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August 7, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Busy Week at the Ol' Scrap Heap

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired 3B-R Danny Valencia from the Twins for OF-S Jeremias Pineda. [8/5]

When the Twins optioned Valencia to the minors in May, I wrote:

Rumor had the Twins shopping Valencia before demoting him. Meaning that either Minnesota chose against selling low, or teams chose against buying low. Quality precipitates demand and Valencia has not been quality since his rookie season. Perceived to be younger than he is (27), Valencia doesn’t offer power, contact, on-base skills, speed, or defense, beyond a strong arm and success against southpaws. Valencia’s future likely includes a lot of bench duty.

Boston seemingly acquired Valencia with depth in mind. Behind Will Middlebrooks the Red Sox had first baseman-turned-third baseman Mauro Gomez and former top-prospect Andy LaRoche. Valencia is no great shakes himself, however, given the cost—a 21-year-old yet to find his way out of the Gulf Coast League—it’s an understandable acquisition.

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired INF-R Jeff Baker from the Cubs or two players to be named later. [8/5]

On the same day the Tigers placed Ryan Raburn on the disabled list, they acquired a suitable replacement. Baker is a versatile, if ultimately limited player. His value comes from hitting left-handed pitching, and standing in at multiple positions if the need arises. In short, the Tigers acquired a platoon player.

That’s fine considering the role Baker will assume. Lately, Jim Leyland had used Raburn in left field against left-handed pitching. Baker played mostly first base and the corner outfield for the Cubs this season, so it should be a seamless transition. The subplot worth watching is how Detroit handles Baker’s playing time once Raburn returns. Baker is in the midst of the better season, yet history rules on Raburn’s side.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated OF-L Tony Gwynn Jr. for assignment. [8/6]
Recalled OF-R Jerry Sands from Triple-A Albuquerque. [8/6]

Not often is a player waived 100 games into a two-year contract. Gwynn earns the indignation after batting .232/.276/.293 this season. In all fairness to Gwynn, it’s not like the Dodgers should have expected much offensive contribution from him. A strong 2009 campaign buoyed his .246/.323/.330 line over the previous three seasons. Instead, the Dodgers should have expected strong defense and good speed. Gwynn should take some relief in knowing he has $1.15 million coming his way next season regardless of where he plays. For that reason, expect him to clear waivers.

Gwynn’s demise creates an opportunity for Sands. Figuring out how Sands fits into the Dodgers’ long-term puzzle is an exercise in futility. Sands might not have enough power to man first base, or enough athleticism to play a corner outfield position. But James Loney, one might say. Sure, although Loney’s standing on the club—i.e. starting over Sands—isn’t a good sign in Sands’ favor.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Released INF-L Mike Fontenot. [8/5]

Short middle infielders like Fontenot are typically high-contact, low-wattage hitters. Fontenot is the exception to the rule. He offers more pop than you would anticipate from a person his size. The downside is more strikeouts; Fontenot fanned in 22 percent of his plate appearances this season. A so-so defender, Fontenot’s ability to hold onto a roster spot depends on how he’s hitting right-handed pitching; oh, and his capability to serve as a Steven Stamkos lookalike. Unless Fontenot wants to take the next two months off, expect to see him latch onto another team’s bench for the stretch run.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Jose Mijares from the Royals. [8/6]

Dayton Moore made a smart move in acquiring Mijares this offseason. The Twins had misevaluated Mijares as a capable middle reliever rather than a left-handed specialist. Kansas City didn’t; as a result, Mijares’ overall numbers improved under Ned Yost. For the Royals to now let Mijares walk is a bewildering move. He will not qualify for free agency until after the 2014 season. True, left-handed specialists don’t have a huge trade market, but getting something would make this easier to swallow.

On the other hand, with so many teams passing on Mijares—including the entire American League—you wonder if there are items in his closet. Anyhow, it’s too bad. Signing Mijares was a good move and worked out in Kansas City’s favor as well as anyone could have imagined. Now all the credited props will be debited for reasons unknown. 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired INF-S Cesar Izturis from the Brewers. [8/6]

With Mark DeRosa heading to the disabled list, and Ian Desmond already there, the Nationals had an opening on their 25-man roster. Izturis is the answer to the questions “Who will take that spot?” and “Who is their backup middle infielder?” The book on Izturis is the same as it was three, five, seven years ago. He makes outs, be it in the field or at the plate. Keep an eye on whether the Nationals allow Desmond to rest through the beginning of September, and in effect keep Izturis around for the remainder of the regular season.

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

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