To say it has been a busy week in the Hot Stove League would be a wee bit of an understatement.
Before I get to the 500-pound gorilla in the room, let’s take a look at some other recent moves.
D-Backs Get a Loogy
The Diamondbacks added pitcher Matt Reynolds to their bullpen. The lefty has been used as loogy with good reason (9+ K/9 career), but actually has produced solid strikeout and control numbers against righties too. Unfortunately, Reynolds has case of chronic gopheritis (17%+ HR/FB career) that is holding him back. In exchange the Rockies snagged corner infielder Ryan Wheeler. The book on the 24-year old is fair contact hitter with mid to high teens per season power and defense that really limits the lefty to first base. Looks like an organizational or bench player long term.
Jeremy Guthrie will receive $25 million over three years in exchange for his durability and strike throwing Guthrie is not in danger of winning any pitching awards, but owns a career 2.7 BB/9 and has started at least 26 games per season since 2007. The former Indian does not miss bats. He is not an extreme ground ball or fly ball pitcher. The righty just eats innings, thank you very much. An ERA under 4.00? Bet against.
Torii Hunter parlayed a .300+ batting average into a two-year pact with Detroit. The 37-year old, however, is in clear decline. Three straight seasons of increasing strikeout rates. Four straight seasons of declining power as seen in his isolated power and four straight season of declining fly ball rates. And finally an astronomical .389 BABIP that is well beyond any previous career high. A .260 12 HR 8 steal 2013 seems quite possible.
The 500-Pound Gorilla
Enough has been made about the economics and audacity of the deal, so let’s just focus on the players.
Jose Reyes takes over at shortstop and leadoff. While no longer a prolific base stealer, 40 steals are still within the 29-year olds abilities. That combined with a great batting eye, well above average raw speed and gap power still make Reyes a dynamic player. The only chink in the armor might be a three-year decline in fly ball rates that could impact the switch-hitter’s ability to return to double digits in HRs.
Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson move into the rotation, pushing the entire existing rotation of Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, and J.A. Happ back. Instantly the Jays go from trotting in rookies to a complete veteran staff. Guthrie may be an inning eater, but Buehrle is something of a throwback to a different time. Since 2001 the lefty has started no fewer than 30 games, nor has he pitched fewer than 201 innings. Over each of the past three seasons, Buehrle has improved his control while also improving his strikeout rates. While it is likely Buerhle will once again devour innings, a .270 BABIP and second highest career strikeout rate suggest that at least a bit of a regression is coming and a return to a 4+ ERA should not be unexpected.
Buehrle may be filling the role of rock, but Johnson is filling the role of "ace". The soon-to-be 29-year old has had just two 30+ start campaigns over his career and just three of more than 25 starts. The lefty has also seen his BB/9 rates increase each of the past three seasonds and seen the reverse trend for strikeouts rates and fastball velocity. The stuff and youth is still there for a very solid 2013 but there is a fair amount of risk surrounding Johnson that should temper your bidding.
John Buck and Jeff Mathis are simply flip-flopping back-up catching roles. It is possible that one or both of the players, given their contracts, could be move again. Buck still has some power and patience, but has too much trouble making contact to hit much above .220. Much the same can be said about Mathis, but less so in the power department.
Emilio Bonifacio pushes Maicer Izturis into a utility role, but given Bonifacio’s up and down career, a time share seems more likely. The 27-year old switch hitter simply makes far too infrequent contact for someone with so little power to remain a viable starter.
Yunel Escobar will shift to third base while Adeiny Hechavarria will start at shortstop. Escobar, 30, could rebound in 2013 given good contact skills and double-digits HR power, but keep in mind that Escobar is an extreme ground-ball hitter who hits fewer than 30% of balls in play in the air. That means, a suppressed .270 BABIP and .253 batting average are not as fluky as they might seem in the context of the rest of Escobar’s career.
Hechavarria has a good glove and gap power, but is an aggressive hitter who might be overmatched in the Majors. Despite above average speed, Hechavarria is not a base stealer. Keep your expectations low.
Henderson Alvarez will take a rotation spot and youngsters like Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi are more likely to win rotation spots with the veterans dealt. Alvarez reminds me way too much of former Twin, Carlos Silva. The righty generates a great deal of grounders, but is entirely too hittable and will always have an ERA close to or above 5.00 if he cannot figure out a way to miss more bats.
Outfielder Jake Marisnick has at least 20-20, starting centerfielder potential, but needs work in the plate discipline department. The righty has the potential to be the gem of the deal for the Marlins, but does have some potential to be a flop. The 21-year old’s saving grace could be his ability to at least make contact which when combined with
Pitcher Justin Nicolino was a 2010 second round pick who will move up to A+ ball in 2013.The lefty has good command of three pitches and changes speeds very well. The 21-year old has middle of the rotation potential, but has an ETA of possibly 2015.
Finally, Anthony DeSclafini has a live arm and throws quite a few strikes (1.8 BB/9), but does not miss as many bats as college pitcher should in lower-A ball. Looks like a candidate for middle relief in the long run.
Happy Thanksgiving all. More Hot Stove talk next week!