By Michael Model
With Spring Training beginning tomorrow, the products of the 2015 MLB Offseason will begin to take the field with their new teams. This offseason was a very big one, as many teams from the bottom of their divisions try to climb their way into the 2015 Postseason. This will be achieved with the help of contributions by newly acquired talent. Here are the five best moves made during the offseason with respect to the net value of what they’ll add to their new team.
- Jeff Samardzija (Traded with Michael Ynoa for RHP Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, Rangel Ravelo and Marcus Semien):
In 2014, the Chicago White Sox were 27th in team ERA, with a 4.29 ERA. The White Sox should improve this season with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija had a breakout 2014 campaign, in which he maintained a sub-3.00 ERA while tacking on over 200 strikeouts. Samardzija will add much-needed pitching depth behind all-star and ace, Chris Sale. Together, Samardzija and Sale should become one of the top one-two combos in the majors and should keep the White Sox pitching in the top half of the league, along with their offense. Overall, adding another centerpiece in Samardzija should help the team stay competitive in a tough AL Central, and it may possibly be enough to keep the White Sox playing October baseball.
- Ben Zobrist (Traded with Yunel Escobar for John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell and cash):
Ever since its inception, the second baseman pool has been very shallow. This was especially the case for the 2014 Oakland Athletics. Throughout the season, Athletics’ second basemen combined to hit
an atrocious .233, with only one home run and only 36 RBIs. To put that in perspective, Pitcher Madison Bumgarner hit .258 with four homers and fifteen RBIs in only 34 games. The production the A’s got from second base was minuscule, and Billy Beane went out to fix that. The new Oakland second baseman, Ben Zobrist. In his last four seasons, Zobrist has maintained a batting average over .265. During that same span, he’s also put up two twenty-plus home run seasons. The addition of Zobrist brings a versatile infielder who can drive in runs and hit for some power as well. Thus, he should fill the void left at second base, in Oakland, during the 2015 season.
- Matt Kemp (Traded with Tim Federowicz and cash for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin):
The Padres had the worst set of outfielders during the 2014 MLB season. Partly due to guys missing time due to injury, the entire Padres outfield, across all three positions, combined to hit .234 with 29 home runs and 141 RBIs. That’s an average of under 10 homers and 47 RBIs per position. By acquiring Matt Kemp, the Padres added a guy with a career batting average of .292, with five twenty-home run seasons and four 80-RBI seasons as well. Kemp can provide instant offense for a team that was at the bottom of that category last year. Combined with a top-five pitching rotation and a newly renovated lineup, the addition of Kemp can help spark a run to bring the Padres back to the top of the NL West.
- Jon Lester (Signed six-year/$155 million contract with Cubs):
In 2014, the Chicago Cubs resided in the bottom half of the league with their 3.91 team ERA. In addition, things have been rough for the Cubs over the last couple years, as they’ve struggled to stay out of the bottom of the NL Central. With, perhaps, the MLB’s best farm system, and many young prospects on the rise, the Cubs had to anchor a veteran centerpiece to keep the pressure off of the youngsters. By signing Lester, not only are the Cubbies getting a veteran who can mentor some of the Chicago youth, but he can certainly pitch. Lester has had six fifteen-win seasons complemented by three 200-strikeout seasons. Jon also has experience in big moments. He threw a no-hitter in his early days in Boston and also won two World Championships with the Red Sox. Coming off a season in which he posted a 2.45 ERA, Lester looks to build on his successes and build up his team as he tries to bring a World Series Championship back to the south side of Chicago for the first time in 107 years.
- Max Scherzer (Signed seven-year/$210 million contract with Nationals):
Perhaps the best offseason acquisition was made when the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a long-term deal. In 2014, the Washington Nationals 96-66 as they finished first in the NL East. They also led the MLB with a 3.03 team ERA. That was 0.14 better than the Mariners, who had the second best team ERA. However, with Jordan Zimmermann approaching free agency this season, the Nationals appear to have made the decision on his future with the team. Nevertheless, Scherzer’s addition will only add to, what already is, the best rotation in the MLB. The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner and two-time all-star, Scherzer is coming off of his fifth-straight ten-win season. During that stretch, Scherzer has stayed healthy, and has made at least 30 starts in each of those seasons. In addition, Scherzer has posted three straight seasons of at least 230-strikeouts. Last season, he reached a new career high with a whopping 252 strikeouts. Overall, this guy has proven he can pitch at the major league level and should continue to do so. His addition gives the Nationals the best rotation in the MLB and probably makes them the best team in the league as well. That is why, the signing of Max Scherzer is my number-one move of the 2015 MLB Offseason.