The 2015 Winter Meetings prove just what kind of money do these teams have. $217 million for, literally, a rich man’s James Shields, and $206.5 million for a pitcher that has only recorded an ERA below 3.4 once prior to pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. If David Price and Zack Greinke are getting paid this kind of money respectively, how much will Bryce Harper get in 2019?
On top of that, remember back when teams had this “hard stance” of not offering no trade clauses? Now, teams not only don’t/can’t hold those stances, but the players hold all the control. How far have we come when 40 years ago we had no such thing as free agency, and now players sign massive contracts with the ability to opt out if they actually “live up” to those contracts?
Jason Heyward and Johnny Cueto, each signed big deals with an “opt-out” in their contract. Where’s the “opt-out” for the team? It’s no surprise guys like Heyward and Cueto would do this, given both of their inconsistencies, but the precedent being set now is a bit discerning. If Heyward actually performs like this past season, he will opt out in 2019 when Bryce Harper hits the open market, and his 10 year, $250 million in 2019 will look like a bargain. If he hits his career .268 with 13 homer power for the next three years, the $186 million dollar contract is going to look like Carlos Zambrano.
Heyward aside, Johnny Cueto’s deal is a bit more baffling. Not only can Cueto opt-out in two years if he pitches like his “pre Kansas City self,” he would also get $5 million in a buyout from San Francisco. Granted, he’s “only” making $15.8 million in 2016 prior to his contract jumping to $21.8 million in 2017. While one could argue it would be tough for Cueto to opt-out prior to his age 32 season, think about how much Greinke just received as he enters his age 32 season.
With that said, this is not about the money teams pay these, players, but instead the fantasy fall out from such moves. While I do believe the first two contracts will turn out to be positively horrible investments, there’s no reason not to get excited about the signings if you happen to be a fan of one of those teams. If your team has the money, we can only hope they spend it on a Cy Young winner.
2015 Winter Meetings
David Price and Zack Greinke
Seeing how these two both technically happened prior to the meetings, I lumped them together. The familiarity both these pitchers have with the respective divisions they signed in is one perk of the contracts.
Aside from that, neither of these pitchers have had a track record of consistency like that of Clayton Kershaw, and both will now call fairly “hitter friendly” ballparks home for, likely, the rest of their careers. I don’t mind the Price deal as much, in terms of age and track record. Price has 650 fewer innings on his arm, and Boston holds on to his “services” for an extra season. Price is familiar with the AL East, and has always been considered the “ace” for his team. In terms of fantasy value for 2016, Price remains the same, if not actually getting a boost changing from Detroit to Boston.
Greinke, meanwhile, has over 2,000 innings on his arm, and there was no real telling what you would get from him year-to-year prior to his tenure with the Dodgers. While Greinke certainly has history of being considered the ace, and has experience pitching in the NL West, the benefit of pitching as a “number 2” behind Clayton Kershaw is clearly being ignored. Greinke will, without a doubt, be among the “top pitchers” I will have nothing to do with in 2016 Fantasy Baseball drafts.
Who would have ever thought prior to 2015 that a 12 year veteran, 3-year All Star and one-time Cy Young Award winner would net a 6-year deal worth over $34 million annually entering his age 32 season? Yes, that’s right, Greinke has only made three all-star games. Greinke may have one or two good seasons, none like 2015 however. It’s not really even a question that by the time 2020 rolls around, he will be lucky to provide the innings C.C. Sabathia has given the Yankees in the final years of his massive contract.
Arizona backs up U-Haul of prospects for Shelby Miller
Following the Jose Peraza trade, I made it very clear of my disliking for John Hart. Nearly exactly six months later, my fandom has returned three-fold (Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte). Consider this for a second: Atlanta turned a one year rental, Jason Heyward, and a middle reliever (Jordan Walden), into three of their top seven prospects in their organization (Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Tyrell Jenkins) and a Major League ready outfielder (Ender Inciarte). While I believe Inciarte will be swapped again by opening day, which will return his fantasy value to “NL-Only,” if he remains in Atlanta, he suddenly becomes a huge “dark horse” for 30 plus steals this season as he replaces the “Cameron Maybin” role in Atlanta. Blair, meanwhile, becomes a 2016 sleeper as he should be a clear favorite for a spot in Atlanta’s rotation.
As for Miller’s new team, he’s very much an unknown. Miller showed inconsistency last season, so while his win total is bound to improve, it’s difficult to know how much the switch from Turner Field to Chase Field will impact his ERA, and it’s not like Arizona is elite defensively, especially given that he will no longer have the best defensive shortstop in the game (Andrelton Simmons) playing behind him. Miller has always had “ace” stuff, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take a major step forward in 2016 while learning from Zack Greinke. Ultimately, the trade does not impact his fantasy relevance very much, at least not before draft day.
San Francisco signs Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto
I absolutely love these two signings for the San Francisco Giants and for the players involved as well. The player options seem like a terrible precedent to set, but Johnny Cueto, if healthy, will prove to be a huge bargain for two years in San Francisco, when considering what Greinke and Price received. By the numbers, Cueto has been the better pitcher among the three over the past 6 seasons, and that’s while pitching at hitter friendly Great American Ballpark.
As for Samardzija, $18 million a year for a pitcher with a career 4.09 ERA is steep, however that’s where the market’s at this season. Look at the prospects given up for Shelby Miller. Samardzija could easily pitch just as well as Miller this season, especially with over half his starts at AT&T Park, and also Petco Park and Dodger Stadium.
A move to AT&T Park should do both these pitchers wonders in 2016.
Houston Astros Acquire Ken Giles
In spite of Houston saying Ken Giles is not locked in as the opening day closer, I am chalking that up to “motivation.” I completely understand not wanting to “give” anything to Giles, but there’s no way Houston would have given up the prospects they gave up for a setup man. Don’t be afraid to reach for Giles at draft day, especially if the “uncertainty” still surrounds the Astros’ closer’s role. A switch from Philadelphia to Houston instantly gives Giles “top closer” upside, possibly surpassing Criag Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman by 2017.
Los Angeles Dodgers pull off questionable “three-team trade”
I put three-team trade in parenthesis, because as most Dodgers fans realized, this wasn’t necessarily a three-team deal. Everyone from Los Angeles went to Cincinnati, everyone (Todd Frazier) from Cincinnati went to the Chicago White Sox, and everyone from Chicago went to Los Angeles. So, there’s only one question. WHAT?
The non-contending Chicago White Sox became “buyers,” while the “money is no object,” we have no third baseman Los Angeles Dodgers, swapped prospects. As many have noted, no one is arguing with the prospects received by Los Angeles, but more so the mindset. Why would the Dodgers essentially acquire Todd Frazier for prospects from Cincinnati, and then immediately swap him to Chicago for different prospects?
As far as fantasy relevance, the trade probably has the biggest impact on Jose Peraza, as he joins an organization that apparently “loves” him. Assuming Phillips eventually waives his no-trade clause, the only potential obstacle in Peraza’s way is Eugenio Suarez and Zack Cozart. Although I was wrong last season, Peraza will once again be among my top rookie prospects to watch this season.
Aside from the unfortunate swap from NL to AL for Frazier, his fantasy relevance probably doesn’t have much of an impact. The only potential downgrade would be Frazier initially struggling to adjust to the American League. Which, if that’s the case, could prove fairly detrimental for a player that has notoriously struggled in the second half. Frazier has batted .239 with 45 home runs in the second half, while batting .273 with 63 home runs in the first half. A slow start in 2016 could cause a very down year for the for the Todd-Father.
Chicago Cubs break out the checkbook
Save the best for last. In spite of making a big spash throughout Winter Meetings and beyond, the impact on the Chicago Cubs doesn’t quite seem as drastic as some predict. Although the defense becomes much improved, and Ben Zobrist offers them a lot of flexibility, I don’t see the true benefit offensively in swapping Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro’s bat for Zobrist and Jason Heyward.
$240 million seems like a lot of money for 26 home runs, 116 RBI, 155 runs and 26 stolen bases spread across two positions. I realize the template for success that Kansas City has put in place, I’m just not sure these two signings will have the same impact. Instead, the biggest acquisition likely comes in the rotation where they managed to sign John Lackey to a very reasonable two-year deal in this insane pitcher’s market. Lackey has proven to be one of the most consistent pitchers in Fantasy Baseball over the past 10 years, aside from his brief tenure in Boston, and if he can stay healthy, he should remain productive as he stays in the NL Central.
For fantasy purposes, however, this trade could prove very beneficial for a few. Starlin Castro moves to an organization that, ironically, will actually place a lot less pressure on his shoulders. While New York is a big market, he will by no means be considered “the guy,” or have the pressure of being a key part to their success. Instead, he will have the opportunity to fly under the radar in New York’s lineup, a role he flourished in towards the end of his 2015 campaign.
Meanwhile, although I have always felt Zobrist’s value was more in his presence than actual numbers, he should see some improvement for Fantasy Baseball as well with the move to Wrigley Field, and reuniting with Joe Maddon.
While we generally focus on Fantasy Baseball as a whole, this trade does give Jorge Soler some reason for caution in NL Only drafts this season. If he is still with the club on opening day, that by no means makes him safe to remain a Cub all season, especially if for some reason Heyward struggles to transfer his Gold Glove prowess to center field.
New Year’s Predictions
St. Louis has remained quiet throughout the offseason, in spite of saying they were “in it” on David Price and Jason Heyward. While Cardinals’ General Manager John Mozeliak insists the team is “done,” that’s difficult to believe when they appear to have $200 million available to spend. I would anticipate the Cardinals dividing that money into two players, Mike Leake and Alex Gordon. Both seem to be “Cardinal” type players, in that Leake is not a power pitcher, and Gordon seems like a logical replacement for Heyward, given his defensive ability. Plus, he’s a logical replacement for Matt Holliday in left field following the conclusion of his contract. As for their fantasy outlook, Leake would get a major boost heading back to the NL Central, while joining a perennial 90 win team.
There has to be another move out there for Los Angeles following their confusing move to trade prospects for prospects. Perhaps Los Angeles was not sold on Todd Frazier, which I can understand. Perhaps the market for Jose Peraza wasn’t great, aside from in Cincinnati. That’s fine. If acquiring Frankie Montas from Chicago, gave them the peace of mind to then move Jose De Leon or Julio Urias in a bigger deal, or they felt Montas would provide them with a better trade chip than Peraza, all will be understood. But, there has to be another move, perhaps Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly
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