LAS VEGAS — The action has been a little underwhelming at the winter meetings, though we still saw a few transactions. Here is a recap of all the moves that went down in the desert.
Santana on the move again
Mariners trade Carlos Santana and cash to the Indians. Cleveland trades Edwin Encarnacion & Competitive Balance Round B draft pick to Seattle, and sends infielder Yandy Diaz and minor league pitcher Cole Sulser to the Rays. Tampa Bay sends first baseman Jake Bauers and cash to Seattle.
There is a lot to digest here, but let’s focus on Santana, who rejoins Cleveland, where he played from 2010-17. The first baseman signed a three-year deal with the Phillies last offseason, but was traded to Seattle this Dec. 3. Santana’s time with the Mariners lasted all of 10 days.
We know Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is the most active trader in baseball, but he went to the extreme on Thursday. Getting sent to the hospital would not deter him from making another deal.
Yes. Jerry Dipoto finalized the trade for Encarnacion from his hospital bed with assistant GM Justin Hollander standing there. Hollander has a picture of it.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) December 13, 2018
J.A. back in N.Y.
Yankees agree with J.A. Happ on a two-year deal.
The Yankees brought back Happ, who was 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA after getting acquired at the trade deadline, agreeing with the veteran lefty on a reported two-year, $34 million deal that includes a vesting option for a potential third season. Happ, now 36, was 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 2018 with a career-best 193 strikeouts, and over the last three seasons has a 3.44 ERA (a 126 ERA+) in 88 starts.
Mets bring back a Familia face
Jeurys Familia agrees to three-year deal with Mets.
Another trade deadline acquisition returns to New York, this time with the reliever Familia back to the Mets. Familia saved 123 games for the Mets, who traded him to Oakland in July. Now the right-hander is back presumably in a setup role behind Edwin Diaz, who was acquired in the Robinson Cano trade on Dec. 1. Familia, who had a 3.13 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 72 innings in 2018, got a reported $30 million.
Kelly cashes in in LA
The Dodgers saw up close how good Joe Kelly was in the World Series, when the Red Sox fireballer struck out 10 in six scoreless innings. Los Angeles agreed with the right-hander on a reported three-year, $25 million deal to help fortify what was mostly a shaky bridge to closer Kenley Jansen in 2018. Kelly’s 2018 season showed the volatility of relief pitching, with three different months of an 8+ ERA (June, July, and September) and a 1.63 ERA in the other three months.
Morton heads to Tampa
The Rays might not have a new stadium just yet, but they do have a new starting pitcher, with Morton heading to Tampa on a two-year, $30 million deal per multiple reports. The 35-year-old right-hander resurrected his career in Houston, posting a 3.36 ERA in 55 starts for the Astros with 364 strikeouts in 313⅔ innings. Morton also retired the last 11 batters to close out Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, helping the Astros to their first championship.
Texas likes Lance a lot
Rangers sign Lance Lynn.
Lynn missed 2016 after Tommy John surgery, but in the other six seasons dating back to 2012 the right-hander has made at least 29 starts. He struck out 161 in 156⅔ innings for the Twins and Yankees in 2018, and gets a reported three-year, $30 million deal to add some stability to a Rangers rotation that posted a 5.37 ERA last year. Lynn in 2017 had a 3.43 ERA to go ith his 4.82 FIP, then did the opposite in 2018 with a 4.77 ERA and 3.84 FIP.
In a swap of right-handed pitching Tanners, this looks like Washington clearing salary, with Roark projected to earn $9.8 million through salary arbitration in 2019 per MLB Trade Rumors. Rainey turns 26 on Christmas after making his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2018. He got beat around in eight relief appearances, allowing 19 runs in seven innings.
Detroit adds a shortstop who can play all over the infield, after hitting .251/.315/.381 in 2018 with Pittsburgh. Mercer gets a reported $5.25 million on his one-year deal.
The former Marlins and Phillies first baseman signs with the Angels, joining a crowded situation at first base and designated hitter. Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch in 2019 after Tommy John surgery, but he will hit, and his only position is DH. That leaves first base for 39-year-old Albert Pujols, so it’s understandable the Angels would seek some depth here, for a reported $2.5 million.
Cutch returns to Pennsylvania
The Phillies have made no secret about their desire to make a big splash this offseason, and likely multiple splashes. They have been linked to both behemoth free agents on the market — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — and it remains to be seen whether this signing of an outfielder takes Philadelphia out of the Harper sweepstakes. One scribe says it doesn’t:
Signing McCutchen doesn't mean #Phillies are done in the outfield. He's not a center fielder anymore, so the move doesn't necessarily impact Herrera. Could deal Nick Williams, or platoon Williams/McCutchen in LF and sign Harper to play RF. Lots of possibilities remain.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) December 11, 2018
McCutchen is still a productive hitter, bouncing back with a pair of solid seasons after seemingly cratering in 2016. In 2018 the outfielder hit .255/.368/.424, a 118 OPS+, with 30 doubles and 20 home runs with the Giants and Yankees. The 32-year-old has been one of the most durable players in baseball, playing in 146 or more games for nine consecutive years while averaging 155 games per season in that time.
McCutchen gets a reported $50 million, which seems fair for both sides in this deal. It’s a nice payday for McCutchen, who was playing on his below-market contract signed before 2012 back when he was a young outfielder with fewer than three years of service time. McCutchen made $14.5 million last year.
The best part of this move is that McCutchen, free of the Yankees’ archaic grooming policy, can grow back his goatee again.
Toronto eats a ton of money
From a baseball standpoint this wasn’t terribly surprising, since the oft-injured Tulowitzki hasn’t played in a major league game since July 28, 2017. The shortstop averaged just 98 games per season from 2012-17, and ligament damage in his right ankle forced him to miss the final two months of 2017. He required ankle surgery in 2018, which kept him out the entire season.
What is noteworthy here is that Tulowitzki is still due $38 million, per Cot’s Contracts, including $20 million in 2019, $14 million in 2020, and a $4 million buyout of his 2021 club option. It’s not often you see a team willing to bite the bullet on that kind of money, even as it becomes more and more evident it’s a sunk cost.
“Through many conversations with Troy and his representative Paul Cohen, and with consideration to what is in the best interest of both sides, we made the decision to release Troy today.” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said in a statement.
Nova joins the South Side
Over the last three seasons, Nova’s ERA has basically been a metronome: 4.17, 4.14, 4.19. While not spectacular, over those three seasons the right-hander has been essentially league average with a 99 ERA+. A control pitcher to the extreme, Nova has a 3.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2016-18, and his 4.6% walk rate in that time ranks fourth in baseball. White Sox starters issued the most walks in MLB in 2018.
Nova gives the White Sox a measure of stability in their rotation, having averaged 29 starts in the previous three seasons. He’s one of 27 pitchers in baseball — fewer than one per team, on average — to make 25 or more starts in each of the last three seasons.
Nova, 32, will complement a young Chicago rotation that features 26-year-old Carlos Rodon, 25-year-old Reynaldo Lopez, and 24-year-old Lucas Giolito. The bottom line is that the White Sox need all the pitching help they can get, after a 5.07 ERA from the starters that ranked fifth-worst in baseball. Nova gives them that help, with one year and $8.5 million remaining on his deal.
Texas and St. Louis exchanged players entering their age-27 seasons, trying to find a better fit on a new team. Wisdom is a third baseman who plays some first base too, who put up an .817 OPS and .843 OPS in the previous two years at Triple-A. In his first stint in the majors with the Cardinals this summer he hit .260/.362/.520 with four home runs in 58 plate appearances. With Paul Goldschmidt now manning first base for the Cardinals and Matt Carpenter likely moving to third base, Wisdom fell further down the depth chart.
Robinson hit .204/.301/.366 in 95 games in parts of the last two seasons in the majors with Texas, while playing shortstop, second base, third base, center field and left field. He had a .940 OPS in Triple-A in 2018 after an .863 OPS across Triple-A and Double-A combined in 2017.
Paging Mr. Herrmann
A’s sign catcher Chris Herrmann to a one-year contract
Oakland inked veteran free agent catcher Chris Hermann, adding the 31-year-old left-handed bat into the catching mix. Herrmann hit .237/.322/.421 with two home runs in 36 games for the Mariners in 2018. In seven major league seasons with the Twins, Diamondbacks and Mariners, Herrmann has hit .205/.282/.351 with 24 home runs in 898 plate appearances. Herrmann gets a reported $1 million plus incentives, per Jon Heyman.
Eovaldi cashes in
Red Sox finalize four-year deal with Nathan Eovaldi.
This move technically happened before teams got to Las Vegas, but all parties convened on Monday to give us another reason to use the “winter meetings” backdrop and dais at Mandalay Bay, after finalizing his $68 million contract. Eovaldi overcame two Tommy John surgeries and a nearly two-year absence in 2018, posting a 3.81 ERA in 111 innings with the Rays and Red Sox. But he earned legendary status in the postseason, in both starting and relief, posting a 1.61 ERA in 22 innings, including an epic six innings of relief in the marathon Game 3 of the World Series before allowing a walk-off home run in the 18th inning.