Grading MLB's Top 15 Offseason Acquisitions at the One-Quarter Mark
Now that they have some legitimate regular-season numbers, it's time to revisit that list and grade those acquisitions once again.
Just to be clear, this is not a list of the 15 best acquisitions of the offseason. You will not find guys like Michael Morse, Justin Morneau, Seth Smith, Yangervis Solarte, Scott Kazmir, Tim Hudson or Dan Haren on the following list. Those moves would all receive A or A+ grades, for what it's worth.
Instead, it's a look at what I viewed as the 15 biggest acquisitions prior to the season, with my take on how each of those players has performed so far.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.
1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Acquired: Free Agent (six-year, $68 million deal)
In a market thin on power bats, and with the White Sox in need of a long-term replacement for Paul Konerko at first base, the team decided to take a chance on Cuban defector Jose Abreu.
His power was well documented, but there were questions as to how well and how quickly his game would translate to the MLB level. Fair to say those questions have been answered. He took home AL Player of the Month and set rookie records for home runs, RBI and total bases in April.
RF Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees
Acquired: Free Agent (three-year, $45 million deal)
With all the money they spent and long-term deals they handed out, the three-year, $45 million deal the Yankees gave Carlos Beltran was actually viewed as something of a bargain.
The 37-year-old is putting the finishing touches on what could very well be a Hall of Fame career, but he's off to a relatively slow start. He's currently on the DL with an elbow injury, so things won't be turning around any time soon. The Yankees will need him to step up his production at some point.
SP A.J. Burnett, Philadelphia Phillies
Acquired: Free Agent (two-year, $22.5 million deal)
After originally indicating that he would either re-sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates or retire, A.J. Burnett changed his tune and wound up agreeing to a two-year deal with the Phillies. That gave the team an impressive trio of veterans with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Burnett atop the staff.
So far this year, Burnett's strikeout rate is down from the NL-best 9.8 K/9 mark he posted last season, and his 4.33 FIP suggests that his ERA is a bit of a mirage at this point. Still, with five quality starts, he's a decent bargain given the ever-climbing price of pitching.
2B Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
Acquired: Free Agent (10-year, $240 million deal)
It's not every day that someone gets signed away from the New York Yankees, but that is exactly what the Seattle Mariners did when they gave Robinson Cano a massive 10-year contract this winter.
The Mariners have had one of the worst offenses in baseball over the past several seasons, so big things were expected from one of the game's top hitters in his first year with the team.
Cano is hitting for a decent average at this point, but the power simply has not been there and his 1.5 HR/FB percentage is among the worst in baseball.
LF Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers
Acquired: Free Agent (seven-year, $130 million deal)
After one season with the Cincinnati Reds in which he finished second to teammate Joey Votto with a .423 on-base percentage, Shin-Soo Choo hit the free-agent market as one of the top available bats and an impact table-setter in the leadoff spot.
He's getting on base at an impressive rate once again. His .427 mark is second to Jose Bautista (.437) among AL leaders.
The Rangers have been hit hard by injuries this year, and what was expected to be one of the league's best offenses has been a disappointment. Despite that, Choo has given the team exactly what it was hoping for when it gave him a seven-year deal.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
Acquired: Free Agent (seven-year, $153 million deal)
After an injury-plagued 2012 season, Jacoby Ellsbury proved he is still an impact speedster last year. He led the AL with 52 stolen bases in 56 attempts while posting a 5.7 WAR in helping the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title.
The Yankees spent big to sign him away from their rivals, and he's been solid so far, hitting both leadoff and third in the team's lineup.
The back end of Ellsbury's contract could be an albatross given how much he relies on his speed, but for now, he's been a solid addition.
1B Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
Acquired: Trade (from DET with $30 million for Ian Kinsler)
Big things were expected from Prince Fielder when he was traded to the Texas Rangers this offseason, as he would be playing half of his games in the launching pad that is Globe Life Ballpark in Arlington.
But Fielder had managed just 55 home runs in his two seasons with the Detroit Tigers after averaging 40 per season the previous five years in Milwaukee, and his power has been virtually nonexistent once again.
He gets on base at a decent rate and is currently second on the team with 16 RBI, but he's still been a major disappointment so far.
SP Matt Garza, Milwaukee Brewers
Acquired: Free Agent (four-year, $50 million deal)
The Milwaukee Brewers have been the surprise team of 2014 so far, and their starting rotation has been a big reason why. They currently lead all of baseball with 33 quality starts in 43 games, and they rank fifth in the NL with a staff ERA of 3.22.
However, newcomer Matt Garza has been the weak link. He has five quality starts in nine games and by far the highest ERA on the staff.
A 3.45 FIP suggests that he's thrown the ball better than his numbers reflect, so there's no reason to be overly concerned, but based on his production to this point, he's been a disappointment.
RF Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
Acquired: Free Agent (four-year, $60 million deal)
In need of an impact bat both in the outfield and behind David Wright in the order, the New York Mets landed what appeared to be their primary target in Curtis Granderson with a four-year, $60 million deal just before the winter meetings kicked off.
Once a dynamic all-around offensive player during his time in Detroit, Granderson emerged as one of the top home run threats in baseball during his time with the Yankees—but at the expense of his batting average.
He no longer has the short porch in right field to boost his home run total, and the result has been a dreadful start to his time with the Mets.
SP Ubaldo Jimenez, Baltimore Orioles
Acquired: Free Agent (four-year, $50 million deal)
Ubaldo Jimenez is a notoriously slow starter in April (career 5.23 ERA), and he stumbled out of the gates once again this season, going 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA over his first five starts in an Orioles jersey.
With the calendar turning over to May, he's looked like the frontline starter that Baltimore was hoping he'd be. Jimenez has allowed just 13 hits and one earned run in 19.2 innings of work over his last three starts.
The starting rotation remains a weakness for the Orioles, and if Jimenez can keep it up, it will be huge as far as their playoff hopes are concerned.
2B Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
Acquired: Trade (from TEX for Prince Fielder and $30 million)
The Detroit Tigers have been the clear winners of the Prince Fielder trade so far. Fielder is struggling mightily in Texas, and Ian Kinsler is off to a great start atop the Tigers' reworked lineup.
Kinsler currently ranks in the top 10 in the AL in hits, runs and WAR. To the benefit of that last category, he has added some plus defense at second base to go along with his impressive power/speed numbers.
New manager Brad Ausmus has been impressed with what he's seen from Kinsler so far.
"I think you knew he had the ability, the resume," Ausmus told Jason Beck of MLB.com. "What I didn't know was the personality and the intensity with which he focuses on his job. Gritty player."
C Brian McCann, New York Yankees
Acquired: Free Agent (five-year, $85 million deal)
It's not often that a franchise-caliber catcher hits the free-agent market. After getting a dismal .213/.289/.298 line and just eight home runs from the catcher position last year, the New York Yankees jumped at the chance to sign Brian McCann.
It's fair to say the 30-year-old has not lived up to his $17 million salary to this point, but he has finally started hitting of late, going 5-for-16 with two home runs and five RBI over his last four games.
Until he has some prolonged success at the plate and gets his triple-slash numbers up to respectable territory, his grade will remain low.
RP Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
Acquired: Free Agent (two-year, $20 million deal)
With Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras departing in free agency and Bruce Rondon lost for the season to Tommy John surgery, the Detroit Tigers bullpen was a question mark once again heading into the season.
However, the ninth inning was expected to be rock solid after the team signed active saves leader Joe Nathan to a two-year deal.
The 39-year-old battled some dead arm early in the season, going 1-for-3 on save chances with a 12.27 ERA through his first four appearances. He's 10-for-10 with just four hits and one run allowed in 12 innings since and is once again looking like one of the game's best.
SS Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
Acquired: Free Agent (four-year, $53 million deal)
The St. Louis Cardinals got a .222/.280/.303 line and four home runs from the shortstop position last year. With that in mind, they moved quickly to upgrade the position when they signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year deal on Nov. 24.
After hitting just .196 with six home runs over the first month of the season, Peralta has been one of the Cardinals' best hitters in May, with a .340/.426/.509 line that includes three doubles and two home runs.
He's been perhaps the most productive shortstop in the NL—aside from Troy Tulowitzki—and a solid addition to the Cardinals' lineup.
SP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
Acquired: Free Agent (seven-year, $155 million deal plus $20 million posting fee)
We view him to be a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter. ... There is definitely some unknown because of the transition. We scouted him extensively. Certainly, we look forward to adding him into the mix with the rest of our rotation. That's what we look at him as: A solid, potential No. 3 starter in the big leagues.
That's what Yankees GM Brian Cashman said about Masahiro Tanaka prior to the season (via ESPN), and the rookie has exceeded those expectations so far as he has made the transition to the MLB game look incredibly easy.
He's the clear-cut ace of an injury-riddled Yankees rotation at this point, and with the best splitter in baseball plus an impressive arsenal of pitches, there is no reason to think he'll regress.
The AL Rookie of the Year race between Tanaka and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu should be an awfully fun one to watch.
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