January 8, 2014
The Sands of Time
Signed LHP Mark Mulder to a minor-league deal. [1/2]
Mulder is coming back some five-and-a-half years after he last appeared in the majors. The Michigan State product named Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez his muse and inspiration for toying around with his mechanics—specifically his hand-break. The Angels saw enough during a tryout to sign him to a deal loaded with incentives. No one needs to be told about the high odds against Mulder, but this is a case where you hope the player can accomplish the improbable. Look for more buzz on Mulder once he makes his spring debut.
It didn't take Atchison long to find a new home after being non-tendered by the Mets in December. The versatile reliever doesn't have a flashy game, and his elbow could go on any pitch, but he does the basics—throwing strikes, keeping the ball in the yard, and handling lefties and righties alike—well enough that he deserves work until he can't handle it anymore. The Indians have filled most of their bullpen already, so Atchison could be jockeying for one spot.
Cleveland's pact with Francoeur overshadowed the Atchison signing for obvious reasons—namely, folks love taking aim at easy targets. Francoeur last played well in 2011, but has historical performed better against southpaws than versus righties. There's no guarantee he'll return to form with the Indians, yet the cost is low enough that it's worth taking the plunge on a minor-league deal. Worst-case scenario: Francoeur proves he has nothing left and gets released without anyone noticing.
Figueroa was a safe bet to be claimed. Yes, he's struggled with control and is out of options, but it's rare to see a southpaw with his velocity (his fastball averaged 96 mph last season, according to Brooks Baseball) pass through waivers. In addition to the heat, Figueroa features a quality hard slider and a changeup. His arm action is long, however, and figures to cost him against right-handed batters when married with his sloppy geography. That means he might be little more than a left-handed specialist when the dust clears. Figueroa ought to compete for a bullpen spot when camp opens.
Signed C-R Taylor Teagarden to a minor-league deal. [1/6]
Once a top prospect in the Texas system, Teagarden spent the past two years in Baltimore, where he seldom played behind Matt Wieters. Small samples and sporadic playing time make it tough to judge his offensive game fairly, yet his tendency to swing and miss doesn't bode well for large-scale improvement. Of course the Mets aren't signing Teagarden for his bat but, rather, his above-average catch-and-throw skills and willingness to sit on the bench for lengthy stretches. New York should enter camp with Teagarden battling Anthony Recker for the right to serve as Travis d'Arnaud's backup.
Claimed OF-L Rafael Ortega off waivers from the Rangers. [1/6]
For the second time this offseason, a contender plucks Ortega off waivers. Although an unrefined offensive game limits his ceiling, Ortega has the chance to be an asset off the bench thanks to his plus-plus speed and above-average arm. The Cardinals have enough worthwhile outfielders as it is, so storing Ortega in the minors, where he can marinate and atone for missed time, should be in play. Still, expect to see him surface at some point this year in an Adron Chambers-like role.