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May 29, 2014

Transaction Analysis

No Way, Jose

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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Acquired C-R Nick Hundley and cash considerations from the Padres for LHP Troy Patton. [5/24]

During the winter, rumor had it that the Orioles considered trading Matt Wieters. Before Baltimore would agree to a deal, they wanted to secure an adequate replacement. When none surfaced, Dan Duquette opted to retain his franchise backstop, who will become a free agent after next season. With Wieters on the mend now for heaven knows how long, Duquette was forced to find a substitute anyway. On those grounds, Hundley is a fair, if underwhelming pick to fill in.

Hundley has disappointed since he signed a contract extension in 2012. His ensuing season was engulfed in poor play, and ended early due to knee surgery. While his follow-up effort represented an improvement, he still entered 2014 third on the Padres' depth chart, behind Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera. As is the case with most three-catcher arrangements, playing time was sparse, leaving Hundley—reputed to be a proud, emotional individual—to struggle with his new role and limited opportunities. Comparatively, he should find improved conditions in Baltimore, where he ought to get the nod most days over defensive whiz Caleb Joseph.

Hundley is better at the plate than behind it. He is an eager beaver, which explains his so-so walk rates as well as any wood shavings found around the batter's box. His power numbers, typically better than average, should fatten with a move from Petco's unfriendly confines to Camden Yards. Defensively, Hundley has an arm that grades as more accurate than strong. Spring work with A.J. Hinch has smoothed (and improved) his receiving mechanics, according to the eye test and our numbers (in a small sample).

Overall, Hundley falls short of Wieters. He is an improvement over Clevenger and Joseph, however, and gives the Orioles options—like the potential to keep him around next season for $5 million.

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Released RHP Jose Valverde; recalled RHP Vic Black from Triple-A Las Vegas. [5/26]

Another Mets closer gets released due to money. You can understand why the Mets moved on from Kyle Farnsworth and Valverde—namely, neither is good anymore—you just wonder if there was a better way to go about it. The mysticism surrounding the closer's role is almost dead and gone, yet the label maintains a certain expectation of job security; not in the sense that the pitcher is beyond replacing if he struggles, just that his demotion would mean working middle relief. By installing both pitchers as closer, then cutting them weeks later over cash, the Mets have created the wrong impression—and for little to no gain.

Will any of this matter heading forward? Probably not. Veteran relievers looking for one last crack at the majors are unlikely to shun the Mets because of how Valverde and Farnsworth were handled. The concern here is more about what is going on within the front office and dugout. Sandy Alderson is a bright executive with an accomplished past. He knows how to build teams and handle business. So what's with all the fuss? Nothing has changed about Valverde in the past two weeks; if he was this close to getting the ax then why give him the job in the first place? This is a small issue, but it would've been a non-issue with a little more foresight.

By the way, Black is a better pitcher than Valverde—even though his decision to go with "Vic" over "Victor" loses him some coolness points. His power fastball-curveball combination is good enough that, if his control permits, he should work late in games. For now, he'll help Terry Collins get the ball to his new closer, Jenrry Mejia.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated RHP Vin Mazzaro for assignment; recalled RHP Brandon Cumpton from Triple-A Indianapolis. [5/26]

Activated RHP Jason Grilli from the 15-day disabled list (oblique); optioned C-R Tony Sanchez to Triple-A Indianapolis. [5/23]

Designated RHP Phil Irwin and LHP Wandy Rodriguez for assignment; claimed RHP Josh Wall off waivers from the Angels; re-instated C-R Russell Martin from the 15-day disabled list. (strained hamstring). [5/22]

While Pirates fans await Gregory Polanco's eventual promotion, the move from Rodriguez to Cumpton deserves some fanfare as well. Cumpton, though not as good as his current big-league numbers suggest—2.55 ERA, 4.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio—is a capable back-of-the-rotation starter. He is equipped with a low-90s sinker and assortment of capable secondary pitches, and should eat innings. That's more than Rodriguez can say these days; he started six games and lasted fewer than six innings in all but one of them. The big promotion or not, it's a move that should improve Pittsburgh.

It may not seem like it—he is, after all, en route to release waivers—but Rodriguez's career numbers with the Pirates are close to his career marks with the Astros. His ERA was 0.12 runs higher in the Steel City, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio improved by 0.13. The difference in eras and ballparks make those gaps wider than they are here, but the point remains the same: Rodriguez was no disaster during his time in Pittsburgh. Injuries just won out in the end.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired LHP Troy Patton from the Orioles for C-R Nick Hundley and cash considerations. [5/24]

Everyone knew Hundley was the odd backstop out, but Josh Byrnes waited nearly two months to turn informed speculation into fact. In exchange for Hundley's freedom, Byrnes negotiated a better return than anticipated. Patton missed the season's first 25 games due to a positive amphetamines test; luckily for him, he shouldn't need an extra boost to get through the Padres' shorter-than-average games. Although Patton kinda looks like a left-handed specialist, what with a closed landing and three-quarters arm slot, he owns reverse splits for his career thanks to a deep arsenal crafted during his starting days. Paired with Alex Torres, Patton gives Bud Black two versatile southpaws to call upon late in games.

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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