When the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series, many people put baseball on the back burner. A lot of fans tend to turn their attention to football or basketball, and forget there’s a ton going on in the MLB over the winter. Many big-name stars have changed homes, either via trade or free agency, while teams have negotiated with arbitration-eligible players and players from overseas. Here are a few moves that could shake up the balance of power in the MLB.
CESPEDES RE-SIGNS WITH METS
One of the biggest moves so far just went down within the last couple days, as outfielder Yoenis Cespedes re-signed with the Mets, reportedly turning down offers from the Washington Nationals and other suitors. Cespedes has played for four teams over the last two seasons, but was brilliant with the Mets after being traded at the deadline from the Tigers.
The Mets knew they had a special talent and decided to lock Cespedes up for three years with a $75 million deal. Cespedes can choose to opt out of the contract after 2016, so we might be talking about him again next year.
HEYWARD TO CUBS
Outfielder Jason Heyward chose the Chicago Cubs over a number of other offers. Heyward’s deal is for eight years and $184MM, which seems like a lot of money when you look at his stats, but he is known as a five-tool player, meaning he has the skills to succeed in all facets of the game. He’s an excellent defender with a strong arm, hits well, can hit for power, and is a very good base runner.
Chicago’s additions of Heyward and pitcher John Lackey (two years, $32MM) signal a change in power in the NL Central; the Cubs were very good last year too, but ultimately finished third in the division behind the Cardinals and the Pirates. They now appear to be the favorites in that division.
UPTON, ZIMMERMANN TO TIGERS
The Detroit Tigers have made a couple big splashes so far, signing pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and outfielder Justin Upton. Zimmermann signed for five years and $110MM, while Upton’s deal is six years and $132.75MM. Detroit is in full “win now” mode as they have a number of aging stars with major contracts, adding these two to Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
The window is probably not very wide for the Tigers, and they’ll have to get past the world champion Royals in their division, but they have the talent to go far in 2016.
NL WEST PITCHING MOVES
The NL West looks like a solid three-team race after some major pitching moves. The Arizona Diamondbacks struck first, stealing Zack Greinke away from the Los Angeles Dodgers (and the San Francisco Giants) with a seven year, $206MM mega-contract. The Diamondbacks followed that up by trading for the Atlanta Braves’ Shelby Miller, giving them a front of the rotation (along with Patrick Corbin) that is a force to be reckoned with.
The Giants, having missed out on the Greinke sweepstakes, made a splash by signing two other big name pitchers in free agency to slot in behind Madison Bumgarner: Jeff Samardzija will make $90MM over five years, and Johnny Cueto’s deal is for six years and $130MM, a deal which he can choose to opt out of after two seasons.
After the dust settled (and a couple of false starts), the Dodgers made their moves, adding Scott Kazmir for three years and $48MM and Japanese import Kenta Maeda on a deal loaded with incentives that looks brilliant for the team. If Maeda makes all the incentives, the deal will end up being worth over $100MM, but only $25MM is guaranteed if Maeda doesn’t perform. The Dodgers also re-signed Brett Anderson for one year at $15.8MM, as he accepted the team’s qualifying offer, and have rebuilt a competitive rotation behind ace Clayton Kershaw.
PRICE TO RED SOX, CHAPMAN TO YANKEES
The AL East also saw its share of moves. The Boston Red Sox made a big splash by signing pitcher David Price for seven years and $217MM – the biggest contract of the off-season, and the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history. Price can opt out of the deal after three years if he so chooses. This move gives the Red Sox a bonafide ace, which they missed last year after missing out on re-signing Jon Lester after the 2014 season.
Not to be outdone, the New York Yankees traded for embattled closer Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees might now have the best back end of a bullpen in the league, adding Chapman to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, which will make for some must-watch baseball in 2016.
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