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American League

National League

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Claimed UT-B Jimmy Parades off waivers from Baltimore Orioles. [5/16]

Sometimes the seasonal batting line for a hitter tells us everything we need to know about his season. In the case of Paredes, examining his 2015 line by itself could lead to more questions than answers. How did a replacement-level player with virtually no prospect pedigree–on a competitive Orioles team, no less–find 384 plate appearances? Well, Paredes had an incredibly hot start to his season, ripping off a .332 on-base percentage and .475 slugging mark in the first half of the season.

This mark was more than a little shocking, as Paredes never displayed much game power in the minors or during his various cups of coffee with the Astros, Royals, or Orioles. His background was that of a low-walk, high-strikeout hitter with great tools and little way to translate them into on-field skills. But Paredes finally proved that he could make hard contact–right up until he couldn’t any more. His star faded a little before the All-Star break, but afterward it fell clear out of the sky. His second-half OBP was .252 and his slugging percentage was .265, and after an injury to start 2016 there was no place for him in Baltimore despite his background as a utility player.

The less said about Paredes’ defense the better; while nominally a second and third baseman, Paredes isn’t terribly competent in either of these defensive roles. You can call a player “utility,” but utility ain’t all that useful when your defense in all those positions isn’t very good. BP’s Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) metric rates him as below-average in every single season he’s played (-9.5 FRAA over his career). Both the eye test and a review of other defensive metrics corroborate this assertion. No, his best role is as a bench bat, pinch-hitter, and the baseball equivalent of a seat-filler at the Oscars. He can slot in nearly anywhere thanks to his versatility and ability to switch-hit, and then be shooed away without much guilt immediately after he’s no longer needed.

The Blue Jays are in the midst of a bit of an offensive lull, a surprising turn of events for a team that last year looked like a homer-hitting juggernaut. It’s possible, sure, that Paredes could have a renaissance in Toronto like other flawed sluggers. If it could happen to the currently-suspended Chris Colabello, or Edwin Encarnacion, or Jose Bautista, I suppose it could happen to the former Oriole. But part of the problem he might find is that, though they are slumping, the Jays are loaded with bats, wielded by men who aren’t stellar defensive players. Breaking through to a starting lineup may require a flashback to April 2015, but if not, he’s still an okay pinch-hitting option among the offensive zeroes on the Jays’ bench. —Bryan Grosnick

CHICAGO CUBS
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Signed RHP Joe Nathan to a one-year, $507,500 contract. [5/17]

After recording just a single out in 2015, Nathan’s return to the major leagues comes with a whole host of question marks. One of them comes at the end of “will that really happen?” Nathan is currently recovering from the zipper and will join the Cubs’ 60-day disabled list first, before he’ll ever suit up for the big-league squad. Then come the other questions: How much will he throw post-recovery, and will he be any good?

It’s weird to think that he might not be good when he’s not so far removed from one of the most consistent primes of any top-tier closer. Between 2003 and 2013, Nathan only had one season where his WARP dipped below 1.8 wins–in the highly-volatile world of relief pitching, that level of steady quality is a true rarity. However, after inking with Detroit (where relief pitchers go to die) in 2014, his command deserted him (4.5 walks per nine) and he perhaps finally started showing his age. Those walks seem especially worrisome now, as it’s common for pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery to deal with command and control issues as they get back to the mound. Even if Nathan’s stuff is still there after so many years, it remains to be seen if he can wrangle it.

This is the very definition of a low-risk deal, as Nathan will receive the league minimum unless he reaches performance incentives built into the contract. It seems unlikely that Nathan could even possibly play until July as he rehabs his Tommy John surgery, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that he could come back and assist the Cubs’ bullpen before the end of the season. I wouldn’t count on anything coming of a 41-year-old reliever returning from major surgery, but the way almost everything has broken right for the Cubs over the past year, I also wouldn’t count anything out. —Bryan Grosnick

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired OF-R Jabari Blash from Seattle Mariners for cash considerations. [5/18]

Right-handed power is awesome. It’s like a drug for most MLB general managers. All manner of flaws can be covered up by a big-league player if you can just bang out batting practice homer after batting practice homer. And make no mistake, Blash has some serious flaws. Even in the minor leagues, he struck out at a rate that would make 11-year-old me blush, and that’s saying something. (PECOTA projected a 30 percent strikeout rate for him in the bigs this year, which seems about right.) His light-tower power led to 32 dingers last season between Double-A and Triple-A, and earned him a free trip to San Diego via the Rule 5 draft.

Unfortunately, the power didn’t show up in 29 plate appearances spread over 23 games. You read that right, he only earned three starts this season. The BP projection mildly undersold his strikeout issues in that small sample–he managed a 44 percent strikeout rate–and Blash only earned three hits in his time at the dish, and none of the dinger variety. Even the lowly Padres of Brett Wallace hitting cleanup couldn’t seem to afford him the time at the big-league level to figure it out, so they returned him to the Mariners.

Well, the Padres aren’t completely done with Blash yet, as they re-acquired him from the M’s for mere cash considerations. He’s too old to be a prospect, and has too much swing-and-miss to be a likely regular, but there’s still a chance that this Wily Mo Pena skill set can play. Granted, it’s unlikely for it to play in the majors rather than Japan, Korea, or the PCL, but the Padres are just the type of team to take a flyer on a hitter who could, maybe, possibly, (not likely) figure it out still. Blash will get the opportunity to make adjustments in El Paso, where he’ll likely become a crowd favorite, hit some monster dingers, and ultimately stay. —Bryan Grosnick

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brbaker3
5/20
"You can call a player “utility,” but utility ain’t all that useful when your defense in all those positions isn’t very good" Johnson, Kelly ATL