Early MLB Hot Stove thoughts
The Hot Stove seems to be warming up quicker than usual early in the baseball offseason. The General Managers meeting this week in Boca Raton, FL certainly helped, and for sure, set the foundation for future player movement. During the GM meetings, the New York Yankees made their first move of the off-season, acquiring 26-year switch-hitting OF Aaron Hicks (.256, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 13 SBs in ’15) from Minnesota in exchange for 24-year old catcher, John Ryan Murphy (.277, 3 HRs, 14 RBI in 67 games). This is a good baseball trade, with both teams filling a need. The Yankees came into the offseason looking for another right-handed bat, and the switch hitting Hicks will give them that and more. Hicks is a better defensive CF than both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and his bat may play “up” moving from spacious Target Field in Minnesota to lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium. This may also enable GM Brian Cashman to use Gardner as an asset, or leverage, to obtain a young starting pitcher or to further upgrade the roster – it is quite apparent that Cashman is effectively turning this roster over, getting younger while remaining in contention.
Interestingly, the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels consummated a trade on Thursday night that sent 26-year old SS, and marquis defensive player, Andrelton Simmons from the ATL to LA as part of a 5-player swap. Veteran 31-year old SS Erick Aybar went to Atlanta, along with pitching prospects, LHP Sean Newcomb and RHP Chris Ellis. Simmons won the Gold Glove in 2013 and 2014, and although he finished behind Giants’ SS Brandon Crawford for this year’s award, Wilson still named him their Defensive Player Of The Year on Wednesday. Aybar is a Free Agent after ’16, allowing the Braves more flexibility as they rebuild and prepare to enter their new stadium in Cobb County, GA in 2017. Simmons was signed to a long-term deal last year, and is under contract through 2020, with some larger salaries on the back end of the deal.
Three players – C Matt Wieters (Baltimore), OF Colby Rasmus (Houston), and LHP Brett Anderson (Dodgers) accepted $15.8M one-year qualifying offers on Friday. They became the first players in the four year history of the qualifying offer (enacted in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement) to accept qualifying offers from their previous teams, delaying free agency for at least another year. Before this year, players were 0-for-34 in accepting qualifying offers. RHP Marco Estrada, instead of accepting the qualifying offer, agreed to a 2-year, $26M contract with the Toronto on Friday, keeping him in the Blue Jays rotation. It was interesting to see C Matt Wieters take the qualifying offer; he projected to do well in obtaining a 4- or 5-year deal in a weak free agent catching market. The 29-year old, switch hitting receiver, will instead return to the Orioles, who drafted him in the first round of the 2007 MLB draft, potentially buying more time – and production — for a future long-term deal.
Mike Lalor can be heard talking New York sports on the Spadora on Sports radio program. His blog can be found at SpadoraOnSports.com.