We’ve heard the sexier names that have gone off the board this offseason: Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran. But in the midst of these bigger transactions, lesser-known players are still garnering major league contracts. Here’s some analysis on three major league acquisitions you may have missed that could have impact in 2014:
1) Giants sign RHP Ryan Vogelsong to a one-year, $5-million deal (with up to $1.5 million extra in incentives)
In a market in which quality pitching is fetching a premium, many teams may have missed out on a generally low-risk, high-upside starter in Vogelsong, who returns to the Giants for about the price of one win in the current market. Vogelsong’s 2013 season was plagued by injury and poor pitching, as he finished the campaign with a 5.73 ERA and -0.6 fWAR. However, there’s reason to be optimistic.
First, Vogelson’s 2012 season was very stellar, as the righty posted 2.4 WAR and a 3.37 ERA (and xFIP of 4.15). Second, Vogelsong’s .320 BABIP, 64.6 LOB% (left-on-base percentage), and 13.4 HR/FB% (home run-per-fly ball percentage) are all likely to regress.
Steamer and Oliver currently project him for FIPs of 4.11 and 4.26, respectively, which are completely reasonable. If Vogelsong can tap into his 2012 form, he’ll be looking at serious money this time next year.
2) White Sox sign RHP Ronald Belisario to one-year, $3-million deal
We know they’re not concerned with money, but it’s curious that the Dodgers were willing to spend $10 million on Brian Wilson but not the ~$2.3 million Belisario was expected to receive in arbitration before being released by the club.
Belisario, like Vogelsong, had a mediocre 2013 after a fantastic 2012. Belisario had a 2.54 ERA and 3.10 xFIP in 2012, good for 0.7 WAR. His 2013, however, saw a decreased strikeout percentage and drastically increased BABIP, leading to a 3.97 ERA. Still, his 3.64 FIP showed it wasn’t all bad, and Belisario kept the excellent groundball percentage he’s had his entire career. Last year it was at 61.4 percent, which mitigates his high walk rate.
Considering Chad Qualls got a two-year deal at the same annual salary with an option for a third year worth $3.5 million, one has to think the Dodgers could’ve gotten a decent prospect for Belisario in the trade market. Anyway, this is the White Sox’s gain.
Even though there are a good number of teams in need of a shortstop, the Yankees got one for Jeter insurance who could very well start on many teams. Anna will be going into next season at 27, an age when many position players begin to peak. As our own John Kochurov put it succinctly last season, “Dean Anna is the most underrated player in all of professional baseball.” Playing for the Yankees this upcoming year, the secret may be out.
Anna has consistently hit in the minors, putting up a .331/.410/.482 line in Triple-A last season, good for a 140 wRC+. Steamer has Anna down for a 96 wRC+ next year, and Oliver has him at 89, both not bad numbers for a shortstop.
If you project Anna out for 150 games via Steamer, he sits at ~2.1 fWAR, which is above average. Meanwhile, he could always be a late bloomer who puts up a wRC+ above 100, in which case you could be looking at a 2.5-3.0 fWAR player. Not bad for a guy basically handed to the Yankees for free.
For the price of ~$9-10 million (or about 1.5 wins), you could get your hands on a fourth starting pitcher, a quality relief pitcher, and a starting shortstop whose downside projected wRC+ still would’ve bested the 2013 numbers of Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Starlin Castro. Not every price in this market is insane.