Let there be news – Volume 5

Let There Be News is a roundup of the most interesting baseball stories from the previous week.

The week of Jan. 22, 2012, was a busy one and, thus, I am going to experiment with the delivery of this column. Instead of the four most interesting stories, I will comment very briefly on more stories and leave a couple of links for each topic. Experiments aren’t useful without feedback, so let me know how you think this presentation compares to previous iterations.

The Rockies sign Jamie Moyer

Given his advanced age, it’s tempting to describe Moyer as ageless, although it’s probably more accurate to say he learned to cope with an old man’s skill set at a relatively young age.

The deal is a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The Rockies have a crowd of youngsters vying to join the rotation, but only Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Jason Hammel can count on rotation slots. Moyer will battle with a plethora of back-of-the-rotation options, including Tyler Chatwood, Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman.

Moyer has long been considered baseball’s version of a gentleman and a scholar, which is to say that he brings a positive (perhaps grandfatherly?) clubhouse presence to the table and serves as a de facto pitching coach. All of the names above could potentially benefit from Moyer’s nearly three decades of experience in professional baseball.

The Rockies acquire Marco Scutaro

This trade tastes weird. Scutaro is a serviceable player who would have been in demand earlier in the offseason when the Cardinals, Brewers and Phillies were all trying to solve their shortstop situation. Now the Rockies acquired him for a song—the cost of his contract (likely below market value) and Claytom Mortensen.

The scouting reports available on Mortensen date from his days as a Cardinal, and hence aren’t terribly relevant. His stats describe a guy who could perform swingman duties or fill out a Triple-A rotation. His fastball averaged 87 mph in 2011. Unsurprisingly, he strikes out few batters, 4.63 strikeouts per nine. His groundball rate is over 50 percent, but it’s not at the kind of elite level that supports his slow fastball and low strikeout rate.

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox finding utility from Mortensen. This trade was all about freeing up $6 million to spend on pitching and/or the outfield. Roy Oswalt and Cody Ross are rumored to be their top targets. The Sox will move forward with Mike Aviles, Nick Punto and Jose Iglesias at shortstop. Given that downgrade, they must feel very uncomfortable at other positions.

The Rays sign Carlos Pena

Does it feel like Pena belongs with the Rays? He signed a one-year, $7.25 million contract to play first base, which takes pressure off recent signee Luke Scott.

Pena has devolved into a left-handed platoon bat, as evidenced by his .383 wOBA versus righties and .266 wOBA versus lefties. Those samples are small, but it is a problem that has plagued him to varying degrees throughout his career. Assuming the Rays do intend to platoon Pena, Russ Canzler or Brandon Guyer could be the right-handed complement. An additional (cheap) signing is not out of the question.

The Rays could still potentially deal a pitcher or B.J. Upton. However, their weaknesses—catcher and shortstop—are in short supply around the league.

Fausto Carmona is really Roberto Hernandez Heredia

Somehow, the novelty of the whole fake identity game never wears off. It has a superhero feel to it: By day Roberto Hernandez Heredia is a Cleveland-based immigrant-rights advocate. But under the lights, he’s Fausto Carmona, super pitcher (okay, roughly league-average pitcher).

The proliferation of faked identities in baseball also reminds us of the harsher side of the game, where a talented, late-blooming Latin prospect is given fewer opportunities based on age alone.

Given the number of successful major leaguers who have faked their age (if not their identity), perhaps there is an exploitable market inefficiency at play here. Teams already sign older Latin prospects to cheap contracts by the dozens, but perhaps exposure to better opportunities could result in more major league-caliber athletes.

Victor Martinez injures ACL

And he’s likely to miss the season. This is a brutal loss for the Detroit Tigers, but not insurmountable. Martinez lost the ability to be both a catcher and healthy in 2011. Alex Avila’s emergence mitigated the problem, and Martinez was shifted to full-time DH. Now an offseason workout has ruined that plan.

The Tigers will have trouble replacing Martinez’s production, but they already have the start of a useful platoon on the roster in either Ryan Raburn or Delmon Young. A host of declining veteran DHs are still hanging around the free agent market. Several, like Johnny Damon, have the sort of left-handed bat who could help the Tigers in a platoon role.

It will be interesting to see how the Tigers ultimately deal with this loss. Yeonis Cespedes will be much talked about in Detroit over the next few weeks, but the club will probably settle for a much cheaper band-aid.

Rangers sign Yu Darvish

This is where the replacement-level Whirling Darvish pun goes.

The Rangers agreed to a six-year, $56 million deal with Darvish. The signing also means that the Nippon Ham Fighters are set to receive a substantial $51.7 million posting fee. There are a number of incentives that could bring the deal to $60 million or allow Darvish to opt out after five seasons.

It’s a hefty price to pay for the Japanese import, but as Dave Cameron outlines, for any given six-season sample, there are about two dozen pitchers who earn $111.7 million (the full value of his contract) in compensation. The Rangers are essentially saying that they think he will be a top-24 pitcher over the next six years.

This is one of those situations where foresight is 20/200. It’s easy to imagine Darvish being a consistent top-24 pitcher, but baseball is a fickle game. Darvish should help the Rangers in 2012. Based on scouting reports, he is a safer bet to produce in the majors than Daisuke Matsuzaka. Darvish comes to the majors with superior tools at his disposal, but he might take some time to adjust to major league conditions.

Quick hits:

The Astros signed catcher Chris Snyder last week. Humberto Quintero will be relegated to a bench role. The Astros look like they have a fairly interesting team, even if it’s a certain bet to be among the worst in the league.

The Indians acquired Kevin Slowey from the Colorado Rockies. Given the plethora of similarly talented pitchers on the Rockies’ roster, it didn’t make any sense for them to hold onto him. The Rockies received righty reliever Zach Putnam. Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation has more on the trade.

The Athletics signed outfielder Jonny Gomes to join a suddenly quite-crowded outfield. Remember when the team depth chart page had Ryan Sweeney listed as the starter at all three outfield positions?

Mike Morse agreed to a two-year extension with the Nationals worth $10.5 million. The deal covers his final two arbitration seasons.

Pablo Sandoval received a three-year extension worth a rumored $17.5 million from the Giants this past week. As with Morse, it covers his remaining arbitration seasons.

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Comments

  1. Will H. said...

    Hey Brad,

    Either format works, but to different ends. Sort of News Hour or CNN…

    I think the Morse bit is a little curious, though 5 million per seems like an appropriate wager given the small sample size versus impressive last year. What I’m not sure about is what happens next year if they actually signed Prince. Assuming Harper comes up, the only way he has a place on the field is if Werth becomes more than a stopgap at CF, which would be a pretty horrendous OF since Morse isn’t good even at the corners. My guess is that they are hoping that he continues to rake this year, meaning that, at only 5 million, he’d be a very valuable trading chip…

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    You’d have to think Morse would look attractive to half a dozen AL teams and maybe a few NL teams too. If they signed Fielder, I assume Morse gets dealt sometime around the next winter meetings, if not this season’s trade deadline (I happen to think they’ll be just close enough to the WC to be buyers at the deadline, but it could go the other way too).

    I also assume that the contract pays about twice as much in 2013 as 2012. So that’s 3.5 in 2012 and 7 in 2013.

  3. Will H. said...

    I would hardly be shocked if, with a healthy Stras and R.Zim, a full season of J.Zim, a Werth regression, Gio, and natural progression from the young guys that they would be in it without Fielder, so I agree with the WC prediction most.

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