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Collette Calls: December Transactions Analysis

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

The recent Winter Meetings were not really a December to Remember event, unless you count watching a player agent consume a 48-ounce steak and get his name put up on the wall at Shula's Steakhouse (that's my arm in the right edge of the photo). There were a number of moves in December, but most happened before or just after the Winter Meetings. Let's look at the fantasy implications of each of the notable moves.

Blue Jays trade for Aledmys Diaz:
Diaz was as much of a surprise in 2016 as he was a bust in 2017. The Cardinals quickly moved on and sent him to Toronto where Diaz is going to open the season on the bench. The good news is that the guys in front of him up the middle, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, are not the models of health so time could open back up for Diaz. The question will be which version of Diaz shows up. The move to Rogers Centre is a favorable one for him, but it is all for naught. As bad as his 2017 was, his expected weighted on base average based off batted ball data said it could have been even worse. I'm intrigued by him for AL-Only leagues as a middle infielder, but am by no means going the extra dollar or even targeting him. If he is there in dollar days, I will roster him.

White Sox sign Welington Castillo:
Beef; it's what is catching in Chicago in 2018 and 2019. Castillo was a fun target in drafts last year because the righty pull hitter was going to his ideal fit in Camden Yards and damn if he did not hit 20 homers in fewer than 400 plate appearances. He took that production into a new two-year deal in the next best fit for his skills in Guaranteed Rate Field. Look at his numbers in 2016 and 2017 and how similar they were save one thing:

SEASONPAAVGOBPSLGHRHR/FBGB/FB
2016457.264.322.4231414%1.3
2017365.282.323.4902023%1.1

In three of the last five years, Castillo has had a GB/FB of 1.1 and has been at 1.3 in the other two. In 2015 and again last year, his home run to flyball ratio was around 20 percent while in other years, it was in the lower teens. He has only seen north of 450 plate appearances once in his career, but that should be his floor in Chicago next year. The defensive metrics are very strong for him so there is no reason not to give him playing time. At one point in his career, he had issues hitting righties, but has been right about league average against them over the course of the last two seasons.

Tigers sign Mike Fiers, Leonys Martin:
Let's start with the interesting ride that was Mike Fiers in 2017. He began the season allowing 18 homers over his first nine outings that lasted 46.2 innings. That worked out to a 3.5 HR/9 rate. His ERA was 5.21 in that time yet his FIP was 7.70. Everything said run away yet over his next 10 starts, he went 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA and allowed only three homers in 61 innings. Just when everyone got on board with him, he went 1-6 with a 9.07 ERA over his last nine starts. He takes that mess to Detroit where he'll be asked to take the ball every fifth day for a rebuilding club that at least gives him a bigger park to pitch in so the home runs should not be as much of a problem this year.

Bringing in Martin to help the outfield defense will help Fiers, but you still draft him for the strikeouts in AL-Only leagues and hope he doesn't destroy your ratios. Martin took a major step backward offensively last season as he went from full-time player to one that was twice designated for assignment. He turns 30 during camp and is projected to hit down in the lineup in front of Dixon Machado and Jose Iglesias. Martin may have to steal second frequently to get into scoring position given the light hitting that will be behind him.

Royals sign Wily Peralta:
2014 was fun while it lasted. Since then, Peralta has been all over the place statistically, and mostly in a very bad place. Milwaukee demoted him to the pen last year and he was even worse, albeit in just 17.1 innings. Kansas City saw something as they gave Peralta a one-year deal with a team option for 2019. Peralta saw his strikeout rate surge from 18 to 22 percent in relief, but his walk rate went way up as well as did his BABIP all the way to .473! Peralta can still get groundballs and miss bats and there is always a role for that in a major league bullpen. His days as a starter, even if the guys in front of him break down, are likely over.

Rangers sign Mike Minor, acquire Matt Moore:
In 2010, the Rangers converted C.J. Wilson from a successful reliever into a productive and durable starting pitcher from 2010 through 2013. They're hoping to do the same with Minor as they signed him coming off a terrific season out of the pen and want to put him back in the rotation where he last was in 2014. As a reliever, his strikeout rate went way up but that was mostly due to a new wicked slider and his utilization of the pitch. Keep in mind, Minor missed all of 2015 with a torn labrum and threw 43 innings in Triple-A in 2016 and 78 innings with the Royals last year. Minor, before the shoulder surgery, had shown the ability to handle a workload but will now be asked to more than double what he did last year.

Matt Moore is coming off a giant step backward from what was excellent progress in the second half of 2016. Last season saw him struggle with homers and stranding runners and his ERA balloon back to where he was in Tampa Bay in 2015 after his return from Tommy John surgery. Global Life Park is not the rough offensive environment that it once was, but Moore will have to pitch in Houston a few times as well so you must be judicious in how you utilize him. He can still get the strikeouts, but everything else is a risk making him AL-Only material in his current form.

Cubs sign Tyler Chatwood:
Chatwood gets out of Coors and gets the Cubs well-balanced offense and defense behind him. Anything else I would say would just be parroting what Mike Petriello wrote earlier this month and given that I listed Charlie Morton as a target in last year's scrap heap piece for the Draft Kit, I'll be more than a little interested in Chatwood for 2018.

Seattle acquires Dee Gordon, signs Juan Nicasio:
Gordon took his speedy talents out of South Beach and to the furthest reaches of the league in Seattle. Gordon's production should not be impacted much at all as he still has a very talented group of run producers hitting behind him. The only factor that may come into play is that he has to learn how to play center field on the fly.

Nicasio is the more interesting signing because there is a clear path to profitability with him given that Edwin Diaz was literally all over the place in 2017. Nicasio was effective in setup work for Pittsburgh and did a good job in late leverage with the Cardinals later in the season as well. He seems like one of the better fits to pick up 10-plus saves out of nowhere that come along every season.

A's signs Yusmeiro Petit, acquires Stephen Piscotty:
Petit was a nice asset in AL-Only leagues last year due to his multiple-inning usage out of the pen. Getting five wins, four saves and 101 strikeouts from an end game reliever is what dreams are made of and Petit could do the same thing for Oakland as its staff is not one built to go deep into games on a nightly basis. His heavy flyball approach is a great fit for that park.

Piscotty comes home as he played in Stanford and comes home under sad circumstances as his mom is battling Lou Gehrig's disease. He had that weighing on him last year as well as injuries, which helps us write off 2017's struggles while not forgetting what he did back in 2016. Piscotty is an excellent "last year's trash" type target in all formats and should turn a profit as long as everyone else is exercising recency bias.

Yankees acquire Giancarlo Stanton:
Every one of his 2017 homers would have also left Yankee Stadium, so there is no worry about him losing homers. Nothing he hits is cheap so the move can only help the power because he also gets to hit in Fenway, Camden and Rogers Centre while playing an unbalanced schedule. Honestly, 70 homers cannot be written off. The RBI production could be affected if Aaron Judge hits in front of him and clears the bases before Stanton comes up. That is the only concern. Stanton was a top 8 pick before the trade and now is a lock to be chose in the top 5.

Marlins acquire Starlin Castro:
Conversely, the move out of New York hurts Castro as he leaves a better park and a better lineup. By the time Derek Jeter is done gutting this club, Castro could be hitting cleanup behind Martin Prado and other lesser pieces as Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto both want out of Dodge. If those two guys leave, Castro will struggle to match last year's runs, but should be able to fall into 70-plus RBIs while hitting third or fourth.

Rays acquires Ryan Schimpf, Joey Wendle, Denard Span, Christian Arroyo:
Both Florida-based franchises are going through overhauls and the Rays appear to be getting back to their days of pitching and defense. Schimpf only qualifies at third base on draft day, but will undoubtedly be used in multiple places by Kevin Cash off the bench. He is readily available cheap power in AL-Only leagues because of his issues with contact and awful batting average. Schimpf could end up seeing a lot of time at third base if Matt Duffy's recovery after missing all of 2017 is not fully complete.

Wendle should also be get that multi-positional flexibility if the team makes more moves and send Brad Miller and Adeiny Hechavarria elsewhere. Wendle has done little at the big league level but has done a little bit of everything in the minors including stealing 10-plus bases in each of the past three seasons in Triple-A.

Span is now the highest paid person on the team's payroll, which shows you just how team friendly Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier's contracts are. Span should become the most everyday left fielder and hit in the bottom third of the lineup. Cash will let him run when he is on base to help produce runs at the bottom of the lineup.

Arroyo is a lock to begin the season in Triple-A Durham as he is recovering from offseason hand surgery and he will most likely stay there well into the summer unless both Duffy and Schmipf bomb out.

Padres acquires Chase Headley, Freddy Galvis:
The immediate gut reaction is to really hate the move for Headley because he leaves the comfy short porch of Yankee Stadium until we remember Headley hit 31 homers for the Padres five seasons ago. That season was so strange because he has never hit more than 14 in any other season at the big league level, but Headley should be able to repeat his 2017 production hitting in the middle of the San Diego lineup as their everyday third baseman rather than at the bottom of the lineup as he tended to do with the Yankees.

Speaking of the bottom of the lineup, that brings us to Galvis who brings his counting category production to the west coast. Galvis and Headley's defense on the left side should help the San Diego pitchers while Galvis chips in the counting categories and could even steal 20 bases if he can get on base more frequently with the Padres.

Angels acquire Ian Kinsler, sign Zack Cozart:
I honestly do not care about the offensive impact, though Kinsler hitting in front of Mike Trout is going to be awesome for him. The bigger factor here is the infield defense in Anaheim as the Angels have now added two strong defenders to the elite Andrelton Simmons on the left side and Martin Maldonado behind the plate. This makes me look at the staff in a new light and serves as a nice tie-breaker when trying to decide between similar pitchers.

Astros sign Joe Smith:
Smith may seem like an odd addition to this report given he has mostly been a middle reliever, but he was a damn good one last year and now enters a situation where the incumbent, Ken Giles, is not on the firmest of grounds. Smith is absolute death to righties and saw a significant jump in his strikeout rate last year. Given that Houston gave him a two-year, $15M deal, it apparently views him as more than just some righty killer to come in a stop rallies in the seventh inning. You should as well as he could end up adding a few saves to that strikeout total in 2018.

Twins sign Michael Pineda, Fernando Rodney:
Rodney is what he is an erratic reliever that puts on a show after the save is over, but continues to pile up saves in rough fashion. He began 2017 on a scoreless role, but ended up giving it all back on his way to 39 saves and a 4.23 ERA. He may be wild, but he does work with a groundball tilt and has limited homers for most of his career. The ratios will not be pretty at the end, but the saves should be there for the Archer.

Pineda is only listed for keeper leagues as he is unlikely to pitch for most of 2018 as he recovers from surgery. I only bring him up because he is part of one of my favorite factoids of this offseason: Only three times has a pitcher had a K/9 of at least 10.0, a BB/9 under 3.00, but an ERA over 4.00 Chris Archer in 2016 and 2017 as well as Michael Pineda in 2016.

Cardinals acquire Marcell Ozuna, sign Luke Gregerson:
Ozuna had a breakout year for Miami and ended up being purged out by Jeter and landed in a great spot to continue building off last year's success. When someone surges forward as much as Ozuna did last year, the logical expectation is a step backward and that should be expected for Ozuna. He drove in 124 runs last year thanks to a loaded offense in front of him but no combination of Cardinal hitters is going to be able to replicate what Gordon, Stanton, and Yelich were in front of Ozuna in 2017.

Gregerson is two seasons removed from being a full-time closer with Houston but enters a situation where he could resume that role. He was part of a deep pen in Houston last year and did have issues in high-leverage situations, but still misses a fair number of bats with his killer slider and 9 of his 13 homers came while pitching in Houston. St. Louis has a better park for him to pitch in and when you eliminate the homers from his profile over the last three years, he looks a lot like a closer:

SEASONGIPK%BB%GB%HR/9ERAFIP
2015646125%4%60%0.73.102.86
20165957.229%8%60%0.83.282.99
2017656127%8%50%1.94.574.62

Phillies sign Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter: This is not exactly where anyone was predicting Santana would end up, but this is a really good fit for him offensively because of the cozy park as well as who surrounds him in the lineup. Santana will hit in the middle of the lineup and be asked to produce runs rather than hit leadoff and create them as he did in Cleveland from time to time. He has been a very consistent player the past few seasons and we should expect more of the same here.

Hunter and Neshek give Philadelphia two strong bridges to get the ball to Hector Neris for closing. The bullpen had issues bridging the gap between the starter and closer, but these two veterans were two of the better middle relievers in baseball last year and were particularly nasty against righties. This should help generate more save chances for Neris as well as some more wins for the club's starters.

Braves acquire Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir:
McCarthy was effective last year save two rather terrible outings against the lowly Giants and his current employer. The issue with McCarthy is not skills, but his inability to stay healthy enough to use them. Since his 200 inning season in 2014, he has pitched 154 innings combined over the past three seasons. He has solid end game skills in NL-Only leagues.

Kazmir missed all of 2017 with hip and core problems. He is a complete wildcard in 2018 with that full year off but he is not that far removed from being a three-category contributor.

Giants acquire Evan Longoria:
This is a very problematic move for Longoria. Do me a favor; raise your right hand and open up your fingers. Now, pull in your thumb and you are accurately representing the number of home runs hit to left field by right-handed Giants hitters in 2017. Longoria had waning exit velocity last year and his power numbers noticeably dropped off in the second half. His extra base hit profile is likely to change from homers to doubles as he has a natural swing to right centerfield when he is in a groove. He may not hit as many as 25 homers, but could end up with 50 doubles/triples.

Brewers sign Yovani Gallardo, Jhoulys Chacin: I'm not sure what Gallardo has done to earn a major league deal, but Milwaukee gave him one. He has been horrendous the past two seasons showing little sign of getting back to his production five years ago. There is no clear path for him turning a profit on a $1 investment unless it involves a time machine.

Chacin is the move that is intriguing because he made it work last year in San Diego. He has that great slider and gets strikeouts along with decent ratios and stays in starts long enough to have a decent shot at wins. The problem with him is he is really bad against lefties and has had a large platoon split throughout his career. If the club can get him to use a cutter against lefties or move him toward first base on the rubber against them, they could help squeeze a little more juice out of this berry.

Nationals sign Matt Adams: Since the Nationals lost Adam Lind, they signed his doppelganger. Like Lind, Adams can play both first and left field and hits righties rather well while being mostly useless against lefties. Adams has been 10 percent better than the league average against righties over the past three seasons and 2017 was his best yet as he had a 126 wRC+ against them thanks to a .295/.342/.554 slash line in 304 plate appearances. Adams is a nice insurance policy if Ryan Zimmerman has health issues and should be able to find 300-350 plate appearances off the bench in the National League to supply some cheap power while providing multi-positional eligibility.