Baseball’s offseason is still in its relatively early stages, though that doesn’t mean things haven’t started happening on lots of fronts. Yesterday Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus became the first player in history to accept the current CBA’s 1 year, $15.8 million qualifying offer, electing to stay with the Astros in 2016 over pursuing a multi-year deal. The Angels made news last night by swapping shortstops with Atlanta, acquiring defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons for Erick Aybar and top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb in a deal that left all nine Braves fans outraged. Simmons is only 26, on a cost-friendly contract through 2020, and regularly does stuff like this:
So Atlanta supporters are probably justified in their dissatisfaction.
The Red Sox have been making waves as well over the past week and a half or so. Dave Dombrowski has already come out and said something to the effect of “nobody is safe”, which flooded Red Sox Twitter with tons of “OH NO DON’T TRADE BETTS OR BOGAERTS PLEASE GOD WHY” type-tweets. I would be shocked if either of those two guys were dealt (though that kind of trade would likely net a Matt Harvey/Sonny Gray/Chris Sale kind of pitcher). Jackie Bradley Jr., on the other hand, has allegedly received interest from multiple other teams, and it’s much less difficult to imagine him getting shipped out at some point this winter.
Boston has also been rumored to have plenty of feelers in the bullpen market, both free agent and trade-wise. They’ve expressed interest in free-agent right-hander Joakim Soria, per Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, and have also been heavily linked to free agent Darren O’Day and Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. It is unlikely that the Red Sox will acquire both Chapman and O’Day, though I suppose it is not completely out of the realm of possibility. This raises the question: which would be the better get?
O’Day has been excellent since his debut in 2008. His career ERA is 2.31, and has only gone above 2.28 in two of his eight seasons. 2015 was his best year yet; he posted career highs in ERA (1.52), FIP (2.49), and K-BB% (26.5) in 65.1 innings. He also allowed fewer HR/9 than he had in any season since 2009. O’Day is effective despite a fastball that sits in mid-to-high 80s, though it creates swing and misses due to its movement (and his funky submarine delivery). He just turned 33 in October and is projected to get a three year deal in the ballpark of $22.5 million. He apparently already has some offers in hand meaning that if the Sox want to get him, they better decide quickly.
Chapman, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. He blows people away with his 100+ mph heat and a devastating slider/change secondary combo. He strikes basically everyone out. Seriously. His Z-Contact %, which measures how often opposing batters make contact with pitches thrown in the strike zone, is 66.9%, best among all qualified relievers. The gap between him and second place Antonio Bastardo is the same as the gap between Bastardo and 38th place Juan Nicasio. Chapman’s 1.63 ERA ranked 4th among relievers this year, behind O’Day, Dellin Betances (1.50), and Wade Davis (0.94). Chapman’s greatest weakness is walks, where his BB/9 numbers have been much less impressive (his career BB/9 is 4.37). The Reds are on the brink of going into full rebuild mode and are making some of their star players available in exchange for prospects. Boston seems like a good bet to bring in the 27 year old fireballer, having both a deep and highly regarded farm system and a serious need for bullpen help. The Red Sox have already done background work on Chapman and while that doesn’t mean a trade is imminent, it does signify that Boston’s interest is real.
In a vacuum, Chapman would be the choice here, though O’Day has been terrific in his own right. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum, and one has to wonder whether the Red Sox will be willing to meet whatever Cincinnati’s asking price is. Ultimately, the choice between the two will come down to whether Dombrowski and Mike Hazen are more comfortable shelling out about $7 million AAV for a reliever with below average velocity about to enter his mid-thirties than they are giving up a couple of prospects for Chapman, who is projected to make about $13 million in arbitration in 2016 and is under team control through 2017. Chapman would definitely be the more exciting play, but O’Day might be a smarter one, at least financially and prospects-wise.
In other news, Xander Bogaerts is your 2015 AL Silver Slugger at shortstop. Our own Sheridan Prestero wrote about Bogaerts’ improvement in 2015 here, and it’s nice to see the guy who really should have been the Red Sox’s lone All-Star representative get some love for his impressive bounce back season. Bogaerts led all AL shortstops in WAR and wRC+, and as a friendly reminder is only 23 and still improving. He’s a cornerstone for the franchise looking forward and should be untouchable, no matter what Dombrowski says.