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November 7, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Rays Go Longish on a Reliever

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP David Herndon on waivers from the Blue Jays. [11/6]

Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June, Herndon has changed organizations twice. Once going from the Phillies to the Blue Jays, and now again—just two weeks later. Herndon is a big right-hander who deals in strikes and groundballs. His career walk rate of 3.2 per nine innings deceives since more than a quarter of his career free passes were intentional. Remove those and he averages 2.4 walks per nine. Factor in the groundball rates (over 50 percent) and struggles against lefties and Herndon is a situational righty.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Claimed OF-L Scott Cousins off waivers from the Blue Jays. [11/6]

Everyone knows Cousins as The Guy Who Broke Buster Posey’s Leg. There’s more to him. Billed as a fourth outfielder in waiting for a few years now, Cousins never received a lengthy look at the big-league level from the Marlins. He failed to hit big-league pitching when he did receive looks. Not just in the colloquial sense—though that is also true—but in the literal sense, as well. His career 65 percent contact rate is miserable; for reference, Josh Hamilton had the worst contact rate in the majors last season at 64 percent. Unless Cousins can develop Hamilton’s raw power, his only option is to improve his bat-to-ball skills. If Cousins can do that, he could challenge Eric Thames and Mike Carp for a bench job.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Reportedly will sign RHP Joel Peralta to a two-year deal worth $6 million with a club option worth $2.5 million. [11/5]

Peralta is an odd bird. Consider these facts about him: Last season marked the first time he had a seven-figure salary. He’s never pitched with a multi-year deal in hand. He turns 37 in March. He has made 25 or more appearances for five franchises, but 50-plus for only two. Peralta has made 186 appearances since developing a splitter and has a 2.94 ERA and 4.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio to show for it. Yet Peralta bemoaned his free-agent status when the season ended because he loves pitching for the Rays.

There was reason to believe—to hope—Peralta would seize his one chance at a big payday. He chose instead to stay with the Rays. Selfish in a sense, although let’s not pretend $6 million over two seasons is small potatoes. The Rays went against their own grain in re-signing Peralta: Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival were the last two relievers to receive multi-year deals from the Rays. Neither has been on the roster since 2010.

Andrew Friedman may have made an exception for Peralta because the deal is too good to pass up. Point to Fernando Rodney as proof the Rays can turn reliever water into wine. Just remember: Rodney made $1.75 million last season, when he was more of a theory than a guarantee. For an extra $1.25 million, the Rays are receiving not a sure thing, but the closest to a sure thing they can get at the price.

As a reminder, Peralta ranked 40th on our top-50 free agents list, receiving this comment:

Peralta’s claim to fame is a mid-summer ejection over a copious amount of pine tar stored in his glove. “Joey Pine Tar” is an old-school reliever making it work in the new age thanks to moxie and a three-pitch mix. Peralta often pitches backward, but is unafraid to challenge hitters.

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

Related Content:  Scott Cousins,  Joel Peralta,  David Herndon

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