My Grade: B+ (above average signing, but neither side pulled off a steal)
Rockies trade Alex White and Alex Gillingham to the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Wilton Lopez: This deal came a bit out of the blue. The Rockies had been rumored to be looking for bullpen pitchers (possibly to trade at the deadline seeing as the Rockies aren't winning anything in 2013), and this is exactly the type of pitcher who could garner something useful at the trade deadline. White and Gillingham are both young pitchers, and given the Astros need to stockpile young arms, this deal definitely makes sense for Houston. Lopez has been very good recently, putting up great GB%. When he isn't throwing his hard sinker for ground balls, Lopez's pitches almost always hit the strike zone. If not for arm injury problems, Lopez would be considered a top bullpen arm, and more high-profile teams would covet him.
My Grade: C (This one doesn't make much sense unless the Rockies can flip Lopez at the trade deadline for better prospects than White and Gillingham)
Rays acquire Yunel Escobar from the Marlins in exchange for minor leaguer Derek Deitrich: The Rays use trades far more often than free agency to acquire players, so a trade involving the Rays at the Winter Meetings is not unwarranted. Shortstop Yunel Escobar began the offseason as part of the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded as part of the mega-deal to the Miami Marlins, and now he's moved across Florida to Tampa Bay. The Rays had numerous needs to fill this offseason, and Escobar is one piece in that yet unfinished puzzle. While Ben Zobrist plays a very good shortstop, the Rays would rather move him between 2nd base and the outfield, so trading for a shortstop was a more logical move than going after an outfielder. On the field, Escobar shouldn't disappoint. Yunel has averaged 3.1 wins according to Fangraphs throughout his 6-year career. He played above average defense, runs the bases fairly well, and gets on base (.353 career OBP). What makes Escobar valuable is the combination of his high OBP, high contact percentage (career-85.5% avg-81.0%), and low 2012 BABIP. His BABIP should regress toward .300, and if we combine that with his ability to make contact, Escobar's wOBA should return to its previous levels (2012-.284 career-.331). Escobar's immaturity as a person might cause some issues, but the Rays have never shied away from talented players with character issues. Deitrich is a 2nd base prospect with solid upside. According to scouting reports and MiLB numbers, Deitrich hits for average, but lacks the pop that many thought he possessed in the past. A poor man's Chase Utley isn't out of his future, and given the Marlins lack of MLB ready players, he may get to play in the majors very soon.
My Grade: A- (Rays get exactly what they need, albeit with character flaws, while the Marlins continue to stock pile young players)
My Grade: B+ (A- for the White Sox and B for Keppinger)
Orioles resign Nate McLouth to a 1-year $2 million contract: While McLouth was receiving attention from a number of teams; he decided to resign with the team that took a chance on him last season. Loyalty can be beneficial or stupid, but in this case it should prove productive. The Orioles spent the equivalent of pennies on McLouth and they won't ask him to do more than hit off of right-handed pitching, something he does fairly well, and play solid defense either corner outfield position. Here are McLouth's splits:
|vs. LHP||vs. RHP|
My Grade: C+ (O's spend little, but aren't getting much. McLouth doesn't have to fight for a job and can prove himself)
|vs. LHP||vs. RHP|
My Grade: D (If someone has a better explanation than mine as to why the Dbacks made this move, I'd love to hear it)
Mariners sign Jason Bay to a 1-year contract worth under $1 million: What do Jason Bay, Michael Vick, and Troy Aikman all have in common. All three have had concussion issues. The difference between Bay and the other two athletes mentioned is that he plays Baseball, not Football. Bay is still the only Pirate to ever win the rookie of the year award, and he played really well for the Red Sox replacing Manny Ramirez, but as a Met Jason Bay failed miserably. The Mets still owe Bay $21 million after releasing him, so money wasn't an issue in signing a contract from the Bay's point of view. The Mariners don't need Bay, but if he somehow makes a comeback, there might be a lot of teams looking to acquire him at the trade deadline. If he has concussion issues, and or doesn't play well, the Mariners can take solace in the fact that they aren't the team paying him millions of dollars.
My Grade: C (Bay has a chance to prove he can still play, and both he and the Mariners hope he does)
The St. Louis Cardinals sign Randy Choate to a 3-year $7.5 million contract: Prior to this signing, reliever Brandon League received a 3-year $21 million contract and Joakim Soria signed a 2-year $8 million contract. So, why did Randy Choate get League-like years and Soria-like money? Well, first of all, Choate is a lefty specialist, so $7.5 million is actually a nice haul. The Cardinals rarely make bad signings, even if not all the players the sign turn out to be stars, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, Choate is actually great at his job. Against left-handed batters, Choate put up a 25.9 K%, 7.8 BB%, 2.72 FIP, and a .154 batting average against. Those are great numbers, but due to his inability to get righties out, his WAR numbers aren't great. Choate throws from a sidearm-like angle, making it very difficult for lefties to pick up his pitches, which can be extremely valuable, especially in high leverage situations (0.4 clutch in 2012).
My Grade: B+ ($2.5 million a year means that the Cardinals aren't paying much here, so kudos to them. As for Choate, he gets the unusual multi-year contract for a lefty specialist.)
My Grade: A (Everything about this looks great, except for the possibility that Burnett regresses in 2013, but I'm sure that was something the Angels considered.)
This was a day of minor signings. Lots of 1-year deals, minor trades, and even more rumors. Rumors gaining significant steam include a possible multi-team trade involving Justin Upton, Zack Greinke getting the most lucrative contract ever signed by a pitcher to date, and that Jason Grilli is very close to a new deal. The Sean Burnett signing and Yunel Escobar trades are objectively the best moves made so far on day 3 of the Winter Meetings, but with 5+ hours remaining on this Wednesday, so much more could still happen.