On Monday, three players signed Major League contracts.
Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young to multi-year deal
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported Monday afternoon that Young had signed with Boston. The 32-year-old Young probably will not start in a crowded Red Sox outfield, but his extreme pull power will play well in Fenway. He fits better in a platoon role, especially considering the fact that he hit for a .972 OPS in 175 plate appearances against southpaws in 2015.
Overall, Young hit .252/.320/.453 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs over 356 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2015. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known, as is the length of the contract.
Cardinals sign catcher Brayan Pena to two-year, $5 million deal
The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of Pena to a two-year deal. He will fill in as Yadier Molina's backup in 2016 and 2017, where he can provide a start if needed. Pena had been serving as the Reds' backup catcher since 2014, but saw increased action due to injuries to Devin Mesoraco.
Last season, Pena posted a solid line over 367 plate appearances. He hit .273/.334/.324 with no home runs and 18 RBIs. Defensively, the 33-year-old is just above-average, according to FanGraphs. He was worth 0.2 fWAR last season.
Braves sign Jim Johnson to one-year, $2.5 million deal
The Braves announced the signing of Johnson Monday evening, adding the right-hander back to their bullpen. He spent the first half of the 2015 season with Atlanta and pitched really well. They shipped him to the Dodgers days before the trade deadline and completely fell off the table.
Overall, Johnson went 2-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 66 2/3 innings pitched last season, working to a 50 to 20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The former Athletics' closer was much better during his tenure with the Braves. He posted a 2.25 ERA and 3.24 FIP in 48 innings out of Atlanta's bullpen. In 2016, he'll be a veteran presence in a relatively young bullpen outside of Jason Grilli.
The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Sunday.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported that Zimmermann's deal will be a five-year deal around $110 million. Morosi and Ken Rosenthal reported late Saturday evening that Zimmermann and Detroit were talking about a deal.
Zimmermann becomes the first major free agent to sign a contract this offseason. He had been connected to the Cubs and Dodgers along with the Tigers since the beginning of the offseason, but ultimately decided to sign with Detroit.
The Tigers, under new GM Al Avila, have been busy this offseason, acquiring Francisco Rodriguez and Cameron Maybin in trades before making the Zimmermann signing.
The team went 74-87 last season and finished at the bottom of a crowded AL Central.
It's hard to know exactly how much Zimmermann will help Detroit contend again. He has been worth 12 fWAR over the past three years, but at $22 million per year, it is hard to see this deal paying off for the Tigers in terms of payment versus performance.
With that said, however, the only way the Tigers were going to sign a frontline starting pitcher was by paying the price. In an offseason where J.A. Happ gets $12 million per season, $22 million for Jordan Zimmermann no longer looks that bad.
Zimmermann's signing kicks off an excellent starting pitching free agent class, with David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, and others all looking for a new home.
The 29-year-old Zimmermann went 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 201 2/3 innings pitched last season, posting a 164 to 39 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Zimmermann was the ace of the Nationals' pitching staff, being named a National League All-Star in 2013 and 2014.
His best year came in 2014, when he went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA (2.68 FIP) over 32 starts. He posted a 1.3 BB/9 ratio that year, which was the best in the National League.
By signing Zimmermann, who had received a qualifying offer fro Washington, the Tigers will lose their second-round draft selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. The Nationals will get a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds.
At $22 million per season, the Tigers appear to be getting Zimmermann at a fair market-value price. As of now, their starting rotation consists of Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Daniel Norris, and either Buck Farmer or Shane Greene.
As a group, the Tigers' starters posted the fourth-highest ERA in the Major Leagues last season. Zimmermann will fill an obvious need as they look to contend once again.
The Toronto Blue Jays announced the signing of left-hander J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Happ becomes the first 'big' free agent to sign, after the first month of the Major League Baseball offseason was filled with inactivity in the free agent market.
The 33-year-old Happ had somewhat of a revival last season with the Mariners and Pirates, going 11-8 with a 3.61 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 32 appearances (31 starts). Over his 172 innings pitched, Happ struck out 151 and walked just 45.
Happ was most dominant after being dealt to Pittsburgh midseason. Happ pitched like an ace in 11 starts with the Pirates, going 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 63 1/3 innings, striking out 69 and walking just 13.
Happ is not the first pitcher to have a revival with the Pirates. Pitching coach Ray Searage is known for reshaping pitchers' careers while with the team, having helped the likes of Edinson Volquez, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano.
In a way, the Blue Jays are buying into Searage's pedigree for fixing broken pitchers.
Formerly a 3rd round pick with the Phillies, Happ took the league by storm in 2009, pitching to a 2.93 ERA in 35 games (23 starts). He then bounced around the league, pitching with Philadelphia, Houston, and Toronto from 2010 to 2014, all with below-league-average numbers.
Even in today's demand for pitching, Happ probably would not have gotten $12 million per season if he was still the same pitcher he was before taking Pittsburgh by storm.
Giving a pitcher $36 million for what they did in half a season seems a bit outrageous, but it could be justified. Happ's 5.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Pittsburgh would not have been just the best mark of his career, but it would have been his best ratio by almost three strikeouts per walk.
That alone could be a reason for the Blue Jays wanting to take a risk on Happ, as strikeout-to-walk ratio is often a good indicator over how good a pitcher really is.
If Happ can even come close to his performance with Pittsburgh in the final months of the 2015 season, the deal will be more than worth it for Toronto. In fact, it could even be looked at as a steal. But that's a big 'if.'
On paper, Happ will add to a rotation that is likely to lose David Price in free agency. As it stands, the Jays' rotation consists of Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchinson, and now Happ.
The Atlanta Braves announced the signing of right-handed starting pitcher Bud Norris to a one-year deal on Wednesday.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Norris will make $2.5 million next season.
Norris, who will be 31 by Opening Day, had a down year in 2015. He went 3-11 with a 6.72 ERA in 38 appearances (11 starts) between the Orioles and Padres. He struck out 71 and walked 31 in his 83 innings pitched, good for a 5.04 FIP.
Prior to last season, Norris had always been a reliable starting pitcher, spending time with the Astros along with the two aforementioned clubs.
From 2011 to 2014, Norris posted a 4.06 ERA and 4.08 FIP over 696 1/3 innings coming over 120 appearances (118 starts).
The Braves are counting on Norris to rebound in 2016, with the possibility that they could trade him at the trade deadline if he has a nice first half. This appears to be a low-risk, possibly high-reward signing for Atlanta.
Regardless, Norris adds much-needed depth to the Braves rotation. He will slot in behind the likes of Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, and Manny Banuelos next season.
The Oakland Athletics announced the acquisition of infielder Jed Lowrie from the Houston Astros on Wednesday. Jane Lee of MLB.com first reported the deal.
In return, the Astros got Double-A right-hander Brendan McCurry.
Lowrie does not exactly fill a need in Oakland. Rather, he adds depth to their infield, which already includes Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Danny Valencia, and Eric Sogard.
It is not clear exactly where Lowrie will play regularly, but he can fit at every infield position. It is possible that the Athletics decide to move one of their other pieces to fill a true need with the club, though it remains to be seen what is in the cards.
The 31-year-old Lowrie has bounced between the Astros and Athletics since 2012.
He spent that year with Houston, but was then dealt along with Fernando Rodriguez to Oakland for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Strassi. After spending two years with the A's, Lowrie re-signed with the Astros in free agency. Now he heads back to Oakland in yet another trade.
Lowrie is a valuable acquisition for the Athletics becomes he comes with three years of non-expensive control. He will make $7.5 million in 2016, $6.5 million in 2017, and has a $6 million team option with a $1 million buyout for 2018.
In 2015, Lowrie hit .222/.312/.400 with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 263 plate appearances. He missed a big chunk of the season due to a torn ligament in his thumb, and after Carlos Correa's emergence at shortstop, he moved to third base when he returned.
The Astros should be able to absorb the loss of Lowrie from their lineup relatively easily, as Luis Valbuena can slide in full-time at third base. He made 85 starts there in 2015 and hit well.
The team also receives the Athletics' 30th-best prospect (via MLB Pipeline) in exchange for Lowrie. The 23-year-old McCurry posted a 1.86 ERA, 11.7 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 between High-A and Double-A last season, making all 50 of his appearances out of the bullpen.