Hot Stove Roundup: Crazy Logan deal leads 10 under-the-radar moves of note
After a wild week leading up to the winter meetings, the meetings themselves saw relatively little action. Including the Rockies’ signing of lefty reliever Boone Logan, which wasn’t confirmed until Friday morning after the meetings ended, there were just 17 transactions completed this week in which a free agent agreed to a contract with an average annual value of $1 million or more or saw a team trade for a player likely to be on its 25-man Opening Day roster.
There were more than twice as many moves last week with those contracts totaling nearly half a billion dollars over 34 player seasons. This week’s free agent agreements have totaled $82 million over 16 player seasons. Bartolo Colon‘s two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets is the richest of the bunch, and Logan’s three-year deal is the longest.
We’ve already broken down the most significant moves of this week, but with so few going down, here’s a recap of the others, starting with the free agent signings in order of total guaranteed dollars.
Boone Logan, LHP, Rockies: $16.5 million, 3 years
Logan’s three-year deal surpasses the total value of the three-year, $13 million deal fellow LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy) Javier Lopez signed with the Giants last month and more than doubles the three-year, $7.5 million deal LOOGY Randy Choate signed with the Cardinals a year ago. That’s a ridiculous contract for a pitcher who is limited to matchup situations. Logan isn’t a bad pitcher, having held lefties to a .228/.297/.365 line over the last four seasons, but he’s still susceptible to righties, who have hit .257/.351/.424 against him over that time. That’s not a disastrous split, but it was enough for the Yankees to limit him to two-thirds of an inning per appearance over the last four years.
Logan has a higher release point than sidearming LOOGYs like Lopez, and over the last couple of years, he has ditched his changeup in favor of increased reliance on his slider. That’s the out-pitch in his sinker/slider combo and it features a significant change of speed between his mid-90s fastball and low-80s slider. As a result, he has seen his strikeout rate jump up to 11.3 men per nine innings over those two seasons. Logan also increased his previously weak ground ball rate in 2013, an important factor for a pitcher moving to Coors Field (or one tasked with facing lefties in the new Yankee Stadium). His home run rate spiked with it, but that was more likely to have been a fluke.
So it’s not so much Logan that is the problem here as the fact that the Rockies committed $16.5 million to add a LOOGY to a bullpen that already features lefties Rex Brothers and Josh Outman coming off strong seasons. It’s difficult to see this contract as anything other than a serious misallocation of resources.
Rajai Davis, OF, Tigers: $10 million, 2 years
The righthanded Davis had hit .303/.363/.438 against lefthanded pitching over the last five years while averaging 43 stolen bases per season at an 80 percent success rate over that span. A centerfielder by trade, he can play all three pastures and will likely share leftfield with the lefthanded Andy Dirks in 2014 while playing his home games in one of the best triples-hitting ballparks in baseball. Given that $5 million per year is a part-time salary these days, Davis is a nice fit for the suddenly cost-conscious Tigers.
Garrett Jones, 1B, Marlins: $7.75 million, 2 years
Jones had a lousy 2013 and was non-tendered by the Pirates last week. Still, he’s a nice bounce-back candidate for a Marlins team with nothing to lose given that some of his poor 2013 season could be blamed on bad luck on balls in play. That said, Jones’s value is largely tied up in his home run stroke, and Marlins Park is the worst place in the majors for lefthanded home run hitters according to the park factors in the 2014 Bill James Handbook. That doesn’t bode well for Jones, who will be 34 when this contract expires, but he’s still a nice buy-low move for Miami.
The addition of Jones should prompt another move by the Marlins given that Jones is a career .193/.234/.344 hitter against lefties and is thus in serious need of a platoon partner. One intriguing rumor this week had Miami interested in lefty-killer Delmon Young, who is reportedly working out at first base this winter.
Edinson Volquez, RHP, Pirates: $5 million, 1 year
Volquez is not guaranteed a rotation spot in Pittsburgh. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Wandy Rodriguez and the recently-extended Charlie Morton (three-years, $21 million) are all vying for a place on the staff, and the Pirates are still interested in bringing back A.J. Burnett, who has said he’ll either return to the Bucs or retire.
So while no one should be surprised if Volquez ends up in the bullpen, he could also add depth to a rotation that has some question marks, among them: Can Liriano repeat his sensational 2013? Was Locke’s success last season mostly luck given his opponents’ .597 OPS with runners in scoring position? Is Rodriguez’s arm healthy?
Furthermore, Volquez is an affordable up-side play for the team and pitching coach Ray Searage coming off their success with Liriano. After all, Volquez is only 30, throws in the mid-90s and has had solid strikeout rates in the past.
Roberto Hernandez, RHP, Phillies: $4.5 million, 1 year
The former Fausto Carmona has a clearer path to a rotation spot in Philadelphia than Volquez has in Pittsburgh despite their similar contracts and the fact that Hernandez was occasionally bounced from the Rays’ stacked rotation in 2013. Hernandez still has the extreme groundball rates he was known for under his alias, but despite that tendency, he has proven homer-prone in recent seasons. That’s not a good characteristic for a hurler moving from pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field to homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park. That and his 5.19 ERA over 59 starts and 18 relief appearances over the last three seasons inspires little confidence that this move will pay off for the Phillies.
Clint Barmes, SS, Pirates: $2 million, 1 year
Sophomore Jordy Mercer is expected to be the Pirates’ starting shortstop in 2014, but bringing the good-field/no-hit Barmes back as his caddy for one more year won’t hurt, provided manager Clint Hurdle has sufficient patience with Mercer.
Felipe Paulino, RHP, White Sox: $1.75 million, 1 year
Paulino missed all of 2013 following July 2012 Tommy John surgery and had a second surgery in September to clean up the rotator cuff and labrum in his right shoulder. Prior to those surgeries, Paulino threw in the upper 90s with strikeout stuff, but was never able to turn that ability into major league success due to in large part to injury issues. A starter for most of his career, Paulino could thrive in a relief role if healthy, but this is a roll of the dice by the White Sox on a player who seemed destined for a minor league contract this winter.
Cubs acquire CF Justin Ruggiano from the Marlins for OF Brian Bogusevic
This is an oddly compelling trade of journeymen fourth outfielders. Ruggiano is a centerfielder who will be 32 in April and followed a breakout 2012 season (.313/.374/.535 in 320 plate appearances) with a poor 2013 (.222/.298/.396, albeit with 18 home runs). Bogusevic was lousy as the Astros’ primary rightfielder in 2012 but put up solid numbers as a part-timer in 2011 and with the Cubs this past season (.280/.336/.459 in 337 combined PA).
The secret for Bogusevic is keeping him away from lefthanded pitching, against which he has hit .147/.206/.200 in 102 major league plate appearances. Given the Marlins’ crowded outfield, that shouldn’t be a problem, as he’s unlikely to be more than a lefty off the bench for them. By comparison, Ruggiano, a career .296/.378/.490 hitter in the minors, has a chance to win a significant share of the Cubs’ centerfield job, be it as a platoon partner for Ryan Sweeney or in an even larger role.
Nationals acquire LHP Jerry Blevins to from the A’s for OF Billy Burns
As a lefty reliever, Blevins has had inconsistent platoon splits, which over the course of his career have worked out to him being equally effective against both righties and lefties. Thus he’s not really a match-up reliever, both because he can handle righties and because he doesn’t dominate lefties. Having previously acquired lefty Fernando Abad from the Nationals in a minor trade in late November and kept Sean Doolittle out of the closer’s role with the addition of Jim Johnson, the A’s could spare Blevins. Washington, meanwhile, had Xavier Cedeño coming off an awful season as the only lefty in their ‘pen prior to this trade.
Burns is a compelling centerfield prospect who has hit .312/.421/.379 two-plus seasons since being drafted way down in the 32nd round out of Mercer University by the Nationals in 2011. This past season, he echoed that slash line in High A and 138 plate appearances in Double A, stealing 74 bases at a 91 percent success rate along the way. He’s already 24 and has yet to spend a full year above A-ball, which is why Oakland was able to get him for a middle reliever like Blevins, but he certainly bears watching in 2014.
Astros acquire RHP Anthony Bass from the Padres for Rule 5 pick LHP Patrick Schuster
Bass is a fairly generic fifth-starter/middle-reliever type righty. He’s not big, he doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, none of his secondary pitches are worth mentioning and the control that was his calling card in the minors hasn’t carried over to the majors. He’s filler for a Houston bullpen that needed some.
Schuster was taken in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft by the Astros out of the Diamondbacks’ system and shipped over to the Padres. He’s a 23-year-old lefty with solid strikeout numbers but some control issues who has never pitched above High A, a level he repeated in 2013. He posted a sparkling ERA there (1.83) thanks to a lot of luck on balls in play (.248 BABIP). As a Rule 5 pick, San Diego will have to keep him on the 25-man roster or disabled list throughout 2014 in order to keep him beyond that, which would seem extremely unlikely if not for the fact that Schuster is now the only lefty reliever on the team’s 40-man roster.