MLB Hot Stove Lowdown: The Dodgers keep charging

It’s been slow going on Hot Stove, but a few more dominoes fell over the weekend. In some mid-level moves, the Dodgers added a corner outfielder in Teoscar Hernandez, the Mets added Sean Manaea to their rotation, and the Mariners made a trade with the Giants in the trade of Robbie Ray for Mitch Haniger. Let’s see what this all means.

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Teoscar Hernandez signs with Dodgers

The Dodgers’ offseason just keeps getting better. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the team has signed free agent Teoscar Hernandez to a one-year, $23.5 million contract. The 31-year-old spent last season with the Mariners, hitting .258/.305/.435 with 26 homers, 93 RBI and seven steals in a career-high 678 games. Despite the lackluster defense, Hernandez is expected to take over as the primary left winger and Shohei Ohtani to fill the everyday role of designated hitter. The move will move Chris Taylor into a utility role where he can fill the diamond against a left-hander, possibly getting occasional starts from Max Muncy at third base or Gavin Lux at shortstop.

Hernandez had his best season in 2021, posting an .870 OPS with 32 homers and 12 steals with the Blue Jays. His shortcomings at the plate have been evident throughout his career, with an aggressive approach leading to a low walk rate and high strikeout rate. But his elite contact quality has helped mask the contact deficiencies. Those skills are still very much intact, with a 13.8 percent barrel and a 49.4 percent hard hit. More swings and misses out of the strike zone have led to a slight uptick in his strikeout rate, which could mean a return to a .296 batting average may be out the door now that he’s 30 years old. Still, he’s a relatively safe bet to at least repeat his 2023 campaign, with perhaps more homers and meaningful stats in a better park and lineup. Hernandez has an average draft position of 149 in early December NFBC drafts. That price will go up at least a round or two now that he’s a Dodger.

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The Mariners and Giants make a deal

The Mariners and Giants completed a trade on Friday, sending former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to the Giants in exchange for Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani. San Francisco is picking up the remaining three seasons of Ray’s five-year, $115 million contract. He has the potential to opt out after 2024. The Giants don’t expect the 32-year-old lefty to contribute until after the All-Star break while he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Following his 2021 Cy Young season, Ray threw 189 innings in 2022, posting a 3.71 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a 212/62 K/BB ratio. The move gives the team a potential first-line starter to pair with Logan Webb for the next few seasons, something the team desperately needs. There won’t be much reason to draft Ray in fantasy leagues this spring, but he could prove to be a second-half waiver candidate.

Haniger returns to Seattle, where he spent five seasons from 2017-2022. He will fit in as a direct replacement for Teoscar Hernandez. The 33-year-old struggled in one season with the Giants, hitting .209/.266/.365 with six homers in 229 plate appearances. The biggest issue has been the health of Haniger, who has struggled to stay off the injured list throughout his career. His batted-ball numbers remained steady, with a 10.9 percent barrel and 46.9 percent hard-hitting. He was significantly weaker than his .244 xBA and .433 xSLG. With more playing time, there would likely have been many adjustments to his performance. There is still some power and RBI potential here as a bullpen in deeper mixed leagues.

Going to the Mariners with Haniger will be DeSclafani, who posted a 4.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 79/20 K/BB ratio in 99 2/3 innings in San Francisco last season. The 33-year-old right-hander has one year remaining on the three-year, $36 million contract he signed after his excellent 2021 season in which he posted a 3.17 ERA over 167 2/3 frames for the Giants. Injuries have limited him to a total of 118 2/3 innings over the past two seasons. And it remains to be seen what role he will have on a team that currently has a starting lineup of Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller and Brian Wu. He could battle Wu or Miller for the final rotation spot, but he could be better suited as a swingman. Regardless, there are few advantages for fantasy managers outside of random flow in favorable matchups.

Mets add Sean Manaea

Manaea arrives in New York, signing a two-year, $28 million contract with the Mets with a postseason opt-out. The 31-year-old lefty posted a 4.44 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a 128/42 K/BB ratio in 117 2/3 innings. He made most of his appearances in a long relief role, starting just ten games for the Giants. However, with the shorter outings, he saw a three-mile-per-hour increase in his fastball velocity, which he maintained throughout the season. And on May 30, he introduced a sweeper to his repertoire. Since then, he has posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over his last 85 frames. Manaea should return to a more traditional starting role with the Mets. If he can maintain his fastball velocity with the new sweeper, there’s deceptive potential here as a late-round sleeper.

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