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December 10, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Phillies Get Young, Old

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Reportedly signed 1B-R Mark Reynolds to a one-year deal worth $6 million. [12/9]

Terry Francona now has a legitimate option at the cold corner in Reynolds, which is more than he could have said before. Cleveland had the league’s least desirable group of first basemen prior to signing Reynolds. They still have a number of Quad-A or fringe types hanging around: Yan Gomes, Chris McGuiness, Mike McDade, Russ Canzler, and Lars Anderson are on the 40-man roster. Matt LaPorta is out there in the brush, too.

Reynolds has a simple name and a simple game. He hits home runs, walks, and strikes out a lot.  The long, leveraged swing draws ire for the punch outs, but Reynolds’ mature approach at the plate often carries him deep into counts. As irritating as it is to watch Reynolds swing through a breaking ball and collapse his back leg, he’s bound to make up for the transgression with a no-doubt moon shot to left field on a pitch up and in or over the plate. Cleveland fans should like Reynolds after last season’s Casey Kotchman debacle—provided those home runs and walks keep coming. —R.J. Anderson

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired RHPs Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla from the Phillies 3B-R Michael Young and cash. [12/8]

Lindblom changes organizations for the second time since July. His four-pitch mix used to leave scouts wondering if he could start. The former Purdue closer appears uninterested in the possibility, though left-handed hitters are rooting for a change of heart. Lindblom needs to curb his home run and platoon issues if he wants to remain in one bullpen for long. He’ll spend seasons journeying across the minors otherwise. —R.J. Anderson

While he only tossed 46 1/3 innings in 2012 because of a broken bone in his pitching hand, Bonilla still turned in a breakout campaign pitching at both High-A and Double-A. The 22-year-old right-hander lacks impressive size but he makes up for it with impressive raw stuff.

With a fastball that sits in the 93-94 range and has touched 97 mph since moving to the bullpen full time in 2012, Bonilla can blow hitters away in relief. His fastball has explosive life and gets on hitters quickly, generating swings and misses. Bonilla backs up his heater with an excellent changeup in the low-80s. Scouts I spoke to were mixed—in a good way—on the future of his change-up, with some giving him plus grades and others going so far as to suggest he could have a 70-grade change with more consistency.

On the down side, Bonilla’s delivery has a fair amount of effort, causing him to miss the strike zone frequently. He is prone to bouts of wildness and will likely always pile up some walks. His slider is a below-average pitch and he has never shown very good feel for spinning it. With a fastball-change profile, Bonilla may be stuck in more of a seventh-inning role, but he could be a strikeout weapon who gets his team out of jams. —Mark Anderson

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Signed RHP Brandon McCarthy to a two-year deal worth $15.5 million. [12/7]

The outsider’s image of Kevin Towers during his time in Nashville invariably has Towers and his associates hunched around a table, hammering out Justin Upton trade scenarios. Evidently, Towers, or his assistants, found time to work out deals with various free agents as well. McCarthy is the third veteran bound for the desert, joining Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske. He might be the most surprising of the three—and not because his name is something other than Eric.

Arizona’s starting pitching depth in the uppermost levels rivals that of any team. Yet Towers elected to add a veteran arm on a multi-year deal anyhow. It makes sense. McCarthy’s chief weakness is a cranky shoulder, having made at least one trip to the disabled list because of it in every season since 2009. He’s been productive when he’s pitched over the past two seasons, but he is tough to depend on for a full slate of starts. Arizona can use McCarthy for as many starts as he can give them. If he needs time off, one of the young arms can step in.

By signing McCarthy, Towers has eased the need to rush Daniel Hudson back from Tommy John surgery. This arrangement also allows those youngsters to develop further in the minors and gives the Diamondbacks another reason to pull the trigger on a trade—even if it means losing Trevor Bauer or another young arm in the process. Arizona has all kinds of starting pitching depth. Envy them. —R.J. Anderson

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed OF-R Ryan Ludwick to a two-year deal worth $15 million. [12/8]

Ludwick’s season is a reminder that sometimes those one-year courtesy contracts to downtrodden veterans pay off. He signed with the Reds last February after struggling to gain traction with the Padres and Pirates over the previous season and a half. It was hard to imagine the Reds taking playing time away from Chris Heisey to entertain Ludwick at the time, yet it was harder to envision Cincy’s lineup without Ludwick by season’s end. He’s not likely to repeat last season, but he should provide some right-handed thump in a lineup boasting two big left-handed sluggers. —R.J. Anderson

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu to a six-year deal worth $36 million. [12/9]

The Dodgers’ second rotation addition of the weekend seemed like a foregone conclusion, yet it took until the final half-hour of the negotiating window for a deal to get done. We’ve talked about how Ryu fits on the Dodgers and how he fits in the majors before. But his official signing puts pitchers like Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang on notice. It’s no longer whether one will be dealt, but who, when, to where, and for what. By the way, don’t look for Ryu to finish his contract in the minors, the way Kei Igawa and Kenshin Kawakami did—his contract requires him to sign off on a demotion.—R.J. Anderson

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired 3B-R Michael Young and cash from the Rangers for RHPs Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla. [12/8]

What this move boils down to is the Phillies taking a one-year chance on a prideful veteran at a reduced cost. Last season suggests Young’s tank is empty. The Phillies will find out at the cost of $6 million (of the $16 million due in salary). His bat appeared slow and his defense has never been quick to inspire compliments. Whatever qualitative value Young carries is easier to accept without knowing about his trade requests or selfish reasons for accepting the deal. Young’s increased rate of balls put into play in 2012 is sure to raise eyebrows for those who believe he is chasing 3,000 hits.

The barren free-agent and trade market for third basemen drove the Phillies to these desperate measures. (It’s so bad out there the Marlins reportedly had Brent Morel in mind—the same Morel that opened the door last season for Orlando Hudson and Kevin Youkilis in Chicago.) Philadelphia’s plan is to buy top prospect Cody Asche another developmental year before plugging him in. Young may enjoy a dead cat bounce, but don’t look for him to return to 2011 form—his real opponent, Father Time, is undefeated.  —R.J. Anderson

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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