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October 29, 2012

Transaction Analysis

The Wire

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Chris Volstad off waivers from the Cubs. [10/26]

The quality of the Volstad acquisition depends on the Royals' approach to his arbitration status. He made $2.66 million in his first year of eligibility, and is likely to receive a raise through the process. Kansas City has three choices: 1) agree to a deal with a reduced salary; 2) non-tender him if Volstad won’t take a reduction; 3) pay him more than he made last year. The Royals are inviting skepticism if they choose door no. 3.

Truthfully, the Royals are inviting skepticism regardless. Let’s make no bones about it.  Volstad is a below-average starter. His lone marketable skill is generating groundballs—a bad idea in Kansas City because no team had a higher average against on groundballs than the Royals. The front-of-the-rotation potential, stemming from a large frame and projectable body, no longer exists. Volstad filled out without improving his stuff. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, and misses the zone too much to serve as a counterbalance. Add in persistent issues with the long ball and left-handed hitters and there is a lot to not like about Volstad’s game.

But there are a few things to like. The bar is set ridiculously low, as the Royals had just two pitchers last season with 10-plus starts and a better ERA+ than Volstad’s career mark (85). If Volstad bounces back, he becomes a passable back-of-the-rotation option. Given the small costs involved, the Royals might receive a nifty return on investment.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed INF-R Gustavo Nunez off waivers from the Pirates. [10/26]

One of the rare cases where a roster rule is more interesting than the player involved. The Pirates snatched Nunez from the Tigers in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft. Nunez stuck around but did not play in a big-league game due to an ankle injury. The injury and subsequent lost season open up a different set of rules regarding Nunez’s status. He must stay in the big leagues for Arizona, but only for 90 days. Once Nunez spends those 90 days on the active roster he can head to the minors without incident.

Teams don’t often take advantage of this wrinkle for obvious reasons. Nunez, like most Rule 5 talent, is a fungible commodity. He fields well but cannot hit, giving him the upside of a utility infielder. Players with similar traits are available every offseason as minor-league free agents, or on waivers throughout the season. Kevin Towers is not pulling a heist here. 

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed OF-R Che-Hsuan Lin off waivers from the Red Sox. [10/26]
Designated RHP Enerio Del Rosario for assignment. [10/26]

Houston continues to add nearly any and every player with an outside shot at helping the club now and later. Lin fits the mold. His best attributes come on defense. Lin is an outstanding defender with a good arm, instincts, and range. It’s a good thing because Lin is unlikely to contribute offensively. His top-heavy swing leaves him unbalanced and exploitable. Lin has not hit at Triple-A (.242/.324/.305) and will not hit in the majors. Houston can afford to play him, but his best usage on a competitive team is as a defensive sub or pinch-runner. 

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:  Chris Volstad,  Che-Hsuan Lin,  Gustavo Nunez

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