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HOUSTON ASTROS
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Signed RHP Jose Veras to a one-year deal worth $2 million with a club option for 2014 worth $3.25 million. [12/18]

Veras has pitched for five teams since the start of the 2008 season, but the story remains the same no matter where our protagonist lands: many strikeouts, many walks, and many headaches. His arm is quick and generates mid-90s velocity on his fastball, allowing him to set up his hammer curve. Veras’ weakness is command and control. A high-effort delivery yanks his head toward the first-base side and leaves him unbalanced to the point where he hops backward upon finish. Even with the negatives, Veras is a sensible signing. He should provide the Astros with solid middle-relief work as is, and he could return value in a trade if they can ease his mechanics.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Signed RHP Roberto Hernandez to a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. [12/12]

Andrew Friedman—entering his eighth season as general manager, if you can believe it—has never signed a free-agent starting pitcher. That tidbit may no longer be true, depending on Hernandez’s role. Hernandez seems like a better fit in the bullpen than in the Rays’ overflowing rotation, with the Burke Badenhop trade leaving the designated ground-ball specialist title vacant. Recent reports, however, indicated Hernandez had no interest in moving to the bullpen. Market ultimately dictates role, yet would he give up his starting ambitions in December instead of waiting for a rotation spot to open? And would the Rays give a middle reliever $3.25 million guaranteed?

Hernandez is an attractive option because of his stuff. His sinker is a bowling ball, his changeup is deceptive, and his slider can be a punchout offering when on. The quality of Hernandez’s stuff portents better results than the ones he has amassed in recent years. The Rays could help their new pet project out by improving his mechanics and/or his mound presence, as scouts have noted his meltdown tendencies in the past. Even if Hernandez changes nothing, he should look better in front of a shift-heavy infield featuring four average to above-average defenders.

NEW YORK METS
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Acquired OF-R Collin Cowgill from the Athletics for 3B-R Jefry Marte. [12/18]

Nearly a year to the day after heading to Oakland in the Trevor Cahill trade, Cowgill is on the move, again with the promise of increased playing time. The diminutive outfielder found himself on the wrong side of a loaded outfield depth chart with the Athletics, something the Mets know nothing about. Cowgill’s overall numbers in the majors are underwhelming, but he has shown an ability to hit left-handed pitching thus far. He’s a capable center fielder and figures to fill a platoon role, if nothing more. Considering the cost—a marginal prospect (albeit one that used to be a top prospect)—this is a worthwhile deal.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Re-signed RHP Santiago Casilla to a three-year extension worth $15 million with a vesting option for a fourth season. [12/17]

Fortunes change in this game in a hurry. Casilla joined the Giants in 2010 after a miserable, job-costing season with the Athletics. He then appeared in 52 games and posted a 1.95 ERA. Casilla followed up the breakout season by lowering his ERA to 1.74 in another 49 appearances. His attempts at dropping his ERA for a third straight season failed in 2012, but a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio softened the blow. Of course, true talent-level shift or not, giving a three-year deal to a 32-year-old reliever with a large platoon split is risky business. Still, the Giants can afford to take the risk.

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alor112
12/19
Is A Cowgill-Nieuwenhuis platoon in CF an above replacement level option? The OF possibilities are dwindling for the Mets despite being December. From a recent Alderson interview it does not sound like another trade is on the horizon. Hopefully they resign Hairston to platoon with Duda and Baxter. Look at those 5 OF names! Another 70 something win season is in the Mets future.
ddufourlogger
12/19
What do the Mets apparently NOT like about Kirk Nieuwenhuis that they wouldn't be willing to let him see if he could be the everyday CF? What's not to like about the kid? He's their best OF prospect, and they're not going anywhere in 2013....
fbraconi
12/19
Hey, its getting a little tiresome that every player under 6' tall seems to be referred to in BP's analysis as "diminutive," the synonyms for which seem neither apt nor flattering. But in the spirit of R.J.'s analysislet of Cowgill, let me offer my all-time diminutive teamlet: c- Yogi Berra (5.7) 1B- George Sisler (5.11) 2B- Joe Morgan (5.7) 3B- Fred Lindstrom (5.11) SS- Honus Wagner (5.11) OF- Ricky Henderson (5.10) OF- Willie Mays (5.10); Tris Speaker (5.11) OF- Mickey Mantle (5.11) SP- Whitey Ford (5.10) SP- Mordecai Brown (5.10) SP- Old Hoss Raburn (5.9) SP- Iron Man McGinnity (5.11) SP- Eddie Plank (5.11) RP- Elroy Face (5.8) RP- Bobby Shantz (5.6)
jfranco77
12/19
Nice work. I'd make room for the "giant" Greg Maddux at 6 even.
EricMeeker
12/19
I like the Roberto Hernandez deal for the Rays. This guy used to be Fausto Carmona, and he's got good stuff. They need pitchers to soak up innings, with the trade of James Shields. It's risky, but low cost, with high upside. The Rays are having a nice off-season, so far IMO, with what Andrew Friedman has been given to work with. fbraconi: Billy Wagner (5'10") for diminutive closer.
mdthomp
12/20
Hernandez can be similar to Badenhop. Move to pen can mean more velocity on that sinker.
adenzeno
12/19
Joe Morgan was probably closer to 5'5" on a tall day...and STILL a phenomenal player!
mdthomp
12/20
When is the Astros logo going to be updated? Small quibble, I know, but I like their new logo better than the one currently displayed here.
bornyank1
12/20
Just updated. Thanks for the reminder.