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January 19, 2010
The King's Coffers and Assorted Wee Deals
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.
Agreed to terms with 2B-R Howie Kendrick on a one-year, $1.75 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/19]
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.
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]
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.
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.
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?
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.
Agreed to terms with LHP Jonathan Sanchez on a one-year, $2.1 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/19]