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December 17, 2012

Transaction Analysis

A Number 3, Anibal Style

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth $26.5 million. [12/13]

The last time we saw Dempster, he was struggling with Texas. Sechelt’s own got off on the wrong foot with the Rangers by allowing 19 runs over his first three starts—for perspective, Dempster allowed 18 runs over his final 10 starts with the Cubs. He pitched better thereafter, shelving talk about him being a NL-only talent. When Dempster is right, he’s a solid no. 2 or good no. 3 starter. He’s durable—having made at least 30 starts in four of the past five seasons since moving back into the rotation—and sequences well to set up knockout slider.

Boston has four veterans to plug into its rotation: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Dempster, and John Lackey. Felix Doubront or Franklin Morales will take the fifth spot, barring further addition. In addition to youth and upside, Doubront might have the more durable body. That leaves Doubront in the rotation and Morales in the pen. The Red Sox should have an improved rotation staff in 2013. It’s not like things can get much worse.

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Anibal Sanchez to a five-year deal worth $80 million. [12/14]

When the Tigers acquired Sanchez at the trade deadline it appeared unlikely they would retain his services after the season. So much for that line of thought.

Sanchez had a stellar postseason with the Tigers, though he remains a true-talent no. 2 or 3 starter. He throws a number of pitches: a low-90s fastball, a cutter-slider thing, a high-70s curve, and a mid-80s changeup. There are drawbacks to his game: he’s prone to lapses in command and the occasional meltdown. But he’s a consistent, durable pitcher, having overcome fragility issues, and should continue to form a strong rotation alongside Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister.

The real intrigue with this deal involves a finished deal that wasn’t. The Cubs reportedly thought they had signed Sanchez to a five-year deal worth around $75 million. But Sanchez’s agent gave the Tigers the right to match. They did. The Cubs supposedly raised their offer before folding, leaving Sanchez to return to Detroit. The privilege to match is becoming a hot button issue this week, first with Josh Hamilton and now with Sanchez.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed OF-L Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year deal worth $13 million. [12/13]

Judgment of this deal depends on how you feel about Ichiro’s batting average. If he hits .261, as he did last season with the Mariners, then he’s unlikely to succeed. If he hits .322, as he did last season with the Yankees, then he’s likely to succeed. Determining a player’s likelihood of success by focusing on his batting average is too simplistic in most cases, but it works here. Ichiro doesn’t offer much in the way of secondary skills. Everybody is pointing toward his increased power with the Yankees, but nobody, or at least not many bodies, points toward his almost non-existent walk rate. 

Even so, you can understand the deal on the Yankees’ side. They want to maintain flexibility and avoid big-money deals right now in an effort to reset the luxury tax penalties. That means signing veterans to short-term deals, usually of the one-year variety. There is a degree of risk with Ichiro, just like there is with Kevin Youkilis, but the Yankees are betting on these guys feeling reinvigorated by the pinstripe lifestyle. Who knows, it might work. It did last season with Ichiro.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed OF-S Andres Torres to a one-year deal worth $2 million. [12/13]

The Giants traded Torres to the Mets last winter for Angel Pagan. This winter, the Giants re-signed Pagan and now have inked Torres. Funny how these things turn out. Expect Torres—who has a noticeable platoon split despite being a switch-hitter—to platoon with Gregor Blanco in left field. The combination will give the Giants strong defensive play, though they will have to live with little power production.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed UTL-R Ty Wigginton to a two-year deal worth approximately $5 million. [12/14]

At first blush, this looks like the result of a wacky market or the workings of a general manager infatuated with high-character bench players—ahem, Kevin Towers. There is some logic here, however. For all the niceties of the Cardinals roster, they lacked a true right-handed pinch-hitting option off the bench. Wigginton gives them a righty with a history of smashing lefties (he’s got a .277 multi-year True Average against them). He’s also known for his defensive flexibility, but his best position is hitter. The small amount of money makes up for the extra year of commitment.

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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