MLB Spring Training And Trades
by Emily Carson
Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com
Flowers are blooming, snow is melting (in places that aren’t Boston, presumably) and the sweet sound of baseballs being hit is filling the southern air. This can only mean one thing: it is time to analyze what some notable teams have done in the offseason, how it has paid off during Spring Training and how the rest of the year might look.
The Boston Red Sox have made several key moves during the offseason and have focused on revamping their pitching staff. The Red Sox traded several players, including Major League Baseball’s (MLB) number two prospect Yoan Moncada and number four prospect Michael Kopech, for Chris Sale, the Chicago White Sox lefty starting pitcher. Sale is dominant behind the plate, with an earned runs average of 3.46 and a 17-10 record in the 2016 season. The Red Sox acquisition of Sale, for two of their top prospects no less, shows just how serious they are. Sale has posted pretty good numbers during Spring Training: 10 innings pitched, with 10 strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA. After the Red Sox traded so many of their other pitchers, including Koji Uehara and Clay Buchholz, and with David Price recovering from a strained elbow, Sale’s numbers are needed in the regular season.
The New York Yankees have had a productive offseason, notably signing big hitters and free agents Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chris Carter of the Milwaukee Brewers. Holliday hit 20 homeruns with an average of .246, while Carter hit 41 homeruns during the 2016 season, with a batting average of .222. Holliday has posted impressive numbers during Spring Training, with a .323 average, though Carter is only at .129. To top it off, the Yankees have a burgeoning youth movement, with notable prospects Jorge Mateo, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, James Kaprielian and Greg Bird. The Yankees are likely going to bring these kids up during the season. Most importantly, the Yankees lead Spring Training in games won. All in all, it is a promising year ahead for the Yankees.
The Toronto Blue Jays have made some interesting offseason moves, starting with the loss of pitcher R.A. Dickey and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Dickey had the third most wins on the team in 2016, combined with an earned run average (ERA) of 4.46 in 30 games. Encarnacion was the real surprise; he hit 42 homeruns in 2016 and, while his ERA of .263 isn’t impressive, he was a leader on the team. He turned down the Blue Jays’ $17.2 million qualifying offer and signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. His teammate, right fielder José Bautista, originally declined the offer, but eventually signed a one-year, $18 million contract. The problem is that the Blue Jays are putting their money towards players who are in their mid-thirties. The Blue Jays are the fifth-oldest team in terms of players and they haven’t changed that much this offseason.
The Seattle Mariners are desperately reworking their team and the results are already promising. They are second in the American League Spring Training standing and third overall. In 2016, the Mariners finished 10 games above .500, barely a winning record. In response, the Mariners cleaned up the infield, outfield and bullpen, bringing in some new talent like shortstop Jean Segura, who hit .319 for the Arizona Diamondbacks with an On-base Plus Slugging (OPS) percentage of .867 for 2016. Lefty pitcher Drew Smyly, from the Tampa Bay Rays, is a key addition to the bullpen, with a career average of 3.74. The Mariners are trying to hit their stride. This mix of seasoned players and new blood might not give them a playoff appearance, but they won’t be barely finishing in the middle of the pack.
The Los Angeles Dodgers managed to keep some of their key free agents, especially pitchers Kenley Jansen and Rich Hill. Chase Utley, who was acquired midseason from the Phillies in 2015, also re-signed. In another smart move, the Dodgers acquired Logan Forsythe from the Rays, giving them more coverage at second base and better options against lefty pitchers. Forsythe’s 2016 batting average versus lefties is a solid .270, on a team with an inability to hit against those pitchers. This also means competition at second base between Utley and Forsythe. Since the Dodgers are likely going to want to use Forsythe on a day-to-day basis, it will be interesting to watch Utley’s role on the team. However, with the trades of Josh Reddick and Howie Kendrick, the outfield for the Dodgers is fairly rocky. They still have Yasiel Puig, but will likely look to fill the spots with some younger players too.