Here are my thoughts on some offseason free agent moves and trades, including Shin-Soo Choo, Anibal Sanchez and the trade of Kendrys Morales to the Mariners.
Shin-Soo Choo Signs with the Reds
Of all the offseason moves we have seen so far, no move improves the fantasy value of a player more than Reds new outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Choo is a two-time member of the 20-20 club (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases), and is now moving from Progressive Field, which kills left-handed power to a Great American Ball Park, which improved home run production by 49% in 2012. Choo hit .283-.373-.441 with 16 HRs, 88 runs, 67 RBI and 21 stolen bases last season, and figures to see a boost in his numbers across the board hitting atop the Reds lineup. He will more than likely bat leadoff for the Reds, hitting ahead of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. He does have trouble with left-handed pitchers, as he hit just .199-.318-.286 with 2 HRs, 13 RBI and 60 strikeouts in 242 plate appearances in 2012. He is someone you should target in 2013 fantasy drafts, as he should surpass the 20 home run mark again and could score 100+ runs.
Anibal Sanchez Signs with the Tigers
Anibal Sanchez has a sub-.500 record for his career, going 48-51 in 144 career starts, but that did not stop the Tigers from giving him a 5 year, $80 million contract this offseason. He went 9-13 with a 3.86 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, and a 1.27 WHIP. He saw his strikeout rate drop from 9.26 to 7.68 in 2012, a signal that his 2011 K rate was an aberration. He improved his control as well, as his walk rate dropped from 2.93 to 2.21. Actually, he has cut his walk rate in half over the last four seasons:
2009: 4.81 BB/9
2010: 3.23 BB/9
2011: 2.93 BB/9
2012: 2.21 BB/9
Over the same time frame, we have seen his ground ball rate increase from 41.9% in 2009 to a career high 46.4% in 2012. His career high 3.48 K/BB rate ranked 24th in all of MLB in 2012, in the same company as David Price and Adam Wainwright, which to me indicates he has some upside moving forward. His value increases in 2013 with the move from Miami to Detroit, and I see him winning 12-15 games in 2013 with the 3.50 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.
Kendrys Morales Traded to the Mariners
In a trade that filled the needs of both teams, the Mariners traded starter Jason Vargas to the Angels for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales. This trade may signal the end of the Justin Smoak experiment in Seattle, but if not, Morales could be part of a three player platoon at first base and DH in 2013 with Smoak and Jesus Montero.
Morales split time at first base and DH for the Angels in 2012, hitting .273-.320-.467 with 22 HRs, 61 runs and 73 RBI in 134 games. After hitting .289-.327-.431 with 8 HRs and 33 RBI in the first half, Morales sacrificed some batting average for power in the second half, as he hit .256-.313-.504 with 14 HRs and 40 RBI.
The Mariners have moved in the fences at Safeco Park in 2013, so right handed power hitters should benefit from the changes. Morales hit 17 of his 22 HRs from the left side in 2012, so it remains to be seen as to how he will perform in the new dimensions at Safeco.
If anything, Morales value increases in 2013, as he will play everyday, whether at first base or DH, so his counting number should increase a bit next year.
Stephen Drew Signs with the Red Sox
The Red Sox signed shortstop Stephen Drew to a one year, $9.5 million contract last week. What is surprising to me is that Drew settled for a one year deal when the Red Sox have been handing out 3 year deals to several other free agents this offseason. There could be two reasons for this, and the obvious one is that the Red Sox view Drew as a stop gap to top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who could be ready for the big leagues as soon at 2014. The second reason is Drew wants to re-establish his market value hitting in the hitter friendly Fenway Park, and seek a longer term deal next offseason.
Drew's value increases with the move to Boston, and I could see him putting up a season much like 2010, where he hit .278-.352-.45 with 15 HRs, 83 runs and 61 RBI. I doubt we see him stealing double digit bags after his horrible ankle injury.