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June 1, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Roy Oswalt Finds His Contender

by R.J. Anderson

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed RHP Roy Oswalt to a one-year deal worth $5 million guaranteed. [5/29]

Jon Daniels knew the Rangers needed another starter with Neftali Feliz experiencing elbow inflammation and Scott Feldman inflating the run-scoring environment. The choice between pursuing Oswalt and spending money or trolling the trade market had to be an easy one. Daniels isn’t the only sensible actor here. Oswalt evidently values playing for a contender, and may want a championship ring more than he wants a few million extra.

Don’t get it twisted, though, as Oswalt is not signing with Texas to latch onto the Rangers’ coattails. Over the last three seasons, Oswalt has allowed fewer than four runs per nine innings while also recording quality starts in 65 percent of his attempts. PECOTA is projecting a 3.37 ERA for Oswalt this season, albeit without adjusting for league or park. So long as Oswalt stays under 4.00, he should be the Rangers’ second- or third-best starter, depending on whether Feliz can return.

There are some concerns with Oswalt. His back could knock him out without warning. But the Rangers will still have depth with Feldman and Alexi Ogando, so if Oswalt fails to reach his upside with Texas, the Rangers won’t be exposed to too much downside. Daniels and Texas’ front office might be the best in the game and you don’t get to be the best in the game without having some sense of vision and foresight.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Recalled SS-R Andrelton Simmons from Double-A Mississippi. [5/30]
Optioned SS-R Tyler Pastornicky to Triple-A Gwinnett. [5/30]
Optioned RHP Kris Medlen to Triple-A Gwinnett. [5/29]
Recalled OF-L Jose Constanza from Triple-A Gwinnett. [5/29]

Rumors persisted throughout the spring that Atlanta might start the season with Simmons at shortstop. It seemed like an overzealous idea. Simmons, 22, had yet to play above A-ball and had plenty of work to do at the plate. Something, likely the confluence of Simmons’ hot start in Double-A and Pastornicky’s lukewarm start in the majors, caused the Braves to flip the switch two months into the season. It isn’t clear that Simmons will be able to hold his own against major-league pitching right now; however, what is clear is that he should become one of the league’s finer defensive shortstops. Simmons combines a rocket arm and very good range with above-average speed. Braves fans might not be able to stomach dinner with Andrelton at the plate, but his fieldwork should make up for it.

Medlen’s demotion comes with a purpose: to improve the rotation. Specifically, Medlen is heading to the minors in order to stretch out. Once that occurs, the Braves could ship out Mike Minor or Randall Delgado.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Designated LHP Jamie Moyer for assignment. [5/29]
Recalled RHP Carlos Torres from Triple-A Colorado Springs. [5/29]

This could be the end of the road. Moyer allowed five or more runs in four of his 10 starts. The Rockies aren’t heading for the playoffs, but even the worst teams in the league shouldn’t suffer through that quality of performance from a short-term fix. Josh Outman, acquired over the offseason in the Seth Smith trade, will take Moyer’s place. Here’s what I wrote about him at the time:

Outman owns the better name and came to the Athletics in the 2008 Joe Blanton trade with hopes that he could develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Instead, Outman finishes this phase of his A’s career with 151 1/3 innings pitched over 33 appearances and a 114 adjusted-earned run average. To Outman’s credit, he did begin the 2009 season in the A’s rotation, but an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery zapped most of his 2009 and all of his 2010 seasons. He returned in 2011 with apparent rust during his Triple-A time, although he did show his old velocity (low-90s, tops out at 95) during his time in the majors.  Given a 6-foot-1 frame, the zipper, and the radar gun readings, Outman could also find himself in a future Rockies’ bullpen should this starting thing fail. 

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Recalled C-R Martin Maldonado and RHP Michael Fiers from Triple-A Nashville. [5/29]
Optioned RHP Mike McClendon to Triple-A Nashville. [5/29]
Placed C-R Jonathon Lucroy on the 15-day disabled list. [5/29]

If you like defense-only backstops and no-stuff righties then the Brewers’ latest arrivals are for you.

Fiers made his first major-league start earlier in the week. He threw seven innings against the Dodgers, fanning three, walking none, and allowing a run. The stuff is nothing to write home about; his velocity is sub-par and the lone bright spot is a good changeup. Fiers’ command, deceptive delivery, and pitching philosophy give him a chance to become a fifth starter. It isn’t a luxurious ceiling, but it tops most of the guys with his mold.

Maldonado’s strong arm and good receiving skills make him an ideal candidate for backup duty, and so does his bat. A career .262/.331/.436 line in Triple-A looks better than it is because those numbers came in the Pacific Coast League. Expect plenty of strikeouts and an occasional home run to go with the stellar defense.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Optioned INF-R Yamaico Navarro to Triple-A Indianapolis. [5/29]
Recalled INF-R Jordy Mercer from Triple-A Indianapolis. [5/29]

Navarro’s athleticism, modest power potential, and ability to play multiple positions led the Pirates to acquire him on the eve of the Rule 5 draft. Pittsburgh tried Navarro out as their utility infielder this season and decided they had seen enough after 51 plate appearances. A telltale sign of ineffectiveness: Navarro reached base 13 times and struck out 12 times.  Navarro still might develop into a useful utility player in time, but for now, his most useful attribute is his handiness with a razor:

 

 

Mercer is a tall shortstop that always had pop and lacked other offensive skills. Excelling in one area and suffering in all the others makes it tough to project any player as more than a bench piece, but Mercer is changing his fortunes; or, at least, had a strong start to his season. A .303/.379/.417 line is a different brand of production from Mercer’s usual. If the changes in Mercer’s line are genuine then he could stand to benefit from Clint Barmes’ demise.

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

Related Content:  Roy Oswalt,  Jamie Moyer,  Jordy Mercer

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