Giants sign Anthony Desclafani
In terms of pure quantity of moves, Wednesday was actually a fairly busy day for this offseason. None of the free agent signings that we saw were particularly notable, or at least not among the top couple tiers of players available, but four players signed major-league deals. Among them, Anthony Desclafani got the most money. The former Red got a one-year deal worth $6 million from the Giants.
Desclafani represented one of the most intriguing “cheap” options on the market among starting pitchers. He has long been someone who has been seen has having significant upside, first really bursting onto the scene back in 2015, his first year with the Reds. He followed that up with a very impressive 2016, but injury issues started popping up that season and he would eventually miss all of 2017. Since coming back, he has still had trouble racking up innings and there have been some consistency issues. Last season, he pitched to an ugly 7.22 ERA over 33 2⁄3 innings, so some of this signing surely comes with the hope that this past summer was just a blip on the radar for the righty.
It certainly isn’t a disaster for the Red Sox to have missed out on Desclafani, but he would have been a good option that would have allowed them money left in their budget to make a few more substantial additions, and it’s worth mentioning that the Giants are in a similar position as the Red Sox as a team who has had recent success and is somewhere between a contender and a team trying to strip it all down.
Keynan Middleton signs with the Mariners
The Desclafani signing was for the most money, but if I were a betting man I would say Keynan Middleton is the signing from Wednesday that could have the best performance in 2021. The former Angels closer received a one-year deal worth $800K from the Mariners after being non-tendered by his former club earlier this month.
Middleton is certainly not a sure thing out of the bullpen, which is why he was non-tendered in the first place before receiving less than $1 million in guaranteed money. That said, he is still relatively young entering his age-27 season and has shown late-inning potential. The righty earned the opportunity to record saves as soon as his rookie season back in 2017. Although he made 64 appearances that year, health has been an issue since and he has just 40 in the three seasons since. In terms of performance, though, he’s hardly waivered. Over his career, Middleton has pitched to a 3.48 ERA over 95 2⁄3 innings.
As with Desclafani, this is not one of those moves where you get frustrated that there are no other options. Particularly among relievers, there are other options who represent solid upside for a cheap price. Middleton was simply one of them. Still, he was one of my personal favorites, so it’s still a bit upsetting to see him come off the board.
Rays bring back Mike Zunino
The Rays, as much as it pains me to admit it, entered this offseason as one of the most complete teams in baseball. There’s a reason they went to the World Series this past season, and they didn’t really lose anything to free agency. That’s not to say they can’t upgrade at positions, but they didn’t have a lot of clear needs. One of the few on the roster was catcher, of which they needed multiple. They can still find an upgrade, but for at least one of those spots they are going to run it back as they have re-signed Mike Zunino to a one-year deal worth $3 million with a team option for 2022.
Zunino was first acquired by the Rays in a trade with Seattle prior to the 2019 season. At the time he was a power-hitting catcher with some swing and miss issues, but his value on the offensive side of the ball has tanked. In his two years with the Rays he has posted an OPS+ of 49, which is unusable even for a catcher. That said, as a backup who still possesses some of that power, he is fine. This is mostly true because of his defense, as Zunino continues to be one of the best pitch framers in the entire league even as his offense falls through the floor.
It’s always news when one of the best teams in the division makes a move, but as I said the expectation is that Zunino will not be the big addition for the Rays behind the plate. They certainly won’t be in on J.T. Realmuto or anything, but as DRay’s Bay mentions in the linked post someone like Tyler Flowers or Jason Castro could be an option. There was also the Christian Vázquez speculation from the summer, though I remain skeptical about that.
Angels sign Alex Claudio
The final signing from Wednesday was with the Angels, who brought in Alex Claudio. The southpaw received a one-year deal worth $1.125 million. I won’t spend much time here as he is largely a middle reliever who should be used mostly against lefties. Once upon a time he was actually someone I wanted the Red Sox to target when he was with the Rangers, but those days are behind us. He’s a ground ball specialists and doesn’t really rack up strikeouts, though he has gotten results over his career. That said, the Red Sox have a pair of lefties that should play big roles in Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez already on the roster. They don’t need to avoid southpaws altogether, but they also should be looking for relievers who can get righties out.
MLB to recognize Negro Leagues as major leagues
Perhaps the biggest news from the league on Wednesday was their announcement that they were going to “correct an oversight” and elevate the Negro Leagues to major league status. As a white dude, I don’t really feel I have a ton to add to this conversation, so instead I’m going to link to this very good Clinton Yates post on all of this.