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April 7, 2014

Transaction Analysis

The More Yunel

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Michael Brady off waivers from the Marlins. [4/2]

Undersized and underpowered, Brady is no prospect. The 27-year-old infielder-turned-pitcher could reach the majors, however, on the strength of his control and pitchability. Brady has compiled strong numbers throughout his minor-league career, including a 6.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season at Double-A, the level at which he was assigned to following the claim. Ostensibly Jerry Dipoto wants to see whether Brady's numbers can transcend his modest stuff. They won't in all likelihood, but the transaction cost is low enough to justify the move.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Agreed to a six-year extension with 2B-L Jason Kipnis worth $52.5 million guaranteed and includes a club option, which could push the deal's total value over $68 million. [4/4]

We knew a Kipnis extension was coming at some point, and the money here is just right. He becomes the third Indian to put his signature on a line in the past few weeks, joining Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, and in the process receives a deal similar to the one Matt Carpenter penned. The Arizona State product has become one of the best second basemen in the league—now there's a sentence you've read before—thanks to a well-rounded offensive game. Kipnis hits for average, walks, has some pop, and swiped 30-plus bags in each of the past two seasons. If his defense continues to trend upward, then you're looking at one of the top players in baseball.

Perhaps it's fitting then that, as Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors pointed out, he received roughly the same money as Andrew McCutchen and Justin Upton did in the past (albeit at different stages in their earning phases). MVP, or good but perpetual tease: which route will Kipnis take?

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed LHP Michael Belfiore off waivers from the Orioles; optioned him to Triple-A Toledo. [4/3]

Originally a first-round pick by the Diamondbacks, Belfiore made his way to Baltimore in the Josh Bell trade. Although he was recalled three times in 2013, he appeared in just one big-league game. When it comes to left-handed relievers, one general manager's fungible is another's desirable. Dave Dombrowski wanted the added depth in part because of the cost, and perhaps in case Phil Coke continues to fall flat. Expect to see Belfiore in Detroit at some point this season.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated INF-R Pedro Ciracio; purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Brooks. [4/5]

Ned Yost has been castigated in recent days after saying he did not hit for Alcides Escobar in order to prevent affecting his shortstop's mentality. Now? Yost doesn't have a choice. Ciriacio's departure leaves the Royals without a true backup shortstop. In fact, Danny Valencia—he of one professional appearance at the position—appears to be the closest thing. The Royals are carrying two out-of-options outfielders, in Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell, so perhaps there's a trade to be made there at some point. While Ciracio takes away a dimension from the Royals roster, Brooks adds one as a longman. He'll be around a few days, until Louis Coleman returns, but the well-built righty throws strikes and gets grounders.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated RHP Hector Noesi for assignment; recalled RHP Dominic Leone. [4/4]

While Jesus Montero's failings have received more publicity, Noesi's shortcomings are as drastic. He was shipped west with a low-90s fastball, good changeup, and a void where his breaking ball belonged. As it turned out, his breaker never developed and his fastball proved too hittable due to shaky command. The damage: 135 innings, 151 hits, a 6.13 ERA, 1.78 strikeouts per walk, and 1.7 home runs allowed per nine. Benefiting from Noesi's dismissal is Leone; a small righty with a heavy mid-90s fastball. He should pitch in middle relief.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Agreed to a two-year extension with SS-R Yunel Escobar worth $13 million guaranteed and includes a club option, which could push the deal's total value over $20 million. [4/5]

Andrew Friedman's second extension of the week, and one which fits his newfound interest in retaining veterans. David DeJesus, Ryan Hanigan, James Loney, and even Jose Molina don't seem like players the Rays would want to hang onto beyond their initial contracts, yet time and again over the past few months Friedman has opted for continuity versus change.

Escobar is the latest vet to get a new deal. The eccentric shortstop has changed his fortune since arriving in St. Petersburg. Not only has he avoided off-the-field controversy, but the Cuban native has purged the mental mistakes that plagued his time in Atlanta. Give Escobar some credit, but don't neglect how well Joe Maddon has handled his once-troubled shortstop. At every turn Maddon has found a way to pump up his player's perceived value through the press. Whether Escobar reads his own press or not is unknown, but he seems on good standing with a manager for the first time in a while.

As for the on-the-field stuff, Escobar remains a talented defender. His arm is very strong and he knows it. The 31-year-old plays with skill and verve, but these days he seldom lets hotdogging come before making the play. Escobar isn't a zero offensively, either. He gets on base a fair amount and shows solid gap power. Add in his durability (he's played in more than 130 games in each season since 2008) and there's plenty to like here.

The pressing question for Friedman is why now? The Rays held a $5 million option on Escobar for the 2015 season, which is the same amount they've guaranteed him through this deal. In exchange, they're now on the hook for $7 million more in 2016, and potentially $7 million more in 2017. The Rays have a quality shortstop prospect (albeit an injured one) in Hak-Ju Lee at the Triple-A level, so you wonder if a trade isn't in the cards. Perhaps the pressing question then is who will go, and when?

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated RHP Jeremy Jeffress for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Marcus Walden from Triple-A Buffalo. [4/4]

Jeffress has never reached the lofty heights his arm strength suggested he might during his prospect days, but he still throws hard and that could keep him in the big-league conversation for a few more years. Walden is about as far from Jeffress on the sizzle scale as possible. He pitches in the low 90s with sink, throws strikes, and generates groundballs. Right now Walden doesn't look like more than an up-and-down type, but he adds length to the Blue Jays pen, which is more than Jeffress could say.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed OF-L Roger Kieschnick off waivers from the Giants; optioned him to Triple-A Reno; transferred LHP Patrick Corbin to the 60-day disabled list. [4/4]

Kieschnick debuted last season with the Giants but failed to impress in 95 plate appearances, as he notched one extra-base hit while swinging and missing about as often as Adam Dunn. The 27-year-old has been praised in the past for his athleticism and well-rounded profile, yet at present his physical traits appear unlikely to result in big-league success. Kevin Towers is taking a flyer, knowing full well it's a win if Kieschnick develops into an extra outfielder.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Pedro Beato off waivers from the Reds. [4/2]

Beato joins his fifth organization since being drafted by the Orioles in 2006, and if you squint you can see number six just over the horizon. The book on the sturdy righty is he's a one-trick pitcher; his fastball possesses quality speed and life, but lacks the elite quality that has allowed others (see: Jake McGee and Sean Doolittle) to ride their heater to glory. Few teams have turned feral arms into useful relievers as often as the Braves, so perhaps the former Rule 5 pick should have a little hope. Mere probability suggests he's going to hit the waiver wire again before fall.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed INF-R Carlos Triunfel off waivers from the Mariners; optioned him to Triple-A Albuquerque. [4/2]

Once hoisted to top-prospect status due to his stats at a young age, Triunfel has neither number on his side anymore. The now 24-year-old has the arm to play shortstop or third base, but not the body or the bat. Somehow he's accumulated 71 plate appearances at the big-league level, in which he managed to swing at a higher rate of pitches and expand his zone more often than Pablo Sandoval. Triunfel used to have the reputation of being able to hit just about anything; that remains true, provided the exception is advanced pitching. The Dodgers have been in need of a utility infielder, and after this move they'll remain in that state.

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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