Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Avila-zona

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


At age 24, in his first full season season as a big-leaguer, Alex Avila was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and a recipient of multiple down-ballot MVP votes. At a position where offensive production is hard to come by, his future looked bright.

 

But the Tigers catcher didn't develop further. In fact, he only regressed. Over the next four seasons he would go on to hit .224/.334/.360, and by the time he hit free agency he was mostly viewed as a lost cause. In 2016 and 2017, he settled for back-to-back one-year deals worth around two million bucks.

 

But last summer was a renaissance of sorts for Avila. Back in Detroit for the first four months, he slashed .274/.394/.475, with his 11 homers tying the total from 2015 and 2016 combined. He continued to be a solid piece for the Cubs following a deadline trade, ultimately finishing with 14 homers and an .834 OPS.

 

Now, he's heading to a hitter's haven in the desert.

 

Avila reportedly reached agreement on a contract with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. Financial terms are not yet known. Arizona's catching depth was quite poor so the new addition has a chance to carve out a very significant role. And if he's able to carry over any of the improvements he made last year, Avila could be a legit fantasy sleeper.

 

A year ago, ESPN ranked Chase Field as the second most hitter-friendly park in the game​, behind Coors of course.

 

Moss on the Move

 

Brandon Moss is heading back to Oakland. (For now.)

 

Following a one-year stint in Kansas City, the Royals traded the lefty slugger along with reliever Ryan Buchter on Monday, in exchange for right-handers Jesse Hahn and Heath Fillmyer.

 

Moss ripped 22 homers in his lone season with the Royals, but was largely ineffective otherwise, batting .207 with a .279 on-base percentage. His .192 average against right-handed pitchers was especially troubling, given that mashing righties is supposed to be his specialization.

 

The 34-year-old made his lone All Star appearance as an Athletic back in 2014, but at this point he doesn't appear to be much of a fit with the club. Even if he reverts back to his normal aptitude against right-handers — Moss did post an .828 OPS vs. RHP with the Cards in 2016 — Oakland already has lefty bats at first base (Matt Olson) and left field (Matt Joyce). A platoon situation at DH would make sense if not for the fact that Khris Davis actually hits better versus righties.

 

Sure enough, Ken Rosenthal reports​ that the A's "will try to find a taker for Moss." It seems clear that the key get here for them was the Buchter, who should be a valuable left-handed addition to their bullpen.

 

Meanwhile, Hahn could easily make the Royals rotation. He was an intriguing arm not so long ago and is only 28. Certainly one to watch.

 

Darvish Waiting on Dodgers?

 

Last Wednesday, Jon Morosi provided us with a glimmer of hope​ that — just maybe — Yu Darvish was finally on the verge of signing, reporting that the top free agent appeared likely to join a team before the end of the week.

 

Naturally, nothing happened. Incredibly, Darvish remains unsigned as we prepare to flip the calendar to February. New intel out of Los Angeles suggests that an intentness on landing back with the Dodgers may be what's holding up the right-hander's market.

 

Andy McCullough, a highly respected scribe for the LA Times, wrote in a mailbag column​ this week that in his understanding, Darvish "has made clear he would like to return to the Dodgers, and part of the delay in his free agency is related to waiting to see if the team can move some of the money." McCullough states that the team's front office has explored dealing players such as Yasmani Grandal, Logan Forsythe and Hyun-Jin Ryu to free up salary, but thus far to no avail.

 

I stated last week​ that I believe Darvish ends up with the Cubs, and I'm sticking with it. But honestly it's anyone's guess at this point.

 

Hey, Let's... Meet the... Zzzz

 

"Mets are continuing dialogue with Pirates about Josh Harrison, but still believe a free agent addition is more likely. And that may not happen until the bigger names are off the board."

 

I'm just going to paste that tweet via Mike Puma of the New York Post​ and leave it at that. Tough time to be a Mets fan. That lineup needs more help.

 

Quick Hits: The Royals finalized their one-year, $2.5 million contract with Alcides Escobar, who can earn up to $1.5 million in playing time incentives ... After spending six years in the majors, Nori Aoki is heading back to Japan on a three-year pact with the Yakult Swallows ... David Hernandez joined up with the Reds on a two-year contract worth $5 million, and will work ahead of Raisel Iglesias in the Cincy bullpen ... Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Rockies are interested in free agent Todd Frazier as an option at first base ... The Brewers added reliever Matt Albers on a two-year, $5 million deal ... Travis Wood signed with Detroit on a minor-league deal, and may have a shot at a rotation spot ... A few other recognizable names also inked minors deals: Jon Niese (Texas), Gregor Blanco (Giants), Danny Espinosa (Yankees), Reid Brignac (Nationals).



Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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