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August 11, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Cubs Page Turner

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Acquired RHP Vinnie Pestano from the Indians in exchange for RHP Michael Clevinger. [8/7]

Jerry Dipoto values bullpen depth the way others value money: enough is never enough. Pestano is the fourth reliever acquired by Dipoto in the past month, and the most curious of the bunch. Ordained Cleveland's Closer of the Future a few seasons ago, he has failed to become the Right-Handed Specialist of the Present thanks to an elbow injury, velocity dips, and command sputters. Why did Dipoto acquire a busted situational reliever? There are three theories: 1) he thinks Pestano can contribute in September; 2) he views Pestano as a worthwhile reclamation project who, if fixed, could succeed free-agent-to-be Jason Grilli; or 3) he believes all of the preceding. For now, Pestano will pitch in Triple-A.

The cost for Pestano is Clevinger, a former fourth-round pick who missed time due to Tommy John surgery. Although his first go-around in Advanced-A has skewered his statistical profile, there are things to like about his game. Clevinger has the potential for a deep, if average, arsenal, and the body to elicit phrases like "workhorse" and "innings eater." Provided he can stay on the mound, he could develop into a back-end starter.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Acquired RHP Jacob Turner from the Marlins in exchange for RHPs Tyler Bremer and Jose Arias. [8/8]

The new Jake Arrieta? Probably not. That Jed Hoyer added Turner at this cost—two organizational arms—makes sense anyway. Turner has the size and strength teams want in their starters. Unfortunately, his arsenal never flowered like expected, leaving him with a no. 4 starter ceiling. Because Turner lacks options, he'll need to develop in the bigs. Chris Bosio has done some good work this season, and it's possible Turner is his latest masterpiece. Even if he fails, it was worth the shot.

From Miami's perspective, seeking an upgrade over Turner made sense—especially if they intend to chase their playoff hopes. Whether Brad Penny is that upgrade or just a more popular figure in franchise history is to be determined. Turner's option status ostensibly worked against Miami getting a better return, as only so many teams were willing to plug him into their rotation right now. Dan Jennings has made a career out of evaluating young talent, and if he thinks Turner was worth moving, then he might be worth moving. Still, the circumstances around the trade are bizarre.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Acquired RHP Kevin Correia from the Twins in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. [8/9]
Acquired RHP Roberto Hernandez from the Phillies in exchange for two players to be named later or cash considerations. [8/7]

Over a three-day span, Ned Colletti cornered the market on cheap, available back-of-the-rotation starters. Each deal is sensible given other happenings in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers needed another capable starter. Josh Beckett is on the disabled list with a hip impingement and Dan Haren, though healthy, has recorded a quality start in just three of his past 10 tries. Hernandez might not be the ideal candidate to start in the playoffs, but he'll do. An xFIP darling, Hernandez's command and inability to hold baserunners inflate his ERA beyond what the fielding-independent metrics suggest it should be. Nonetheless, his stuff—sinker, change, slider—is quality and he's proved durable throughout his big-league career.

Correia could also contribute to the rotation if needed. For now, he'll replace Paul Maholm—who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament—in the bullpen as the designated swingman.

NEW YORK METS
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Designated OF-R Chris Young for assignment; recalled OF-L Matt den Dekker from Triple-A Las Vegas. [8/8]

Young has played in different teams, leagues, and roles in each of the past three seasons, yet disappointment has remained a constant. The Mets took an understandable one-year gamble on him, hopeful that he would play well enough to become a trade chit. He didn't, even though the Mets gave him more time than was necessary. What Young did do was improve his strikeout rate. But at what cost? His power production—one of his top marketable attributes entering the season—plunged and, without a balancing spike in average, he was left without a way to add value at the plate. Defense and baserunning are important, but Young does neither well enough to atone for his offense. That reality, along with his age, will leave him choosing between minor-league deals this offseason.

The Mets' succession plan in left field is a platoon that will feature a heavy dosage of den Dekker. A high-quality defender, he hasn't hit enough to profile as more than a reserve. On the occasions when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, the Mets will turn to Eric Campbell—that over-age rookie who has played all over the place while maintaining a high, if empty, average. Hey, it might be an upgrade.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Designated RHP Ernesto Frieri for assignment; activated 3B-L Pedro Alvarez from the bereavement list. [8/8]

The same problems that plagued Frieri in Anaheim intensified during his stay in Pittsburgh. Now he's headed to the waiver wire, then likely the minors. What happens over the next two months doesn't matter because, barring a dramatic turnaround, there's no chance the Pirates tender Frieri a contract. Jason Grilli's continued success with the Angels will create more second-guessing. The Pirates made a justifiable trade. It just didn't work. Sometimes you get Mark Melancon, sometimes you get Frieri.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Named A.J. Preller general manager. [8/6]

When Josh Byrnes became San Diego's general manager, he wanted to turn player development into an organizational strength. Labeling Byrnes' efforts a failure would be unfair—the Padres entered the season with the league's 11th-best farm system, after all. But he didn't accumulate enough top prospects, or graduate enough quality players to be considered a success—and that's without holding him accountable for the wave of pitching injuries that swept through the system.

Ownership's decision to hire Preller as their new GM means self-sufficiency remains the goal. The implication is clear: the Padres know they can't afford other teams' good players, so they have to develop their own. Preller, regarded as a quality talent evaluator, seems qualified to lead the charge—especially when it comes to San Diego's efforts in Latin America (a place where Preller has found his share of success and controversy).

Finding and developing that young talent will take time. In the interim, Preller will need to figure out whether he's following the path taken by Dan Jennings or by Jeff Luhnow. Should Preller choose to strip the roster, San Diego has a number of players—Andrew Cashner and Evereth Cabrera included—who could net interesting returns. The key, no matter the choice, will be patience. That's been a problem in San Diego, where they've employed four general managers in five years.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Claimed LHP Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees. [8/5]

Any deal that sees the Yankees on the giving end of a salary dump is unusual. Thornton, who received a surprising two-year deal during the winter, performed well with the Yankees in a role that differed from his days with the White Sox. Joe Girardi, widely considered one of the best bullpen handlers in the league, used the veteran southpaw against a career-high percentage of same-handed batters. Odds are Matt Williams won't show the same discipline and skill, so it's possible Thornton will post worse numbers heading forward due to suboptimal usage. The good news is Thornton is under contract through next season, leaving Williams with plenty of time to study the Girardi playbook.

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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