While many may consider baseball a boring sport -- compared to football, for example, on this Super Bowl Sunday -- the MLB offseason is anything but. Blockbuster trades, high-priced free agent signings, and rumors abound, there is no shortage of player movement once the calendar turns to November.
Now that we are close to spring training, it's time to look at the best moves of the offseason. MLB.com's A.J. Cassavell did so early Sunday morning, identifying the "most impactful" move in each division. The AL Central's representative? Mike Napoli.
Napoli is an important and potentially savvy addition to the Cleveland Indians lineup, but he's far from the most impactful player added in the division. Steamer projects him for 0.7 WAR, the same total he amassed for the Red Sox and Rangers last season. Here are the players new to AL Central teams projected for at least 0.7 WAR in 2016.
Todd Frazier: 3.4
Justin Upton: 3.4
Jordan Zimmermann: 2.4
Ian Kennedy: 2.0
Brett Lawrie: 1.4
Alex Avila: 1.1
Cameron Maybin: 1.0
Dioner Navarro: 0.9
John Ryan Murphy: 0.9
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: 0.8
Mike Pelfrey: 0.7
That's a lot of guys, including a pair at the top who are filling massive holes in their respective team's lineups. Let's look at a few and see why they're so important for their new teams.
The White Sox gutted nearly all of what remained from a lackluster farm system in order to acquire Frazier, a two-time All-Star. However, the deal spared them potential impact arms like Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer, leaving them in a decent position to contend over the next couple seasons. Frazier has been worth 9.1 fWAR over the past two seasons, including a 35-homer effort last year. Meanwhile, White Sox third basemen combined for -1.3 WAR in 2015, the second-worst total in baseball.
It's difficult to make a strict WAR-to-WAR comparison with Upton, considering the Tigers got four wins out of Yoenis Cespedes before trading him to the New York Mets last July. However, their prospects were equally dim. The Tigers seemed poised to some combination of Tyler Collins and Cameron Maybin in left field, but owner Mike Ilitch (thankfully) intervened. Now, the Tigers will add Upton's bat to an already potent lineup for the next two years, and it only cost them a third round pick.
By nearly every statistical measure, the Tigers had the worst rotation in the American League last season. Injuries, injuries, and more injuries cost them plenty of meaningful innings from their top arms, which resulted in Alfredo Simon leading the team in wins and innings pitched. Getting a full healthy season from Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez is a major key to success in 2016, but adding a consistent producer like Zimmermann -- who has been worth at least 3.0 WAR in each of the past five seasons -- was a major upgrade.
I'm still puzzled as to why the Royals signed Kennedy to a five-year deal, but the move itself makes sense. The Royals are returning just one starter who threw more than 170 innings last season, and were looking very thin in the rotation after Chris Young and Kris Medlen. Adding the durable Kennedy pushes one of those other righties into the bullpen as the Royals hope to squeeze every last win out of their current window of contention. As an extreme fly ball pitcher, Kennedy should benefit from Kaufmann Stadium's spacious outfield and the Royals' spectacular defense.
The mercurial Lawrie hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations set during his early days in Toronto, but he's a versatile player who can hit for power when healthy. The "when healthy" caveat has been necessary over the past few years, but he played 149 games in 2015 while hitting .260/.299/.407 with 16 home runs. His defense made him a negative WAR player last year, but his bat was a necessary addition to Chicago's toothless lineup.
Let's not overthink this. Todd Frazier is an All-Star third baseman taking over at a position where the White Sox hit just .226/.277/.345 last season. He adds some much-needed thump to a lineup that looked very thin at times last year, and he plays solid defense as well. The division is a total crapshoot if the Royals falter in any way, and it made sense for the White Sox to push their chips in with this trade. Add in his relatively meager cost (both in dollars and prospects) and it's not hard to label the Frazier deal as the best move in the division this winter.