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May 19, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Billy's Blanks

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated 3B-R Jeff Keppinger from the 15-day disabled list (shoulder); designated him for assignment. [5/14]

Welcome back—now get outta here. Keppinger's stay on the south side ends less than halfway through his three-year, $12 million contract. Rick Hahn signed the bat-control wiz intent on using him as a stopgap until the White Sox found an alternative at the hot corner. It turns out Hahn found his alternative before Keppinger could find his groove.

The White Sox have an array of interesting young infielders, and choosing to keep those guys around and active, rather than demoting one in deference to the vet, seems like a smart call. Most general managers get lectured at some point or another during the season about sunk costs. Here, Hahn made the decision to not allow a poor investment interfere with his club for the sake of saving face. You can question the original deal if you'd like, but at least he's willing to adjust.

Keppinger should find a new gig once he passes through release waivers. His offensive game remains all about putting the ball in play; he doesn't walk or strike out much, but he can make contact on demand. That skill has its uses. Given Keppinger's past success against southpaws, and his ability to defend a few positions adequately, he ought to reward whatever team gives him the chance to restart his career—much like a few years ago with the Rays.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Casey Coleman from Triple-A Omaha; designated OF-R Justin Maxwell for assignment. [5/16]

The Royals acquired Maxwell for the stretch run last season, and he played well over a 35-game stretch, which included a memorable grand slam. His role lessened after Dayton Moore landed Norichika Aoki, and he struggled in limiting playing time before getting axed. The book on Maxwell remains ever the same: he intrigues with a power-speed combination, but is prone to strikeouts and injuries. Some team will add him as a spare outfielder, and be better for it.

Seven players with the Johnson surname have played in the majors this season, including a Kris and a Chris. There have also been seven Ramirezes and Gonzalezes; five Perezes and Davises; and a ton of names with four players each, like Garcia and Jones. Only two Colemans, however, and both reside in the K.C. bullpen. Casey, the Coleman of note, is a third-generation pitcher. His father, Joe, accumulated more than 2,500 big-league innings, and his grandfather, also Joe, threw more than 1,100 of his own. Casey is nearing 170; if he wants to take the family record, he'll need to do better than he did with the Cubs.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF/1B-R Kyle Blanks from the Padres for OF-L Jake Goebbert and a player to be named later; designated 1B-L Daric Barton for assignment. [5/15]

Just what is it about these giant Padres that does it for the Athletics? Blanks joins Nate Freiman and Dave Kingman as towering ex-Friars who spent time in Oakland; one can only assume Bill Davis would have found his way to Oaktown, too, had he hung around a few more seasons..

Anyway, Blanks is a tall feller short on guarantees. His raw strength is impressive, and his track record against southpaws is notable, but he's had a problem staying on the field. Last year Blanks topped the 200-plate appearance mark for the first time, despite previously appearing in parts of four big-league seasons. You might suspect that his large frame works against him, with his back and knees paying the debt to gravity; that's not the case, however. Blanks has torn his UCL and plantar fascia, he's required surgery on his shoulder, and he's even battled Achilles tendonitis. There are drawbacks to height—the expectation that you can rebound, for instance—but they haven't caused Blanks' woes.

You can understand why Billy Beane is nonetheless willing to take on Blanks. Statistically, the big man has been an above-average hitter throughout his various big-league stays, and that alone is worth the cost of an over-age extra outfielder. Factor in Oakland's success in healing Jed Lowrie, who had a limiting injury history of his own, and perhaps the A's see reason for optimism in Blanks' medicals. If nothing else, Blanks give the A's a Godzilla tie-in to exploit, should they wish to do so.

To make room for Blanks, the A's designated Barton for assignment. This is the third designation in the past 15 months for Barton, who was off to a horrendous start. Don't feel too bad for him though; after all, he's tallied more than 2,000 plate appearances even though he's a first baseman with a career .118 ISO. (Former teammate Sam Fuld has a career .102 ISO.) Barton doesn't conform to the positional norms, but he has added value in the past with his good glove and walk-obsessive ways. He's a similar player to Mike Hargrove, albeit one who bops more (if you can believe that) and walks less (if you can believe that), so perhaps there's a managerial job in his future. For now, he's headed to the minors.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed 2B/OF-S Ben Zobrist on the 15-day disabled list (dislocated thumb); purchased the contact of INF-L Cole Figueroa from Triple-A Durham. [5/15]

Old reliable. Zobrist had played in at least 150 games in each of the past five seasons. Unfortunately, by virtue of missing the next two weeks, his streak will end. This is Zobrist's first stint on the DL since 2008, when he fractured his thumb diving for a ball in spring training; this time, he dislocated it on a stolen-base attempt. Prior to the injury, his season had progressed as normal: he was hitting for a decent average, walking, providing the occasional extra-base hit, defending wherever he was needed, and receiving more attention for his lack of attention than for his play. The Rays will turn to Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe, both flexible defenders with lesser bats, to fill the void.

Other Players with Active 150+ Games Played Streaks

Name

Period

Duration

Adrian Gonzalez

2006-

Eight years

Prince Fielder

2006-

Eight years

Robinson Cano

2007-

Seven years

Hunter Pence

2008-

Six years

Billy Butler

2009-

Five years

Figueroa becomes the third player on the Rays' 25-man roster who was acquired in the Jason Bartlett trade from a few years ago. (Adam Russell, the fourth player, is the one no longer with the organization.) The ever-excellent Adam Sobsey covered Figueroa elsewhere. The gist: He's a coach's son with more skills and wits than tools. Figueroa ought to see action against righties.

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Randy Wolf to a one-year deal worth $1 million plus incentives; designated RHP Henry Rodriguez for assignment; optioned LHP Dan Jennings to Triple-A New Orleans; purchased the contract of RHP Anthony DeSclafani from Double-A Jacksonville. [5/14]

In pitching three innings on Wednesday night, Wolf completed a year-long comeback attempt. The veteran southpaw missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but his big, slow breaking ball looked no worse for the wear. Wolf was last effective in 2011, and his minor-league numbers from a six-game stint in the minors don't suggest he's going to correct that downward trend anytime soon. Yet it doesn't feel like a coincidence that Wolf made his first appearance on the same night DeSclafani went, so expect to see the veteran displace the rookie, if only for a few starts.

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Recalled LHP Josh Edgin and C-L Juan Centeno from Triple-A Las Vegas; placed C-R Travis d'Arnaud on the 7-day disabled list (concussion); RHP Kyle Farnsworth rejected an outright assignment and became a free agent. [5/15]

Farnsworth recorded the save in his final appearance with the Mets. A few days later, the club released him in order to save money. You can understand then why Farnsworth was angered by the move. During his farewell meeting with the press, he expressed a desire to pitch against the Mets—you and every other pitcher this side of the Atlantic, Kyle. Farnsworth has since signed with the Astros, who conclude the regular season with, wouldn't you know it, the Mets. The catch here is that Farnsworth is unlikely to last on the Houston roster that long. His effectiveness has continued to slip, and the Astros will probably replace him once some of their arms return to health. If Farnsworth somehow does survive until September, he'll provide a pulse to an otherwise lifeless series.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of PH-L Greg Dobbs; optioned C-R Sandy Leon to Triple-A Syracuse; placed CF-R Eury Perez on the 60-day disabled list. [5/16]

Pinch-hitters are like middle relievers: once proven, they're golden. Dobbs has not posted an above-average OPS since 2008, but it hasn't mattered. The Marlins employed him for parts of four seasons—including this year, after owner Jeffrey Loria negotiated the new deal himself—before Dan Jennings ended the relationship, and it didn't take long for the Nationals to become the rebound team. Dobbs does make some sense for the Nats, who are without their starting corner infielders, in that he can play first and third base and swings lefty; just keep him away from southpaws and the team owner.

In a move that belongs in August, not May, the Nationals promoted Perez and placed him on the 60-day disabled list in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

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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