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CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Signed OF-R Marlon Byrd to a minor-league deal. [3/16]

PECOTA is mad about the Indians, projecting them to win the AL Central going away this season. As with the Rays (the system’s other surprise darling), though, the confidence PECOTA exudes about the Tribe is mostly about fielding. The system projects Tampa Bay to save 57 runs and change with their glove work this year, the Giants to save about 42, the Indians to save 41, the Pirates to save 38—and no other team to save even 20. Abraham Almonte’s suspension for the first half of the season exacerbates what was already a problem, for a prospective contender: the outfield in Cleveland looks frighteningly thin. If Michael Brantley isn’t ready to go by Opening Day, as appears likely, that only gets more apparent, and more dangerous.

Enter Byrd—for some reason, a free agent until now. It’s funny, a PED suspension nearly derailed Byrd’s career in 2012, and now, another one (by someone else this time) might be the reason that career will continue. It’s not as though Byrd didn’t already deserve to be in camp with someone, though. Over the last three seasons, he has a .290 TAv. Not against lefties, or at home when he played in Cincinnati or Philadelphia. Byrd has a .290 TAv in 1,760 plate appearances since the start of 2013. He’s hit 72 home runs over that span. If he’s anything but a butcher in an outfield corner (and even at age 38, he seems to be a tolerable left fielder), he should provide significant value.

That’s not to say that PECOTA believes fully in Byrd’s late-career surge. It projects him for a .256 TAv and a half a win of value added, in most of a season’s playing time. For Cleveland, though, with their options somewhat limited and such an established power hitter just sitting there on the free market, it’s more than worth a shot to see whether PECOTA is giving up on Byrd too soon. —Matthew Trueblood

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed RHP Alfredo Simon to a one-year contract worth $2 million [3/16]

Jason Hammel re-signing with the Cubs after the Addison Russell trade it ain’t, but the Reds have pulled a fairly neat trick here. They traded Simon last winter, a year from free agency and coming off a perfectly transparent fraud of a season as a starter, for perfectly useful infielder Eugenio Suarez. Maybe Suarez can prove his solid, league-average production from 2015 sustainable. Maybe, instead, he’ll settle into a second-division profile or even a utility role. In either case, he’s a pretty good return for a pitcher who was never very good, pitched just one season for the team who gave up Suarez to get him, and is now right back in Cincinnati.

The headline here, though, is simply that the Reds have an extra arm now. That’s all Simon has ever been. When he was a reliever, he was a modestly useful seventh-inning guy who could look like more, sometimes, because he outpitched his peripherals (in exactly the way in which every reliever generally outpitches peripherals). As a starter, he’s a replacement-level innings eater, a thick-bodied guy with a too-thin arsenal and no ability to miss bats the way a big-league contributor must. I like the way our advanced pitching value metrics help bring his last two seasons into focus.

Alfredo Simon, 2014-15

Statistic

2014

2015

ERA

3.44

5.05

FIP

4.30

4.74

DRA

3.77

4.53

cFIP

112

116

Simon was already quite bad in 2014, but he was able to work around his weaknesses in certain situations, and he provided some real value. In 2015, he changed hardly at all as a pitcher. The baseline number we use to estimate and project true talent, cFIP, degraded only slightly. What these numbers show is just how widely luck can swing perceived (and even actual) value from one season to the next. Same pitcher, slightly different actual performance, yawning gap in runs allowed. So it goes.

At any rate, Simon helps paper over the Reds’ pitching problems, which are twofold:

  1. A lot of their young pitchers, as it turns out, are terrible. Michael Lorenzen probably never needs to get another shot in a big-league rotation. At a minimum, he needs some time to sort through things.
  2. Injuries will hold up at least the beginning of the season for a few arms, most notably Homer Bailey and John Lamb.

Simon prevents the team from ending up in a position where they might have to break camp with Robert Stephenson in the rotation, starting his service clock for no good reason whatsoever. He also, probably, will help them lose an extra game or two this season, if given a full campaign in the rotation. When the rebuild is on as fully as it is in Cincinnati this year, that’s a feature, not a bug. —Matthew Trueblood

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Signed 3B-R Mike Olt to a minor-league deal. [3/17]

At the start of last season Olt had something like 11 days to prove to the Cubs they should leave Kris Bryant in the minor leagues for just a little bit longer. Then, in just his 12th trip to the plate, Olt was promptly nailed on the right wrist by an Adam Ottavino fastball, thereby ending his longshot bid to stick at third base past mid-April.

Once a top prospect in the Texas Rangers’ farm system, Olt found a home in the South Side after being selected off waivers in early September, where he reappeared in the majors to post a .205 True Average down the stretch. Olt still has age on his side (he’s 27), some prospect pedigree, and generally well-regarded defense, but the deficiencies—injuries purchased in bulk and a 37 percent major-league strikeout rate—are starting to take over the narrative.

The good news—for his new team, anyway—is that Olt won’t be relied upon even for placeholder duty in 2016, as Yangervis Solarte returns as the Padres not-so-firmly entrenched third baseman. PECOTA tabs Olt for a .253 TAv, putting him smack in the middle of Ryan Schimpf and Erik Kratz as the 11-best projected hitter in the entire Padres’ organization. Make of that what you will, but for a Padres team with a decent chance of playing non-meaningful games in the second half, grabbing a guy with a little post-hype steam—at a position of organizational weakness, no less—is not a move to quibble with. —Dustin Palmateer

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onegameref
3/20
I'm glad Olt will receive another look. He is pretty athletic for his size and the ball jumps of the bat when contact is made. Unfortunately not enough contact has been made for a few years now. Sad he couldn't get a toehold for the
Sox.