After a flurry of intriguing short-term, low-risk signings earlier in the week, the Brewers tumultuous offseason continued Thursday when they agreed to terms on one-year deals with a pair of veteran free agents, versatile infielder Eric Sogard and first baseman Justin Smoak.
It may have flown completely under the radar, but Sogard -- who will receive $4.5 million guaranteed and a club option for 2021 -- blossomed into one of the more valuable position players (2.6 WAR) in the American League last season. He cobbled together a remarkable first half with the Blue Jays, making starts at five different defensive positions, while also recording a robust .300/.363/.477 triple-slash line with 10 homers and six steals in 323 plate appearances; before being dealt to the division-rival Rays at the major-league trade deadline. He overhauled his approach at the dish, placing an emphasis on pulling more of his line drives and fly balls, which lead to career-high offensive production across the board as he finished the year with a .290/.353/.457 batting line to go along with 59 runs scored, 13 home runs, 40 RBI and eight stolen bases across 442 plate appearances. The 33-year-old infielder, who spent the previous two seasons in Milwaukee (2017 and 2018) prior to switching leagues, is expected to occupy a super-utility role, filling in at a variety of defensive spots next year. From a fantasy standpoint, his versatility, superb plate skills and ability to post double-digit homers and steals make him a viable late-round insurance policy in standard mixed leagues. Based on his rather inflated home run to fly ball ratio (9.3 percent) last year, he’ll experience some regression in terms of over-the-fence power, but he’s a decent depth option considering that he’ll be virtually free in all fantasy drafts next spring.
Meanwhile, the Brewers also elected to roll the dice on former Blue Jays’ first baseman Justin Smoak, inking him to a one-year, $4 million contract, which includes a club option for 2021 worth $5.5 million and a $1 million buyout. The 33-year-old slugger is coming off a dismal final season in Toronto in which he recorded a lackluster .208/.342/.406 triple-slash line with 22 homers across 500 plate appearances. Yet, he’s eclipsed the 20-homer threshold in each of the last three seasons and represents a viable stopgap solution for the Brewers. He should be a natural fit for the hitter-friendly dimensions of Miller Park. It’s another cheap, low-risk gamble on a proven veteran masher who still possesses elite raw power when he connects. Given the plethora of one-dimensional (low batting average, power plus counting stats) three-category impact sluggers available in the current fantasy landscape, Smoak’s fantasy appeal is strictly limited to deeper mixed leagues.
Angels Ink Teheran, Bolster Rotation
The Angels continued to fortify the back-end of their starting rotation Thursday, reportedly agreeing to terms with durable free agent right-hander Julio Teheran on a one-year, $9 million contract. The 28-year-old veteran posted a 3.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 162/83 K/BB ratio in 174 2/3 innings (33 starts) with the Braves during the 2019 regular season, but was ultimately left off their playoff roster and became a free agent in early November after the Braves declined his $12 million club option. He’s consistently managed to outperform his expected results, especially in terms of run prevention, but last season was particularly absurd. Per Baseball Prospectus’ Deserved Run Average metric, Teheran’s 4.59 DRA was nearly a full run higher than his actual 3.81 ERA last year. To his credit, he’s been a reliable workhorse, making at least 30 starts in seven consecutive seasons. Teheran doesn’t project as anything more than a back-end innings-eater, but even a league-average option is an upgrade over the in-house alternative they were forced to turn to last season. He’s expected to join righty Dylan Bundy, whom the Angels acquired from the Orioles earlier this month, southpaw Andrew Heaney and young right-hander Griffin Canning as the only surefire locks to begin the impending campaign in the teams’ starting rotation.
The Angels will receive a much-needed spark when two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound next season. According to a series of tweets from Angels’ beat reporter Jeff Fletcher, of the Orange County Register, the 25-year-old righty completed his throwing progression on Thursday. He also noted that Ohtani “is not expected to pitch more than one time a week and the Angels will limit his innings” next season. It’s unclear exactly when the electric righty will be ready, but he’s done rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in the United States and will return to Japan until late January. At a bare minimum, the Angels front office has gone out and secured enough starting pitching depth that they presumably won’t run the risk of being forced to rely on sub-replacement level options while attempting to make a playoff push.
Donaldson Sweepstakes Nearing Conclusion?
According to multiple reports, highly-coveted free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson appears to be on the verge of making a decision about his future. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote Thursday that the Twins and Nationals are “believed” to have made four-year offers. Rosenthal also added that both the Braves and Dodgers “remain in the mix, but both clubs might be reluctant to go to four years.” MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Thursday evening that there is a feeling around the industry that Donaldson will sign soon and it sounds like his representatives are requesting final offers from interested clubs. Heyman isn’t ruling out the Twins, Rangers and Dodgers, but it sounds like the Nationals have the biggest offer on the table at the moment. Donaldson, who is reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth nearly $100 million, could be waiting to hear whether the Braves are willing to give him something comparable. The 34-year-old veteran infielder is coming off a resurgent 2019 campaign with Atlanta in which he recorded a .259/.369/.509 triple-slash line with 37 homers and 94 RBI across 659 plate appearances. If he elects to take the Nationals offer, he would be an obvious replacement for Anthony Rendon at the hot corner for the defending World Series champions. If the Twins manage to land Donaldson, they would need to move Miguel Sano over to first base.
Tribe Preparing For Lindor Decision
In an offseason filled with endless rumors and speculation, it appears that the Indians are on the verge of making a final decision regarding the future of franchise cornerstone Francisco Lindor. According to reporting by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, that decision could happen sooner rather than later this offseason. Rosenthal wrote Thursday that the Indians are informing interested clubs that “they want each team’s best and final offers so they can make an assessment over the weekend.” “I do think (the Indians) are trying to bring things to a rapid conclusion,” an executive involved in the talks told Rosenthal. The executive goes on to note how odd it is that the Tribe would place an “artificial deadline” on negotiations for the superstar shortstop, especially with it only being late December. There is known to be serious interest from the Dodgers, Reds, and Padres, and it would appear that Cleveland might actually part ways with Lindor this winter, perhaps even before the beginning of the new year. Stay tuned. This could escalate quickly.
American League Quick Hits: According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Rangers "are among the clubs talking to the Rockies" about a possible Nolan Arenado trade. Rosenthal also lists the Braves, Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers as possible landing spots for Arenado should the Rockies really open themselves to trade proposals this winter … Yankees officially signed RHP Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million contract … Blue Jays officially signed RHP Tanner Roark to a two-year, $24 million contract … Red Sox officially signed LHP Martin Perez to a one-year, $6 million contract with a $6.25 million club option for 2021 … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Thursday that the Royals have signed infielder Maikel Franco to a one-year, $2.95 million contract … Heyman also reported Thursday that the White Sox have agreed to a deal with free agent left-hander Gio Gonzalez … According to MLB.com's Greg Johns, the Mariners are "definitely interested" in a reunion with free agent right-hander Taijuan Walker … White Sox signed LHP Ross Detwiler and INF Cheslor Cuthbert to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Rangers re-signed RHP Ian Gibaut, RHP Edinson Volquez and C Tim Federowicz to minor league contracts with invites to spring training … Twins signed LHP Daniel Coulombe, INF Jack Reinheimer, INF Cody Asche and INF Wilfredo Tovar to minor league contracts … Jon Heyman of MLB Network writes that free agent right-hander Felix Hernandez “is receiving interest and will continue to evaluate opportunities into the new year.” … According to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, the MLBPA has filed a grievance against the Yankees in an attempt to recoup money owed to Jacoby Ellsbury … Yankees designated RHP Chance Adams for assignment.
National League Quick Hits: Reds officially signed LHP Wade Miley to a two-year, $15 million contract with a $10 million club option for 2022 … According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Twins and Nationals are "believed" to have made four-year offers to Donaldson … According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, teams have reached out to the Mets about a potential trade for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes … Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have had "multiple conversations" with the representatives for left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu … According to Robert Murray, formerly of The Athletic, the Dodgers and Padres are among the teams showing interest in Indians starter Mike Clevinger. Murray also noted that the Indians asking price is “sky high.” … Marlins signed OF Matt Kemp, RHP Josh Smith, C Ryan Lavarnway, RHP Aaron Northcraft and INF Christian Lopes to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Padres signed RHP Jimmy Yacabonis to a minor league contract … Cubs signed OF Ian Miller to a minor league contract … Rockies signed OF Mike Gerber to a minor league contract with an invitation to big-league camp … Phillies signed OF Mikie Mahtook to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Nationals signed LHP Fernando Abad to a minor league contract … Diamondbacks signed LHP Kyle Crockett to a minor league contract … Cardinals designated OF Adolis Garcia for assignment.