Most years, this is how it goes. What begins as a busy month of December on the MLB Hot Stove front ends in rather quiet fashion as teams wait for the bargains. January, and even February in some cases, is the month for those bargains. As more free agents go off the board and more trades are made, the remaining free agents lose more leverage in contract negotiations and the various prices of the players still available via trade plummets. Not a whole lot happened over the past week as general managers and agents alike took some time to enjoy the holiday season, but let’s run through what did happen.
Nick Swisher signs with Indians for four yrs/$56 million
It took awhile for Swish to decide on a team, and all indications are that the Indians were not near the top of his wish list. But it’s highly likely that the Tribe offered him the best contract, and you can’t blame him for signing it. The chances of Cleveland contending for a postseason spot this season are minute, so it’ll be interesting to see how Swisher will handle the losing after being spoiled with the Yankees for the past four years. It’ll also be interesting to see if his overall production suffers by moving into a far weaker lineup and from a hitter’s park to a pitcher’s park. One thing to consider is that he averaged 26 homers a year during his three full seasons with the A’s, so it’s not like he can’t succeed in a pitcher-friendly environment. But this can’t be a good thing for his overall fantasy value. I’ve always appreciated Swisher for his year-to-year consistency, and he’s still a top-40 outfielder. I just won’t be targeting him as heavily as I did throughout his time with the Yankees.
Joel Hanrahan traded to Red Sox
This one surprised me a little at first, but the more I thought about it the more it made perfect sense. Andrew Bailey just can’t stay healthy and the Red Sox were in serious need of bullpen help. Hanrahan slides into their closer spot and Bailey along with Koji Uehara form an excellent setup duo. And if Bailey finds his way back to the DL, Boston has insurance. As for Hanrahan’s fantasy outlook, this is scary. Moving from the NL to the AL East and the pressure cooker that is Boston is a recipe for disaster. I’m a big believer in mental factors when it comes to pitchers, and this is about as unfavorable a situation as it gets. Add in the fact that his walk rate skyrocketed from 2.10 BB/9 in 2011 to 5.43 BB/9 last season and there’s not a whole lot to like about Hanrahan this year. I guess I wouldn’t mind owning him as my No. 2 closer in a mixed league, but I’m unwilling to pay top-10 closer price to draft him. And that’s almost certainly what it will take.
Francisco Liriano signs with Pirates for two yrs/$14 million
How Liriano was able to score this contract coming off two straight seasons with an ERA above 5.00 and a WHIP of at least 1.47 is beyond me, but hey, all it takes is one team to overpay. To put it simply, I’m done with this guy. Too inconsistent, too many walks, too injury-prone, too much of a headache. If you want to draft him for the strikeouts, that’s fine. Rest assured though that there’s zero chance I’ll be joining you in the bidding. The change of scenery doesn’t change much for Liriano. If you can’t throw strikes, you can’t throw strikes.
Cody Ross signs with Diamondbacks for three yrs/$26 million
Arizona's decision to add Ross is a curious one being that they already had four starting-worthy outfielders on their roster in Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra, so the logical assumption is that they will trade either Upton or Kubel between now and the beginning of spring training. Ross is the kind of low-cost yet fairly consistent run producer that I tend to gravitate towards in the latter rounds on draft day, and homer-friendly Chase Field is a nice landing spot for him. Don’t expect much in the batting average department, but he should have little trouble topping last season’s 22 home runs. And I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes a serious run at 30 round trippers. He offers excellent value as a fourth or fifth mixed league outfielder.
Jose Veras signs with Astros for one yr/$2 million
This could turn out to be a shrewd signing for Houston as they get a potential quality closer for a dirt cheap price. Although his 1.51 WHIP last season and high walk rate (5.37 BB/9) are somewhat concerning, Veras did strike out well over a batter per inning while posting a sub-4.00 ERA for the third straight year. Despite having saved just five games in his career, Veras is the leading candidate to open 2013 as the Astros’ ninth inning man, and there are even incentives in his contract based on games finished. As much as I understand the “saves are saves” argument, I’d feel extremely uncomfortable drafting Veras as more than my No. 3 closer in any mixed league given his lack of experience in the stopper role and his career-long control problems.
Well, there you have it. Happy New Year to all!