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December 26, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Colletti's All-Closer Bullpen

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs. [12/23]

Through 30 major-league appearances, Hendriks has allowed nearly 12 hits and two home runs per nine innings. Bad signs for anyone, let along a pitcher whose stuff limited him to back-end projections. Yet, despite the struggles and the modest aspirations, Hendriks has been claimed off waivers twice this month; first by the Cubs, and now by the Orioles. The Australian native will seemingly serve as a piece of rotation depth for Baltimore, though one wonders if he would benefit from a move to the bullpen, as he wouldn't face batters multiple times each game.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed LHP Eric Surkamp off waivers from the Giants. [12/23]

At one point, Surkamp was primed to claim a back-end spot in the San Francisco rotation. So much for that. Rick Hahn has pieced together an underrated rotation in Chicago, but depth is always a welcome thing. Surkamp fits the classic finesse southpaw archetype: he benefits from long limbs and a deceptive delivery, but must mix speeds, locations, and pitches to succeed. He'll never ascend beyond no. 5 starter status for long, yet the low costs involved make him a worthwhile Triple-A stash for a team that could use the safety net. Depending on how much the White Sox like Felipe Paulino, it's possible Surkamp starts the season in the rotation.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Jordan Norberto to a minor-league deal. [12/24]

Claimed OF/1B-R Jerry Sands off waivers from the Pirates. [12/23]

Norberto didn't pitch in the majors in 2013, but he had a busy year. The bearded southpaw was released in May by the Athletics, operated on in June for an achy elbow, and suspended in August for 50 games due to his Biogenesis connection. Do the math—three months lost for Tommy John rehab, another month and a half for the suspension—and 2014 figures to be another wasted year. If Norberto hangs around until 2015, he could vindicate the Rays' willingness to wait by blossoming into a capable two-way threat with years of team control remaining. Until then, he's out of mind.

By the time Norberto makes his Rays debut, the verdict should be in on Sands. Although he once approached cause celebre status, due to the Dodgers' unwillingness to play him over James Loney, Sands is now with his third organization since the 2012 season concluded. He didn't appear in the majors with the last two, so the bar is set low. The same applies to his probable role, as either a platoon bat or a piece of Triple-A depth. Perhaps the Rays can help Sands make enough contact to put his considerable raw power to use. Otherwise, it might be time to dismiss him as a Quad-A slugger.

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees. [12/23]

Drafted in the same class as David Phelps, Marshall shares some similarities with his former organizational mate. Both are right-handed pitchers who rely on arsenal depth more than quality. To wit, Marshall throws an upper-80s sinker and the usual assortment of secondary offerings. The key with him is location, as it so often is with this type, and his upside is as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Alas, if he's plagued by the same issues that impacted him last season, then he's headed for a career in the bullpen or, more likely, Triple-A.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jamey Wright to a one-year deal worth $1.8 million. [12/24]

Signed RHP Chris Perez to a one-year deal worth $2.3 million with incentives. [12/23]

It feels like Ned Colletti signs a reliever every week. Thus far this winter, he's added or re-added J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson, Perez, and Wright on major-league deals.

That last part—about the major-league deal—is a new wrinkle for Wright, who had spent the previous eight springs in camp as a non-roster invitee (including in 2012 with the Dodgers). The Gene Simmons fanatic is a sinker-cutter-curveball pitcher with groundball tendencies. He's been durable since a 2007 stint on the disabled list, and has thrown more than 50 innings in each season since 2004. Wright should work in middle relief for the Dodgers.

So should Perez, at least right away. Perez's contract features incentives based on his role, but it's hard to see him taking over as the closer anytime soon. Not when the Dodgers have Kenley Jansen, Wilson, and Howell hanging around as veteran relievers with closing experience. Still, there's probably a reason he signed with the Dodgers and not another team with a more obvious path to the ninth inning; we just don't know if it has to do with wanting to win ballgames and live near Hollywood or something else. Perez's mechanics are deceptive and his stuff remains good enough to miss bats. If he can avoid a late-season meltdown like 2013, then he should land a real closing gig next year.

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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