The 5 Most Questionable Moves of the 2015-16 MLB Offseason

No baseball fan truly likes winter, but it’s a necessary evil. It allows MLB players to rest their tired and sore bodies while front office executives make roster moves to load up for another try at making the postseason.

The 2015-16 offseason has appeared to be more slow moving than in recent memory, and although guys like Ian Desmond, Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler (among others) continue looking for new homes, teams have committed over $2 billion to free agents. So, the purse strings aren’t exactly being pinched.

Spring Training is now under two weeks away, but that’s still plenty of time to critique the moves made during the Hot Stove season. Let’s take a look at five free-agent signings and trades that have brought more questions than answers before Opening Day.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, New York Mets

After spending the World Series watching the Kansas City Royals expose their defensive imperfections, New York set out to upgrade its middle infield positions, but did they?

Instead of committing to another year of Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores at shortstop, general manager Sandy Alderson brought in Asdrubal Cabrera on a two-year, $18.5 million deal. Cabrera had a solid 2015 after a couple disappointing seasons, but he doesn’t seem to be much of an upgrade over Flores.

Let’s compare their 2015 performances:

Cabrera: .265/.315/.430, 15 HRs, 58 RBI, 104 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR

Flores: .263/.295/.408, 16 HRs, 59 RBI, 95 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

So, he must be an upgrade with the glove, right? Not so much. Cabrera posted a -6.0 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2015, while Flores posted a -2.5 UZR. They can both play shortstop, second base and third base, so the biggest difference seems to be their age: Cabrera is entering his age-30 season, while Flores is only 24.


Gerardo Parra, OF, Colorado Rockies

After trading away Troy Tulowitzki last July, it appeared the Rockies were finally ready to start rebuilding. Instead of minimizing financial risk and acquiring young starting pitching, they signed Parra to a three-year, $27.5 million deal, which gave them four starting outfielders for three spots.

To fix this, Colorado then traded its least-expensive outfielder (Corey Dickerson) to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for reliever Jake McGee.

For Parra, it was a tale of two seasons in 2015. He posted a career-high .886 OPS in 100 games with the Milwaukee Brewers before getting traded to the Baltimore Orioles, then disappointed with a .625 OPS in his final 55 games. Nobody is worried about offensive production because of the Coors Field effect, and he’s definitely a defensive upgrade over Dickerson.

However, signing a player like Parra and acquiring a reliever like McGee are moves teams on the verge of contention make, not ones coming off a 68-94 campaign. They will both help, but this move seems awfully unnecessary for a team with a starting rotation that doesn’t have any major upgrades, while ranking second worst in fWAR (4.7) and worst in both ERA (5.27) and FIP (4.87) in 2015.


Odrisamer Despaigne, SP, Baltimore Orioles

Including deals for Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Darren O’Day, the Orioles have spent more than $200 million in advance of the 2016 season. These three deals were important, but all Baltimore did was retain its talent. They didn’t actually get any better.

With the departure of Wei-Yin Chen, the organization is in search of late-winter improvements for what was an underwhelming rotation last year. They have an interest in Gallardo, but have reportedly been hesitant to give up the 14th-overall pick to sign him. We’ll find out if that opinion changes, but their recent trade for Despaigne means he’ll compete for a spot in the back of the rotation. While his first 21 career starts with the San Diego Padres were fantastic (3.03 ERA), his last 29 haven’t gone nearly as well (6.29 ERA).

What’s more concerning is his home/road splits, though. In 118.1 career innings at Petco Park, he posted a 6-5 record with a 3.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 72 strikeouts. On the road, he’s 3-11 with a 6.25 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 103.2 innings.

Just as a reminder, Camden Yards favors hitters more than Petco Park. Also, the American League East is a lot tougher to pitch in than the National League West. If Baltimore makes no other major moves, fans should be holding their collective breath about the pitching staff.

Jason Heyward, OF, Chicago Cubs

“What??! Heyward is on this list? But he’s a stud!” …what most people are thinking right now, probably.

I know he’s a stud, but the Cubs’ new $184 million man doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in center field. In fact, the three-time Gold Glove award winner only has 32 games (233 total innings) of experience at the position, compared to 795 games (6,756.1 innings) in right field.

However, him adjusting to a different position isn’t what concerns me the most. Entering his age-26 season, he’ll probably be fine. The bigger issue will be providing support to both Jorge Soler in right field and Kyle Schwarber in left field. They’re not wizards with the glove and don’t have the best range, so Heyward will be tasked with covering a lot more ground than he’s used to.


Jean Segura, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

A few weeks ago, I talked about how the Dbacks made big upgrades, but their roster was far from perfect – specifically looking at the middle infield.

Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings as a double-play duo brought a lot of questions, and inserting someone like Howie Kendrick at second would’ve made sense in the short-term. Alas, he eventually re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving Arizona searching for other options while trying to rid themselves of Aaron Hill’s contract.

They were successful in doing that and acquired Jean Segura from the Brewers in the process. This seems like an upgrade for Arizona, but not by much. NumberFire pointed out that after posting a .849 OPS and 133 wRC+ during the first half of 2013, he hasn’t come close to repeating those numbers.

The current plan is to leave him at shortstop, which also forces Arizona’s best middle infield defender (Ahmed) to the bench. So, everyone is hoping for Owings to bounce back in 2016 and Segura to excel with this change of scenery.

Teams have plenty of reasons why they pursue and acquire certain players, so there is a method to the madness. Thankfully, instead of just talking about whether they could end up being successful or not, baseball is making its triumphant return and we can all see for ourselves how these moves will pan out.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter so we can get through a winter without baseball together: @mmusico8.

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