Holiday Hangover: The Latest Moves
Someone asked me over the holidays if I’m still writing. Yes, yes, I’m still here, but I was busy watching all the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies with my kids and husband, hanging with family and friends, and eating my weight in cookies. I thought I could take a break over the holidays and not much would happen in MLB over a few days. I was wrong. Turns out, baseball deals don’t stop happening just becaus Jesus has a birthday and Skywalkers are rising.
The White Sox Force Awakens
The White Sox have been a dumpster fire for the last few seasons. The last time they had a winning record was in 2012 – when they came in 2nd in the AL Central. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2008, when they were smoked by the Rays three games to one in the ALDS. To say the least, they haven’t been much of a threat to the AL Central in quite a while, pretty much since Ozzie Guillen was their manager.
They must have been tired of perennial suckage, and decided to make some deals over their winter break. First, they signed former Brewers starter Gio Gonzalez to a two year deal. Then we got word that they decided to bolster their pitching rotation with Dallas Keuchel. By putting them with Lucas Giolito, the only Sox pitcher that had a winning record in 2019, they might actually have a threatening rotation in 2020.
With their starting rotation looking good for the first time in ages, the Sox then decided to try what the Twins did with Nelson Cruz last year: sign a veteran old guy that can smash home runs. In a Christmas miracle for Chicago fans, they now get to see Edwin Encarnacion in a Sox uniform in 2020. Encarnacion has hit over 30 homers every season since 2012, and for $12 million, the White Sox are banking on him to do it again in 2020. (And again in 2021 if they pick up the $12 million option).
With the Indians trading away Corey Kluber, and rumored to be shopping Francisco Lindor to anyone who might have a pack of gum to trade for, and the Twins unable to sign any of the top starting pitchers during this off season, the Sox are setting themselves up to take at least second in the AL Central this season, if not the top spot.
Detroit Picks Up Half of the Twins Infield
The Tigers, also in a vortex of suckage what with their 114 losses in 2019, decided they too wanted to take a play out of their division rival Twins’ playbook by signing first baseman C.J. Cron and second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Cron and Schoop both proved to be clutch for the Twins in 2019, but neither made the cut for the 2020 season.
Cron was on fire through the first half of the season before an injury to his thumb (which ultimately led to off season surgery). Despite a few stints on the IL, over 117 games, he smashed 25 home runs, and knocked in 78 RBI. Schoop came up with some big hits in big moments, but with the also-clutch Luis Arraez taking over at second, Schoop found himself looking for a new home in 2020 as well. Despite his 23 doubles and 23 home runs, the Minnesota Bomba Squad happen to have enough firepower to let him go.
Both Schoop and Cron agreed to one year deals worth $6.1 million apiece. Whether the addition of these two offensive badasses, along with catcher Austin Romine, who also signed a one-year deal earlier this month, will be enough to lift the Tigers to at least a winning record, let alone a post season spot remains to be a big question mark at this point. At best, they’ll be the sparks that ignite a decent offense for Ron Gardenhire’s ragtag team of misfits, and at worst, they’ll be trade-bait come July.
Let’s not forget, part of the issue in Detroit is 36-year-old, eleven-time All Star, seven-time Silver Slugger, two-time MVP, Miguel Cabrera. The one time triple crown winner is only halfway through an eight-year, $240 million deal through 2023. His $30 million/year is eating up quite a bit of space in the payroll, and the Tigers are stuck giving out shorter contracts worth less money, and can’t make a huge splash deal for some help to cover his lack of production. Since signing his mega contract, he’s been on the decline. In 2016, he was still at the top of his game, but then 2017 saw a huge drop in production. Miggy spent a large part of 2018 injured, playing in just 38 games. In 2019, Cabrera only hit 12 home runs and got just 59 RBI while hitting .282/.346/.398. While these numbers would be respectable for many MLB players, they’re definitely not worth $30 million per season. Nobody in their right mind would be willing to trade for him, and the Tigers are stuck paying him for a few more seasons.
Toronto Wins the Ryu Race
After trading away ace Marcus Stroman to the Mets at the deadline last season, the Blue Jays needs to fill the ace role this off season. The found their fit with Dodgers hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu – second in line for the 2019 Cy Young award. The team and Ryu agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract, and just like that the top pitchers in this off season free agency market have now been snapped up.
Ryu led all of the majors with a teeny tiny 2.32 ERA in 2019. He had a record of 14-5 after starting in 29 games, and was a workhorse with 182 innings under his belt. In all of those innings, he struck out 163 batters and walked just 24. To say the Jays got a steal with just $20 million/year and just four years might be apt – with the big deals handed to Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, Ryu’s shorter term deal was a much smarter move on the Jays’ part. At 32 years old, giving him more than four years would have been a bigger risk than most teams would be willing to make.
Ryu will solidify a decent rotation, but the real story in Toronto in 2020 will likely be their offense. They’ve got young talent in baby Vlad, baby Biggio, and Bo Bichette. If the youngsters come into full power this season, compiled with a competent pitching staff, the Jays could find themselves with a much more exciting season than they’ve seen recently.
Other Notable Transactions/News
- Milwaukee Brewers signed 1B Justin Smoak and 2B Eric Sogard to boost their infield
- The Marlins continue their attempt to draw in a crowd with a minor league deal with former badass Matt Kemp with an invite to Spring Training.
- The Angels signed RHP Julio Teheran to a one year deal.
- Boston has been noticeably quiet this offseason in terms of making a huge splash. Most recently, they picked up struggling pitcher Chris Mazza off waivers from the Mets, signed free-agent pitcher Martin Perez, and free-agent shortstop Jose Peraza. Their bigger offseason news has been unloading Rick Porcello, and trade speculation surrounding Mookie Betts and Chris Sale.