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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

Related Content:  Depth,  The Who,  Depth Chart

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

smallflowers

I'm quite impressed -- and as a R-Sox fan quite horrified -- that the Jays inked Al-Gonz for such unrisen dough. McDonald is a nice spread too, given his popularity in town and ability to play the position post-deadline deal, if needed. The cheese on this heartburn inducing pie is that they'll now offer Scutaro arb, threatening to toss him in an outer corner if he accepts, burning him with the Type-A stigmata to all suitors if he declines. This seems deliciously evil by the Blue Birds, and quite a welcome blow of healthy competition far too absent from their recent working-class work-outs. This isn't close to the kind of total org-bobble that they need to reach the post-season, but I do think this adds 1 win of the 25 that they'll require for respectibility.

Nov 29, 2009 15:06 PM
rating: 1
 
goldenyeti

I think as Red Sox fans we just have to accept that Theo Epstein refuses as a matter of principle to employ a competent shortstop for longer than half a season, and live with this quirk along with otherwise excellent management.

It's either that or Jed Lowrie has compromising pictures.

Nov 30, 2009 09:25 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

When did the Red Sox employ a competent shortstop for half a season?

Nov 30, 2009 10:35 AM
rating: 2
 
kmbart

Christina--nothing about the Juan Castro deal that has the city of Philadelphia buzzing these days? I take it your hand too busy being raised in the air as an answer to his agent's asking, "Who doesn't like Juan Castro?" to type anything.

Nov 29, 2009 15:13 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Waiting until there's an actual signature to officialize the deal. Obviously, it's coming down the pike, and just as obviously needless, but beyond saying, "From the people who spent money on Miguel Cairo..." for the moment, I'll stick with Earl Weaver's suggestion that your backup shortstop should stay in the piggery until needed. Given Jimmy Rollins' durability, that's generally "never," although that may well change in the years to come. Putting Juan Castro on the Phillies isn't quite as low as auctioning off the 25th slot to any biped with money who wants a free shot at a ride to a pennant, but it is what comes to mind. Paying him more than the minimum would be a mistake, but the Phillies are the sort of team that would have been well-served to employing someone like Hulett (esp. in their park), who would be a useful pinch-hitter beyond taking that once-monthly start at short.

Nov 29, 2009 16:14 PM
 
gobraves123

Christina--According to everything I've read, the Braves actually signed Juan Abreu to a major-league contract. He was a minor-league free-agent, but they gave him a major-league deal that includes a 40-man roster spot. Mind giving us Braves fans a morsel of analysis?

Nov 30, 2009 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Nope, my bad, repeating previous wire reports that it was a minor-league deal, so right you are (with the transaction corrected to reflect it). Because Abreu lost all of 2007 to an elbow injury, the Dominican's been old for his leagues the last two years, but he's got reliable low/mid-90s heat and has spun a few good curves, making for a combination that suggests his 53/33 K/UBB ratio in 412/3 IP between High- and Double-A wasn't just a matter of smoking kids. He's wild and overpowering and interesting, and worth a 40-man spot over the winter and during next year. Seems like another Royal misstep, not to have kept him for themselves, but why bully them yet again from my pulpit?

Nov 30, 2009 15:47 PM
 
chico123

Christina, I think you have gone soft. The Jays sign two old, SSs that are out machines and you like the transactions. What gives?

Nov 30, 2009 09:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Cal Ripken wasn't on the market, and the Jays weren't going to win the AL East anyway. Confronted by the horrors of this winter's limited offerings, their tack seems reasonable enough, and not all that expensive.

Nov 30, 2009 15:27 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Why not one or the other though? I mean, if you are not projected to win your division, yet you must have a shortstop, why overpay for one who has no bat, and a second one who has no knee? Why not NRI a few people like Khalil Greene or some minor league vets instead of wasting money in an attempt to reach third place? It's not like they can spend $3 million twice to get $6 million in performance.

Nov 30, 2009 17:00 PM
rating: 0
 
larrycutler

Perhaps the Blue Jays are looking for a shortstop prospect in a trade. The big players they get in a trade will most likely play other positions.

Nov 30, 2009 18:44 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

It would be sensible of them to look around for one, certainly. To respond to Richard's point, I guess I just don't buy the proposition that spending a combined $5.75 million for three player-seasons is that big a deal, especially with this market's limited options as far as middle infielders, and considering that a semi-decent year out of Gonzalez and the fact that he's under team control relatively cheaply in 2011 would make him somebody who could bring you a prospect if things breaks right.

If they don't, what are you really out? A relative modicum of cash above the minimum (roughly $4.2 million for three player-seasons), which for this team, having gotten out from under Rios and what they owed Rolen, and about to exchange Halladay, is effectively meaningless in terms of total payroll outlay, that relative to the expense of employing definitive replacement-level players at shortstop, a tougher proposition to dig up than the odd useful bat.

Is it cause to do handstands? Of course not. Is it viable? Sure.

Nov 30, 2009 20:05 PM
 
farrish11

LONG LIVE RADHAMES LIZ! All hail the king! Watch as he claims his rightful kingdom (NL)!

Dec 01, 2009 07:10 AM
rating: 0
 
DavidHNix

Three years ago Andruw Jones was in the express lane to Cooperstown. Who would have thought that you could get him for 2010 for $500,000?

Dec 01, 2009 15:00 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

The vicissitudes of fate are a bitch, but hey, a bargain risk's a bargain, right?

Dec 01, 2009 15:27 PM
 
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