The 2015 Winter Meetings ended for Major League Baseball about a week ago. I wanted to give fantasy baseball owners a quick snapshot of what happened at the meetings, while dwelling on a few of the transactions which have the greatest fantasy implications.
Major blockbuster deals were few and far-between, but a number of interesting offseason deals happened. Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto have new teams. The long speculation on whether the Braves would send Shelby Miller along ended with a blockbuster deal. In fact, some are already calling it the most lopsided trade of the 21st century or one of the 10 most one-sided trades in MLB baseball history.
While those are knee-jerk reactions, their claims might have some merit. I’ll report and let you decide. With that mission statement, let’s look at some of the biggest deals of the recent Winter Meetings.
Zack Greinke Signs with Arizona Diamondbacks
In one of the biggest free agent moves of the 2015 Winter Meetings, Zack Greinke signed a six year, $206.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The deal makes the D-Backs relevent again, after having missed the playoffs four straight seasons.
I bet this deal works out well for Greinke and the Diamondbacks, though the adjustment period might be rough with the expectations a big contract will bring. Zack Greinke is 32, so the back end of the deal might become problematic. Still, he should have several years of elite production left. With 6 legit pitches, he is well-armed to remain effective into his mid-to-late-thirties.
I expect elite fantasy numbers from Zack Greinke, though I do not know if he has the mental makeup to be the ace on a World Championship team. Zack Greinke, who is described as a “scientist” who studies the game more than most pitchers, has battled depression and anxiety in the past. Greinke has been described as having social anxiety disorder, though that has never been confirmed. His time with the Los Angeles Dodgers was productive, involving one of the longest scoreless inning streaks in Major League Baseball history. He struggled in the 2015 playoffs, losing the deciding 5th game in the 2015 National League Division Series against the New York Mets, and decided to opt out of the last year of his contract with the L.A. Dodgers.
Somehow, you get the idea Zack Greinke was not a “Los Angeles guy”, despite the success. He is better suited to Phoenix, where he should settle into a groove and be productive. The well-traveled pitcher from Florida should help the Diamondbacks contend for a division title in the next few seasons.
Johnny Cueto Signs with San Francisco Giants
Johnny Cueto signed a six-year, $130 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. He has an option for the 2022 season, too. This signing should put the Giants on the right track once more, if Johnny Cueto’s arm (elbow) can hold up. He’ll slide in as the #2 starter behind Madison Bumgarner. That means he’ll be facing the #2 starters on opposing teams in his first few starts to start the season and coming out of the All-Star break (likely), which translates to a greater likelihood of success in the win/loss column.
I love the Johnny Cueto signing by the San Francisco Giants. In the post-Barry Bonds era, the San Francisco Giants have become one of the class franchises of Major League Baseball. They contend every year based around great pitching, Buster Posey’s bat, and solid baseball players up-and-down the lineup. After a one-year decline, the team decided to improve its pitching staff and added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija through free agency.
Johnny Cueto is a key signing. The 29-year old Domenican righthander just helped the Kansas City Royals win the 2015 World Series. He brings with him championship pedigree and elite pitching based around a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and slider. Cueto also occasionally throws a changeup, but it is more of a spot pitch. He was the 2014 MLB All-Star MVP, and is simply in the prime of his career. Everything about this signing indicates success.
Jeff Samardzija Signs with San Francisco Giants
Jeff Samardzija also signed with the Giants for 5 years and $90 million. While his signing might not seem as dramatic or rock-solid, I expect a bounceback year from the former college football standout, after he was 11-13 with the Chicago White Sox. Samardzija has a 47-61 career record, so do not expect that much from this signing, but he should improve in the Bay Area. Here’s why.
Samardzija put a lot of pressure on himself in 2015, signing a one-year deal coming off a career year in 2014 (7-13 but with a 2.99 ERA). That decision meant he was pitching on what amounted to a $100 million bet. Predictably, that led to a pressure cooker of a season.
Don Cooper, the White Sox’s pitching coach, said, “We did not acquire him for any tweaks or changes. There were times he pitched his tail off all season. I think Jeff put a lot of pressure on himself. It was a big year for him. He had bet on himself a long time and was in a position of free agency. Coming into the year he was at the top of the heap. It did not work out for him.”
Jeff Samardzija has another explanation. He says he was tipping his pitches in 2015, which led to his downfall. In his introductory news conference at AT&T Park, he said, “When you’re tipping your pitches it’s hard to have a ton of success out there.”
You might think it’s an excuse, but the San Francisco Giants seem to believe him and they’ve been right an awful lot lately.
Braves Trade Shelby Miller to Dbacks for 3 Top Players/Prospects
One of the wildest trades of the Winter Meetings was the one which saw the Atlanta Braves send Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and Dansby Swanson. This is being described as a blockbuster, and many people are predicting it will be one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but let’s make the case.
First of all, the contention is the Diamondbacks traded way too much for Shelby Miller. Miller is a nice righthanded pitcher who should be a good compliment to Zack Greinke, so you can see what the Dbacks are thinking. On the other hand, they sent away a solid player and two blue-chip prospects in return. Ender Inciarte is a 25-year old outfielder who hit .303 last year while playing excellent defense. What’s more, the Braves hold his rights for 5 seasons.
The prospects might be even more impressive. Aaron Blair is a 23-year old right hand pitching prospect with a fastball in the mid-90s and what are described as a solid changeup and curveball. He has all the makings of a solid rotation guy. Presently, he is considered the #61 prospect in all of Major League Baseball.
Then there is Dansby Swanson. Just a few months ago, Dansby Swanson was the first pick in the MLB Draft. He is a 21-year old do-everything shortstop who already sits at #10 on MLB.com’s big list of baseball prospects.
Full List of Baseball Winter Meeting Signings
Here is the full list of free agent signings at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings. This was considered a bit of a down-year for big signings, but several of these have major fantasy baseball implications. Ben Zobrist is a veteran who is simply a winner, so he’s a good signing for the Cubs.
- Ben Zobrist – Chicago Cubs – 4 Years for $56 million
- Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals – 3 Years for $25 million
- Darren O’Day – Baltimore Orioles – 4 Years for $31 million
- David Hernandez – Philadelphia Phillies – 1 Year for $3.9 million
- Jason Motte – Colorado Rockies – 2 Years for $10 million
- Chad Qualls – Colorado Rockies – 2 years for $6 million
- John Axford – Oakland Athletics – 2 Years for $10 million
- Ryan Madson – Oakland A’s – 3 Years for $22 million
- Asdrubal Cabrera – New York Mets – 2 Years for $18.5 million
2015-2016 Offseason Trades in Major League Baseball
These are the other key trades at the 2015 Winter Meetings. I’ll add to this list as trades happen throughout the remainder of the 2015-2016 offseason. Remember, pitchers and catchers report in a little over 2 months. Spring Training is not that far away. Teams are going to continue making trades over the next couple of months, so fantasy baseball owners should keep an eye on the transactions list, to give themselves more time to analyze the new data. Even if you only keep it percolating in the back of your mind, anytime is a good time to think and talk baseball.
- Boston Red Sox – Traded: Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro – To: Seattle Mariners – For: Carson Smith and Roenis Elias
- Oakland A’s – Traded: Brett Lawrie – To: Chicago White Sox – For: Zack Erwin and Jeffrey Wendelken
- Chicago Cubs – Traded: Starlin Castro – To: New York Yankees – For: Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan
- New York Mets – Traded: Jon Niese – To: Pittsburgh Pirates – For: Neil Walker
- San Diego Padres – Traded: Jedd Gyorko – To: St. Louis Cardinals – For: Jon Jay
I love this time of year in Major League Baseball. Here in the holiday season, every team has renewed plans and renewed hope. While many of those plans are likely to end in disgust, it also gives fantasy baseball owners a chance to rebuild their franchises’ fortunes. Whether your league goes on hiatus or has its own winter meetings, it’s time to build new strategies for winning.
Especially if you own a keeper or dynasty league fantasy baseball franchise, you need to quickly digest Winter League free agent acquisitions and player trades. Hopefully, this helps with the digestion process. Merry Christmas to all the fantasy baseball owners out there.