For a few weeks this winter, it seemed that analysts just couldn’t stop yammering about the Chris Sale trade. And for Aroldis Chapman, his face was plastered across MLB Network for hours at a time. Well, these weren’t the only transactions this offseason, contrary to popular belief. Lots of other familiar faces are in new places, but aren’t drawing as much attention. The guys that aren’t making headline news may just make the biggest splashes next season.
Tyson Ross to the Texas Rangers
Tyson Ross was named the Padres Opening Day starter in 2016, but only lasted the one start. A lingering shoulder injury suffered in April eventually led to surgery in October. The twenty-nine year-old Ross was named to the National League All-Star team in 2014 and finished the year with a stellar 2.81 ERA. He followed that up with a 3.26 ERA and a career-high 212 strikeouts in 2015.
After four seasons in abysmal San Diego, Ross signed with Texas on a one-year, $6 million deal. When healthy, Ross can pitch near the front end of most major league rotations. However, it’s been almost a year since he last stepped on a big-league mound. Before his injury, Ross had produced back-to-back seasons of thirty or more starts, falling just of shy of two-hundred innings in each of those campaigns. He had some command issues, but excelled at keeping the ball in the park. It will be interesting to see if Ross, rebounding from surgery and relocating from Petco Park, can come back just as strong in Arlington.
Carlos Beltran to the Houston Astros
Most thirty-nine year-old free agents aren’t signing sizable free agent deals, but Carlos Beltran sure is. The nineteen-year veteran signed with Houston this offseason on a one-year, $16 million deal. Beltran has shown a few signs of rust over the past few years, but he produced well in 2016. He finished last season with the Rangers after being traded by the New York Yankees. He was a hot commodity on the trading block last summer, as well as in the free agent market.
Beltran spent part of the 2004 season with Houston where he helped push them to the National League Championship Series. Now for his second stint, he’s going to be playing the role of wily veteran, serving as a mentor to a roster of young guns. Beltran’s presence will surely have a positive impact on fellow Puerto Rican teammate Carlos Correa, the budding superstar. They’ve already hit it off well as a duo in this year’s World Baseball Classic, with the pair dying their hair blonde and each batting .400 in the tournament. Beltran’s experience and hitting prowess could be exactly what the Astros need to finish their rebuilding process.
Drew Smyly to the Seattle Mariners
There were high hopes for Smyly in St. Petersburg last April. He had pitched well in twelve starts for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015 and appeared to be comfortable switching back to a full-time starter instead of set-up man. Unfortunately, things didn’t work so well for Smyly in 2016. Only six pitchers gave up more home runs than he did, and he suffered twelve losses. He allowed at least three runs in half of his thirty starts and his ERA floated above 5.00 as late as August.
Smyly had shown dominance coming out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers in 2013 and even as a starter for them in 2014. In the four seasons prior to 2016, he amassed an ERA of 3.24 in nearly four-hundred innings. After his trade to Seattle, Smyly may be able to return to form in 2017. At twenty-seven, he doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his arm and has been a viable option both in the rotation and coming out of the pen. Last season may just be an outlier for Smyly. He’s a fantastic option for the Mariners to turn to since he’s previously demonstrated just how high his ceiling is.
Author’s Note: Smyly has since been placed on the 60-Day Disabled List with an elbow injury. He is on track to make his season debut in late May or early June.