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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Matt Lindstrom to a minor-league deal. [2/17]

Lindstrom had been a solid, if injury-prone middle reliever for years prior to last season, compiling a 2.95 ERA and 2.39 strikeout-to-walk rate from 2011-2013. Guess which description remained true in 2014. Lindstrom missed nearly three months due to ankle surgery. When he did pitch, he showed diminished velocity and effectiveness. You can understand why the Angels are taking a shot, but the best-case scenario sees him settle in as a B-team middle reliever.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed SS-S Everth Cabrera to a one-year deal worth around $2.4 million. [2/18]
Signed INF-R Jayson Nix to a minor-league deal. [2/17]

As unexpected as it is to see Cabrera sign with the Orioles, the deal makes sense. Jonathan Schoop didn't hit last season, and relying upon Ryan Flaherty (or Jayson Nix) is a bad idea. You could even go as far as to say Cabrera at second base represented the largest possible improvement for the Orioles.

That doesn't mean this deal will look as sweet in six month's time. A clown could run through a hurricane and come out the other side with better makeup than Cabrera. He's built a disconcertingly long rap sheet in a short period of time, one which includes since-dropped domestic violence charges and driving under the influence of marijuana. Throw in a Biogenesis-related suspension, as well as some durability woes, and it's hard to know whether Cabrera will be on the field on a week-to-week basis.

Of course if Cabrera finds a way to get his life in order and his body in check, he could be the latest coup for Dan Duquette. Cabrera is a talented basestealer and a good enough hitter to bat near the top of an order. Though normally a shortstop, he's more experienced at second base than most realize—in fact, he finished his minor-league career with just six fewer appearances at the keystone than at short. There's also the added bonus of Cabrera having an additional year of team control, though whether the Orioles employ him long enough to take advantage of that perk is to be determined.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jared Burton to a minor-league deal. [2/17]

From budding late-inning fixture with the Twins to late-signing non-roster invitee, so it is for Burton. He remains primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher, albeit an odd one who lacks the prerequisite eight-to-10-mph separation between his hard (low-to-mid-90s) and soft stuff (upper-80s). Between Burton's past success and his lack of a multi-year platoon split, there's a chance he cracks the Opening Day bullpen. The Yankees aren't hurting for relief help—not after acquiring Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, and Chasen Shreve—but with a good spring Burton could settle in as a versatile middleman.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Barry Zito to a minor-league deal. [2/16]

Following a year off, Zito is back in baseball and in Oakland. Finding a non-sentimental purpose for him on the A's roster is tough. Oakland enters camp with eight starters who pitched in the majors last season*, plus Jesse Chavez, plus (eventually) Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Few teams need another back-end option less than the Athletics do. But maybe a refreshed Zito can win the no. 5 starter's job. It just seems more likely that he's around to shake hands, provide easy copy, and audition for other teams.

*In alphabetical order: Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman, Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Scott Kazmir, Brad Mills, Sean Nolin, and Drew Pomeranz.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jamey Wright to a minor-league deal. [2/14]

Wright's winters are nothing if not predictable. He signs in February for the fourth time in seven tries; with a team located in a western division for the seventh time in 10 offseasons; and as a non-roster for the ninth time in 10 years. You wonder if Wright has discovered the cure for job uncertainty-related stress—the scent of the Pacific. He'd better hope so, because he isn't a given to crack the roster—PECOTA projects the Rangers to have a better bullpen than their relative inexperience suggests. But Wright will provide Jeff Banister with a vet who specializes in groundballs and Gene Simmons if he does. Check back next February for coverage of Wright's new minor-league deal.

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed OF-R Reed Johnson to a minor-league deal. [2/17]

Johnson might be 38 years old and might have posted the league's worst walk rate in 2014 (0.5 percent, or one in 201 trips), but by golly he's coming to big-league camp anyway. (And you though the zombie comp in the Annual was made in jest.) What value Johnson provides comes in two forms: 1) hitting left-handed pitching and 2) harmonizing clubhouses. Those attributes can take a player only so far, however, and the Marlins' roster could be beyond that threshold—after all, Miami has two right-handed starting outfielders as well as Ichiro Suzuki as the primary reserve. Maybe Johnson bumps Justin Bour to the minors. Otherwise he might be headed there himself, as an instructor.


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BrettLarter
2/20
It seems Cabrera is a faster player than Flaherty, Schoop, and Hardy. I could imagine a late inning pinch runner, with the ability to hold his own at any of their positions if he needs to be there for a few innings. Feels weird to see someone like Hardy have a defensive replacement, but it could help marginally in that particular game, and maybe keep Hardy healthy longer.
smcfee
2/21
I think that usage makes sense, but I wouldn't look at it as a "defensive replacement" so much as he's able to stay in the game after pinch running. Schoop, Machado, and Hardy are all better fielders than EverCab, although there may be uncertainty about how Machado or Schoop could handle SS at this point after having moved off. Hardy's pretty underrated defensively.
thepete39
2/20
"A clown could run through a hurricane and come out the other side with better makeup than Cabrera." Bravo.
arlo4321
2/20
I was on the verge of writing the same comment. 5-star, first tier writing.
andrewdeeble
2/21
Such a great line I'm almost sad to find it here instead of in mass-produced copy like SI.