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November 29, 2009

Transaction Action

Turkey Talk

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted LHP Chris Waters to Norfolk (Triple-A); lost RHP Radhames Liz on a waiver claim by the Padres. [11/25]

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired INF-L Tug Hulett from the Royals for cash or a PTBNL. [11/25]

A nifty little pickup, in that the Sox added an infielder more likely to be the next Nick Green-like tepid phenomenon than the last Nick Green tepid phenomenon was. I can't wait for that first regular-season weekend series against the Royals, because I think we already know how this story's going to go. Jed Lowrie will be on the DL with beriberi, forcing Terry Francona to start Hulett at shortstop against his former team. Hulett will put the hurt on the likes of Bryan Bullington or Kyle Farnsworth or Keith Creel or Kid Creole or both Coconuts or whoever it is that Dayton Moore randomly conjures up to round out his team's pitching staff as part of his insidious master plan. Six extra-base hits later (including a game-winning 15th-inning shot off of Farnsworth), and a new transient frenzy will excite paroxysms of elaborate exaltation of Tug Hulett the Newly Stupendous Awesome One.*

It's actually a nice turn for Hulett, in that he's spent most of the last three years mashing at Triple-A in three different organizations. While he's not going to be a good everyday shortstop if a starter goes down, that was the initial expectation for Green as well, and unlike Green, Hulett has a pretty good reputation as a batsman from the left side: he can handle lefties, walked in 10 percent of his career plate appearances in Triple-A, and posted a .171 ISO in those PA. Add in that he's headed into his age-27 season, he's not a slug on the bases, and he can play second and third well enough, and he's certainly a useful bench addition and an improvement on the Greens or the Gil Velazquez types, and certainly worth investing a 40-man spot on over the winter.

*: By July, people will be quietly asking if Lowrie's recent bout with leptospirosis has run its course. New team consultant Dr. Anthony Fauci will pass on the good news that Lowrie poses no threat to his teammates, but may have to wait a bit longer before posing one to opponents.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-R Andruw Jones to a one-year, $500,000 contract. [11/25]

One might suggest this is the downside of having hauled in Jake Peavy and Alex Rios at such expense in blood and treasure, but I rather like the move for what it suggests. First, the money's barely a tick above the minimum, so the investment's meaningless; if Jones is done, they've lost nothing. If Jones' awful second half means he's done all over again, the Sox have lost nothing; his .212 road ISO last season suggests he wasn't just a Texas confection, so it's worth seeing if he can help, espectially if, as a pull-hitting fly-ball generator, he's especially well equipped to take advantage of the Cell's friendly features. Second, it keeps open the possibilities that they might bring back Jim Thome to DH, with Jones providing a right-handed spotter when he isn't knocking around in one outfield corner or the other. Third, that would mean another "name" outfielder's in the house who might encourage Ozzie Guillen to keep putting Alex Rios in center, making for a stronger overall lineup than if they revisit the horrors of Podzillerie out there. If he isn't done, it's a steal, and if he is, it's about as expense-free as a big-league fact-finding mission can be.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Bryan Bullington to a minor-league contract. [11/24]
Signed RHP Josh Rupe and OF-L Buck Coats to minor-league contracts; traded INF-L Tug Hulett to the Red Sox for future considerations. [11/25]

The pitchers are about what we've come to expect from the add-ons of the Moore era, only representing bad news if they're brought up from Omaha at some point; it's more symbolic of where the franchise has fallen to, that they're down to Pirates and Rangers discards who might compete for a mop-up role. On the other hand, this being the Royals, having multiple mop-up men in this age of hyperspecialization makes sense; you can have the "down three to five runs" guy, and the "down by more than five runs" guy. As for Coats, he might stick around as an outfield reserve, but there's no reason to get excited, in that he doesn't really hit all that well. An everyday player who hits .302/.361/.416 in Las Vegas in his age-27 season, as Coats did, is your basic non-factor, a singles hitter with modest speed, and with a walk rate below 10 percent of his PAs. That might work for the Royals, but perhaps nowhere else.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed MI-R John McDonald to a two-year, $3 million contract. [11/25]
Signed SS-R Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $2.75 million contract with a $2.5 million club option for 2011. [11/26]

Credit Alex Anthopolous for jumping early and resolving his team's obligations as far as employing shortstops simply and relatively cheaply. I know, some will rail about the expense of retaining McDonald, especially with his defensive peformance hopscotching from excellent to dubious to good all over again in recent season, and given that he's an offensive non-factor. I guess I come back to the fact that the money's somewhat industry-standard for a veteran big-league reserve, and spending it isn't really expensive, while it does at least have the symbolic value of showing people the Jays still sign checks people can cash after signing standard-rates deals.

I especially like grabbing Gonzalez at this price this early, as he may well be the steal from out of the shallow pool of available shortstops. Admittedly, I'm buying a Funck-y line of reasoning, but Gonzalez was pressed into action by the Reds before he was entirely healthy and entirely ready after missing all of 2008, so his Cincinnati batting stats shouldn't be taken as the death knell they might seem to represent. That said, I don't want to go wild for his good six weeks as a Red Sock, but I think if you wanted to posit a ~.300 OBP and ~.400 SLG with good defense at short for 2010, I'd take that as reasonable. Add in the team option, and there's a pretty good chance that Gonzalez makes both a solid placeholder and an excellent Deadline Day rental by a contender who needs a shortstop.

By having bought both men, McDonald represents adequate insurance against Gonzalez's collapsing badly (again), with that option year on Gonzalez representing the club's ability to opt out in such a scenario. Since the team had no ready internal option, this seems like a reasonable bit of patchwork, especially since there isn't much at stake beyond a fight for fourth place in the AL East, and dealing Roy Halladay would render such lofty goals somewhat pointless. To belabor the obvious, whatever the Jays accomplish in 2010 towards becoming a competitive franchise again depends more on what they get for Halladay (and perhaps Gonzalez in July, in a lesser vein) than on the money spent or the identity of their Opening Day shortstop.


ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Juan Abreu to a one-year contract. [11/24]

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted RHP Brad James to Round Rock (Triple-A). [11/25]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed 1B-L Andy Tracy and C-R Paul Hoover to minor-league contracts; signed OF-L DeWayne Wise and INF-R Wilson Valdez to minor-league contracts. [11/25]

Your next crop of Iron Pigs isn't quite that different from the last one, but Wise has his uses as an additional outfield reserve, while Valdez is a token veteran middle infielder. Both are the kinds of players you don't mind having if you need to paper over a short-term absence, and you don't mind losing if somebody snags them on waivers when you need to return them to the Piggery.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Snagged RHP Radhames Liz from the Orioles on a waiver claim. [11/25]

Liz is a good example of the fate that awaits the older wave of Orioles pitching prospects, what with the new crew coming into their own. While he struggled with his command while being jerked between starting and relief roles, bouncing down to Bowie and back, he's only just turned 26, he throws hard, and he already has some measure of big-league experience. Put him in Petco in the weaker league, either as a starter or in the pen, see what Bud Black can make of him, rinse, repeat, and enjoy. It beats having to survive on no-upside pickups like the Cha Seung Baeks of the world, and represents a nice little snag for an organization still in need of talent on every front.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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