The Cincinnati Reds have acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for right-hander Ben Lively, the teams officially announced today.
The Reds had been close to a deal with the Phillies earlier this week, as FOX Sports' Jon Morosi reported, but it fell through at the last minute. Morosi noted at the time that a deal could be reworked. With an outfielder to go along with Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton on the Reds' list of targets this offseason, they were able to get the deal done with Philadelphia.
The Phillies are continuing their overhaul of older veterans this offseason, with Jimmy Rollins and Antonio Bastardo already being dealt and with more, including perhaps Cole Hamels, on the way. The trade of Byrd was likely an easier one for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the front office, as he was not a part of the "core" that won them the 2008 World Series championship and was just brought on to the club last year.
Byrd, 36, enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2014, hitting a career-high 25 home runs and hitting a slash line of .264/.312/.445 with 55 extra-base hits. Byrd posted a 109 weighted runs created plus last season, which means that his offensive production in terms of creating runs was nine percent better than the rest of the league, as adjusted to league and park factors.
According to defensive metrics, Byrd's defense in right field was above-average, as he was worth six defensive runs saved, while posting a 3.5 ultimate zone rating per 150 games. Byrd will likely play left with the Reds, which will move Skip Schumaker to a "super utility" position.
Reds' left fielders in 2014 posted a .233/.288/.339 line, so Byrd will serve as an immediate upgrade to the position. The Reds have been busy retooling their club this offseason, trading away Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, but getting some higher-level prospects in return, some that could make a good contribution at the big league level. The Reds might just be able to contend for a Wild Card in 2015.
The Phillies will be receiving Ben Lively in return for Byrd. Lively, who was the Reds' 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, went 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA and a 171/52 strikeout to walk ratio in 151 innings pitched between High Single-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. Lively was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of the University of Central Florida.
The Seattle Mariners have agreed to acquire Seth Smith from the San Diego Padres for right-hander Brandon Maurer, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle reported earlier today that a deal for Smith was close.
After trading for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton already this offseason, the Padres needed to unload at least one of their "old" outfielders to help rework the rest of their team. Smith fits the bill, and after drawing a lot of trade interest, the Padres were able to deal him to Seattle.
The Mariners, whom have already signed Nelson Cruz this offseason to likely play designated hitter (according to the depth chart on their official website), just got an upgrade to their outfield, which currently holds the likings of Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson, and Justin Ruggiano. Smith will play right, with Ruggiano going to be their fourth outfielder, I would presume.
The 32-year-old Smith enjoyed the best offensive season of his career in 2014, according to Adjusted OPS+, which measures how good a player's OPS is, adjusted to park and league factors. He slashed .266/.367/.440 in 521 plate appearances, hitting 12 homers and driving in 48. Smith posted a 2.6 fWAR.
In terms of defense, Smith spent most of his time in 2014 out at left field, posting a just above average two defensive runs saved. In right field this past year, he was worth four defensive runs. Smith can play both corner outfield positions, but has spent most of his time in left field.
Smith is under contract through 2016, with a team option for 2017. He will make $6 million this season, $6.75 million next season, and has a $7 million option for 2017 with a $250,000 buyout. Overall, Smith is guaranteed $13 million over two years, which would be a good price for a free agent outfielder similar to his caliber. I would assume that the Mariners will take his entire contract.
Brandon Maurer heads to San Diego from Seattle. The 24-year-old Maruer pitched 69.2 innings with Seattle last season, posting a 4.65 ERA in 38 games and seven starts. He posted a 55/19 strikeout to walk ratio and would be a good option for the Friars as a spot starter and long reliever.
The Tampa Bay Rays and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera have agreed to terms to a one-year deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman notes that the deal is worth around $8 million. Cabrera also had received interest from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Royals.
Cabrera, 28, hit a slash line of .241/.307/.387 last season over 616 plate appearances with the Indians and Nationals. He had 133 hits, 31 doubles, four triples, and 14 home runs, while driving in 61 runs. His offensive contribution was just below-average, as Cabrera posted a 98 weighted runs created plus last season, which takes into account park and league factors (100 is considered "average").
Defensively, Cabrera was below average at both shortstop and second base. Cabrera has spent time at both middle infield positions over his career, but was mainly a shortstop with Cleveland. Last year, Cabrera was worth -7 defensive runs saved in 823.2 innings out at short, while he was worth -10 defensive runs saved in 432 innings, all with Washington. Overall, he was worth -1.0 dWAR (B-R).
Cabrera adds to an already-crowded second base position in Tampa Bay, with Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe, and Nick Franklin manning the position prior to Cabrera's arrival. The signing of Cabrera could lead to a trade of Ben Zobrist. With the 33-year-old Zobrist being older than Cabrera, and coming off a year where he posted a 5.7 fWAR and a 119 wRC+, the Rays could get some serious trade offers for him.
Zobrist could be coveted by Cabrera's old team, the Nationals, as their main weak point is out at second base. They will likely lead the charge in a trade for him.
Overall, Rays' second baseman hit .244/.314/.384 last season, as they posted a just above-average 102 wRC+. They posted the fifth-highest fWAR in baseball, as they were worth a 5.0 mark.
Over his career, the Venezuelan Cabrera has a .268/.330/.409 line with 87 home runs and 451 runs batted in over eight big league seasons with the Indians and Nationals. He has been worth 14.6 fWAR over his career, while being a good offensive player at times, but never being great defensively.
The Atlanta Braves have agreed to terms with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Aaron Lunsford first tweeted.
Pierzynski and the Braves agreed to a one-year deal worth about $2 million, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman and CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
Pierzynski, who turns 38 on December 30th, spent 2014 with the Red Sox and Cardinals. Known for his fiery personality, the catcher was released by the Red Sox due to his negative influence in the clubhouse. Multiple players approached Boston's management to help deal with the problem. He was known as being selfish and not caring about the team. That likely factored into his low price tag.
Statistically, Pierzynski saw the worst offensive season of his career last year, hitting for a .251/.288/.337 clip with just five homers and 37 runs batted in over 362 plate appearances. He was slightly below-average defensively as well, according to "defensive rating" (via FanGraphs). Overall, he was worth -0.4 wins above a replacement level player (fWAR).
Even after leaving Boston, Pierzynski's play offensively did not improve, as he posted a 72 wRC+ in 88 plate appearances with the Cardinals as compared to a 71 wRC+ with the Braves.
If Pierzynski can get over his dismal season and can rebound to even a replacement-level player, this signing would be a really interesting one for the Braves, who's retooling efforts this offseason might make them a sneaky contender in 2015. He will likely be the starter in Atlanta, in front of young catcher Christian Bethancourt. It is hard to know if he will be a good influence on the 23-year-old catcher.
Pierzynski was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1994 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins. He has hit .281/.320/.424 in 17 major league seasons, while being a pretty good defender, spending time with the Twins, Giants, White Sox, Rangers, Red Sox, and the Cardinals.
The Atlanta Braves have agreed to terms with right-handed reliever Jason Grilli, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The deal is for two years and includes an option for 2017, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation's MLB Daily Dish.
The 38-year-old Grilli spent 2014 with the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates, as he was moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles in a July trade. The former Pirates closer went 1-5 with a 4.00 ERA and a 2.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54 innings pitched, coming over 62 appearances.
The Braves bullpen lost Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in the trade that sent Jason Heyward to St. Louis. They also added Jim Johnson on a buy-low deal, one that was over one-year and worth $1.5 million. Grilli's is another buy-low deal for Atlanta, even though it is not a one-year deal. The Braves now have three relievers that have closed in their careers, Craig Kimbrel, Jim Johnson, and Jason Grilli.
The Braves bullpen posted the 11th-best fWAR and 12th-best ERA amongst team relief pitching last season. This came while posting the 11th-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball.
Grilli has had a roller-coaster career. He was drafted fourth overall in the 1997 MLB Draft, but failed to reach expectations as a starter at the beginning of his career. Grilli appeared in the Majors primarily as a starer in 2001, '02, '04, and '05, as he registered a 6.20 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP in 94.1 innings pitched.
From 2006 to 2009, Grilli worked as a relief pitcher, but was not anything special, striking out hitters at what appeared to be a low rate and walking hitters too often. He worked to a 4.22 ERA in that timespan. Then, in 2013, at age 36, Grilli became the Pirates' closer and was named to his first All-Star team, saving 33 of 35 games and posting a 2.70 ERA and a 5.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50 innings pitched.
Grilli could be a great set-up man for Atlanta, working as a nice right-handed bridge to Craig Kimbrel. For now, this contract looks to be a good buy-low for the Braves. Grilli has the pedigree, and if he can limit the walks while getting the strikeouts, he will pay off majorly for them.