February 27, 2013
The Lineup Card
12 Least-Favorite Off-Season Moves
1. The Diamondbacks Sign Cody Ross
2. No, Seriously, Cody Ross to the Diamondbacks
Ross, whose days as a center fielder are probably behind him, was a 2.1-win player last year and hadn’t been that high since 2008. In the four years since that peak season, he has averaged 1.5 wins above replacement player. So even before you figure in decline, the three years and $26 million is a little much. But when you do, and when you think about the fact that you already had an outfield of Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra, much less Upton, much less Chris Young before that, it’s just throwing money at almost nothing and doing so for three years. —Zachary Levine
3. The Diamondbacks Send Chris Young to Oakland
Although Towers' future moves, from the Justin Upton trade, to the Trevor Bauer-for-Didi Gregorius barter, to the Cody Ross signing, did not flow directly from this October swap, the opening salvo was as curious as any of the moves. Pennington was acquired, presumably, to resolve Arizona's mess at shortstop, but Towers went on resolving that mess long after Pennington came to the desert. And, in the process, he may have made the Diamondbacks worse at two outfield positions, in addition to creating an apparent glut at the third.
The Bell acquisition—despite the right-hander's history with Towers in San Diego—was equally puzzling. Arizona agreed to take on $13 million of the $21 million remaining on Bell's contract, which runs through the 2014 season, and though the player cost (Yordy Cabrera, who was obtained from Oakland in the Pennington-for-Young precursor) was minimal, the decision to devote significant resources to a declining and aging middle reliever was incongruous with the short-term plan of improving the team. The Diamondbacks will pay Bell $5 million in 2013 to serve as, at best, the fourth-best righty in a pen that also features closer J.J. Putz, primary set-up man David Hernandez, and elite specialist Brad Ziegler. This, before a winter that saw Koji Uehara get $4.5 million over one year and Mike Adams net only $12 million for the next two.
Towers has built a strong enough reputation over his GM career to warrant the benefit of the doubt. But if the doubters prove prescient, history won't look kindly on his third offseason in Arizona, from beginning to end. —Daniel Rathman
4. Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Valentine Get Canned
To that end, I have a strong interest in promoting the idea that managers shouldn't be tactically smart or savvy in the clubhouse or go-along-get-along guys with their general manager and owner so much as they should be good with a quote and occasionally willing to throw someone (verbally) under a bus or wave a bat in the direction of the most heralded rookie since King Tut. That is to say that my least-favorite moves of the offseason were the firings of Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen, each of whom provided so much joy to everyone outside of Boston and Miami with their antics and their unpredictability and their hilarious praise of Fidel Castro and their inability to just shut the hell up for three seconds even though their jobs depended on it and, really, most of all, their belief that they actually matter and have power just because they're famous and signed contracts and had been good managers in the past, which power, actually, they proved they did have, if you think about it, because were those teams really 90-loss teams on the talent of it?
Either way, though, RIP Ozzie and Bobby, and here's hoping you make a reality sitcom together. —Jason Wojciechowski
5. The Mets Sign Marlon Byrd
The way it stands now, the Mets’ outfield will likely consist of Lucas Duda in left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center and Mike Baxter in right field. Duda, at least, has a little pop, but Niewuwehuis projects as a fourth outfielder, and there will be no fringier fringe player in an Opening Day lineup than Baxter. It's no wonder why the always quick-witted Alderson replied, “What outfield?” when asked by a reporter about his outfield before the start of spring training. What outfield, indeed. —John Perrotto
6. The Padres Do Nothing
The biggest black hole last year was starting pitching. Injuries played a key role, but when 36 percent of your starts go to Jason Marquis, Eric Stults, Ross Ohlendorf, Andrew Werner, Kip Wells, and Jeff Suppan, that's as much bad planning as bad luck. The Padres, despite playing half their games at then-spacious Petco Park, saw their starters post the league's fourth-worst ERA.
They addressed this gaping hole by trading for Tyson Ross, re-signing Marquis and Tim Stauffer, and signing free agents Sean O'Sullivan and Freddy Garcia. Whether the team can re-establish credibility among its fan base by slapping duct tape onto an open wound remains to be seen, but there would seem to be better strategies for achieving that goal. —Geoff Young
7. The Diamondbacks Forget How No-Trade Clauses Work
It doesn’t matter if the reports that Upton “repeatedly” told the Diamondbacks he wouldn’t accept a trade to Seattle are true or not. Clearly, this is an important piece of information to have when negotiating a deal. Maybe Kevin Towers thought that news of the almost-trade wouldn’t leak out, which either paints him as naïve or having a lack of understanding as to how the baseball media and Internet coexist. Maybe he genuinely thought that the Mariners would make such a convincing case to Upton that he’d waive his no-trade clause. And that he’d choose to go play half of his games in a stadium that would suppress the numbers he’d need to cash in when he hit free agency after the 2015 season. Of course, that doesn’t paint him in a positive light either.
But maybe the most interesting aspect of this mini-saga is that it was not the first time Kevin Towers has done this. Back in 2002, when he was general manager of the San Diego Padres, Towers agreed to deal Phil Nevin to Cincinnati for Ken Griffey Jr.—and Nevin invoked his no-trade clause (h/t to Geoff Young, who reminded me about this). According to Nevin’s agent, he told Towers the prior summer that the only way his client would accept a trade would be if it were to a West Coast team. At least I only forgot my daughter’s vitamins once. —Bret Sayre
8. The Orioles Do Nothing
Were the Orioles complacent, or just financially limited? Perhaps Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are already gearing up for another season of canny roster manipulation in order to hide its cracks and stains, but the intelligence and tirelessness required for the brain trust to pull that off in 2012—which they did, shrewdly, reanimating this lifeless franchise—should also have alerted them to the meager odds of Baltimore again exceeding their Pythagorean win expectancy by 11 games and going 29-9 in one-run contests. The O’s inaction could plunge the club right back into the depths of inconsequence. And they don’t even have Dana Eveland and Bill Hall around to save them anymore! —Adam Sobsey
9. The Reds Give Jonathan Broxton a Three-Year Deal
Broxton theoretically takes over the closer role from Aroldis Chapman, who will join the Reds' starting rotation. If Broxton falters a couple of times (and even the really good closers do that), there will be calls for Chapman to be reinstated as closer, because blowing a two-run lead in the ninth feels awful. Beware the moment when someone says this: "A decent starter is easier to find than a good closer." It's the sin of false equivalence. In fact, there are more decent starters around than good closers, primarily because there are five starters to a team and only one closer. But even if Chapman turns out to just be a decent starter, he's more valuable in that role than as a good closer. Baseball is a game of attrition, and getting seven pretty good innings is much more valuable than getting one really good frame. Still, the Reds might give into that pressure. If they're going to do that anyway, why pay some guy $7 million to take the fall when they could have gotten someone else to do it for a cool million? —Russell A. Carleton
10. The Twins Sign Kevin Correia
Here’s a list of every free agent starter who got a major-league deal for a total guaranteed commitment of $10 million or less, with contract terms and projected WARP for 2013:
Correia has both the worst projection and the biggest guaranteed contract of anyone on the list. Granted, it’s not as if the Twins could have snapped their fingers and ended up with any of those arms; maybe some of them wouldn’t have wanted to pitch in Minnesota. But even if you accept the premise that a rebuilding team like the Twins needed veteran rotation depth like Correia, it’s pretty hard to believe that they couldn’t have gotten more for their money. —Ben Lindbergh
11. The Dodgers Sign Brandon League
12. The Royals trade Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi and Patrick Leonard for Wade Davis, James Shields and Elliot Johnson.
I don't want to steal my own thunder by going on about this because the Royals open the season in Chicago and it's going to take me many thousands of words to explain why the deal scares the living crap out of me. I certainly hope it works out. I hope that Shields wins the Cy Young and Davis proves to be the next Johan Santana and the Royals' young lineup matures and the bullpen is airtight and they win 100 games this season. I have zero confidence that any of this will happen. What I expect is that Shields will post a 5+ ERA, Davis will turn into Jonathan Sanchez, Myers will have a Mike Trout rookie season and Montgomery will discover the strike zone. I feel this way because I'm a Royals fan, and that's why I need a long form story to fully explain myself. Even if the reasoning for this trade had been unassailable from the Royals' perspective, I still would have expected it to turn out badly. As we approach three decades of losing, we Royals fans have collectively developed a massive inferiority complex. It's both understandable and very sad. —Bradford Doolittle