Let There Be News is a recap of the most interesting stories and transactions from the previous week.
Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday for the Athletics and Mariners. Not coincidentally, they will be kicking off the season with a series in Japan. In other news…
The Rockies acquire Jeremy Guthrie
Guthrie has quietly toiled with the Orioles for the past five seasons, but now he’ll head west to Colorado for his final club-controlled season. He’s entering his age-33 season and “is what he is.” He’ll absorb innings, having pitched over 200 in the previous three seasons, but his peripherals mark him as a slightly below-average pitcher. His flyball tendencies could also come back to haunt him in Denver.
He’ll join Jorge de la Rosa (once he’s back from Tommy John surgery) and Jhoulys Chacin in the Rockies rotation. Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Esmil Rogers, Josh Outman, Guillermo Moscoso, and Tyler Chatwood will battle for the final two rotation spots. Guthrie is only a modest upgrade over the departing Hammel.
The Orioles did well to acquire Hammel, who will absorb most of the innings previously tasked to Guthrie. However, he is an inconsistent pitcher who may not transition well to the AL East. His peripherals have been inconsistent year-to-year, which makes it hard to form an expectation.
In 2009 and 2010, he was a solid command-and-control pitcher who struck out a decent number, walked few, and gave up more runs than expected. In 2011, his strikeout rate cratered, and his walk rate increased dramatically, as well. His ERA remained steady, which masked the deterioration in peripherals. The Orioles will hope that the previous version of Hammel shows up.
The other pitcher acquired by the Orioles was Lindstrom. He’s a hard-throwing righty who finally appears to be conquering the walk bug after some early career troubles finding the strike zone. His mix of 96 MPH fastball, sinker, and curveball is effective but not devastating, which limits Lindstrom to middle relief. Check out his player card.
The Athletics extend Billy Beane through 2019
Billy “Moneyball” Beane will never escape unfair criticism for his club’s failure to capture a World Series title using the Moneyball approach.
The Oakland Athletics are currently mired in an extended drought brought on by a stingy payroll, poor revenues, a terrible home park, protracted attempts to escape from Oakland to San Jose, a league-wide focus on identifying structural inefficiencies, and several other smaller factors. That’s a long laundry list of obstacles to overcome, and it might be that no general manager in baseball would succeed under those conditions.
The decision-makers in Oakland clearly are confident in Beane’s abilities since they’ve extended him through 2019. This despite the presence of David Forst, who is widely regarded as one of the best General Manager “prospects” in baseball. The deal is not official yet but is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.
The A’s currently are rebooting an ongoing rebuilding phase. Many of the top prospects they hoped would pan out did not reach the star-level ceiling required to push the club into the playoffs. This offseason has seen the club trade Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey. In return, they received a plethora of quality prospects, although none projects to be elite.
For now, the club and Beane will focus on keeping the ship afloat until the Commissioner’s office approves their relocation to San Jose.
The Dodgers sign Clayton Kershaw to two-year deal
The two-year, $19 million deal allows the Dodgers to avoid their first two arbitration battles with Kershaw. The Dodgers will have two more years of club control over Kershaw after the deal expires.
Both sides should be pleased with the deal since they were $4 million apart with their arbitration offers. The Dodgers submitted a $6 million figure for arbitration while Kershaw countered with $10 million. Given the way arbitration usually proceeds, the risk was high for both sides. Had the two sides gone to arbitration, it could have cost the club or player upwards of $20 million over the next four seasons.
Kershaw will return to arbitration after the 2013 season. Several sources have already speculated that an extension for Kershaw should be priority No. 1 for whoever wins the bidding on the Dodgers.
The Rangers extend Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz
The Rangers signed Andrus to a three-year, $14.4 million deal that buys out all three of Andrus’ arbitration seasons. It’s easy to forget that Andrus will be only 23 years old in 2012. His game still has rough patches, but he’s emerged as one of the top young talents in baseball. His defense and base running are true assets and help make up for a slightly below-average bat.
Some still believe that Andrus can post batting averages close to .300 (career .271). He rarely swings and misses, so his combination of speed and a line drive-oriented swing could result in a high enough BABIP to support a .300 average. Frankly, it’s surprising that his career BABIP is “just” .312.
The Rangers also bought out both remaining arbitration years on Nelson Cruz with a two-year, $16 million contract that also includes incentives. Cruz is among the game’s best hitters when healthy, but quad and hamstring injuries have plagued his major league career. It’s possible Cruz is prone to these sorts of injuries. Some have also speculated that the Texas heat has led several of their players to suffer from frequent, minor injuries including Cruz and Ian Kinsler.
Cruz will enter free agency after the 2013 season. He’s already entering his age-31 season and, given his health woes, it makes sense that the Rangers didn’t seek to extend him beyond his team-controlled seasons.
The Marlins had Yeonis Cespedes tour their new ballpark last week and handed him a contract to peruse on his way home. The offer is rumored to be for six years and slightly less than $40 million. Cespedes is a free agent but has yet to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control. Interest in Cespedes is expected to remain high. Do I hear six years, $40 million?
The Mariners potentially strengthened their bullpen by signing Hong-Chih Kuo and Shawn Camp. Kuo is an electric lefty with anxiety and elbow issues. If the Mariners are lucky, they’ll get a closer-quality reliever out of Kuo that they can flip midseason for a C-level prospect. Camp is an effective ROOGY and should help the Mariners finish games.
The Nationals signed Rick Ankiel and Mark Teahen to minor league deals. Ankiel could platoon with Mike Cameron and Roger Bernadina in center field while the club figures out how to delay Bryce Harper‘s free agency. Teahen might give the Nationals the choice of starting Steve Lombardozzi on the major league bench or in a full-time Triple-A role.
The Rangers signed Conor Jackson and Joe Beimel to minor league deals. Jackson can play multiple corner positions but doesn’t appear to have any life left. He might get a brief opportunity if Moreland misses time, and Arlington is as good a place as any for a hitter to make his last stand. Beimel is insurance in case the club fails to add another left-handed reliever.
The Cubs claimed Adrian Cardenas from the A’s. In a related move, they designated Blake DeWitt for assignment. The move is interesting since both players are similarly talented. DeWitt offers more utility in the field, while Cardenas has a more consistent bat but struggles as a utility fielder. Worth noting is that DeWitt is already in his first year of arbitration, and he’ll earn $1.1 million in 2012. The Cubs may have viewed this as a lateral move with a small cost savings. Cardenas still has an extremely outside chance of a breakout, whereas DeWitt is what he is.
The Yankees made a pair of minor league signings. First up is Bill Hall. He can opt out if he’s not on the major league roster by April 4th. Hall was one of the worst players in baseball in 2011 despite limited playing time, so the Yankees will still scrounge for alternatives like Eric Chavez. They also snagged Russell Branyan, who potentially could form a cost-effective DH platoon with Andruw Jones. It’s weird to use the words “cost effective platoon” to describe something Yankees-related…
The Orioles signed Luis Ayala to a one-year deal worth nearly $1 million. They hold a $1 million option for 2013 ($100K buyout). Ayala has bounced around a lot throughout his career and posted a career-best season in 2011. His peripherals indicate that any team expecting a repeat of his 2.09 ERA from 2011—or even a modest 3.50 ERA—will be sorely disappointed. The Orioles also signed designated hitter Nick Johnson to a minor league deal. He’s known for two things, an excellent plate approach and the health of a geriatric.
The Cardinals signed veteran reliever Scott Linebrink to a minor league deal. Linebrink’s best years are behind him, as evidenced by the minor league contract, but he did manage a palatable 3.64 ERA in 2011 after two seasons of ERAs in the mid-fours.