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March 5, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Orioles Sign Flimsy Johan

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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Signed LHP Johan Santana to a minor-league deal. [3/4]

This isn't the Santana signing some expected the Orioles to make, but it does involve a famous pitcher and a decent chunk of potential change (north of $8 million if all incentives are reached). Santana, who is recovering from his second shoulder surgery and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012, isn't expected back until June at the earliest. Then what? Santana was measured throwing in the low 80s at a recent workout, and while that was early in the rehab process, it's hard to count on him for anything. The Orioles are willing to take the risk of paying him for nothing in exchange for the potential payoff.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Maikel Cleto off waivers from the Royals; designated UTL-R Jake Elmore for assignment. [2/26]

Whenever Cleto his the waiver wire—and this is the second time he has—he's bound to get claimed due to his arm strength. The 24-year-old pitches in the mid-to-upper-90s and complements the speed with a mid-80s slider. Control problems have prevented him from becoming more than an up-and-down reliever thus far, but every team believes it can fix him. The White Sox are the latest to give it a whirl—and why not? The cost is trifling and well worth giving Don Cooper an up-close look at what needs tweaking. Realistically, though, expect to see Cleto back on the waiver wire before long.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired INF-R Justin Sellers from the Dodgers for cash considerations; designated 1B-L David Cooper for assignment. [3/2]

The Indians are one of three lucky teams to get a new utility infielder this week. Sellers received more than 250 plate appearances from the Dodgers over the past three seasons without making a good case for his continued employment. He has a strong defensive reputation, which makes him a good candidate for a bench role. Whether the Indians like him enough to pick him over David Adams, Elliot Johnson, Nyjer Morgan, and others for the final bench spot is to be seen. If nothing else, Cleveland can option Sellers and his heavily tattooed arms to the minors without passing him through waivers.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Oakland Athletics

Acquired UTL-R Jake Elmore from the White Sox for a player to be named later or cash considerations; designated INF-S Andy Parrino for assignment. [2/27]

Elmore played each position for the Astros last season, including an inning-long stint on the mound. Houston rewarded his willingness to play all over by sending him to the waiver wire early in the winter. Now Elmore is on the move to Oakland. You figure he'll start the season in the minors, as the Athletics have numerous utility options in tow. Elmore is not a bad player to have around in Triple-A, however. He's a wee lad without power in his swing, but he can make contact and draw walks. Add in the defensive flexibility and he's a useful piece of depth—albeit one with a limited ceiling.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Joe Saunders to a one-year deal. [3/4]

Claimed INF-S Andy Parrino off waivers from the Athletics. [3/3]

The rare non-guaranteed big-league deal. Saunders is a back-end starter through and through, but he's durable and gets groundballs, which makes him an attractive low-cost option. Those attributes in particular appeal to the Rangers, who continue to deal with a hobbled rotation. Texas has other options—Colby Lewis and Nicholas Tepesch, to name a couple—but none has Saunders' track record of taking the mound every fifth day. He's not sexy, and Rangers fans won't miss him when he's gone, yet he's a smart, no-risk signing for a team in need of sure innings.

What is it with the Rangers and former Athletics? Adam Rosales, Michael Choice, Colby Lewis, and Alexi Ogando were already on the roster—and that was before Jon Daniels claimed Parrino off waivers. In fairness, the switch-hitting utility man barely played for the Athletics. Though he was acquired in last offseason's Tyson Ross trade, he appeared 14 times in green and gold and spent the rest of the year in the minors. Parrino isn't much of a batter, as he struggles to make consistent contact, but he plays hard and all over. He should surface at some point in a bench role.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Michael Gonzalez to a minor-league deal. [3/4]

Here's how you know we're all getting old: it's almost been a decade since Gonzalez saved 24 games in his final season with the Pirates. He's since spent time in Atlanta then bounced around the league as a left-handed specialist. The casual fan might have missed that he made 75 appearances for the Brewers last season, albeit with so-so results. When Gonzalez is at his best, he's pounding the glove side of the plate with his fastball-slider combination. Perhaps the return to Washington, where he spent the 2012 season, can help extend his career long enough for him to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of his last go-round as Pittsburgh's closer.

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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