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August 9, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Yuni to Get Out of Here Now

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Recalled LHP Frank Herrman from Triple-A Columbus. [8/7]
Designated INF-R Jose Lopez for assignment. [8/7]
Claimed LHP Fabio Martinez Mesa off waivers from the Angels. [8/6]

Not even a week after designating Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe for assignment, another veteran takes the fall in Cleveland. Whereas Damon and Lowe are both near the end of their strings, it’s easy to imagine Lopez, 28, getting another shot (or three) at redemption. The one-time All-Star had a decent first half, but has struggled over the past month-plus. Brent Lillibridge will assume utility role duties for the Indians, who, for the time being, are operating with a three-man bench.

Martinez Mesa, by the way, has great stuff and no idea where the pitches are going. He missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, and has poor results this season. All signs point to his stock decreasing in recent years.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Selected the contract of INF-S Tony Abreu from Triple-A Omaha. [8/6]
Designated INF-R Yuniesky Betancourt for assignment. [8/6]

Shannon Drayer wrote about Betancourt’s missing professionalism on July 10:

I give them credit. They hung in longer with Yuni than I did. I had enough mid season last year in Atlanta, the day after John McLaren was fired. Jim Riggleman had posted optional batting practice on the field. It actually looked like a mandatory bp session because every player except for two showed up. When I couldn't find Yuni on the field I headed into the clubhouse to see if he was there. At one corner of the clubhouse sat the days starting pitcher. At another, with IPOD on was Yuni. Why he didn't think he needed to be out there with his teammates at the time, I do not know.

Those who clicked-through will note the above writing came from 2009. Yet 37 months later, the Royals offered a similar explanation for Betancourt’s departure. Asking us to believe Betancourt would act selfishly is no stretch, not with his priors. But it does make you wonder why the Royals signed Betancourt this offseason. Remember, Betancourt played with Kansas City in 2010, even under Ned Yost; they had familiarity with his personality and his work ethic, albeit in a starter’s role. Are we to believe Betancourt showed more sloth-like tendencies this go-around? Would Betancourt still have his job if he had performed as he did in 2010?

Removing the reported motive from the interrogation chair, you can understand why Kansas City cut bait. Betancourt played poorly and acted poorly. Better players can get away with being a jerk, or with cutting corners now and again. But therein is part of the secret of better players: many are baseball junkies. Betancourt is no baseball junkie; a shame because a more disciplined, polished version of Betancourt would be fun to watch.

Abreu returns to the majors for the first time since 2010. Once upon a time, Abreu had the potential to develop into a good utility man, but injuries interfered. It would appear that Kansas City intends to start Abreu against left-handed pitchers. Johnny Giavotella apparently will remain in Triple-A until September, injury, or boredom with Abreu sets in.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated 3B-R Evan Longoria from the 60-day disabled list. [8/7]
Designated INF-S Brooks Conrad for assignment. [8/7]
Optioned INF-L Will Rhymes to Triple-A Durham. [8/6]

You can find streaks of high- and low-quality performance with any player. Conrad just happens to make it easier than most. He started the season 3-for-40, changed teams, went 7-for-20, got a shoeshine, and then finished with Tampa Bay on a 3-for-38 run that included 20 strikeouts and a walk. Conrad’s skill set is about swinging often, swinging hard, and making his contact count. It’s not pretty to watch—which is what you can say about his defensive efforts, too—and his upside is a pinch-hitting option. Presumably, the “Raw Dog” will stick in the organization. 

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Released 1B-L Lyle Overbay. [8/6]

By releasing Overbay, Arizona is officially christening Paul Goldschmidt as their everyday first baseman and cleanup hitter. The decision comes despite Goldschmidt performing worse against right-handed pitching (though, to Goldschmidt’s credit, he is thumping left-handers).

Arizona’s display of confidence may cause another NL West team to show the opposite; the Giants reportedly have interest in Overbay. Overbay’s seasonal line (.292/.367/.448) deceives. The Diamondbacks took careful provision to ensure he faced as few left-handed pitchers as possible. Somehow, even with the odds stacked in his favor over a small sample, Overbay still managed to strike out more than usual. Is it a sign of things to come, or a minor blip? We’ll find out when Overbay lands another gig. 

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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