For as slow as free agency was this winter, the trade market was relatively active -- even if it really only involved a handful (or fewer) of teams -- but on Friday night, Ken Rosenthal dropped one of the biggest trade bombs of this offseason or any other.
As Rosenthal reported that night and became official late Monday evening, the Cardinals acquired Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies after Arenado waived his no trade clause. In return, the Rockies received left-handed pitcher Austin Gomber along with third base prospect Elehuris Montero, right-hander Tony Locey, shortstop Mateo Gil and right-hander Jake Sommers. The Rockies will also pay the third baseman's $35 million salary in 2021; $15 million coming over now, and $20 million in deferments.
It should go without saying, but this is a huge pickup for St. Louis. His 48 games with Colorado last year were uninspiring with a .253/.303/.434 line along with eight homers, but 48 games -- or less than a third of a season -- is tough to ding. That’s especially true when you consider how good Arenado has been since 2015. He’s homered over 40 times five times with a “low” of 37, and his slash of .300/.362/.575 from 2015-2019 is much more indicative of his talents than a shaky 201 plate appearances last summer.
The question becomes just how likely is Arenado to replicate that kind of success without playing his home games in Colorado. Plenty of good hitters are more successful at home than they are on the road, but it’s worth pointing out that his OPS in the former is .985, while his away OPS drops considerably to .793. Busch Stadium isn’t a pitching utopia, but it sure isn’t Coors Field. Because you’re certainly curious, Arenado has hit .278/.337/.511 with five homers in his 24 games and 98 plate appearances at his new home park.
So, it is fair to say that at last on paper, this dings Arenado a bit in terms of projected fantasy production. Having said that, there’s still an awful lot to like here. If the road numbers are the same and the home OPS takes an incremental but not overwhelming drop, you’re still looking at a third baseman who hits 30-plus homers and should drive in plenty of runs in a solid if unspectacular St. Louis lineup. Arenado is one of the best “real-life” players in baseball, and while he’s no longer a player you’d consider with a first-round pick in mixed league formats, there’s still plenty of reason for optimism for him going forward.
As for the Rockies, this is beyond light, even if you factor in Arenado’s contract; if he doesn't opt-out after the 2021 season, he's owed $164 million over the next five years with more possible in incentives. Gomber has had success, but profiles as a backend starter and sees his stock drop through no fault of his own; pitching in Coors Field is hard. Montero is the best prospect as a third baseman who has plus power to all fields and has shown the makings of a solid hit tool. Gil is the son of Benji Gil, and he’s a strong defender at shortstop but may not have the offensive upside to play everyday. Locey is likely a reliever but the Rockies may give him a chance to start thanks to his mid-to-high 90s fastball and strong slider. He’ll need a stronger third pitch if he’s going to be in the rotation, however. Sommers is likely organizational filler as a 10th-round pick in 2019.
With all due respect to Montero and Gomber, this being the return -- with the Rockies giving up cash on top of it -- for one of the best infielders in baseball is not great. You can’t help but wonder if Trevor Story is next, as he’s scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the year.
Cobb salad add for Angels
It’s nowhere near the level of the Arenado trade -- very few moves will be -- but the Angels appear to be picking up a new member of their rotation in Alex Cobb. Fabian Ardaya and Ken Rosenthal reported the news, with Dan Connelly -- all reports from The Athletic -- noting that the Orioles will pay more than half of the remaining $15 million salary remaining to get the deal done.
Cobb, 33, had his best season with Baltimore in 2020 despite the shortened campaign; registering a 4.30 ERA and 38/18 K/BB mark over 10 starts and just over 52 innings pitched. The previous year, he was limited to just three starts with a 10.95 ERA and 21 hits allowed over 12 1/3 frames, and the year before that he produced a 5-15 record, 4.90 ERA and ugly 102 strikeouts against 43 walks in 152 1/3 innings. Long story short, that’s probably not what Baltimore was hoping for when they gave Cobb a four-year, $57 million deal before the 2018 season. Having said that, he did show flashes over the summer, and the Angels could do much worse for $7.5 million for one season.
Unlike the Arenado trade, this isn’t official yet, and an exact return isn’t known. Ardaya does report that the Angels will be sending Jahmai Jones in the deal, however. Jones is a former second-round pick who at one point was considered a borderline Top 100 prospect, but hasn’t performed to that level in the past few seasons. He did reach the majors in 2020, however, and he offers some versatility as someone who can play the outfield and also handle second base. It’s tough to see him having fantasy relevancy anytime soon, but keep in mind Jones doesn’t turn 24 until the end of August. He could be a late bloomer.
Mets add pitching depth by trading for Yamamoto
And speaking of adding pitching depth. The Mets and Marlins made an in-division deal on Monday, as New York acquired right-handed starter Jordan Yamamoto in exchange for infield prospect Federico Polanco.
Yamamoto was designated for assignment last week, and the 24-year-old really struggled in his short time with Miami last season. Struggled is an understatement, he allowed 23 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. That’s a terribly small sample, however, and the previous year, the right-hander posted a 4.46 ERA in 15 starts and showed flashes of being a competent starter. He generates plenty of spin on his pitches, but there’s no out-pitch, and he’s always going to need a solid defense behind him. He’s worth looking at as a possible streamer down the line, but using a draft pick on him doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons, including the fact he isn’t guaranteed a spot in the rotation.
Polanco is years away, but he’s not a bad get for a player the Marlins just waived. Signed for $325,000 out of San Pedro de Macoris, he’s a left-handed hitting infielder who reached the stats in 2019 and hit .331/.414/.472 in the Dominican Summer League back in 2019. No reason to get too excited yet, but he’s an interesting lottery ticket for the Marlins, anyway.
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Royals add Alberto on surprising minor league deal
It was not surprising to see Hanser Alberto land with a team that needed infield help. It was surprising to see him land with a team that needed infield help without any guarantee of making the roster. On Sunday, the Royals signed Hanser Alberto to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training. He’ll make $1.65 million if he does make the roster, with another $300,000 in incentives possible.
Alberto was designated for assignment by the Orioles at the end of the 2020 season, and calling him a flawed player is an understatement. There are not many players who make more contact than he does, but there are even fewer who make so little hard contact, either. He also has hit left-handers well, however, and he’s a solid defender who can play multiple positions. He’ll likely battle Nicky Lopez for the starting second baseman gig, and if he does get a chance to play, he can help in the average category. Just be prepared to get absolutely no help in terms of fantasy production anywhere else.
Quick Hits: According to Britt Ghiroli and Katie Strang of The Athletic, current Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway "aggressively pursued at least five women who work in sports media, sending three of them inappropriate photographs and asking one of them to send nude photos in return” … Major League Baseball said in a statement Monday night that it has instructed clubs to report for an "on-time start" to spring training and the 2021 regular season. This comes shortly after the MLBPA rejected a proposal for a delayed start to the campaign and 154 game schedule ... Dustin Pedroia has announced his retirement after a 14-year career.White Sox re-signed LHP Carlos Rodon to a one-year, $3 million contract … Braves hired Chipper Jones as a major league hitting consultant … C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic reports that the Reds and Rays engaged in trade talks regarding Willy Adames earlier in the offseason. Rosecrans also reports that the Reds have “at least checked in” on Dee Strange-Gordon … Rangers signed OF Delino DeShields Jr. to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Mets, Twins, Rays and White Sox are among the teams believed to be interested in Mike Foltynewicz after his workout in Atlanta on Friday … Jesse Rogers of ESPN reports that the Cubs have agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with right-hander Trevor Williams.