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February 1, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Pronk's Tale

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 1B-L Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal. [1/31]

In the old days Overbay was a sure bet to smack doubles, play good defense, and compile two-plus WARP on an annual basis. Though never the sexiest package—especially in that era of offensive production—it was a package that worked. Nowadays Overbay is better suited for a lesser role (his work against right-handed pitching in recent years makes him a cheap, attractive option as a pinch hitter, for instance). Sure enough, Marc Normandin thinks Overbay's future with the Red Sox is on the bench as Mike Napoli insurance, thus dislocating Mauro Gomez—whose right-handedness is a disadvantage in this case—to the minors. That seems like a reasonable expectation.

Keep an eye on what Overbay's signing means for Milwaukee. Corey Hart's injury sparked rumors of a potential reunion with Overbay—who played two seasons with the Brewers in the past—but alas those murmurs turned out to be fruitless. If the Brewers want a similar player they could opt to sign Casey Kotchman. Otherwise, maybe they give Carlos Lee a call.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Matt Capps to a minor-league deal. [1/31]

Capps missed nearly three months of playing time last season due to shoulder inflammation. After hurling mid-90s fastballs in the early going, he returned from the disabled list tossing in the low-90s. Capps relies on his fastball to do most of the work for him, so the decline in velocity could hamper his chances of remaining an effective big-league pitcher. Still, the opportunity cost is low and relief pitchers have it easiest when it comes to reinventing themselves on the fly.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed DH-L Travis Hafner to a one-year deal worth about $2 million. [1/31]

Ben Lindbergh recently wrote about Hafner:

The 35-year-old Hafner isn’t technically coming off an injury, since he returned from a DL stint for a bulging disc in his lower back—which was preceded by meniscus surgery—in late September. However, he’s spent at least part of every season since he turned 30 on the disabled list, and the wear and tear has sapped his skills. Still, he retains some resemblance to the patient, powerful hitter he was in his prime.

Last season, Hafner roughly matched his career walk rate and Isolated Power and bettered his career strikeout rate, but his overall line was dragged down by a BABIP 80 points below his career average, which may have been the result of bad luck. If that luck turns in 2013, Hafner could be a potent weapon against righties and a league-average hitter against lefties, at least until his next injury. But he’ll have to find an AL team with an opening at DH, since it’s been almost six years since he last wore a glove in a game.

"Pronk," as he's known, is a good fit for Yankees Stadium, where he figures to benefit from a few cheap home runs throughout the season. Hafner is still a disciplined hitter with a good command at the plate, and he's been a solid all-around hitter when healthy. Unfortunately for New York, Hafner is rarely healthy. It's not that hurt more frequently than the alternatives, just that he misses more time when he does get hurt. Hafner should provide cheap power for a team lacking pop in the corner outfield. The Yankees have had a good run with injury-prone veterans, so this might be the year if he's going to reach 400 plate appearances in a single season again.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed 3B-R Martin Prado to a three-year extension worth $33 million. [1/31]

We covered Prado's skill set last week by writing:

He fits in with Kevin Towers' stray-from-strikeouts philosophy, as he's one of the league's most contact-orientated hitters. Prado is also a superb defensive player. Increases in stolen bases and walks last season are developments worth monitoring. Never one to swipe bases, Prado more than doubled his career total by stealing 17 bases. He also walked 8.4 percent of the time, a speck of dust more than his previous career-best. You'll never see Prado among the league leaders in either category but improvements in those areas, along with his contact and glove, make him a worthwhile starter in a corner.

Prado is exiting his prime years, though he should hold up for the next four seasons. The money involved is reasonable enough as well. Give Kevin Towers credit for working quick to secure Prado for an additional three seasons. The D'Backs, at least to some degree, elected to reinvest their Justin Upton savings by re-signing the main piece of the Justin Upton deal. Fair enough.

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP LaTroy Hawkins to a minor-league deal. [1/31]

In a winter without much activity Sandy Alderson has assembled a nice group of low-cost relievers to staff his bullpen with. The 40-year-old Hawkins continues the recent trend of injury-prone arms, joining Pedro Feliciano and Scott Atchison. Hawkins has made trips to the disabled list in each of the past four seasons and should get a shot at a fifth if he proves well in spring. You wouldn't know Hawkins threw hard from his strikeout rate. Likewise you wouldn't expect Hawkins to have recent reverse splits based on his fastball-slider combination. History suggests Hawkins should give the Mets 40 or so innings; an acceptable workload given the cost.

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:  Travis Hafner,  Lyle Overbay,  Martin Prado

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