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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Acquired C-L Rafael Lopez from the Cubs in exchange for LHP Manuel Rondon and international bonus slot no. 120. [7/3]

The Angels' first trade in the post-Dipoto era. Lopez made his big-league debut last September, appearing in seven unmemorable games. The three most notable things about him are his size (he's listed at 5-foot-9), his infielder past (he moved behind the plate after turning pro), and his history of solid minor-league walk rates. Because he remains relatively new to the position, the hope is that he can improve upon his defense, pushing it closer to "average" than "tolerable." Lopez will need to because his bat isn't good enough on its own to earn him a backup job. He has two option years remaining, making him a maneuverable piece of organizational depth if nothing else.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Recalled RHP Drew VerHagen from Double-A Erie; purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Ferrell from Triple-A Toledo; designated RHP Joba Chamberlain and LHP Tom Gorzelanny for assignment. [7/3]

With due respect to VerHagen and Ferrell, two starters turned relievers, the story here is the designation of Chamberlain and Gorzelanny, two veteran arms signed to shore up the Detroit bullpen.

Dave Dombrowski inked both following respectable 2014 seasons and neither delivered. Chamberlain threw fewer strikes, generated fewer groundballs, evaded fewer bats and barrels (41 percent of his hits allowed were of the extra-base variety; MLB average is 33 percent), and recorded just two outs per appearance. Gorzelanny, for his part, had been worse than Chamberlain due to dreadful control. His days were obviously numbered, as he was nearing the incentives-based portion of his deal: He'd made 30 appearances already and would've earned $25,000 every fifth appearance beginning with his 40th.

The lesson here is obvious: Past results do not guarantee future results, especially when it comes to relievers. Such is the difficulty of building a bullpen, a craft that seems to elude Dombrowski at every turn. Now he has two choices: He can continue to employ a bullpen staffed by novices—the Tigers house five relievers who entered the season with fewer than two years of major-league service time, and three who entered with fewer than one year—or try and try again to find veteran help on the trade market. The Tigers are too close to the Wild Card race to fail with the status quo, so expect Dombrowski to follow the second path, even if it seems destined to lead to the same place as the first.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Acquired RHP Cody Martin from the Braves in exchange for international bonus slot no. 53; designated 1B/DH-R Nate Freiman for assignment. [7/2]

The only one-for-one, player-for-slot trade consummated on July 2nd involving someone with big-league experience. (We will have more on the other deals in the coming days.) Consider this a win for the Braves in one sense: They gained the right to spend an additional $388,400 in the international market months after Martin could have been selected in the Rule 5 draft for $50,000 (plus the roster spot and minimum big-league salary, but neither goes to the draftee's old team).

A college reliever turned professional starter, Martin's versatility has been on display this season. He's made 21 relief appearances in the majors as well six starts in Triple-A, so the A's could use him in either role without trepidation. Martin struck out more than a batter per inning during his big-league time, a surprising feat for someone considered to have an average-at-best arsenal. Of course Martin struggled with loud contact during that exposure, allowing nearly two home runs per nine and giving new life to the concerns about his viability in the majors. Big picture, Martin is probably a swingman or low-leverage relief arm; beats letting the slot go to waste.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Activated LHP Matt Harrison from the 60-day disabled list (back); designated RHP Neftali Feliz for assignment. [7/3]

A pair of transactions that have to leave the Rangers and their fans with mixed emotions.

Harrison's return is to be celebrated. Following three back surgeries in two years, including a spinal fusion, there were fears that his career was over. Nope. Harrison probably won't return to the same level of effectiveness that earned him an extension worth $55 million in January 2013, but his performance is beside the point. You never want to see a player's career ended by injury. As such, it's a significant win that Harrison is back on the mound in any form. Here's pulling for him.

On the other side of the joy-sadness spectrum is Feliz's designation. Formerly the Rangers' wunderkind closer, Feliz had also just completed a rehab assignment before being recalled to the majors. In what could be his final appearance with Texas, he threw two shutout innings on Friday before learning of his fate. The reasons for the DFA are straightforward: The Rangers needed the roster spot for Harrison and Feliz had enough service time (more than five years) to reject an optional assignment. The designation means the Rangers now have time to trade or sneak him through waivers. The former seems more likely.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Acquired LHP Clayton Richard from the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations. [7/3]

You know there's a catch whenever a team acquires a cheap, ready starter for cash considerations. Prior to Saturday's start, Richard hadn't pitched in the majors since 2013, but he earned rave reviews during the spring for his work with the Pirates' instructors. Here's the catch: He's still little more than an emergency option. Sure, he generated close to 60 percent groundballs during his time in Indianapolis, but his strikeout rate (four per nine) was one of the worst in Triple-A and would have been the lowest of his big-league career. The upshot for the Cubs is this: Donn Roach, the feller Richard replaced in the rotation, posted an even worse K rate in the minors. Hey, upgrades are upgrades, no matter how small.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Designated RHP Brandon League for assignment. [7/2]
Signed RHP Trevor Cahill to a minor-league deal. [7/2]

You have to feel for League, who had just finished his rehab assignment after missing the first few months of the season due to shoulder inflammation. Unfortunately, the shiny statistics he accumulated during that stint were not supported by his stuff, as his fastball sat in the upper-80s. Even if League were throwing like usual, it's possible he would have been designated for assignment. That's because 1) the Dodgers bullpen is performing well and 2) there's no chance League would get claimed off waivers or reject an outright assignment, thereby forfeiting his $7.5 million salary. So League will remain in the minors, where he'll hope to rebuild his arm strength and earn a big-league opportunity sooner than later.

At least League could have some veteran company in Cahill, who joins his third organization since April. The Dodgers have taken chances on other formerly successful pitchers, hoping to coach 'em up into usable depth or better. Obviously the odds are against Cahill returning to form, but what is there to lose, time and money? The Dodgers have plenty of both; Cahill, well, he better have money.

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jfranco77
7/06
I was really surprised that the Pirates were willing to give Richard to a division rival (who they are competing with for a playoff spot). I wonder if the appearance of treating him well will help them with future minor league FAs down the road.
Muboshgu
7/06
I'm wondering if we can use all these bonus slot trades to figure out how exactly teams are valuing them, who values them more than others, etc. Some of the deals surprised me with better caliber minor leaguers, while some seemed to be for org guys in A ball.