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April 21, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Escape From New York, Starring Ike Davis

by R.J. Anderson and Bret Sayre

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed RHP Felipe Paulino on the 15-day disabled list (rotator cuff inflammation); recalled RHP Andre Rienzo from Triple-A Charlotte; outrighted LHP Donnie Veal to Triple-A Charlotte [4/19]

So far so bad for Paulino. The chunky right-hander has battled his command and control this season, allowing 22 runs in his past three outings. Perhaps the shoulder is the cause, but Paulino has always had issues with location. It wouldn't be a surprise if he returns in a relief role. Meanwhile, Rienzo gets a crack at the rotation. The Brazilian righty has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and impressive curveball, but his inability to locate has limited him to back-end and bullpen projections.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Agreed to an extension with LHP Sean Doolittle through 2018, with two club options. [4/18]

The A's continue to spend money on the bullpen. Well, maybe. Oakland committed more than $16 million in 2014 salary to three relievers (Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson and Eric O'Flaherty) over the winter, and now they've handed their setup man a long-term extension. Because the terms remain unknown, it's hard to judge this deal one way or the other. What we do know is most small-market teams rely on veteran relievers to close games as a means of keeping their bullpen costs certain. Presumably this deal was done in order to use Doolittle as the closer at some point.

The most compelling part is how you project Doolittle going forward. He remains relatively green to pitching full-time, yet his athleticism has allowed him to pound the zone with strikes. Slowly but surely his breaking ball has become a bigger part of his arsenal, though he remains primarily a fastball pitcher. The A's are betting that Doolittle's high-quality control will allow him a longer, more prosperous career than the typical one-trick pony. Without knowing the terms, there's no reason to think they're erring.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Brad Boxberger to Triple-A Durham; recalled LHP C.J. Riefenhauser from Triple-A Durham. [4/19]

You can count on the Rays to shuffle arms between Durham and St. Pete whenever their bullpen is overworked, and lately that's what Andrew Friedman has done. His makeshift rotation has left too many innings on the table for the usual relievers to handle. As a result, Friedman has turned to Jeff Beliveau, Boxberger and Riefenhauser for some help. The carousel has worked thus far: The trio has combined for seven shutout innings in which they've struck out five batters and allowed just three to reach base. Expect Juan Carlos Oviedo to take the rotating spot in the coming days.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed OF-L Jim Adduci on the 15-day disabled list (fractured finger); recalled SS-S Luis Sardinas from Double-A Frisco. [4/19]
Placed RHP Tanner Scheppers on the 15-day disabled list (elbow inflammation); purchased the contract of LHP Aaron Poreda from Triple-A Round Rock; designated SS-S Andy Parrino for assignment. [4/18]

Poreda missed 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the former top prospect made his first big-league appearance since 2009 over the weekend. His promotion is interesting for a reason beyond the background story, as it means Neftali Feliz remains in the minors. Sardinas, on the other hand, should help a bench that's stretched thin due to injuries to Adrian Beltre and Jurickson Profar. Sardinas is a quality runner and fielder who was deemed the fourth-best prospect in the system before the season began.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated SS-S Jose Reyes from the 15-day disabled list; placed DH-L Adam Lind on the 15-day disabled list (lower back tightness); purchased the contract of 1B-L Juan Francisco from Triple-A Buffalo; optioned SS-L Munenori Kawasaki to Triple-A Buffalo; transferred INF-S Maicer Izturis to the 60-day disabled list (torn knee ligament). [4/19]

Health continues to elude the Blue Jays. Reyes, who left after one at-bat on Opening Day, returns and puts an end to the Jonathan DiazRyan Goins reign of terror at shortstop—but only at shortstop. Izturis' injury means both Diaz and Goins will stick around, while team mascot Kawasaki heads to the minors. If that weren't bad enough, the Jays have to hope Juan Francisco can approximate Lind's performance against right-handed pitching. Toronto's early-season ascent to the top of the division has been a nice story, but they'll need to get (and remain) hearty and hale to keep the surprise party going.

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated LHP Sean Marshall from the 15-day disabled list (shoulder inflammation); optioned RHP Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville. [4/19]

Marshall returns after missing time with another shoulder issue. In the past he's been one of the league's most durable and reliable left-handed relievers. Whether that remains true is to be determined. However, Cincy could soon have an enviable left-handed trio of Marshall, Manny Parra and Aroldis Chapman near the end of games. Partch, by the way, is a large righty who should return to the majors this season in a middle-relief role.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jeremy Jeffress to a minor-league deal. [4/18]

Milwaukee's first-round pick in 2006 and a part of the Zack Greinke trade, Jeffress has never made good on his outstanding velocity. Teams have been tantalized by his upside enough over the years to spot him more than 50 big-league innings, and he's used those opportunities to miss bats and the plate with regularity. The Brewers are one of the best organizations in baseball when it comes to taming arm-strength relievers, so there is hope here beyond player-team familiarity. For now, Jeffress will head to the minors. Don't be surprised if he gets another shot at the majors sometime soon—and, should he fail, another few shots after that.

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Zach Thornton and a player to be named later from the Pirates for 1B-L Ike Davis. [4/18]

Thus ends the Ike Davis era in New York. After an offseason of rumors that included names like Tyler Thornburg, Eduardo Rodriguez and even Matt Joyce, the Mets finally found a Davis trade they felt was worthwhile.

Unfortunately for us, the deal cannot be critiqued for another few months. That's because the big piece is reportedly a 2013 draftee who cannot be traded until a year after he signs. While Mets fans dream about Blake Taylor, Cody Dickson and other Bucco youth, they'll have to bide their time by looking at Thornton with optimistic eyes.

Thornton is, to put it nicely, not exactly a prize. Originally drafted by the Athletics from the University of Oregon, Thornton came to the Pirates in late 2012 in exchange for Chris Resop. He reached Triple-A for the first time last season, and posted impressive peripherals; he didn't walk anyone and missed bats with his sinker-slider combo. The league as a whole passed on Thornton in last winter's Rule 5 draft, but his low arm slot could give him a future as a righty-on-righty type.

The bigger picture here is that Lucas Duda is now free to play first base without interruptions or controversy. Obviously if Davis lives up to his hype in Pittsburgh then the Mets will come under fire again. But it seems like, for whatever reason, he was never going to figure things out in New York.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Shawn Camp from Triple-A Lehigh Valley; optioned RHP Jonathan Pettibone to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. [4/19]

Although Pettibone was dreadful against the Rockies on Friday night (yielding eight runs in four innings), this swap was happening no matter what. Cole Hamels will make his season debut on Wednesday, providing the Phillies with a much-needed boost. Camp takes the spot on the 25-man roster in the interim, and should stick beyond Hamels' return. The veteran sinkerballer hadn't pitched in the majors since his release from the Cubs last July, but he figures to get the nod over B.J. Rosenberg.

Fantasy

Cole Hamels

There's really not much to say here from a fantasy perspective, except that you didn't draft Hamels to keep him on your bench, so don't get cute. When it comes to star players, they go into your lineup immediately and without thought. Hamels still has plenty of time to provide great value to those to took a chance on him this March. —Bret Sayre

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated 1B-L Travis Ishikawa for assignment; optioned C-R Tony Sanchez from Triple-A Indianapolis; activated C-R Chris Stewart from the 15-day disabled list (knee surgery). [4/19]
Acquired 1B-L Ike Davis from the Mets for RHP Zach Thornton and a player to be named later. [4/18]

Neal Huntington had a boring winter but, regardless of how things work out or who the player to be named later is, this is the kind of deal you like to see him make.

Davis, for all his struggles, is a talented player. He's strong enough to hit 30-plus home runs, and has a decent idea of the strike zone. Add in his solid glove at the cold corner and Davis is more than a one-dimensional slugger. Alas, there are drawbacks. He likes to tinker, and has the reputation as someone who lets the mental aspects of the game interfere with his performance. Whether those murmurs are legitimate or not is of interest because the Pirates might be an ideal fit.

In recent years, Pittsburgh has become a refuge for pitchers with questionable mental games, be it A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon or perhaps Edinson Volquez. Maybe Davis is the hitter equivalent, or maybe he's just the new Travis Snider (who is off to a surprisingly competent start). If nothing else, he should be a better platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez than Ishikawa.

Fantasy

Ike Davis

And the nation can breathe a sigh of relief as the #FreeIkeDavis movement has finally come to an end. What, you've never heard of it? Must be a fluke. Davis is a very divisive player in fantasy and I fall on the side of him being a good buy-low candidate. He hit cleanup against Marco Estrada on Sunday, which would be a huge boon for his value. As of today, I'd take Davis over the man who stole his job and drove him out of town and with a full season of at-bats against right-handed pitchers going forward, he could get to 25 homers with an average in the .250 to .260 range. And if you're in an OBP league, he's an even better bet. Davis should be owned in nearly all leagues right now, and makes for a great replacement if you're one of the owners who just lost Adam Lind.

Lucas Duda

This finally clears the path to playing time in Queens for Duda and his .818 OPS. Without these concerns, Duda becomes a borderline top-20 first baseman in fantasy leagues and having outfield eligibility only makes the whole package more attractive. He's probably gone in your league, but Duda is worth owning even in shallower mixed leagues.

Gaby Sanchez

True, Sanchez loses playing time because of this, but that's not a bad thing for his fantasy value because he's not good at hitting right-handed pitching. Settling back into his standard short-side of a platoon, he should continue to provide baseline value in NL-only formats. —Bret Sayre

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
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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