Some of the offseason’s best moves have worked out just the way we thought they might. Shohei Ohtani has been as good as advertised in his new digs in Southern California, and no one should be surprised by what Todd Frazier and J.D. Martinez have done with the Mets and Red Sox, respectively.
Among the more interesting moves are the ones that got less attention: Ryan Flaherty to the Braves, Bud Norris to the Cardinals and Corey Dickerson to the Pirates. And they’ve all had an impact on the division races.
So let’s take a look not just at the good players who have changed teams in the past few months, but the players who have impacted the races in the first weeks of this new season:
1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
.324 BA, 1.055 OPS, 3 HR
3.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 3 GS
Even those of us who were thrilled at the possibility of baseball getting a true two-way player did not envision the 23-year-old Ohtani being this good. Our MLB Pipeline folks told us the guy was a No. 1-type prospect as both a hitter and a pitcher. Would he have time to hone both skills? So far that hasn’t been a problem, and apart from the things that can be measured, the energy Ohtani brings to the ballpark and clubhouse surely is part of the reason for the Angels’ fast start.
2. Gerrit Cole, Astros
0.96 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 13.2 K/9
The Astros believed they were adding a third ace to a rotation that already had Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, and Cole has been just that. Yes, his pitch usage has changed — fewer fastballs, more curves and sliders — but the bottom line could be that he’s feeding off the vibes of a winning environment, and that he was ready for a change in scenery, whether he knew it or not.
3. Todd Frazier, Mets
.969 OPS, 3 HR, 5 2B
It’s never about one guy, and Frazier would be the first to say that. Besides, he’s not the only addition who has helped the Mets climb to the top of the National League East. But Frazier brings plenty that has contributed to one of baseball’s early feel-good stories — from his offense to his performance at third base to the professionalism and approach that play well over a long season.
4. Corey Dickerson, Pirates
.313 BA, .838 OPS
No team has been a bigger surprise than the Pirates, and it begins with an offense that has gone from near the bottom in 2017 (4.1 runs per game) to near the top of the NL in 2018 (5.2 runs per game). Some of that improvement is the growth of young players like Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco, but Dickerson, who’d been designated for assignment by the Rays, has added depth to an offense that didn’t have much of it last season.
5. Ryan Flaherty and Preston Tucker, Braves (tie)
Flaherty: .352 BA, .935 OPS
Tucker: .872 OPS, 3 HR, 4 2B
Two significant under-the-radar acquisitions by new general manager Alex Anthopoulos have helped jump-start the Braves. Tucker was caught in a numbers crunch with the Astros, while Flaherty opted out of his contract with the Phillies at the end of Spring Training. No NL team has scored more runs.
7. Bud Norris, Cardinals
4 saves, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 16.4 K/9
The Cardinals thought they had their closer when Greg Holland was signed at the beginning of the regular season, and he may end up with that role at some point. For now, though, Norris has emerged as the guy getting the ball from manager Mike Matheny late in games. His fastball is sitting at 95 mph, the fastest in his 10 seasons.
8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox
.983 OPS, 4 HR, 5 2B
Martinez has done everything the Red Sox hoped he would, and that’s not what you often hear about big-ticket free agents in their first month with a new team. While he’s only one part of a team that looks like baseball’s best at the moment, his impact should not be underestimated.
9. Wade Davis, Rockies
8 saves, 10.8 K/9, 0.72 WHIP
The Rockies invested $106 million in creating a super bullpen, and Davis’ signing followed those of Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw as the finishing touch. Davis has arguably been baseball’s best reliever the past five seasons, and some wondered if the workload — 244 appearances between 2014-17 — would impact his stuff. He has been as good as ever.
10. Addison Reed, Twins
7 games, 0.89 WHIP
The Twins signed veteran Fernando Rodney to close games, which allows Reed to pitch multiple innings. He has been among baseball’s best relievers the past four seasons, and he is off to a good start with his new team.
11. Jake Arrieta, Phillies
2.04 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
Arrieta was signed because he gives the Phillies a bona fide top-of-the-rotation pitcher to solidify the starting staff. Beyond that, he was brought in as a role model for a young unit, to set an example with his preparation, game management and poise. So far, Arrieta has done just that.
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