January 23, 2014
Dude (Looks Like a Grady)
Signed OF-L Grady Sizemore to a one-year deal potentially worth $6 million. [1/22]
Here's a hail mary attempt. Sizemore last played in the majors in 2011, heaving missed the past two seasons due to back and knee surgeries. He's 31 years old now, and without a 500-plate appearance season to his name since 2009; there's no telling how he'd would perform if he were to stay healthy enough to make it through camp. (Heck, even Boston is hedging its bet by guaranteeing just $1 million.) Yet, for all the merited skepticism, you can't help but hope we get another healthy season from Sizemore someday. He'll never turn the clock back to the days when he was one of the premiere talents in the game, but maybe he'll provide us with a few glimpses. You hope so, for his sake. —R.J. Anderson
Signed LHP Eric O'Flaherty to a two-year deal worth $7 million. [1/22]
Another surprise in a winter full of them. O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last May and might not return until June. The A's willingness to wait on O'Flaherty while guaranteeing him two seasons is nonetheless understandable. When healthy, the former Brave is one of the best lefty-on-lefty weapons in the league. Add him to an already strong bullpen featuring other offseason gets, like Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson, and Bob Melvin is going to have myriad options late in games. You almost wonder how he'll find high-leverage innings for them all. —R.J. Anderson.
While details emerged about the Masahiro Tanaka signing, the Rays and Padres finalized the weirdest seven-player trade you'll see this year. Both teams traded from depth to shore up weak spots. In Tampa Bay's case, that meant moving one of their left-handed relievers and a solid, if volatile starting pitching prospect in exchange for a platoon infielder, two ready or near-ready pitchers, a lottery ticket, and a probable organizational soldier.
As good as Torres was last season for the Rays, he remained slotted into a middle-relief role as the second southpaw in the bullpen. Andrew Friedman has maintained a collection of competent alternatives over the past year, including four who already have spots on the 40-man roster—and that's not including potential conversions like Mike Montgomery and Enny Romero. Asking Cesar Ramos or Pedro Figueroa to replicate Torres's performance is being overzealous, but Friedman deemed it worth losing a bit in order to gain elsewhere.
Hahn's inclusion is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the trade. Under Friedman the Rays have seldom moved young players, particularly pitchers, before they hit arbitration. Hahn has a real chance at becoming a middle-of-the-rotation starter, though injuries could force him to the bullpen down the road. It's not clear if the Rays dealt Hahn by choice or necessity, but one wonders if they wanted a surer thing, like Andriese, in place of yet another risky arm—particularly given the complexion of the rest of their starter depth.
Although the Rays could milk contributions from Boxberger and Andriese in 2014, the immediate face of the trade should be Forsythe.
When Tampa Bay signed Jayson Nix in early January, I wrote "it's easy to see the Rays upgrading before the season starts." Two weeks later, they did just that. Forsythe's defensive versatility and tendency to hit left-handed pitching make him a good fit in St. Petersburg, where he can serve in a platoon and free Sean Rodriguez to do the same elsewhere. If there's an obvious downside to his game beyond the lack of one elite skill, it's that he's battled with injuries throughout his career. The Rays will be without Tim Beckham for the early part of the year anyway, meaning Nix could still come in handy should Forsythe fall ill.
Boxberger is the other player involved with big-league experience. Once part of the Mat Latos trade, he failed to establish a foothold with the Padres due to control woes. If the Rays can help Boxberger locate his three-pitch mix (fastball, changeup, slider) more frequently, then he could work his way into high-leverage work. For now, pencil him in as a potential middle reliever. —R.J. Anderson.
Andriese is a back-of-the-rotation, innings-eating starter who has moved quickly after being drafted in 2011. He's a sinkerballer with very good command and a full repertoire of four pitches, all of which could play as league-average. He works quickly with an up-tempo delivery and adds deception by throwing across his body. Andriese can run his fastball up toward 95 mph when he needs to, but usually sits in the low 90s with good sink. He is not far away from contributing to a major-league rotation, and could be a good candidate for a spot start in 2014—though the Rays do have a plethora of major-league-ready pitching. Andriese doesn't project to be more than a no. 4 or 5 starter, but he's still a solid prospect.
Lollis is an enormous human, at 6-foot-9, 250 pounds. He split time between the rotation and bullpen before moving to relief full time in 2013. He has a clean, easy delivery and uses his height very well, throwing with a lot of angle. The secondary stuff hasn’t developed, and he's struggled to limit baserunners recently. But Lollis' fastball has been good out of the pen (93-96 mph), even with inconsistent command. He should return to the upper minors with Rays, where he could benefit from a move to more pitcher-friendly leagues. His future is in relief, which is an area where the Rays lack prospects.
Tissenbaum is a Canadian drafted from the 2012 Stony Brook College World Series team. He is a doubles hitter with a very good approach (evidenced by his 43 walks to 36 strikeouts in 2013), whose on-base tendencies have translated to the pros. Tissenbaum has a short, line-drive swing and, while he has very little power and below-average foot speed for a second baseman, he is solid defensively. His on-base ability should at least get him to the high minors; beyond that, his best shot at the majors is as a left-handed utility bat off the bench. More likely, he'll be a solid Triple-A guy who gets a cup of coffee.—Steffan Segui
Signed OF-L Bobby Abreu to a minor-league deal. [1/21]
Yup, it's January. Abreu is two months away from his 40th birthday and two years removed from his last productive season, yet this is a likable deal. Sentimental fans get to see a franchise great wear the uniform again, while emotionally detached supporters have no reason to hate it. Should Abreu earn a roster spot, it'll likely be the veteran pinch-hitter role Jim Thome filled in 2012. If Abreu doesn't make the club, he's headed for retirement. —R.J. Anderson.
Acquired LHP Alex Torres and RHP Jesse Hahn from the Rays for RHP Brad Boxberger, INF-R Logan Forsythe, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Matt Lollis, and INF-S Maxx Tissenbaum. [1/22]
Just as the Rays dealt from strength, so too did the Padres. If there's one thing San Diego has plenty of, it's near-ready back-of-the-rotation arms. With that in mind, you can understand if Josh Byrnes wanted to cash in two low-ceiling, high-floor arms for a pair of pitchers with more sizzle—even if it took a few other parts to make it happen.
Ostensibly the Padres will replace Forsythe with some combination of Ryan Jackson, Alexi Amarista, and a potential free-agent addition. Meanwhile, Andriese was fighting with six other starters on the 40-man roster who could open the season in the upper minors. At some point, that starting depth will bleed to the bullpen, which limited Boxberger's opportunities.
As for Torres, he will become the top left-handed reliever on the team, but don't label him a specialist. Last season, a year after being exiled to the GCL to overhaul his mechanics, Torres became a key cog in the Rays bullpen. The tiny, versatile southpaw attacks hitters from a high three-quarters release point and is the rare reliever who doesn't employ a breaking ball. Instead, Torres makes do through liberal use of his changeup, which keeps batters off his fastball. Heading forward, the big concern here is command, as he was loose within the zone with both pitches. Unless Torres tightens his location, he's looking at a seventh-inning ceiling. —R.J. Anderson
Hahn was ranked no. 6 on the Rays 2014 top prospect list. He's a tall, lanky starter with a very good overall package of weapons. His fastball legitimately sits in the mid-90s late into games and his curve, change, and command all project to be solid-average or better in the big leagues. Though he is a bit older and behind in his development due to being a college guy and having had Tommy John surgery, he could be an impact arm in 2014 if he has success in Double-A. That's likely to happen given his stuff, good overall feel and—most importantly—ability to keep the ball on the ground. If all goes perfectly he could be a mid-rotation starter, potentially even up to a no. 2, but he should, at the very least, latch on at the back end. —Steffan Segui
The main knock on Alex Torres is inefficiency. He has the stuff to succeed, but double-digit walk rates have cast doubts on his future in the rotation. Another strong showing last year in K rate (27.4 percent) came with some semblance of control (8.9 percent walk rate, albeit in a limited 58-inning sample), and it could entice the Padres to give Torres another shot at starting. While his old park wasn’t a hitter’s haven, Torres will benefit from PETCO’s extreme conditions, and he has the stuff to miss bats and not completely implode at places like Coors and Chase Field. The Padres’ rotation isn’t set in stone, so his situation bears watching. —Mauricio Rubio
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson