Whew, what an exciting couple of days if you're a baseball fan. Between Andrew Friedman proclaiming himself Overlord of Baseball and the Red Sox continuing their quest to go from last-to-first-to-last-to-first, these Winter Meetings have been backdrop to the most exciting time in baseball since the World Series ended.
The Dodgers seem to be at the center of all of this movement but their crosstown rivals, the Angels, got in on the fun too yesterday. Meanwhile, up the coast in Oakland, Billy Beane appears as though he's tearing down the A's from the top down. The balance of power in the AL West is shifting and I'd like to take a look at how the Mariners' division rivals have been affected by all of this.
After acquiring Andrew Heaney from the Marlins, the Dodgers quickly flipped him to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. Kendrick has been one of the best second basemen in the league over the past five years -- he's accumulated 17.8 fWAR, the 6th highest total over that period of time. He won't be terrorizing Mariner pitchers anymore.
To replace Kendrick, the Angels traded for Josh Rutledge from the Rockies. Rutledge has bounced between the majors and the minors over the last three years. His main sticking point is his defense -- he's decidedly below average according to the advanced metrics and the Rockies certainly haven't been comfortable with his defense at any of the infield positions. His bat shows a little bit of promise and he should be able to produce a batting line near league average.
In Andrew Heaney, the Angels have acquired a young, cost controlled lefty who could develop into a mid-rotation starter. He's just 23-years-old and had his first taste of the majors last year. He throws a good changeup but he'll need to develop a third pitch if he's going to be effective as a major league starter. He could see time in the rotation next year but I'd bet that he'll start the year in Triple-A as depth while he continues to develop.
According to Steamer, the Angels haven't gotten any worse. Both Kendrick and Rutledge are projected for the same amount of WAR in 2015. I happen to think that Steamer is undervaluing Kendrick and overvaluing Rutledge but on paper, they haven't really moved in total WAR. If that's the case, the Heaney becomes the crux of the deal. If he's able to continue to develop into an adequate pitcher, then the Angels certainly got better. If he isn't able to develop, then it looks like it's a wash and the Angels only cleared some payroll with these moves.
When you look at the transaction record for the Athletics this offseason, you have to start to wonder if Billy Beane is playing a completely different game than everyone else. He's tearing down the Athletics and rebuilding them from the ground up. After three playoff appearances with an average of 92 wins per year over the last three years, Beane has begun working on the next generation of great Athletics. Over the last few weeks, Beane has traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Jeff Samardzija, players who accumulated over 10 fWAR for the A's last year -- and they're projected to be worth a combined 11.2 fWAR in 2015 by Steamer. In return, the A's received a number of prospects and two major league ready players, Brett Lawrie and Marcus Semien. Those two replacements are projected to be worth just 5.6 WAR combined in 2015. There's no doubt that the A's are reloading for the future and that has certainly affected their outlook for 2015.
With the loss of Samardzija, the A's rotation looks like a shell of its former self. Jon Lester and Jason Hammel have already signed with the Cubs which means the A's have lost three-fifths of their rotation from last year (Lester and Hammel were free agents and unexpected to resign with the A's). Both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin should be returning from injury in 2015 but neither should be counted on for anywhere near the level of production Samardzija would have contributed.
In a few years, we could see many of the prospects Beane acquired this year begin to form the next core of the Athletics. Franklin Barreto in particular looks like an excellent pickup for the A's but he's only just reached Single-A. Chris Bassitt could develop into a decent pitcher for the A's and Rangel Ravelo impressed in Double-A last year.
Obviously, the offseason isn't over yet and both the Angels and the Athletics could still make some moves to strengthen (or weaken) their position in the AL West. And I didn't even mention the Astros or the Rangers. Still, if the season started today, the Mariners would definitely be in the conversation for the best team in the AL West. The Mariners aren't finished either and, by the end of the offseason, the Mariners could be the favorite to win the division. While these Winter Meetings have been crazy and exciting, they've also been pretty mellow if you're a fan of the Mariners. The good news is the Mariners aren't done yet and the next few months should still be exciting as the team tries to build a winner in 2015.