With Spring Training firing on all cylinders, it's safe to assume that the majority of this winter's transactions are over. Of course, there are still a few notable free agents that remain unsigned, but as far as trades go, it appears that the frenzy has ended until things start to heat up again in June and July. So, with plenty of significant swaps in the rear view mirror, what was the best trade made this offseason?
The traditional top prospect for "proven closer" deal always proves to be a head-scratcher. Seeking a boost at the back of their bullpen, the Diamondbacks went out and traded for one of the best young closers in the game by dealing third base prospect Matt Davidson for 25-year-old stopper Addison Reed back in December.
Reed sure is a nifty piece to have out there at the end of games, but he is far from a sure thing, with a career 4.17 ERA in 133.2 innings. Using Fangraphs' "shutdown" metric, a much more favorable alternative to saves, Reed was just 17th in baseball last year with 33 "shutdowns" versus a rather high 10 "meltdowns". Out of 22 pitchers to garner at least 30 "shutdowns" in 2013, he was one of just 5 to also have double-digit "meltdowns", indicating some lack of consistency. While his raw numbers tend to be slightly pessimistic, his peripherals peg him as a much better pitcher, with a career 3.30 FIP and 9.29 SO/9 rate. While I tend to believe in the latter numbers, it's hard to value him as a top-notch closer like the Diamondbacks likely do considering they gave up a consensus top-100 prospect for him.
Many see Davidson as a future above-average regular at the hot corner, a commodity which is worth plenty more than nearly every closer in baseball (Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman may be the only exceptions). Arizona was obviously looking in the short-term here, but they risk giving up a future everyday big leaguer for a player at the most volatile position in baseball.
The Angels had a surplus of offense and a dire need for pitching when they made this move in early December. With Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton firmly entrenched in the starting outfield, Trumbo just wasn't a necessary piece, especially considering the team has high hopes for newcomer Kole Calhoun. Add in Trumbo's atrocious 25.1% career strikeout rate and .299 OBP, and you have more of an average regular than the star that his power numbers would lead you to believe, making him rather expendable
The Angels will certainly miss Trumbo's .219 ISO, but they assessed an organizational need by adding two young starting pitchers in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, each of whom is under the age of 27. Santiago, 26, was a revelation for the White Sox in 2013, posting a 3.56 ERA and 2.8 WAR in a sort of swingman role, making 23 starts but also appearing in 11 games as a reliever. Odds are he won't post those kinds of numbers again, but a ~3.75 ERA, 2.0 WAR pitcher is a very valuable commodity, and something the Angels could really use in a shallow rotation behind Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson.
While Santiago is a great get, Skaggs is the true coup here. A former Angels first round pick (traded to Arizona in the 2010 Dan Haren deal), Skaggs, 22, has been dismal in a pair of brief big league stints (5.43 ERA across 13 starts over the past two years), but he still has the same upside that once made him the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game. Skaggs' lack of recent success can possibly be explained by some mechanical issues, which the Angels have reportedly tweaked, meaning he could be ready for a role in the Angels' rotation as early as this Spring.
Largely considered the heist of the offseason, there isn't much to say about this trade other than the Tigers got slaughtered. Even if you believe Robbie Ray is a future number two and Ian Krol is a potential set-up man, the Tigers just didn't get nearly enough value compared to Fister's likely market value. I find it highly unlikely that the Nationals were the only team interested in a pitcher who has posted 12.6 WAR over the past three years and is under club control for two more seasons.
Notice a trend? The Diamondbacks tend to be on the wrong side of these deals, as this is the third deal on this list in which they got the short end of the stick. Granted, the Rays' acquisition of Hanigan was mainly by way of the Reds, but Arizona still managed to send David Holmberg to Cincinnati just to rid themselves of Heath Bell and his terrible contract.
For the Rays, this wasn't a typical move. Taking on $4.5 million in salary (another $4.5 is being paid by Arizona and Miami) for a reliever with a rapidly declining skillset isn't the ideal Rays transaction, but it enabled them to acquire coveted pitch framer Ryan Hanigan as well as Bell, who is a potential bounceback candidate.
Hanigan isn't anyone's idea of a "flashy" player, but he provides a significant amount of value through his defense and ability to get on base. He's a very good player at a very cheap price (for 2014), and the deal also allowed the Rays to extend him on a three-year deal for the bargain price of just under $11 million.
The Astros aren't exactly the type of team that should/would be going for a player of Fowler's caliber, but it's clear they saw him as a value play considering the Rockies minimal return package. The Astros essentially acquired a 3-win center fielder for a backup outfielder (Barnes) and out-of-favor starting pitcher (Lyles).
Fowler is under team control for just two more seasons, but he's only 27, so he's young enough that the Astros could deem him as part of their long-term plans. If not, he'll be a very valuable trade chip come July.