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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Cesar Ramos from the Rays in exchange for RHP Mark Sappington. [11/5]
Acquired RHP Nick Tropeano and C-R Carlos Perez from the Astros in exchange for C-S Hank Conger. [11/5]

Jerry Dipoto begins the offseason by adding two cheap, versatile pitchers who bolster the depth of his staff. Neither is a hidden gem, and both might fit better in the bullpen, but the agreeable cost—a mitt-first backup catcher and a wild power arm—renders bickering pointless..

Ramos is the seasoned vet of the pair, and there's a decent chance he provides the Angels with more miles than Sappington does the Rays. He's neither a flamethrower nor a finesse arm, but he has a low-90s fastball and a number of so-so secondary offerings. The lack of a monster pitch limits his value as a left-handed specialist, though his arsenal's depth allows him to be effective against righties. That combination tempted the Rays enough to try him as a starter twice, albeit without much success. Expect Ramos to become a member of the Angels' B-team bullpen.

Tropeano, on the other hand, feels more likely to open the season in the rotation than Ramos does. He made his big-league debut last season for the Astros, and profiles as a back-end starter on the strength of his high-quality changeup. Tropeano's repertoire, including a low-90s fastball, is otherwise lackluster but the hope is he has enough deception and location to avoid a future in the bullpen.

With Conger elsewhere, Dipoto will need to address the backup catcher position before spring arrives. The top internal candidates, for those worried about such things, are Perez and Jackson Williams—a recent waiver claim whose defensive reputation is strong. —R.J. Anderson

Perez, a Venezuelan backstop, is seen as a good makeup guy with a quick release, which adds to his defensive profile. The bat isn't anything special, but he's a good catch-and-throw guy who could grow into a competent backup catcher. —Mauricio Rubio.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Acquired C-S Hank Conger from the Angels in exchange for RHP Nick Tropeano and C-R Carlos Perez. [11/5]

The easiest narrative to construct around this trade involves the Astros' monomaniacal obsession with framing. Yet here's the rub. If this trade is entirely about framing, then it makes little sense.

Conger is a quality receiver; you don't have to buy into the 20-runs-per-7,000-chances figure to accept that. However, the degree matters when comparing him to the Astros' other catchers, as Jason Castro (eight), Carlos Corporan (nine), and Max Stassi (28 in a small sample) all grade above-average so far framing goes. Given the greenness of the measures involved, it's fair to wonder whether the gap is as big as it looks—and it isn't the widest gulf to begin with.

That's where things get tricky with the idea that the Astros are just chasing framing runs. Is the marginal upgrade provided by Conger's mitt worth the marginal cost between himself and a random minor-league free agent? Are we to believe the Astros value those runs so much they'd rather sacrifice two players (albeit replaceable types) and money (Conger is entering the arbitration process) for Conger when they could instead sign someone like Ali Solis for the league minimum? Of course not.

The truth is, the Astros almost certainly do value Conger's framing skills, right along with the rest of their catchers. But his bat separates him from Corporan and Stassi—albeit not by a ton, seeing as how he's a nominal switch-hitter who hasn't shown much outside of '13—and his price tag separates him from Castro, who, should he be made available, ought to draw interest alongside a weak free-agent market. That doesn't make Conger a hidden star or anything of the sort, but it could make him the Astros' starting catcher in 2015. —R.J. Anderson

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Acquired RHP Mark Sappington from the Angels in exchange for LHP Cesar Ramos. [11/5]

Sappington has hit 97 mph in the AFL, but primarily works in the mid-90s. Tall and gifted with arm strength, his command issues have prevented him from a starter's future. Instead he can become a two-pitch middle reliever thanks to a slider that has average potential. That's not enough to pitch in the ninth inning, but it should grant him access to the Show someday. —Mauricio Rubio.

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jfranco77
11/07
Kind of surprised to see Conger traded for so little. I think the teams that miss out on Russell Martin are going to wish they had gotten in on the bidding. (OK, maybe just the Pirates, since the Dodgers can always go back to AJ Ellis and the Cubs can always go back to Wellington Castillo)