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American League

National League

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Acquired RHP Ken Giles and SS-L Jonathan Arauz from the Phillies in exchange for RHP Vincent Velasquez, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, RHP Mark Appel, RHP Harold Arauz and RHP Thomas Eshelman. [12/12]

The Astros also get Jonathan Arauz in the deal, and while he's a half-decade away from contributing, he's a pretty significant add in this deal. He's a left-handed hitting middle-infielder who has an advanced feel for the barrel, and though there isn't much power to project here, the hit tool could be a tick above-average. He's a quick-twitch athlete on defense who doesn't have great speed, but with enough arm strength and good enough footwork to project staying up the middle. The ceiling is a starter at shortstop, and the floor is unknown, as it is with most players who aren't old enough to purchase Old English. —Christopher Crawford

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Signed RP Steve Cishek to a two-year, $10 million contract. [12/12]

“Ah, cruel bloody fate! / What canst thou now do more!”

It would be a serious breach of journalistic integrity to suggest that, were you to train a camera on Steve Cishek’s house right now, you would see the aforementioned Cishek humming the above English folk tune to himself. But it also might not be wrong, because Cishek lost a lot of money for himself by becoming a free agent in 2015 rather than the year before, when he was coming off of a four-year period in which he threw at least 50 innings out of the ‘pen every year, posted a sparkling 2.70 ERA over 253 â…“ innings, and struck out three times more batters than he walked. In 2015, by contrast, Cishek regressed to a 3.58 ERA and saw his K/BB ratio plummet to a far more pedestrian 1.78.

Fate! As it is, the Mariners will try to supplement the currently excellent Joaquin Benoit with the previously excellent Cishek for the reasonable cost of $4 million in 2016 and $6 million in 2017, with the possibility (for Cishek) of an additional $7 million paid out in incentives. That’s $7 million the Mariners would happily pay, if necessary, because Cishek—when he’s on—can be very, very good. Unfortunately for both team and player, however, I have my doubts about whether Cishek will ever trigger those incentives. That’s because his velocity dropped by over two miles per hour last year, on every pitch, and he completely lost his release point, shifting a half-inch away from his normal location at the end of 2015. These are not things you typically see in a healthy pitcher, and so while $4 million is probably worth it for a lottery ticket, $6 million is not, and Cishek needs to turn things around quite a bit to be worth that in 2017. He might, but probably won’t. —Rian Watt

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired RHP Vincent Velasquez, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, RHP Mark Appel, RHP Harold Arauz and RHP Thomas Eshelman from the Astros in exchange for RHP Ken Giles and SS-L Jonathan Arauz. [12/12]

Remember all those great things we wrote about Derek Fisher heading to Philadelphia? Well, it turns out that the deal between the Phillies and Astros does not include Fisher (as was originally reported), but does include former first-overall pick Mark Appel.

You've likely heard of Appel, but just in case this is the very first time reading something about prospects, he's one of the most intriguing—and frustrating—arms of the past three years. When he's at his best, Appel will touch the high 90s with a four-seam fastball, but his velocity will fluctuate anywhere from 89-94 mph. His slider is another plus offering with good tilt that he'll locate for strikes when everything is clicking, and he'll also show an above-average change that has regressed slightly since he was an ace at Stanford. Both secondary pitches will vary in grades, but in terms of pure stuff, this is the type of guy you see pitching near the top of the rotation.

The reasons for Appel's struggles vary, but the easiest one to pin is that his delivery just doesn't offer the necessary deception required to keep hitters off-balance. They often pick up the ball early, and more than one source has mentioned that he's one of the easier minor league pitchers for hitters to time. If Philadelphia can help him create more timing issues for those batters going forward, he could be a no. 2 starter, but if not, Appel could be a reliever or just an organizational arm.

The addition of Appel and the removal of Fisher may change the value of the package that Philadelphia received, but given the profiles of these two prospects, we won't know in which direction for a while. They both have a high ceiling but an unknown floor, and either would be a fantastic addition to the Philadelphia system. If Appel ends up the ace he looked to be in spurts at Stanford, the Phillies will be extraordinarily happy. —Christopher Crawford

Acquired RHP Charlie Morton from the Pirates in exchange for RHP David Whitehead. [12/12]

Quick, what does the Phillies’ rotation look like in 2016? If you answered “fairly deep and actually sort of interesting” then you’re probably from Philadelphia, or you were taking a shot in the dark. Nice work, either way, because the Phillies’ rotation in 2016 is suddenly fairly deep and sort of interesting. To wit: Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, Jeremy Hellickson, Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, Jerad Eickhoff, and Matt Harrison will all compete with Morton for a spot in the Philadelphia rotation this spring. With the exception of Nola, there’s not a ton of present talent there, but there’s a great deal of upside, and the depth available means the Phillies should be able to avoid running David Buchanan or Alec Asher out there on a regular basis.

Morton, for his part, seems likely to do in 2016 what he’s done in the previous eight (!) seasons of his career: throw about 120 innings at about replacement level. That’s not amazing, sure, but if he hits his PECOTA projection (194 IP, 4.47 ERA), he’ll be a marked improvement over the entire Phillies’ rotation last year, which posted a 5.23 ERA over 892 â…” very dubious innings (that’s the second-highest ERA in the majors from the staff with the third-fewest innings pitched). And you know what? Marked improvement is exactly what the Phillies need right now. They’ve quietly stockpiled quite a lot of interesting talent in recent months, and they need folks like Morton to hold down the fort in the rotation while they wait and hope for pitchers like Appel, Hellickson, or Velasquez to break out into stars, and while they consider how to spend the $200 million a year their new TV deal gives them. I hear there are a few interesting free agents coming in 2018. —Rian Watt

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Acquired RHP David Whitehead from the Phillies in exchange for RHP Charlie Morton. [12/12]

Whitehead was a product of Moeller HS in Ohio, the school that gave us Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Larkin and the Bell's—but was a 34th round pick out of Elon University in 2013, a school that has produced legends like Gene Harris and Dick Such. He throws a 90-93 mph fastball that doesn't have a ton of movement, and a fringe-average breaking ball with neither the depth nor the spin to be more than that. He does have a competent change, repeats his delivery and generally throws strikes. This is very much an organizational arm, and expecting anything more than an up-and-down career is expecting too much. —Christopher Crawford

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BROTHERZIP
12/15
Schoolmarm must throw a flag on the Pirates commentary: There is no apostrophe in the plural of Bell.