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Grading the 2017 Winter Meetings

There weren’t a lot of trades and free agent signings, but we’ll grade what we have.


T-shirt idea, free of charge: “Marcell Ozuna was traded at the Winter Meetings, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and four days of crippling, depressing boredom that almost made me watch classic hockey games on YouTube.” Sell that sucker for $29 and have yourself a happy holiday season.

No, these weren’t the most active Winter Meetings. No, I’m not including the Giancarlo Stanton trade in the final accounting. No, I’m not expecting you to be interested in these Winter Meetings grades, considering that these were the most boring meetings since they were invented by Armand J. Winter 87 years ago. But I have a box to check off. Help me check this box off.

Man, this was a boring Winter Meetings. Straight D-. There’s the only grade you need. But on to the grades you don’t need!

St. Louis Cardinals - A

Acquired Marcell Ozuna, traded Stephen Piscotty, signed Luke Gregerson

The Ozuna trade was a splendid centerpiece, and at the risk of being “that guy,” it’s fair to ask if he was an even better fit than Giancarlo Stanton. Financially, it’s not a question, and now the Cardinals can do all sorts of things with the money they didn’t spend, like acquire Manny Machado, which they’ll do any second now.

It’s the Piscotty trade that gets me, though. Not because the Cardinals were looking for a way to get him closer to his ailing mother, and this trade was a classy way of doing that. That might be true, but did you see the prospects the Cardinals got back? Yairo Munoz is a versatile infielder/outfielder who hit .316/.348/.532 in Double-A, and I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to make him a contributor, but I’m more focused on Max Schrock, a 5’11 left-handed infielder who hit .321 in Double-A, with nearly as many walks as strikeouts.

Tell me that the Cardinals aren’t going to weaponize this guy. Tell me with a straight face. He’s going to annoy Cubs fans for a decade. And if you think I’m off base when it comes to my Cardinals predictions, behold:

Jose Martinez is going to hit .300 with 15 homers for the Cardinals this year

That was in March. Martinez hit .309 with 14 homers. Don’t fear me. Fear the Cardinals. Because Max Schrock is going to fill in for someone who gets hurt and hit .294 with 20 doubles, and you’ll be focused on Marcell Ozuna like a noob.

Miami Marlins - F

Acquired whatever

The Marlins are Toys R Us, and their new owners are depleting their tangible assets to pay back their own debts. Trash.

Los Angeles Angels - B+

Acquired Ian Kinsler

When a soon-to-be 36-year-old second baseman loses 100 points off his OPS, that production doesn’t have to come back with a little rest and a fresh start. There’s at least a fair chance that Kinsler will get sucked into the same quicksand that Brandon Phillips did with the Angels.

On the other hand, all they had to give up was two prospects who weren’t even in the top 20 of a widely panned system. There isn’t a lot of risk with this one, but there’s a whole lot of reward. The bigger risk was punting on second base, which is what the Angels have done since Howie Kendrick left. This is much better.

Plus, it allows me to reuse this GIF of Kinsler’s slide.


Seattle Mariners - C

Signed Juan Nicasio, did a bunch of random Dipoto trades to get international slot money, unless they were moves to trade away international slot money, look, I don’t even know anymore

Nicasio is a solid reliever, even if two years, $17 million is definitely on the higher side for him. At the very least, it’s worth remembering that the Pirates put him on waivers in August, even though he was having the kind of season that would earn him $17 million, and they just let him go when the Phillies claimed him. Then the Phillies immediately traded him for a prospect. It still makes me laugh.

There were a bunch of moves mixed in that I don’t really understand because Dipoto is the GM equivalent of the Winchester Mystery House, and if he stops making transactions, he will be attacked by vengeful spirits.

Houston Astros - B+

Signed Joe Smith

Yeah, he’s pretty good.

Oakland A’s - B

Acquired Stephen Piscotty

Piscotty is a former first-round pick who struggled for the first time in the majors. He’s locked up for the next five seasons at reasonable rates — six, if he becomes a major contributor. If he repeats his disappointing season, he becomes something like a latter-day Jose Tabata, someone whose salary doesn’t ruin the payroll, but sure doesn’t help. If he repeats the season he had in 2016, he becomes a bargain.

I’d gamble money on the 2016 scenario, too. The A’s gave up some interesting prospects, but there’s a lot of upside to Piscotty.

Washington Nationals - B+

Re-signed Brandon Kintzler

The new Brad Ziegler. Heck, you can almost rearrange Kintzler’s name to be Brad Ziegler. You have to take the “K” and move this piece here and that piece there to get a “Z,” but it’s all possible.

Solid reliever. Someone you wouldn’t want on the mound to protect a one-run lead in Game 7, but a solid reliever.

Minnesota Twins - A-

Signed Fernando Rodney, Michael Pineda

Rodney is 58 years old and still effective, but the A- has more to do with the Pineda signing, which I absolutely love. The Twins won’t see many benefits this year, but they’ll have one fewer box to check off next offseason when it comes to building their rotation. This is almost like a football team trading a second-round pick for a first-round pick the following draft. It’s not exciting, and then that later draft comes around, and it’s like, “OH, RIGHT, this is awesome.”

Assuming the money going to Pineda doesn’t hurt the Twins’ chances of signing Yu Darvish, this is a very prudent, forward-thinking move.

Chicago Cubs - A

Signed Steve Cishek, Drew Smyly, Brandon Morrow

Smyly is like the Pineda deal for the Twins, except there’s a chance for him to help the Cubs in 2018. It seems weird to consider a Tommy John pitcher a “fresh arm” heading into the postseason, but the description will probably fit here. My guess is that Smyly will move into that Mike Montgomery role, except he’ll be a little better equipped for it because of his strikeout stuff.

But the A is for Cishek and Morrow, who are relievers they might be able to trust. Was there anything sadder than Carl Edwards, Jr. being called upon constantly in the postseason and looking like a college kid telling himself “I can do this I can do this I can do this” before explicitly not doing whatever this was? It wasn’t his fault. It was only partially Joe Maddon’s fault. They needed more arms.

Here are two more arms. This is a start.

San Diego Padres - C

Acquired Chase Headley, Bryan Mitchell

I love the idea. The Padres’ payroll is currently around $65,000, depending on if you count holiday bonuses or not, and there really isn’t a way under the new CBA to use their extra cash on international prospects or to convince late-round picks to give up college. Taking on an unwanted salary is the new paying a 35th-rounder millions to ditch his LSU commitment, and I applaud their creativity.

That written, I’m not convinced that Mitchell is the best use of that $13 million? He’s on the older side, and there’s a reason the Yankees were probably willing to lose him off waivers this spring. You’re right to trust the Padres’ scouts more than me, but I’m skeptical.

New York Yankees - INC

Got rid of Chase Headley’s salary

This is probably an A, but we still need to see what they do. If they use the money to get Miguel Gonzalez and six utility infielders, this wasn’t a masterstroke of genius.

They’re probably going to use it on Alex Cobb or something, which will help them, and also, WHAT IN THE HELL, THEY HAVE GIANCARLO STANTON NOW, WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN, cripes. If you include Stanton, this is an A because they have a generational superstar at $100 million less than Manny Machado or Bryce Harper are going to get. (From the Yankees, probably. Nothing matters anymore.)

Philadelphia Phillies - B+

Signed Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter

The Phillies have the same strategy I would have if I were running a rebuilding team: Spend money on relievers, and deal them for prospects if they’re having great seasons. They did this just a few months ago with Neshek, and apparently it was so fun that he’s willing to do it again? Interesting! But also prudent.

I would like to point out that the Phillies got J.D. Hammer back in the Neshek trade in July, and that is an excellent pitcher name.

Now pitching, number 14 ... J. D. HAMMER

HELL YES, and “Welcome to the Jungle” starts playing as J.D. HAMMER jogs in from the bullpen to humiliate the other team with a steady diet of fastballs and curveballs, which he calls J.D. HAMMERS, and the crowd eats it up, whooping and cheering every strikeout. You don’t have to watch the game to know that J.D. HAMMER is in the game; you’ll be able to hear it. No, you’ll be able to feel it through the vibrations from the ground.

Anyway, here’s what J.D. Hammer looks like:

He seems like a nice kid, but he sure doesn’t look like a J.D. HAMMER needs to look. That’s a Doug Harkey if I’ve ever seen one, and he needs to work on that. First, get a handlebar mustache. Rent one if you have to. Second ... look, we have a lot of work to do. Cancel my appointments for the afternoon.

New York Mets - B+

Signed Anthony Swarzak

Yeah, just giving all the solid relievers a B+, here. It’s better for a team to develop their own Anthony Swarzak, but it’s not like the Mets gave him a six-year deal. He was excellent last year, and if they don’t contend, they can turn this money into deadline prospects, just like the Phillies.

Colorado Rockies - B-

Re-signed Jake McGee, signed Bryan Shaw

They’re close to re-signing Greg Holland, too, I believe. On the one hand, I’m fascinated with what the Rockies are trying to do. Building a Colorado pitching staff with expensive relievers is very build-the-airplane-out-of-the-little-black-box, and I’m more than curious to see just how much they can shorten the game.

On the other hand, I know that expensive relievers will break your heart, so while it’s fine if you’re the Mets signing one of them or even the Cubs signing two of them, I really think these signings (and Holland, probably) are going to constitute the Rockies’ entire offseason. I can’t get behind that idea.

If they make more moves, I reserve the right to come back here in a month and edit the grade without telling anyone.

Texas Rangers - INC

Signed Chris Martin

The stats from Japan sure are pretty, and it’s not like the Rangers haven’t had success going with a repatriated pitcher before. I can’t give it an A because I have no idea what Martin is, really, other than a very tall pitcher, but it’s an A in my heart.

I would make Coldplay puns, except I’ve managed to avoid Coldplay very successfully for the last 17 years, and I don’t really know any of their songs other than “Clocks” and that one that got them sued by Joe Satriani. I’m not bragging; I’m just bragging.