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May 29, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Montero Puts Down Roots

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

National League

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Re-signed C-L Miguel Montero to a five-year extension worth $60 million. [5/26]

One of the league’s better catchers, Montero would have been a free agent at season’s end. Instead, Kevin Towers chose to lock Montero up through the 2017 season. The easy comparison to make is to Yadier Molina, who earlier in the year signed away his free-agent chances. Like Montero, Molina signed for five years. Unlike Montero, Molina received a guaranteed $77 million (including the option-year buyout).

Montero happens to be a better hitter than Molina, though his defense and durability pale by comparison. Of course, being a worse defender than arguably the best defensive catcher of the past decade is no great slight. Montero himself is a good framer, sharpshooter, and fielder. It’s impossible to say how Montero handles a pitching staff, but Towers did say that Montero would be the club’s captain were they to hand out such a label.

Towers also said he put out feelers on other catchers before re-signing Montero. This is the same Towers who floated the idea of trading Justin Upton for seemingly no other reason than to get a read on his market value. All you can ask from a front office is its willingness to perform due diligence and Towers passes that test.

Another test that Towers passes is signing his franchise catcher to a nice-looking extension. Anything can happen with catchers, but this one looks good on paper.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Optioned RHP Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa. [5/28]
Activated RHP Carlos Marmol from the 15-day disabled list. [5/28]

Wrigley Field’s bullpen is where the wild things roam. One such wild thing, Dolis, heads to the minors after tossing more than 25 innings for the big-league club. The Cubs experimented during Dolis’ stay by using him in the closer’s role for a time. Dolis did grab four saves, but it became clear that he isn’t big-league ready yet. Take his ratio of free bases-to-strikeouts: he hit or walked 20 batters and struck out just 11. Dolis will probably find his way back into the majors at some point this season.

Meanwhile, the ever-precise Marmol returns after missing time due to a hamstring injury. Marmol appears to be game-ready after walking two in two innings on a rehab stint. Prior to the injury, Marmol had lost the closer’s job, in part because he had more walks (16) than strikeouts (12). That Marmol allowed a career high amount of hits per nine innings further exacerbated his problems. Expect Marmol to work his way back up the leverage ladder.

MIAMI MARLINS
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Purchased the contract of OF-R Justin Ruggiano from Triple-A New Orleans. [5/27]
Optioned OF-L Kevin Mattison to Triple-A New Orleans. [5/26]

The Marlins acquired Ruggiano from Houston to fill in for the injured Austin Kearns, and a day later he made his team debut. Ruggiano is a good athlete, capable of defending each outfield position and swiping a base now and again (though he rarely has in previous major-league stints). His minor-league numbers suggest he could be a diamond in the rough and it is true that he packs some power. Poor plate discipline and contact issues mitigate some of that pop, leaving Ruggiano as a player who strikes out a lot and walks little. Known for being surly (his teammates nicknamed him “Scrooge”), maybe a stay in the majors can lift Ruggiano’s spirits.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Designated OF-L Nate McLouth for assignment. [5/25]
Recalled 4C-R Matt Hague from Triple-A Indianapolis. [5/25]

The question about McLouth is not whether he can regain form, but, rather, if he will have a productive season before retiring. McLouth turns 31 in October and looked horrid during his time in Pittsburgh. He struck out more often than usual, walked less often than usual, and showed no power; all that despite playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers.  Injuries stink.

Hague can play each of the corner positions and should come in handy off the bench. He doesn’t have many tools at his disposal, however, and hit just .278/.325/.333 during his time in Triple-A (he hit .309/.372/.457 there last season). Generally, a corner player has to have pop or a good combination of speed, defense, and on-base skills to become a starter. Hague doesn’t have either, so his upside is limited.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Recalled RHP Chuckie Fick from Triple-A Memphis. [5/26]
Optioned RHP Fernando Salas to Triple-A Memphis. [5/26]

Fick’s father scouts for the Cardinals and his uncle, Robert Fick, played in more than 800 big-league games. Those kinds of bloodlines bring expectations of a heady player who can max out his tools. Sure enough, Fick fits the stereotype. He throws a high-80s sinker and high-70s breaking ball and relies on getting groundballs. Despite solid numbers in the minors, expect Fick’s future to be in middle relief.

Unsurprisingly, Salas is the odd man out. Salas had allowed 32 hits-plus-walks in 15-2/3 innings this season; last season, he allowed 71 hits-plus-walks in about 60 more innings pitched. In each of his last two appearances, Salas entered with the bases empty and the score tied, only to record a total of four outs while yielding three runs.

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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