While we were busy indulging in the annual Thanksgiving traditions of eating too much, shopping too much, and spending (too much) time with family, MLB front offices were hard at work keeping the stove warm. Here's everything you might have missed over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners swap 5 players in the biggest trade of the offseason so far
On the surface, this seems like a classic sell-high by the Diamondbacks, as they move Segura off the back of what was by far the best season of his career. In 2016 he hit .319, stole 33 bases, and was good for 5 WAR, crushing his previous career best of 3.5 WAR in his rookie season with the Brewers in 2013. The Mariners are banking on Segura repeating his 2016 production as they look to contend in the stacked AL West, and a high-OBP leadoff man with speed like Segura could be an important piece in their lineup, especially if he enjoys some lineup protection from the big bats of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz hitting behind him. LF Mitch Haniger is also on his way to the Pacific Northwest as part of the deal, and he should slot right in as the Mariner's starting left fielder. Haniger was just a utility outfielder for the D'Backs in 2016, appearing in just 34 games across the outfield after being called up from the minors. In those 34 games, however, Haniger showed plus defensive ability with both his glove and arm from all parts of the outfield. Haniger struggled at the plate in his limited plate appearances, but will look to improve in 2017 as he gets a full season at the major league level.
For the Diamondbacks, Walker and Marte are low risk, high upside players with more years of team control than they had with Segura and Haniger. Walker is still only 24 years old, though he has started 62 games for the Mariners over the past 4 seasons, and has a career 22-22 record with a 4.18 ERA. While those numbers don't exactly scream high upside, Walker has shown flashes that he's capable of being more than just a back of the rotation innings eater. The Diamondbacks will hope that their pitching coaches can bring Walker along, and especially to help him bring down his HR/FB rate that jumped to 17.6% in 2016. If that number stays anywhere near that level, Walker will not have a good time at hitter-friendly Chase Field. Marte was a black hole at the plate for Seattle in 2016 after posting some promising numbers during his rookie year in 2015. His strikeout rate climbed to 18% while his walk rate plummeted to 3.9% and he managed to hit just .259 in 466 plate appearances in 2016. For now, Marte will just be infield depth for Arizona, likely to spell for Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings at SS and 2B respectively.
Atlanta Braves sign utility infielder Sean Rodriguez to a 2 year, $11 million deal
On Thursday morning, while we were preparing for the long Thanksgiving ahead, the Braves inked free agent infielder Sean Rodriguez to a 2 year deal worth $11 million.
Rodriguez is another low risk signing by the rebuilding Braves, following their acquisitions of pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon on similar short, low money deals. Rodriguez is the Braves' first attempt this offseason to strengthen an infield that was anything but consistent in 2016. Among all Atlanta infielders, only 1B Freddie Freeman, who finished 6th in NL MVP voting and had a career-best year in 2016, played more than 140 games for the Braves last season. The 31 year-old Rodriguez has been little more than a utility man so far in his career with the Angels, Rays, and Pirates, but 2016 saw a significant jump in his offensive value as he posted career-best numbers in every category. The Braves will certainly be hoping he's able to replicate those numbers going forward, but even if he doesn't, he'll still be valuable for Atlanta. At worst, he'll be a better than average right handed utility man who can platoon for 2B Jace Peterson and RF Nick Markakis, both of whom struggle against left-handed pitching. He also allows the Braves the luxury of being a little more patient with top prospect Ozzie Albies, as the team won't feel rushed to bring up Albies too soon just to fill a hole in the middle of their infield.
Outfielders (and Pablo Sandoval) are getting more attention
Over the past few days, there have been significant rumors about some big name outfielders...and Pablo Sandoval.
According to Bruce Levine, the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs are interested in acquiring Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon to supplement an already stacked outfield that includes World Series MVP Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora Jr. Blackmon has been one of the better outfielders in the NL since 2014. Though he's been known for his speed on the base paths (Blackmon stole 28, 43, and 17 bases over the past three seasons), 2016 brought about a noticeable power surge as Blackmon hit 29 HRs, a career best. The Cubs have had interest in Blackmon before, as the front office considered him as an option three times in the past several years, most notably in the 2015 offseason before they brought back Dexter Fowler on a one-year deal.
Fowler, meanwhile, has been getting some attention from the Toronto Blue Jays this week. According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Blue Jays are considering the free agent outfielder as an option. Fowler was one of the best outfielders in the majors in 2016, posting an OBP that was second best in the majors, behind only AL MVP winner Mike Trout. He would provide a reliable leadoff man for the Blue Jays lineup while replacing Michael Saunders in the outfield.
Elsewhere, the San Francisco Giants are reportedly looking to turn back the clock for 2017. There have been conflicting reports that the team has had internal discussions about bringing back Pablo Sandoval, who signed a 5 year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2015 following 3 World Series titles with the Giants in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Sandoval has struggled in Boston, both at the plate and, reportedly, with his weight. Injuries kept Sandoval out for the bulk of 2016, accompanied by reports that the former Giants 3B has again struggled to keep his weight under control, a factor that could possibly have contributed to his injuries last season.