The Hot Stove season kicked it up a notch on Friday, with several teams looking to do a little Christmas shopping before the holiday hits. The day included a flurry of activity seeing several major trades swung and a few of the top free agent dominoes (after Harper and Machado) fall into place.
Here’s a look at what went down.
The major blockbuster came in the form of a seven-player deal between the Dodgers and the Reds in which the Dodgers were able to shed significant payroll while the Reds added quite a bit of useful major league talent to their roster.
In total, the Dodgers sent outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, catcher Kyle Farmer, left-hander Alex Wood and cash considerations ($7 million) to the Reds in exchange for minor league infielder Jeter Downs and right-handers Homer Bailey and Josiah Gray as well as international bonus pool money.
All three of the main cogs that the Reds acquired in the deal -- Puig, Kemp and Wood -- are set to hit free agency after the 2019 season.
Bailey, 32, had to waive his no-trade clause to approve the deal, and was immediately granted his release from the Dodgers, which was a condition of the deal. It’s unclear if he has any desire to try to re-sign with the Reds, or if he’ll look for work elsewhere on the open market.
The big winner in the deal, from a fantasy perspective, is Yasiel Puig, as he moves from a pitcher-friendly park to a hitter-friendly park and will now play every day rather than sit against left-handers. The 28-year-old slugger was limited to just 405 at-bats during the 2018 campaign, slashing .267/.327/.494 with 23 homers, 63 RBI and 15 stolen bases. With an everyday role in the middle of the Reds lineup, it’s not difficult to envision Puig becoming a monster five-category contributor in 2019. He also gets the added benefit of being reunited with old pal Turner Ward, who was hired by the Reds away from the Dodgers as hitting coach.
Puig wasn’t the only starting corner outfielder that the Reds acquired in the deal though, they also picked up National League Comeback Player of the Year Award winner from 2018, Matt Kemp. The 34-year-old faded in the second half, but still finished the 2018 campaign with a terrific .290/.338/.481 triple slash to go along with 21 long balls and 85 RBI. At a minimum, he’ll start against all southpaws, while Jesse Winker is likely to steal at-bats against right-handed pitching. Like Puig, he gets a nice ballpark boost with the move away from Dodger Stadium.
The Reds also picked up left-handed starter Alex Wood in the trade, and he’ll jump right to the top of the team’s starting rotation.Even though he experienced a drop-off from his brilliant 2017 season, Wood still compiled a tidy 3.68 ERA and 135/40 K/BB ratio across 151 ⅔ frames for the Dodgers in 2018. Wood, along with recent acquisition Tanner Roark, should add stability to a Reds’ rotation that registered a troublesome 5.02 ERA and 1.42 WHIP as a unit in 2018.
On the other side of the deal, the Dodgers gain much-needed salary relief, as they’ll shed around $16 million from their luxury tax tabulation. It has been speculated that part of that savings, as well as one of the recently vacated spots in the outfield, could go to superstar free agent Bryce Harper.
The Dodgers could also take on payroll in their rotation.Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Dodgers are still in discussions with the Indians regarding acquiring star right-hander Corey Kluber. Morosi also notes that while the Dodgers are not willing to include Cody Bellinger in any potential deal, they are willing to discuss top prospect Alex Verdugo.
It wasn’t all cost savings for the Dodgers though, they were also able to land a couple of quality prospects in the transaction.
Jeter Downs, a 20-year-old middle infielder, was a first-round selection by the Reds (32nd overall) in the 2017 draft. He was ranked by MLB.com as the 7th best prospect in the Reds’ organization. In his second season of professional baseball, Downs slashed .257/.351/.402 with 13 homers, 47 RBI and 37 stolen bases in 120 games at Class-A Dayton.
The Dodgers also picked up 21-year-old right-hander Josiah Gray in the deal. A second round selection by the Reds from the 2018 draft, Gray was ranked as the 20th best prospect in the Reds’ system according to MLB.com. In his first exposure to pro ball, he registered a stellar 2.58 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 59/17 K/BB ratio across 52 ⅓ innings for the Reds’ Rookie League squad.
To make room on their 40-man roster for all of their new acquisitions, the Reds were forced to designate Robby Scott for assignment. The 29-year-old southpaw had a miserable 2018 season, but prior to that had been one of the better left-handed relievers in all of baseball. He shouldn’t be out of work for long.
Athletics land Profar
While the Dodgers/Reds seven-player deal captured many of the headlines, the Athletics made a major acquisition of their own on Friday, trading for Rangers’ infielder Jurickson Profar in a three-team trade that also involved the Rays.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was the first to report the deal and laid out the groundwork. The Rangers received prospects Brock Burke, Eli White, Kyle Bird, Yoel Espinal and international bonus pool money, while the Rays netted reliever Emilio Pagan, prospect Rollie Lacy and a competitive balance pick.
Profar is set to take over as the A's second baseman, with Jed Lowrie now likely to depart in free agency. The 25-year-old former top prospect finally broke through in 2018, slashing .254/.335/.458 with 20 homers, 77 RBI and 10 stolen bases. From a fantasy standpoint, his power outlook takes a bit of a hit, moving away from the hitter’s paradise that is the Ballpark in Arlington and into the spacious confines of the Oakland Coliseum.
With the acquisition of Profar, that also means that there’s no clear path for Franklin Barreto to see full-time at-bats in the A’s lineup. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Athletics have discussed using Barreto "more as an outfield option in recent weeks." Barreto has never played the outfield in the minors but has been used some there in winter ball, including this offseason. The A's have an opening in left field, but we're a ways from Barreto potentially being an option to start there. The former top prospect has options remaining but doesn't really have anything left to prove in the minors.
Dipoto Deals Again
With other trades going on around the big leagues, Jerry Dipoto couldn’t help himself, he just had to jump into the action as well. The M’s general manager made a shrewd move Friday evening, sending Ben Gamel and minor league right-hander Noah Zavolas to the Brewers in exchange for outfielder Domingo Santana.
It's hard to not like this acquisition for Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners. Still just 26-years-old, Santana is just a year removed from slashing .278/.371/.505 with 30 homers, 85 RBI and 15 stolen bases. While he gets a downgrade in ballpark by leaving Miller Park, he'll step into a full-time role in the middle of the Mariners' lineup, which will be a boon to his fantasy value.
It's interesting that the Brewers waited through the entire 2018 season with Santana as a luxury on the bench, then finally opted to deal him away for another outfielder. It seems as though they would have been better served by pulling the trigger on a deal last offseason.
As far as the return for the Brewers, it’s hard to get excited. After a breakout season in 2017, Gamel's production dropped off a cliff in 2018, slashing .272/.358/.370 with only one homer, 19 RBI and seven stolen bases. It's going to be difficult for him to crack a deep and crowded outfield in Milwaukee, even as a fourth outfielder. Zavolas, a 22-year-old right-hander, was an 18th round selection by the Mariners in last June's draft. He posted a 3.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 41/11 K/BB ratio across 38 2/3 innings in his first taste of professional baseball last season, split between High-A Modesto and Low-A Norwood.
Same Faces, New Places
The roster movement over the weekend wasn’t all on the trade front though. There was significant movement on the free agent market as well.
The Dodgers bolstered their bullpen in a big way, signing Joe Kelly to a three-year, $21 million contract with a $12 million club option for 2022. The buyout for the option is $4 million, so Kelly is guaranteed at least $25 million, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The right-hander posted a 4.39 ERA this past season, but he struck out over a batter per inning and was very effective in the playoffs during the Red Sox' World Series run. He’ll be a major part of the bridge between the Dodgers’ starting rotation and closer Kenley Jansen.
The Rays also made a major addition to their staff, landing free agent right-hander Charlie Morton on a two-year, $30 million contract with a vesting option for 2021. The vesting option could be worth as much as $15 million or as little as $1 million, depending on how much time Morton spends on the disabled list over the next two years. The veteran right-hander posted a 3.13 ERA and 201/64 K/BB ratio over 167 innings with the Astros in 2018. He’ll join Blake Snell to form a formidable one-two punch atop the Rays’ rotation.
Former Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey also found a new home on Friday, inking a one-year, $11 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He’ll also have the potential to earn an additional $3 million on incentives. It’s a nice low-risk signing for the Angels who hope that the increased velocity and better results that he showed with the Reds later in the season carry over to 2019.
The Cubs made a nice low-risk investment in their future as well over the weekend, signing right-hander Kendall Graveman to a one-year, $575,000 contract. The deal also carries a $3 million club option for 2020 with no buyout. Graveman, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is unlikely to pitch in 2019, though at the aggressive end of his timetable he could possibly make it back into the fold in September. If he recovers well and returns to form, the Cubs have added a nice low-cost rotation option for 2020, and if not they’re not on the hook for any extravagant cost.
The Cardinals officially finalized their two-year, $25 million contract with free agent lefty Andrew Miller, which also includes a $12 million vesting option for the 2021 season. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic provided the specifics on the deal, which guarantees Miller at least $27.5 million when you include a $2.5 million buyout. The option will vest if he makes 110 appearances from 2019-20. Cardinals’ president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said he envisions using Miller "in high leverage situations... when you talk about role, there will be some flexibility in that." He'll provide a big boost to the Cardinals if healthy, but there's some risk since he'll turn 34 in May and is coming off an injury-plagued season. From a fantasy perspective, it sounds as though he’ll be used in a multi-inning role, rather than as the team’s closer -- a role in which Jordan Hicks still seems to be the leading candidate.
American League Quick Hits: The Athletics officially announced their two-year, $15 million contract with free agent reliever Joakim Soria. He’ll join a loaded setup crew in front of closer Blake Treinen… The Athletics also reached an agreement to bring back Mike Fiers on a two-year deal which is expected to be worth between $14-$15 million according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network… Morosi also reports that the Padres are discussing a trade for Blue Jays' right-hander Marcus Stroman…. Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that the Phillies and Yankees are among the leading teams to land coveted free agent southpaw Zach Britton… The Blue Jays inked Eric Sogard to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… The Red Sox and Heath Hembree avoided arbitration, agreeing to settle on a one-year, $1.3125 million contract… CC Sabathia underwent an angioplasty on December 11, a procedure in which a stent is inserted in order to open up a blockage in one of his arteries. He’s doing well by all accounts and should report to spring training on time… The Angels brought back Parker Bridwell, snagging him off of waivers from the Yankees… Albert Pujols (elbow) began taking batting practice last week and is expected to be sans restrictions for the start of spring training… The Red Sox inked Ryan Weber to a minor league contract with a spring training invite… Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports the Tigers are likely to trade outfielder Nicholas Castellanos before Opening Day. The Dodgers are one team known to have interest… According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Rangers, Angels and Brewers are all interested in free agent southpaw Dallas Keuchel… Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers "have expressed some interest" in Matt Davidson.
National League Quick Hits: According to Jon Heyman of Fancred, Manny Machado plans to pick a new team before the end of 2018… The Giants bolstered their bullpen, signing switch-pitcher Pat Venditte to a one-year major league contract… The Phillies brought in Gregorio Petit, Matt McBride, Josh Martin, Rob Brantly and Jeremy Bleich on minor league deals with invitations to big league camp… Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the Mets are receiving "significant" interest in Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki… Speaking of d’Arnaud, he and the Mets avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.515 million contract… The Mets inked veteran outfielder Gregor Blanco to a minor league deal complete with an invitation to major league spring training… Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have expressed interest in Brian Dozier.