Hello, and welcome to “The Week That Was”, where we look back at the week that was in the world of Major League Baseball and take a deeper look at some of the biggest ongoings. With so much happening in the offseason, it can be tough to not only keep track of every signing and trade, but even more, figuring out what it all means. That’s what we’re here for, to help you gather the important information you need, read about why it’s important, and then make a more informed decision for you and your teams going forward. We’ll examine see agent signings, trades and lineup decisions that come to fruition in an organized fashion and give you the advice you need to gain the edge come draft season. Let’s get right to it.
Note: Unless noted, all ADP listed below is from NFC and is taken the beginning timeline of January 1, 2021.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B Cleveland
1-year contract, $5 million
2022 club option
We have re-signed Gold Glove 2B Cesar Hernandez to a 1-year contract with a club option for 2022.
Welcome back. Welcome back. Welcome back. pic.twitter.com/uP1qWkLAsP
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 29, 2021
The first item of business was a small signing by the Indians, with potentially larger implications. Known as a good source for batting average, Hernandez being un-signed for this long was a bit of a surprise, as he’s a solid second baseman. This immediately plugs him into the lineup for Cleveland, giving him the potential for everyday at bats. In the past, he has been a stall worth as an everyday player as he has played in about 94% of his team’s games since the start of 2016. Another under-rated aspect of his game is his speed, as he’s stolen at least nine bases in a season in five of his last six seasons of play. I’d like to think of his 2020 campaign as an anomaly, since he didn’t even attempt to steal a base, which is rare for him.
As of now, Roster Resource has him slotted in as the leadoff hitter. If that holds, it would give him an optimal chance to replicate a lot of the aforementioned numbers just listed. With an ADP of 398, why not take a chance on him, especially when speed can be at a premium.
Eddie Rosario, OF Cleveland
1 year contract, $8 million
Eddie Rosario deal with Indians, per source: One year, $8M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2021
Cleveland wasn’t done rebuilding, as they also signed Eddie Rosario to a one year deal. Rosario is quite the consistent character, as year after year he hits for power and average. Since 2017, he has hit no fewer than 24 home runs in a season nor has he hit below .276 (if we ignore the shortened 2020). To me, there’s no reason why it can’t continue in 2021. While he won’t get you very much in the way of steals, he will get everyday at bats in a depleted lineup in Cleveland, and should return value, especially for those who drafted early. His ADP has skyrocketed already. As of last week, it was down to 136, but since the deal, it has risen up to 111 and counting. Get in on him while you can as slotting him in as your third or fourth outfielder should be right about where his value stays.
Marcus Semien, IF Toronto
1-year contract, $18 million
Infielder Marcus Semien is in agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 26, 2021
Upfront, this seems like a lot to give Semien, especially since he’s batted over .260 once in his career, and it was during the Happy Fun Ball season of 2019. However, on the playing field, he’s someone who is good at what he does with the glove, and he should help the Blue Jays solidify their defensive front. How that will translate with the bat, is another story, as it looks like his 2019 campaign may have been a blip in the radar. Ignoring that season as a whole, he posts a career 22.6% K rate and a 8.3% BB rate, which are significantly different from his true career totals of 19.4% and 9.2% respectively.
Still, he finds himself in an upgraded lineup, and he should be prominently featured with everyday at bats. Roster Resource has him slotted second right now, but that’s potentially tenuous until we see anything finalized come Spring Training. With an ADP of 147, he remains the 16th short stop taken off the board in drafts, and is still behind Jonathan Villar. I’d be willing to gamble that he outperforms his dismal 2020 season totals and gets back to where he was in 2018, where he batted .255 with 15 home runs and 14 stolen bases. With some room for growth in a talented lineup, he has the potential to be a Top 12 starting shortstop. The signing also removes much of the speculation about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. playing third base this year, and devalues Calvin Biggio, who looks to be dropping down in the batting order.
Tommy LaStella, 1B/2B San Francisco
3-year contract, $19.50 million
Infield market keeps on churning: Second baseman Tommy La Stella and the San Francisco Giants are finalizing a contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Once completed, the deal is expected to be for three years. @PavlovicNBCS first said the sides were nearing a deal.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 27, 2021
A minor piece of news here, as La Stella probably loses any fantasy momentum he gained over the past two seasons. While the offensive improvements of Oracle Park were noticeable compared to the previous years there, La Stella now looks to share at bats and join an already crowded infield. Mauricio Dubon, Wilmer Flores and Donovan Solano all will be looking to get their contact driven approach at the plate into the lineup, making La Stella a less intriguing late round depth piece at the middle infield. While he’s made adjustments over the past two seasons at the plate (primarily his ability to hit the breaking ball), he’ll really need to stand out against similarly profiled batters in San Francisco. He’s a fade for me late in drafts after this signing.
Andrelton Simmons, SS Minnesota
1-year, $10.5 million
There's a new shortstop in Minnesota.
— MLB (@MLB) January 27, 2021
Another small signing, but this one has implications for a lot of moving pieces. At one year, $10.5 million, Simmons isn’t being paid to sit, meaning he will be the new starting shortstop for the Twins going forward. He replaces Jorge Polanco, who, at just under $5 million a season, moves over to second base. That leaves Luis Arraez out of the picture and on the bench. However, if history repeats itself, the Twins have been know to love to have someone platoon all over the field, and Arraez fits the bill perfectly. Replacing the role of Marwin Gonzalez, Luis Arraez looks to be someone who can play everywhere in 2021, and will probably gain you additional eligibility everywhere. Remember back to 2019, when he first got the call; he finished that year with 49 games at second base, 21 games at left field, 17 games at third base and eight games at shortstop.
He looks to be the Twins’ new Swiss Army Knife, and this signing only elevates everyone mentioned above as the season progresses. They all have good bat to ball skills and can be mid-to-late round sources of batting average and runs. I am the wariest of Polanco (ADP 211) as I am not convinced that his 2019 isn’t an anomaly and might very well be a one-time thing. Simmons can be a late-round dart, while Arraez and his potential eligibility everywhere will continue to be a late-round target for me.
Didi Gregorius, SS Philadelphia
2-year contract, $28 million
— MLB (@MLB) January 30, 2021
Sticking with the shortstop position, another free agent was taken off the market this week, as Didi Gregorius re-signed with the Phillies on a two-year deal. Last season, Gregorius got back to what made him the force in New York, as he hit ten home runs in 60 games for Philadelphia. Seeing as he was taken late in many drafts last year, he was someone who returned an immense profit to his owners and possibly helped win leagues. Now with a 172 ADP, the potential for value is gone, but he looks to keep his consistency going.
He possesses a nice career 13.4% strikeout rate, which is supported by posting rates in three of his past four seasons that are lower than that. He’s also a patient hitter with a decent, albeit below-average walk rate. Ultimately though, everyday at-bats are in store for him, and he should give owners who draft him around 25 home runs. He makes for a nice middle infield depth piece and a safe source for power. This move also hurts the potential comeback of Scott Kingery, who is someone I’ve been touting as a late-round deep sleeper.
Joc Pederson, OF Chicago Cubs
1-year contract, $7 million
It's goin' down in Wrigleyvillle.
— MLB (@MLB) January 29, 2021
This one has a bit of a twist, as Joc apparently (and perhaps unknowingly) declined more money from the White Sox before agreeing (and maybe settling) for less with the Cubs. Still, at the end of the day, Chicago gets their man, who is essentially a cheaper clone of the departed Kyle Schwarber, and looks to be getting everyday at bats. How similar are they? As our friend Carm Maiorano pointed out, both Pederson (ADP 385) and Schwarber (ADP 192) have almost identical career slash lines:
Jon Pederson career slash:
— Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse) January 29, 2021
The similarities are eerie, as their 2019 batting lines and 2020 struggles are pretty close too. While Schwarber was slightly better than Pederson in both of those seasons, it doesn’t warrant an ADP that is literally double the former Cub. Realistically speaking, Pederson looks to be a suitable power bat replacement for the Cubs, and comes at a clearance price discount. If you were in on Schwarber for a 2021 bounce back, you can literally wait 15 rounds and pick up the same player for almost next to nothing.
Brand Hand, RP Washington
1-year contract, $10.5 million
Closer Brad Hand and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
Hand winds up with more than his option and will be the Nationals’ new closer.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 25, 2021
The Nationals added a wrinkle to their closer situation, as they signed Hand to a one year deal this week. While having a left handed closer goes against the grain, Hand has been able to prove the doubters wrong with over 100 career saves, and leading all of baseball with 16 in 2020. Will he be handed the keys to the Closer Castle in 2021? Not so fast. While it’s true that he has the most experience as a closer on the team, ignoring Tanner Rainey, Will Harris and Daniel Hudson would be a mistake.
Adding Hand to the mix gives the Nationals a ton of options, which could wind up being a four-headed monstrous platoon. And while Hand will likely be on the right side of it getting a lot of chances, drafting him as the clear cut closer would be a mistake right now, not knowing how things will shake out. With an ADP of 150, he’s going as the 9th closer off the board, meaning that owners are expecting 30+ saves at minimum. What’s worse is that his ADP is 129 since the day he was traded, and will probably only get higher. While it’s good to be proactive in the world of fantasy, it’s hard to justify a 10th round pick in someone who may not be the primary option for saves. My suggestion is to hold and wait for clarity.
Nolan Arenado traded to the St. Louis Cardinals
BREAKING: Cardinals have agreed to acquire Nolan Arenado from Rockies, sources tell @TheAthletic. Deal pending approval from both MLB and players’ union; Rockies sending Cardinals significant cash, believed to be in $50M range, and Arenado will be deferring money.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2021
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 30, 2021
As a side note: This trade is a complete farce of a deal for the Rockies, as they once again proved to me that they are in it for the money. While they are sending $50 million to the Cardinals, they are essentially out of the remainder of Arenado’s massive contract, and massively shed their future payroll. In return they get mid-tier prospects in return, with the main return rumoured to be Austin Gomber, someone with decent success when called to the majors, but whose value takes a hit having to move to Coors Field. All in all, it’s a great day for the Cardinals and their fans, but an abysmal day for the Rockies and their fans.
As for the fantasy fallout, the polarizing opinions Nolan Arenado’s positioning going forward will be abundant. The massive differences in his home and away numbers are game changing, and thus, some people may view this as a massive downgrade.
Still, Arenado, a Golden Glove winner, should still succeed in St. Louis despite not playing in Coors Field. He will adjust just as all good hitters do. The Rockies are one of the worst in baseball in the Research and Development Department and shy away from the use of analytics. With many of their personnel in that department moving on from the team and onto new jobs, the team finds itself once again unable to figure out how to hit away from home.
The “Coors Hangover”, as it’s called, essentially labels all Rockies road trips as abysmal at the plate for the team’s hitters. This is because the ball travels differently out of the pitcher’s hand outside of the elevated Rockies Stadium, and it often times takes hitters days to adjust. It’s harder to see, and thus, the Rockies’ hitters have had trouble making good contact, especially during the first few games away from home. I believe that some of that inability to improve has a lot to do with the down career stats as he was at such a disadvantage. Furthermore, while the batting average and power differences are significant, here are two stats that are not:
Career at Home: 13.7% strikeout rate, 8.0% walk rate
Career on the Road: 16.3% strikeout rate, 7.9% walk rate
This, to me, is the real indicator of future progress. While much will be made of his batting average discrepancy, he’s still not striking out a lot on the road, which leads me to believe that he will not only adjust to post-Coors pitching, but he should maintain some sort of middle grounded semblance in St. Louis. Add to that the fact that the supporting cast around him will be much improved, and that he’ll be playing against Central Divisional pitching a lot more, I still like Arenado going forward.
Currently, with an ADP of 36, I could see him dropping a bit more in many drafts. I ranked him as my third third baseman in the RotoFanatic Rankings Page, and I will probably lower it, but only slightly. I still like his patient approach at the plate, I like his power potential, his K% – BB% profile and the underlying metrics that follow it. If anything, I may drop him below Bregman (who I like as a nice bounce back in 2021), but the fact remains that Nolan Arenado is still a fantasy force going forward.