Building a team during the offseason goes through several different stages, both for individual clubs and the MLB landscape as a whole. We're now nearing the end of the most noteworthy stage, which usually centers around the Winter Meetings and the weeks immediately preceding and following them. Here, the biggest free agents tend to fly off the shelf while complex deals are struck between clubs that we don't tend to see in any other month outside of July, and that often has an entirely different feel.
However, it's the next phase of the offseason where a GM can prove he's worth his weight in gold in a more under-the-radar fashion. Here, the lesser-known names are inked to smaller deals. Every winter it involves some GMs overpaying for garbage, and some GMs finding just the right piece at an incredible discount. How much of this is good research, scouting, and behind-the-scenes work and how much of this is just pure luck is up for debate, but for a team like the Rockies, it's this stage of the winter that's likely to ultimately determine whether the offseason is a success or failure.
Unfortunately for the part of the fan base that craves big name impact news right now, they won't find it here. These are the types of moves where you don't get your answers until the summer, and while I realize all players technically fall into this category, it's the players signed after the big names are gone that can often be the biggest jokers in the deck.
A good example of one of those players in this year's market is Casey Janssen. He's a guy who could easily be one of the smartest or dumbest signings a GM makes this winter. He won't make too much news when a club decides to bite, but by midsummer his name will pop up in conversations as he comes out of the bullpen attached to either a "Wow, what a great signing by that club," or a "I can't believe this scrub suckered a team into signing him after the way he finished 2014."
Janssen is a fascinating case that's received almost zero press since September. If he was a free agent last winter, he would have made a fortune. Now, he's been tossed into the bargain bin.
In 2011-2013, his ERA for the Blue Jays looks like this:
Which brings us to 2014 and Janssen's 3.94 ERA. It's not just his 3.94 ERA though, it's how he got there.
At the All-Star Break, Janssen seemed primed to land a big contract, as he had just a 1.23 ERA at the time, but then he contracted food poisoning, lost ten pounds, and proceeded to give up nine runs in his first ten outings following the break. He would get somewhat back on track in late August and September, but not quite to the degree Toronto was used to. As a result, he disappeared from conversation.
So now the question becomes this: Is the 33-year-old Janssen a guy who just hit that wall in 2014 and won't be effective again, or is he a guy who just had a bad half season at exactly the wrong time? I tend to lean towards the first option as his fly ball rate went way up last season, his ground ball rate plummeted, and hitters found significantly more success against his previously excellent curve ball for most of the summer.
Still, you can see exactly why he's a guy who will sit on the free agent market for a long time and end up being somebody's "sweetheart deal." He shouldn't be anybody's first option, but if he sits there long enough, and the price comes down enough, and a team's need for bullpen help is great enough, he starts looking attractive. It might not be attractive attractive, but certainly relatively attractive.
I personally don't think this particular option is going to work out, especially for the Rockies since the pitch that really worked for him in 2011-2013 was his curve ball (although he does limit walks which is an excellent quality for a pitcher to have at Coors Field), but this is the type of signing that will work out for somebody. Maybe not Janssen, but a sister case of some sort.
The secondary market is where overlooked clubs can climb past the contenders on paper. It happens every year, and it's at least in part because they get players cut from the same cloth as Janssen who work out. The task for Jeff Bridich and company now is to find these diamonds in the rough.
Chase Headley agreed to a four year, $52 million deal with the Yankees this morning. This signing is interesting for a few reasons. First, it takes the last reasonable third base option off the board for the Giants after losing Pablo Sandoval. Since they also lost out on Jon Lester and Ervin Santana, this could force San Francisco into either the Max Scherzer or James Shields sweepstakes.
At the same time, however, this signing also tells us that the Yankees don't intend to remain completely quiet this winter and could actually end up in serious competition with the Giants for one of those two names. Along those same lines, signing Headley could tell us something about how much production the Yankees expect to get out of Alex Rodriguez as he attempts his comeback following the Biogenesis scandal. If nothing else, the Yankees could have a significantly improved defense on the left side of the infield if they've moved on from the older gloves of both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
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The New York media is getting extremely desperate in their attempt to create Troy Tulowitzki to a New York team trade rumors. This time Joel Sherman wants the Mets to make a move. He's really reaching in this article though, and it's particularly evident in this line near the end:
A person who has spoken on more than one occasion with Tulowitzki believes he is so disenchanted in Colorado that he would embrace a move to the Mets, a chance to play in New York.
This is a whole lot of nothing wrapped in a bag of crap. Let's look at the context clues.
First of all, it's written in a sleazy, indirect manner specially designed to further the author's agenda. The person who believes this is anonymous, and is left open to be any one of hundreds, if not thousands, of people Tulo has spoken to more than once in his life, including New York media friends of Mr. Sherman.
Secondly, this anonymous person doesn't even claim Tulowitzki said these things. They just claim to be a mind reader even though Tulowitzki has never explicitly expressed being disenchanted with Colorado publicly, and apparently to this person privately either.
Thirdly, if Sherman (who also reports for MLB Network) had actual real information Tulowitzki was disenchanted with Colorado and wanted out, wouldn't THAT be a story to write about and break? Not as a Mets centered piece, but as an "everybody in baseball should be trying to get this guy" story? Instead, he buries this at the bottom of an article intended for an audience who doesn't realize life exists west of New Jersey and wraps it in that oh so precious "a chance to play in New York" elitism that a stunning number of people in that city not only buy into, but believe religiously.