MLB Hot Stove Bubbles on New Year's Eve

Hours before the start of 2015, several teams made moves that should help clarify their rosters for the upcoming season. Highlighting the moves is a trade between the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies that sends Marlon Byrd back to the NL Central.

Reds Acquire Byrd for Lively

The Cincinnati Reds upgraded their outfield situation with the addition of veteran Marlon Byrd from the Philadelphia Phillies. The Reds sent prospect Ben Lively to the Phillies in exchange for Byrd.

Byrd will join centerfielder Billy Hamilton and right-fielder Jay Bruce in the outfield for the Reds. Cincinnati is coming off of a disappointing 2014 season that saw the team deal with a myriad of injuries and underperform offensively. Byrd hit .264 with 25 homers last season for the rebuilding Phillies. He should give the Reds a legitimate power source from the right-side of the plate, which has been an area of weakness for the Reds the past couple of years. Byrd is owed $8 million for the 2015 season and has an option for 2016 also worth $8 million. The Phillies are believed to be sending roughly $4 million to Cincinnati as part of the deal.

Byrd is the latest veteran to be dealt from the Phillies, who are in desperate need of getting younger and cheaper. Jimmy Rollins and Antonio Bastardo have also been traded this off-season and the Phillies are reportedly willing to discuss other veterans such as Cole Hamels.

The Reds have been re-tooling this off-season. They said good-bye to veterans Jack Hannahan and Ryan Ludwick and traded starting pitchers Mat Latos and Antonio Simon. Those deals brought back younger players, as the Reds try to straddle cost-cutting while still being competitive. Cincinnati is hoping that they can get healthy seasons from Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, among others, in 2016.

The Phillies get Lively, who has put up eye-popping numbers since turning pro. The right-hander was a fourth-round pick in 2013 out of Central Florida. In 192 minor league innings, Lively has a 2.58 ERA and 227 strike-outs against 65 walks. Lively reached Double-A last year and could join the Phillies’ rotation sometime in 2015. Lively isn’t over-powering, but his fastball sits in the low-90s and he has a good curveball, as well as a usable change-up and slider.

Rays Sign Cabrera

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays added veteran free agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera on a one-year deal worth a reported $8 million. Cabrera, who can play both second base and shortstop, split the 2014 season between the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals. He had a 694 OPS in 146 games for those two clubs.

Before being traded to Washington last year, Cabrera had spent his entire career with the Indians. He was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012 and has reached double-digits in homeruns in each of the past four seasons. Cabrera’s batting average and on-base percentage have both dipped significantly from his peak in 2011 and 2012, however.

Defensively, Cabrera’s range has lessened as he has aged. He has been worth -2.0 dWAR over the past two seasons, according to However, his versatility could give the Rays a lot of options going into the 2015 season. The Rays could consider trading either Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Zobrist, who can play anywhere on the diamond except catcher, is the most valuable trading chip of the two, and he should generate significant trade interest if the Rays make him available. In addition to Zobrist, Escobar and Cabrera, the Rays have Nick Franklin, Logan Forsythe and Hak-Ju Lee as options in the middle infield.

Rockies Sign Nick Hundley

The Colorado Rockies – looking to upgrade their catching corps – signed veteran Nick Hundley to a two-year, free agent contract. Hundley joins the Rockies from the Baltimore Orioles, where he played in place of the injured Matt Wieters last season.

Hundley had a 631 OPS for the Padres and Orioles last season, but he was solid defensively and should improve the Rockies with his glove. The addition of Hundley makes it even more likely that the Rockies will trade Wilin Rosario. Rosario has hit 62 homers over the past three seasons, but he has become a significant liability behind the plate. The Rockies have reportedly been shopping Rosario to AL teams that could put him in the DH spot.

Cubs Reportedly Sign Chris Denorfia

In a move first reported on Twitter by former teammate John Baker, outfielder Chris Denorfia has signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Denorfia split last season between the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners.

The versatile Denorfia can play all three outfield positions and gives the Cubs a speed option off of the bench, as well as a right-handed pinch-hitting option. He is a career .272/.331/.394 hitter with 56 stolen bases and 38 homers in 705 major-league games.

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