, but he’ll miss 2018 after Tommy John surgery. (AFP)

Twins sign Michael Pineda to a two-year deal
The Minnesota Twins are playing a bit of long game with their latest deal, signing free agent pitcher Michael Pineda, who is coming off an injury-shortened season with the New York Yankees. Pineda, 28, gets a two-year deal with the Twins worth $10 million, but he’s out for all of 2018 after needing Tommy John surgery last summer. So the Twins are essentially doing this deal for 2019. Pineda has a career 4.05 ERA and a 40-41 record with the Mariners and Yankees.

Our take: If not for Tommy John surgery, Pineda would be getting a lot more money this offseason. Even though, his career numbers aren’t great, Pineda’s potential has always been off the charts. He’s never fully realized, but he’s been great in stretches. That’s enough for a team to gamble on him. The injury makes it tougher, but the Twins still found it worthwhile to invest $10 million in Pineda. It’s hard to see a negative there. If he returns and pitches well in 2019, this could be a huge win for Minnesota.

The Cardinals finally got their outfielder from the Marlins, acquiring two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna on Wednesday. (AP)
The Cardinals finally got their outfielder from the Marlins, acquiring two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna on Wednesday. (AP)

Cardinals acquire outfielder Marcell Ozuna in trade with Marlins
The St. Louis Cardinals finally swung a deal for a Miami Marlins outfielder. After Giancarlo Stanton rejected a trade to St. Louis last week, the Cardinals completed a deal for two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna on Wednesday. The Marlins received four prospects, including three ranked in the Cardinals top 15. That’s a bigger haul than what they received for Giancarlo Stanton.

Our take: It’s a pretty nice consolation prize for St. Louis. Though they were forced to part with more to land Ozuna, he’ll always come with a cheaper price tag. Ozuna doesn’t bring Giancarlo Stanton, but he’s no slouch after hitting 60 homers over the last two seasons. Still only 26, he seemed to really hit his stride in 2017, slashing .312/.376/.548 with a career-best 93 runs scored and 124 driven in.

Rockies stay busy, re-signing Jake McGee to their bullpen after bringing in Bryan Shaw on Tuesday. (AP)
Rockies stay busy, re-signing Jake McGee to their bullpen after bringing in Bryan Shaw on Tuesday. (AP)

Rockies bring back veteran reliever Jake McGee
The Colorado Rockies weren’t kidding when they talked about adding to the bullpen. Only hours after adding set up man Bryan Shaw on a three-year deal, the Rockies re-signed left-hander Jake McGee with the same three-year, $27 million commitment. The Rockies are reportedly seeking to bring back closer Greg Holland as well.

Our look: Many saw the Shaw signing as an indicator the Rockies were resigned to losing McGee and Holland. With McGee locked in and Holland possibly following, they’re poised to have an even stronger bullpen in 2018. McGee posted a 3.61 ERA as Colorado’s top set up man last season. If Holland moves on, he could take over as Colorado’s closer.

The Rockies have reportedly reached an agreement with free agent reliever Bryan Shaw. (AP)
The Rockies have reportedly reached an agreement with free agent reliever Bryan Shaw. (AP)

TUESDAY
Rockies add veteran reliever Bryan Shaw on three-year deal
The relief market continues to move quickly at the Winter Meetings. The Colorado Rockies became the latest team to add a bullpen arm, agreeing to terms with veteran reliever Bryan Shaw. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports it’s a three-year deal worth around $9 million per season. The 30-year-old right-hander was a key reliever for the Cleveland Indians over the last five seasons, posting a 3.11 ERA over 378 appearances.

Our take: The Rockies needed to jump into the relief market with closer Greg Holland and top set up man Jake McGee likely to leave in free agency. Shaw seems like a terrific fit as someone who could seemingly slide into either role if needed. It’s expected the Rockies will continue searching for relief help. They’ve reportedly been eyeing Wade Davis, among many others, as the attempt to replenish what was a dynamic and deep bullpen in 2017.

Free agent reliever Tommy Hunter landed a two-year deal with the Phillies. (AP)
Free agent reliever Tommy Hunter landed a two-year deal with the Phillies. (AP)

Phillies lock up reliever Tommy Hunter
The Philadelphia Phillies dove into the bullpen mix again on Tuesday night, reaching an agreement with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports it’s a two-year deal.

Our take: The Phillies have now made two notable additions to their bullpen this week after agreeing to bring back Pat Neshek on Monday. Neshek is the bigger name, but both will be solid additions to Philadelphia’s relief corps. Hunter, 31, was originally a starter, but has found his place as a versatile bullpen arm. He made 61 appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017, posting a career-best 2.61 ERA.

The Cubs have signed veteran left-hander Drew Smyly, who is six months removed from Tommy John surgery. (AP)
The Cubs have signed veteran left-hander Drew Smyly, who is six months removed from Tommy John surgery. (AP)

Cubs sign Drew Smyly to two-year, $10 million deal
The Chicago Cubs are taking a $10 million gamble on Drew Smyly, who is just six months removed from Tommy John surgery. The team announced they’ve signed Smyly to a two-year deal, though it’s unlikely he’ll be able to contribute during the 2018 season. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Smyly will earn $3 million in 2018 and $7 million in 2019.

Our take: It’s an interesting gamble for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer that could pay off in 2019. Smyly was an effective starter for a stretch with the Tampa Bay Rays when Joe Maddon was their manager and Jim Hickey was their pitching coach. He’ll be reunited with both in Chicago. Overall, Smyly has a 3.74 ERA over 570 1/3 career innings with the Tigers and Rays.

Ryan Schimpf is now on the Tampa Bay Rays. (AP Photo)
Ryan Schimpf is now on the Tampa Bay Rays. (AP Photo)

Rays trade minor league infielder Deion Tansel to Padres for infielder Ryan Schimpf
Even a minor trade is a trade nonetheless. The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays have swapped infielders, with minor leaguer Deion Tansel headed to San Diego and major league infielder Ryan Schimpf (which is a really fun name) on his way to Tampa Bay. There’s no cash involved in the deal, it’s a straight-up player swap.

Our take: This trade isn’t going to move the needle for either team, but not all trades are supposed to. The Rays probably see something promising in 29-year-old Schimpf, who is under team control until 2022. He spent parts of 2016 and 2017 in the majors, hitting .195 overall. But in 142 total games in the majors, he’s hit 34 home runs. No harm in taking a flier on Schimpf, especially if he can provide a little power.

Yankees trade third baseman Chase Headley and pitcher Bryan Mitchell to the Padres
The New York Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton, but they’re definitely not done making moves. They traded Chase Headley back to his very first team, the San Diego Padres. They also sent pitcher Bryan Mitchell. In return, the Yankees are getting outfielder Jabari Blash.

Our take: This is purely a cost-saving measure for the Yankees, which we went over in more detail here. They acquired some payroll expenses in the form of Giancarlo Stanton, and they want more money to play with to finish their offseason checklist. This probably won’t be the last time the Yankees do this before February, since Jacoby Ellsbury is also sucking up quite a bit of payroll himself.

MONDAY
Phillies agree to two-year deal to bring back reliever Pat Neshek

Pat Neshek must have enjoyed his time with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017. He agreed to return to the club on a two-year deal worth somewhere between $16 million and $17 million according to Jon Heyman. Neshek spent the first half of the season with the club before being traded to the Colorado Rockies for the stretch run.

Our take: Neshek has been a useful reliever for a while now, but emerged in a big way in 2017. The 37-year-old posted a 1.59 ERA over 62 1/3 innings between two teams, making his second All-Star team. Even if he pitched over his head, the money isn’t exorbitant. He can go back to being a pitcher with a 3.00 ERA and still be worth it for the Phillies.

Former Yankees pitcher Chris Martin is back in the majors. (AP Photo)
Former Yankees pitcher Chris Martin is back in the majors. (AP Photo)

Rangers sign pitcher Chris Martin to two-year deal
No, it’s not the guy from Coldplay, it’s former New York Yankees pitcher Chris Martin. After spending two strong seasons in Japan, Martin agreed to come back to the United States to pitch for the Texas Rangers. His deal is worth $4 million, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Our take: Martin struggled in his brief taste of the majors previously, posing a 6.19 ERA over just 36 1/3 innings. He was much better in Japan, with a 1.12 ERA the past two seasons. Spending $4 million for two years is nothing for a baseball team. If he regains any of his effectiveness from his time in Japan, it’s a great move. If not, the Rangers can simply move on at little cost.

Luke Gregerson signs with Cardinals after winning World Series with Astros. (EFE)
Luke Gregerson signs with Cardinals after winning World Series with Astros. (EFE)

SUNDAY
Cardinals add reliever Luke Gregerson on two-year deal
With MLB teams heading into Orlando for the Winter Meetings, which officially kick off Monday, there was a Sunday afternoon rush on relief pitchers. Part of that was the St. Louis Cardinals addressing one of their areas of need and getting 33-year-old righty Luke Gregerson, who just won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros. Last season, he had a 4.57 ERA in 65 appearances, but had been better in the past. He saved 31 games for the Oakland A’s in 2015.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Gregerson is getting a two-year deal worth $11 million. It also carries an option that vests if he pitches 60 games in 2019 or 130 total between 2018 and 2019. That’s from ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Our take: The Cardinals need help in their bullpen, as they’ve lost Trevor Rosenthal, Seung-Hwan Oh, Juan Nicasio to free agency (or getting released). Cardinals fans won’t miss Oh or Rosenthal too much, but those are still innings that need to be replaced. The way things are looking, Gregerson may even compete for the closer’s job in St. Louis if they don’t get any other notable bullpen free agents. He ranked as the 31st reliever on Jeff Passan’s 2017 Free Agent rankings and No. 98 overall.

The Cardinals would be better served to add more than Gregerson to the bullpen, but hey, it’s a start.

Cubs sign Brandon Morrow to a two-year deal
Brandon Morrow, the fantastic Los Angeles Dodgers setup man in 2017, has jumped over to the Cubs on a two-year deal, according to Yahoo Sports’ own Jeff Passan. No official word on money, but he’s expected to get around $10-$11 million per year. Morrow, 33, revived his career in L.A. He had a 2.06 ERA in 45 appearances after signing a minor-league deal with the Dodgers.


Our take: The Cubs need bullpen help and Morrow is one of the better arms on the market. We went into detail on the deal over here, but in short: Morrow could have workload issues after a really busy postseason, but if the Cubs get the regular-season version of Morrow, it could be a steal.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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