Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Recapping a surprisingly big day for MLB free agent signings

 


       I usually don't write about free agent signings, and there is a reason for that. I feel like an article would be too short, as it's just about one player and one team. Trades are more fun as (usually) there are multiple players switching teams and an analysis to be done that isn't one sided. And especially in the MLB, the biggest flaw with their offseason is the lack of fun. So, free agent blogs would normally be short and have a lot of time between them, so I don't do them. But, yesterday, January 26th was oddly different. A bunch of hitters signed new contracts, oddly limited to middle infielders and catchers. So, if you missed any of them, here are six mini-articles combined into one summarizing yesterday's events (sidenote: Masahiro Tanaka signing overseas was not included in this article because it was not an MLB signing).


1. The Phillies signed C JT Realmuto to a five year, $115.5 million deal.

The Phillies were once rumored to not even be interested in bringing back Realmuto due to financial reasons, but a change of heart is for the best. The best catcher in baseball, Realmuto's $23.1 million AAV just nudges out Joe Mauer for the most ever given to a catcher. It is earned, as Realmuto is an elite pitch framer who hits for power and can occasionally steal bases, a rarity for a backstop. He will make Phillies pitchers better, and the deal isn't even that expensive. 

Realmuto, 29, hit 11 home runs with four stolen bases, a .266 average and an OPS of .840 in 195 Plate Appearances for Philadelphia in 2020. In his MLB career for the Phillies and Miami Marlins, Realmuto has hit 95 home runs with 44 stolen bases, a .278 average and an OPS of .783 in 2940 Plate Appearances.

2. The Blue Jays signed SS Marcus Semien to a one year, $18 million contract.

This is just under the qualifying offer salary of $18.9 million, and it is a big prove-it deal for Semien. He will not play shortstop in Toronto with Bo Bichette patrolling that spot, but he can move to either second or third base. His 2020 season was not great, but he finished 3rd in AL MVP voting in 2019 with 33 home runs and an .892 OPS. Semien's 86.2 average exit velocity last year is a concern. Overall, this signing and the next one both make next year's shortstop free agent class, which could include Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story, even better.

Semien, 30, hit seven home runs with four stolen bases, a .223 average and an OPS of .679 in 236 Plate Appearances for the A's in 2020. In his MLB career for the Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox, Semien has 115 home runs with 66 stolen bases, a .254 average and a .747 OPS in 3620 Plate Appearances.

3. The Twins signed SS Andrelton Simmons to a one year, $10.5 million deal.

Oddly enough, Simmons is probably the only player on this list with a legitimate chance at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He will have a similar case as Omar Vizquel does now, but probably with a better WAR and hopefully without the domestic violence. Simmons has a 36.8 WAR through his first nine seasons, and his defense is to thank. He isn't a great hitter, although he can hit for average and steal double digit bases a season. Playing in only 30 games, Simmons actually had -1 outs above average in 2020, but that is a massive outlier. He'll play shortstop in Minnesota, and Jorge Polanco will move to second base with Luis Arraez moving to a super-utility role. 

Simmons, 31, hit no homers with two stolen bases, a .297 average and a .702 OPS in 127 Plate Appearances for the Los Angeles Angels in 2020. In his MLB career for the Angels and Atlanta Braves, Simmons has 67 home runs with 67 stolen bases, a .269 average and a .696 OPS in 4280 Plate Appearances. 

4. The Orioles signed IF Freddy Galvis to a one year, $1.5 million deal.

Galvis comes in as the replacement for the departed Jose Iglesias in Baltimore. He is not a great hitter, but he has hit for power the last few seasons, and has a nice glove. There's a good chance he gets traded, but for now he is a fine shortstop for a bad Orioles team that could use good defense behind a young pitching staff. With Semien, Simmons and Galvis off the board, Didi Gregorius is the main shortstop remaining, with the Phillies and Athletics in the hunt. 

Galvis, 31, hit seven home runs with a .220 average and a .712 OPS in 159 Plate Appearances for the Cincinnati Reds in 2020. In his MLB career for the Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres, Galvis has hit 95 home runs with 56 stolen bases, a .247 average and an OPS of .677 in 3844 Plate Appearances.

5. The Giants signed Tommy La Stella to a three year contract, terms still undisclosed. 

La Stella will cross the bay, from Oakland to San Francisco. Since joining the Angels in 2019, La Stella has been a completely different player, an all-star even. His most impressive trait is his refusal to strike out. La Stella had a league leading 5.3 K% in 2020, and also walked 11.8% of the time. Those are numbers you will take for the next three years. He can play second and third base as well. 

La Stella, who turns 32 this week, hit five home runs with a .281 average and an OPS of .819 in 228 Plate Appearances for the Angels and A's in 2020. In his MLB career for those two teams, the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, La Stella has hit 31 home runs with a .274 average and an OPS of .754 in 1496 Plate Appearances.

6. The Tigers signed Wilson Ramos to a one year deal worth $2 million.

This is a signing I like for the Tigers, who started Austin Romine last year. Romine had a really rough season, and the Cubs only paid him $500k less than Ramos gets here. He isn't great behind the plate and is one of the slowest players in baseball, but he hits the ball hard and is a good hitter for a catcher. A 15 home run season is possible for him.

Ramos, 33, hit five home runs with a .239 batting average and a .684 OPS in 155 Plate Appearances for the New York Mets in 2020. In his MLB career for the Mets, Washington Nationals, Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins, Ramos has hit 128 home runs with a .274 average and a .755 OPS in 3623 Plate Appearances. 

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