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SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired IF/OF-R Danny Valencia from Oakland Athletics in exchange for RHP Paul Blackburn. [11/12]

Look, the Mariners were never going to go with just Dan Vogelbach at first base. Vogelbach is a rookie and a lefty, and even at first is a bit of defensive project. He’s shown prodigious awareness of the strike zone, but even prodigies get car insurance. To bring him along like the Mariners want, he was always going to need a right-handed complement.

Enter Danny Valencia. Valencia’s .287/.346/.446 slash plays well enough on its own, but the .318/.389/.535 against lefties is what caught Jerry Dipoto’s eye. His personality might be considered a bit difficult, and you probably don’t want to see Valencia play a ton in the outfield where his defense could be politely referred to as underwhelming, but for the going price of one Paul Blackburn, he’s a good upgrade at a notably dark infield corner. (Blackburn, for his part, is a nice depth piece who could develop into a back-end starter or long man someday, but was unlikely to help the Mariners much now.)

The addition of Valencia leaves little room on the roster for Dae-ho Lee, who became something of a fan favorite, and makes a reunion with Franklin Gutierrez seem unlikely. Sentiment aside, Lee’s bat drifted into a catatonic state in the second half, and Gutierrez, long afflicted with plagues unseen since the days of Solomon, had a middling year in limited plate appearances.

Valencia is exactly the sort of bat you acquire and Blackburn exactly the sort of arm you give up if you’re a team looking for immediate upgrades to help keep your window wedged open a little longer. He’ll anchor first base against lefties, provide insurance should Vogelbach stumble, and give the Mariners versatility for an outfield platoon with Seth Smith. Not to mention, he could be one half of some truly rockin’ “It Takes Two (Dan V’s), Baby” t-shirts. And who doesn’t love a great novelty tee? —Meg Rowley

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed 3B-R Will Middlebrooks to a minor-league deal. [11/11]

Middlebrooks, just 28, has reached the part of his career where you start wondering why teams are so jumpy to acquire him. In fact, he’s been entrenched in that phase for a good year or two already. It’s hard not to think about Middlebrooks and imagine Jeff Francoeur reborn as a corner infielder, and if Francoeur seems like an apt comp it’s probably because, in many ways, he is. But Francoeur had a respectable .274 True Average in his age-27 season with the Royals, not to mention 4.1 WARP (thanks largely to a +21.1 FRAA), whereas Middlebrooks spent much of his age-27 season at Colorado Springs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Brewers, where he inched his OPS just above .800 and cracked the top 10 on Sam Miller’s saddest age-27 seasons of 2016 list.

A Francoeur comp is one thing, but a poor-man’s Francoeur is another. Middlebrooks might survive in a similar way—on faded prospect hype, clubhouse intangibles (we’re guessing), and the occasional ability to run into something straight (either a fastball or a wall)—but most of his chances will likely come on minor-league deals like this one, just footnotes to juicier hot stove transactions.

For the Rangers—well, it’s hard to criticize this kind of move. It’s unlikely Middlebrooks cracks the big-league club outside of some nightmare scenario where Adrian Beltre gets hurt, Joey Gallo never makes contact, and midseason moves are banned altogether. But teams must fill out minor-league rosters regardless, and Middlebrooks still has some allure based on the qualities mentioned above. He’ll make some sense as a low-risk flyer through the rest of his twenties, maybe, so long as he’s not counted on to contribute at the major-league level for a team trying to win games. —Dustin Palmateer

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed RHP Jordan Walden to a minor-league contract. [11/12]

By all accounts, Jordan Walden should have turned out to be the perfect middle reliever by now. He has the look: a beard that is not too perfect, not too gross, and a strange, unique motion that nearly lifts him off the ground and makes it seem as if he is throwing directly into the ground. He’s got the stuff: a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, a combination that has fooled hitters to the tune of a career 10.8 SO/9. And, he’s certainly performed well enough to begin his career, with superb numbers in high-leverage spots. So, what gives?

Well, his health is an issue so large that even Kristaps Porzingis could not dunk over it. Walden, who turned 29 on Tuesday (happy birthday!), dealt with a biceps injury just after his arrival in St. Louis in 2015 that was supposed to keep him out around two months. Then, it was announced Walden would miss most of the 2015 season due to a rotator cuff injury. When that was just about healed, he tore his lat, and missed all of 2016. That was enough to convince the Cardinals, who acquired the righty from Atlanta along with Jason Heyward, to decline a $5.25 million option on the injury-stricken Walden, given he has spent parts of his last five seasons on the disabled list.

Named to the All-Star team in his second season and once seen to have a promising future, Walden was found floating out in the free-agent market. Well, along came the Braves, who are trying to throw wet, balled-up pieces of paper towel at the bathroom ceiling to see what sticks. Walden has been pretty darn effective when healthy, allowing hitters just a .233 TAv in his 222 career innings, with an aforementioned solid strikeout rate and low home-run rate. That all means nothing, though, if Walden’s lost five mph on his fastball. Without that pitch, he is likely nothing.

That’s why a minor-league deal with incentives, which the Braves reportedly inked Walden to, makes a whole lot of sense. For a team desperate for players to look forward to, and without immediate playoff aspirations, Walden is a perfect fit. If he can prove he is healthy, and capable of getting minor-league hitters out, the Braves may call up the righty and try him out in some medium- and even high-leverage spots. That’s the dream scenario, anyway. They’ll see how much he’s changed when he last wore a Braves uniform in 2014. —Kenny Ducey

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Signed OF-R Chris Heisey to a one-year, $1.4 million contract. [11/11]

Heisey was a valuable piece for the Nationals in 2016, primarily as a pinch-hitter, but he has the ability to contribute defensively as well. Heisey still has some speed and can play all three outfield spots, so he can be available to spell Jayson Werth in left field–a need that grows as Werth gets closer to 40, which makes him practically an octogenarian in baseball years.

The outfield in the capitol is otherwise entrenched with Trea Turner and Bryce Harper in place in the other two spots, but Heisey still has something to add when he’s used on offense. He provided some pop as a pinch-hitter, knocking three home runs in that role and nine altogether. In general, his .216/.290/.446 line last season was enough to push him above replacement level, so for a team looking to remain competitive in the National League East, he’s a necessary cog. —Jared Wyllys