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June 18, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Texas and Toronto Dig Deep for Rotation Help

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Esmil Rogers from the Rockies for $150,000 in cash considerations. [6/12]
Designated C-R Luke Carlin for assignment. [6/12]

The Rockies tried to keep the option-free Rogers in the organization by putting him in the bullpen; however, Rogers’ appetite for meltdowns foiled Colorado’s plan. How many appearances with at least as many runs allowed as outs recorded does it take to break a team’s will? For Rogers and the Rockies, it was four disastrous appearances in 23 tries. At one point in May, Rogers allowed nine runs over four consecutive outings. From thereon, Jim Tracy used Rogers in situations with failsafe outcomes until he stunk there too.

Rogers, despite his struggles, does spark intrigue. His fastball touches 96 mph, and his breaking pitches are effective seductresses. There are numerous downsides to Rogers’ game, of course, starting with shaky fastball command and persisting murmurs about tipping pitches. One does wonder whether Colorado’s indecisiveness when moving Rogers from the rotation to the bullpen and from the majors to the minors and back again affected his performance. A pet theory is that pitchers perform worse when used as mop-up men due to the inconsistent workload and unusual job requirements. (The Rockies may have benefitted from the phenomenon when they freed Jason Hammel from Tampa Bay.)

If the Indians can straighten out Rogers, then he could become somebody; he has the stuff to. If the Indians cannot straighten out Rogers, then he, like his spiritual predecessor Jairo Asencio, will land with the next willing experimenter.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of LHP Oliver Perez from Triple-A Tacoma. [6/16]
Optioned RHP Steve Delabar to Triple-A Tacoma. [6/16]
Designated OF-L Chih-Hsien Chiang for assignment. [6/16]

First Roman Colon returns to the majors, now Perez. Perez forced his way on board by having an opt-out clause in his contract. The Mariners, already armed with two capable left-handed relievers, didn’t seem to be in position to worry about losing Perez, but there’s nothing to lose here. For the first time in his career, Perez is relieving exclusively. The raw numbers—the 12-plus strikeouts per nine rate aside—aren’t too pretty, but Perez has shown the ability to retire left-handed batters and may develop into a worthwhile lefty-on-lefty option.

When Seattle acquired Chiang at the deadline, nobody knew what to make of him. As a prospect with better performance than tools, Chiang’s numbers had only shot up during the first half of the season. The narrative de jour had Chiang managing his diabetes better—a reasonable explanation, albeit one that expired immediately. Chiang failed to hit in Double-A Jackson and didn’t recover through 247 plate appearances split across the high minors this season. After nearly 400 poor plate appearances with the organization, the Mariners decided he wasn’t worth the 40-man roster spot. It’s doubtful that another team feels differently.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Recalled RHP Justin Grimm from Triple-A Round Rock. [6/16]
Transferred RHP Neftali Feliz to the 60-day disabled list. [6/16]
Optioned RHP Yoshinori Tateyama to Triple-A Round Rock. [6/16]
Recalled OF-L Leonys Martin from Triple-A Round Rock. [6/15]
Placed RHP Koji Uehara on the 15-day disabled list. [6/15]

With Feliz, Alexi Ogando, and Derek Holland on the disabled list  and Roy Oswalt not yet ready, the Rangers had to dig deep into their system for a fifth starter. Grimm is the intended solution. Grimm works in the low-90s, though he can reach the mid-90s when necessary and has a curveball that can flash plus. Originally drafted in the fifth round, Grimm came to the Rangers as a lean, athletic right-hander with poor mechanics and even worse results. Since then, Texas has tweaked his mechanics. Jason Cole of Lonestar Dugout provided more details:

The Rangers’ scouting staff felt that Grimm’s college mechanics were fixable, however, and saw the potential for better command with some adjustments. It was certainly a big factor in the club’s decision to give a relatively raw college arm such a healthy signing bonus.

While working through the regular season last year, Grimm began to smooth out his mechanics by eliminating some of the effort––including a head jerk that pulled his body off-line and kept him from locating his fastball. While he showed flashes of smooth mechanics and good location last spring, it was inconsistent. But he gradually made improvements throughout the year.

With Josh Hamilton battling a virus, Martin becomes a nice player to have on the bench. Signed during the 2011 season, Martin smashed Double-A before skidding in Triple-A. Texas sent him back to Round Rock to being the season, and so far his assault on Triple-A pitching has resulted in a .961 OPS. Martin has the potential to be an everyday center fielder with five tools—albeit not all of them above-average—and a contact-orientated approach.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Placed RHP Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison on the 15-day disabled list. [6/15]
Recalled LHP Brett Cecil and RHP Robert Coello from Triple-A Las Vegas. [6/15]

The Jays lost three starters (including Brandon Morrow) to the disabled list over a three-day span. Drabek and Hutchison are both suffering from sprained ulnar collateral ligaments in their right elbows—the same ligament reconstructed in Tommy John surgery. Presumably, Toronto will exercise patience in how they handle the recoveries and vacancies, meaning the Jays rotation could take on a garage band vibe for the near future.

On drums is Cecil, whose banishment to Double-A erased memories of a solid 2010 season. Cecil wears glasses and delivers from an over-the-top arm slot, making him one of the league’s aesthetic novelties in a Gustavo Chacin-meets-Josh Collmenter sense. Expect four-to-five runs allowed per game with a quality start around half of the time. His performances are unlikely to inspire, but then the Jays could do worse (and likely will in order to fill the other two openings).

Catcher-turned-pitcher Coello is unlikely to take a rotation spot since he rarely started in Triple-A, leaving Jesse Chavez, Aaron Laffey, and Joel Carreno as the candidates to grab some innings. Of those three, Chavez might be the most interesting.  This is the first time since 2004 that he has been a full-fledged starter, and the results have been strong, particularly in the Pacific Coast League. Regardless of the combination used, the Jays’ rotation is unlikely to warrant a world tour anytime soon. For now, the goal should be to give the locals a few good shows.


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:  Triple-A,  Esmil Rogers,  Martin Perez

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