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March 29, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Five Years For Wainwright

by R.J. Anderson

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Signed RHP Mark Lowe to a minor-league deal. [3/27]

Acquired RHP Dane De La Rosa from the Rays for RHP Steven Geltz. [3/27]

Acquired RHP Elvin Ramirez from the Mets for cash considerations. [3/27]

In the span of a few hours Jerry Dipoto added three new faces to his Triple-A bullpen. Oddly enough, Lowe, De La Rosa, and Ramirez show common traits. Each throws the ball hard and without nuance. Lowe is the most successful of the three, having posted a shiny ERA with the Rangers last season. De La Rosa's height makes him the novelty of the bunch. Then there's Ramirez, a former Rule 5 pick with horrible taste in facial hair. Lowe has shown an ability to be a capable middle reliever in the past. The other two profile as up-and-down types. Given the cost—cash and a pint-sized version of De La Rosa—it's hard to shame Dipoto for acquiring a few flawed power arms.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Released OF/1B-R Juan Rivera. [3/28]

Rivera's demise means Lyle Overbay and Ben Francisco will make the Opening Day roster. Brian Cashman is receiving plenty of flak about not having a better contingency plan at the cold corner. Is it  warranted? Think about it this way: how many teams have a first baseman slated to start the season in the minors that would be better than replacement-level? Not many. If the Yankees did have such a player, the odds are that he would already be in the lineup at another position, or that he would be on another team following a trade. Having a bopper-in-waiting is a nice idea, but one rarely realized. 

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Re-signed LHP J.A. Happ to a two-year deal worth $8.9 million and with a club option worth $6.7 million. [3/27]

It's been a good week for Happ, who recently won a spot in the Blue Jays rotation thanks to Ricky Romero's demotion. The Jays acquired the deceptive southpaw in last July's 10-player swap with Houston. He pitched in 10 games, starting six, and did an okay job. The key to this deal seems to be the option. The Jays already had Happ under contract for this season and under control for 2014. By guaranteeing him next year's pay they've gained a club option on his first year of free agency. A little overzealous? Perhaps. Happ's probably not going to develop into much more than a back-of-the-rotation starter at this point. But those can have trade value. Worst-case scenario: the Jays decline the option or pay a reliever a few million more than they would like. 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Re-signed RHP Adam Wainwright to a five-year deal worth $97.5 million. [3/28]

Risks abound anytime you sign a player to a five-year extension worth nearly $100 million. The perceived risk increases when the player is a pitcher, and starts fizzing when that pitcher underwent Tommy John surgery 25 months ago. Still, the Cardinals front office is one of the best in baseball. They know all about the risks and downsides in doing a deal like this. So why do it?

Part of it may involve their economic situation. Despite being a perennial contender the Cardinals have few long-term commitments. Wainwright is the fifth Cardinals player with a guaranteed salary in 2015, joining Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia, and Allen Craig. Their self-control with Albert Pujols afforded them additional budget room otherwise unavailable. Add in the Chris Carpenter situation and Wainwright became the club's de facto ace. It's not like St. Louis will have to use free agency to supplement its core, either. They have a number of talented young players on the way, whose cost-control years should allow them to maintain a semblance of a middle class on their roster.

Of course that doesn't mean the Cardinals can throw money at poor risks. They've exhibited self-control in the past though, and they must believe in Wainwright and his medicals. Wainwright has managed to stay on the mound for his most of his career, with his most recent disabled list stint before the surgery coming due to a finger issue back in 2008. He could hurt his shoulder tomorrow and never recover. He could also pitch fairly well over the next five seasons. We know which way St. Louis believes things will go.

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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