In Part I of our list, we liked the Dyson trade for the Mariners, are big on Zeigler and think Eric Thames has a chance to excel for the Brew Crew.
Earlier we started counting down our favorite moves of the 2016-17 offseason. You can check out moves No. 10, 9 and 8 here.
Here’s our top transactions of the winter, Nos. 7, 6 and 5:
7. Kansas City acquires outfielder Pete O’Brien from Arizona for prospect Sam Lewis
This isn’t a homer pick, we promise. In exchange for a 25-year-old pitcher who’s never thrown above A ball, the Royals got O’Brien, a former second-round pick who has slugged 90 home runs over the past three seasons, almost all of which have come at the Triple A and Double A level.
O’Brien has struggled in two cups of coffee in the big leagues – .174 batting average and six home runs in 36 games – but he never got consistent at-bats with the Diamondbacks. The former University of Miami star will get a chance to win the designated hitter job with the Royals. O’Brien hit .254 with 24 homers and a .800 OPS in 105 games for Triple-A Reno last year. He was even more impressive in 2015, posting a .284 average, 26 home runs and a .833 OPS in 131 for the same club.
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Making just $508,500 the next two years, O’Brien is a great low-cost power option that upgrades Kansas City’s lineup and may be one of the better bang-for-buck deals of the offseason.
6. The Cubs sign relief pitcher Koji Uehara to a one-year, $6 million deal
Uehara will turn 42 near the start of the season and his fastball tops out at about 87 miles per hour, but he should add depth at a very reasonable rate to the reigning World Champions.
Despite missing time with a pectoral injury last season, Uehara still posted a 3.45 ERA with the Red Sox over 47 innings. For his big league career – he spent a decade in Japan – the ageless right-hander owns an impressive 2.53 ERA over 437 2/3 innings, averaging 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
You might have noticed how important bullpen depth was during the postseason. Uehara will help bridge the gap between the Cubs’ starters and new closer Wade Davis.
5. Philadelphia sign center fielder Odubel Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million extension
There’s a lot to love about Herrera, a former Rule 5 pick the Phillies stole from the Rangers.
As a rookie in 2015, Herrera hit .297 with a .344 OBP while stealing 16 bases and scoring 64 runs. In 2016, as a 24 year old, he made his first All-Star Game, htting .286 with a .361 OBP, 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases. He struck out less last season – down to 20.4 percent, just below the league average – and almost doubled his walk rate, which shot up to 9.6 percent.
He’s also a serviceable center fielder. (FanGraphs has a great article on the mystery of Herrera’s defense. He’s the anti-Derek Jeter, they hypothesize.)
Philadelphia essentially bought three more years of control and will avoid the often contentious arbitration process. Herrera posted a bWAR of 3.8 his rookie year and was good for 4.2 bWAR last season. At an average of $6.1 million per season, Herrera is a steal, even if his production stagnates or tails off a bit.