Chris Davis re-signs with the Orioles

Chris Davis has re-signed with the Baltimore Orioles for seven years. He will receive an average annual salary of $23 million and will receive a total of $161 million in the deal. Davis will become the Orioles every day 1B while also seeing some time in the DH role with Mark Trumbo. The re-signing of Davis will stabilize the Orioles lineup, and fills a hole that would’ve otherwise been filled by unproven rookie Christian Walker.

Davis is an all-star, power hitting first baseman who can also play third and the corner outfields. Despite not being a stud on defense, he can hold his own at first and offers versatility. Davis is a strong hitter who is very dangerous on both the inside and outside half of the plate, as he has shown great opposite field power. There has although been issues with Davis’ discipline as he strikes out an enormous amount of times and even led the league in strikeouts in 2015.

Chris Davis was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 amateur player draft by the Texas Rangers. Davis entered the league with a bang in 2008 at 22 years old, when he hit 17 homers in a mere 80 games with the Rangers. Unfortunately for Davis, his play faded, and became solely a depth option playing in and out of the minors. On July 30th of 2011, the Rangers officially gave up on him deciding to package him to the Baltimore Orioles for finesse closer Koji Uehara. This trade was a big mistake for the Rangers.

Davis, who turns 30 in March, has been a homerun machine since joining the Orioles in 2011. Since 2012, he has hit 159 homeruns, which is an average of 40 every year. He had a career season in 2013 in which he hit a career high 53 dingers, which was good enough for best in the league, and batted .289. Yet in 2014, Davis’ play was not nearly as good, hitting only 26 home runs and batting below .200 (.196), and was even a non-tender candidate going into the 2015 season. In the end the Orioles decided to tender him, and did not regret it as he bounced back in 2015, and regained the homerun title hitting 47 of them.

Davis has shown amazing raw power with his bat, but has also shown signs inconsistency throughout his career. This seven-year mega contract is definitely a risky play for the Orioles, who hope to compete in a competitive AL East in 2016. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ll be keeping my eye on Davis for the next couple years. Will he be the power house he has shown he can be in 2013 and 2015? Or will he be the below average first baseman we saw in 2014?

The Dodgers sign Yasiel Sierra to a six-year deal

The Los Angeles Dodgers have made an investment in a young Cuban pitcher by the name of Yaisel Sierra. Sierra will earn a six-year contract with the Dodgers heading into the 2016 season.

Sierra, whose birthday is not officially known to Baseball Reference, is recognized as 24 or just having turned 25. He is known to be a hard throwing righty with an average slider. In a showcase in October, his fastball was around the mid-90s consistently and topped off at 96 mph, his slider was around 87 mph. He also throws a changeup. Sierra relies heavily on that high heat fastball, which could lead to struggles as he lacks any kind of strong secondary pitch. He also seriously lacks control, and at times, really has trouble finding the plate with his heater.  As seen here:

Many compare him to now big league starter and Cuban stud Raisel Iglesias, who is currently a key component to a horrifyingly bad Cincinnati Reds rotation (no offense “media man” Matthew Ellis).

Before Sierra escaped and defected from his nation of Cuba he played in parts of five seasons in the Cuban National Series. In this league he pitched to a career 4.23 ERA as both a reliever and a starter, having his best season in 2012 at age 21, in which he pitched a 2.20 ERA as mostly a reliever. Sierra’s final year in the Cuban league in 2014 was definitely a struggle, with a 6.10 ERA,  although these numbers apparently did not scare away the Dodgers. Numbers that poor in a foreign league, in my personal opinion is something to definitely at least consider when handing out such a long contract, but the Dodgers being the never ending pit of money definitely minimizes the risks.

Sierra has a fluid and clean motion when he throws the ball. He has also been notorious to pitch from more than one arm-slot, meaning the ball comes in at different angles and trajectories, making it much harder for batters to read let alone react to the pitch. It is projected that Sierra’s ceiling is a back end of the rotation starter, some believe that he’s purely a reliever.
Sierra’s role for the 2016 Dodgers is really unclear. He likely won’t make the Dodgers 25-man roster going into 2016, and likely won’t start for the team, as the Dodgers have a surplus of starting pitchers. He could prove to be an important addition of relief depth as the 2016 season rolls along.

Low Risk High Reward Contract Handed out to Jackson

Yesterday, the Miami Marlins signed former all-star pitcher Edwin Jackson for a one-year contract at about half a million dollars. Miami was looking for some low risk pitching depth for their thin pitching staff, and Jacksons’ versatility and experience could help the lackluster Marlins. Jackson comes at batters with a 93-mph fastball and an 87-mph slider, his two most effective pitches. He also mixes in a curveball, changeup, and two-seamer every once in a while. In 2015, his most effective pitch was his slider (.191 AVG.), and was also very strong against lefties (.169 AVG.).

Edwin Jackson, 32 years old, will play in his 14th season in the MLB in 2016. After being drafted in the sixth round of the amateur draft in 2001, Edwin played his first game in the majors at a stupendously young age of 19, in 2003. He fully broke out into the league in 2007 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in which he recorded 161 innings pitched. In 2009, Edwin Jackson had a career year and made his first and only all-star appearance with the Tigers. Since 2009, Jackson was a consistent middle of the rotation asset, (and even won a world series in 2011 with the Cardinals) just until he signed with the Cubs prior to the 2012 season. In this contract he received an average $12 million annual salary for three years, before being dismissed of that contract before the end 2015 season. During his stint with the Cubs, he had horrible numbers, and in 2014 he owned a 6.33 ERA, which was the poorest season of his career. He also lost his job as a starter; although in 2015, Jackson put up great numbers as a reliever, pitching to a 3.07 ERA where he split his time with the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves.

The Marlins rotation consists of locks Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, and Tom Koehler, although the fourth and fifth spot of the rotation is very much up for grabs. Going into 2015, we are looking at a huge positional battle between Jackson, Phelps, Hand, Conley, Nicolino, Flores, and Urena for those final two spots in the rotation. If Jackson loses this battle for a role as a starter he’ll be a lock for the bullpen. He will also be payed a very small amount so there is very little risk in this deal. Jackson will be a great addition to a team lacking pitching depth, and veteran presence in their pitching staff.

Desperate Cardinals Sign Mike Leake

Earlier today, starting pitcher Mike Leake signed a five-year $80 million contract, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He will now join a highly effective rotation in St. Louis that also includes Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia, and Michael Wacha. John Lackey created a hole after he signed with the Chicago Cubs; and balanced outfielder Jason Heyward, former Cardinal, followed in his footsteps when he signed with the division rival. The original plan to fill that hole was to sign Cy Young winner David Price, but they failed to do so after he signed a monster contract with the Red Sox.

Leake, who recently turned 28, is known to be a ground ball pitcher with a highly effective sinker. He doesn’t throw very hard, as his fastball hit an average velocity of 90.8 mph in 2015, but this doesn’t hurt him much as he mixes in 6 different pitches to the batters he faces. The most effective of the bunch, the sinker, is the key to his success and caused a 55% ground ball percentage in 2015. He also throws a pair of effective breaking balls in his slider and knuckle-curveball, which batters hit .151 and .176 respectively. He also throws a fastball, a cutter, and a change-up.

Leake’s numbers have been consistent since joining the league full time in 2010. Last year, he split his time in Cincinnati and San Francisco, where he pitched 3.70 ERA ball, and his FIP was right around his career average, at 4.20. Mike Leake does not strike out many batters, and relies on strong defence, which contributes to his higher FIP.

Some believe that Mike Leake is an odd choice. The Cardinals had weake infield defense in 2015, and Leake relies heavily on that factor. Also, a $16 million average annual salary seems like a hefty price for a middle rotation piece. Leake is no David Price, but he should be a solid consistent contributor to an outstanding Cardinals rotation.

Shelby Miller moves to Arizona in blockbuster deal with the Braves

Shelby Miller was traded with relief pitching prospect Gabe Speier to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Ender Inciarte and prospects Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair. This deal is the second time this week the D-Backs have acquired a starting pitcher, the first being ace Zach Greinke who had the lowest ERA in the MLB last year.
Shelby Miller is now added to a vastly improved rotation, as was mentioned earlier, Zach Greinke will stabilize the front of the rotation which was before last week was lacking significant “oomph”. Last year’s opening day starter for the D-Backs was Josh Collmenter, who ended landing in the bullpen, as only started 12 of his 44 appearances. Shelby Miller, who just turned 25, has had a great career thus far, in his first three years in the big leagues he has 95 starts with a career 3.22 ERA. Last year, he reached 200 innings and pitched 3.02 ERA ball. Since being traded alongside Tyrell Jenkins to the Braves for Jason Heyward, Miller has developed into a great middle of the rotation starter, if not better. Miller will be a great addition to D-Backs rotation that now consists of 1.Zach Greinke 2.Shelby Miller 3.Patrick Corbin 4 and 5.Ray/DeLaRosa/Bradley/Anderson/Collmenter. After this week’s acquisitions the D-Backs now have a decent chance of perhaps winning the NL West title.
The D-Backs have also acquired Gabe Speier, a 20 year old who pitched very well in A ball in a relief role in 2015, and could one day be an addition to the Diamondbacks bullpen.
The deal for the Braves is yet another trade showing their will to entirely rebuild their farm system. Both Blair and Swanson are former first round draft choices, Swanson being taken first overall in the draft last June. Neither has reached the big leagues to date, but both are highly touted prospects, and both are believed to be possible contributors in 2015. Swanson now joins Ozzie Albies on the Braves, as two of the best shortstop prospects in baseball. Blair will join other young starting pitching prospects Wisler, Banuelos, Perez, Foltynewicz, Jenkins, Ellis, Newcomb, Sims, Fried, Toussaint, and Allard, when he joins the Braves in the coming season. Braves have now gathered what is likely to be considered the best bank of pitching prospects in baseball. They also acquired 25 year old outfielder Ender Inciarte, who is known for his contact bat, and incredible speed and defense. In two seasons he’s hit a career .292 and has 40 stolen bases during his two years at the Major League level.
This deal will probably be a trade that you might want to re-evaluate years from now, as the deal has many young players moving. Parting ways with the first overall choice of the 2015 amateur draft and will likely be the best player in this deal, and he may make the Braves the long term winners of the deal.

Tigers sign Pelfrey to a two-year, $16 million deal

The Detroit Tigers made their second acquisition of a starting pitcher (Jordan Zimmermann being the first), when they acquired Mike Pelfrey for the next two years. The deal is worth $16 million, with an average annual salary of $8 million. Since joining the Twins in the 2013 season. Mike Pelfrey has struggled greatly, and many experts believe the $16 million deal, to be overkill for a back of the rotation starter, on his best days. Many Tigers fans have been left questioning the competence of new GM Al Avila, but despite overpaying to do so, he has created something of which was formerly nothing.
Mike Pelfrey, who will be 32 in January, is known to be a groundball machine with his extraordinary sinker. Pelfrey was drafted in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft by the New York Mets, and played in the major leagues in his first year of professional baseball at the age of 22. After being an effective innings eater at the back of the Mets rotation from 2008-2011, Pelfrey went down in the early 2012 season, needing Tommy John surgery. He then signed with the Minnesota Twins in the 2013 season, and has since struggled to return to form. He has also dealt with an elbow injury, and continuous shoulder issues.
The 2015 season was somewhat of a rebound year for the often injured Pelfrey, when his 2014 season ended abruptly with nerve irritation in his elbow. When his role on the 2015 Twins roster seemed to be destined for the bullpen, Pelfrey’s luck turned when fellow Twins starter Ervin Santana was suspended 80 games for PED use. Pelfrey took advantage and started off the season fabulously with 2.25 ERA in March and April, and his fastball reached its highest velocity since getting Tommy John surgery in 2012. Unfortunately these numbers did not persist, and he finished the season with a mediocre 4.26 ERA, and a 1.476 WHIP, although he did own the lowest HR/9 rate in the entire American League in 2015. The pitcher friendly ballpark at Target field, Pelfrey’s home in 2015, contributed to a lot of his success. Outside of Target field, Pelfrey had an atrocious 5.93 ERA where batters hit .349 against him, which is a huge area of concern. The risk in this two year deal is clearer than Dan Jennings’ incompetence.
Al Avila was hired midway through the 2015 season, after former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had recently traded the team’s ace, David Price. Al Avila’s starting rotation was left in shambles after the Cy Young winner was dumped, and many of its places were filled with inexperienced rookie arms. Despite greatly overpaying to fill the holes of the broken rotation, Avila has now re-established it, and it’s now reliable and competent. The Tigers rotation for 2016, if opening day was today, would look like this: 1.Justin Verlander 2.Jordan Zimmermann 3.Anibal Sanchez 4.Daniel Norris 5.Mike Pelfrey.
Despite the risks at the back end with Pelfrey and the highly touted left handed rookie, Daniel Norris, the Tigers now have enough depth in the starting pitching department to patch the holes if necessary. The Tigers will look to compete for the 2016 AL Central title, and Pelfrey’s acquisition could be that one extra, risky step that can be the clincher in succeeding when April comes around.

Nori Aoki signs in Seattle

On Wednesday morning the Seattle Mariners added a solid corner outfield option to their mix, when they signed Nori Aoki for 1 year with a team option for 2017; it’s worth $4 million. Aoki, 34 in January, will be joined in the outfield by veteran hitting corner outfielder Seth Smith, and by defensively gifted center fielders Leonys Martin, and Franklin Gutierrez.

Aoki signed with the Milwaukee Brewers out of Japan in 2012 at the age of 30; he had a great rookie campaign. He hit 10 homeruns, batted a solid .288 and came fifth in the rookie of the year voting. Since then, his batting average has changed a maximum of only .002, as he has consistently hit around the .288 mark he reached during his rookie campaign.

Aoki proves to be a cheap and low risk option to solve the missing bat in the Mariners outfield. The Mariners were rumored to have been inquiring on Marlins controversial center fielder Marcell Ozuna, despite the “Boras bitch” from Miami’s lack of consistency and general horrible attitude, the outfielder would have come at a steep price. The Marlins asking price for Ozuna was Taijuan Walker, one of the most highly touted young pitchers in baseball. Ozuna now becomes a much less likely candidate to be traded to Seattle.

Aoki, despite his consistent bat, does not come without his faults. Many believe the outfielder to be a weak baserunner and fielder despite his above average speed. This and his lack of power are the main contributors to why Aoki once again finds himself with a one-year contract.

Twins sign Park, a potential future slugger

Late yesterday afternoon David Price, one of the world’s best pitchers signed the largest contract by a starting pitcher in MLB history. A whopping $217 million contract, for 7 years that guarantees Price to be wearing a Red Sox jersey for the foreseeable future. December 1st 2015 will be remembered as the day the Red Sox got their ace, but the Red Sox weren’t the only ones to get a potential All-Star yesterday.​Overshadowed by the David Price signing, Byung-ho Park signed a 4 year $12 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. Park, who will be 30 in July, will likely see time as the Twins’ designated hitter and first baseman, sharing those two duties with Joe Mauer. Park broke out in the Korean League at 25 years old in when he batted .290 and hit 31 home runs. Since then, Park has averaged 47 homers per season and has hit an out of this world .322. In 2015, Park did especially well with 53 home runs while batting .343. Park could be a big addition to an already very powerful lineup in Minneapolis, which already includes the likes of Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano.

​Many compare Parks’ hitting ability to his close friend, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop, Jung-Ho Kang. Kang, 29 in April, was in a similar scenario last year when he signed a deal with the Pirates and had to make the same transition from the Korean league that Park will make in 2016. If you compare both of their stat lines in their final seasons in the Korean league they both have a similar batting averages, but Park had 13 more home runs than Kang. These statistics could possibly predict what is too come from Park. In Kang’s rookie year he batted a very good .287 and hit 15 home runs and played only 126 games. This was good enough for 4.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) which according to the Baseball Reference scale is nearly an All-Star performance. He came in 3rd for the Rookie of the Year in the National League behind two exceptional players in Kris Bryant and Matt Duffy.

​It’s hard to expect numbers as good as Kang’s despite the fact that Park was a better hitter in Korea, but it’s also hard to rule them out. Park has more power in his bat then Kang, and has the potential to be much more of a power threat than Kang at the Major League level. If Byung-Ho Park’s game transitions well to the MLB, than the Twins can have another slugger in their already potent lineup.

Tigers add Zimmermann; an underrated signing

Early yesterday morning Jordan Zimmermann signed a five year $110 million deal, with the Detroit Tigers. A strong starting pitcher was an evident need for the Tigers going into the 2016 season as their rotation was not very good at the end of last season.
After the Tigers traded their ace David Price, the Tigers rotation was a complete and utter mess at the back end, which included 3 rookie arms in Buck Farmer, Matt Boyd, and Daniel Norris. In AAA, Farmer showed hardly any promise and notched an ERA of 4.15, he was later called up by the Tigers who were desperately searching for rotation help, and Farmer clearly wasnt ready as he put up a horrid 7.36 ERA . The duo of Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris who came in from Toronto in the Price trade are both highly touted prospects that have succeeded in the minor leagues, but have yet to find that same success in their young career at the major league level. Jordan Zimmermann will stabilize this rotation to a certain extent.
This ball club has many questions and needs going into 2016 under new GM Al Avila. The team has already answered one of these when they acquired Closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez. If the Tigers make a couple more acquisitions in the pitching department, specifically a back of the rotation starter and another late inning stud, they can potentially retake the AL Central throne.
Zimmermann, who will be 30 in May, has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball since he broke out in 2011 when he was 25 years old. He has a career ERA of 3.32 and has pitched over 800 innings over the last 4 seasons. Last year, two aces picked up in free agency were Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. These deals were worth $210 million for 7 years and $155 million for 6 years respectively. If you compare the last 3 seasons before Lester, Scherzer and Zimmermann reached free agency, Zimmermann doesn’t fall short of the other two statistically at all. Zimmermann had the best K/BB rate, and the lowest ERA, and WHIP of the 3 of them. The only question is why Zimmermann got a significantly weaker contract than the two.
The answer to this is that Zimmermann struggled (for his standards at least) in the 2015 season, his contract year. He still was able to pitch 3.66 ERA baseball with 201.2 innings pitched and a solid 13 wins despite a train wreck Nationals squad backing him. One thing that could have contributed to his struggles is the change in velocity in his fastball. Zimmerman had consistently thrown his fastball at around 93mph, but at times could rear back and reach 97mph. In the 2015 season this changed, in 2014 he was able to throw a total of 928 pitches above 95mph, but in 2015 he only threw 296. This made his fastball more hittable as hitters no longer had to worry as much about a heater coming in at 97mph, which allowed them to keep their hands back a little longer, and to see it for that split second more, this also affected the effectiveness of his main secondary pitch. His slider was lights out in 2014, but unfortunately this did not stand true in 2015. This is likely due to the lack of difference between the velocities between his fastball and slider. Since Zimmermann hardly threw his fastball over 95mph, it became easier for hitters to adjust to a slower pitch, because the difference in velocity was smaller. The 2015 season was not all bad for Zimmermann.
Despite his decrease in his maximum velocity from his fastball, he was able to increase the minimum velocity of the pitch. In past years he would throw his fastball at 87-88mph at times, but in 2015 he did not throw a fastball below 90mph. His curveball also became much more effective as batters hit a mere .188 against it. The only remaining question is if this decrease in performance will be a continuing downward trend, or merely a blip in the radar.