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January 19, 2010

Transaction Action

The King's Coffers and Assorted Wee Deals

by Christina Kahrl

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CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired MI-R Brian Bixler from the Pirates for 3B/OF-R Jesus Brito. [1/18]

Since last week's invitation to Mark Grudzielanek to try his hand at the Tribe's middle-infield picture reflects a certain problem with depth, you can understand how the Indians might pounce on the opportunity to add a utility infielder with a modest amount of big-league experience who might keep Jason Donald in the minors and playing regularly until they know if Grudz has anything to offer, or if Luis Valbuena can hold down the everyday job at the keystone. There's no big upside here: Bixler's already 27, his free-swinging stroke prevents him from contributing much of his modest minor-league pop in the majors, and he doesn't reach base often enough to put his decent speed to work. However, he's a sure-handed middle infielder, he can pinch-run and bunt, and if he ever learns to cut down his swing, he has a shot at a utilityman's career.


LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with 2B-R Howie Kendrick on a one-year, $1.75 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/19]

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with RHP Felix Hernandez on a five-year, $78 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/19]

With the stroke of a pen, that's two years of arbitration and three years of free agency bought out, so of course it didn't come cheaply. It would be easy to call this "smart," except that it was one of those ridiculous/obvious things that is hard to compliment beyond "that's good." Since we don't know the year-to-year breakdown yet, just that the deal is big, expensive, and places King Felix on his Seattle palanquin through 2014, there isn't much to say. Of course they should have made this investment, and placed in the context of controlling him through his age-28 season, it's a sensible pre-emptive strike as far as making sure they didn't have to find out what sort of payday he would have commanded after the 2011 season. Adding Cliff Lee for a year is great as far as a one-year bid of winning the division; keeping King Felix for five is how you make sure you're not just a one-year wonder.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with RHP Shaun Marcum on a one-year, $850,000 deal, avoiding arbitration. [1/18]
Agreed to terms with RHPs Shawn Camp ($1.15 million) and Casey Janssen ($700,000), avoiding arbitration with both. [1/19]


MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with 2B-R Dan Uggla ($7.8 million), RHP Anibal Sanchez ($1.25 million), and LHP Renyel Pinto ($1.075 million) on one-year contracts, avoiding arbitration with all three. [1/18]

As I've suggested in past comments on the Fishy dealings, I can see going year-to-year with Uggla right through his age-31 season, and then letting him be a Type-A free agent bound for elsewhere. It might seem cheap, but six years of greatness from a Rule 5 pick's peak seasons, followed by a recouped pick or two sounds like an exceptional rate of return on a bit of grabbery from December 2005 that blossomed into something exceptional on Joe Girardi's watch.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with OF-L Jody Gerut on a one-year, $2 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/18]
Agreed to terms with 2B-R Rickie Weeks and CF-R Carlos Gomez on one-year contracts, avoiding arbitration with both. [1/19]

The interesting question here is whether or not they'll play Gerut now that they're paying him. There was an extended stretch last season when it defied easy explanation as far as why the Brewers had bothered to trade for him at the end of May, having let Ken Macha forget him in the deepest recesses of the bench; Gerut got 10 starts in his first 89 games with the Brewers, and hit .205/.280/.325. It didn't get tons better in the last month's games, but at least he got 17 starts and hit .269/.321/.423, or well enough to split time in right field with the now-immensely disappointing Corey Hart. Keeping him around isn't the worst idea, seeing as they're placing their faith in Gomez in center while having to go through two more arbitration spins with Hart, but if all of this starts sounding like cause to regret not having Tony Gwynn Jr. around or reason to wonder if Hernan Iribarren might finally stick as a fifth outfielder and Hairston-ish utility type, you're not alone.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Brendan Donnelly to a one-year, $1.5 million base contract; traded MI-R Brian Bixler to the Indians for 3B/OF-R Jesus Brito. [1/18]

Donnelly's coming off of a tremendous three-month run with the Marlins that demonstrated he was completely recovered from his Tommy John surgery and ready to resume mowing down big-league hitters. He could have been an Astro, but a preference for Geoff Geary and Doug Brocail kept Donnelly in Round Rock until he managed to skip over to Miami. Since his deal accelerates in value up to as much as $3 million, you can interpret this as an add-on with intent: the Pirates aren't going to contend, so if Donnelly delivers, he's a flip-worthy bit player for a contender TBNL for a grade-C prospect TBD. (Barring any Colletti-driven grade inflation, of course.) If not, it's not a huge investment, and the Nuttings are out nothing in terms of Nuttbux.

In the meantime, credit Huntington for adding a semi-interesting bat in Brito in the course of off-loading Bixler to create roster space for Donnelly. Not that it's a huge deal, but Brito's a live-batted Dominican who hit a combined .353/.431/.567 between the Arizona summer league and a brief spin at short-season Mahoning Valley who just turned 22 on Christmas. His eventual position might be in a bit of doubt; he's been giving third base his best shot, but 19 errors in 49 games last year sort of suggests there's work to be done. No, he's not a blue-chip prospect, but something interesting for something useful while repurposing the spot on the 40-man adds up to a nice exchange of favors.

The less exciting proposition is that now, instead of Bixler getting a shot, you can pretty much guarantee the the Pirates' bench is going to have Bobby Crosby and Ramon Vazquez in the infield reserve roles, while Delwyn Young and Brandon Moss might be the outfield reserves. Rule 5 pick John Raynor and Steve Pearce are also in the picture as well. Put all of that together, and it sounds like an also-ran's scabrous crew. Figure they might fish Doug Frobel out of Davy Jones' locker?


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed UT-R Jerry Hairston Jr. to a one-year, $2.125 million contract. [1/18]

As much as it might be "fun" to have both Hairstons because it's a historical curiosity and sort of a cute low-key gimmick, keep in mind that's two Hairstons on the bench, and Jerry's not really good for a lot beyond flexibility. He will stand at short or third and give it his best shot, but he's not a defensive asset at either position, and rumors of his having power came and went with his association with the Gap, site of more than a fifth of his career homers in less than a tenth of his career plate appearances. He walks more often than Rob Picciolo, but so do you; he's below big-league average. He's a fly-ball hitter going to a place where that can be a professional death sentence. Even his reputation as a useful pinch-runner is a couple of seasons out of date; per EqBRR, he was last an asset with the Rangers in 2007 (1.6 EqBRR), but dropped to neutral with the Reds in '08 (0.1), and was a menace last year (-1.0 between the Yankees and Reds combined).

Is that really something you throw a couple of million dollars at? The number of second basemen rotting in Triple-A because they're second basemen who might play short or third badly if asked, or the outfield if there's room, are legion; it's the destiny of innumerable scrubby aspirants to utility glory. If anything, this is an even weaker PR stunt than last year's "Adrian Gonzalez and that other Gonzalez who's his brother" exercise. Did someone put Mike Veeck into the Padres' front office and forget that one of the benefits of going tacky is that it's also supposed to be inexpensive? Or is having both Hairstons somehow kitsch? I sort of doubt it; we're talking Hairstons here, which is only slightly more exciting that unifying the Staniceks, Pete and Steve, and then overpaying for the privilege. Blech.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to terms with LHP Jonathan Sanchez on a one-year, $2.1 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/19]

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,  Year-to-date,  Depth Chart

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

BP Comment Quick Links

oira61

Christina, while I agree with you regarding Jerry Hairston Jr's utility, wasn't there some interest from Goldman-Sachs in keeping him on the bench where he "earned" a World Series ring last year? Such an intangible would drive up his market value, wouldn't it?

Jan 19, 2010 14:07 PM
rating: -2
 
ScottyB

Re: King Felix. There was a recent batch of articles at BP saying how virtually all FA signings worked out poorly.

One explanation for this is signings like this. The Ms just took Felix off the market for his first 3 years as a potential FA (probably his best ones from a performance standpoint). While this doesn't "count" as an FA signing, in effect, it is.

Jan 19, 2010 14:15 PM
rating: 1
 
Evan
(47)

I disagree. By including his last two arbitration years, they reduced the overall value of the deal, and its length. There's no way Felix would have agreed to a 3-year FA deal after the 2011 season, but that's effectively what that is.

The reason all FA deals end badly is because the winning bidder necessarily overpays. By signing Felix now, Seattle has subverted that bidding process and assumed far less risk.

Jan 19, 2010 14:22 PM
rating: 6
 
LouisArighi

That sure doesn't sound like disagreement with the previous poster.

Jan 19, 2010 15:00 PM
rating: 11
 
Richard Bergstrom

Keep in mind that, by signing this deal, the Mariners preempted any affect Lincecum's arbitration case or others might have had. Arbitration with Felix might've gotten even more expensive.

Jan 19, 2010 17:45 PM
rating: 0
 
LouisArighi

Christina,
What, no mention of the Giles brothers reunion of 2007? It was quite the popular story for a few weeks, especially because of the maternal Giles' quote about the brothers excitement at getting to shower together again. Perhaps San Diego is hoping that acquiring brothers is the new market inefficiency? Perhaps there is synergy in having familial support right there in the locker room?

Jan 19, 2010 15:02 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Separate siblings seasonal stutters are swell, except with the actual performance on the field aspect of things. And the stories surrounding having both Giles brothers together trended towards 'loathesome,' so I'd suggest the chemistry angle's up there in WAG territory. We don't even have consistency in terms of owners, unless old and new are both gunning for some sort of weird, cute-blonde Doublemint twins double-dating thing. If so, it's an expensive gambit, which sort of brings us back to why you'd spend more than $2 million on JHJr. in the first place.

Jan 19, 2010 16:05 PM
 
macolyte

All content and reasoning being equal (and it's not), "Separate siblings seasonal stutters are swell" is what makes you the best pure baseball read going, Ms. K.

Jan 20, 2010 17:01 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

I wonder how much of a discount the Mariners received for Felix's heavily criticized mechanics - that could leave him a wreck at any point during the contract. If he stays healthy, this contract would seem to be a nice bargain. If he goes down ... well, the merits of this contract depend on how soon and how badly.

Question for Will, John, Kevin, or others with scouts' ears or a scout's eye: have Felix Hernandez's mechanics greatly improved? Is he nearly out of danger?

Jan 19, 2010 15:11 PM
rating: 1
 
TGisriel

I remember when Jerry Hairston was the Orioles incumbent second baseman, and Brian Roberts was coming out of the minors. The Orioles played both for a while (made possible because injuries would take one down) and then decided to go with Roberts.

Obviously it was the right choice.

Jan 19, 2010 15:14 PM
rating: 1
 
JHaugJr
(332)

Xtina, you are off one body in the Burgh. You need to account for Church. One of the vazquez/Moss/Delwyn unholy trinity will not go North, and Steve Pearce is your February DFA waiting to happen when room is needed on the 40 man for the last reliever.

Jan 19, 2010 15:19 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Not at all, I figure Church is probably in the lineup, with Jones at first base. Pearce is definitely well int DFA territory, though, but I figure from the aforementioned trio that it's Delwyn whose odds are worst.

Jan 19, 2010 16:00 PM
 
mentalmeat

Jeff Clement... come on!

Jan 19, 2010 19:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Brian Cartwright

Both Pearce and Clement are now barely above replacement level for 1B. Pearce might stick as the good glove, rest Jones against LHP backup leaving Clement unemployed. I think Delwyn has enough versatility to stick, but Church basically replaces Moss on the roster, who's not going to get any better.

My say: Moss and Clement don't go north, and Vazquez or Young get cut when Alvarez gets his mid-season promotion.

Jan 19, 2010 22:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Brian Cartwright

Sorry, it's so easy to forget Bobby Crosby. A SS who can't hit so he's moved to 1B?

Jan 19, 2010 22:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Scott D. Simon

"the Nuttings are out nothing in terms of Nuttbux."

+1

Jan 19, 2010 18:02 PM
rating: 2
 
mentalmeat

Speaking of "second basemen rotting in Triple-A", what about Matt Antonelli? Is he in the picture for the Padres?

Jan 19, 2010 19:45 PM
rating: 0
 
David Coonce

Only played 20 games last season, due to injuries, after a bad 2008 AAA season. Seems like a stalled/non prospect - hit the wall after his great AA season. Any future is probably as a utility guy. He has a blog, though, and seems moderately interesting.

http://mattantonelli9.blogspot.com/

Jan 20, 2010 09:07 AM
rating: 1
 
BobbyRoberto
(907)

Ahh, Doug Frobel. For 60 at-bats in 1983, Frobel hit .283/.328/.533. When I got my APBA cards the following spring, I played him full time and wondered why Chuck Tanner hadn't done the same. My baseball intelligence has grown since then.

Jan 19, 2010 20:57 PM
rating: 2
 
eighteen

I was at Wrigley in June of 84 when Frobel hit 2 dingers.

So why can't I remember my GF's birthday?

Jan 19, 2010 21:55 PM
rating: 5
 
mark1623

Posted this in another thread by accident, but I wonder if the Padres were willing to throw a little extra money Hairston's way to keep themselves off the player's union radar given the recent announcement about the Marlins. For some reason no one mentions San Diego but the Padres might have an even lower payroll than Florida in 2010.

Jan 19, 2010 21:07 PM
rating: 3
 
viconquest

Thought this was a fair deal for both sides. It mitigates the risk for both sides. For the Mariners, they eliminated the possibility of Felix leaving after 2 years to sign a more lucrative, longer term contract. For Felix, he got a market rate for his next 5 years and locks that in regardless of injury or under performance.

Jan 20, 2010 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
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