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August 5, 2014

Transaction Analysis

The Reasonable Overpay of Kurt Suzuki

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed OF-L Jordan Schafer off waivers from the Braves. [8/3]
Agreed to a two-year extension with C-R Kurt Suzuki worth $12 million with a vesting option for a third year that could increase the deal's value to $18 million. [7/31]

At first blush, this appears to be an overpay for Suzuki—a player who entered the season seemingly on his last legs. After some consideration, if it is an overpay, then it's a reasonable one.

The Twins, ostensibly not sold on Josmil Pinto's defense, needed an alternative behind the plate. Russell Martin is almost certain to receive a large contract, which would've left the Twins choosing from a group that is headed by Suzuki and littered with geriatric backups. Rather than risk starting Gerald Laird or someone of his ilk, Terry Ryan locked in the only catcher who was familiar with his staff and in the midst of a good season—perhaps, in part, due to altered mechanics.

If there is a drawback here, it's that Suzuki's payday puts him closer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia's deal from last winter than others like, say, Jose Molina and Dioner Navarro. Still, $6 million isn't rich enough to keep other teams away if Suzuki continues to play at a decent level. In that sense, it's comparable to the Ryan Doumit extension from a few years ago: not the best value, but an understandable contract that can be moved later if needed.

Think of Schafer as the new Sam Fuld: an extra outfielder who needs to be deployed well in order to provide value. He does a couple of things well—walking, stealing bases, breathing—and many things poorly—hitting lefties, commanding the strike zone, driving the ball. The end result is a cheap, limited player who makes sense for a team with limited outfield options.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired 1B/OF-L Mike Carp; transferred RHP Alexi Ogando to the 60-day disabled list (elbow inflammation). [8/3]

As poorly as the season has gone for the Rangers, credit Jon Daniels for not quitting. Unfortunately, Carp is no cure for what ails them. A breakout 2013 has given way to a puzzling 2014, during which his contact rate has improved while his power numbers declined. Pop is an important part of his game, and without it he has limited appeal. Nonetheless, expect Ron Washington to platoon Carp with J.P. Arencibia—don't laugh—in hopes that another change of scenery will help. Whether Carp is tendered by the Rangers after the season could depend on the results.

NEW YORK METS
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Designated OF-L Bobby Abreu for assignment; recalled OF-L Kirk Nieuwenhuis from Triple-A Las Vegas. [8/4]

If this isn't the end for Abreu then it's close to it. He started well with the Mets, hitting .350/.438/.475 in May, but faded soon thereafter. In fact, from June onward, Abreu recorded just 13 hits in 72 tries. Because he hasn't added value beyond his bat in years, the Mets had no reason to keep running him out there. Perhaps another team, in the hunt for cheap walks, will give him a look. Otherwise, Abreu's name should surface again in a few years, when his Hall of Fame candidacy comes into question.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Signed INF-R Jayson Nix; optioned 3B-R Brent Morel to Triple-A Indianapolis; designated INF-L Dean Anna for assignment. [8/3]

Pedro Alvarez's throwing woes have placed the Pirates in a bind and put their transactions under greater scrutiny. Take the Nix signing. Does adding a more versatile defender mean the Pirates will move Alvarez across the diamond to the cold corner? Maybe. Since Nix can hit lefties and run a little, he could, in theory, free Josh Harrison from the super-utility role; alternatively, he could platoon with Travis Snider until Andrew McCutchen—rumored to be headed for the DL as of this writing—returns.

It's also possible, if not probable, that Nix's addition has no relation to Alvarez's role. The Pirates' brain trust, for their part, appear undecided on whether shifting Alvarez to first base is a) feasible and b) worthwhile. All we can be sure about, then, is that they'd rather not deal with this issue now. Here's hoping Alvarez—for his own sake, above all else—works through his issues sooner than later.

Expect Anna to be claimed by a team that puts emphasis on minor-league numbers. In other words, he should start packing for Cleveland.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Designated 2B-R Dan Uggla and OF-L Tyler Colvin for assignment; selected the contracts of 2B-R Matthew Duffy from Double-A Richmond. [8/1]

Brian Sabean has, without success, attempted to fill his second-base vacancy all year. He's tried discarded veterans, forgotten journeymen, and former first-round picks to no avail. Now Sabean has promoted a player with minimal prospect love from Double-A with the hope he can improve the position. Duffy, a grinder with a utility profile, is thinner than his bat. Bruce Bochy figures to platoon Duffy with Joe Panik until Marco Scutaro returns, or until Sabean finds an upgrade on the waiver wire. Given that the Giants have the league's worst OPS at the keystone, that shouldn't be too hard.

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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