It is almost time.
With a week to go until pitchers and catchers begin to report to their respective camps in Florida and Arizona, the MLB hot stove is beginning to cool down with teams starting to turn their attention to the upcoming season. There are a few big-name free agents left on the market, including pitcher Kyle Lohse and outfielder Michael Bourn, so there are still options out there for teams to try and improve themselves between now and Opening Day, but for the most part, the flurry of activity is coming to an end as we head toward April.
Everyone took notice of the Brinks truck that the Dodgers backed into Zach Greinke’s driveway over the winter. We all saw the Angels bolster their outfield with the addition of Josh Hamilton.
We all heard about the trades involving Justin Upton and James Shields that have them changing addresses. Here we’re going to analyze the top three moves that mostly flew under the radar this offseason, strengthening each respective team without breaking the monetary or prospect bank.
1. Torii Hunter signs in the Motor City
In one of the very first moves of winter preceding the onslaught of activity, the Detroit Tigers upgraded their outfield by signing aging veteran Torii Hunter. While the prime of Hunter’s
career is in his rearview mirror, he proved this past summer with the Los Angeles Angels that he can still be a cornerstone, batting a career-best .313 while knocking in 92 runs. Hunter had the fifth-best Wins Above Replacement in the American League amongst position players with 5.5, which would essentially make him the second most valuable player on the Tigers roster if he can keep up that production. The Tigers made it all the way to the World Series last fall before falling to the Giants, but the addition of Torii Hunter should provide a nice boost to help
get them over the hump. Even better for the Tigers is the price tag that came with him. While the Angels signed Josh Hamilton for $125 million over five years, the Tigers added the American
League’s second most valuable outfielder last season for only $26 million over two years. He may not be the Torii Hunter of old, flashing the leather in centerfield and robbing home runs, but his
stats prove him to be a valuable asset, and the Tigers hope they can milk the last productive years out of him in the search for a World Series title.
2. The Blue Jays sign outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal
As of today, it certainly seems as though the Toronto Blue Jays were the big winners of the winter. They made a couple of blockbuster trades, including the R.A. Dickey deal, along with the massive trade they made with the Miami Marlins that landed them Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson. While those two trades certainly help the Blue Jays become instant contenders, the signing of Melky Cabrera for two years and $16 million flew mostly under the radar due to the rest of their seismic activity. Cabrera was enjoying an MVP-type season with the Giants last summer, hitting a whopping .346 before he was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. While Cabrera may not have the type of season with the Blue Jays that he was having with the Giants, he is certainly still a valuable asset, and at $8 million a year, he is an efficient asset. Cabrera’s 2012 was an outlier in statistical terms to the rest of his career, but he’s always been a serviceable piece. If he does replicate the tear he was on in San Francisco, then the Jays may have themselves the steal of the offseason.
3. The New York Mets acquire minor leaguers Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in exchange for R.A. Dickey
OK, so this trade may have been classified as a blockbuster when it went down, but not because of what the Mets landed. In mid-December, the Mets sent the reigning National League
Cy Young winner to Toronto in exchange for a plethora of highly ranked prospects. While Dickey being dealt did send some shockwaves through Major League Baseball, not many people
took notice of what the Mets got in return for the 38-year-old starter. In the deal, they landed the top catching prospect in all of baseball, Travis d’Arnaud, along with hard-throwing pitching
prospect Noah Syndergaard. While dealing a Cy Young winner is tough, Dickey wasn’t a typical ace. His age makes him a risk to sign long-term, and relies on the often unreliable knuckleball.
While Dickey’s last two seasons were booming successes, the Mets capitalized on his value, and in return landed the type of haul that can change a franchise's future. The Texas Rangers did an about-face when they dealt slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Braves, and it would appear as though the Mets just made a similar type of deal. Yes, this trade wasn’t quite under the radar, but what the Blue Jays acquired was.