Winter Meetings Day 3 – Schrock Moves and Bullpen Boosts

It’s the Winter Meetings this week in Orlando – Disney World in fact, a part of Florida where even Derek Jeter might struggle to be the biggest joke on show. As ever with the set piece offseason occasion, the list of Major League transactions is long and growing. Luckily, our podcast team of Tom (TP), Ben (BC), Darius (DA) and John (JM) are on hand to keep you up to speed.

Here are their takes on the big moves on the final day…

Ian Kinsler to the Angels for prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery

For once, the Angels seem to be making a concerted push to ensure that Mike Trout has a strong supporting cast at almost every position, perhaps spurred on by the acquisition of Shohei Ohtani, and clearly have an eye on the playoffs. Kinsler gets to leave a rebuilding Tigers team that had little use for a veteran with just one year left on his deal; if only they could find someone to take the eye-wateringly bad contracts of Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann off their hands.

Kinsler can contribute in all aspects of the game, with above-average numbers offensively, defensively, and on the basepaths. He’s always had a good eye and strong contact skills, consistently striking out far less than the average player, and is both a power and speed threat, with 234 home runs and 225 stolen bases in his 12-year career. 2017 was somewhat disappointing from an offensive standpoint as Kinsler posted a wRC+ of just 91, the worst mark of his career. It’s reasonable to expect some positive regression to his .244 BABIP, but he is a fly ball hitter who also saw a drop in his line drive rate and a high 14.4% infield fly ball rate, so it may not get all the way back to .300.

Nonetheless, Kinsler was still a 2-3 win player on the strength of his glove and baserunning, and that compares very favourably to what Los Angeles had in 2017. Their second basemen combined for a putrid 60 wRC+ and were below replacement level as a result. Kinsler is 35, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if 2017 was the start of his decline, but even if he can’t bounce back offensively, it would take another huge drop-off for Kinsler to not represent a clear upgrade for the Angels. Neither prospect they gave up is even close to cracking the top 10 of a relatively weak farm system, so they’re unlikely to regret the move, especially if Kinsler helps them to a playoff berth. (DA)

Stephen Piscotty to the As for prospects Max Schrock and Yairo Muñoz

Outfielder Piscotty was an average performer for the Cardinals last year posting a 235/342/367 slash that was good for a measly 92 wRC+. This came after a promising breakout year in 2016 (116 wRC+) that suggested him as yet another sleeper in the ‘Cardinals Way’ mould.

His slump led many to wonder what had happened to the promising 2016 vintage outfielder. Our answer came in the communications surrounding this trade. Piscotty’s mother Gretchen was diagnosed with ALS (or Lou Gehrig‘s disease to give it its name in baseball parlance) in late 2016 and approached the Cardinals to seek a move closer to home in the Bay Area.

In shipping him to Oakland, the Cardinals give him his wish whilst replenishing some of their losses from the trade for Marcell Ozuna with the Marlins. Max Schrock, in particular, was a player dreamed upon by As prospects watcher and a favourite of Fangraphs Carson Cistulli, whose path is currently blocked by veteran Jed Lowrie.

Cards President of Baseball Ops John Mozeliak admitted of Piscotty’s situation “There were certainly some opportunities to move him elsewhere, and when you’re looking at how to break a tie, clearly that did play into it.”

Some things are bigger than baseball. Bravo, St. Louis. (JM)

Fernando Rodney to the Minnesota Twins (1 yr)

Hardy perennial bullpen arm Fernando Rodney has earned another chance to worry the hell out of home crowds with his iffy control. Despite appearances Rodney’s 2017 with the D’backs actually saw him improve his WHIP by over 0.2, however his ability to strand baserunners showed large regression (77.5% to 61.1%) despite favourable BABIP (.274) and a solid strikeout rate in line with career norms.

The numbers paint a ‘hard luck’ picture of Rodney’s 2017 and the Twins, in desperate need of some back end help following Brandon Kintzler‘s decision to sign in Washington and Glen Perkins retirement, will be banking on a bounceback.

Rodney, of course, is also famous for annoying people by wearing his cap off centre. Know this: he does so to honour his late, fisherman father who wore caps thus as ‘that’s the side the sun hit his face’. (JM)

Steve Cishek to the Chicago Cubs (2yrs, $12m)

The Cubs completed their mop up of middle to high end relief pitching by adding Cishek to the signing of Brandon Morrow. These moves cover a weakness at Wrigley following the departure of Wade Davis to free agency.

Cishek has a ‘funky’ delivery thrown from a low side-arm slot and earns a two-year bump following a hot second half run  in Tampa Bay, where he ended the season with 44 2/3 innings of 2.01 ERA ball and 8.3 K/9 with 2.8 BB/9 as an ‘extreme ground ball’ pitcher.

Also, if you invert his name, it sounds like that of a gnarled old Delta Bluesman who’s on Later with Jools Holland every week – Cishek Steve, anyone? (JM)

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