Show Me Your Moves

The season is upon us: hot stove season. This past week in baseball, the stove has been so h0t you could fry an egg on it. I know that analogy is usually saved for pavement but I want you to understand all that’s going in the offseason. There are a few big moves I’ll break down and a couple of rumors as well.

Nick Markakis to the Braves

Nick Markakis, the rightfielder for the Orioles since 2006, signed a 4-year, $44 million contract with the Atlanta Braves yesterday. After the Braves traded away one of their marquee players in Jason Heyward, I speculated that Braves could try some prospects at rightfield, but they put the World Series in their crosshairs with this signing. Markakis is a career .290 hitter with decent home run power and an incredibly durable playing style; he should fit in nicely at the top of their batting order. While there are still questions for the Braves at second base and catcher with where the lumberjack Evan Gattis will sign, right field is no longer an issue. Here’s what the Braves lineup will look like moving forward:

  • Andrelton Simmons, SS
  • Nick Markakis, RF
  • Freddie Freeman, 1B
  • Justin Upton, LF
  • Chris Johnson, 3B
  • Christian Bethancourt, C (I am assuming Evan Gattis will sign elsewhere)
  • Joey Terdoslavich?, 2B
  • BJ Upton, CF
  • Pitcher

As you can see, the Markakis addition helps immensely. After Johnson hitting 5th (which is high for a hitter like him), the average of the hitters drops to .252, and it’s only that high because Terdoslavich’s average was .300 after a handful of games. If the Braves want to compete, they’ll need to get a solid second basemen to at least somewhat counteract BJ Upton’s complete inability to hit.

Markakis is a good fit, but is he worth $11 million a year? After finishing 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2006, he has maintained consistently above average, but not so far above average that he’s a household name. He’s never been selected to an All-Star team despite hitting above .300 twice and above .290 three more times, he’s never been named to an MVP ballot, no Silver Sluggers – he does have two Gold Glove awards, however. $11 million a year may seem like a rip off for a guy who hit .276 last season and only .271 the season before that, but A) he is from Georgia so this will be sort of a homecoming for him, B) of the 9 years he’s played professionally, 7 of those years have garnered hit totals higher than 170. The two years he didn’t? His rookie year and a year in which he suffered from a nagging wrist injury and only played 10 games. He will be a heck of a 2-hitter in Atlanta.

Torii Hunter to the Twins

Speaking of homecomings, the ageless outfielder Torii Hunter is returning to the Twin cities, where he will likely end his career. Funny thing about Torii, though, is that whenever the Twins post anything on Instagram or Twitter involving a picture of Torii in a Twins uniform, I can’t tell whether it is a picture from his first stint with the Twins or if its a more recent picture, he just looks so young. Either way, he’ll be an amazing addition for the Twins, who have a new manager (Paul Molitor) and little veteran leadership. The Twins offense was a revolving door last year, though Danny Santana played his way to a starting job near the end of the year. Josh Willingham retired after leaving midseason, and Oswaldo Arcia is proving to be an Adam Dunn hitter (strikeout or home run), so Torii is a breath of fresh air for the Twins outfield. If nothing else, he’ll supply reliability in an otherwise crapshoot of an outfield in the Twin Cities. The Twins are still far from competitive, but Torii will help bridge the gap between the present and the future of the Twins, Byron Buxton.

Hunter hit .361 against Minnesota last year, so this may seem like a “if you can’t beat them, join them” move, but look at their lineup now. He hit .338 against Kansas City pitching last year, and knows the Tigers rotation backwards and forwards, so he will bring valuable information on how to beat Price, Verlander, Sanchez, Porcello, and Scherzer, if necessary.

  • Brian Dozier, 2B
  • Torii Hunter, RF
  • Joe Mauer, 1B
  • Kennys Vargas, DH
  • Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  • Oswlado Arcia, LF
  • Kurt Suzuki, C
  • Eduardo Escobar, SS
  • Danny Santana, CF

A huge improvement indeed. The top three hitters are All-Star caliber players, Vargas is a young David Ortiz, and Plouffe has 25 home run power. I don’t think we’ll see the Twins in October, but they’ll certainly make things interesting in the Central.

Nelson Cruz to the Mariners

Again, I am wrong about another free agent signing. I had Cruz going to the Angels, but instead, he’s using last year’s 40 homer year as a springboard into a big 4-year, $57 million contract up in Seattle. After missing the playoffs by a single game last year, the Mariners were in desperate need of a DH. Corey Hart, typically a solid hitter, had some injury issues and hit .203 through 68 games and Kendrys Morales, one the last few barehanded hitters, hit .207 in 59 games. A few others had some time at DH here and there, but nothing like Nelly Cruz’s year in Baltimore. While he will make a splash in Seattle and supply serious protection to Robinson Cano and new mega Mariner Kyle Seager, I’m nervous that his home run production will drop. Before going to smallish Camden Yards, Cruz’s career high in home runs was 33 in 2009 back when he was juicing. Unless he still is juicing, he won’t hit 40 home runs again. Cano’s power dropped from ’13 to ’14 because of Safeco, and Cruz, despite being bigger and stronger, will suffer a same fate. He could either hit more doubles in the gap and see his average spike, or just more long fly ball outs and be a letdown for Mariner fans. The advantage he does have, though, is his knowledge of AL West pitching. He’s spent almost his whole career in the AL West, so he’ll be used to aces like CJ Wilson and Sonny Gray. Here is what the Mariners could put out in 2014:

  • Austin Jackson, CF
  • Kyle Seager, 3B
  • Robinson Cano, 2B
  • Nelson Cruz, DH
  • Logan Morrison, 1B
  • Dustin Ackley, LF
  • Corey Hart, RF (? Franklin Gutierrez is scheduled to come back in 2015, perhaps he could take right field)
  • Mike Zunino, C
  • Brad Miller, SS

The Mariners only missed the playoffs by a game last year. And that was in a division that sent the team with the best record in the MLB and the 2nd Wild Card team. They were so close to achieving something they haven’t done 2001 (go to the playoffs), but they did finish above .500 for the first time since 2009. I think Nelson Cruz is a great start, but they’ll need a full time right fielder if they want to take down the A’s. The Mariners traded away last year’s starter, Michael Saunders, to the Blue Jays for a solid reliever in JA Happ.

I hope you enjoyed the Captain Falcon reference in the title. And I hope you enjoy seeing these players moving around as much as I do. One thing I know for sure: the Orioles will have a heck of a lot to overcome next year – they lost their 2 and 4 hitters in the same week.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

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