November was hardly the busiest month of transactions in Major League Baseball history, but a surprising number of names inked new deals during the last 30 days. Some look great on paper while others were head-scratchers.
With the winter meetings around the corner, here’s a look back at the biggest signings from November:
Yasmani Grandal, White Sox
Contract: 4 years, $73M
Did the Chicago White Sox overpay Grandal? Maybe. Does the signing make them a contender in the soft American League Central? Definitely. Grandal is first among qualified catchers with 117 home runs and 350 walks since 2015, his first year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In that time, only Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras have posted a better OPS than Grandal’s .804, and that’s come in significantly fewer plate appearances.
The switch-hitter has also established himself as one of the top defensive catchers in the game, making him the perfect option to help guide Chicago’s young pitching staff while also serving as a middle-of-the-order bat. It’s a great signing, even if you balk a bit at the cost of doing business.
Will Smith, Braves
Contract: 3 years, $39M
The Atlanta Braves have been one of the busiest teams so far. After re-signing a few notable players from last year, the front office made the first splash of the winter by signing former San Francisco Giants closer Smith.
Smith, 30, was an All-Star in 2019 for the first time in his career thanks to incredible strikeout numbers (career-high 13.2 K/9) and his ability to get late-game outs (34 saves in 38 chances). Both Mark Melancon and Shane Greene had trouble closing out contests for Atlanta last season, so Smith will either provide insurance in the ninth or serve as an ultra-imposing setup man.
Jose Abreu, White Sox
Contract: 3 years, $50M
Abreu agreed to an extension with the White Sox after initially accepting a $17.8-million qualifying offer to remain with the only MLB team he’s ever played for. He’s been the steadiest presence during a lengthy rebuild that desperately needs to bear fruit. The three-time All-Star is virtually a lock for 30 home runs and 100 RBIs each year.
Andrew Vaughn – Chicago’s third overall pick in last summer’s draft – is poised to eventually succeed the veteran, but it isn’t immediately in the cards. If the White Sox hope to compete this season, keeping Abreu was a no-brainer when considering how weak the free-agent market for first basemen is. Neither the annual salary nor the length of the deal is comparable to the ever-lingering contracts given to Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, so this won’t be a back-breaker even if Abreu has only one productive season left in him.
Travis d’Arnaud, Braves
Contract: 2 years, $16M
With Brian McCann retiring following the Braves’ elimination from the National League Division Series, they needed a catcher to join Tyler Flowers. D’Arnaud fit the bill after a bounce-back season during which he tied his career high in homers and drove in 69 runs.
The backstop comes with some concerns, though. He’s struggled with injuries throughout his career and the vast majority of his success in 2019 came during a scorching-hot stretch in June and July. For the rest of the campaign, he looked very much like the catcher who was ineffective for most of his career with the New York Mets. However, $12 million combined to employ both d’Arnaud and Flowers next year is a bargain.
Yan Gomes, Nationals
Contract: 2 years, $10M
Gomes caught the final pitch of the 2019 season as the Washington Nationals were crowned World Series champions. That was one of the few positives in what was an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Brazilian. The 32-year-old posted his lowest OPS and home run total since 2016, and he batted just .223.
Between Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, Washington got 29 homers and 106 RBIs from its catchers last year, which is quite impressive considering the relatively small price tag. However, the Nationals backstops were collectively worth 1.1 WAR, good for just 19th in the majors.
Chris Martin, Braves
Contract: 2 years, $14M
The Braves acquired Martin from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline, and, at first, the move looked like a mistake. Martin posted some ugly numbers in August (5.84 ERA, .300 opp avg) and Atlanta gave up former first-rounder Kolby Allard in the trade. Martin turned it around in the season’s final month, though, striking out eight without allowing a run in six appearances. However, the right-hander has had only one good campaign in the majors.
Drew Pomeranz, Padres
Contract: 4 years, $34M
The risk here far outweighs the upside. After the Giants converted Pomeranz to a reliever in late July, he posted a 1.99 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings (15.06 K/9) between San Fran and the Milwaukee Brewers. If that’s the Pomeranz who takes the mound with the San Diego Padres, this will be a major win. But that’s an awfully small sample size on which to base a contract of this magnitude.
The best-case scenario is he helps form an incredible one-two punch at the backend of the bullpen with closer Kirby Yates. The opposite end of the spectrum? Pomeranz reverts back to the pitcher who posted a 6.08 ERA in 74 innings with the Red Sox in 2018.
Kyle Gibson, Rangers
Contract: 3 years, $30M
The Rangers gave Gibson a deal nearly identical to the three-year pacts they agreed to with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. Those contracts were great for Texas last season, as the two combined for 11 WAR, but Gibson still has to be an underwhelming addition for Rangers fans.
It feels as though the Rangers are attempting to catch lightning in a bottle for the third time, but Gibson doesn’t have a reputation as a workhorse – he’s never pitched 200 innings – and has never established himself as anything approaching dominant. He might pay dividends if he can continue making strides in the strikeout department after posting a 9.0 K/9 in 2019, but Gibson will need to induce weaker contact to avoid an inflated ERA.