Predicting MLB's Best and Worst 2017-18 Offseason Moves

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2018

Predicting MLB's Best and Worst 2017-18 Offseason Moves

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The 2017-18 MLB offseason has been defined by inaction. Most of the top free agents remain unsigned and that could stay true well into spring training.

    Of course, a number of major trades and signings have been consummated. Inevitably, some will look good and others will look bad.

    We can't know which is which without the benefit of hindsight, but we can make educated guesses based on the years and dollars involved, a player's age and track record and a dash of gut feeling.

    Here's a look at eight deals we predict will rate as the best and worst of the offseason.

    We're not going to spin into speculation about the big names left on the board—headlined by aces Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta—because there simply aren't enough credible rumors to indicate what their markets might be. A five-year deal for Arrieta could be bad, for example, but a short-term pact to boost his value? That would be good for the signing team.

    In this wacky offseason, both sound plausible.

Worst: New York Mets Sign RF Jay Bruce

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The New York Mets brought back old friend Jay Bruce for three years and $39 million in January. Bruce hit 29 home runs for New York last season before being dealt at the trade deadline to the Cleveland Indians. He may again add pop to the Mets lineup.

    On the other hand, Bruce turns 31 in April. He's been worth only three fWAR between 2014 and 2017. He's a one-dimensional slugger in a homer-saturated MLB landscape that no longer highly values his skill-set. 

    For a team with a limited budget, it seems as though the Mets could have waited out the market and either gotten Bruce for less or signed another available bat.

    They did ink third baseman Todd Frazier for a more-reasonable two years and $17 million. Maybe stockpiling clomping power-hitters with so-so on-base skills is all part of their master plan.

Best: Milwaukee Brewers Acquire RF Christian Yelich

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Miami Marlins traded their entire 2017 starting outfield this winter. Each deal will appear on this list.

    Let's start with Christian Yelich, whom the Milwaukee Brewers acquired for a prospect package that included outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison, infielder Isan Diaz and right-hander Jordan Yamamoto.

    It was a decent return for Miami. Brinson could be the club's center fielder of the future. Yelich, however, was easily the best piece in the deal.

    Though he toiled in the long, homer-crushing shadow of Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich amassed a .290/.369/.432 slash line during his five seasons with the Fish and won a Gold Glove for his play in right field in 2014.

    He manned center for the Marlins last season but will likely return to right with Milwaukee, which signed free-agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain as part of its offseason makeover.

    Best of all, Yelich is only 26 years old and is under team control for five seasons at an affordable $58.3 million.

Worst: Colorado Rockies Sign RHP Wade Davis

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Colorado Rockies bullpen was one of the reasons they grabbed a wild-card spot last season, but Colorado was at risk of losing several key members to free agency, including closer Greg Holland.

    The Rockies were proactive. They snagged probably the best available reliever when they handed a three-year, $52 million deal to Wade Davis in late December.

    There is ample risk, though.

    Davis is a three-time All-Star who posted a 2.30 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings last season for the Chicago Cubs. That's the good news.

    On the other hand, he's 32 years old and posted a career-worst 4.3 walks per nine innings in 2017. He's about to pitch half his games at Coors Field, where free passes are frequently punished.

    Credit Colorado with being aggressive. But giving the largest-ever contract for a relief pitcher in terms of average annual value ($17.3 million) to a guy on the wrong side of 30 and then asking him to toil in the Mile High air? Low whistle.

Best: St. Louis Cardinals Acquire LF Marcell Ozuna

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    Kurt Voigt/Associated Press

    Marcell Ozunaaka the second ex-Marlins outfielder we'll discusshit .312 with a .924 OPS, 34 homers and 124 RBI for Miami last season.

    Now, the two-time All-Star is a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Understandably, the Cards gave up a hefty package to get him: right-hander Sandy Alcantara, outfielder Magneuris Sierra, right-hander Zac Gallen and left-hander Daniel Castano. The hard-throwing Alcantara, in particular, has the stuff to be an ace.

    Ozuna was well worth it. He gives the Cardinals the legitimate, lineup-anchoring bat they were lacking. He's 27 years old and has two years of team control remaining.

    St. Louis got him in its prime without gutting the farm and is now much better positioned to challenge the Brewers and Cubs in the NL Central.

Worst: San Francisco Giants Acquire 3B Evan Longoria

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants lost 98 games in 2017, but opted to retool rather than rebuild.

    Their first major move was to acquire third baseman Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays. On the surface, it makes sense. The Giants had a hole at third and Longoria is a three-time All-Star coming off a season in which he hit 20 home runs (which would have led the 2017 Giants) and won a Gold Glove.

    Longoria should make San Francisco better in 2018. The trouble is, the Giants took on the bulk of the $86 million Longoria is owed through 2023. San Francisco already has the most committed payroll of any MLB club for every season from 2019 through 2021, according to Spotrac.

    In a year or two, as Longroia limps into his mid-30s, he could be a serious budgetary drag on a team with an aging, expensive core and barren farm system.

    Oh, and speaking of that, one of the players the Giants gave up to get Longoria is Christian Arroyo, a promising, cost-controlled young infielder who at one point looked like a possible third baseman of the future. 

Best: Los Angeles Angels Sign RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani

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    Masterpress/Getty Images

    Shohei Ohtani has yet to throw a pitch or take a swing against MLB competition. We don't know how his skills will translate from Japan.

    But, boy oh boy, is it going to be exciting to see.

    By now, you've heard the legend of Ohtani, the slender "Japanese Babe Ruth" with his blazing heater and towering home runs. After posting a 2.52 ERA with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and an .859 OPS across five seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani wanted to test himself stateside.

    He wanted to do it so badly, in fact, that he came over before his 25th birthday (he turns 24 in July), meaning he cost himself millions of dollars under MLB's international signing rules.

    His loss was the Los Angeles Angels' gain. After Ohtani spurned high-profile suitors including the Yankees, the Halos scooped him up for a modest $2.3 million signing bonus. They'll pay him the league minimum salary until he's eligible for arbitration after three seasons. They also paid the Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee.

    If Ohtani lives up to his pedigree, that will be an absolute steal.

Worst: Seattle Mariners Acquire (Cough) 'CF' Dee Gordon

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Mariners entered the offseason in need of pitching. They used 17 different starters in 2017. Instead, their big splash has been acquiring Dee Gordon from Miami.

    Gordon led baseball with 60 stolen bases last season. That's his calling card. He also rarely walks and has zero power. He'll be 30 in April, is owed $37.9 million over three seasons and was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use in 2016. 

    Seattle gave up three prospects to get him, including right-hander Nick Neidert, who has the potential to be a mid-rotation arm.

    None of that is the worst part of this trade, though. The worst part is the Mariners are planning to use Gordon in center field, a position he's never played in the big leagues. Gordon's natural position is second, but the M's have a guy there named Robinson Cano.

    Yes, Gordon is fast. There's a lot more to being a competent center fielder than that. Plus, legs are often the first thing to go when a player enters his 30s.

    Any way you look at it, this is a head-scratcher and a prime example of Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto's tendency to make deals for deals' sake.

Best: New York Yankees Acquire RF Giancarlo Stanton

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    Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

    Yes, the New York Yankees took on a barge-load of salary when they acquired Stanton from the Marlins: $295 million over 10 years, to be exact, though Miami did agree to give the Yankees $30 million if Stanton doesn't opt out after 2020, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported. 

    Here's what the Yanks got: the reigning NL MVP fresh off a season in which he clubbed 59 home runs. And New York surrendered none of its top prospects, as it sent second baseman Starlin Castro and two minor leaguers—right-hander Jorge Guzman and infielder Jose Devers—to Miami.

    Moving Castro clears a space for touted young infielder Gleyber Torres to take over at second. Guzman has a live fastball but has battled command issues. Devers provided organizational depth and doesn't rate among the Marlins' top 30 prospects after the trade, per MLB.com.

    Miami wriggled out from under that contract, which was its only goal. The Yankees, on the other hand, can now pair Stanton with his slugging doppelganger Aaron Judge to form a dynamic duo that might easily crush 100-plus combined home runs.

    The Yankees have money. Now, they also have the best power-hitter in the game.

            

    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.