Major League Baseball’s Hot Stove season is here, which means free agents are making some big decisions about their future. Over the next few months, we’ll be keeping track of every signing — from Trevor Bauer, George Springer and J.T. Realmuto to the sneaky good role players — so that you’re always up to date. Be sure to check back every day for a roundup explaining every deal. As a bonus, we’ll even have some analysis from the Yahoo Sports Fantasy crew.
Yankees sign Brett Gardner
The player: Gardner has spent his entire career in pinstripes and while he’s never been a face-of-the-franchise star, he’s been a valued Yankee since 2008. At 37, his production is slipping, but it was hard to imagine him anywhere else.
The deal: The Yankees are signing Gardner to a one-year, $4 million deal with both a club and player option for 2022, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
Is that a lot? It shouldn’t be, and yet it kind of is to the Yankees as presently operated. Gardner’s deal will up to the team’s payroll to about $204 million, $6 million short of the competitive balance tax threshold that baseball’s flagship team treats like a de facto salary cap.
Is it going to work? Gardner and the Yankees have been working for more than a decade at this point, though the veteran’s age remains a growing concern. Fortunately, the Yankees really didn’t spend much to keep him in the grand scheme of things and will be using him mostly as depth behind Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier.
Mariners sign James Paxton
The player: When the Yankees acquired James Paxton from the Mariners prior to the 2019 season, they likely viewed him as a long-term answer. Those visions didn't last long. Injuries limited him to just 34 starts after the trade and his inconsistency quickly grew old for Yankees fans. The circumstances are a little different than Sonny Gray, who's gone on to rediscover his old form with the Reds. But it's difficult to not make the comparison, or at least wonder if something similar could happen. After all, "Big Maple" has had some dominant stretches before, including a 2018 no-hitter against Toronto, and now he heads back to where it all began.
The deal: Paxton is signing a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Mariners, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal reportedly contains enough incentives to get him as much as $10 million.
Is that a lot? With those incentives, it’s exactly what MLB Trade Rumors projected him to get. A one-year, medium-salary deal is exactly what a talented pitcher looking to re-establish his value is going to want.
Is it going to work? Paxton at least picked a place where he’s seen success before, but he’ll have to find that success again at age 32. Paxton’s biggest concern last year was a fastball that averaged 92.1 mph after hovering above 95 mph for his entire career. He reportedly hit 94 mph in a throwing session in December, hopefully he can add on to that between now and Opening Day.
Dodgers sign Justin Turner
The player: The last time we saw Justin Turner he was celebrating with his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and ... well, you know the rest of that story. Turner was probably more valuable to the Dodgers than anyone else. At 36, he's not a guy another team can build around, but he's also yet to see a notable decline in production after posting a strong slash line at .307/.400/.460 in 2020.
The deal: Turner is signing a two-year, $34 million deal with a third-year club option, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Is that a lot? The deal is well above MLB Trade Rumors’ projection of two years and $24 million for Turner, but it’s a perfectly sensible price for a guy who has hit .302/.382/.503 since landing in Los Angeles. Even at Turner’s age, that kind of value at the plate will get you paid.
Is it going to work? Well, it worked pretty darn well last year, at least in a baseball sense and not a COVID-19 safety sense. The Dodgers were already projected to be the best team in baseball by a wide margin, and getting Turner back fills the biggest hole left on their roster. Sure, maybe 36 is the age at which Turner finally starts declining, but a two-year commitment for a beloved player is an easy choice when he’s been as reliable as Turner. The Dodgers were going to be a juggernaut without Turner, and now they’re a slightly larger juggernaut.
Rays sign Rich Hill
The player: Owner of one of the most unique career arcs in MLB, Hill’s rise from mediocre starter, then mediocre reliever to one of the most effective pitchers in baseball thanks to a spike in curveball usage has been well-documented. After four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hill spent last season with the Minnesota Twins, missing part of the season with shoulder fatigue but still posting a 3.03 ERA on the mound. He’s entering his age-41 season, but age is clearly just a number for the southpaw.
The deal: Hill is signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Is that a lot? For a player with Hill’s recent track record, not at all. It’s doubtful Hill will remain healthy for the entire season, but that’s fine as long as both he and the Rays are there for the postseason.
Is it going to work? Hill’s second act came thanks to outside-the-box strategy and working alongside forward-thinking pitching minds, and that’s obviously going to continue if he’s playing in Tampa Bay. The Rays have parted with both Blake Snell and Charlie Morton this offseason, so a player with Hill’s postseason experience (he holds a 2.70 ERA in the playoffs since 2016) must have been attractive for the defending AL East champions, though the rotation might be getting a little crowded with the acquisitions of Michael Wacha, Collin McHugh and Chris Archer. Hill’s peripherals (3.99 FIP, 5.17 SIERA, 5.08 xERA) all saw a downturn last year, but the Rays will obviously have a plan to work on that.
Cubs sign Jake Arrieta
The player: Arrieta launched a run for the history books in 2015 with the Cubs, when he posted a 0.75 ERA in the second half of the season and won the Cy Young Award. That sudden rise was followed by a steady decline though, as Arrieta’s ERA has decreased in every season since. Arrieta left Chicago in 2018 for a three-year, $75 million deal with the Phillies and kept struggling, posting a 5.08 ERA in nine starts in 2020.
The deal: Arrieta is receiving a one-year, $6 million deal, according to The Athletic's Patrick Mooney.
Is that a lot? For a pitcher about to turn 35 who is three years removed from his last season with an ERA below 3.50, it’s pretty steep. For a team that has made a habit of crying poor recently, even more so. Then again, nostalgia is a heck of a way to drive up the price as the Cubs try to retain some credibility with their fans.
Is it going to work? No one should be expecting what Arrieta was during his previous stint with the Cubs, that’s for sure. Just about available peripheral indicates that Arrieta’s decline is for real, including a sinker that has gone from averaging 95.3 mph in 2015 to 91.9 mph in 2020. The lone consolation is that he can still induce groundballs, but even that figures to be less valuable this season. Aging pitchers have found new life before, but it’s wild to see the Cubs spend this amount of money on what amounts to a smudgy lottery ticket, especially when they could have retained Jon Lester at a lower price.
Red Sox sign Marwin Gonzalez
The player: A super-utilityman extraordinaire, Gonzalez’s value has long lied in his ability to be a balanced, league-average hitter capable of playing nearly every position on the field, though he was limited to the corner spots and second base last season. Gonzalez is getting up there in age at 32 years old and is coming off a rough 2020 season in which he hit .211/.286/.320 in 199 plate appearances for the Minnesota Twins.
The deal: Gonzalez will sign a one-year, $3 million deal, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Is that a lot? It’s a pay cut compared to the two-year, $21 million deal Gonzalez just completed, and a decent price for what Gonzalez is at this point.
Is it going to work? It makes plenty of sense for the Red Sox, but only because of the shortcomings of the rest of their offseason. Gonzalez’s signing helps Boston cover the extreme platoon splits of three of the team’s notable acquisitions in Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe in the outfield and Enrique Hernandez at second base. Gonzalez can’t be everywhere at once and it’s not a certainty that his bat is still viable, but there should be plenty opportunity for him. The move at least reunites Gonzalez with manager Alex Cora, with whom he saw some now-tainted success with the Houston Astros.
Yadier Molina returns to Cardinals
The player: Longtime St. Louis Cardinal Yadier Molina is running it back for at least one more year. According to multiple reports, the 38-year-old catcher has agreed to a one-year deal to remain with the Cardinals. The 17-year MLB veteran remained a productive member of the Cardinals last season, playing in 42 of the Cardinals’ 58 games in last year’s COVID-19-stunted season.
The deal: According MLB Network’s John Heyman, Molina’s contract is for $9 million over one season.
What it means: Molina is a stalwart of the franchise, having played his entire 17-year career with the Cardinals, earning nine All-Star bids and winning two World Series. While this deal is as much about Molina’s legacy with the franchise as anything, he remains a valuable contributor in St. Louis.
Molina slashed .262/.303/.359 last season with four home runs and 16 RBI in 145 at-bats. Perhaps more importantly, he remains a reliable backstop as the trusted primary catcher for Cardinals pitchers.
Braves sign Marcell Ozuna
The player: Ozuna, 30, entered the offseason coming off a dominant year with the Braves. In 60 games, Ozuna mashed to the tune of .338/.431/.636, with 18 home runs. By wRC+, an advanced stat that measures a player’s offensive prowess, 2020 was far and away Ozuna’s best season with the bat.
That may come as a surprise considering Ozuna spent most of his time as a designated hitter. Players typically see their offensive performance decline when used as full-time designated hitters. That wasn’t the case with Ozuna, who posted a career season and finished 6th in NL MVP voting. Though he was mostly used as a designated hitter, Ozuna still played 21 games in the outfield. He’s regarded as a poor defensive outfielder, however.
The deal: Ozuna will receive a four-year deal worth $64 million, the Braves confirmed. The deal contains a fifth-year option worth $16 million that would bring the deal’s total value to $80 million. It’s a club option, meaning the Braves will decide whether to keep Ozuna around following the fourth year of his deal.
Is that a lot? Ozuna’s age and poor defense make the deal a bit of a risk, but he’ll be well worth the money if he continues to mash at the plate. It might be foolish to expect Ozuna to repeat last season’s numbers, but he doesn’t have to in order to live up to this contract. Since 2016, Ozuna has a .282/.348/.492 slash line in the majors. If he can do that, Braves fans will wind up loving the deal.
Is it going to work? Most likely, yes. Ozuna going back to being a full-time outfielder could be an issue, but it’s one that might be short lived. Baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement is set to expire following the 2021 season, and it’s expected the league and the players will discuss a universal DH.
With the signing, the Braves are taking a calculated risk the universal DH will be back. That would not only allow Ozuna to stay out of the outfield, but it would likely ensure he stays healthy throughout the duration of the deal.
Even if Ozuna is forced to play the field, his bat might be good enough to carry him.
What does it mean for your Fantasy team? You probably aren’t adjusting your ranks on Ozuna too much after he re-signed with Atlanta. You can’t expect him to repeat 2020’s ridiculous numbers, so as long as you’ve adjusted for some regression, you’ll be fine.
Dynasty-wise, Ozuna’s age makes him a slightly riskier investment, as does his poor defense. Those issues might be solved if the universal DH comes back. It’s probably worth holding Ozuna for another year, seeing what happens after the CBA expires and then making a decision based on that.
Dodgers sign Trevor Bauer
The player: Bauer came into free agency after a dominant, Cy Young-winning season for the Cincinnati Reds in which he posted a 1.73 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 73 innings. Surely the best starting pitcher on the market, Bauer is as unconventional as MLB players come. He teased various fan bases on Twitter after the Reds’ season ended, and generally played the whole thing out very publicly on his social media platforms. Bauer previously vowed that he would only sign one-year contracts in free agency.
The deal: Bauer is getting a three-year, $102 million deal with two opt-outs, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Effectively, it’s a one-year, $40 million deal with two player options, one for $45 million then one for $17 million, making it likely he opts out after Year 2.
Is that a lot? For a reigning Cy Young Award winner averse to long-term deals, it seems about right. MLB Trade Rumors projected Bauer to get four years, $128 million, so Bauer is getting fewer years at a higher average annual value with more flexibility. The average annual value record belongs to Bauer’s former college teammate Gerrit Cole’s at $36 million (over nine years), and Bauer will make more than that during his first two years.
Is it going to work? That is almost beside the point with Bauer. Yes, his addition to the Dodgers rotation gives the team one of the best rotations in MLB, with a front line of Bauer, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler with any combination of David Price, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias behind them. The move combines a notoriously forward-thinking baseball mind with one of the most effective player development systems in MLB.
However, the team is also getting a player that seems to go out of his way to create controversy. That includes harassing a woman off Twitter, purposefully siccing his followers on his critics, denying climate change, supporting George Soros conspiracy theories, praising the border wall and decrying negative coverage of former president Donald Trump. The Dodgers know what they’re getting in Bauer — all of baseball knows at this point — but there’s no way they know what’s going to happen off the field.
What does it mean for your Fantasy team? I mean, not much — you were going to draft Bauer highly no matter where he landed (okay, if he landed in Colorado maybe we’d have a longer conversation). As the biggest free-agent pitcher on the market, Bauer will now slide in alongside fellow aces Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw to form what is probably the most potent Big 3 in baseball.
Dynasty? We’ll see. Regardless, the 30-year-old Bauer has shown the ability to offset a relatively high ERA with filthy strikeout numbers, workhorse-level innings, and his fair share of victories, and now he’ll get to play in one of the best pitcher parks in baseball on arguably the best team in baseball in the defending champs. He’s a top-five fantasy starting pitcher for 2021.
Brewers sign Kolten Wong
The player: Wong hit free agency after the Cardinals declined his $12.5 million option for 2021. He’s won two straight Gold Gloves at second base. He’s not a great hitter, but he has his moments and he can steal bases.
The deal: Wong is signing with the Brewers on a two-year, $18 million deal with a club option for a third year, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports.
Is that a lot? When his option was first declined, MLB Trade Rumors projected he’d get a two-years, $16 million contract, so this is fairly in line with that. It does feel surprising that the deal came from the Brewers, who already had young slugger Keston Hiura at the position and were already trying former middle infield prospect Luis Urias at third base. It appears Hiura, a lesser defender than the excellent Wong, is likely to shift to first base.
Is it going to work? He certainly adds depth and reliability to a position player group that was lacking in both. The defense is unquestionably great, and he could form a nice double play tandem with Orlando Arcia. Whether he moves the needle for the Brewers in a postseason hunt is harder to say. We know what Wong is — he will provide about league average production at the plate with stronger than average contact skills — and for Milwaukee to vault into a contender, the big leap will still need to come from elsewhere, whether it be breakout performances or more additions.
Minnesota Twins re-sign Nelson Cruz
The player: Over the past three seasons, Cruz has been one of the five best hitters in baseball by OPS+, and he has at least a decade on the rest of that group. Now 40 years old, the universally adored DH has shattered expectations on three separate contracts that were maybe supposed to be his last.
The deal: Cruz is reportedly returning to the Twins, his home for the past two seasons, on a one-year, $13 million contract.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz and the Minnesota Twins are in agreement on a one-year contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
Cruz, 40, has been a linchpin of the Bomba Squad Twins' lineup. And he'll be back right in the middle of it in 2021.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 3, 2021
Is that a lot? It’s pretty much what was expected. Even ageless 40-year-olds don’t get multiyear deals. If anything, it might be less money than we thought he would warrant when the offseason began. The lack of clarity on the league’s DH rules limited his market to the AL, even if he was likely to stick with the Twins anyway.
Is it going to work? Cruz was an offensive force throughout his 30s — and has now signed three different deals that seemed like they might be his last, only to keep boosting his offensive game. We’re not going to start betting against him now. It’s also worth noting that Cruz is an important clubhouse leader, so even if the production starts to wane, his presence is a positive.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Home runs, home runs, home runs. There’s a lot of them going around, but few hitters deliver them as consistently as Cruz. While we might have been wary of his fantasy outlook at 40 years old on a new team, the fact that he’s back with the Twins secures his value. He has one job in the middle of their potent lineup: Mash — and that’s exactly what you’ll select him for late in drafts as a UTIL player.
Phillies re-sign Didi Gregorius
The player: The market wasn't ideal for Gregorius last winter coming off Tommy John surgery, so he signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia. In 2020, he slashed .284/.339/.488 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs in 60 games, reinforcing his reputation as a relatively consistent offensive threat at shortstop.
The deal: Gregorius is sticking with the Phillies, following J.T. Realmuto’s path on a two-year, $28 million deal, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Gregorius deal with Phillies is two years, $28M, source tells @TheAthletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2021
Is that a lot? After seeing fellow shortstops Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons — players who admittedly have some more glaring questions about their production — take one-year deals, it is probably a win for Gregorius to secure two years at roughly the annual value that was expected. MLB Trade Rumors projected him to bring in three years and $39 million.
Is it going to work? Gregorius himself is a steady player. He consistently provides decent average and good pop for a shortstop despite a middling on-base percentage. He’s also a strong defender who will be needed with the young Alec Bohm not a sterling glove man at third base. The problem for the Phillies is just envisioning how they take a step forward — the 2020 team couldn’t even make an expanded postseason — by securing the same players they had to multiyear deals when they are turning or just turned 30. That’s not a problem with Gregorius, per se, but it begs some questions about how they move the needle.
Cleveland signs Eddie Rosario
The player: Rosario, 29, was one of the bigger names non-tendered at the start of the offseason after the Minnesota Twins opted to let him walk rather than pay him in arbitration. A decent power bat with 96 homers and 114 OPS+ over the last four seasons, Rosario’s value is limited by his .310 OBP in that span and lack of utility outside of left field, where he isn’t exactly a strong defender.
The deal: Rosario is signing with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year, $8 million contract, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Is that a lot? Considering MLB Trade Rumors projected him to get between $8.6 million and $12.9 million? Not really. Considering every team passed on that kind of salary when he cleared waivers? $8 million sounds about right.
Is it going to work? Cleveland had four players with an OPS+ above 100 in the admittedly small sample of last season. Four, one of which is gone after the team traded away Francisco Lindor. So the team could have done a lot worse in finding a power bat to add to the middle of its lineup, and Rosario should comfortably slide into left field in Cleveland while remaining in the AL Central. We’re increasingly unsure winning is the primary objective in Cleveland, but this shouldn’t hurt that effort.
Cubs sign Joc Pederson
The player: For all of the ways the 28-year-old Pederson can feel inconsistent (he’s nearly unplayable against left-handed pitching), his production winds up looking awfully steady in retrospect. Limit his exposure to bad matchups and you’ll get 25 homers, an .840 OPS and a consistent, experienced postseason bat.
The deal: Pederson is joining the Cubs on a one-year, $7 million contract, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Is that a lot? No, despite Pederson likely fitting best in a platoon situation, he was expected to garner more than a one year deal and more than $7 million. MLB Trade Rumors projected he’d net two years and $18 million.
Is it going to work? The Cubs basically did several transactions to scoop up a version of Kyle Schwarber who can play better defense. After non-tendering their longtime slugger, the Cubs signed Pederson in what counts as their first real additive move of the offseason. The NL Central is full of teams making no substantive moves toward contention, so even this diminished Cubs team has to be considered a playoff contender. Pederson was always a strong October performer with the Dodgers, and as MLB.com’s Mike Petriello pointed out recently, his numbers from the shortened 2020 season look far more impressive (and more up to his usual standards) if you include his postseason.
Cardinals sign Adam Wainwright
The player: Wainwright is 39 and isn’t an ace anymore, but wasn’t terrible in 2020. The first question was whether he wanted to play again, as there was likely a TV gig waiting for him if he chose to hang them up.
The deal: Wainwright is going back where he belongs, reportedly returning to the Cardinals on a one-year deal worth $8 million, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
Wainwright’s new deal with #STLCards is believed to be for $8M. Loyal guy, and a legend in St. Louis, for good reason.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 29, 2021
Is that a lot? It’s more than the one-year, $6 million projected by MLB Trade Rumors, but it’s in line with what Wainwright made last year.
Is it going to work? Well, somebody has to win the NL Central, right? Why not the Cardinals? Wainwright himself doesn’t make the Cardinals a contender, but he’s a proven leader with experience who proved last season he still has something to contribute. His 3.15 ERA was his best since he was a perennial Cy Young candidate in the early 2010s. Having him around a Cardinals team that’s looking to dethrone the Cubs (who aren’t even looking like a contender these days), can only help. With the Pirates a non-factor, the Brewers needing to rebound and the Reds looking to be worse than 2020, the Cardinals have a clear path to a division title.
Twins sign Andrelton Simmons
The player: Simmons is a slick-fielding shortstop who isn’t quite built from the same modern mold as Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and others. His defense is usually quite good, and he hits for a decent average, but you’re not getting much power.
The deal: The Twins are signing Simmons to a one-year, $10.5 million deal, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons and the Minnesota Twins are in agreement on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 27, 2021
Is that a lot? No, it’s very close to what was expected. MLB Trade Rumors projected a $12 million contract.
Is it going to work? The most interesting facet of this signing is that the Twins didn’t appear to be a team in need of a shortstop. However, presented with the opportunity to upgrade to the nearly unparalleled defense Simmons offers, they will push incumbent starter Jorge Polanco — coming off a down 2020 but who was an All-Star in 2019 — to second base and allow batting title contender Luis Arraez to roam as a super-utility player. The depth could prove important. The AL Central is increasingly looking like a two-horse race between the Twins and White Sox. Chicago has had a much louder offseason, while this is Minnesota’s biggest addition so far.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Simmons is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, but his injury history and his lack of offensive output has put a hindrance on his fantasy value. On the one hand, joining an offensive powerhouse like the Twins seems great, but remember: The Twins have Jorge Polanco at SS, along with super utility player Luis Arraez. So, it’ll be interesting to see how this infield shakes out for opening day. He’s not a draft priority (for now).
Giants sign Tommy La Stella
The player: La Stella is among the most underrated hitters in MLB. While he doesn't provide much power, he's always a good bet to make contact and keep the lineup moving. Over the last two seasons he's slashed a solid .289/.356/.471.
The deal: La Stella is close to a deal with the Giants, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports.
Is that a lot? We don’t have the terms of the deal yet, but MLB Trade Rumors predicted the sneaky good infielder would sign for two years and $14 million.
Is it going to work? He’s a Swiss Army Knife who always hits. Whether he’s a solid cog on the next good Giants team or a handy trade chip at the deadline, it’s likely to work out.
Blue Jays sign Marcus Semien
The player: He’s only one season removed from hitting 33 home runs and finishing as an MVP finalist. Of course, he didn’t repeat that production in 2020, leaving him in a sort of limbo where it was unclear exactly how teams viewed his future.
The deal: Semien is joining the Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million deal, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports.
Infielder Marcus Semien is in agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 26, 2021
Is that a lot? MLB Trade Rumors projected Semien would get one year and $14 million, so like many signees this offseason, he’s beating the expected money by a noteworthy but not momentous amount. It remains eye-catching that Semien, who finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019, could not command a multiyear deal.
Is it going to work? Reading between the lines of that one-year deal, it’s apparent that the industry is not buying that stellar 2019 season as Semien’s true talent. He has never had another season with an above-average OPS, and teams are not willing to bet on him finding that all-around greatness at the plate again. Still, he is very often close to average, which is a solid player when it comes at a premium position. On a one-year pact, he’s a worthy veteran addition to a Blue Jays club that means business. He has worked hard to make himself a solid defensive shortstop, but he will likely spend most of his time at a different infield spot with young star Bo Bichette manning the six hole in Toronto.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Semien had an MVP-level season in 2019 (33 HRs, 123 runs scored, a .285/.369/.522 slash line) … but it’s the first time he’s gotten close to that level of production in his entire career. And now, he’ll join a Blue Jays team that already has a budding star at shortstop in Bo Bichette. So, he’ll be expected to be the team’s everyday second baseman (sorry, Cavan Biggio truthers).
On paper, this potent Toronto offense would seem like a fantasy friendly landing spot for Semien, but it all depends on whether you believe his 2019 output was his ceiling, or just a blip on the radar. What helps Semien’s fantasy bottom-line, however, is his speed; if healthy, he can deliver double-digit steals. So, if you draft him at his ADP, you’re hoping for something in the realm of 20-10 with a lot of runs. The lineup around him will help (ideally).
Phillies sign J.T. Realmuto
The player: There aren’t many catchers like Realmuto — stellar on defense, great with pitchers, durable, and dangerous with the bat. He’s the best of both worlds. It’s Joe Mauer/Buster Posey territory. In 2019, his first season with the Phillies after the trade from Miami, Realmuto hit 25 homers and drove in 83 runs. Bryce Harper has made it clear on a few occasions that he wants Realmuto back.
The deal: Realmuto returns to Philly, where he was a clubhouse favorite, on a five-year deal worth $115.5 million, Yahoo Sports has confirmed. Originally, the Phillies were reportedly trying to cut payroll, but new boss Dave Dombrowski is nothing if not a guy who likes to hand out big contracts.
Is that a lot? Not particularly. The projected contract for Realmuto was five years and $125 million, by MLB Trade Rumors, so this falls beneath that. The Mets had figured to be a Realmuto suitor before they signed James McCann. Once that happened, it limited the market for Realmuto. Not too many teams were after a premium catcher. So a return to the Phillies felt like a natural fit.
Is it going to work? It should be seamless. If the Phillies are aiming to compete — and Dombrowski doesn’t join a team to lose — this is a move that Philly needed to make to keep up with the Mets and Braves in the NL East. Realmuto has proven himself productive at the plate and valuable on defense, the only question is how he holds up toward the back-end of the deal, since he’s the type of catcher who likes to play upward of 140 games. By the time he’s 34, the workload could catch up to him.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Nothing, as J.T. Realmuto will remain the top catcher off draft boards. The Phillies were smart to bring him back, and him remaining on the same team keeps his fantasy value intact. If anything, 2020’s numbers (which were still excellent for a catcher) were an outlier for Realmuto — expect better.
Nationals sign Brad Hand
The player: Hand should not be a free agent this winter. He had a $10 million option — which feels like a bargain given his closing experience and status as an elite left-handed reliever — but that was declined by Cleveland. He was once again brilliant in 2020, earning 16 saves while posting a 2.05 ERA.
The deal: The Nationals are signing Hand to a one-year, $10.5 deal, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Closer Brad Hand and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
Hand winds up with more than his option and will be the Nationals’ new closer.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 25, 2021
Is that a lot? No — MLB Trade Rumors projected Hand would sign a two-year deal for $14 million — but it is a vaguely comical reflection of Cleveland’s penny-pinching ways and the skittishness of the rest of the league. Hand was under contract and could have had that $10 million option exercised. He was also reportedly on waivers at one point, which means any team could have claimed him and employed him for $10 million for 2021. Instead, the Nationals will pay $500,000 extra for the privilege after he hit the market.
Is it going to work? Probably! Hand has been on an uninterrupted stretch of excellence since 2016 — he’s tallied an ERA of 3.30 or better and struck out at least 30 percent of batters in every season. He was by far the best lefty reliever on the market, and the Nationals didn’t have an established lefty reliever on the roster. Hand could very well slide into the closer’s role depending on how Daniel Hudson fares.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? This is a very good landing spot for Hand in both reality and fantasy. Managers looking to wait on closer could target Hand, as he’ll undoubtedly slide into the closer role for a Nats bullpen that doesn’t really have that titular ninth-inning arm (Daniel Hudson has had his moments, but not enough to feel worried about Hand’s chances).
We’ve been seeing some signs of regression from Hand, but he’s still a top-of-the-line lefty whose fantasy draft cost isn’t going to be as high as some of the other big-name closers.
Padres re-sign Jurickson Profar
The player: Versatility is the name of Profar's game. He’s started at seven different positions during his seven-year MLB career. He's probably best suited for a utility/bench role, but can also provide some pop after posting back-to-back 20-homer seasons in 2018 and 2019.
The deal: Profar has agreed to return to San Diego on a three-year, $21 million deal, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
IF/OF Jurickson Profar and the San Diego Padres are in agreement on a three-year, $21 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 22, 2021
Is that a lot? The $7 million annual value of the deal is not a lot at all. In fact, it’s exactly what MLB Trade Rumors projected for the positionally flexible Profar. They just expected he’d only get one year. So the Padres are placing a bet on Profar’s offensive step up continuing, and they clearly valued having him around as part of what could be a crucial window of contention for the franchise.
Is it going to work? Again, the $7 million annual value is very reasonable. This is the Padres adding depth again and again in an offseason aiming for the moon. Both Jake Cronenworth and new addition Ha-Seong Kim could also fill utility roles, but Profar is the most established among them. The rival Dodgers have been Exhibit A for carrying multiple players who play multiple positions (Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernández, Max Muncy, the list goes on), so consider the Profar deal a step toward emulating that core.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Super-duper fantasy utility player Profar will stay with the Padres, which is fine for his bottom line — he had a career-high slash line in 2020 — but honestly, we know what Profar is from a fantasy perspective already: A roster-spot filler who can play at a plethora of positions, but who does a little of everything without shining in any particular category. Profar’s career-high average can probably be chalked up to the reduced season and a bit of luck (his BABIP in 2020 was 30 points higher than his career mark). Sure, he’ll steal some bases and get quite a few run-scoring and RBI opportunities with the Padres, but let’s not act like he’s someone to consider in the single-digit rounds. The deeper your league, the more fantasy value Profar gains.
The hope is Profar is able to put together something in the realm of a 20-25 homer, 10-15 stolen-base season while not being a drain in batting average. He’s still just 27, so draft him when it’s time to look for upside, not for everyday reliability.
Astros re-sign Michael Brantley
The player: Brantley didn't get a lot of attention in Houston (there was a slightly bigger story dominating headlines) but he was excellent there after signing a two-year, $34 million deal in 2019. Most importantly, he finally got healthy. Over those two seasons, he hit .309/.370/.497 with 27 home runs.
The deal: After premature reports that Brantley had signed with the Blue Jays, it turns out that he’s staying with the Astros, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston. The reported deal is almost the same as the last one, with Brantley getting $32 million over two years.
Is that a lot? It’s more than the two-year, $28 million projected by MLB Trade Rumors, but it’s not preposterous. The Astros will depend on Brantley more without Springer, so they may have had to pay him more to woo him away from Toronto.
Is it going to work? Brantley brings needed stability to Houston’s lineup. They’re not going to be able to replace Springer based on what’s out there, but losing Brantley would have made matters worse. He’s dependable, produces well and the only real worry with him is age and durability. After a few rocky years in Cleveland, he’s been healthy and effective in Houston.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Without George Springer in the fold, this lineup loses a lot of potency, but it remains one of the best in baseball. A returning Brantley will undoubtedly be expected to shoulder more of the offensive load — maybe he gets to 25 homers this season? Regardless, Brantley staying in Houston doesn’t move the fantasy needle in either direction for 2021.
He will be turning 34 this year and health will always be a shadow looming over him. Brantley is the rare player who, on paper, seems entirely safe (if a bit boring), yet who still comes with risk. A 12-plus round ADP seems right.
Angels sign Jose Quintana
The player: Quintana wasn't able to boost his value during an injury-riddled 2020 season, but has otherwise been durable and reliable during his decade-long MLB career. Still only 31, he should have several quality years remaining.
The deal: The Angels have agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal with Quintana, according to Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown. The lefty pitched in only four games last season, but the pitching-hungry Angels are hoping the former All-Star can pitch like he did when he was previously in the AL with the Chicago White Sox. Though he was just OK with the Cubs over the past three seasons, Quintana had a 3.51 ERA over six seasons with the White Sox. The Angels had one of the worst staffs in the league last season, so the White Sox version of Quintana would be a big help.
Is that a lot? Not at all. It’s actually a great buy-low deal for the Angels. Quintana was projected at two years and $18 million, so one year and $8 million could be a bargain if he can regain some of his old form.
Is it going to work? It’s a dice-roll, but not a big one. In baseball money, $8 million isn’t too much and the Angels’ need at pitching necessitates some gambles — especially if they can’t land top free agent Trevor Bauer. If not Bauer, they’re probably going to be making a few of these types of deals. So this seems like a good starting point.
Blue Jays sign George Springer
The player: After seven seasons with the Astros, we know plenty about what makes Springer special. He’s a top-of-the-lineup spark plug that can make an offense hum. He’s clutch. Just look at any October he’s played. After another strong postseason, Springer entered free agency as arguably the most attractive, most complete player. He has 40-homer potential, gets on base and can drive in 80 or 90 runs per year. And at 31, he’s still pretty good on defense too.
The deal: Springer gets $150 million over six years with the Blue Jays, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, surpassing the expectation of five years. There’s a chance now he finishes his career in Toronto.
Is that a lot? It is more than the projected five-year, $125 million contract from MLB Trade Rumors, but not obscenely so. The Jays had been desperate to land a big name this offseason, but this move doesn’t reek of desperation.
Is it going to work? It seems like exactly what the pushing-forward Blue Jays need. They’re loaded with young talent and made a surprise playoff run last year, but could use a veteran leader type who has postseason success on his résumé. Springer is that. With Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, plus Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. coming off breakout seasons, the Jays lineup should be quite good. They’ll have to hope their pitching can hold up now, but being competitive the next few years seems very realistic in Toronto.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? There are gonna be a lot of home runs coming out of the Blue Jays lineup in 2021 (especially if they play in Buffalo again). Springer is a great-but-not-elite fantasy hitter; he won’t hurt your ratios and he’s a plus in home runs, but it remains to be seen how his run-scoring prowess will be affected away from the Astros’ loaded lineup. The Jays, though, are no slouches on offense, so it’s hard to expect a major fall from production for the 31-year-old Springer, especially now that he’s in a better hitter’s park — and in a division full of them (aside from Tampa Bay). The sixth round of fantasy drafts seems like a great spot for a Springer selection.
Nationals agree to deal with Jon Lester
The player: A former ace, Lester will be 37 by opening day, so his best starts are behind him, but he can still make a difference as a veteran presence who needs to eat some innings and contribute to a contender.
The deal: The Washington Nationals have agreed to a one-year deal with Lester with a mutual option for 2022, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Other terms of the deal were not initially reported.
Is it going to work? Lester joins a staff featuring fellow multi-time All-Stars Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin and will likely find a spot at the back of the rotation. Approaching his 16th MLB season, Lester doesn’t have the stuff that made him a five-time All-Star with the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. But he won’t be expected to.
Yankees sign Corey Kluber
The player: On the plus side, Kluber finished 2020 with a 0.00 ERA. On the flip side, he only pitched one inning as a member of the Texas Rangers before an injury ended his season. Now the two-time Cy Young winner is 34, looking to answer questions about how much is left in the tank in the Bronx.
The deal: Kluber is signing a one-year deal worth $11 million, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Is that a lot? MLB Trade Rumors had Kluber at one year, $12 million, so this is about what was expected. Still, it’s not every day you see a pitcher land eight figures after making only eight starts in the last two seasons, but Kluber’s half-decade of dominance — 2.85 ERA, two Cy Young Awards, 10.1 K/9 and 218 innings pitched per year between 2014 and 2018 — was tempting enough to attract the Yankees and plenty of other suitors.
Is it going to work? Behind Gerrit Cole, the Yankees rotation is a collection of intriguing question marks, and, well, this doesn’t change that. Kluber is three years removed from his last full season, and the Yankees aren’t exactly known for how much their pitchers stay healthy. If Kluber, Luis Severino and Deivi Garcia all hit on their potential, the Yankees rotation will be a force to be reckoned with. That is a gargantuan “if.”
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Injuries have taken away a lot of Corey Kluber’s career the past three seasons. At 34 years old, upside isn’t what we’re looking for, but if a healthy Kluber somehow taps in to his previous upside, buckle up. As of now, however, It’s hard to imagine giving up a considerable fantasy draft investment for the Klubot. But hey, you could do worse than a late-round flier on an SP of a contending team.
Yankees sign DJ LeMahieu
The player: The Yankees got a steal two years ago when they signed LeMahieu to a $24 million dollar contract. He was worth every bit of $12 million per season. Sure it was just 60 games, but in 2020 he had a .421 on-base percentage. In 2019, he was an MVP candidate who hit 26 homers, drove in 102 runs and kept the Yankees afloat while their sluggers were injured. He’s proven that his bat wasn’t just inflated by playing in Colorado. He can be the glue of any offense in baseball.
The deal: Sources tell Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown that LeMahieu is close to a deal to re-sign with the Yankees. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports the deal will be for six years and $90 million.
Is that a lot? It’s certainly a longer deal than expected, which lands LeMahieu more total money than industry observers originally projected. MLB Trade Rumors pegged LeMahieu for four years and $68 million at the start of the offseason, but the second baseman’s importance to the club appears to have driven up the price. He did not land the J.D. Martinez deal (five years, $110 million) he apparently desired, but by taking a lower average annual value of $15 million, he got in range of Josh Donaldson’s four-year, $92 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. The contract appears to be designed so the Yankees lower their calculated number in relation to the league’s Competitive Balance Tax, while still approaching LeMahieu’s demands.
Is it going to work? LeMahieu has been one of the best hitters in baseball since he arrived in New York — by OPS+ he is 10th in baseball over the past two years. Plus, he is a crucial (and flexible) piece of the Yankees’ infield defense. Six-year deals for 32-year-old are certainly unusual, but that is likely driven by New York’s desire to push down its CBT number and it’s a small price to pay for a World Series contender to keep a highly productive, beloved player.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Remember when some people used to say that DJ LeMahieu was a product of Coors Field? Yeah, not so much. LeMahieu has been an absolute stud for the Yankees — at times the most prolific, dependable hitter in their lineup — and for fantasy managers, and now he’ll return to the same golden situation. We like our fantasy hitters to stay in the environment they’ve thrived in before, and so it will be with LeMahieu on top of a (hopefully) healthy and potent New York squad. It’s not hyperbole to say that LeMahieu has been one of the best hitters in baseball — he put together a .364/.421/.590 line in the shortened 2020 season — and at 32 years old, there haven’t been signs of slowing down (recall his MVP-level season in 2019, when his .349 BABIP matched up nearly with his .345 career mark). He’s a four-category fantasy contributor with the Yanks and a solid option in the third/fourth round of 2021 drafts.
Phillies sign Archie Bradley
The player: Bradley is a former top pitching prospect who eventually found success in the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen. Armed with mid-to-high-90s heat, Bradley has accrued a 2.82 career ERA as a reliever and worked as a closer for part of 2019. He was traded during the 2020 season to the Cincinnati Reds, who recently non-tendered him to avoid paying him in arbitration.
The deal: Bradley has signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Philadelphia Philles, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
Is that a lot? Well, the Reds were expected to pay him around this much in arbitration (he was due a raise from his $4.1 million salary in 2020), so this seems about market value for a set-up man with sporadic closing experience.
Is it going to work? In the Phillies bullpen, who knows? Bradley’s fastball velocity has been slightly trending down for years (from a peak of 96.3 mph in 2017 to 94.2 last year), so that’s a red flag, but he also had a 2.95 ERA last year with decent peripherals (2.59 FIP, .296 XWOBA, 3.44 SIERA) and is still only 28 years old. Relievers always come with risk, but there are worse bets than this kind of experience for $6 million.
White Sox sign Liam Hendriks
The player: Hendriks has had an interesting journey, going from an unclaimed pitcher on waivers in 2018 to an All-Star closer for Oakland in 2019. Now he is cashing in on that success. Here are the numbers teams will be salivating over: Since the start of 2019, Hendriks has a 1.79 ERA and 13.1 K/9 over 110 1/3 innings, not to mention he's the WAR leader among all relievers at 4.9. That will play anywhere and everywhere.
The deal: Hendriks is signing a multi-year deal with the Chicago White Sox, sources tell Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown. The deal is technically three years with an option for a fourth, but guarantees Hendriks $54 million either way.
Is that a lot? MLB Trade Rumors projected he would get three years and $30 million, so the White Sox are ponying up a bit to secure the top reliever available. The fourth-year option, which sends Hendriks $15 million whether it is picked up or declined, is certainly novel.
Is it going to work? Any reliever on a multi-year deal comes with risk. But what we know is this: Hendriks has been the most effective reliever in the game over the past two years. For an up and coming team like the White Sox, he is undoubtedly worth an investment. Their closer spot was vacated by free agent Alex Colome, and this will create a devastating bullpen combo with the groundball wizard Aaron Bummer.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Well, if you were hoping to target Alex Colome (who could be on his way out of Chicago as a free agent anyway) again in order to wait on closer, sorry. Liam Hendriks has transformed himself into one of the most dominant, exciting relievers in the game — so yes, he is going to be the reliever to prioritize in drafts out of the White Sox. Even if he suffers regression from his eye-popping numbers (and they were eye-popping) from last season, Hendriks will remain an elite option as part of a Chicago team that sees itself as a contender — especially so in the weak AL Central. Expect to use a mid-round pick on him in drafts as one of the top-five closers off the board.
Nationals sign Kyle Schwarber
The player: Schwarber was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs in one of the first signs of their intention to sell this winter. Schwarber’s career has mirrored the Cubs as a whole. He ascended quickly to the majors in time to join the title-winning core, but he has been merely solid since then, never taking a next step. The shortened 2020 season was by far his worst, but he can typically be counted on for about 30 homers, a mountain of strikeouts and moderately above-average overall offensive production. The issue that loomed over his free agency was the still unresolved issue of whether the designated hitter would be in both leagues again. He’d be best suited for at least a partial DH role going forward.
The deal: The Nationals are reportedly signing Schwarber to a one-year, $10 million deal.
Outfielder Kyle Schwarber and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a one-year, $10 million deal, sources familiar with the situation tell ESPN. First with the deal: @dougherty_jesse.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 9, 2021
Is that a lot? Well, no. One-year deals carry very little risk for teams, and $10 million doesn’t buy much in terms of expectations on the market. It is notable that Schwarber found more money in his unexpected free agency than the Cubs would have likely had to pay him to simply keep him around. It’s estimated he would have made somewhere between $7 million and $9.3 million through the arbitration process, but apparently that was too much for Chicago.
Is it going to work? There aren’t too many ways this could go wrong. If there is no DH, the Nationals fill an uncertain left field spot with a steady, if defensively weak, veteran for one year. Schwarber joins trade acquisition Josh Bell as new protection for Juan Soto in the lineup. If the DH does come to the National League permanently, then the Nationals and Schwarber have a one-year showcase and the possibility to add more offense.
Dodgers sign Blake Treinen
The player: Treinen was the best reliever in baseball in 2018, posting a 0.78 ERA in 80 1/3 innings for the Oakland A's. Then he suffered a rotator cuff strain and a stress reaction in his back in 2019, which limited his effectiveness. He took a step forward for the Dodgers in 2020, posting a 3.86 ERA in 25 innings.
Reliever Blake Treinen and the Los Angeles Dodgers are in agreement on a two-year deal for $17.5 million with a club option that’s worth $8 million, sources tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2021
The deal: The Dodgers are bringing Treinen back on a two-year deal worth $17.5 million, with a club option for 2023 that could pay another $8 million, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Is that a lot? The deal is a touch more than expected, as MLB Trade Rumors had projected Treinen for two years and $14 million. The 32-year-old is coming off a rebound season, but did not return to the dominant heights of his 2018.
Is it going to work? There’s always risk with relievers, but Treinen has been either good or great whenever healthy. It’s unclear who the Dodgers will truly rely upon going forward with Kenley Jansen wobbling. Treinen’s strikeout rate was down in 2020, not a good sign, but he boosted his slider usage and got more grounders than he had in recent years. He’s a known quantity to the team and a legitimate closing option with game-finishing experience — a good player to have around when defending a World Series crown.
Padres sign Ha-Seong Kim
The player: Kim was the best international name on the market. He’s a 25-year-old shortstop and third baseman who has starred in Korea since he was 18. He’s coming off a season in which he hit 30 homers with 109 RBIs in the KBO, but remember that’s roughly equivalent to Double-A.
The deal: The Padres have reached an agreement to sign Kim, according to The Athletic’s Dennis Lin. It comes hours after the team reportedly reached a deal to acquire Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays and amid rumors of a Yu Darvish pursuit.
The Padres have reached an agreement with Ha-seong Kim, a source tells The Athletic.
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) December 28, 2020
Is that a lot? We don’t have the terms of the deal yet, but the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported Monday morning that a potential deal with San Diego was likely to place Kim’s guaranteed money near $30 million. At the beginning of the offseason, MLB Trade Rumors projected the relatively young hitter would net five years and $40 million. The Padres apparently beat out the Toronto Blue Jays, among other interested teams, for his services.
Is it going to work? Kim was a star shortstop in the KBO, but the league’s overall talent level is a little further from the majors than Japan’s NPB, and the translation can be tricky. The ZiPS projection system at FanGraphs nonetheless pegs him as an above-average hitter, and he would likely rank among the top 100 prospects in the game if he were plying his trade in the minors. The Athletic’s Keith Law notes the velocity of MLB pitching could require adjustments and sees him as a super-utility player.
The Padres, of course, do not need a shortstop. According to Sherman, the Padres could put Kim at second base, forming a double play tandem with Fernando Tatis Jr., while last year’s out-of-nowhere Rookie of the Year candidate Jake Cronenworth moves to left field. It could be that both players wind up in utility roles, or that Cronenworth is dangled as trade bait. Regardless of how the positions shake out, the addition adds depth and goes toward creating the sort of multidimensional roster that has become a hallmark of the rival Dodgers.
Mets sign James McCann
The player: Despite being far less proven than headline offseason target J.T. Realmuto, there’s some chance McCann is almost as good. After a breakout 2019 that even the Chicago White Sox weren’t willing to bank on, McCann kept up his newfound offensive pace in 2020. So over the past two seasons, his OPS is .808 to Realmuto’s .825. The Baseball-Reference WAR model says McCann has been MLB’s second-best catcher over that span (behind Realmuto), while FanGraphs has him fifth.
The deal: The Mets are committing four years and more than $40 million to McCann, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, after making catcher one of their offseason priorities. They figured to be a favorite for Realmuto at the offseason’s start. But with new ownership and a desire to compete immediately, the Mets don’t seem to be waiting around.
McCann deal with Mets is 4 years, more than $40M @Ken_Rosenthal 1st said it was close
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2020
Is that a lot? MLB Trade Rumors predicted two years and $20 million for McCann, so this is, in a word, aggressive. But, again, this is new ownership and a new front office trying to quickly turnaround the Mets.
Is it going to work? If this isn’t the Mets’ big offseason move, then yes, it figures to be a good one. McCann will help the lineup, help the pitching staff and help the Mets on defense. But the Mets still need to do more. George Springer is the other player they’ve been linked to since the beginning of the winter. The dream offseason was new owner Steve Cohen ponying up for Springer and Realmuto. So now fans will be expecting at least one bigger, splashier move.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? James McCann is one of those guys who has flashed talent and production, but seems to always leave a little something to be desired. Well, we might have seen the full ceiling of his powers in 2020, even while playing behind the Sox’s prized offseason acquisition of Yasmani Grandal. McCann delivered a .289/.360/.536 slash line, which is pretty much a dream for a fantasy catcher. He will fill an OBVIOUS need for the Mets, and you hope he’ll be able to deliver a bit more power numbers, but he’s likely shown enough that this opportunity to be the clear starting catching option in New York will vault him into the top-10 catchers available in fantasy drafts, even with some regression (especially in batting average).
Kansas City Royals sign Carlos Santana
The player: Santana, entering his age-35 season, remains a good hitter with a knack for getting on base. After his second stint with the Indians, he’s staying in the AL Central by joining the Royals.
The deal: The Royals are giving Santana $17.5 million over two years, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, with an additional possible $1 million in incentives.
Is that a lot? It’s surprising, but more for the years than the dollars. Santana made $20 million each of the past two seasons, so $17.5 million for two is probably right in line with his value at this point. It’s more surprising to see a Royals team that isn’t really close to contending committing to two years of Santana.
Is it going to work? This deal won’t get the Royals (26-34 last season) into the postseason, but it will make their lineup better and make them more competitive, which is what any fan should want from their team. Santana is getting older, but he remains a potent bat. He led MLB in walks last season and remains an on-base percentage-driven player. His power numbers dropped last season, with his eight homers in 60 being 21.6 in a 162-game season, but in 2019 his .911 OPS was still quite good.
Chicago White Sox sign Adam Eaton
The player: Eaton, 32, is a well-traveled outfielder who is returning to the White Sox, where he played from 2014 to 2016 before being traded to the Nationals.
The deal: It’s a one-year deal for Eaton, pending a physical, worth a guaranteed $8 million, according to various reports. Eaton will make $7 million in 2021 with a club option for 2022. If the option isn’t exercised, Eaton gets a $1 million buyout, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
Is that a lot? Not really. It’s less than Eaton made the previous two seasons in Washington, where his production started to dip. He’d been a moderately-above-replacement-level player for most of his career in D.C. Since the trade, he hasn’t played like the 6.6 WAR player he was for the Sox in 2016. In 2019, Eaton slashed .279/.365/.428, which is about what you can expect from him typically. He can steal a few bases and hit a few homers, but nothing overwhelming. He would figure to play right field, where Adam Engel has played the last few seasons.
Is it going to work? The White Sox would seem to think so. They know what they’re getting in Eaton by now — though, again, he’s not as productive as he was in his late 20s. There’s some subtext here beyond baseball that makes this interesting too. We learned after his previous Chicago stint that it wasn’t all roses for Eaton. He had beef with teammate Todd Frazier and Ozzie Guillen (now a White Sox analyst and not a part of the team when Eaton was there) said last year that no players in the White Sox clubhouse liked Eaton. It’s a new era in White Sox baseball, though, with plenty of young talent in the lineup. Tony La Russa — not exactly a new talent — is also the new White Sox manager, and Eaton seems like the type of player La Russa would like to have in his lineup. Now he can.
New York Mets sign Trevor May
The player: May, 31, has developed into one of baseball’s most reliable setup men. Since moving to the bullpen full-time in 2016, he’s posted a dominant 13.2 K/9 mark. Just as impressive is his 3.2 BB/9.
The deal: May is joining the Mets bullpen, the first significant free-agent signing of the Steve Cohen era. It won’t be the last. Andy Martino of SNY was first to report a deal was in place and Jeff Passan of ESPN reports it’s for two years. The deal is pending a physical.
Is that a lot? MLB Trade Rumors projected two years and $14 million for May, and ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports the deal is worth $15.5 million, so this is right in the range that was expected. The Mets simply acted early to get a reliever it seems they targeted.
Is it going to work? Seems like it. The Mets need bullpen help. May isn’t the biggest name on the market — he’s also not a closer, so it goes — but he’s proven himself a reliable option over the years. And when it comes to bullpens, reliability is just about the No. 1 thing you can ask for. That goes double in Queens, where the Mets don’t often do “reliable.” Just look at Edwin Diaz. The Mets had the fifth-worst bullpen ERA last season, so there’s plenty of work to be done, but May is a step in the right direction.
An added bonus for this particular fit — May will be reunited with Jeremy Hefner, the Mets pitching coach, who was previously May’s bullpen coach in Minnesota. That seems to bring good vibes to this signing.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? This is probably a better real life move than a fantasy one. May has great talent and elite-level strikeout numbers, but he’ll be joining a packed Mets bullpen featuring Edwin Diaz, Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia. If May leapfrogs everyone for the primary setup job, then he’s absolutely worth a draft pick. But until we get more clarity, he’s best left on waivers to start the season.
Atlanta Braves sign Charlie Morton
The player: Fresh off another strong postseason — 2.70 ERA in 20 innings — Morton turned 37 while making his decision. The Tampa Bay Rays declined his $15 million option, but Morton had previously said he would likely retire before he roamed too far afield of his family’s Florida home. Don’t let his flirtation with retirement fool you, though. Morton was an AL Cy Young finalist in the most recent 162-game season. Those don’t grow on trees.
The deal: One year, $15M
Is that a lot? It's exactly the same deal he would have been playing on in 2021. However, it’s almost double the one-year, $8M deal Morton was projected to receive, according to MLB Trade Rumors. It’s a sign the Braves aren’t messing around this winter as they look to acquire depth for another postseason run. The Braves previously signed left-handed starter Drew Smyly to a one-year, $11M deal.
Is it going to work? Morton is a perfect fit for a Braves team that will have World Series or bust expectations. The veteran right-hander is playoff tested, having won three consecutive winner-take-all games for the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays. In fact, Morton is the only pitcher in MLB history to hold that distinction. On multiple occasions, Morton has said he wouldn’t return if he didn’t think he could maintain his current level of excellence. If he believes it and the Braves believe it, we believe Morton will have another quality season.
What does it mean for your fantasy team? Morton has apparently been drinking from the pitching fountain of youth, as he’s been able to maintain himself as an above-average middle-of-the-rotation pitcher even as he continues into the latter half of his 30s. The move from the Rays to the Braves isn’t a massive change, as Morton is going from one contender to another, but he can be a much-needed veteran presence in a rotation featuring some uber-talented young arms.
Morton was actually a bit unlucky in 2020 (.355 BABIP) so there’s a chance he could improve on his final surface stats from last season (after all, his 4.74 ERA was much higher than his 3.45 FIP). The biggest questions with Morton is how long he can keep this going and stay healthy and how much the Braves are going to put on his plate, but if he can check off those boxes (and of course, make the Braves starting rotation — and it would be a shock if he didn’t) he’s a virtual lock for double-digit wins and safe ratios, making him a solid SP option in the middle rounds of drafts. Be sure to track his fastball velocity in Spring Training, however — a couple more drops in points would be a bad sign for a pitcher his age.
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