The Winter Meetings saw a pair of high-profile trades, but also four free agent signings in excess of $60MM. Of the four teams to open their checkbooks, which made the best move?
Aroldis Chapman, five years, $86MM, Yankees. The Yankees brought back their former closer to rejoin Dellin Betances to form perhaps the best setup/closer tandems in baseball. There’s no questioning Chapman’s dominance, and a lefty with three-digit heat and a 15.5 K/9 is a unique asset indeed. But the Yankees also gave Chapman an opt-out after three years, one that presumably won’t require him to forgo his $11MM signing bonus. And they gave him a no-trade clause through the first three seasons as well, plus a limited no-trade through the last two. As Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues pointed out after the deal, it’s possible the opt-out will arrive just as the Yankees have assembled their best team in years. Then there’s also Chapman’s troubling personal history.
Dexter Fowler, five years, $82.5MM, Cardinals. The Cardinals filled their center field vacancy with Fowler, who batted .276/.393/.447 last season with the Cubs. In so doing, the Cardinals also avoided a trade market that’s been ugly for buyers, as the Nationals’ trade for Adam Eaton perhaps demonstrated. The Cards are buying Fowler’s age-31 through -35 seasons, years in which an athletic player might well remain productive. They did give up the 19th overall pick in the draft with the signing, though, and even the Cardinals have characterized the dollar figure required to land Fowler as “over the top.”
Ian Desmond, five years, $70MM, Rockies. In what was surely the most surprising of the four signings, the Rockies landed a veteran leader who reinvented himself as an outfielder in an excellent comeback season in Texas. Desmond’s defensive flexibility will give the Rockies options as they build their team for the years ahead, and his 20-homer offense should benefit from Coors Field. The Rockies did, however, give up the first protected pick of the draft — No. 11 overall — to make the signing, costing the team eight-figure value not already included in the contract. And the team didn’t look like a contender in 2016 and might or might not be one in 2017, raising questions about whether now was the right time for them to pursue this kind of veteran talent.
Mark Melancon, four years, $62MM, Giants. The Giants were expected to pursue a closer, and they dodged higher-dollar targets like Chapman or Kenley Jansen (and the loss of a draft pick Jansen would require) to sign the 31-year-old Melancon. Melancon’s results in the last four seasons are indisputably terrific — the highest ERA he’s had in that time has been 2.23. He also has terrific control (with a 1.5 BB/9 last season) and routinely posts great ground-ball numbers (54.2% last year). He doesn’t have a typical profile for a dominant closer, however, with only modest velocity (91.8 MPH average fastball velocity last year, down about a mile from 2013) and a strikeout rate that’s only a bit more than half of Chapman’s. Long-term reliever contracts have historically been dicey propositions, and it remains to be seen if Melancon can dodge the trends. Melancon’s deal also contains considerable value not included in the $62MM total in the form of a no-trade clause and an opt-out after the first two years.
What do you think? Which team’s new contract is the best of the four?
I have it as a tie between Melancon and Fowler. It’s hard for me to side with a guy who won’t play every day, but the impact that he will have on that SF team is extraordinary. Fowler, on the other hand, will add another steady on base guy as well as add an influx of athleticism and energy to a somewhat aging roster. In Fowler’s case, too, I think the Cardinals may go add someone else now that their main need is filled.
Melancon is a ground ball pitcher who can be 50/50 next season. My vote is he flounders. Ground ball pitchers are just too unpredictable. His last two seasons were good, but just like Grienke falling far from grace last season, I believe that’s what will happen with Melancon
How is Desmond above 0%??? Poll must be rigged!
If it’s rigged it’s because it claims that 313 people voted for Desmond as the best move.
Because they gave up the 11th overall pick. That’s why I chose fowler. Not in love with with that signing either
Russians probably hacked it!
Hey Trump can win so can the Padres thank Putin a Padre fan
The Russians must have hacked the poll!
Fake news!!!! Lol. The mainstream media saying the alternative news is fake is like a pr0stitute calling the Virgin Mary a “ho.”
They all look like bad deals, but Chapman is the least bad I suppose.
Chapman just don’t see lasting 5y with such great velocity which is pretty much all he has going for hime, now if he learns to really pitch during this contract? That could change if he dips 4-5mph.
Fowler is the one I don’t get. not that good with the glove and off and on with the bat, K’s a lot, not good power that will go down more in st looie? People were hammering when JD Drew got 70m 10y ago and Drew was better than this guy, at least Drew could play Defense and not hurt his team.
St Louis sometimes gets more out of pitchers than other teams, but not position players. I see this guy as a bad deal waiting to happen now.
How many pitchers lose 4-5 mph in their early thirties? If your talking into his mid or late thirties ill bite on that but that’s completely BS made out of thin air based on some dark hope you have. And even if he did lose that and is pitching in the upper high 90’s who’s to say he will be ineffective? Because he struggled in the Postseason? There is a difference when you are fatigued throwing that and when you’re OK. You can’t compare a fatigued pitcher to a rested one. And you’re assuming that he will do nothing to change his pitching if that happens. You forget not long ago he was a starter and throws more than just a fastball. But you seem like a typical fairweather fan that doesn’t really know what they’re talking about just projecting what you hope will happen….
“And you’re assuming that he will do nothing to change his pitching if that happens.”
“now if he learns to really pitch during this contract?”
It’s not uncommon at all for primarilly FB throwing (hard) relievers to lose several ticks by age of 30. I thought of Joba chamberlain and daniel bard right off. If think about it, like really did.. Could am sure come up with many moren and both Bard + Chamberlain lost those ticks by 30 or less, as in 4-5mph and were 100mph guys.
You’re talking about injured players. Of coarse if he got injured he would lose several ticks….
Can’t beat a leadoff hitter that hits for 400+ OBP career when leading off an inning
I see just the opposite. Cubs don’t win without him. Just gets better and better.
And you think the cards are going to win with him?
Yes much better with him. Exactly what they needed.
Such wishful thinking.
comparing a contract from 10 years ago to one today is just stupid.
Love Dexter, but thats way too much money for way too long for what he does. Chapman will probably bring the most value.
He signed last year, champ.
Yes thinking he makes twice as much but only half as good as Fowler.
Good chance all of these deals turn bad. tbh, I like Rich Hill’s the best.
Hands down Chapman but there are still a lot of big name guys out on the open market who may get cheaper deals
Desmond is the best signing! LOL
Going to Coors Field he will offer more in value than Fowler will playing anywhere. Desmond is a career .270ish hitter who averages 20+ HR. His biggest downfall is his inability to get on base at a good, consistent rate. Conversely, Fowler is pretty much average all around for an OFer, except he gets on base at a pretty good clip. Neither are going to win a Gold Glove, so I will take the guy producing runs over the guy getting on base slightly more and hoping someone else will drive him in.
Thats my opinion but ultimately, I feel that they are all going to be bad contracts before any of them reach maturity.
Desmond. Watch him have a best season ever in Coors. Gives the Rockies a ton of depth in case someone gets hurt in infield.
I definitely think he has the best chance to have the best value over the course of the deal versus everyone else, as long as he stays in Colorado.
I agree. Its Desmond
I voted for Desmond as well. That’s way to much for Fowler imo.
All those signings appear pretty bad. Chapman at what 17 million a year for three years if he is really good, and if he isn’t dominant after a year or two the yankees are stuck at 17 mil a year for a no longer effective reliver? Either he opts out before the yankees are in full swing and takes his extra 11 million to go with it or he falls off in year 2 or 3 and stays around to help clog the payroll
Cardinals and Giants moves are the best improvement of needs by teams, but I think Fowler is more likely to be worth his contract than Melancon is, so Fowler gets my votes.
Must be from Chicago stuffing the ballet box here. lol
I think the Giants need Melancon the most. Bullpen woes were their glaring weakness last year. While Chapman bolsters the Yankees bullpen quite clearly, I feel they had/have bigger needs. Desmond should put up some good numbers in Coors, but as well, a lot of players can hit in Coors especially at a lesser price. If they trade Blackmon or CarGo for other needs, it is possibly a better trade in time. As for the Cardinals, I don’t fully understand as they expressed a need for defense. I do see that the other options are largely mid-contract and would cause a hefty loss of prospects. They apparently weren’t big on Carlos Gomez. I personally loved the thought of Jarrod Dyson as the price would be substantially less, he provides elite speed, and great defense. As long as the offense clicks, Fowler is fine, but he still does miss about 25 games a year on average on top of everything and I worry he was a bit overvalued because of the Cubs juggernaut offense. For the prices, none of the trades were particularly bad. I would say it’s between the Giants and Cards. Though I’m not big on Fowler, they filled a clear need and one that will play every day (unlikeva closer).
I’m big on Fowler
After watching the special the other night on the Cubs’ World Series victory, I find very troubling that the Cubs made no effort to resign Chapman. Probably has to do with game 7. The biggest moment ever and he came up small with what could’ve been the biggest blown save in World Series history, if the Cubs lost.
No, it was because they felt that they could find better trades and free agents over the next 5-6 years for their closer job than was worth Chapman or Jansen’s record contracts this year.
I believe I had read previously on MLB Trade Rumors that Dexter Fowler was also given a no-trade clause in his contract which isn’t mentioned in this poll article. If that’s the case, it should be factored into the equation of who’s new contract is the best.
No team filled a glaring need like the Giants did with Melancon. He can instantly make SF 6-10 games better next year. Fowler is second among those four. STL needed a spark and some better defense. Desmond will be a good fantasy pick in Coors but he won’t make them a contender by himself. Chapman is great but the Yanks were mediocre with him this year. They need a lot more pieces.
“He can instantly make SF 6-10 games better next year.”
Really? 6-10 games better?
I don’t think Melancon is as good as other do. He misses a lot of bats, as noted in his h/ip, but his k/ip ratio is too low for an elite closer.
Melancon pitches almost as good as the other guys for 70 innings/year and $20 million cheaper. Best value
he is not almost as good look at sabermetrics like WAR, he is three years older meaning he is more likely to decline in his contract as he will be 2 years older by the end of both of their contracts and the difference is actually 1.7 million a year which is the way teams and fans looks at it.
Bank On It
Let me get this straight Melancon at 15.5/yr is a better signing that Chapman at 17.2/yr? You guys realize that’s a difference of only 1.7 million a year for a pitcher who is 3 years younger is signed through to 2 years younger and is on another level in terms of talent and sabermetric value? LOL @ random baseball fans.
Yes it’s a two million dollar difference and shorter risk period. Also melancon knows how to pitch without just relying on his fastball so if it loses velocity it won’t be as much as a catastrophe as it will be for chapman. However the reason the signing is better is cuz he filled a much bigger need for the giants than chapman does for the yankees. The giants blew 30 saves last year and are trying to compete for a World Series the next few years. The yankees signed a top closer at a record contract for years that they are not expected to compete for the World Series. Further more they had bigger areas of need with cheaper solutions
You are spot on in regards to Melancon over Chapman. WHEN Chapman loses velocity, his ERA and WHIP will skyrocket. Melancon can actually pitch, he’s not just a thrower who relies on 103 mph heat. But fans who understand the difference don’t need to quote sabermetrics and try to belittle other people and call them “random baseball fans.”
And you are absolutely correct that Melancon actually fills a legitimate need in SF whereas Chapman wasn’t needed in NY, he’s simply a luxury.
I forgot chapman was’nt a starter not long ago and only throws fastballs and will not be able to get batters out with 99MPH heat(please bring up postseason when he was throwing that fatigued and not as a rested pitcher which makes all the difference in the world) and will be so hard headed he will refuse to use any of his other pitches or adjust at all because he is so proud he will love getting manhandled on the field..
shorter risk period? 1 year when melancon is already 3 years and 1 month older so you have chapman signed through an earlier age? WTF. and you’re basing that chapman cant get people out if he falls to a 99MPH range…. like just because he struggled while being fatigued in the postseason at that range that means anything other than a fatigued pitcher struggling….. and he has other pitches and was a starter not long ago. and you honestly believe if he struggles for a few month he won’t alter anything or rely more on other pitches? is he dumb?
shorter risk period? 1 year when melancon is already 3 years and 1 month older so you have chapman signed through an earlier age? WTF. and you’re basing that chapman cant get people out if he falls to a 99MPH range…. like just because he struggled while being fatigued in the postseason at that range that means anything other than a fatigued pitcher struggling….. and he has other pitches and was a starter not long ago. and you honestly believe if he struggles for a few month he won’t alter anything or rely more on other pitches? is he that thick?
^^this guy knows what’s up
I voted Melancon as SF blew 30 saves last year, that seems to be money well spent.
Fowler, wow he cashed in, his numbers even in Coors field weren’t all that eye popping, and he couldn’t even get a contract last year until spring training, what a difference a year makes! I’m glad the Jays didn’t sign him for that much/long, even though they kinda needed a player who offers his type of skills.
I’m not really sure what Colorado is thinking, obviously they aren’t happy with some current outfielders maybe? The signed him to play first base? Really?
Chapman, well, the Yankees did need an anchor in the bullpen, I’m not sold on Betances yet myself even though his numbers are fantastic, he throws so many sliders I see him blowing his arm up at some point soon. But 86 milllion for a closer, gee whiz, that’s a lot of dough for 60 innings a year, boy it’s mind boggling the money in baseball nowadays.
Ian Desmond was the best signing. The Rockies got him for $12.5 million less than the Cardinals did for Fowler over the same timespan, and in my opinion had a better year than Fowler last year:
Desmond: AVG: .285, HR: 22, SB: 21, OPS .782
Fowler: AVG: .276, HR: 13, SB: 13, OPS: .840
And Desmond is more versatile than Fowler as well, as he can play short and 1st
I like Desmond a lot, especially playing at Coors, but to forfeit the 11th overall pick for him to play 1st base? I hope this is just the 1st piece COL picks up. Maybe they trade Blackmon, sign a real 1B and stick Desmond in the OF. IDK . I voted Chapman, I think he is a freak of nature and will opt out in 3 yrs anyways. Gives the NYY one of the best 8th-9th inning options, shortens games, with their SPs-they’ll need those guys in the pen quite often.
I think Desmond is supposed to take on a role similar to Zobrist, probably spending the most time at first base but likely to play all around the field.
The final poll questions which “contract” is best for the team.
Desmond is only $14m per yr and doesn’t have no trade or opt out clauses. He wins if you go by what the poll asks.
Best overall value is probably Melancon or Chapman though. Didn’t surrender picks and both are elite. Just a question of whether or not they can sustain
I forgot about giving up the 11th pick for Desmond. I’d pick Chapman then because there was no draft pick compensation and he’s younger and obviously a better pitcher than melancon.
All I’m saying is chapman makes no sense for the yankees. They needed a bat or two, if you are trying to start a youth movement you can’t put all that pressure on your line-up not having any veteran boppers to supplement them, and imagine the poor young starters getting 0 run support, instead you sign a 17 mil per closer for the few years you aren’t expected to really need him.
He sells tickets and bring hype to NY. $17 isn’t a bad expense for marketing, especially since it looks like they’re aiming to be under the salary cap in 2017.
They have Gardner, Ellsbury, Headley, Holliday, Castro, an to a lesser extent Gregorius. How many veterans you want?
I meant veterans who can help carry an offense when the youth is struggling, and chapman doesn’t really bring enough hype to put many butts in the seats of a 4th place team.
where are you plugging in the bat?
Since the question is which contract is best for his team, rather than which is the best contract, I have to say Melancon
Lets poll the biggest disappointment in non signing Edwin or Jose
My best guess would be Chapman but of course we won’t know for a couple of seasons from now.
Fowler to the Cards
Desmond. The rest will end up being bad deals.
Too much money for all these guys especially relievers. It’s kind of hurting the game imho
I had to give it to Fowler – plays a premium position, fills a void the Cardinals actually REALLY needed to fill, and has been an above average MLB player for enough seasons to convince me that he should be able to continue to at least provide a solid OBP over the next few years.
I know the game has changed – but I still can’t get behind big money deals for short relievers. After all, the regular season strategies are not likely to change – these guys are still 1-inning guys.. Since I think the Giants are closer than the Yankees, I would give an edge to Melancon – he isn’t as good as Chapman, but he may help his team achieve something quicker.
I can’t really say anything about Desmond – if the goal truly is first base, his value is going to sink. I didn’t even consider him for the top spot.
Easily Fowler by far the best move
I agree with all of this.
I hate to say it because I am a Dodgers fan but Melancon has to be the best signing. The Giants have a solid team but would blow the game late because they had no closer. Well..now they do and that’s a bit game changer for them. I really hate even thinking about them getting better lol
I don’t know cuz they’re all overpays; but I’d guess Desmond.
Any other non-contender spends $80 M on a closer and it; “WTF.” The Yankees do it and it’s “genius!”
I agree with you but unfortunately we have the context of melancon who is 37 months older only making 1.7 million a year less. Its probably more of a melancon got too much than chapman is a good signing but comparing both of those contracts chapman is clearly better as he is signed through to being 2 years younger than melancon and is starting from a higher production.
Chapman got a full no trade for 3 years, an opt out after 3 (so when the yankees actually look to be good again he can leave if he’s still good or hold out for them to pay him more) and he got an extra year. Why are you only focusing on $$? These other perks have obvious value to the player.
So the Yankees won’t be any good in 18-19? care to explain why?
Why would a non contender spend $80 million on a closer anyway?
There should be a “None Of The Above” option since all those deals are terrible.
Fowler to Cards fantastic if you look what cubs paid to Heyward. Fowler twice as good half as much.
The way this piece was written you could have just easily said “Which Free Agent Signing Was Most Regrettable?”
As a Dodgers fan.. Melancon for sure.
Voice of Reason
It’s so odd that Fowler leads this poll that you’d almost think the cardinals hacked this system to help the organization out and look better. But, then it’s silly to think that any organization would hack a system to make it look better or give it an unfair advantage.
GO NEW YORK
I could never vote for a reliever here. Just terrible idea to give long term deals to them imo.
Desmond is cheaper than Dex and the question is “best deal for the team.”
Desmond looks to have the most value, as if he puts up one 30/30 season the Rockies are gonna get a massive haul of prospects.
Here is the thing about Chapman. The Cubs rode him hard in the playoffs, and we have seen closers who have great seasons previously fall flat on their face the next season becasue they are gassed. Could Chapman be fine? Sure, but I would say that a lot of mileage on an arm during the playoffs combined with a short off season does not bode well.
You are right about relievers being so up and down. Giving a record breaking 5 year contract to a closer is hard to do for me because of how inconsistent closers have shown to be over the years, but Chapman is just different. I have zero doubt he will be dominate next year and most likely five more year unless he gets hurt. Jenson I feel the same way about too. Those two pitchers are just special.
There’s no such thing as special. Why don’t you research the injury (TJS/nerve inflammation/tears) history likelihood of pitchers that throw like Chapman. What happens if these way overpaid relievers go down for a surgery? $80 Million on a guy that (according to historical trends) will lose effectiveness, high likelihood of injury, and won’t be on the field every day to make an impact. LOL!
Can I vote for “None of the Above”?
Only a Cubs fan would say that.
Chapman was definitely the worst. The Yankees are 2 seasons from needing to worry about closing games. They looked so smart up until inking that turd.
All four suck.
No all four very good difference makers. All good signing. A bad signing example would be Jason Heyward for 184 million last year. You could have all 4 for that ridiculous price.
Let’s answer the question with logic. Chapman/Melancon are way overpriced and could easily lose effectiveness – as most aging relievers do. Desmond will be among a crowded outfield, playing on a team that didn’t need any more offense (Coors field – so easy, a toddler could do it.) and Desmond doesn’t have a fixed defensive position. Fowler. Unlike the overpriced relievers, he will play EVERY DAY and make the biggest impact to the team that signed a player. Cardinals needed a leadoff hitter to move Carpenter back. Fowler is a high OBP player that brings a major impact to the lineup. Grichuk and Piscotty are above average fielders and Fowler can be above average if he plays further back. A major overlooked factor is the veteran leadership that Fowler brings to his new organization – Holliday is gone and Yadi/Wainwright will be soon enough. Compared to the lunatics that decided Heyward was a good signing, Fowler is only half the price and is every bit as valuable (likely more valuable) than Heyward. Logic and intelligence. Can you hack that, people?
Fowler. Solidifies CF and top of the order.
Desmond or Melancon. Melancon is the best deal in terms of contract breakdown. However, you have to remember that Closers are only used so many times within in a season, some of those times are meaningful and sometimes they’re not. A team is lucky to get 70-80 appearances from their closer in a full season, and with a every-day position player you’re getting 650+ plate appearences, 180+ appearances on the base paths, and a ton of appearances in defensive-value. So it’s tough to say that $62M is the accurate value attached with a top-tier closer, IMO I think it’s way too much. Ian Desmond can absolutely rake and Coors Field is going to inflate his stats even more, so I say Desmond is the best over-all contract out of the four. IMO Fowler is a bit overrated and I think the Cubs & their postseason really added some $Ms onto his market value.
Melancon is the best signing. Terrific control.
The Rangers. They get a #11 draft pick.
i think the rangers fans would rather have Desmond, a guy who can help them now as opposed to a draft pick which are more often bust. The Rangers window is NOW.