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Signed RHP Matt Albers to a minor-league deal. [2/13]

First Jesse Crain, now Matt Albers—the White Sox loved the Astros' 2014 insurance-claim bullpen. Albers, who missed most of 2014 with shoulder tendinitis, has at least pitched over the past 18 months, which is more than Crain can boast. When healthy, Albers uses his sinker-slider combination to coax ground balls at a good clip. He's not a high-leverage dynamo or anything—he doesn't miss enough bats for that—but the White Sox should be pleased if he returns to his status as a reliable middle reliever.

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Signed LHP Joe Thatcher to a minor-league deal. [2/13]
Signed RHP Roberto Hernandez to a minor-league deal. [2/12]

The Astros add two Opening Day hopefuls to their NRI pool.

If you like extensive spring-training competitions for the no. 5 starter's job, then boy are you going to enjoy Houston's March. Hernandez joins a bunch that could include Dan Straily, Samuel Deduno, Jake Buchanan, Alex White, and numerous other pitchers you've either never heard of or don't care to hear from again.

Hernandez, with an opt-out clause in hand, could be the favorite of the bunch. He's a perpetual tease: a guy with better stuff than results. To his credit, he's a durable tease, one who hasn't missed time due to injury since 2011 and who can be relied upon to take the mound every fifth day. Worth noting: Hernandez has expressed no interest in the bullpen before. Time might have softened his stance, but if not, then opportunity will; life in the big-league 'pen beats riding Triple-A buses, after all.

Thatcher has all the funk you need from a left-handed specialist without the necessary results. His cutter sits in the mid-to-upper-80s, his mechanics are herky-jerky, his release comes from a side-arm slot, and his arm action is long on the backside, with his elbow rising above his shoulder just before coming forward. The problem is Thatcher has been about as poor against lefties as righties the past few seasons. The Astros helped Tony Sipp get back on track, so there's hope for a turnaround; just not much of it.

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Signed 2B?-R Rickie Weeks to a one-year deal worth $2 million. [2/12]

Just when you think you have a grasp on what's what, the Mariners go out and sign Weeks. Between Robinson Cano's durability—his 157 games last season were his fewest since 2006—and Weeks' refusal to become more than a career second baseman, there was no reason to anticipate an agreement between these parties—not even with the obvious Jack Zduriencik ties in play. So what changed?

Weeks' self-esteem, for one. He seems open to playing the outfield these days, a reversal from last season that makes him a fit on the M's roster—perhaps to the extent he can become Dustin Ackley's right-handed sock. The biggest drawback to such a plan is the defensive hit. Ackley is an above-average glove in left; Weeks has never played the outfield, yet figures to struggle with range. Of course the M's might accept the downgrade provided the offensive gap between the two remains true: Weeks' multi-year True Average against lefties exceeds Ackley's by 70 points.

Alternatively, Weeks can serve as a super-sub type, who bounces from the dirt to the grass and back, depending on what Lloyd McClendon needs. He may not fit the prototype, and he won't be confused for Zobrist, but he makes sense as a cost-effective right-handed batter you slot into the lineup against lefties.

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Signed UTL-S Eric Young Jr. to a minor-league deal. [2/13]
Signed RHP Jose Veras to a minor-league deal. [2/10]

What is a team to do when they want Emilio Bonifacio without wanting to pay Emilio Bonifacio prices? Try signing Young to a minor-league deal. Young is a speedy, talented baserunner whose impact is limited only by his inability to consistently reach base. He can't hit and he's a sneeze or light breeze away from the calendar landing on his 30th birthday, so upside is no longer a word you can apply to him without irony. If he makes the roster, he'll offer value as a utility man-slash-designated runner.

Veras, the latest NRI reliever added to Atlanta's pile, isn't as chancy as he seems. Everyone remembers his disastrous stint in Chicago—the one that left the Cubs without a real explanation for his struggles—but not the tolerable second act in Houston that followed. Veras' numbers weren't as good as in 2013, though they did lend credence to the idea that he can still be an effectively wild reliever behind his power fastball and curveball:

Houston stint















Maybe Veras just can't pitch without an H on his cap. But bringing Veras to camp to compete for a 'pen spot alongside Luis Avilan, Arodys Vizcaino, and Juan Jaime is fine; everything is fine at this price.

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The way Emilio Bonifacio played 2nd base for Toronto in 2013 has colored my view to such an extent that I can't believe any team above High-A would actually want him on their roster, much less pay him.