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February 27, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Nats Extend Zimm

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jason Isringhausen to a minor-league deal. [2/22]

Isringhausen just won’t quit. With a 40th birthday coming in September and more arm operations than he cares to count, Izzy will enter camp eyeing a middle relief job for the second straight spring. Isringhausen pitched well for the Mets last season—even taking over as closer for a time—until injuring his back. He attempted to gut it out, and by doing so sabotaged his seasonal numbers.

That’s the long and short of life with Isringhausen. He might give a team 40 quality innings before succumbing to injury, or he might blow his elbow out in camp and never return. No, Isringhausen does not have the stuff he used to, but he mixes and matches what he can throw—a low-90s four-seamer, high-70s yakker, and high-80s cutter—enough to get outs. The Angels have enough bullpen depth to sustain an Isringhausen flameout, so taking a flyer on Izzy is a low-risk maneuver.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP David Aardsma to a one-year deal worth $500 thousand with a club option for 2013 worth $500 thousand with incentives. [2/22]

The Yankees are always focused on the present, but signing Aardsma is more about the future. Aardsma missed 2011 with hip and elbow issues, and a July Tommy John surgery means his status for 2012 is up in the air. New York could have another veteran relief option if Aardsma can heal within 14 months of the surgery; otherwise, Aardsma’s rehab progress will determine whether the Yankees exercise the 2013 club option. 

Is Aardsma worth the wait? If he can regain his pre-surgery stuff—the mid-to-upper-90s fastball, a slider, and a splitter—that has translated into more than a strikeout per inning during his major-league career, then the Yankees are getting a useful late-innings reliever. Should Aardsma fail to return to form, the cost isn’t worth worrying about. Consider signing Aardsma a prudent move—one that a small-market team would have been wise to make.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Kelvin De La Cruz from the Indians for cash considerations. [2/21]

Formerly a promising young arm for the Indians, De La Cruz’s stock has dropped thanks to arm issues and sustained wildness. De La Cruz is a gangly southpaw with plenty of velocity and a good breaker, but a complex delivery burdens his ability to control those offerings. Cleveland moved De La Cruz to the bullpen late in the season after watching him walk the Eastern League over the past two seasons, and the uptick in strikeouts is encouraging—even if the walks were still there.

Texas is acquiring a live arm with the chance to be a major-league reliever at little cost. The only downside is that De La Cruz has one option remaining, so the Rangers will have to work fast to find him a home.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed 3B-R Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year contract extension worth $100 million with a club option for a seventh year worth $24 million, effective following the 2013 season. [2/26]

Argue all you want about whether Zimmerman or Pablo Sandoval (or David Wright or Hanley Ramirez) is the National League’s best third baseman; only one of them has the contract worthy of the title.  The only third basemen with more Wins Above Replacement Player since 2009 are Sandoval (by a negligible amount), Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, and Evan Longoria. That ranking comes with the caveat that Fielding Runs Above Average is not as fond of Zimmerman as other metrics.  There is no questioning Zimmerman’s bat, however, as his three-year True Average compares favorably to the likes of Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, David Ortiz, and Ryan Howard.

There will be much talk about the risk in tacking on another six (possibly seven) years to Zimmerman’s current contract, but there is risk in any six- or seven-year deal, and this deal is akin to the one given to Ryan Braun last spring. Granted, Zimmerman has more injury questions than Braun did. He missed more than two months due to abdominal surgery last year and had labrum surgery back in 2008. But if the Nationals are confident that Zimmerman can recover and will keep himself in tiptop shape, then why not keep the best by paying him like the best?

Add in that Zimmerman would have reached free agency after next season—right as the core began to gel—plus his status as the face of the franchise, and you can understand why the Nationals wanted to get this out of the way. Of course, there will be talk about what, if anything, Zimmerman’s extension means for Anthony Rendon. The sixth-overall pick in last June’s draft is a good, polished third base prospect—which just so happens to be Zimmerman’s position. Should Rendon make his way to the majors, the Nationals will have a decision to make. It’s a long way off, but it shouldn’t be too surprising if Zimmerman is eventually slid across the diamond, if only after Rendon is tried at second base. Still, having too many All-Star caliber third basemen is a problem worth having.


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

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