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HOUSTON ASTROS
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Acquired RHP Cy Sneed from the Brewers in exchange for INF-S Jonathan Villar. [11/19]

Drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft, Sneed has the stuff to hang in the back of a big league rotation. He touches 94 mph with his fastball, and also throws an 11-5 curve and a tumbling change. While neither of his offspeed offerings project as plus pitches, both flash average and have been effective for him in pro ball.

Sneed works straight over the top. There’s some good in that (lefties won’t see the fastball as well as they do against most righties) but also some bad (limited horizontal wiggle on his pitches). The lack of movement on his fastball in particular puts a lot of pressure on Sneed to throw quality strikes, and while he’s not wild, there are a few flags in his command profile. He has a long delivery with a lot of moving parts and his upper body leans toward first base at release. That’s not to say he won’t or can’t improve his command going forward, but it’s safer to project Sneed as a swingman than as a fourth starter. —Brendan Gawlowski

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Acquired RHP Liam Hendriks from the Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Jesse Chavez. [11/20]

All good bullpens must come to an end, and the A's streak of crafting one out of thin air crumbled in spectacular fashion last year. Sean Doolittle got hurt; Luke Gregerson defected for Houston; Ryan Cook was abruptly sent to Nashville (then Boston); Dan Otero and Fernando Abad fell victim to gopheritis; Evan Scribner allowed three-times as many home runs as walks; et cetera. The results weren't pretty:

Year

Reliever DRA (MLB rank)

2012

3.73 (2nd)

2013

3.81 (7th)

2014

3.23 (1st)

2015

4.78 (29th)

Enter Hendriks, who last year made a run at the Mount Rushmore of starter-to-reliever success stories. Hendriks' permanent move to the bullpen came as a last-ditch effort to save his big-league career (he'd previously posted a 5.95 ERA as a starter). In the 'pen, he added significant velocity to all his pitches, and tightened up his repertoire to feature more fastballs and sliders—a tweak that led him to become death against same-side hitting, as he held righties to a .207/.242/.257 slash line.

Hendriks alone won't repair the A's broken bullpen, but pairing him with a now-healthy Doolittle gives Oakland a nifty late-inning lefty-righty combo. Toss in a couple doses of (good) bullpen volatility and A's resourcefulness—or skip the resourcefulness and just add Darren O'Day—and there's a decent chance Oakland reworks the 'pen into a strength by the start of the 2016 season.

While the A's are low on sure-thing starting pitchers after Sonny Gray, there's no shortage of Chavez-like back-end options, and the recent Rich Hill one-year, $6 million bargain softens the blow from losing Chavez further. The A's also net three extra years of service time, as Hendriks doesn't become arb-eligible until 2017 while Chavez has just one year of club control remaining.

Both the Hill and Hendriks moves indicate Oakland might be working toward a quick turnaround, perhaps emboldened by a 2015 pythag record that bested their actual win-loss tally by seven games (75-87 to 68-94) and a division that doesn't yet house any super teams. It's Oakland and it's November 23, so it may be prudent that we take a wait-and-see approach to evaluating the overall plan, but it appears on the surface that the A's fancy themselves short-term contenders. —Dustin Palmateer

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired INF-S Luis Sardinas from the Brewers in exchange for OF-L Ramon Flores. [11/20]

Jerry Dipoto is addicted to the shindig—or whatever you call the urge to make trades. Seattle's latest get is Sardinas, a sardine-size lad who once upon a time was considered a legitimate prospect. He remains young and rangy, but his bat continues to play light in the majors and minors alike—to the extent that the Brewers' new front office evidently favored Jonathan Villar to the status quo. Given the cost—an extra outfielder who has more fractured ankles than options—the M's should be content if Sardinas settles in over the next season-plus as a speed-and-D utility infielder. —R.J. Anderson

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Acquired RHP Jesse Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for RHP Liam Hendriks. [11/20]

Chavez is sort of the anti-Hendriks. From 2008 through 2012, working almost exclusively as a well-traveled middle reliever, he pitched to a 5.99 ERA with a 2.07 K:BB ratio and 1.7 HR/9. The A's gave him another shot as a longman in 2013, and Chavez responded with his first serviceable year since 2009: He allowed only three home runs in 57 and 1/3 innings while posting a career-best 2.75 K:BB ratio. When injuries ravaged the A's rotation in 2014, Chavez slid into the rotation and continued to post solid results. He followed that up with a similar 2015, even if the ERA spiked nearly a full run:

Year

Innings

ERA

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

K:BB

2014

125 2/3

3.44

8.5

2.9

.9

2.9

2015

150 1/3

4.37

7.6

2.8

1.1

2.7

Unlike Hendriks, who moved to the 'pen while ramping up the velocity and narrowing his pitch mix, Chavez transformed from failed high-velo reliever into a more well-rounded starter. His four-seamer, which once traveled 95-plus in one inning bursts, dipped to 92.8 MPH last year. Chavez also added a cutter in 2012, which he last season used 35 percent of the time. He now throws five other pitches ay a better than five percent clip, making predictability a non-issue. Durability, however, remains a problem, as Chavez still hasn't thrown more than 160 innings in a season.

The Jays, who are set to lose David Price to free agency and Mark Buehrle to retirement (or St. Louis), were so desperate for rotation help before this trade that they actually considered reprogramming Hendriks back into a starter. Instead of beginning that experiment, the Jays were able to get a finished transition, one with some success—albeit limited—under his belt for a relief pitcher they weren't all that confident in—despite his success, Hendriks ranked seventh in leverage index among Toronto relievers with at least 20 innings last year.

As far as the bullpen goes, while they return Roberto Osuna and Brett Cecil as key late-game options, with Hendriks departed and Mark Lowe (free agency) and LaTroy Hawkins (retirement) also gone, don't be surprised if the Jays patch up the middle relief corps this winter. —Dustin Palmateer

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Signed OF-R Yusniel Diaz and 2B-R Omar Estevez in international free agency. [11/21]

The negotiators of the most recent CBA will have you believe that you can’t just purchase a farm system anymore. The days of teams being able to throw $15-20 million around in the draft are gone (not that it was the large market teams dominating this strategy anyway), but this seems like pennies compared to what the current reach for yield in the amateur space has been elevated to. And with only one feasible outlet left for teams to leverage financial power, the big fish have eaten all of the little fish that dared to believe that investing in the future creates sustainable health for an organization.

The Dodgers, one of the big fish, flexed their financial muscle yet again on Sunday, inking two of an ever growing group of Cuban players who are not old enough or experienced enough to avoid the international bonus pools. The rules of international free agency state that teams who go over their allotted bonus pools are subject not only to a 100 percent tax on the overage, but if you exceed your allotment by 15 percent, you lose the ability to sign any player to a bonus greater than $300,000 during the next two international signing periods. Andrew Friedman and company blew by any semblance of an allotment when they signed Yadier Alvarez for $16 million on July 2, but that’s not all. They even traded three of their four largest international slots to Toronto for prospects on the same day.

So what do you get with seemingly unlimited cash? Diaz is an 18-year-old center fielder who hit .348/.447/.440 in 250 plate appearances in his Serie Nacional rookie year, which would have very likely been good enough to win the rookie of the year award (if he hadn’t defected, of course). He has a chance for four plus tools, and even the power that lags behind the others isn’t a zero and could eventually get to league average with added strength. Estevez is less of a known commodity, but currently projects to be a good enough second baseman to stick at the position with potential above-average power.

With Diaz ($15.5 million bonus) and Estevez ($6 million bonus) now in tow, the Dodgers have spent a whopping $88 million in international free agency when all of the bonuses and overages have been added up. If it sounds whopping, it’s because it is. Oh the things you could do with that money. You could fund the entire creation of Metal Gear Solid 5. You could buy a new house that might just be the inspiration for Dracula’s castle. You could race against yourself for a Senate seat in Kentucky. You could purchase more than 10 million subscriptions to Netflix. Think of all the chilling you could do with those subscriptions!

Until an international draft is put into place, or new limits are placed on international free agency, the few will continue to dominate this small, but impactful market. The Dodgers have a long history of success with international signings, particularly under former Director of Amateur Scouting Logan White, that includes names like Yasiel Puig, Julio Urias, Hiroki Kuroda, Takashi Saito, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. But as they showed when they inked Hector Olivera and then subsidized him to the Braves for a haul before he even reached the majors, there’s a blurred line here between acquiring talent and acquiring assets. And until more franchises show either the ability or willingness to blur these lines, those little fish don’t stand a chance. —Bret Sayre

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Acquired INF-S Jonathan Villar from the Astros in exchange for RHP Cy Sneed. [11/19]
; Acquired OF-L Ramon Flores from the Mariners in exchange for INF-S Luis Sardinas. [11/20]

It feels like Villar has been around forever; he was, if you recall, Houston's shortstop of the pre-Correa future. Yet he won't turn 25 until May, and will do so after enjoying the finest stretch of his big-league career: a 53-game audition that saw him play five positions, hit .284/.339/.414, and steal seven bases on nine tries.

There are valid reasons to doubt the sustainability of Villar's offensive breakout: it came in a small sample along with a high BABIP; he's always had swing-and-miss and platoon issues; and so on. The good news is that he contributes value in other ways, thereby lowing his offensive bar. Villar remains a plus-plus runner who has proved he can steal double-digit bases in the majors at acceptable efficiency. Additionally, he's a skilled defender equipped with more than enough arm to play on the left side.

There is another major knock against Villar worth noting: his maturity has been dinged dating back to his prospect days. Having overseen Villar in Houston, David Stearns should know all about that blemish and what it entails, so who are we to say boo if Stearns is willing to risk it? Of course, Stearns might be holding his nose for the chance to grab a cheap starter or platoon partner. Who knows. Either way, it's a worthwhile gamble for a team that could stand to take a few more over the next few weeks.

With Villar in tow, Stearns decided Sardinas was expendable. In return, the Brewers got Flores, whose broken ankle is expected to sideline him into the spring. The book on Flores is that he doesn't have a standout tool, but that his approach, feel for contact, and ability to pass across the outfield makes him a tolerable bench piece. The Brewers sure hope so, because he comes without options. —R.J. Anderson

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bhacking
11/23
John Gibbons is on record as saying Aaron Sanchez will go to spring training likely as a starter meaning the bullpen in Toronto needs a forth just to play bridge right now.
anderson721
11/24
For 88 million, you could field the 2015 Pirates. I kinda think they're getting more bang for the buck.
davinhbrown
11/24
Fans in the burgh hope its at least that high.