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March 15, 2010

Transaction Action

Expanding and Contracting

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Brandon Erbe and LHP Troy Patton to Norfolk (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Chorye Spoone and Luis Lebron to Bowie (Double-A). [3/15]

 


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned SS-R Jose Iglesias to Portland (Double-A). [3/14]
Recovered Rule 5 pick LHP Armando Zerpa from the Dodgers, and assigned him to their minor-league camp. 3/15]

 


CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Kelvin De La Cruz to Akron (Double-A). [3/15]

 


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-L Denard Span to a five-year, $16 million contract extension, with a $9 million club option for 2015 ($500,000 buyout). [3/13]
Optioned RHPs Deolis Guerra and Loek Van Mil and SS-S Estarlin De Los Santos to New Britain (Double-A). [3/14]

Credit the paired products of Pohlad pere for opening up the purse strings yet again to just punt on this whole arbitration bugaboo and make life easier (and more cost-secured) into the future. Whether you get hung up on Span as the club's center fielder of the present or their right or left fielder of the future—with Ben Revere's ride to the show merely pre-figuring the rise of fellow outfield prospects Joe Benson and later Aaron Hicks—he's a fine choice to lock into a contending Twins' outfield for the near term. Whether or not they pick up that 2015 option should be interesting, but will depend as much on what he does on the field as what they do in the standings in the interim; by then, folks may be calling Target Field and expensive disaster, Joe Mauer could be winning MVPs in pinstripes, and Paula Abdul could be elected President.


NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Ivan Nova and LHP Wilkin De La Rosa to Scranton/Wilkes Barre (Triple-A); optioned RHP Christian Garcia to Trenton (Double-A); optioned RHPs Andrew Brackman and Hector Noesi to Tampa (High-A). [3/13]

 


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Clayton Mortensen to Sacramento (Triple-A); optioned LHP Pedro Figueroa and RHP Fautino De Los Santos to Midland (Double-A); returned Rule 5 pick RHP Bobby Cassevah to the Angels. [3/15]

 


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned OF-R Greg Halman to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/13]

 


TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed 2B/OF-L Hernan Iribarren off waivers from the Brewers. [3/13]

Iribarren's an interesting pickup for the Rangers, not least because they need a utility infielder after the sadly necessary release of Khalil Greene. Iribarren has several features you'd like from a bench player, but the question is whether he truly has the virtue of his perceived strengths. Sure, he can run a bit, although he's become more and more of a poor-percentage basestealer as he's aged and been running against more experienced competition; he's not a true burner. He's utile, in that he's played in the outfield (and center) as well as third base, but the numbers for his outfield work aren't inspiring, and his play at the hot corner comprises all of four games between the majors and minors; that's the profile of a standard good minor-league second baseman who wasn't good enough to start at second base in the majors. He has at times walked more than some low-powered singles hitters, but his walk rate's been dropping since he's been facing more advanced pitching; he has little power, but he can belt liners better than true slap hitters. He bunts well. Add all of that up, and he might make a nice bench player on a ballclub that has a starting third baseman who has plenty of experience playing short—so Michael Young could double as Elvis Andrus' backup, making Iribarren's lack of experience playing shortstop less of a problem. Since Iribarren's out of options, he'll have to earn his keep, and it'll be interesting to see if the former infield coach in Ron Washington warms to the task of expanding Iribarren's uses by working him out on the left side a lot. If Iribarren shows Wash something to like, the Rangers could be set. If he doesn't, they can always risk waivers with him—20 clubs did just pass on the opportunity to claim him for himself, after all—and see about whether or not the Pirates could just hand back Ramon Vazquez for future considerations, case, a non-roster suspect, or a warmed-over order of park pierogies.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-R Chris Aguila to a minor-league contract; optioned RHP Reidier Gonzalez to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [3/15]

Because when you're hard up for outfielders, almost anything will do. We'll have to see if this winds up as a way of pressuring the unsigned to just knuckle under already, and sign up for a stint up over the border already.


ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHPs James Parr, Stephen Marek, and Todd Redmond, and LHP Lee Hyde to Gwinnett (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Juan Abreu and Kyle Cofield and LHP Jose Ortegano to Mississippi (Double-A). [3/15]

 


CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Mitch Atkins to Iowa (Triple-A), and RHP David Patton to Tennessee (Double-A). [3/14]

 


COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed with 1B-L Todd Helton to a two-year extension and restructuring (through 2013) of his previous long-term contract. [3/11]
Optioned RHP Edgmer Escalona to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); optioned SS-R Hector Gomez to Tulsa (Double-A); optioned RHP Juan Nicasio to Modesto (High-A). [3/15]

Perhaps the best way to represent the distinctions between the old deal and the new is graphically:

Deal 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014-23
Old $16.6M $19.1M $23.0M or $4.6M buyout FA FA
New $16.6M $6.0M + $4.6M signing bonus $4.9M $5.0M $13.1M deferred
Difference 0 -$8.5M -$18.1M or -$0.1M +$4.6M $1.31M per year

That's all in millions, of course. Since 2011 was already a commitment made, while 2012 and beyond were optional, for calculating the difference in outlay for 2012 and 2013 I've included the current minimum salary for a Helton roster replacement in summing up the relative expenses.

In short, this turns out to be a great bit of money management plus a cheap extension, which makes for a particularly nice gesture by Helton—Fatboy will be a Rockie through his age-39 season, and given his various aches and pains, he may well be thinking about retirement at that point. While the deal is revenue-neutral for 2010, it buys back a big chunk of potential payroll for 2011—when the team has options for Brady Hawpe ($11 million) and Jeff Francis ($7 million) to consider picking up. It also makes a huge difference for whatever the club may elect to do come 2012, which is especially handy since 2012 figures to be a big year for Rockies arbitration cases: assuming everyone accrues their service time and remains in the organization, Dan O'Dowd and company could be facing the panel with Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Seth Smith.

Now, for 2013, that's a big chunk of change for a 39-year-old first baseman who may well be on his last legs, but as a commitment to a face-of-the-franchise ballplayer in what may be by then his going-away tour, it's not horrendous, it's not the worst outlay imaginable, and as the price paid to acquire payroll flexibility in 2011 and 2012, it's not very steep. Besides, who knows what the market would provide by way of alternatives? By working this out, the deferred money becomes a nice annuity for Helton, but from a club-finance perspective represents a ghost payroll employee making something that nearly evaporates from inflation on a nine-figure annual payout.

Of course, by then the Rockies could have an extra pennant or two flying over Coors Field, having been afforded he financial flexibility to keep their core in place and perhaps make a key investment or two to tweak a team that should already be the favorite in the NL West. Helton's basically traded off a zero in one season or two for security and to help make that possible, and while it may be something he's one of the happy few able to afford, it makes the decision no less useful for the ballclub.


MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Sean West to New Orleans (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jose Ceda to Jacksonville (Double-A). [3/15]

Between West's demotion and Andrew Miller's control problems, it's beginning to look like the camp battle to round out the rotation could end sooner rather than later. Miller's still contending, of course, but Rick Vanden Hurk and Chris Volstad seem like the likely winners to slot in behind Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez. Hayden Penn and Clay Hensley are both still present in camp, of course, but both remain dark horses. Hensley's coming off a nice partial season with New Orleans after flopping in the Astros organization, that after washing out with the Padres; he's perhaps more the toke thirtysomething catspaw to motivate the kids. Penn's out of options, but he also remains a longshot, although he's someone I'd see whether he could make the jump as a long reliever, and—perhaps like Jason Grilli—acquire a career there after not really panning out as a former top prospect. As for Ceda, his comeback from a year lost to rehabbing a torn labrum came with good news—he came to camp much lighter and still throwing hard—and bad, since he was perhaps understandably wild. So, while the Kevin Gregg trade hasn't achieved anything for the Fish beyond payroll savings in 2009, it still could add up to a gain in terms of talent as well as treasure.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Noted the loss of 2B/OF-L Hernan Iribarren on a waiver claim by the Rangers. [3/13]
Optioned RHP Amaury Rivas to Huntsville (Double-A). [3/15]

This wasn't really that much of a surprise. Iribarren was out of options, and having added utilityman Adam Heether to the 40-man, plus re-signing Craig Counsell, plus grabbing both Joe Inglett and Luis Cruz off waivers, Iribarren's slappy brand of utility as a second baseman and erstwhile outfielder perhaps wasn't the best way to use a roster spot that could instead be used on Jim Edmonds or Scott Schoeneweis, non-roster invites who seem likely to break camp with the big club.


NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHPs Clint Everts and Eddie Kunz and C-L Josh Thole to Buffalo (Triple-A); optioned 3B-R Shawn Bowman to Binghamton (Double-A). [3/15]

This was never really in doubt for Thole, since it seemed likely back in November that Chris Coste's role with the organization was to mentor Thole in Buffalo, with the determination as to who might actually catch in the majors yet to be determined at that point. Now we know it'll be some combination of Rod Barajas, Omir Santos, and Henry Blanco, but Thole's brief spin in camp was good enough to add his name to the list of young players who might actually let Omar Minaya cobble together a good enough team if too many of the star players go missing for any length of time. Not that it'll push them past the Phillies, but Thole, Fernando Martinez, and Ruben Tejada would be a lot more interesting to watch than what they had to resort to last season.

Given the now-standard expectation for some new Met-astrophe, the interesting question is whether or not the kids could help change the narrative in some way. If Jon Niese wins a rotation slot, and Bobby Parnell settles into a set-up role in the pen, the team would at least provide cause for optimism, that this wasn't just another expensive disaster. Not that I'm a big Jerry Manuel fan, but if he was willing to take a spin with Mike Caruso as a straight-from-A-ball rookie with the White Sox back in 1998, he might be the sort of skipper who takes a chance on a more finished ballplayer in Tejada in 2010.

I think we can all be reasonably sure that, later this year, Thole will be added to the mix. The Mets are that interesting sort of team whose spread between worst- and best-case scenarios could involve anything from 67 to 92 wins. I could see the kids playing in the second half, trying to redeem another lost season, and at least providing reasons to watch. I could also see them being a fine second rank of hoplites providing great work behind the big-name, Homeric heroes we seem to be banking on as the make-or-break players for the Mets' fortunes.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned MI-R Argenis Diaz and OF-L Brandon Jones to Indianapolis (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Ramon Aguero and Ronald Uviedo and CF-R Gorkys Hernandez to Altoona (Double-A). [3/14]
Optioned RHP Brad Lincoln and LHP Donnie Veal to Indianapolis; optioned RHP Bryan Morris to Bradenton (High-A). [3/15]

 


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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