Brad Lincoln is back where it all started, signing a minor-league deal with the Pirates nearly a decade after they made him the No. 4 overall pick.
Lincoln proved to be a bust as a starter prospect, but resurrected his career as a reliever and had a few nice years for the Pirates and Blue Jays. Traded to the Phillies last December, he spent nearly all of this season pitching at Triple-A as a starter and struggled.
Lincoln is 30 years old and getting knocked around by Triple-A hitters isn’t a good sign regardless of the role he was in, but he does have a 3.74 career ERA as a reliever and the price for the Pirates was certainly right.
Minor league outfielder Kyle Jensen, who smacked 27 homers in 133 games at Triple-A for the Marlins this season, has been traded to the Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash.
It’s an odd move because Jensen isn’t really considered much of a prospect. For one thing he’s 26 years old. For another, except for having 25-homer power he hasn’t shown much promise offensively, posting poor batting averages with lots of strikeouts and sub par plate discipline.
Beyond that, it’s unclear why the Dodgers really need more corner outfield and first base depth considering they’re already trying to trade one of their veteran outfielders and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez almost never misses a game. If anything, you’d think the Marlins might actually have been able to find a spot for Jensen.
Tacking on to an already busy day of acquiring Jason Heyward in a blockbuster trade, the Cardinals have hired Bill Mueller as their new assistant hitting coach.
Mueller resigned as the Cubs’ hitting coach in early October after one season on the job at least in part because he was unhappy with the firing of his assistant hitting coach, Mike Brumley.
It’s possible Mueller wouldn’t have stuck around in Chicago once the manager switch was made from Rick Renteria to Joe Maddon anyway. And now he’ll get to work with Heyward and a previously very good lineup that struggled in 2014.
In a very interesting blockbuster swap the Braves have traded outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in exchange for starter Shelby Miller and starter prospect Tyrell Jenkins.
Heyward will be eligible for free agency next offseason, so St. Louis is giving up a combined decade of team control over the 24-year-old Miller and 22-year-old Jenkins for one season of Heyward and the possibility of draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
Heyward hasn’t quite lived up to the hype offensively after posting an .850 OPS as a 20-year-old rookie in 2010, batting .258 with a .762 OPS in four seasons since then. However, his defense grades out as truly elite in various advanced metrics and when combined with good but not great offense makes him one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball. In fact, during the past three seasons the only outfielders with more Wins Above Replacement than Heyward are Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, and Alex Gordon.
And the Cardinals paid a big price to get him. Miller is a former elite prospect with a 3.33 ERA in 370 career innings through age 23, although his strikeout rate and control have been underwhelming. He certainly has top-of-the-rotation upside and is under team control through 2018. Jenkins was a first-round draft pick in 2010 and bounced back from season-ending shoulder surgery in 2013 to pitch well in 13 starts at high Single-A this season, although he struck out just 41 batters in 74 innings.
Walden, who goes to St. Louis along with Heyward, should step into a setup role for the Cardinals after posting a 3.10 ERA with 254 strikeouts in 212 career innings for the Braves and Angels. His inclusion in this deal will likely be mostly overlooked, but Walden has shutdown potential in the late innings and throws very hard.
Russell Martin has agreed to a five-year contract with the Blue Jays, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
For the past several weeks the Cubs were viewed as the front-runner for Martin and the Pirates were also making a run at re-signing the 31-year-old catcher, but the Canada native decided instead to head home.
After a great start to his career with the Dodgers he mostly struggled from 2009-2013, never cracking a .750 OPS, but Martin hit .290 with a .402 on-base percentage and .832 OPS in 111 games for the Pirates this season to re-establish himself as one of the game’s best catchers.
In addition to the good on-base skills and durability Martin also grades out extremely well in pitch-framing statistics, suggesting his all-around value is generally underrated.
No word yet on the money, but last offseason’s five-year, $85 million deal between Brian McCann and the Yankees seems to be a likely starting point.
UPDATE: Martin will get $82 million for five seasons.