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KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Released 2B-R Omar Infante. [6/21]

Omar Infante’s past two seasons were part beauty, part beast. The beauty was that after signing with the Royals between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Infante has seen his ballclub make two World Series, winning one. The beast was his performance, which has been undeniably awful. Last year was especially egregious, as his -2.3 WARP was the worst in baseball. Given almost exactly 1,100 plate appearances for Kansas City, Infante has been among the worst everyday players in the majors, a shell of the talented utility man he was during his peak seasons in Atlanta, Miami, and Detroit. The Royals finally decided that they could no longer afford the anchor that Infante was in both the lineup and on the field, and recently chose to cut bait and release the veteran infielder. Welcome to the (wholly unexpected) Whit Merrifield era!

The tough thing is that Infante had actually been playing some of the best baseball of his Royals career before the team cut him loose. His .279 OBP is bad, to be sure, but it was a far cry from the .238 mark he put up during his 2015 fiasco. Still, a .237 True Average will get you fired from any team looking to contend, especially when paired with defense that can at best be considered “okay” at the keystone. It’s not unlikely that Infante could catch on with another team–a few squads out of contention could use him at third base, where his bat might look worse but his glove may play up­–but his contract will go down as one of the worst in Royals history. Fortunately, no one will care too much, thanks to the team’s improbable successes. —Bryan Grosnick

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired LHP Wade LeBlanc from Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a player to be named later. [6/22]

After 44 uninspiring innings for the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League last year, it wouldn’t be too surprising if LeBlanc finally disappeared from Baseball-Reference, only to crop back up when some enterprising Padres fan (they exist, I promise) gets nostalgic for the late 00s. But no, LeBlanc signed on with the Blue Jays this offseason, and has been surprisingly good pitching in the International League after being surprisingly bad for the brunt of his professional career.

LeBlanc’s always been able to punch out Triple-A hitters–his career Triple-A strikeout rate comes in at 8.3 per nine innings–but that ability flits away at the major-league level where he only fans 6.1 per nine. But in addition to that strikeout rate looking sharp for the Bisons this season, he’s also limited runs for, really, the first time; posting a 1.71 ERA and 2.50 FIP for that team is no mean feat.

His hard work earned him a spot with the Mariners, where he wouldn’t be blocked by Drew Hutchinson among others waiting for a big-league rotation role. Since coming over to Seattle, he’s already started one game where he did something old (struck out only three over six innings) but also something new: he didn’t give up an earned run. While he may quickly get bumped from the rotation in favor of the Mariners’ other left-handed starter named Wade [Miley], he’s made an impression on the team’s field staff and put himself in the mix to get another look this year. Not bad for a guy who nearly got run out of NPB! —Bryan Grosnick

Signed RHP Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor-league contract. [6/22]

Wilhelmsen hasn’t been much of a stopper since his surprising post-bartending career revival in 2012, but he hasn’t been particularly bad either. Instead, he’s been relatively steady, worth half a win or so, hanging around a DRA of 4.00 over 60 or more innings per season. That’s nice, and valuable, if not groundbreaking. Unfortunately, 2016 has been a little different thus far. After being dealt to the Rangers as part of the Leonys Martin trade, things have gotten ugly in a hurry. Not only did his strikeout rate crater, but moving from pitcher-friendly Seattle to pitcher-angry Arlington has seen his home run rate soar like, well, a home run leaving Globe Life Park.

Some of those home run woes are due to the new park and an enormous HR/FB rate (22.6 percent thus far in 2016), but he’s also seen his velocity dip almost half a mile per hour on his fastball, and considerably more (about 1.5 mph) on his slider and curve. Along with the velocity dip, The Bartender is getting fewer whiffs on his fastball–down to just six percent from his old 11-14 percent average–and that means perhaps his very, very ugly 2016 numbers could be more harbinger of the future than blip to move past. It’s possible that Wilhelmsen may go back to being the same good-enough reliever that he has been, complete with enough closing experience to make him a fit in the ninth in a pinch. But more than likely, this is just the Mariners’ equivalent of picking up one of those last common baseball card to complete a team set; with his acquisition, he joins Patrick Kivlehan as players sent to the Rangers in the pre-season Leonys Martin deal re-acquired by the Mariners mid-season. While he’s more likely to be useful than Kivlehan or the still-missing James Jones, don’t expect a return to form for Wilhelmsen just yet. —Bryan Grosnick

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Acquired OF-L Oswaldo Arcia from Minnesota Twins in exchange for a player to be named later. [6/24]

The Rays currently have five–five!–outfielders on the disabled list: Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza, Steve Pearce, Brandon Guyer, and Mikie Mahtook. From that perspective, anyone who’s a warm body would be a welcome addition to this roster. But Arcia is more than just a warm body–he’s a former top prospect with the power to hit bombs. Now 25, Arcia has to bounce back from a 2015 season in which he struggled at both the big-league level and at Triple-A Rochester. Sure, he had to deal with an early-season hip injury that sapped his strength, but that doesn’t excuse his sketchy defense and below-league-average TAv from an outfield corner.

Starting 2016 and ostensibly healthy, Arcia could have emerged from the Twins’ outfield mix this season. Instead, he’s had his worst run as a hitter, posting a .233 True Average over 114 plate appearances. Potential is great, but without any offensive production, even the young and still-talented Arcia can get passed over by Robbie Grossman.

Without options–both literally and probably figuratively–Arcia has every motivation to make things work after this change of scenery. As the Rays fall out of contention and with outfielders dropping like flies, we’ll probably see if he can deliver on the promise of the age-22 season he had back in 2013. And for the Rays, this is certainly a can’t-miss proposition. If Arcia is able to figure things out in this new organization, then great–and early returns have been nice thus far, with five hits and a dinger in four games. If not, well, at some point there will be a parade of other talented outfielders ready to take Arcia’s place. —Bryan Grosnick

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Recalled RHP Mauricio Cabrera from Double-A Mississippi. [6/27]

Mauricio Cabrera throws hard. I mean, really hard. In my viewings of him during the Arizona Fall League, I never saw a fastball lower than 98 mph and the pitch would comfortably sit 99-101 and touch 102. As for his control … well, he throws really hard and he sits 99-101. What has kept Cabrera back all these years is that he lacks movement on his fastball, has 30 control of his arsenal, and has bobbed and weaved out of most of his own trouble. His changeup sat 89-93, but was a very poor offering as he would slow down his whole body so hitters were able to pick the ball up quickly and mostly ignore it. His slider was a slurvy offering in my viewing, sitting 83-86 and lacking consistent shape and action.

You won’t find many pitchers who throw harder than Mauricio, but in fact, he did run into one of them during a night in the AFL. During the eigth inning of a home game against Scottsdale, Cabrera ran into Ray Black, a man who did in fact throw harder than him. During that outing, Cabrera was 99-102, but Black also chucked 103, which stunned all of us in attendance.

Unless Cabrera finds some more consistency with his arsenal, or perhaps some new-found strike-throwing abilities, he is bound to be the next Henry Rodriguez. —Steve Givarz

MIAMI MARLINS
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Signed RHP Jeremy Guthrie to a minor-league contract. [6/27]

The Marlins are making a surprising surge in the standings, hanging around the National League Wild Card race longer than many might have believed. But it’s possible that despite the presence of Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, and despite surprising performances by Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, and Ichiro Suzuki, these fish might be swimming upstream. This team certainly lacks depth, and nowhere is that more evident than in a rotation that features struggling starters like Wei-Yin Chen and the disastrous Justin Nicolino/Paul Clemens hybrid. With nothing much on the farm–remember Jarred Cosart?–the team has been linked to a number of veteran starters on the trade market like Bud Norris, Francisco Liriano, and Jake Odorizzi. Before any of those moves can be made, though, the Fish went for a lower-risk, lower-cost vet in Guthrie.

Of course, the only problem with Jeremy Guthrie is that he may not be an upgrade over anyone the Marlins have as a backup starter … and as I mentioned before, they don’t have anyone. Sure, he has a World Series ring, but Guthrie also has a combined -3.0 WARP since leaving Baltimore after the 2011 season. That number is also not skewed by being the result of a recent downturn in performance that he could bounce back from; Guthrie has been consistently below replacement from 2013 to 2015, and the only reason he hasn’t earned more negative WARP in the bigs this season is because he’s been plying his trade in El Paso at Triple-A. There, he’s pitched 60 innings, giving up 75 hits while striking out just 37, and been tuned up to a 6.60 ERA.

I appreciate the Marlins looking to buy low and acquire a veteran that doesn’t cause them to give up long-term value, as this team has a longer contention window than just 2016 if they play their cards right. Dealing whatever little farm value for a barely-replacement pitcher like Bud Norris would be folly of the first order. But Jeremy Guthrie is unlikely to move the needle, regardless of whether or not he’s a low-cost or a no-cost pickup. If he ends up in the big-league rotation, it’s a sign that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong for the Marlins. This new Marlin is cooked. —Bryan Grosnick

NEW YORK METS
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Optioned OF-L Michael Conforto to Triple-A Las Vegas. [6/25]

Make no mistake, outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo wasn’t called up this weekend because he forced the issue. Though Nimmo has been playing well at Triple-A Las Vegas (.298 True Average, .409 OBP), position players succeeding in that environment are a dime a dozen. Just ask Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, Darrell Ceciliani, or any of several Mets farmhands who’ve had success in the desert but little-to-none in Queens.

No, that move is about Conforto, who has struggled mightily after a terrific 2015 debut and solid April of this season. During the past two months, the young slugger has seen his strikeout rate soar and his ground-ball rate climb while also dealing with an injured wrist. As Jarrett Seidler noted over at BP Mets last week, Conforto was in need of consistent playing time or a DL stint–the Mets’ decision to put him in a strict platoon with guys like Alejandro De Aza and Matt Reynolds did favors for neither team nor player. The Mets seem to think that Conforto’s cortisone-filled wrist is functional enough, so it’s off to Las Vegas to get a few favorable matchups, a few extra plate appearances, and hopefully a dash of confidence.

It feels inevitable that Conforto will bounce back, as he had been so good prior to May that it has become almost unthinkable that this rate of ineffectiveness could continue. The Mets can only hope that they’ll be faced with a situation in the outfield that is a mirror image of their infield corners: too many good hitters for too few spots on the diamond. If that’s the case, perhaps Conforto could get a few reps in with a first baseman’s club, if he’s going to be down in Vegas anyway. —Bryan Grosnick

Signed SS-B Jose Reyes to a minor-league contract. [6/25]

From a pure performance standpoint, it’s possible that Reyes can help the Mets, who currently struggle to score runs and stay healthy. PECOTA projects Reyes for a .264 True Average over the course of the 2016 season. Although an effective baserunner (3.0 Baserunning Runs in a down 2015), Reyes doesn’t have quite the top-end speed and acceleration that made him such a threat in the past. PECOTA has always liked Reyes, and it’s easy to see why–anyone who can stand at short, hit better than league average, add half a win or more on the basepaths, and ignite an offense should be very valuable. Reyes’ career 43.6 WARP is 15th in Baseball Prospectus’s career shortstop rankings (which, it should be noted, do not go further back than World War II) and has posted career value similar–but superior–to contemporaries like Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki.

Thanks to absences from the field due to injury and suspension, as well as time robbing him of some of his natural athleticism, Reyes has hit a substantive decline phase recently, and certainly is not the player he once was. His defense, never a true strength, has atrophied to terrible levels, and he’s been worth -29.1 fielding runs by BP’s metrics. His offense has sputtered a bit too; once a triples-hitting machine, Reyes mostly gains value due to a high batting average and the occasional surprising pop. No longer the star he was during his first tour with the Mets, he’s now not much of a shortstop, and much more desirable as a potent bench weapon–if anything–than an everyday contributor.

The Mets already have bench players masquerading as regulars, so I’m unsure how this truly solves any of the team’s offensive problems. In essence, it’s still an open question how much Reyes could be an improvement over the Mets’ in-house options such as Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, and others at third base who possess a similar lack of defensive ability and equivalent projected offensive output. According to GM Sandy Alderson, the Mets see Reyes playing multiple positions (including the outfield) during his tenure in the organization. As a fill-in behind Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, as well as a sometimes-regular at third, you could see the Mets benefiting from a superior hitter without much of a platoon split who can slot in anywhere needed. In a vacuum, he could be a bargain-basement version of offseason target Ben Zobrist … just with less power, patience, and fielding acumen. (So, basically, Jed Lowrie.)

We don’t live or analyze these moves in a vacuum, though, so it’s probably not prudent to separate Reyes’ on-field production from his off-field actions at this point. The former Met was only available on a minor-league deal after the Rockies cut ties following a 51-game suspension for violating the league’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy. If you’re really interested in thoughts on whether the Mets should’ve signed Reyes, feel free to examine my piece at BP Mets, Kate Feldman’s piece at Amazin’ Avenue, or Keith Law’s piece at ESPN. In short, while this move could perhaps improve the Mets’ standing in terms of overall performance, Reyes’ post-hoc comments and the Mets signing/statements seem to display a disregard for the seriousness of his actions. The Mets’ recent offense is upsetting, but acquiring Reyes as a stopgap measure to improve the team feels even more upsetting, no matter what he manages to hit after his minor-league tour finishes up. —Bryan Grosnick