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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Acquired INF-R Yunel Escobar and cash considerations from the Nationals in exchange for RHPs Trevor Gott and Michael Brady. [12/10]

For those keeping track, the Angels are Escobar's seventh organization overall, and his fourth in the past 12 months. This is probably not what he had in mind when he signed an extension with the Rays.

The good news for Escobar is he's entering the final guaranteed season of that pact. The bad news is the Angels hold a club option on his services for the 2017 season. Before Billy Eppler makes his call on the option, he'll get to watch Escobar up close and personal. At what position might Escobar be playing, you ask? Probably third base. He has the arm strength for the left side, and that's the spot he played with the Nationals. Besides, the Angels have more options for the keystone (Johnny Giavotella and Cliff Pennington) than the hot corner (Kyle Kubitza and Kaleb Cowart each disappointed last year).

These days, Escobar's value is tied to his bat. He's no longer a plus defender and, while he's never been a speedy baserunner, last season he led the NL in double plays grounded into. At his best, Escobar makes a lot of contact, swings at strikes, and provides some gap power. He's probably not going to hit .300 again, and he doesn't walk as often as his patient approach suggests, but there's enough here to justify starting—and moreover, to justify favoring over signing David Freese to a multi-year deal. —R.J. Anderson

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Signed LHP Tony Sipp to a three-year deal worth $18 million. [12/10]

Just two years ago, Sipp signed a minor-league deal with the Padres and lost a spring training battle to a group of lefties led by Alex Torres—who was designated for assignment this past August by the Mets after walking 26 in 34 1/3 innings. Now Sipp's the owner of a shiny new three-year pact, projecting as the go-to lefty out of the 'pen on a playoff contender, and Torres is just trying to make it back to the majors. Ahh, the life of the reliever.

Since joining the Astros in May 2014, Sipp's posted the two best cFIPs of his career—70 in 2014, 80 last season—thanks to improved control and a groundball rate that finally cracked 40 percent. He's also shown increased stinginess against same-side hitters, holding lefties to a .553 OPS over the last two seasons. While Sipp was always moderately effective vs. righties—given his left-handedness, anyway—he's gotten even better since joining Houston, as a newfound reliance on his splitter has led to a 5.6 K:BB ratio.

If three years and $18 million for Sipp still feels like a lot, consider some recent reliever deals: Both John Axford and Jason Motte got two years and $10 million from their new teams, and Axford comes with a bloated walk rate while Motte's K rate has dipped some 15 percentage points since pre-Tommy John 2012. The 'Stros tacked on an extra year and $1 million annually for a better pitcher, and that makes plenty sense given their familiarity with Sipp. —Dustin Palmateer

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Acquired RHP Casey Kelly and C-R Ricardo Rodriguez from the Padres in exchange for C-R Christian Bethancourt. [12/10]

In the mood for a challenge trade featuring two former top prospects? If so, this one's for you.

Blame Kelly's stagnation on injuries. You probably could have guessed as much, given the Braves' affinity for taking on injured arms—especially from the Padres—but Kelly missed the entire 2013 and 2014 seasons due to elbow trouble. His return to the mound this year featured inconsistent stuff and results, and while he reached the majors in September, there's no reason to sweat those numbers.

Once regarded as the 30th-best prospect in the game by Prospectus, Kelly's ceiling was considered that of a mid-rotation starter. He seems unlikely to reach such heights now, in part because he doesn't have much time to do it. Yes, he's only 26, yet all the service time he accrued while on the disabled list has left him a year away from arbitration. Provided Kelly shows something in spring, he's likely to get a look during the season. Check back in about 12 months to find out if he's a keeper or a non-tender. —R.J. Anderson

Signed C-R Tyler Flowers to a two-year deal worth $5.3 million. [12/8]

Despite selling off established stars, the Braves insist they're trying to put a winning product on the field in 2016. Give them credit here, because Flowers could help them in multiple ways. Most of Atlanta's rebuild has been focused on adding young pitching, and Flowers rated (on a per-pitch basis) as the ninth-best pitch framer in baseball last season. If the Braves are going to lose—and they almost surely are, for at least a year or two—they may as well cater to their young arms as much as possible, and Flowers offers a significant upgrade over both A.J. Pierzynski and Christian Bethancourt in the framing department.

At the dish, Flowers' approach leaves plenty to be desired, but there's enough mistake-pitch power to make him a valuable player, especially at the price. Flowers should also represent an upgrade over Pierzynski against lefties, as his .265 multi-year True Average (compared to Pierzynski's .230 mark) indicates.

The Flowers acquisition also allowed the Braves to put an abrupt end to the Bethancourt Experiment, as they dealt him to San Diego last night for Casey Kelley and Ricardo Rodriguez. There's still some upside there given the prospect pedigree and the cannon arm attached to Bethancourt's right shoulder, but the framing upgrade alone makes this a defensible shakeup. —Dustin Palmateer

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Signed 4C-R Mark Reynolds to a one-year deal worth $2.6 million. [12/10]

For as good as Ben Paulsen was last season, he struggled whenever he faced left-handed pitching. Reynolds, then, is around to assist. Most everyone who follows baseball knows his story. He walks, he strikes out, and sometimes he runs into a home run or three. Unfortunately, those displays of power are becoming rarer and rarer for Reynolds, who just completed his third sub-.200 ISO season in a row. A platoon role in Coors Field sounds a lot like heaven to aging sluggers. We'll see if Reynolds can make the most of his opportunity. —R.J. Anderson

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Acquired 3B/LF-L Garin Cecchini for cash considerations. [12/10]

The definition of “buying low” is the Brewers acquiring Garin Cecchini yesterday. Once a top prospect and a potential heir to Mike Lowell in Boston, Cecchini has completely spit the bit since moving to Triple-A. He used to be touted for his hit tool and approach, but both skills have completely flown away; an OBP of .286 and a slugging percentage of .292 was the best he could muster against the International League’s finest. That’s some serious red for his ledger. And never a world-beating defender at third base, Cecch moved to the outfield for much of the season, where one scout said this about his defense: “…looks dead to me.”

Yikes.

Anyway, the Brewers are taking a flyer on Cecchini because the situation at the hot corner in Milwaukee is about as bad as the one in Boston. Let’s put it this way: Last year the Brew Crew was so desperate for help at the position that they acquired Matt Dominguez. On purpose! Hernan Perez started 46 games! Now they’re trying every bargain-basement option from trading for Cecchini and Jonathan Villar to taking Colin Walsh in the Rule 5 Draft, so there’s definitely a whiff of desperation here.

At 25, perhaps Cecchini can figure out how to be a major-league ballplayer, but that seems like it’s becoming more and more unlikely. Outfielders with a .209 True Average during a season in Triple-A don’t usually pop. Big leaguers usually have one way that they can help a team, and if 2015 was any indication, Cecchini’s got nada.

Still, the return for a prospect of Cecchini’s pedigree 12 months ago would have probably been a pretty good player, and the Brewers gave up nothing of value to acquire him now. Maybe he had a secret issue last season that dragged him down? Maybe there’s still a chance he can become a decent utility guy. But keep this in mind: when you give up zilch to acquire a player, you should expect zilch in return. If Cecchini gives anything to the Brewers in 2016, it will be as much a surprise as his 2015 failures. —Bryan Grosnick

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Signed RHP Juan Nicasio to a one-year deal worth $3 million. [12/10]

There are no better candidates for out-of-nowhere relief success than failed Rockies starters, but Nicasio's first season as a full-time member of the bullpen didn't come without hiccups. He posted a 3.86 ERA while allowing 92 baserunners in 58 1/3 innings, as his walk rate ballooned to a career-high 12.3 percent. Plus, his steady diet of fastballs and sliders still hasn't fooled a lefty, as his 0.94 K:BB ratio against them last season shows.

There were positives though. Nicasio's strikeout rate jumped to 25 percent, 7.4 percentage points above his career average, and he allowed just one homer all season. His fastball (95.7 mph) and slider (86.2) registered at career-best marks, each pitch two or three ticks up from his days as a starter. Drill deeper, and the outlook gets even more promising:

Year

FB Velo

Whiffs Per Swing

2011

94.7

20.3

2012

94.2

18.0

2013

93.1

16.8

2014

93.5

16.0

2015

95.7

27.9

Nicasio ranked 22nd among relievers last season in Whiffs/Swing on his fastball, and although his slider plays more toward contact, the uptick in velocity has given Nicasio a true swing-and-miss weapon. He still has obvious issues—the control and the lefty struggles, for instance—preventing him from earning a setup slot, but that's where Ray Searage pokes out of his hole, makes an adjustment here and an adjustment there, and turns Nicasio into relief pitching's next big thing. —Dustin Palmateer

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired C-R Christian Bethancourt from the Braves in exchange for RHP Casey Kelly and C-R Ricardo Rodriguez. [12/10]

Only 24, Bethancourt was ranked as a top-100 prospect as recently as preseason 2014. He's since failed to impress during two big-league stints due to an overaggressive approach and overrated glove.

For his big-league career, Bethancourt has offered at nearly 60 percent of the pitches he's seen, and nearly half the pitches he's seen out of his zone. Basically, he's done his best J.P. Arencibia impersonation . . . sans the occasional feats of raw power. That's just not going to work, even for a catcher. Bethancourt isn't polished on the defensive side, either. His arm strength is elite, but he's not always consistent with his footwork. Additionally, he needs to continue honing his receiving skills.

Because Bethancourt is without options, he'll have to make quick progress at the big-league level. The Padres have a loaded depth chart behind the plate—there's incumbent starter Derek Norris; Austin Hedges, who would seem like a better Bethancourt; and Josmil Pinto, who is without options and is the ying to Bethancourt's yang—so who knows what the exact plans are here. —R.J. Anderson

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Acquired RHPs Trevor Gott and Michael Brady from the Angels in exchange for INF-R Yunel Escobar and cash considerations. [12/10]

Nearly a year after acquiring Escobar from the Athletics for Tyler Clippard, Mike Rizzo ships Escobar back to the west coast for a different right-handed reliever.

In Gott, the Nationals receive a short, undersized 23-year-old with some big-league success. He spent last season in the Angels bullpen, where his heavy upper-90s fastball induced an impressive amount of groundballs (58 percent) and held righties to a .209 True Average. Alas, there are reasons for concern. Gott's swinging-strike rate was one of the worst among full-time relievers, and he struggled when faced with the platoon disadvantage. Perhaps that's to be expected, given he has a drop-and-drive delivery and a low release point. But until Gott becomes more consistent with his breaking ball, or improves upon his changeup, he's more likely to fill a middle-relief role than anything.

Brady, by the way, is an almost-29-year-old with a career 7.01 ERA in Triple-A. —R.J. Anderson

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swarmee
12/11
"Signed 4C-R Mark Reynolds" Is this some joke that went over my head or did you spell 1B wrong?
schlicht
12/11
4C = four corners
jonjacoby
12/11
4C-R = 1B, 3B, LF & RF (the four corner positions)
BrewersTT
12/12
I'm guessing swarmee knew that and is going to ask the same question again.
swarmee
2/09
I actually didn't know that. Figured he was just a 1B now anyways... always something to learn.
lmarighi
12/14
He does have experience playing all four corner positions badly. . .