Catching Up on All the Moves in Baseball

Last weekend, I had the nerve to go on my honeymoon and missed writing about a lot of baseball trades and signings. To atone for such indiscretions, here’s a post about everything I missed while I was following my wife around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Blue Jays acquire R.A. Dickey from the Mets, Sign Him to an Extension

This deal also included Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas in exchange for John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra. The Dickey extension is for two additional seasons and $25 million with a club option for 2016.

This is a very solid deal for the Mets in my book as they deal one year of Dickey plus two less than glamorous pieces for some prospects with really high upsides. d’Arnaud isn’t a sure thing, but he’s a top 10 prospect in baseball who can provide legitimate offense from behind the plate, and the other prospects are also potential contributors in the future. I’m not going to break down each of these guys at length, but the value is good for the Mets.

The Jays gave up a lot, but they also got a lot in return. Thole and Nickeas will be useful, but Dickey could be a difference maker. Over the last three seasons he’s been a great starter and capped it off with a Cy Young this season. He’s old and a knuckleballer, but he’s very effective. He’ll make just $5 million in 2013, so he’s a steal. If he maintains similar levels over the course of the extension, the $12 million per season price tag is a steal. If you buy him as someone who can maintain this level of performance, his 4+ WAR levels are worth about twice what he’ll make over the course of this deal.

The Blue Jays paid a premium for his services via trade, but they are right on the cusp of contention. With the addition of Melky Cabrera, Maizer Iztruis, and most of the Miami Marlins, the Blue Jays are easily within a couple wins of a division title and Dickey could make that difference. We’re not great at predicting baseball down to the precise win totals of a team, but we do have a good idea of about where the Blue Jays will fall in 2013 and we think that will be near a spot in the standings where a couple wins could make a big difference.

Grade (Mets): B+, Grade (Jays): B+

Astros Sign Carlos Pena, 1 year, $2.9 million plus incentives

Pena hits for a low average. He walks and hits homeruns. He’s solid on defense at first. While that makes him a below average player, it makes him like the second best Astro. Houston moves to the AL this season so Pena will largely play the role of DH at Minute Maid Park and should see some time at first.

In context this is a great move, even if it isn’t much of anything on a large scale. Pena should provide some offense for a bad team and they’ll get that offense at likely below market value because he has such a low batting average. Any true contender would have trouble selling a .190 hitter to their fan base, but the Astros don’t have that problem. This should pay off, even if it’s the difference between 67 wins and 69.

Grade: B

Cubs Sign Edwin Jackson, 4 years, $52 million

Edwin Jackson is 29 years old. He has made 31 or more starts in seven straight seasons. In the last six seasons, he’s thrown 183 innings or more each year with an ERA at 4.42 or below. Decent strikeout numbers, a few too many walks.

He’s not great, but he’s been close to a 4 WAR pitcher three of the last four seasons and close to a 3 WAR pitcher in the other. He’s pretty good. If you want him to be your ace, that’s a problem. But he’s better than average. If we figure over the next four seasons that he’ll be somewhere between 2 and 4 WAR, we’d offer him $10-$25 million per season depending on inflationary projections.

Obviously the $25 million is at the very high end and you don’t offer contracts with inflation built in. The Cubs have him for $13 million a year. At that rate, he needs to be worth 2 to 3 wins if there is no inflation (and there will be). He’s hasn’t been worth less than 2 WAR since 2008.

This is a good deal for the Cubs because most people seem to undervalue Jackson because he performs worse than we think he should given the quality of his raw stuff. He feels like he should be a #2, but he’s really been more of a #3 type guy and his ERA tends to look a little bloated at times. If you check the FIP, he looks better.

If he’s the same guy over the next four seasons minus a little aging as he has been for the last four, this deal will work out for the Cubs.

Grade: B

Rangers Sign A.J. Pierzynski, 1 year, $7.5 million

The Rangers lost out on Greinke, Hamilton, Upton, and pretty much everyone else they’ve wanted in the last twelve months. But gosh darn it, they got A.J.

Former White Sox, jerkish personality aside, this should be a good fit for the Rangers. He’s a durable lefthanded hitting catcher who hits for power. That’s not an easy thing to find. He doesn’t walk, but he rarely strikesout. The defense is suspect at times, but he’s usually commended for his ability to lead staffs.

He’s going to be somewhere between 1 and 3 WAR, just like he has been his whole career, in 2013. If he hits for a lot of power, look toward the high end. If he doesn’t, expect the low end. He’s durable and respectable at the plate. For $7.5 million, you’re only asking him to  be better than 1 WAR for it to payoff and he should be able to handle that.

Grade: B+

Brief Thoughts on Minor Moves

Phillies sign Mike Adams: Too long for a reliever, but should help.

Red Sox sign Stephen Drew: One year deals are low risk. Should be a good stop gap with some upside and they have the money to spend.

Rays sign the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona: No bad one year deals and the Rays are good at turning these guys into valuable pieces. Can’t hate it.

Marlins sign Placido Polanco: Past his prime and injury prone. In his heyday, he was a master. Now, he might be more of a bench player than a starter. But the Marlins are terrible, so it’s a decent move.

Pirates sign Francisco Liriano: At 2 years and $14 million, there is some risk he’s terrible and they’re out a non-trivial amount of money. But the Pirates need to thicken up their rotation and he could be useful in the pen if it comes to that. I wouldn’t love this deal, but the dollar value is low enough that it could really be a steal if he finds his form for just one of the seasons.

That should get you caught up on the happenings around the league and I have no plans to walk around theme parks for quite some time. We’re less than two months from pitchers and catchers and we’ll have coverage of everything that happens.

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