American League

National League

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed C-R Erik Kratz to a minor-league contract. [5/27]

I’m sorry, but the volume of second- or third-string right-handed catcher transactions this season is just ridiculous. If you’re following along at home, the dearth of quality big-league catching options appears to be creating a carousel of swirling chest protectors and face masks–a fountain of plane tickets and busted knuckles. There has been a tremendous number of Triple-A backstop transactions, with four more minor-league contracts signed over the past week or so. To wit:

· Carlos Corporan was signed by the Marlins on May 26, after landing with both the Yankees and Rays earlier in the offseason.

· Michael McKenry signed with the Rangers late in the offseason, and now has inked a deal with the Cardinals (May 27).

· Ryan Lavarnway–patron saint of Triple-A catching depth–was let go by the Braves and landed with the Blue Jays as of May 27.

· Kratz was picked up by Angels on a minor-league deal on the 27th after signing with the Padres, getting traded to the Astros, actually playing 15 games in the majors, and then getting cut loose.

Just these these four catchers have been in 10 different organizations so far between November and today. If they gave out frequent flyer miles for team buses, these guys could get from Fresno to Norfolk for free until the world ends.

Kratz stands out a little in the world of interchangeable backup glovemen, but not by a whole lot. Still, he’s probably got the best path to playing time of this bunch. Lavarnway is the guy you roster for Triple-A depth only–if you can’t crack the Braves, then you should probably lean into your tour of the International League. McKenry used to be an offensive threat, but Eric Fryer is already the emergency guy in St. Louis with Brayan Pena injured, and playing behind Yadier Molina is a great way to be ignored. Corporan must surpass Jeff Mathis, a task at which better men have tried and failed for years. Erik “Turkey Bacon” Kratz, meanwhile, is a plus framer and intangible guy–stop me if you’ve heard this before–and in demand with Geovany Soto out and Carlos Perez only nominally a “starting” catcher.

If you’re willing to tour the high minors and take a few foul tips off the facemask, you can work forever in baseball. According to Baseball-Reference, this season big-league backstops are hitting .234/.301/.371, which is about 20 percent below the league average. All it takes is a warm body and a decent glove to fit right in with that lot, so we can’t be surprised that teams keep shuffling the deck and bringing new faces in. For many of these backups, the sixth or seventh team could be the charm.—Bryan Grosnick

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed LHP Brian Duensing to a minor-league contract. [5/25]

Duensing was a fixture on the Twins' pitching staff for the past seven seasons. As most Twins fans can attest, that’s as much a condemnation as it is praise–the Twins are infamous for pitching ineffectiveness. But after the 2015 season, Duensing broke free … in a sense. He latched on with the defending World Series champions, heading to the Royals on a free agent contract, the baseball equivalent of moving from the outhouse to the penthouse.

Of course, Duensing was only available because he hasn’t been very good recently. Since moving to a full-time relief role in 2013, he has a 3.84 ERA and 4.19 FIP–which sounds average but not terrible. Deserved Run Average tells a slightly different story, as in each of those three seasons he posted DRAs of 4.37, 5.01, and finally 5.79 last year. So in addition to a downward-trending stat line, he lost the ability to strike guys out and didn’t really cover himself with glory in a run at Triple-A. So now it’s off to another team–this time the Orioles–where the bullpen is a strength and the competition is just as stiff. Fortunately, Duensing has gotten off to a sharp start at Triple-A with an uncharacteristic six strikeouts in three innings so far for Norfolk.

It’s unlikely that this strikeout run will continue much longer, even when pitching for the Tides, but it certainly won’t hurt Duensing’s chances of coming up at some point and supplanting Ashur Tolliver (a real name, not something from Productive Outs) as the second lefty in the Baltimore ‘pen. The last couple of years weren’t particularly kind to Duensing’s stats, but that’s the beauty of being a left-handed pitcher. As a southpaw, he’ll get every possible chance to shine.—Bryan Grosnick

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquired 3B-R Patrick Kivlehan from Texas Rangers in exchange for a player to be named later. [5/29]

Once a player to be named later, always a player to be named later. Kivlehan was an afterthought piece in the Leonys Martin-for-Tom Wilhelmsen trade last November, and now he’s heading back to Tacoma for an unnamed minor leaguer of his own. And though it’s not exactly the most lovely vote of confidence to be immediately shipped back as if the Rangers were returning a mis-delivered Amazon order, he’s still interesting enough to warrant a brief write-up on account of his delightful skill set.

Kivlehan has two things going for him: power and positional utility. A former college football player, the Mariners drafted him and ran him up the minor-league ladder, where he hit at almost every stop while flitting between every corner position and center field. Though he carried solid batting averages at most stops–a disastrous trip to the Arizona Fall League in 2013 excluded–the big righty made contact despite a below-average hit tool. In addition, he was able to power the ball out of the park, racking up 71 minor-league homers to support a .345 OBP and .465 slugging percentage in his affiliated stops. However, his progress slowed in 2015 at Tacoma, and crashed to a dead halt this year with Round Rock, where he managed a paltry .252 OBP and .262 slugging percentage.

The power won’t play if he can’t make some contact and reach base, and while it’s fun to dream of him wandering the diamond like a dime-store Kris Bryant, he’s a lot more likely to resemble a dime-store Eric Campbell at this rate. Given his late start and the fact that he’s in his age-26 season, he’s a lot more likely to be that guy who wins over young fans in the upper minors than a real big-league contributor. In short, Kivlehan can play almost anywhere, so long as those positions are (1) in the Seattle Mariners organization, and (2) almost certainly not in the major leagues.—Bryan Grosnick

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Claimed RHP Asher Wojciechowski off waivers from Houston Astros. [5/24]

After a few years bopping about the fringes of top-prospectdom, Wojciechowski now arrives where potential goes to die: Miami. Despite all the promise wrapped up in multiple above-average offerings and the ability to pitch a ton of innings, the hurler stumbled in the upper minors and has come out the other side a fringy right-hander unable to avoid hard contact or command the ball consistently.

Calling Wojciechowski “a fly-ball pitcher” is like calling the sun on South Beach “hot”–it’s true, but it undersells the magnitude of that truth. Since Double-A, his ground-ball rates haven’t topped 40 percent, and that rate cratered at 22 percent this year at Fresno. He gives up about 10 hits per nine innings–including more than his fair share of homers–and PECOTA projects him for a sub-par strikeout rate and 4.99 DRA in the big leagues. His best feature is his ability to eat innings, but with unflattering secondary stuff and an inability to miss bats or induce grounders, he’s more likely to live as a minor-league starter than as a big-league middle reliever.

But hey, it’s not all bad. The Marlins are much more likely to give Wojciechowski a few innings here or there in the majors to see if he can figure it out. And the team has shown a predilection for guys who pound the ball down the zone in the past, so perhaps their player development staff can look to revitalize his career by changing up his game. Typically taking your talents to South Beach–in the baseball sense–leads to nothing but disappointment. In Woj’s case, perhaps this new job will come with the fringe benefit of enough late-stage improvement, salvaging his big-league career.—Bryan Grosnick

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquired 1B-L James Loney from San Diego Padres for cash considerations. [5/28]

This felt inevitable as soon as Lucas Duda went down with a fractured disk in his back. The Mets are looking forward to a long summer going neck-and-neck with the Nats, and some combination of Eric Campbell, Wilmer Flores, and whichever lefty outfielder they might decide to throw a first base glove on was not going to cut it. Dominic Smith is still a year or two away (and those pessimistic about Smith could suggest that even then, he might not look all that different from Loney). So a medium-term option was needed given the uncertainty around Duda's recovery timetable.

Loney's profile has not changed significantly over the years, past losing whatever fringy pop he had in his twenties. He doesn't walk or strike out much, and is a below-average defender at first. He can still hit. .280, but an empty .280 at first base eventually leaves you, well, a pretty good PCL player. But he was the best freely (well, mostly free) available talent out there, a career .296/.351/.432 hitter against righties, and even in his dire 2015 posted a .713 OPS against them. Even in Citi Field that isn't much above replacement level at first base, but it beats the Mets' internal options and they already have a reasonable right-handed platoon partner in Flores. It's a no-risk, medium-reward scenario, but given the issues at the bottom of the Mets' lineup right now, any reward will do.—Jeffrey Paternostro

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Best. Headline. Ever.
Indeed. The dulcet tones of Roy Orbison serenaded throughout my reading of the transactions.