October 2013

Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics

The Athletics have contractual control over their entire starting lineup, including platoons, so GM Billy Beane will stay the course in 2014 after a second consecutive AL West title. 

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)

Contract Options

Free Agents

The Athletics' main objective this offseason should be to figure out a way to beat Justin Verlander in an ALDS Game 5, which is how each of their past two post-season runs have ended. With tongue no longer firmly planted in cheek, the Athletics' priority this winter is what to do if, as expected, Balfour departs via free agency and to determine whether Colon's stabilizing influence is still needed for their young rotation.

The Athletics are loathe to spend valuable resources on a closer and MLBTR's Steve Adams sees Balfour netting a two-year, $18MM contract in free agency. Beane and manager Bob Melvin have both said Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook are options to replace the Australian with Beane also mentioning Dan Otero. If the Athletics want to purchase an insurance policy, there aren't many free agent closers who will accept a one-year deal in the club's price range, but Francisco Rodriguez and Kevin Gregg could fall into that category. If they simply want a veteran presence in the bullpen on a team-friendly contract, LaTroy Hawkins, David Aardsma, Kyle Farnsworth, and Brandon Lyon could provide that. Jerry Blevins and Jesse Chavez will return to round out the relief corps.

Colon, who wants to pitch three more years, is amenable to returning to Oakland and Beane has acknowledged it "would be foolish" not to "have real interest in bringing him back." There's interest, but is there room in the rotation? Sonny Gray and A.J. Griffin have injury concerns; but, if healthy, expect to front the rotation along with Jarrod Parker. Brett Anderson, Dan Straily, and Tommy Milone will compete to fill out the rotation. The oft-injured Anderson is generating some trade interest with the Blue Jays most prominently linked to the left-hander. In his Blue Jays' offseason outlook, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk theorizes Toronto could deal closer Casey Janssen for starting pitching. There is a 2014 club option on Janssen worth $4MM, which would make him appealing to the Athletics. The Blue Jays may be willing to absorb the $4MM difference in salaries in a straight-up trade for Anderson or Oakland would have to become creative by including additional player(s) and/or international bonus slot money. Dealing Anderson would also free up a rotation spot for Colon, but re-signing the 40-year-old will be dependent on how much of a raise he expects from his expiring one-year, $3MM deal. 

Most of the Athletics' other offseason moves will be procedural: which members of their 11-player arbitration class will be tendered contracts and which club options will be exercised. With regards to the former, Daric Barton, Pat Neshek, Scott Sizemore, and Fernando Rodriguez are non-tender possibilities. All four, however, are candidates to be re-signed to minor league deals. With regards to the latter, Beane has said Coco Crisp will be back in the Green and Gold next year. Crisp would like a multi-year extension, but that is a higher priority for him than the team. Anderson's option is also likely to be exercised while Chris Young and Kurt Suzuki are too expensive to retain in bench roles. Michael Choice, the team's second-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, will be called upon to fill Young's spot while the Athletics are flush behind the plate with John Jaso, Derek Norris, and Stephen Vogt competing for playing time.

The one position where the Athletics could look for an upgrade is second base. Beane may decide to bide his time with the platoon of Alberto Callaspo and Eric Sogard while waiting for shortstop Addison Russell to reach the Majors. Once that happens, current shortstop Jed Lowrie could move over to second base. Russell, the 11th overall selection in the 2012 amateur draft will start the year in either Double-A or Triple-A, according to Beane. The best available free agent second baseman Robinson Cano is too pricey for the Athletics. Potential trade targets like Rickie Weeks (whose brother, Jemile, is in the A's system) and Dan Uggla have both underperformed the past two seasons and are expensive. An intriguing possibility is Brandon Phillips, who has apparently worn out his welcome in Cincinnati. Phillips slumped in 2013 with a slash line of .261/.310/.396 in 606 plate appearances, but that would still be an improvement over the Callaspo/Sogard tandem. Phillips is due $50MM through 2017. Would Beane be willing to take on such a large salary obligation with Russell in the wings? The answer depends on the Reds' asking price in terms of money absorbed to prospects received.

The Athletics ranked third in the AL in runs scored thanks to a breakout year from third baseman Josh Donaldson (.301/.384/.499 and 24 home runs). Yoenis Cespedes fell off from his outstanding rookie campaign with a .240/.294/.442 slash line, but the 28-year-old Cuban redeemed himself somewhat by hitting .381/.409/.667 in the ALDS and is a career .350/.395/.525 hitter in 43 post-season plate appearances. Brandon Moss also contributed a career-best 30 home runs in a career-high 505 plate appearances. Josh Reddick struggled with a right wrist injury and his numbers suffered because of it. Reddick will undergo arthroscopic surgery and should be at full strength by Spring Training. With this core, Beane thinks an additional bat would be nice, but not necessary.

"You could always use more, but…scoring runs wasn't an issue for us," said Beane (as quoted by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle). "The body of work is pretty good. You'll look for ways to be better for sure, but realistically what we have and what's going to be available to us, it's hard to complain about that.

The Athletics have won 190 games the past two years en route to a pair of division titles. But, each season ended with ALDS heartbreak at the hands of Verlander and the Tigers. With so much success, the Athletics don't see a need to make dramatic changes to overcome their playoff failures. "We won our division doing things a certain way," Beane said (as quoted by MLB.com's Jane Lee). "We just fell one game short. I don't know that you completely try to do things differently based on coming up a game short." Each move Beane makes this winter will be geared towards bridging that one-game gap. 


Blue Jays Interested In Gordon Beckham

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is no stranger to the trade market. Early reports have already pegged Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta as potential trade targets for Toronto, and now Scott Merkin and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com report that the Jays are targeting White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham as well.

Beckham, 27, hit .267/.322/.372 with a career-low five homers in a career-low 103 games this season. A broken hamate bone in his right hand cost him nearly two months of the 2013 campaign, which could have something to do with the decline in home runs. However, Beckham has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him after being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft, slashing just .249/.314/.380 in 2,217 big league plate appearances.

Beckham is eligible for arbitration for the second time this offseason, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a raise from $2.9MM to $3.5MM. He is under team control through the 2015 season.

Chisolm and Merkin go on to write that given the Jays' need to improve the rotation, it's possible that they could look to expand the deal to include a starting pitcher. The MLB.com duo notes that lefties Hector Santiago and John Danks are said to be available, also adding that the White Sox covet minor league right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. That pair of former first-round picks seems to me to be too steep an asking price for the players that the Blue Jays are targeting, but Merkin and Chisholm feel that Chicago GM Rick Hahn would need to be overwhelmed to part with Beckham.


Free Agent Profile: Matt Garza

Despite opening the season on the disabled list, Matt Garza looked to be in a position to claim the role of this offseason's top free agent starter. A slow finish to the season has jeopardized that thinking, but he still ranked seventh on Tim Dierkes' final edition of his 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.

Strengths/Pros

A former first-round pick by the Twins, Garza hasn't posted an ERA higher than 3.95 since his initial call-up with Minnesota in 2006 — a stint that lasted just 50 innings. Only one other free agent starter — Tim Hudson — can boast seven consecutive seasons of an ERA south of 4.00, and Hudson is eight years older than Garza.Garza-Matt-Rangers

In terms of fastball velocity, Garza can bring it. He's only averaged less than 93 mph on his fastball once in his eight-year career, and that came in 2009 when he averaged 92.9 mph. Garza's 93.1 mph average in 2013 tops all free agent starters, and even his "weak" (by his standards) 2009 average would've been good enough to top the list.

He was a bit wild early in his career, but Garza has four straight seasons of a 2.9 BB/9 rate or lower, and he sat at 2.4 in 2013. Dating back to 2009, he's averaged eight strikeouts per inning on the dot, and he sat at 7.9 this season.

Garza has shined on the biggest of stages, as he owns a career 3.48 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 31 postseason innings. He dominated in the 2009 ALCS, yielding two runs over 13 2/3 innings in two starts en route to ALCS MVP honors.

Because he was traded midseason, Garza is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer and will therefore not be tied to draft pick compensation.

Weaknesses/Cons

Garza has been stricken with injuries over the past two years. A stress fracture in his right elbow ended his season in late July last year (and also prevented a trade), and a lat strain caused him to miss the first seven weeks of the 2013 regular season. He made all of his starts upon activation, but the simple fact is that he's thrown just 259 innings since Opening Day 2012.

While injuries prevented a trade last year, he was flipped to the Rangers midseason in 2013. As was the case when Ryan Dempster found himself flipped to Texas in 2012, Garza didn't finish very well. Though his walk rate improved and xFIP suggests that he was actually better with the Rangers than with the Cubs, he limped to a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts with Texas.

Garza seriously boosted his ground-ball rate in 2011, jumping from a pair of sub-40-percent seasons to a robust 46.3 percent. He increased that number further in 2012 with a 47.3 percent mark, but this season saw him drop back down toward his career levels. He induced grounders at a 38.6 percent clip in 2013, which is slightly lower than his already below-average career mark of 41.2 percent.

Setting aside his ugly rookie debut, Garza has a 3.75 ERA. Incredibly, advanced metrics FIP, xFIP and SIERA all peg him at exactly 3.96 from 2007-13. Garza can be realistically counted on for an ERA under 4.00 (and in some seasons, well under 4.00 with a bit of luck), but he lacks the durability and statistical profile of the front-line pitcher many have perceived him to be.

Personal

Garza married his high school sweetheart, Serina, and they have four children together. He is known as a passionate family man who loves to spend time with his wife and children. Per the Cubs media guide, his father, Rudy, is a Sergeant Major in the Army, and baseball clearly runs in the Garza family, as his brother Michael coaches high school ball in Florida. Garza has a fiery personality that can get the better of him at times. Garza blasted some Cubs fans on Twitter early in the year, calling them "fake" in reaction to their negativity. More controversially, he took to Twitter and launched a tirade at Athletics' second baseman Eric Sogard as well as Sogard's wife. Garza publicly apologized the following day, telling reporters that he "let his competitive spirit cross outside the lines" and that his "passion" and "fire" carried over beyond the playing field.

Market

Despite questions about his recent durability and his Twitter antics, Garza is one of the most talented and consistently productive (when healthy) pitchers on the free agent market. Many teams will be involved, particularly due to the fact that unlike Ervin Santana — the top domestic pitcher on MLBTR's Free Agent Power Rankings — he won't cost a draft pick. Other names like Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and A.J. Burnett could all be linked to draft pick compensation as well.

In a recent Free Agent Faceoff conducted by MLBTR's Aaron Steen, nearly 66 percent of the 10,000+ respondents said that they would rather have their team sign Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. After factoring in the posting fee and contract, however, Garza figures to be the cheaper option. Expect to see a wide array of teams expressing interest, as more than half the teams in Major League Baseball could use a rotation upgrade.

Garza is a California native, and though he's pitched for four Major League teams — the Twins, Rays, Cubs and Rangers — he's never had the opportunity to pitch close to home. It's not clear whether that will be a factor in his decision, but plenty of West Coast teams will be looking for pitching help.

Expected Contract

Many expected Garza to be the top arm on this year's free agent market, and while some may still feel that's the case, the emergence of Tanaka and rebirth of Santana have given him some stiff competition. Garza earns points for consistency when healthy and his relative youth, both of which will be determining factors in his free agency this offseason.

He doesn't boast the durability that Edwin Jackson did when he signed his four-year contract with the Cubs, but teams won't need to worry about the tumultuous on-field results that have plagued Jackson when considering Garza. Jackson's $52MM contract is the floor for Garza in my mind. He should have little trouble surpassing it, though he and agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports may have trouble finding a fifth guaranteed year thanks to the slow finish and recent injury history.

Ultimately, I think Garza will command a four-year, $64MM contract this offseason. Such a deal easily tops the four-year commitments attained by Jackson and Mark Buehrle in recent years, while still affording Garza the opportunity to sign another significant contract heading into his age-34 season in 2018. A vesting option for that fifth year is another possibility, as the biggest current issue with Garza is his durability, not his performance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



East Links: Wallace, Mets, Blue Jays

The Orioles announced yesterday that they have hired Dave Wallace as their new pitching coach. Wallace, 66, has 10 years of experience as a Major League pitching coach and filled that role for the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox. He has served as pitching coach for the Dodgers (1995-97), Mets (1999-2000), Red Sox (2003-06) and Astros (2007) prior to Baltimore's hiring. Here's more out of baseball's Eastern divisions…

  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun thinks the Wallace hiring to be somewhat of a surprise, if only for the reason that many felt he ultimately wouldn't take the job. Wallace was serving as the Braves' minor league pitching coordinator and was known to be content with his job. Of leaving his post with the Braves, Wallace told Connolly: "As a teacher, it’s kind of tough sometimes to walk away from those students. But you are also proud because you’ve had somewhat of an influence on what they’ve been able to accomplish in the last few years."
  • It remains likely that the Mets will trade either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda this offseason, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but team insiders tell him that it's too soon to tell which player will have more value on the market. COO Jeff Wilpon said yesterday that the team has already begun to receive calls from teams with a need for first base help.
  • Martino also points out that Wilpon identified just four players as "solidified" for next year: David Wright, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler. Notably omitted is Daniel Murphy, who could find himself on the trading block with the Mets looking to move Eric Young Jr. to second base on a permanent basis. Martino opines that because of the team's desire for Young to man the keystone, it's actually a good thing that he didn't win a Gold Glove for his work in left field, as it would've made the decision tougher to justify to fans.
  • The Blue Jays announced yesterday that they have extended their player development contract with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats through the 2016 season. The Fisher Cats have been the Jays' Double-A affiliate since 2004, winning a pair of Eastern League titles in that time.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk peeked into Baltimore's future with the Orioles edition of our Offseason Outlook series.

Offseason Outlook: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles will look to add a starting pitcher and another big bat (or two) to help them get back to the postseason, while also juggling a number of interesting arbitration cases.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)

Contract Options

Free Agents

After a surprise playoff berth in 2012, the Orioles proved they weren't a fluke by posting another winning season in 2013.  What kept the O's six games out of an AL wild card slot, however, was their starting pitching, as Baltimore ranked near the bottom of the league in ERA (27th), innings pitched (22nd) and strikeouts (24th).

While improvement is clearly needed, the O's are in the difficult position of having a number of possible rotation upgrades within the organization already, except that they're still waiting for several of these young arms to break out.  The club doesn't want to acquire an expensive starter when a much more cost-effective hurler could emerge if just given an opportunity.  Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette recently said that the team wants to improve its pitching without trading top prospects or spending too much in free agency, so Duquette may have to get creative if he wants to make a significant rotation upgrade.

Chris Tillman has posted a 3.48 ERA with a 7.5 K/9 and 2.66 K/BB rate in 48 starts over the last two seasons, and the 2013 All-Star is the incumbent ace of Baltimore's staff.  Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen line up behind him having both delivered solid 2013 campaigns, though Chen spent a couple of months on the disabled list.  Bud Norris also returns having posted a 4.80 ERA in 11 games after he came to Baltimore from Houston in July, though that number was inflated by one particularly rough start against Oakland and a .387 BABIP for Norris as an Oriole.

Scott Feldman, the team's other major midseason starting acquisition, is a free agent and both sides share an interest in continuing their relationship.  MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts Feldman will find a two-year, $17MM contract (with a vesting option on a third year) on the free agent market this winter and that's a price that that Orioles would likely be able to fit into their budget, as long as another team doesn't offer Feldman a guaranteed third year.

Jason Hammel got the start on Opening Day after looking like a breakout star in 2012, but the right-hander struggled to a 4.97 ERA in 139 1/3 IP last year and now is rumored to have pitched his last game in the black and orange.  Hammel has had troubles staying healthy so, unless he re-signs for little more than his $6.75MM 2013 salary, the Orioles will probably let him go elsewhere.

On the "young phenom" front, Kevin Gausman posted a 5.66 ERA but a 9.3 K/9 and 3.77 K/BB over his first 47 2/3 Major League innings in 2013.  He could win himself a rotation spot with a big spring, though the O's might want to give him more Triple-A seasoning before expecting him to produce in a pennant-contending rotation.  Dylan Bundy (a preseason consensus top-three prospect in baseball), underwent Tommy John surgery last June and won't be able to contribute until midseason at best, though since he has only one year of pro experience, it's likely the Orioles will take it easy on his arm and not bring him back to the Majors right away.

Zach Britton, Steve Johnson and T.J. McFarland will be given chances to impress as starting pitchers for 2014, while Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter could again be stretched out but the O's are more likely to leave them in the bullpen where they were successful last season.  Britton and Matusz are both out of options and could be trade bait — Britton could be on his last chance in the organization, while the Orioles expected more from Matusz (picked fourth overall in the 2008 draft) by this point in his career.  While Duquette did say he wasn't planning to move any top prospects, the O's already moved one ex-top prospect earlier this year when they dealt Jake Arrieta to the Cubs as part of the Feldman trade.  It wouldn't be a shock to see Britton or Matusz go elsewhere as part of a swap for more proven talent if Baltimore is willing to move on from these young arms. 

While a Tillman/Gonzalez/Chen/Norris rotation is okay and there are a lot of interesting depth arms in the system, it's also basically a stand-pat pitching situation that might not be enough to keep pace in the AL East even if Feldman is re-signed.  One other free agent possibility, however, could be Ricky Nolasco, as the O's explored a deal for the righty last summer.  Nolasco was projected to earn a three-year/$36MM contract according to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, though that prediction was made before Nolasco fell apart in late September and made just one postseason start for L.A.  If his price tag drops enough, Nolasco could again be on the Orioles' radar.

(more…)


Quick Hits: Robertson, Dodgers, Tanaka, Orioles

The Yankees should sign reliever David Robertson to an extension, River Ave Blues' Mike Axisa argues. By signing Robertson now, Axisa argues, the Yankees will get to pay setup man rates for him. If, in the wake of Mariano Rivera's retirement, Robertson takes the Yankees' closer job in 2014 and performs reasonably well, he'll stand to make much more money after the season, when he becomes a free agent. But signing him now could be tricky, Axisa notes, since it will also be clear to Robertson what he stands to gain by closing for a year and then hitting the free agent market. Axisa proposes a three-year, $21MM deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Dodgers' pursuit of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka appears to be "the most obvious move since Brad Pitt sidled up to Angelina Jolie," writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. Dilbeck cites the Dodgers' signings of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig and Alexander Guerrero as evidence that the team will use its considerable financial heft to pursue the biggest-name international free agents. "We've scouted him a lot, we're very much aware of him," says GM Ned Colletti. "We saw him as recently as two days ago."
  • Pitchers Tim Berry and Chris Jones and catchers Caleb Joseph and Michael Ohlman are all candidates to be added to the Orioles' 40-man roster this offseason, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski writes. Jones, who spent most of the 2013 season pitching in relief at Triple-A Norfolk, is eligible for minor-league free agency, but Baltimore would like to keep him.

NL Notes: Mozeliak, Mets, Zambrano

John Mozeliak followed an unusual career path that led him to the Cardinals' GM job, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post writes. Mozeliak's career in baseball began when a connection led to him taking then-Rockies pitcher Bryn Smith on a fly-fishing trip. That led to an invitation to pitch batting practice for the Rockies, and from there, Mozeliak worked his way into baseball operations. He headed to St. Louis in 1995, after Rockies assistant GM Walt Jocketty took the Cardinals' GM job. Mozeliak then took over for Jocketty in 2007 and has since led the Cardinals to one World Series title. Now, of course, they're pursuing a second one. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon says that his team would have made an offer to Jose Dariel Abreu if he were a corner outfielder rather than a first baseman, Newsday's Marc Carig tweets. The Mets could certainly use a powerful corner outfielder, but they also have little stability at first base, where Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were disappointing last season. Wilpon also told Carig the Mets had a "glut" of first basemen, but none of them performed particularly well last year, perhaps with the exception of depth piece Josh Satin. One wonders why these players might have impeded the Mets from making a major signing.
  • Wilpon says the Mets have received calls from teams trying to trade for a first baseman, tweets Carig.
  • Former Cubs star Carlos Zambrano wants to keep pitching, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. "He’s playing winter ball and wants to continue his career," says agent Barry Praver. Zambrano, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2012 with the Marlins, pitched in the Phillies system in 2013, but his comeback attempt stalled due to shoulder issues.

AL Notes: Mariners, Twins, White Sox

The Mariners will interview Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach for their open managerial job, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. Wallach joins Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Athletics bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria as Mariners candidates, and Heyman notes that there may be others. Wallach has also interviewed for the Tigers' managerial job. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Twins remain keenly interested in Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. "We've watched him forever," says Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff. Yoon has battled shoulder issues in 2013, and if the Twins agreed to sign him, they would, of course, want him to take a physical. They would also be much more interested in him as a starter than as a reliever — Yoon made 13 starts in 2013, but also appeared 17 times out of the bullpen.
  • The White Sox have signed Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, but that doesn't mean Paul Konerko won't return, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. "This signing does not preclude us from bringing Paul back," says GM Rick Hahn. "It's October 29. You don't evaluate an Opening Day roster at the end of October." The White Sox plan to talk to Konerko next month.
  • The White Sox's signing of Abreu will likely be their only major free agent signing, Merkin writes. "We're not going to rule out any avenue," says Hahn. Nonethleless, he says, "It's probably more likely that trades are next." If the White Sox do re-sign Konerko, they could deal either Adam Dunn or Jeff Keppinger to make room for him, Merkin says. It's unlikely, however, that either player would generate much trade interest unless the White Sox took on plenty of salary.

Padres Have Interest In Mark Trumbo

The Padres have interest in Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports (on Twitter). The Angels are known to be interested in acquiring pitching for Trumbo, however, and Shaikin notes that San Diego might not be the best match — their collection of young pitching includes several players (Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Casey Kelly) who are in various stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Yonder Alonso hit .281/.341/.368 as the Padres' primary first baseman in 2013. Trumbo would likely be an upgrade, although it remains to be seen how his power-dependent game would play in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. Trumbo appears set to make about $4.7MM in 2014, his first year of arbitration eligibility.


Brewers Exercise Norichika Aoki’s Option

The Brewers have exercised their club option on right fielder Norichika Aoki, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. While previously reported to be worth just $1.5MM, McCalvy reports that the actual total is just under $2MM due to incentives that he reached in 2012-13. Either way, as McCalvy notes, exercising Aoki's option was a no-brainer for Brewers GM Doug Melvin.

Aoki, 32 in January, hit .287/.355/.399 in his first two seasons with the Brew Crew, totaling 18 homers and 50 stolen bases. Aoki originally projected to be a reserve outfielder for the Brewers, but he thrived in an everyday role after Corey Hart moved to first base full-time to replace the injured Mat Gamel in 2012.

The Brewers won the rights to negotiate with Aoki, a former NPB batting champion in Japan, by submitting a $2.5MM posting fee. Aoki then signed a two-year, $2.5MM contract with an option for a third year and incentives that could take the contract's total value to $8.6MM over three years. In hindsight, the move has turned out to be one of baseball's biggest bargains and one of the savviest of Melvin's tenure as GM.

Because Aoki is such a bargain, the emergence of Khris Davis as a potential outfield option alongside Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun has led many to speculate that Aoki could be dealt in the offseason. However, as MLBTR's Edward Creech noted in his recent Offseason Outlook for the Brewers, Melvin seems highly reluctant to deal Aoki.