The Stove Stays Hot, Even in Spring Time

It seems a bit late for the hot stove league to still be in full force what with pitchers and catchers having already reported, but the Cubs, A’s, Orioles, have gifted us with some transactions worthy of discussion!

The Gallardo Signing
Yovanni Gallardo’s signing by the Orioles comes as no surprise since it has been rumored for more than a week now. The soon to be thirty-year-old essentially replaces Wei-Yin Chen who signed a five-year deal with the Marlins earlier this off-season. Gallardo will slot in as the Orioles’ number two starter behind Ubaldo Jimenez.

If nothing else, Gallardo has been durable, averaging thirty-two starts a season and one hundred ninety-one innings over the past seven seasons. Well, unfortunately for the Orioles, it may not be much more than that given some disturbing trends. The righty’s strikeout rate has dropped each of the past four seasons to an alarmingly low 5.9 K/9 with the Rangers coupled with posting a career low average velocity of 90.4 mph on his fastball. This becomes even more troubling when one considers 2015 was one of his best seasons in terms of disallowing home runs despite no real change in skill set and rather what appears to be an out of career context, home run on fly ball rate of just under 9%.

Concerns over the condition of Gallardo’s shoulder resulted in a restructuring of his original deal from three years to two years with a team option, though a point in his favor, were not strong enough to take the deal off the table entirely as happened to other potential Oriole signees in the past.

At thirty years of age, there is still a chance for a rebound, but the trends are not in his favor and an ERA of well over 4.00 may well be in the cards for 2016. I could not recommend a bid exceeding a $1 or, in the end-game of AL-only leagues.

Fowler Returns
In a much greater surprise today, Dexter Fowler returned to the Chicago Cubs when it was all but certain that such a reunion would not occur. The move of Chris Coghlan, which I’ll get to in a bit, to Oakland clears up a roster spot for him but makes playing time for Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber a bit murky. The most simple solution may be a platoon scenario whereby Fowler and Soler share left field duties with perhaps Soler also coming in the latter innings for defensive purposes. On the other hand, further wheeling and dealing, whether in the preseason or amidst season may be a foot.

Getting to Fowler, the move saves the Cubs from having to watch the adventure that would have been Jason Heyward manning centerfield every day. For fantasy players, Fowler has a fairly stable skill set, having always been a disciplined hitter who will once again on most days be the Cubs’ leadoff hitter. While no blazer, the opportunity to bat leadoff and his OBP skills should, in theory, continue to get him enough opportunities to once again approach or twenty stolen bases. His lack of success against righties, however, continued last season with a .228/.331/.395 line, so despite batting leadoff on the days he is in the lineup, the Cubs may be more inclined to mix and match on days they face tougher right-handers. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether he will be able to match his career high in plate appearances ever again.

Fowler’s power production has been up and down over the years, but in his favor is a four-year trend of increasing fly ball rates. His home run on fly ball rate, however, was not his career best and his career high in homers is more likely the result of extended playing time, rather than the development of new skill.

Heading into 2016, expect more of the same – a .250s to .270s hitter with 15/15-plus potential. He remains a more favorable target for OBP and sim leagues.

Deal of the Day
The lone trade of the day was perhaps the least headline creating in terms of name value. Chris Coghlan Aaron Brooks. For both teams involved, the deal improves their depth in areas of greater need.

Brooks, a former ninth round pick of the Royals, will more than likely begin 2016 in the Cubs’ Triple-A rotation, but will likely see action in spot start duty. His best path to an extended MLB look will be due to injury. Brooks does a good job of pounding the strike zone with walk rates right around the 2.0 mark. While he commands what he has well, at the MLB level he is more of a soft-tossing, pitch to contact pitcher who relies on a plus changeup to get outs. His tendency to be in the strike zone, however, also tends to leave him open to the long ball. A move from a pitcher friendly park to Wrigley may not be suited to his style of pitching either.

Chris Coghlan will mainly be a bench player for the A’s, but given his defensive versatility and his left-handed bat, should find his way into a good amount of at-bats as a part-time DH, occasional outfielder spelling Khris Davis, and may even see action at third base or second base depending on the effectiveness of Danny Valencia and the ability to stay healthy of Jed Lowrie.

2015 saw Coghlan receive the most playing time of his career since his rookie season back in 2009. Despite an up and own career, the lefty remains a patient, line-drive hitter, who makes a fair amount of contact, has slightly above average speed, and power that that has been trending upwards both in terms of a number of fly balls hit as well as fly balls converted into home runs.

While not written in stone, especially given the path of Coghlan’s career, it is well within the realm of possibilities that he could eclipse his 2015 playing time totals as a result of the change in scenery.


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