Athletics trade Chris Bassitt to the Mets
When the lockout ended, one of the big storylines that people around baseball were waiting for was the fire sale from the Athletics. With a handful of players getting expensive in arbitration and an ownership who refuses to spend money, there are a lot of good players in the Bay Area who could be shipped out. The first deal came on Saturday, with Chris Bassitt being traded to the Mets in exchange for pitching prospects J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller.
Bassitt is entering the final year before free agency and will be heading into his age-33 season, which certainly cuts into his value to some extent, but this still seems like a good grab for New York from where I’m sitting. Last season Bassitt finished with a 3.15 ERA and a 3.34 FIP, and he’s really been one of the most underrated pitchers in the game for a few years now. He joins a suddenly loaded Mets rotation, slotting in behind two of the very best in the game with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.
On the other side, while the return feels a little light to me that’s not the same as saying Oakland got nothing. Ginn is the big name in this one, a second round pick in 2020 who has a solid three-pitch mix and impressed in his professional debut last season. Oller, meanwhile, is old for a prospect with 2022 being his age-27 season, but he’s coming off a strong year in Double-A and Triple-A last season and provides solid depth.
Why Red Sox fans should care: I don’t think the Red Sox are necessarily in the market for a pitcher like this after signing a few veterans before the lockout. They feasibly have five starters already without counting either Tanner Houck or Garrett Whitlock, so not giving up prospects for one year of an aging starter isn’t totally unreasonable. That said, Bassitt would provide some much-needed stability in this group. It’s always hard to create perfect comparisons for packages from different organizations, but a similar type of package for Boston may have been something like Brayan Bello and Connor Seabold (five and 21 on Baseball America’s list versus six and 20 for Ginn and Oller, respectively. Boston’s farm system was ranked 12th in baseball by BA compared to 16 for the Mets.) Would I do that deal? I’m honestly not sure, and it’s not a perfect comparison, but I’d at least think hard about it.
Yusei Kikuchi signs three-year deal with Blue Jays
The Blue Jays figure to be one of the most dangerous teams in the American League this season, with a deep and improving offense to go with solid pitching. They just missed the postseason last year, and they’re looking to shore up that pitching to make a run at October in 2022. Their big move came before the lockout when they signed Kevin Gausman. Now, they’ve added to the back end, inking Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
The lefty first came over to the majors from the NPB in 2019, having spent the last three seasons pitching for the Mariners. In each of the last two seasons Kikuchi has been able to miss bats at a good rate, but the command has let him down and he’s struggled to even be average. Last season he finished with a 4.41 ERA and a 4.61 FIP, both of which were below-average after adjusting for park effects. One of the big issues for Kikuchi has been the long ball, so it will be interesting to see if there is a struggle adjusting to the American League East and the more hitter friendly parks, to say nothing of the lineups in the division. He joins a rotation with Gausman, José Berríos, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Alek Manoah.
Why Red Sox fans should care: To me, this one is less about the Red Sox missing out and more about the Blue Jays taking an interesting chance here with a pitcher on the wrong side of 30 who has not been able to even be average. It would be one thing on a one-year deal trying to get another Robbie Ray type breakout (though Ray was much better even before last season than Kikuchi has been), but for three years that could backfire. Maybe they know something I don’t, but this feels like good news for Boston.
Rangers trade Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the Twins for Mitch Garver and a prospect
Prior to the lockout going into effect, we saw a whole lot of activity on the free agent market, but not too much in terms of trades. We talked about the Bassitt deal above, but it was actually this three-player trade between the Twins and Rangers that was the first trade of the post-lockout period. Here, the Rangers sent shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and pitching prospect Ronny Henriquez to the Twins in exchange for catcher Mitch Garver.
On the Twins side of this deal, they lost Andrelton Simmons to free agency and they were hoping to find a way to keep Jorge Polanco at second base rather than having to move him to the other side of the bag. Kiner-Falefa fills that hole as they wait for top prospect Royce Lewis. IKF was actually a catcher not too long ago before Texas moved him to the infield, and last season was his first full year at shortstop. Depending on what defensive metrics you like, he was either very good (+10 DRS), very bad (-7 OAA), or somewhere in the middle (+1.2 UZR). At the plate, he makes a lot of contact but the numbers are still below average due to a lack of walks and almost no power. Henriquez is an interesting piece in this deal as well. He was a top 10 prospect in the Rangers system and got up to Double-A last year as a 21-year-old.
On the other side of the deal, it feels like Texas got a much more interesting player. In Mitch Garver, they get a rare kind of player in a catcher who can hit, and hit for power. Garver finished last season with a 137 wRC+ and a .261 Isolated Power (SLG - AVG), and his framing numbers were solid too. That said, he’s struggled to stay healthy in his career and is on the wrong side of 30. He has two more years of team control. Texas replaced Kiner-Falefa before the lockout when they signed Corey Seager, though their plan at third base is now unclear.
Why Red Sox fans should care: I don’t think there’s much here on either side that the Red Sox would have made a push for, but this still matters for Sox fans for what it may mean for the Yankees. They are in the shortstop market and had been connected to Kiner-Falefa. With him no longer on the market, that takes one more option off the board and potentially moves them closer to a big splash in signing Carlos Correa.
- The Rockies agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $5 million with shortstop José Iglesias. He, of course, finished last season in Boston and was a big reason the Red Sox made it into the postseason. It seemed like there was a fit here for him to come back for 2022, but I’d assume there was a clearer path to playing time in Colorado, which likely made it an easy decision.
- Sticking with the theme of old friends who seemed like fits to come back in free agency, Joe Kelly signed with the other Sox, agreeing to a two-year deal plus an option for a total value of $17 million with the White Sox. Kelly joins a Chicago bullpen that already features Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, and Kendall Graveman though there’s been some speculation Kimbrel could be traded before the start of the season.
- It was a busy day for veteran relievers in free agency, with Alex Colomé also finding a new home with a one-year deal with the Rockies. The righty struggled last season with the White Sox, finishing with a career-worst 4.15 ERA.
- Perhaps the weirdest signing of the day was by the Phillies, who signed Jeurys Familia to a one-year deal worth $6 million. Although he put up solid results in 2021, his peripherals have been going in the wrong direction for a few years now.
- The first reliever to sign in this flurry of moves on that market was Steve Cishek, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with the Nationals. This feels like a great deal for Washington and something the Red Sox should have been looking at. Cishek pitched to a 3.42 ERA with a 3.74 FIP in 68 innings last season.
- Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki is staying with the Angels, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. He’s expected to back up Max Stassi as he did last season.
- Josh Harrison was another potential infield option for the Red Sox, but he’ll be going to the White Sox instead, signing a one-year deal worth $5.5 million. He’ll be in the mix for plate appearances at second base along with Leury Garcia.