The Cardinals have acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. The deal is pending a physical. Headed to the Marlins in return are pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara and right-hander Zac Gallen, left-hander Daniel Castano, and outfielder Magneuris Sierra. Ozuna, 27, had a spectacular 2017 season, posting a .312/.376/.548 slash line with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in 679 plate appearances. After playing primarily in center field for his first three full major-league seasons, Ozuna moved to left field in 2017 and saw his defensive metrics improve immensely, as he recorded an 11 defensive runs saved, a total that ranked first among NL left fielders. He made his second straight All-Star team and won his first Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. Because he’s been somewhat inconsistent offensively and never reached the 30 home run mark before 2017, there’s skepticism about whether Ozuna will be somewhat of a one-year wonder, but the Cardinals obviously have faith that he can continue to approach that level of productivity and combine with Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham to form one of the best outfield trios in the National League. Ozuna should provide a major boost to the Cardinals’ lineup, as his home run and RBI totals significantly exceed those of the Cardinals’ 2017 leaders (Paul DeJong with 25 homers and Yadier Molina with 82 RBI).
The Mariners have reached a two-year, $17 million deal with righty Juan Nicasio. Nicasio was reportedly choosing between the Mariners and Cardinals earlier Wednesday and ultimately decided to head to the Pacific Northwest. He’s the latest move in a busy offseason for the Mariners, who have already swung deals for Ryon Healy and Dee Gordon and have added relievers Shawn Armstrong and Mike Morin. Nicasio will join David Phelps and Nick Vincent in front of closer Edwin Diaz in a Mariners bullpen that could see more changes as the winter rolls on. General manager Jerry Dipoto is among the most active general managers in baseball and has said this week that pitching additions are the priority for his club. Nicasio, 31, had an odd 2017 season, owning a 2.61 ERA across 76 appearances with the Pirates, Phillies and Cardinals. He was unexpectedly placed on outright waivers by Pittsburgh in a cost-saving measure at the end of August, picked up by the Phillies and almost immediately flipped to the Cardinals in a September trade before hitting free agency.
The Angels have a deal to acquire second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers for minor-league outfielder Troy Montgomery and righty Wilkel Hernandez. Kinsler, whose contract allows him to block trades to 10 teams, had to give his blessing for the deal to go through. It makes sense that he did, considering the Angels are expected to compete for a playoff spot and the Tigers are embarking on a major rebuild. Kinsler is the latest Tiger to be shipped out of town, joining J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander. He’ll be reunited with Upton in Anaheim, where the Angels have been searching hard for a long-term answer at second base. Kinsler, who will turn 36 next June, will be under Angels’ control for just one season, earning $11 million before hitting free agency in the fall. He struggled to a .236/.313/.412 line with 22 homers in his fourth season in Detroit.
The Astros have agreed to a deal with free agent reliever Joe Smith. Smith will be paid $14MM over his two-year pact. Houston will be the sixth team for the 33-year-old Smith, who has served as a more-than-capable reliever since making his major league debut in 2007. The sidearming, soft-tossing right-hander has racked up a combined 624 2/3 innings of 2.97 ERA pitching and posted a 55.7 percent groundball rate with the Mets, Indians, Angels, Cubs and Blue Jays. While Smith’s success has come in spite of modest strikeout and walk rates (7.88 K/9, 3.17 BB/9), he found another gear in both departments last season. Across 54 innings divided between Toronto and Cleveland, Smith logged 11.83 K/9 against 1.67 BB/9 and recorded an 11.4 percent swinging-strike rate – a vast improvement over his lifetime mark of 8.4. He joins Bryan Shaw, now with the Rockies, as the second proven reliever to depart the Indians via free agency this winter.
The Rangers are “strongly pursuing” late-inning reliever Kelvin Herrera of the Royals. The Rangers have already been connected to a couple of different potential trade candidates in the past few days, and it’s no secret that their bullpen could use some fortification. As for the Royals, it’s unclear at this stage of the offseason whether or not they are truly willing to sell off major league assets. If they do, however, Herrera would be an obvious trade candidate should they choose to go that route. The soon-to-be 28-year-old reliever is under team control for just one more season, and projects to make $8.3MM in his final trip through arbitration. Herrera was one-third of a terrifying bullpen trio for Kansas City during their memorable 2014 and 2015 seasons. For most of that time, he served as the seventh-inning setup option behind Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Herrera was bumped up to the eighth inning when Holland got injured near the end of 2015, and became the Royals’ closer following the pre-2017 trade of Wade Davis to the Cubs. He struggled with the long ball in 2017 en route to a career-worst 4.25 ERA, but given his stellar track record, there’s reason to believe he could bounce back and provide the Rangers with some stability at the back end of their bullpen.