No Flag For The Offseason

The offseason has almost come to a close. Almost all the moves that need to be made have been finalized. Ian Kinsler went to Detroit, and Prince Fielder went to Texas. Robinson Cano signed on in Seattle, while David Freese and Peter Bourjos switched cities. With all these moves come massive analysis on who got the better deal, which team is smarter, and who got it right. There are moves that weren’t the smartest, and some that were great, but unless there’s some sort of offseason world series, determining the off season winner seems fruitless.
Everyone can categorize a deal into good or bad. Many people see the Fielder-Kinsler trade as good for both sides. Some will argue that Kinsler is on the decline so the Tigers shouldn’t have done it. Some will argue that Fielder’s contract is not a good one so the Rangers shouldn’t have done it. Either way, the trade makes both teams better right now. Miguel Cabrera is able to move back to first base where his value increases, and Kinsler is still a top of the league second baseman. The Rangers needed a right-handed power bat and more production at first base. They received that, and found a place to put 20-year-old super prospect, Jurickson Profar. The deal is good.

Despite the deal being good, baseball ends up being unpredictable at times. Ian Kinsler could get hurt in the fourth game of the season and end up being out until August. Prince Fielder had a mediocre 2013, and could continue to digress. The Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo, though, so maybe he could pick up the slack. However, the Rangers could end up facing a big chunk of left-handed pitchers, and he doesn’t. The Tigers signed Joe Nathan for their closer, but he’s 38-years-old and tweaks his back about a month into the season. Are any of these deals still good? Having the information you have now, would you make the same deal?

Robinson Cano signed a deal that many criticize Seattle for making because of the length (10 years, $240 million.) However, there’s a lot of young talent on the team who could have breakout, career, or fluke years with Cano blasting away and Felix Hernandez pitching gems. Seattle could get to the playoffs this season, and then was the deal still bad? I’d say it still was because it cripples the team in the long run, but the goal is to get to the playoffs. Flags fly forever. They could trade Cano halfway through his deal to dump the money, too. Many scenarios could play out to make the length of that contract seem less like a burden.

In the past, deals have been made which seemed like great options, but didn’t pan out the way they were intended to. Jayson Werth signed with the Washington Nationals for the 2011 season after finishing his contract with the Philadelphia Phillies on a high note in 2010. He posted an average of 4.0 rWAR per season in Philly with a 130 OPS+. Werth was a big outfield free agent going into the offseason, and the Nationals scooped him up for 7 years at $126 million. While the contract was a little steep, the first year he was slated to make $10 million, and if he could post 4.0 rWAR, that would be more than fair. He posted a 1.3. The next season he was paid $13 million, was out for half of the season, and posted a 0.7 rWAR. Within two seasons, Jayson Werth was not worth his contract, and the Nationals hadn’t seen the playoffs. What was seen as an offseason win was no longer helping the Nationals win.

On the flip side of that, the Texas Rangers signed Adrian Beltre before the 2011 season as well in what was widely regarded as a bad move. He had one MVP-like season as a Dodger in 2004, and was able to prove some of that talent stuck around in 2010 with Boston, however, the rest of his career never saw an rWAR out of the 3-range. The Rangers offered him 5 years at $80 million, and an option for a sixth year. Many saw him on the wrong side of 30, and not worth $16 million a year. Beltre has been a Ranger for three seasons and posted 5.8, 7.0, and 5.5 rWARs chronologically. He’s recorded a .356 OBP, a 136 OPS+, and has been an above average defensive third baseman. Adrian Beltre has been worth more than $16 million a year, and the Rangers made it to the playoffs the first two years with his name on their roster.

Baseball is still unpredictable. The previous scenarios are unlikely, but not impossible. Criticizing a deal or move during the offseason gives an idea of how good or bad the deal could be. The seasons that come after a deal or several deals is what determines whether or not a team actually had a good or bad offseason. A team that signs the biggest name or makes the most moves isn’t always a winner, just ask the Angels. They were deemed offseason winners for two seasons in a row, and where’s their flag?
Emily Cates

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