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TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Released LHP John Lamb. [11/18]

Because he’s a fly-ball pitcher with iffy command, Lamb needs the right fit in order to find success. Truthfully, it’s surprising that the Rays decided they couldn’t be that fit, or that it wasn’t worth their expenditure to make it work. Tropicana Field is no hitter’s haven, especially where home runs are concerned, and the Rays are a team that values and consistently acquires good pitch framers behind the plate. Only four pitchers lost more runs to poor framing last season than did Lamb.

He also suffered from playing in front of the Reds’ shaky defense, especially in the outfield, whereas the Rays have Kevin Kiermaier in center field. None of that means that Lamb would have succeeded in Tampa Bay. Even adjusting for those factors, he was below average in 2016. His lack of velocity narrows his margin for error, and though both his cutter and his changeup are great pitches, he doesn’t currently have the command to get the most out of them.

He’s now on the open market, though, which is a break more players in his position ought to receive. Whichever team most believes it can be the one to help Lamb figure it out will probably sign him, giving him the best possible chance to do just that.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Claimed OF-L Jeremy Hazelbaker off waivers from St. Louis Cardinals. [11/4]

If you’re like me (in this one specific way), you’ve learned to appreciate Cubs Twitter™ for its unique ability to turn off rationality and lose their blessed minds every time an anonymous St. Louis farmhand has any kind of big-league success. In 2016, Hazelbaker was their top target, after he carried an OPS over 1.000 into May. It’s true that the lanky, lefty-hitting outfielder entered spring training as a mostly unknown commodity, but he entered pro ball as a fourth-round draft pick of the Theo Epstein-led Red Sox, in 2009. He’s not some grit-and-guts guy.

Now, he’s being reunited with some of the people responsible for making him a Red Sox years ago: new Arizona GM Mike Hazen, and lieutenants Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter. The only left-handed hitters the Diamondbacks used with any regularity in the outfield last season were David Peralta (solid, but injury prone), Michael Bourn (traded to Baltimore), and Chris Herrmann (actually a catcher).

Even as the team hopes for improved health in 2017 for Peralta and A.J. Pollock, they recognized a need for an outfielder who can handle right-handed pitching and balance the lineup, or simply provide some pop off the bench. There seems a decent chance that Hazelbaker could be that kind of player. He still has the blend of patience and power that made him appealing to the saber-savvy Red Sox years ago.

After that hot start in the majors last spring, he went through a calamitous slump. Starting May 1, he batted .182/.203/.272 over 81 plate appearances, with 28 strikeouts, two walks, and three extra-base hits. In the middle of that stretch, he was demoted to Triple-A Memphis, and got injured there. After he got back, though, and when an opportunity to start in the outfield opened up in late July, he rediscovered his stroke. Over his final 72 plate appearances, he batted .217/.338/.533, with 14 strikeouts and 11 walks.

His true talent isn’t well reflected by either of those lines, but probably falls closer to the higher one. He’s a limited player, who can only thrive in a limited role. He can’t hit left-handed pitchers (23 strikeouts and one walk in 58 PA last season, across both levels), and while has average speed, he’s not a good fielder. He should only play left field with any regularity, and isn’t much of an asset there. If he’s platoon protected and given enough playing time to stay in a rhythm, though, he should be able to provide some big hits for Arizona in 2017.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Claimed LHP David Rollins off waivers from Seattle Mariners. [11/18]

Rollins has the rare distinction of having been drafted in four consecutive years, though it’s worth noting that he was never drafted higher than when he was picked in the 19th round out of high school. In the minors, he started some and relieved some, but seemed to be more or less the same guy in either role: able to miss bats, good at pounding the strike zone, but not quite able to put it together and dominate.

Taken in the Rule 5 draft in 2014, Rollins was then busted for PEDs, and when he finally got onto a big-league mound in mid-2015, there was something missing. He still did strike out a fair number of batters, and kept walks under control, but he gave up a lot of hard contact. In 2016, that trend continued, though he also continued to find success when demoted to the Pacific Coast League.

Ultimately, he’s a lefty with an average fastball and an average-plus slider. His control, if not yet his command, is solid. Chicago's front office made the decision to decline Jason Hammel’s option, which has Mike Montgomery currently penciled into the rotation. They also face the likely departure of Travis Wood via free agency and probably need Rob Zastryzny to return to Iowa as starting pitching depth to open 2017. So picking up a pitcher with Rollins’ basic skill set is an attempt to stockpile options and lessen the urgency to add pitching. Urgency to add pitching usually leads to bad decisions.

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collins
11/24
Minnesota might be a good landing spot for Lamb, what with a new excellent pitch framer, Castro, and a great defensive CF, Buxton, and a team desperately in need of pitching help.
jonkk1
11/24
Rollins has already been claimed off waivers from the Cubs by the Rangers.