The MLB’s free agency period has gotten off to a tremendous start, with teams across the league making deals within the first few days of the annual winter meetings.
Ranging from the best relievers, to the best utility players, free agency should have nearly every MLB franchise trying to find a way to make an impactful move. We’re that not deep into free agency, but at this point, some of the largest dominoes have already fallen – with a number of franchises landing some big names; giving other teams an opportunity to go after the second-tier of this year’s free agency class.
Without further ado, here are the top 5 biggest moves of free agency, so far:
5. Adam Eaton
The Washington Nationals got themselves a big name at centre field on Dec. 7th – trading away 3 prospects for Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox.
Last season, Eaton delivered while increasing his value; hitting .284, to go along with a career-high 14 home runs, 59 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, and 176 total hits in 157 games. The 28-year-old was also on point defensively, finishing with an MLB-leading 18 outfield assists through the course of the 2016 campaign. For his career, the 4-year man out of Miami (OH) has produced at a high level – posting a .284 career batting average, to go along with a .357 on-base percentage, 34 HRs, and 177 RBIs in 5 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the White Sox.
Leading the AL in triples in 2 of the last 3 seasons, Eaton has continued to cement himself as one of the most consistent players in baseball. He’s also built already built himself a solid reputation in Washington, with his new manager Mike Rizzo, praising his incredible work ethic with his arrival. Despite not making the playoffs in his career, Eaton will look to make a difference on a Nationals team that is on the brink of making a deep playoff run.
4. Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler decided to keep his talents within the NL Central, but he won’t be suiting up for the Chicago Cubs any longer; with the St. Louis Cardinals signing the outfielder to a 5-year/$82.5 million contract on Dec. 8th.
Fowler was a key contributor in the Cubs’ World Series run last season, hitting .276, to go along with 13 HRs, and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that led him to his first All-Star appearance. With him being a career .268 hitter, Fowler gives the Cardinals some depth while immediately replacing an aging slugger in Matt Holiday – who was let go after last season’s campaign.
It’s all about the postseason for the Cardinals, who just missed the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. Despite the fairly large price tag, the Cardinals ended up giving Fowler the money he was due after his solid postseason; where he hit 18 balls for 32 total bases, to go along wit 3 HRs, 6 RBIs, and a batting average of .250.
With Fowler entering the mix, the Cardinals now have a promising outfield, with young players like Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty surrounding the 30-year-old. They’ll likely need a few more pieces, but it’s clear that the Cardinals aren’t wasting any time trying to make it back to the World Series for the first time since 2013.
3. Aroldis Chapman
It looks like Aroldis Chapman was a rental for the Cubs, with the New York Yankees immediately signing him this free agency after trading him right before the 2016 trade deadline.
They welcomed back Chapman with a 5-year/$86 million deal, making him the highest-paid reliever in MLB history with his $17.2 million annual salary. It’s not the biggest surprise, considering the way Chapman performed with the Yankees and Cubs last season – posting a 1.55 ERA, to go along with 90 strikeouts, a 4-1 record, and 36 saves in 58 innings of work. Despite being dominant in the regular season, some of his best work would come in the postseason – closing out the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS with a 1-2-3 inning, and then earning a ridiculous 8-out save in Game 5 against the Cleveland Indians to force a Game 6 in the World Series.
Even though the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs last season, general manager Brian Cashman still wanted to have the league’s most coveted closer. The Yankees have a promising future ahead, with players like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Tyler Austin, and Gary Sanchez leading the way. Having the hardest-throwing pitcher only makes them that much stronger, solidifying his signing as one of the biggest of the 2016 free agency period.
2. Mark Melancon
The San Francisco Giants didn’t waste any time this free agency fixing their biggest concern, with them signing right-handed closer, Mark Melancon to a 4-year/$62 million deal on Dec. 5th.
The Giants were among some of the worst teams in baseball last season when it came down to closing out ball games, something that ultimately costed them a deep postseason run. The 31-year-old was sharp with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals last season, posting an ERA of 1.64, to go along with a 2-2 record, 47 saves, and 65 strikeouts in 71.1 innings of work.
The Giants blew 30 regular season leads throughout the 2016 campaign – the most of any team to make the playoffs since saves became an official stat in 1969. He doesn’t throw as hard as Chapman, but Melancon’s breaking ball and overall command has made him one of the best closers in baseball. This year, he’ll look to be the difference maker in a Giants bullpen that’s just come off a season where they allowed an average of 3.65 runs a game.
1. Chris Sale
The Boston Red Sox made themselves the talk of the MLB on Dec. 6th, when they completed a blockbuster trade to acquire superstar left-handed pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox.
They had to give up 5 prospects, but the Red Sox ended up getting themselves one of, if not the best rotation pitcher in all of baseball with this deal. Sale was dominant in his 32 starts with the White Sox last season, posting a 17-10 record, to go along with a 3.34 ERA, a whopping 233 strikeouts, 6 complete games, and a single shutout in 226.2 innings of work. Even though he was great, he was pitching on a White Sox team that had a black cloud above it ever since his jersey cutting incident, while they missed the playoffs for the 8th straight year.
It’s going to be extremely tough to crack through the Red Sox’s pitching staff in 2017- with the 2016 AL Cy Young award winner in Rick Porcello, to go along with David Price, Steven Wright, and now Sale. With the Red Sox bringing in Sale, it even has David Ortiz thinking about coming out of retirement, something that would truly make the Red Sox one of the most dangerous teams in the AL. Either way, this pickup will give Boston the opportunity to defend their AL East pennant – boasting a pitching staff that should be able to get the job done against one of the best hitting divisions in the MLB.
All stats for this article are from MLB.com
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