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July 5, 2012
El Caballo Rides Out East
Released RHP Bobby Jenks. [7/3]
A once-clever addition meets the cleaver.
When the White Sox non-tendered Jenks after the 2010 season, the three main reasons speculated were, in order: a bloated ERA, a high-maintenance personality, and injuries. Boston sensed the same and jumped at a splendid buy-low opportunity. Jenks signed with the Red Sox and began jumping onto operating tables.
Accusing a player of malingering or poor conditioning is a serious charge. Yet Jenks’ background invites skepticism, even where is proves erroneous. Jenks’ issues didn’t come from a bottle, but rather from a calcified ligament in his back. Doctors had to wait on a pulmonary embolism in his lungs to clear before they could repair the ligament. Afterward, the doctors had to open Jenks up for a second time in order to correct life-threatening complications from the first surgery. A nasty tale made worse because all the while Jenks suffered from a biceps injury. If Jenks feels thankful then he should.
The Red Sox might feel a different level of thankfulness. Although their speculative risk bombed, they do save $1.5 million of Jenks $6 million by negotiating a buyout. This is one of those situations where both sides should rest happier knowing that it could have been much worse.
Claimed OF-R Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox. [7/4]
Designated RHP Chris Schwinden for assignment. [7/4]
The newest Yankees are two right-handers who can contribute with proper supervision. The Phillies used Qualls as his other recent teams did; outright ignoring that he is no longer a capable two-way reliever. Where Qualls can provide value is by facing a high quotient of right-handed batters, especially in situations where a groundball is the desired outcome.
If Joe Girardi is attentive enough, the Yankees could milk utility from Qualls. Otherwise, forget about it.
A similar amount of shrewdness can turn McDonald from a low-market reserve outfielder into a useful southpaw-masher. McDonald’s multi-year TAv against lefties is at .287, but he provides negative value against righties. The key, like with Qualls, is careful planning and vision. Girardi’s management of Raul Ibanez this season suggests that he is up for the tasks.
Fuentes made headlines last May by complaining about then-manager Bob Geren, who had requested Fuentes enter non-save situations that other managers daren’t ask of their closers. If Fuentes is worried about remaining effective at this stage of his career, he should have been more concerned with whom he faced rather than when he faced them.
Oakland used Fuentes against right-handed batters at a similar rate to his past teams. No surprise, as it comes with the territory of being a generalist southpaw rather than a specialist. Fuentes handled righties just fine throughout most of his career, but lately his platoon splits have called for an adjusted role. A gander at Fuentes’ True Average-against tallies reveals that he is 21-points better against lefties than righties (.238 versus .259). How does that stack up against other left-handed specialists? Take a look at an old chart:
Granted, turning Fuentes into an effective reliever is not as simple as limiting his exposure to righties. At least, not if left-handers continue to torch Fuentes, as they have this season. Presumably, teams will pass on claiming Fuentes from waivers and wait instead for him to become a free agent. When that happens, expect a team to show interest in the veteran southpaw. If he returns to form against southpaws, he could be a useful enough piece—assuming the manager keeps an open line of communication with him.
Signed RHP Ben Sheets to a minor-league deal. [7/1]
We last saw Sheets in July 2010. He threw 6 2/3 innings against the Red Sox before having his season ended due by right elbow surgery. Sheets did not land a job for the 2011 season and had seemingly hung up the cleats before showing up on Atlanta’s bullpen mound. One of the league’s better starters when healthy, Sheets is an interesting gamble for the Braves. Whatever Atlanta saw in the bullpen session has them at least thinking about the possibility, not probability, of Sheets contributing this season in some shape or another. As easy as it is to by cynical, Sheets is worth rooting for.
In a surprising twist, the Astros found a taker for Lee just days after he spurned the Dodgers by exercising his limited no-trade clause. With Lee’s desire to stay in Houston apparent, the Astros’ only chance to complete a trade required foregoing the intermediary—in this case, finding an interested party among the 16 non-blocked teams. Although the Marlins and their single-digit playoff odds are not the textbook definition of a buyer, the addition makes sense for reasons on and off the field.
Lee joins a club in desperate need of production from the cold corner. Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez’s season-long slump means that Lee’s .286/.336/.412 line, while below average for the position, is an improvement. Lee’s numbers this season (and in recent years) bear a resemblance to Sanchez’s 2010 season (.259/.333/.416); the key difference between the two, beyond the obvious, is Sanchez’s superior defense.
Ostensibly, Sanchez will head to the minors. This development could prove to be a positive for Sanchez the player, but it might force the Marlins to move on without him this offseason. Sanchez entered the season with two years and 62 days of service time. The projected super-two cutoff is two years and 134 days, according to an internal study conducted by an agency earlier this season. Sanchez spent 22 days in the minors, meaning he stayed up long enough over the season’s first three months to break that threshold. He becomes a non-tender candidate.
The Marlins are only required to pay Lee the prorated minimum over the remainder of the season. (Houston’s eagerness to send over the rest speaks to their desire to move Lee and acquire a better return.) While Lee is no long-term answer, or even a short-term stud, he may help Miami sustain the goodwill created over the offseason. This move proves, if nothing else, the Marlins’ willingness to upgrade and max out their likelihood of reaching the postseason, even when the odds are stacked against them.