Spare Parts: One-year pitching deals are all the rage

SunTrust Park (Counse / Flickr)

We’re about a month into the offseason, and five whole free agents have found homes.

Three of them are with Atlanta, and they’re all pitchers. Josh Tomlin re-upped there for $1.25 million, followed by Drew Smyly for one year and $11 million on Nov. 16. This morning, Alex Anthopoulos finished supplementing his rotation by signing Charlie Morton for one year and $15 million.

With the signings, the Braves have landed the two most intriguing short-term pitchers possible. Smyly required faith in the form of cash, given that he’s a year removed from a 6.42 ERA and four years removed from his next-removed season, and the extremes covered in his last two samples make him worth keeping tabs on next year. Morton only had interest in staying in the Southeast.

Throw in the Blue Jays re-upping with Robbie Ray, and the market is starting with the players who are willing to only commit for one year. As far as other players in that boat, Eno Sarris profiled four potential overachievers at The Athletic: Taijuan Walker, Matt Shoemaker, J.A. Happ and Tyler Chatwood. Walker and Shoemaker are evolving after losing time to injuries, Happ is 38, and Chatwood’s a wild ride.

On the other side of the acquisition spectrum, Mark Feinsand of says the Rays are open to the idea of trading Blake Snell, whose three years and $39 million left on his extension could look appealing to most teams that aren’t the Rays. The Rays turned down the $15 million club option on Morton that the Braves effectively picked up with enthusiasm.

Spare Parts

Chuck Garfien talked to Jake Burger about his last three years, and while Burger shared his bout with depression and anxiety during original spring training, it didn’t draw comparisons to the pandemic, because the pandemic hadn’t yet halted life.

“I was where I literally couldn’t do anything but go to the (training) facility and come home, because you can’t walk around, I can’t go on hikes, I can’t play golf, I can’t do all this fun stuff outside. Having a lower body injury is pretty comparable to this. It sucks. It does.”

It goes on to cover his request to play in the collegiate league, his request to join the White Sox in Schaumburg, and his reaction to joining the 40-man roster. Here’s hoping his body gives him a break for a bit.

“Mark Buehrle was a 38th-round pick!” is a better story than “Mark Buehrle was paid sixth-round money,” but both need to be included in order to describe the draft-and-follow system that no longer exists. James Fegan talked to White Sox scouts who reported on Buehrle, got the Sox to draft him, and then stumped for the Sox to pay up the next year.

Major League Baseball tried to preserve the Field of Dreams Game during the course of the 2020 season by shifting it from the White Sox and Yankees to the White Sox and Cardinals, but once the pandemic made it impossible, they decided to scratch it and wait for 2021. The White Sox’s initial 2021 schedule featured an off date prior to an August White Sox-Yankees series that tipped the league’s hand, and now it’s official.

The baseball season opened with the KBO, and it closes with the KBO, as the NC Dinos beat the Doosan Bears in six games for their first championship. They celebrated with a sword, which is way cooler than the commissioner’s trophy.

(Photo by Counse / Flickr)

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I have no idea how to value prospects in trades, but if Tampa Bay is looking to move Snell and Kiermaier wouldn’t the White Sox be an obvious trading partner? Gives us three front of the rotation starters, improved OF defense, and a bottom of the order LH bat to balance the lineup. We’d still need a DH and backup catcher (assuming McCann moves on) but that’s half the Christmas list in one transaction.

Even if Kiermaier is overpaid, if we don’t make the Rays pay down his contract then it means we can get away with a lighter package. Given our prospect pitching depth and the marginal value Kiermaier and his contract add to (or subtract from?) Snell it seems like a deal would be within the art of the possible.


Totally agree with this. Obviously they would be looking for a haul, but if we got those two in return we could stand to part with our higher level prospects (Stiever, Dahlquist, Adolfo, Rutherford etc) as spots would be tight.


I wouldnt qualify those guys as higher level prospects

Snells value for 3 years at a very affordable 39 mil, is probably a top 25 prospect and a top 100 … I dont think its crazy to think it would be vaughn and dunning for snell or something close to that. The padres avoided giving up their top tier prospects for clevinger but he only had 2 more years control and they gave up a lot of depth throwing 6 players back to the Indians…. I would much prefer to give up quantity, but our mid level guys arent thought of nearly as highly as the ones the padres had, thats the problem with a top heavy system like the sox have.


Clevinger was two years older with less team control when traded. Even so, the Clevinger template is more than Vaughn & Dunning. For reference, Fangraphs lists the FV of Padres side: 50, 45, 40+, 40, 40, & 28-year-old 1-2 WAR catcher. The Sox reproduction of this would be something like Vaughn, Dunning, Collins, Sosa, & James McCann? That’s not exactly right, but it gets you in the ballpark.

Assuming the market is semi-regular, the template is likely something in between Sale and Quintana. I think the Rays would want Vaughn & Kopech, plus a lesser, third piece like Delgado or Sosa.


I would pass if it was vaughn/kopech, plus other players, I would try and center it around vaughn, maybe then give them the option of dunning/cease, then maybe try and fill a deal out with lesser prospects who still may carry a little value but the whitesox wont need long term like two of rutherford, collins, adolfo, burdi. I think that offer is reasonable. If they want us to take on Kiermaier and his bad money the package needs to be much less.

karkovice squad

I’d counter that Dunning seems to have picked up some helium from his time in the majors. If he’s seen as a 50 FV in the back half of the top 100 now, then his production is pretty much as valuable as all the spare parts in the Clevinger trade.

It’s more likely that they’d be able to round out the difference with org players rather than having to put Kopech in the deal instead.


My first thought was AJ Preller has Erik Neander’s number and the Rays have a good idea of the prospect depth in San Diego. This would make sense even if Clevinger wasn’t out next year.

Josh Nelson

Yup. It’s a no-brainer for me.


Is Kiermaier an upgrade for the Sox? Does his LH bat really provide anything useful? He was pretty horrible vs. RH pitching in a full season in 2019, and his 2020 numbers don’t really impress either. Sure, the defense is great, but so is Adam Engel’s.

I’d rather just go out and wildly overspend on Springer.


I wouldn’t say it’s an either or situation. Trade for Snell recognizing that taking on Kiermaier is the cost of getting Snell’s excess value while keeping the prospect cost fairly low. Then keep pursuing Springer and see what happens. Worst case scenario you play Springer and Robert every day, platoon Kiermaier and Engel, and DH Jimenez (especially if the cost of Snell includes Vaughn).

If you can get Snell without Kiermaier then that would be great, but if it’s a bidding war and you can make the deal incrementally more attractive to Tampa by taking both there’s a way to make it work.


I’d keep Engel minus $11,000,000.

As Cirensica

Exactly, the difference, at this point in their careers, between Engel and Kiermaier is the salaries. We don’t need Kiermaier. We need pitching.

Trooper Galactus

I think the point is that if this saves you a top prospect in the trade, then there’s worse things than eating 2/$25 for a top-caliber outfield defender, especially in a straight platoon with Engel. If they sign Springer also, that’s four center fielders to cover the outfield, which is depth we’ve never once seen on this team. So yeah, spend the fucking money.


The issue to me is that there is a finite amount of $ that WS will spend. If they spend $12M on Kiermaier, that”s $ that could be used for a second starting pitcher, vs. not.


The way to think about it is just assuming Kiermaier’s 2 years, 23m is added to Snell’s contract. Even when you add it, Snell is a bargain—and certainly shouldn’t hamper their ability to add elsewhere.