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HOUSTON ASTROS
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Signed OF-R Eury Perez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. [1/1]

When my father was in college, he and a few buddies registered a chicken for classes. They found a living chicken, gave him a fake name, filled out the requisite paperwork, and—over the span of a few months—took turns taking tests and completing assignments in an attempt to pass the chicken through a real-live college course. I can only assume that’s what’s going on here with Perez and the Astros.

I’m guessing that the former BPers in the Astros’ front office are having a laugh, as with George Springer, Carlos Gomez, Preston Tucker, Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis and Jake Marisnick in the fold, the team is just looking to see if they can pull one over on the Spring Training scorekeepers, give a chicken a few plate appearances and get a good chuckle out of the whole thing.

Conversely, I suppose it’s possible that Perez is a real-life person with high-end speed that can fill an important post-season pinch-running role with a team like the Astros who’re looking for a trip to the postseason again in 2016. But I’d bet on the other thing. Definitely a chicken.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed C-R Michael McKenry to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. [12/30]

McKenry is the quintessential backup catcher, only in reverse. While the reserve backstops of old were all glove and no bat, McKenry offers some potential upside with wood (.258 career TAv, .319 career OBP), while being a bit deficient with leather. His arm isn’t anything to write home about, and his blocking and framing numbers are average at best, making him best suited as a partner to a fringy starting catcher.

The trouble with McKenry is that his offense ebbs and flows in an even-year rhythm: he hit 20 home runs in 2012 and 2014 put together, but just nine in 2011, 2013, and 2015 combined. I suppose that’s what happens when circumstances restrict you to a life of small sample sizes. At any rate, his competition is currently only Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson for the slot behind Robinson Chirinos on the Rangers' depth chart; there’s a decent chance he’ll get a hundred plate appearances or so this season.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed RHP Kyle Kendrick and LHP Alex Torres to a minor-league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. [12/31]

Nothing lasts forever, except for an inning pitched by Kyle Kendrick.

That joke, of course, rings too true—not because Kendrick is a slow pitcher, but because he was awful last year. Of course, Kendrick is a slowpoke and his pace between pitches was fourth-longest among starters with 120 or more innings last season. But it’s mainly because 2015 was a terrible, terrible year for the Rockies’ nominal Opening Day starter. His stat line for is the baseball equivalent of the Cthulhu mythos, and primed to steal your sanity. (The Colorado effect, everyone!)

While Kendrick had his ups and downs as a back-of-the-rotation starter with the Phillies between 2007 and 2014, 2015 was all ups: he gave up more than two home runs per nine, which is bad on its own, but far far worse when you field a Jered Weaver-ian strikeout rate (12.7 percent) and aren’t exactly a master of control (7.2 percent walk rate). Kendrick fills a need for the Braves, as he possesses a warm body and has at one point started major league baseball games. While there’s almost no chance he gives up as many dingers as he did during his year of hell in Colorado, there’s only a slightly better chance that he’s an above-replacement starting pitcher in 2016. While stranger things have happened, it would require a drastic change in his repertoire, the rules of baseball, or the composition of the universe for Kendrick to beat the odds.

In 2013, Torres briefly harnessed his four-pitch mix and, as a result, posted a 1.71 ERA and 2.35 FIP. He was amazing. Nothing quite like that has happened before or since, as while Torres is a master at pushing rawhide past hitters (career 24 percent strikeout rate), he only seems to have only a LaLoosh-ian idea where the ball is going. He’s walked more than half a batter per inning for most of his career, and in most seasons even more than that. All too often, it’s not half a batter that he walks, it’s a whole one, and then another, and then someone scores. You can do worse as a LOOGY, but the Braves don’t need to worry about that because they don’t appear to care much about 2016 wins. If Torres finally discovers the strike zone, the Braves can deal him to a contender for—ostensibly—another young arm. If he doesn’t, well, at least he’s got a pretty cool hat.

MIAMI MARLINS
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Reportedly signed RHP Edwin Jackson to a major-league contract for the league minimum. [1/4]

It seems that every season we’ve been waiting for Jackson to “figure it out”. Blessed with remarkable velocity and prospect hype all the way through his time in Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, the story of Edwin Jackson appears to be nearing it’s end. A full-time move to the bullpen is sometimes a panacea for a high-velocity starter with control issues, but Jackson couldn’t elevate his velocity despite a move to a relief role. As a result, his stats and peripherals looked much the same as they did back when he was an ineffective starter for Chicago, undone by an inability to keep the ball in the zone or put hitters away.

After being DFA’d by the Cubs and relegated to Atlanta at the close of 2015, Jackson continues his extended tour of the National League now with the Marlins. Even the woeful Fish have other interesting bullpen arms, but Jackson brings his trademark reliability to South Florida: after years of throwing hundreds of innings, he remains a pretty safe bet to hold up deep into the season. Given that Jackson gets to keep his pretty $13.5 million paycheck from the final year of his Cubs deal, the Marlins only have to hand over the league minimum in order to add some veteran stability to the back of their ‘pen.

Though he’s only entering his age-32 season (unbelievable, right?!), the Marlins could very well be Jackson’s last stop before departing the bigs for parts unknown. His upside is limited unless he suddenly figures things out, which is very unlikely for someone with 1640 big-league innings already in the bank.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Signed OF-S Eric Young Jr. to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. [12/30]

I wish I was as good at anything as Eric Young Jr. is at running the bases. Last year, Young hit about 75% worse than an average major leaguer during his 53-game run with the Braves and Mets. Despite that, he only cost his teams -0.5 WARP, where less-athletic ballplayers might have raised those negative WARP numbers much higher. Even as he ages into his 30s, he has game-changing speed, and it’s allowed him to be a positive contributor in many seasons despite a very iffy bat and an indifferent approach to outfield routes. At the same time, Young’s BABIP crushed him in 2015, and just a bit of regression to that mean could give the Brewers a perfectly useful fifth outfielder/pinch-runner at the league minimum—up until the very moment his legs give out.

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tearecrules
1/05
Wouldn't "...raisi(ng) those negative WARP..." mean he would have a positive WARP if he was less athletic?
KerryFam4
1/05
Isn't he aging out of his 20's not his 30's?
doctawojo
1/05
You are correct, and this is corrected.
tomshipley75
1/05
In the future (and is the future now?) could having a terrible year actually raise your value to tanking teams? Those teams would sign two types of free agents: - Bounce-back candidates who they might be able to flip at the deadline and... - Kyle Kendrickes Will there ever be a time when teams like the Braves, Phillies and Brewers get into a bidding war for the latter?
bleaklewis
1/05
I would like to know more about this chicken who went to class.
jkaflagg
1/05
Amusing take on the Astros outfield depth, but it's worth noting that all the outfielders listed were also with Houston last year....yet guys like Alex Pressly, L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman still got at bats at the major league level....guys get hurt,and it helps not to have to throw Trevor Crowe out there in a pinch.
Oleoay
1/06
This should've been renamed the ex-Rockies Transaction Analysis...
gerrybraun
1/06
As I writer of sorts, I have to comment on your use of the unconventional contraction "who're," which is used most commonly in speech, less so in writing for the obvious reason. It jumped out at me. That's all.