Acquired OF-R Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser for C-R Steve Clevenger. [12/1]
Chris Davis has been sort of fun to watch over the last few years, hasn’t he? Sadly (for them; not, presumably, for Davis), Orioles fans will probably have to buy an MLB.tv subscription to get a long look at him in 2016: he’s a free agent, and he’s almost certainly not coming back to Balitmore. If you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said he’s probably not coming back to Baltimore, but then the Orioles went and did a thing like trading for Mark Trumbo (in fact, they did exactly that), and I changed my mind.
Trumbo isn’t a particularly good outfielder, but he might be a passable first baseman, and that’s likely where the Orioles will play him. As their roster stands right now, he could see a little time in right field (paired with Ryan Flaherty) or in left, where Baltimore has a Steve Pearce-shaped hole (worry not, that doesn’t mean it’s a big one), but I suspect the Orioles will pick up one of the multitude of mid-range outfield options in the coming weeks and stick Trumbo mostly at first.
In any event, they’ll hope that Trumbo finds a way to tap back into his power and produce at even an acceptable level in 2016 (he’ll be a free agent in 2017). PECOTA is bullish, projecting 28 homers, a .266 TAv, and 1.3 WARP. I’m sure the Orioles will be delighted with that, but I’m not sure they’ll get it. Even if they don’t, though, Trumbo is a perfectly fine stopgap at first base for a year. If he works out, they can take a crack at re-signing him to a cheaper deal. If he doesn’t, not much harm done. Riefenhauser, who we covered in the trade that brought him to Seattle last month, is an intriguing slider-first arm who’s been downright terrible in two major league campaigns. A reclamation project, but one who might allow them to trade an excess bullpen arm, like Brian Matusz.
But that’s not a bad thing to pick up in exchange for Clevenger, who won’t be much missed. Matt Wieters—just as he would have before the trade—will handle much of the catching in the Charm City, and Caleb Joseph will help out as well. Like I said, it sort of makes sense for both sides, with perhaps a slight edge to the Baltimore side of things, if both incoming players hit their 75th-percentile projection. —Rian Watt
Acquired C-R Tony Cruz for IF-R Jose Martinez. [12/1]
In 2015, the Royals won the World Series. That’s a really good thing—at least, one assumes, from the perspective of Kansas City fans—but its joys came at the expense of, among other things, Salvador Perez’s legs. Perez, the Venezuelan native on the ludicrously under-market contract ($7mm/5, signed in 2012), caught more games in 2015 than any other catcher: 142, plus 19 more in the postseason. That’s a lot of games, and the Royals presumably looked at Drew Butera (their backup catcher du jour) and found him lacking. That’s a shame, because Butera is a bit of a cult hero, and it’s also a little puzzling: Butera is a better fielder than Cruz (-0.4 FRAA over the last two years to Cruz’s -6.8) and a better hitter (.202 TAv in ‘15 to Cruz’s .179).
Now, I’m half Bengali (other half Scottish), and there’s a Bengali phrase that I think applies here, loosely translated: “One side of the turd or the other, it’s still a turd.” With all due respect to both Mr. Butera and Mr. Cruz, who I’m sure are demonstrably un-turdlike people, those are pretty turdlike TAvs. Fact is, these are small differences we’re talking about, and it’s possible the Royals saw something in Cruz’s makeup that they liked a bit more than in Butera’s. Or they were worried about what Butera might command in arbitration, and plan to non-tender him later today (they’ve already designated Francisco Pena to make room for Cruz). Or … point is, there’s a lot that could go into this deal that we don’t see on the surface, and in the end, it probably doesn’t matter that much. —Rian Watt
Acquired 1B-L Yonder Alonso and LHP Marc Rzepczynski from the Padres in exchange for LHPs Drew Pomeranz, Jose Torres and a PTBNL. [12/2]
Like Kyle Blanks a year and a half ago (and others before him), the A's are taking another shot on a former Padres first baseman, although the only things Blanks and Alonso have in common are a defensive position and a suspect health profile.
Alonso, once a blue-chip prospect, has averaged just 95 games played over the last three years with San Diego; last season he missed significant time due to both back and shoulder issues, and he was previously done in by right hand/wrist/arm injuries. When healthy, he's a contact-oriented, line-drive hitter who makes Sean Casey look like a one-time source of legitimate power, deriving most of his value from on-base percentage and solid glovework.
At this point, Alonso works best in a strict platoon, not so much because he hammers righties (.273 multi-year TAv) but because he just isn't good enough to warrant an everyday nod. The A's have non-tendered fellow lefty-hitting first baseman Ike Davis, leaving right hander Mark Canha as an obvious platoon partner. Canha did show a major reverse split in his first big-league showing last season, TAving just .232 against lefties (small-sample alert), and his minor-league track record suggests he might not provide typical righty-vs-lefty splits.
Alonso, who will turn 29 in April, has two years of club control remaining and is projected to earn $2.5 million this year per MLB Trade Rumors.
Rzepczynski is a well-traveled lefty teetering between an existence as a high-leverage LOOGY and a mop-up man. The good news: Coming off a season in which he posted a 5.66 ERA in 35 innings, Rzepczynski's sinker-slider repertoire actually produced career-bests in both groundball (70 percent) and strikeout (26 percent) rates. His work against same-side hitters, which has always been stellar, slipped just a touch; lefties OPSed .661 off him, ~.100 points off his career average. And, shoot, 35 innings.
The bad news: 30-year-old high-leverage LOOGYs coming off bad seasons—results-wise—are often just a few ugly innings away from life in a mop-up role, and Rzepczynski's downright helplessness against righties limits his versatility (hence the whole LOOGY or bust thing). Rzepczynski, in his final year before free agency, joins a new-look A's bullpen and projects—for now, anyway—as the go-to late-inning lefty before Sean Doolittle. —Dustin Palmateer
Acquired R-C Steve Clevenger for R-OF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser. [12/1]
There was a time, not too long ago, when trading Mark Trumbo for Steve Clevenger would have been considered some sort of crime. Although I hesitate to pinpoint it exactly, I’d say that that period ended just after the 2013 season. At that point, Trumbo was coming off his second straight 30-homer, 1.7+ WARP campaign, and Clevenger was getting 86 percent of his plate appearances at Triple-A. My, how the mighty have fallen. Today, Trumbo is an Oriole (as is Riefenhauser, though that’s less important), Clevenger is a Mariner, and no cash—as a bribe, or in any other form—appears to have changed hands.
Some salient facts that have led us to this point: Trumbo is expensive, as his first year of arbitration eligibility (2014) came just as his value was at its highest. He made $6.9 million last year, was probably in line to make $8-9 million in 2016, and has paired that high salary with performances that have made him a posterboy for mediocrity ever since he left Anaheim by trade during that fateful 2013-14 offseason.
Pair that fact pattern with a Seattle roster bursting at the seams after Jerry Dipoto’s recent maneuvering, a disaster zone at catcher for the Mariners in 2015 (their 28 wRC+ from the position was the worst in the majors, by a lot), and an Orioles club keen to replace an almost-certainly-departing Chris Davis at first base (see below), and you have the makings of a trade that actually sort of makes sense for both sides.
Clevenger should produce at levels a tick below average offensively, and a tick above average defensively, both of which will be improvements on Seattle’s situation from last year. The Mariners will also save about $8 million in the bargain, which they might be able to spend on a stopgap solution at first base until Jesus Montero or even Robinson Cano move there full time. Riefenhauser? Well, he wasn’t very good either of the last two years (in Tampa Bay, from whence Seattle plucked him last month), and he’ll help clear some roster and a tiny bit of salary space for Seattle. —Rian Watt
Acquired LHPs Drew Pomeranz, Jose Torres and a PTBNL from the Athletics in exchange for 1B-L Yonder Alonso and LHP Marc Rzepczynski. [12/2]
The Padres are playing the service time game with the masters of the craft, exchanging three years of Alonso-Rzepczynski for nine years of Pomeranz-Torres, all while saving money and clearing first base for a potential Wil Myers full-time position switch.
Pomeranz showed flexibility last season on the mound, starting nine game through May before switching to a relief role in which he worked for more than an inning in 27 percent of his appearances and less than an inning in 43 percent of his appearances. The Padres can choose to go one of three ways with him, either turning him into a back-end option in a rotation that's short on depth, using him as a swingman, or converting him into a conventional one-inning-or-less reliever.
Equipped with a sturdy 6'5'', 240-pound frame, low-to-mid 90s heat (depending on the role), and a good curveball, Pomeranz, like most pitchers, offers the best upside as a starter. Since reaching a career-high 147 and 1/3 professional innings in 2012, however, the left hander hasn't cracked 120 since. Whether that's due to workload issues or reluctance from his teams to send him out there every fifth day—or some combination of both—is another question, but the simple fact that he hasn't logged hefty inning totals through his age-26 season portends that a bullpen role awaits. Plus, he's much better against lefties than righties. Either way, the Padres have options, and Rzepczynski's departure clears a spot for a reliable left-handed reliever should the rotation thing not work out. —Dustin Palmateer
After five years of uninspiring results as a starter, the Athletics moved Torres to the bullpen in 2015, and it appears to have paid off. The Venezuelan left-hander throws 92-94 mph from a low three-quarters arm slot with some life, and the lack of elite command doesn't matter as much in short spurts. He'll also show an above-average curve that is a slurvy but with just enough depth/spin to be effective, and he threw the pitch for strikes more out of the bullpen than as a starter. Walks are still an issue (23 in just over 73 innings last year), and if he's ever going to pitch in high-leverage situations, he'll need to limit the self-inflicted damage.
Torres is likely a LOOGY, but if he can throw more strikes, there's a chance he ends up being a guy you can throw in the 7th or 8th inning. —Christopher Crawford