May isn’t typically the most action-packed month of the season for the Hot Stove faithful, but it’s also not completely devoid transactions. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd and Tim Dierkes discussed in yesterday’s episode of the MLBTR Podcast, this May could be even more active than usual due to the early rash of pitching injuries perhaps kickstarting the trade market early. Even if that’s not the case, Jarrod Saltalamacchia should find a new home within a matter of days, the Padres are known to be on the hunt for a shortstop, Rafael Soriano remains a free agent, and, if history is any indication, there will be a handful of other significant moves that impact the long-term outlook of a few organizations/players.
Here are the most notable transactions from the month of May in 2014 (with a helping hand from MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker)…
- Braves sign 3B Chris Johnson to a three-year, $23.5MM extension that includes a $10MM club option for the 2018 season. — The contract was questionable at the time and looked regrettable for the Braves quickly. In hindsight, this move was probably one of several that led to the exit of GM Frank Wren from Atlanta. Johnson would end up hitting just .263/.292/.361 in 2014, and a broken hand suffered last night has sidelined him early in 2015. Johnson was hitting .279/.347/.372 at the time of the injury, though he’s batting just .233/.314/.333 against righties.
- Red Sox sign SS Stephen Drew to one-year, $14.1MM contract. — Drew sat out all of Spring Training and looked to be waiting for the draft’s conclusion before signing in order to shed the draft pick compensation label he’d picked up after rejecting a qualifying offer, but he signed in May for the pro-rated version of the qualifying offer’s salary. Drew rushed through a brief assignment to Triple-A to try to get up to speed, but he never got his bat going and was ultimately traded to the Yankees, where he also struggled. Drew re-signed a one-year deal with the Yankees to man second base, and while a .179 BABIP is weighing down his average (in part due to a massive increase in fly-balls and a dip in his line-drive rate), he’s showing good power and walking at a 12 percent clip.
- Tigers sign RHP Joel Hanrahan to one-year, $1MM contract. — Tigers fans spent the entire season hoping that Hanrahan would emerge as a much needed reinforcement for their club’s shaky bullpen, but Hanrahan’s recovery from Tommy John and flexor tendon repair surgery was slow and never completed. He didn’t pitch in 2014 and re-upped with Detroit a Minor League deal this past offseason, but sadly underwent a second Tommy John surgery and was released by the Tigers in Spring Training.
- Astros sign LHP Tony Sipp to one-year, $700K contract. — The Sipp signing was one of the best and yet most unheralded moves of 2014. Sipp joined Houston with little fanfare, but he wound up firing 50 2/3 excellent innings last year, notching a 3.38 ERA with 11.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. That earned him a boost to $2.4MM in arbitration this winter, and he’s looked to be worth every penny thus far, allowing one run on five hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings in what will be his final season before free agency.
- Padres sign RHP Odrisamer Despaigne to a $1MM Minor League deal. — Despaigne didn’t land the gaudy type of contract that many of his Cuban countrymen have secured, but he’s been a valuable piece for the Padres. In 117 2/3 innings between 2014-15, the 28-year-old has a 3.29 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 51.8 percent ground-ball rate. Despaigne has served as a starter and reliever in San Diego and could be a nice swingman for the club moving forward. The Friars control him through the 2020 season.
- Padres traded C Nick Hundley to Orioles in exchange for LHP Troy Patton. — The long-term impact on both organizations was minimal, as each player is with a new organization in 2015. However, the trade gave the Orioles another option behind the plate following Matt Wieters’ Tommy John surgery and gave Hundley an opportunity for more playing time, which likely assisted him landing a two-year, $6.25MM contract from the Rockies this winter.
- Padres traded 1B/OF Kyle Blanks to A’s in exchange for OF Jake Goebbert and a PTBNL (RHP Ronald Herrera). — Blanks hit the cover off the ball for 21 games with Oakland before a torn muscle in his calf ended his 2014 campaign and led him to sign a Minor League deal with the Rangers this winter. Goebbert struggled through 115 PAs with San Diego and is a depth piece at Triple-A this year, while Herrera has three average to solid-average offerings despite an undersized frame, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel wrote while evaluating the Padres’ prospects. He projects as a possible fifth starter or a reliever.
Those may have been the most noteworthy transactions in terms of financial investment and lasting impact on an organization, but there were several more moves made over the course of the month. A more brief rundown…
- Astros sign RHP Kyle Farnsworth to one-year $1.2MM contract. — Farnsworth’s time with the Astros was limited to 11 2/3 unsightly innings, as he yielded eight runs on 14 hits and nine walks with just eight strikeouts.
- Marlins sign LHP Randy Wolf to one-year, $1MM contract. — Wolf appeared in six games for the Fish, including four starts, and posted a 5.26 ERA in 25 2/3 innings. A solid 19-to-6 K/BB ratio and his 4.38 FIP indicate that he might’ve been a bit better than his ERA otherwise suggested.
- Blue Jays acquired OF Melky Mesa, RHP P.J. Walters from Royals in exchange for cash considerations. — The Jays acquired some organizational depth in this swap, though neither appeared in the Majors.
- Blue Jays acquire LHP Raul Valdes from Astros in exchange for PTBNL or cash considerations. — Valdes served as a bullpen option at the Triple-A level after Toronto’s relief corps struggled in the early-going last year, though he didn’t appear in the Majors with Toronto.
- Rangers acquire INF Jason Donald from Royals in exchange for cash considerations. — Similar to Toronto’s trades, this was about adding some depth to an injury-plagued Rangers organization, but Donald never appeared with Texas’ big league club.
- White Sox claimed OF Moises Sierra from Blue Jays.
- A’s claimed OF Nick Buss from Dodgers.
- Angels claimed LHP Brooks Raley from Twins.
- Blue Jays re-claimed OF Kenny Wilson from Twins.
- A’s claimed LHP Jeff Francis from Reds.
- Pirates claimed RHP Josh Wall from Angels.
- Rangers claimed RHP Phil Irwin from Pirates.
Looking back at May 2013 and May 2012 also reveals significant moves, including extensions for Anthony Rizzo, Adam Jones and Miguel Montero in addition to a pair of Roy Oswalt signings. The month of May should also serve as a more telling example of which clubs will be buyers and which will be sellers as we head toward the followup to last year’s trade deadline, which was arguably the most chaotic in history.