Surprisingly, the Angels actually upgraded their rotation by signing pitcher Mark Mulder. Huzzah!
I gotta say, a couple of trades have disappointed me strictly because I have fewer sleepers to tout. New veteran presences will likely cut into the playing time of Atlanta pitcher Alex Wood and St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong, both sophomores and ranked prospects, and that makes me sad, yo.
Braves sign SP Gavin Floyd
I would cry buckets if I was traded from the White Sox to the Braves. Floyd may flirt with fantasy relevance, but I think the bigger impact befalls Wood’s status as a starter. Unless the Braves wanted to waste their time squeezing Floyd into the bullpen, Wood will probably return to a late-inning role until further notice — bummer news for prospect fans and anyone who saw serious flashes of talent during his short stint as a starter last year. I think the Braves’ depth chart still has Wood listed as the No. 5 starter, but I expect change soon.
Floyd’s preseason rank: Not draftworthy
Wood’s preseason rank: Late-round bench-stash at best
Cardinals sign 2B Mark Ellis
Wong’s plate discipline and speed made him a very enticing low-tier middle infielder with upside, but not anymore. He should platoon with Ellis as Matt Carpenter assumes third base duties. Bummer, man. Given Ellis’ relative competence, I doubt Wong will ever win the job outright, either, barring injury.
Ellis’ preseason rank: Irrelevant
Wong’s preseason rank: Irrelevant… for now
Yankees sign 2B Brian Roberts
This is mainly here for comic relief.
Roberts’ preseason rank: No. 2 DL slot
Speaking of second basemen, when are the Mariners going to trade Nick Franklin?
Seriously, they could get a decent return for him, given he’s under team control for a while. MAKE MOVES, PEOPLE!
A cringeworthy article title, dare I say so myself.
The Miami Marlins are making all sorts of moves this offseason, although none of them look like they’ll turn the club into a respectable one, nor do I think its front office hopes they will. Signing shortstop Rafael Furcal and outfielder Garrett Jones to short-term contracts basically confirms they’re there to fill spots on the cheap, and essentially relegates both of them to fantasy irrelevancy. Signing catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the Marlins’ signal caller is interesting in a way I’m having trouble articulating other than just simply saying the word “interesting.” He’s young, he came off of a good year, and I figured another suitor would try to win him over. There. Lastly, they traded outfielders with the Cubs: Justin Ruggiano for Brian Bogusevic. I honestly don’t understand that one at all.
BUT! I’m guessing Ruggiano will go largely undrafted because of his pretty awful 2013. However, he is getting shipped to a better team, even if only a marginally better one, and he’s a legitimate 20-homer, 20-steal threat if he earns a starting role. He won’t hit .220 again, but he also won’t hit much better than .250, either. Still, he’s worth a late-round pick as long as Jorge Soler has not yet reared his talented head in the majors. Otherwise, Ruggiano will likely be benched in favor of Soler, Nate Schierholtz and Junior Lake.
Speaking of nautical things, I’ve intentionally overlooked the biggest offseason signing thus far.
SEA signs 2B Robinson Cano
… for a ridiculous sum of money the Mariners will almost certainly regret. I already expressed my disdain for outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury‘s long-term contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cano simply mailed it in now that he got the contract he wanted (almost). However, the Mariners figure to be pretty decent, if not somewhat of a threat next year (not to be confused with a legitimate playoff threat, however). I’ll get to that in a bit. Meanwhile, people will probably try to tell you Cano’s production will drop off next year. Don’t listen to them; you probably listened to them when they told you outfielder Hunter Pence would be stifled in AT&T Park. The Yankees had one of their worst teams in a very long time, yet Cano still mashed for more than 100 RBI. He didn’t crack 100 runs for the first time in five years (he barely reached 80), and that could be a lingering side effect of moving to an arguably less productive team that is less capable of driving him in. But home runs and RBI can fluctuate pretty wildly from year to year, as there is still an element of luck involved with both, and I wouldn’t immediately dismiss Cano as a top-3 player at his position. If anything, I would seize the opportunity to get a premium positional power hitter at any type of discount.
Winner: Cano, even though he didn’t get $300 million
Preseason rank: Top-2 second baseman
SEA signs OF Corey Hart
The dude has been dealing with knee woes for the past year and a half, yet he still crushed 30 homers in 2012 at age 30. He’s entering his age 32 year, and after opting for surgery on both his knees, I understand, again, why one may dismiss a player like Hart. But he has averaged 24 home runs the past six years, and that includes time missed from injury. Yes, it is important to acknowledge that there is inherent injury risk here, but there could be a lot of hidden value here.
Preseason rank: Top-50 outfielder — full rankings pending
Meanwhile, this is how the Mariners starting lineup appears to shape up:
C Mike Zunino
1B Jesus Montero (or Justin Smoak)
SS Brad Miller (assuming Nick Franklin gets traded now that Cano is here)
3B Kyle Seager
LF Dustin Ackley
CF [Logan Morrison — pending]
Their rotation boasts young talent reminiscent of the current Atlanta Braves rotation. Meanwhile, the infield looks awesome, assuming Montero can display the hitting prowess for which scouts hyped him. Clearly, Ackley is not a permanent solution in the outfield, and the Mariners need a legitimate center fielder with Franklin Gutierrez headed out. Point is, their team doesn’t look that bad. In fact, they could be a nice underdog pick early in the season in the realm of sports betting.
St. Louis Cardinals pending second baseman Kolten Wong is expected to get the call today from AAA Memphis. He’s the No. 79 and 84 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively, and I’m not overly excited about him.
I don’t expect Wong to make an immediate or profound impact this year unless he can immediately uproot Daniel Descalso and force manager Mike Matheny to move Matt Carpenter over to the hot corner. Even if this move happens in 2014, I would be more than pleased as a Wong owner to get 10 homers and steals apiece out of him.
In his defense, though, he recorded consistently low strikeout rates at each level and got on base at a .369 clip in AAA, consistent with his .365 minor league OBP. I could see him turning into a less prolific Carpenter, hitting for average from the No. 2 spot and racking up a ton of runs because of he will likely be followed up by some combination of Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras.
Wong has stolen 20+ bases each of the last two years and is starting to flash more power as he develops, but I would give him until maybe 2015 to really hit his stride. I predict he’ll be a serviceable option in 2014, but as far as second-base prospects are concerned, I would rank him behind the San Diego Padres’ Jedd Gyorko, the Seattle Mariners’ Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, and the Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon. However, given Carpenter’s propensity to reach base and score as part of a lethal St. Louis offense, I predict Wong could have a similarly high upside, but with more speed than power.
If I’m in a rotisserie league with an auction draft, which I am, I would gladly drop $1 on Wong as a flyer — but if the four other aforementioned prospects are available at the same price come draft time, I will more readily take a chance on one of them first.
As far as 2013 is concerned, I wouldn’t bother with Wong unless he quickly makes an impact. I think Wong’s debut will look more like the debut of Texas Rangers’ Jurickson Profar rather than of Franklin.