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September 4, 2012

Transaction Analysis

October on Their Minds

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-R Ben Francisco from the Astros for a player to be named later. [8/31]
Designated RHP Albert Suarez for assignment. [8/31]
Recalled INF-R Sean Rodriguez from Triple-A Durham; placed on the 15-day disabled list. [8/31]

 

Francisco joins team number three on the season. He started with the Blue Jays, headed to the Astros in that 10-player swap, and now could play in the postseason. Talk about an up-and-down season. Francisco has been mostly down at the plate. Perhaps it has something to do with a hamstring injury, which limited him during his Jays days. If Francisco can return to form, expect Joe Maddon to use him primarily as a pinch-hitter; not because the righty has a large platoon split—he does not—but because those around him do. Francisco has one year of team control remaining, though it’s unclear whether the Rays consider him anything more than a stretch-run addition; especially with a  similar player, Brandon Guyer, also in Tampa Bay’s possession.

Suarez is the victim of the Rays’ postseason roster addition. Formerly a well thought-of prospect with a low-to-mid-90s sinking fastball, Suarez’s stock has diminished in recent seasons. Injuries, ranging from an elbow to a knee, have limited Suarez’s repetitions. Perhaps a team will see beyond the recent struggles, in performance and health, and claim Suarez.

A tough season for Rodriguez could be over. He entered the season angling to become the Rays everyday shortstop. A prolonged slump cost him that gig, and roster machinations stripped him of his spot on the 25-man roster. Rodriguez recently fractured his hand by punching a locker, leaving his status for the rest of the season up in the air. So why bring Rodriguez up only to disable him? Tommy Rancel explained; in short: it’s all about postseason roster flexibility, baby.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Tyler Tufts from Double-A Frisco; placed on 15-day disabled list. [8/31]

The mind wonders, sometimes, why the league’s easily manipulated playoff eligibility rules are in place; then a case like Tufts’ pops up. Tufts is not a player you should be familiar with. He is, to be blunt, a non-entity; a 25-year-old pitcher that began the season in Triple-A only to earn a demotion after 20 poor innings. Tufts has not pitched since June, and will not pitch again this season. His promotion and subsequent placement on the disabled list serves the purpose of being a roster portal.

Now the Rangers can add whomever they want to the postseason roster; be it Jurickson Profar or another fortunate soul. Don’t feel too bad about Tufts, though. He gets a raise, service time, and perhaps a good story to tell his grandkids. Being Profar or a postseason hero is ideal; but being the guy who helped get Profar or a postseason hero on the roster is a nice consolation prize. Yes, the roster rules are exploitable. But it’s a victimless crime, one beneficial for marginal players. 

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired INF-R Jeff Baker from the Tigers for a player to be named later. [8/31]

Released INF-R Jack Wilson. [8/31]

Here’s hoping Baker did not sign a lease. Some three and a half weeks after arriving in Detroit, Baker repacks his bags and heads to Atlanta. Jim Leyland used Baker well, pitting him against left-handers about three-fourths of the time; Baker just didn’t perform. Oh well. The Braves will try their luck with Baker, who lives to smash southpaws. Baker’s versatility, albeit limited, is a plus. He'll qualify for free agency after the season; making this a move about now (and the postseason), not later. Perhaps Reed Johnson or Paul Maholm can help an old, new teammate by lending Baker a couch during his stay in Atlanta.

Wilson’s release came a year to the day of his acquisition. The Braves liked the veteran shortstop enough to bring him back for this season. However, the acquisition of Paul Janish and a bevy of other young shortstops left the injured Wilson, out since July with a dislocated finger, without a role. What does the future hold for Wilson? He turns 35 this offseason. His once-slick glove no longer makes up for a lifeless bat. Maybe he can snag a spring invite and latch onto a bench spot somewhere. If not, Wilson had a longer career than a player with a .205 True Average over his first 425 plate appearances is supposed to have.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Outrighted 1B-R Jeff Clement to Triple-A Indianapolis. [8/31]
Optioned INF-R Chase d’Arnaud to Triple-A Indianapolis. [8/31]
Recalled OF-L Alex Presley and RHP Kyle McPherson from Triple-A Indianapolis. [8/31]

So much for d’Arnaud serving as the team’s designated pinch runner. 

Presley seems to fit the Pirates roster as a fourth outfielder and left-handed pinch-hitting option. He’s struggled after a solid, brief debut last season. McPherson, meanwhile, is a big right-hander with a bigger fastball. His secondary stuff still needs work, and an optimistic projection sees him as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Look for McPherson to ply a big role in the Pirates’ late-season bullpen. Both new additions are postseason eligible.

Clement, the former third-overall pick, received his first big-league at-bats since 2010. He didn’t do much with them, going 0-for-6 with two strikeouts. Re-reaching the majors is progress—especially after a horrendous 2011 campaign—no doubt; it’s just not enough for anyone to buy into Clement becoming a big-league fixture again. Clement, who turned 29 in August, is limited to first base and DH, but doesn’t have the bat to play either on a consistent basis. His upside at this point is becoming a professional pinch-hitter. 

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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