Growing up, I never enjoyed being the “new guy”, especially in sports. When joining a new team, you get new teammates who already know each other, new coaches, and new parents (representative of fans) judging you — not off of your past success but what you can do in this very moment — like your life before this team didn’t even exist.
In the world of professional baseball, suddenly donning a new uniform to play ball for a different city in front of new fans for a new coach with a different coaching style alongside new teammates, presents challenges that many fans overlook.
This past offseason, several names hit the market with very high expectations following them. Blockbuster signings, headlining ESPN the minute they’re finalized, are not made to solidify an organization as “playoff caliber”, but rather a “World Series contender”.
As we near the halfway point of the 2018 MLB campaign, let’s take a look at some of the “Studs” and “Duds” of the last free agent class.
Stud – J.D. Martinez
ARI → BOS – 3 years / $75 MM
The D-backs hung a 12-6 curveball for Red Sox manager Alex Cora in his first offseason as Boston’s manager after serving as the bench coach for the World Champion Houston Astros.
The 30-year-old outfielder is the centerpiece of an already potent offensive lineup in Boston, sitting in the 3-hole behind likely All-Stars and fellow outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Martinez is on pace to re-write his career highs in home-runs (45) and RBIs (104) from last season with Arizona, posting an MVP-caliber stat line through his first 80 games of the 2018 season (.327/.392/.641). His 25 home-runs and 67 RBIs lead all of baseball in both categories thus far through the 2018 campaign.
Dud – Yu Darvish
LAD→ CHC – 6 years / $126 MM
Darvish himself has been a ‘swing-n-a-miss’ in Chicago after a rather disastrous two starts in the 2017 World Series with the Dodgers.
The 31-year-old Japanese starter hasn’t pitched since May 20th due to a triceps injury — his second stint on the DL this year — and will most likely not be pitching for Chicago’s major league affiliate until after the All-Star Break.
In just 7 starts this season, Darvish has not been worth his lofty price-tag, which costs the Cubs over $21 million per year. So far, he’s posted a record of 1-3 with an ERA a hair below 5.
Darvish’s success moving forward will be the key to another deep postseason run in Chicago, and with the money that the organization is throwing Yu’s way, productivity should be expected to come sooner rather than later.
Stud – Lorenzo Cain
KC→ MIL : 5 years / $80 MM
Cain has been rock solid for the NL Central-leading Brewers thus far in the 2018 season. In his 9th MLB season, the dynamic outfielder is hitting .291 with an on-base percentage of .394, good for 8th in all of baseball. Cain also sits 7th in baseball in stolen bases with 16.
The 32-year-old continues to solidify himself as a productive and consistent lead-off hitter for a team that appears to have as good of a chance as anyone to come out of the National League.
Perhaps the most notable improvement in the outfielder’s game has been his patience at the plate. His 43 walks through 72 games of 2018 are only 11 behind his total from last season, and has already surpassed his total from the 3 seasons prior.
Cain’s wins above replacement (WAR) of 3.9 (7th in MLB) illustrates just how productive he’s been for the Brew Crew.
Dud – Wade Davis
CHC → COL : 3 years / $52 MM
The closer, who at times looked unhittable at his stops in Chicago and Kansas City, has stumbled in his first campaign with the Rockies.
Through 33 appearances in 2018, Davis is 0-2 with an underwhelming ERA of 4.41 while converting 23 of 27 save opportunities. The Rockies, who many experts had as a breakout team going into the 2018 season, have not met expectations thus far, and a large part of that blame can be put on the pitching staff, including Davis.
The veteran relief pitcher saw his ERA balloon from 2.35 on May 28th up to 4.71 about 3 weeks later on June 19th. In his last season with the Cubs, Davis posted an impressive 2.30 ERA, but even that was his worst result in the past 4 years, with his best year sporting a 0.94 ERA with Kansas City in 2015.
Davis’ struggles can be seen in his number of walks surrendered as his 2018 total of 18 is only 10 away from his career high as a reliever.
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