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September 24, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Lewis, Texas Re-Up

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed RHP Colby Lewis to a one-year contract extension worth $2 million guaranteed with up to $4 million in incentives. [9/17]

Here is a nice gesture and a smart baseball move rolled into one. Lewis, a free-agent-to-be, was working on a career season before tearing a flexor tendon. Getting maximum value on the open market is tough enough when healthy, but not being able to pitch until January severely hampered Lewis’ abilities to cash in on three strong seasons. The Rangers’ brass thought of this, and thought about the stress placed upon Lewis, his family, and his rehab. They decided to do something about it, as Thad Levine and Jon Daniels explained:

"I think J.D. and I both came to the same conclusion, that was unacceptable," Levine said. "We view Colby as an essential part of this franchise, this family. He's earned it, he deserves it. ... We want him to have peace of mind."

[…]

"Somewhat the goal behind this deal is take away some of the pressure on Colby to rush back and put himself at risk," Daniels said. "But whatever that day is at some point during next season, we feel pretty good about the person, the pitcher and what we're going to get out of him, and help us hopefully in another contending year."

The Rangers’ willingness to bet on their man is going to create additional goodwill within the clubhouse, and perhaps the player community as a whole. Re-signing Lewis is more than a public or player relations move though. Lewis could be a key piece of a Texas playoff push next season, should he return in a timely manner and pitch like his new-old self.

This has the makings of a win-win situation. Perhaps Lewis could’ve finagled more money, be it guaranteed or in incentives, had he tested the open market anyhow. But now he gets to rehab in a known, comfortable environment. There’s no pressure to rush back and validate the contract, or to show his new teammates what he’s all about. He can get healthy, and then work toward getting that big contract. Texas, meanwhile, might get a bargain deal on Lewis—again.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Acquired C-R Yorvit Torrealba from the Blue Jays for cash considerations. [9/21]

After humming through most of September without a third catcher, the Brewers changed their tune. Although Torrealba is not postseason-eligible, Milwaukee’s ascent into the playoff picture may have prompted his acquisition. Torrealba is around to provide expanded in-game options and peace of mind to manager Ron Roenicke. Like most third catchers, Torrealba will serve like a safety net, protecting Roenicke in case of a post-substitution injury behind the plate. Such doomsday scenarios rarely play out, but why risk it?

In any case, Torrealba is a nice spare to have. Torrealba is similar to Jose Molina, insofar that both excel at receiving the ball, yet Torrealba has not enjoyed a post-enlightenment popularity boost like Molina. Too bad. In addition to being a good framer, Torrealba is a capable goalie on pitches in the dirt, and reportedly handles a staff well. The one negative to Torrealba’s defense is a suddenly average caught stealing rate. It’s possible the Rangers staff—which Torrealba spent most of this season—handling is partially to blame: not only does Torrealba continue to lead the team in kill rate, but Geovany Soto, who threw out 27 percent of prospective thieves with Chicago, is throwing out 17 percent with the Rangers.

If Torrealba sounds like the pitch-perfect backup, that’s because he is. Now 34 years old, Torrealba will hit the free-agent market at season’s end. Expect a team to ink him as their reserve backstop during the winter. Until then, he’ll serve as the backup’s backup.

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:  Colby Lewis,  Yorvit Torrealba

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