Lost in Transactions 12/8-12/14/08: Gamblin’ in Vegas

JJ Putz was one of many players who found a new home this week. (Icon/SMI)

Welcome to Lost in Transactions. There were a lot of transactions this past week, as expected with several crucial deadlines and the winter meetings. Due to the volume of transactions, I will not be covering (a) any transaction that is not official (ie. the CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett signing, which will be policy in this column) and (b) the non-tender/arbitration offers, which will be covered upon official signing. Let’s go through the sheer number of players who found new homes…

12/8/08

Detroit Tigers acquired C Gerald Laird from the Texas Rangers for RHP Guillermo Moscoso and RHP Carlos Melo.

The acquisition of Laird kicked off an increased focus on defense from the Detroit Tigers, who also agreed to terms with defensive whiz Adam Everett to man shortstop (not made official). Laird is decent with the bat but possesses a strong glove. He hasn’t received steady work as a starter yet in his career, so the 29-year old could break off a string of some above-average offensive years.

The Rangers got a 25-year-old prospect in Moscoso, who was old for his level (Advanced-A and Double-A) last year but has the stuff to at least crack the majors, most likely as a starter. He could contribute a few years of average production, but it won’t happen in Texas with his extreme flyball tendencies. It figures the Rangers will slot Moscoso in Triple-A and hope for the best. Melo is very young but throws gas and could be a steal, according to Keith Law, who mentions that the Rangers are the best team in identifying talent in Latin America.

Houston Astros claimed RHP Jeff Fulchino off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.

Fulchino got one out for the Florida Marlins in 2006 and then pitched 14 innings for the Royals last year, amassing a 9.00 ERA. There isn’t much to see here, just the Astros trying to find arms where they can.

Pittsburgh Pirates signed RHP Brian Slocum to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

12/9/08

Baltimore Orioles acquired INF/OF Ryan Freel, INF Brandon Waring and INF Justin Turner from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for C Ramon Hernandez and cash considerations.

I like this trade for both sides. Obviously, the Orioles now have a spot open for Matt Wieters and can bring in a veteran catcher to make the transition. They get back two long shots in prospects and Freel, who can play all across the diamond and brings a great mentality for the Orioles to point to.

The Reds are trying to contend in 2009 and are banking on Hernandez’s injury troubles being behind him and the motivation that comes along with a contract year. His line drive percentage of 19.7 in 2008 was the best since his 21.2 with San Diego in 2005, one of his better offensive years, so the Reds may get a lot more production out of Hernandez that he gave the Orioles the last two years.

Cleveland Indians sold the contract of RHP Tom Mastny to the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Central League.

Mastny has horrible ERAs during his time in the majors and a career 6.13 ERA in 94 career innings. In 2007, he was a capable middle reliever for the team that was one win away from the World Series. His xFIP suggests that he has been quite unlucky although he did become extremely prone to the home-run ball in 2008. Long story short, I’m surprised no other team wanted to take a flyer on Mastny.

Los Angeles Dodgers signed INF Casey Blake to a three-year contract with an option for 2012.

Someone was going to give him three years, and do you want to bet against Ned Colletti when it comes to crazy contracts? Didn’t think so. Blake is an average third baseman who will deteriorate over the contract and may be pushed into the outfield in a couple years. Blake will give the Dodgers an .800-ish OPS in 2009, which means he will be a fine complementary player. He reportedly took less money ($17 million) that the Minnesota Twins offered him (reportedly two years, $15 million) in exchange for the extra year.

Milwaukee Brewers re-signed INF Mike Lamb to a one-year contract.

Oakland Athletics signed C Joel Galarraga and RHP Jerome Williams to a minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.

12/10/08

Arizona Diamondbacks signed INF Augie Ojeda to a one-year contract.

Cleveland Indians acquired RHP Joe Smith from the New York Mets and INF Luis Valbuena from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for OF Franklin Gutierrez.

This was quite the blockbuster. The Indians added a young reliever to their staff that can contribute for years and only lost Gutierrez, a defensive whiz in an extremely crowded Indians outfield. Smith has a career 3.55 ERA in 107.2 innings and is only entering his age-25 season. He is an extreme groundball pitcher, putting the ball on the ground 62 percent of the time, which may burn him in Cleveland due to the shoddy fielding of shortstop Joel Peralta. Valbuena is a bad-body second baseman who could develop into a starter.

Detroit Tigers acquired RHP Edwin Jackson from the Tampa Bay Rays for OF Matt Joyce.

Tiger fans are up in arms over this move, as they should be. Jackson is a wild pitcher who had similar WHIPs to Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson last year, not names you want associated with yours. He’s a young righty with tremendous stuff and could yet develop into a great starter or perhaps even reliever, but lost a great young bat in Joyce. Joyce brings solid pop to the plate and could have a long stretch as an above-average starting outfielder for a contending team.

I actually like the deal from the Tigers’ perspective because their offense isn’t the issue, their pitching is. Getting a pitcher entering his age-25 season who already has six years experience in the majors is never a bad idea. He’s pushed his BB/9 down three straight years and his rising flyball tendencies may be masked in Comerica Field. Don’t write him off just yet, Detroit.

Florida Marlins released C Matt Treanor.

Kansas City Royals claimed RHP Jairo Cuevas off waivers from the Atlanta Braves.

Waiver war! Cuevas was originally claimed off waivers from the Braves by the Royals a few weeks ago. The Braves snagged him back two weeks ago only to lose him right back to KC again. We’ll see if the Royals keep him on the 40-man roster this time now that they’ve moved Ramon Ramirez.

Los Angeles Dodgers signed INF Mark Loretta to a one-year contract.

A low-risk signing. Loretta brings on-base percentage to the table and can play across the infield if asked to although he will likely start at second base. The Dodgers need help in the walks department, so this was a nice under-the-radar signing.

New York Mets signed RHP Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year contract.

The prize of the closing market, K-Rod found less competition for his services than expected, thanks to both the economy and questions about his velocity, which rebounded in September. He has an excellent change-up and could still bring back his devastating slider. For the Mets, who had so many bullpen question marks these last few years, this signing addresses their most crucial need. He’s declined from a multiple-inning reliever to strictly one-inning, but that may end up benefiting both him and the Mets in the long run, as they limit the wear and tear on his arm.

Philadelphia Phillies acquired C Ronny Paulino from the Pittsburgh Pirates for C Jason Jaramillo.

Seattle Mariners acquired RHP Aaron Heilman, OF Endy Chavez, LHP Jason Vargas, INF Mike Carp, OF Ezequiel Carrera and RHP Maikel Cleto from the New York Mets in exchange for RHP J.J. Putz, RHP Sean Green and OF Jeremy Reed. Acquired OF Franklin Gutierrez from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for INF Luis Valbuena.

I’m not really enamored of this trade from the Mariners’ side. They received a failed starter, backup outfielder, one possible Kevin Millar clone in Carp, one failed prospect and two prospects, one of which may be the star of the trade but could also be out of baseball in two years.

They gave up the American League’s best closer in 2007, a solid middle reliever and a backup outfielder. I don’t see how this strengthens the Mariners, but they do get three pieces in this trade that could pan out: Carp instantly rises to the top of their first-base depth chart, which is barren at the moment unless they slot Jeff Clement there. Carp could give them several years of production at a low salary.

In addition, Heilman will either get his wish to start or could be convinced to close. If it’s the latter, which seems like the most likely scenario, the Mariners might be able to pump his trade value up and deal him at the deadline for a strong return, which would make this trade look a lot better. Lastly, Franklin Gutierrez is a defensive whiz which they need in their outfield and isn’t a liability with the bat.

That said, it may have been better for them to wait for a more desperate team in need of a closer to come calling. Once Brian Fuentes comes off the board, the pickings are slim. Putz may have fetched a better return.

Washington Nationals released RHP Jesus Colome.

12/11/08

Due to the sheer volume of Rule 5 picks, I will instead be linking to various team blogs that offer their take on the draft:

Arizona Diamondbacks selected C James Skelton from the Detroit Tigers in the Rule 5 Draft.

AZ Snakepit says this pick may signal a trade of Chris Snyder or Miguel Montero.

Baltimore Orioles selected C Lou Palmisano from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Rule 5 Draft, traded to the Houston Astros for cash.

Lisa Gray is not happy that the Astros presumably are going to let J.R. Towles rot in Triple-A.

Boston Red Sox selected RHP Miguel Gonzalez from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Rule 5 Draft.

I cover this over at Fire Brand. Gonzalez missed all of 2008 but Keith Law really likes the pick.

Cincinnati Reds selected RHP David Patton from the Colorado Rockies in the Rule 5 draft and traded to Chicago Cubs for a cash consideration.

Bleed Cubbie Blue sees this as a low-risk move.

Detroit Tigers selected LHP Kyle Bloom from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule 5 draft.

Tiger Tales expects Bloom to go back to Pittsburgh.

Florida Marlins selected LHP Zachary Kroenke from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft.

Kroenke will compete for the LOOGY slot in the bullpen, says FishStripes.

Kansas City Royals signed LHP Horacio Ramirez and RHP Doug Waechter to one-year contracts. Acquired OF Jordan Parraz from the Houston Astros. Selected LHP Jose Lugo from the Minnesota Twins in the Rule 5 Draft and traded him to Seattle for cash considerations.

Ramirez had a strong half-year for the Royals before being shipped out. Waechter turned in a solid year for the Marlins but was cut in a budget move despite a 3.69 ERA. Both are nice moves for the Royals, who are trying to build their bullpen.

Milwaukee Brewers selected RHP Eduardo Morlan from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rule 5 Draft.

This is a move I really like. Morlan was acquired by the Rays last year in the Delmon Young/Matt Garza swap and has an electric arm. The Brewers did well in getting Morlan, who could evolve into their closer of the future if he can get his head on straight.

Minnesota Twins signed SS Nick Punto to a two-year contract with a club option for 2011. Selected RHP Jason Jones from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 draft.

Punto returns to the Twins where he will provide a solid presence as their starting shortstop. He hit .281/.344/.382 last year and the Twins better hope he doesn’t turn in his 2007′s .210/.291/.271. For the cost-conscious Twins, it’s a solid move. Jones has great K/BB numbers but Twins Talk doesn’t see him sticking.

New York Mets selected RHP Rocky Cherry from the Baltimore Orioles and RHP Darren O’Day from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Rule 5 Draft.

Kranepool Society lets us know that Baseball Prospectus thinks O’Day is a nice find and Cherry will compete for a spot.

Oakland Athletics selected OF Ben Copeland from the San Francisco Giants in the Rule 5 Draft.

ExtraBaggs says Copeland was not a top-30 prospect for the Giants.

Philadelphia Phillies acquired RHP Robert Mosebach from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Rule 5 Draft.

Mosebach spent last year in Double-A, and Phanatic Magazine dishes on his history.

Pittsburgh Pirates selected LHP Donald Veal from the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft.

Pirate Revolution loves the pick.

San Diego Padres selected INF Everth Cabrera from the Colorado Rockies and RHP Ivan Nova from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft.

Padres assistant GM Paul DePodesta blogs on the picks.

San Francisco Giants selected RHP Luis Perdomo from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Rule 5 Draft.

ExtraBaggs reveals that the Cardinals feel the Giants “took the right guy,” and was the best player they were unable to protect.

Seattle Mariners selected INF Reegie Corona from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft. Acquired LHP Jose Lugo from the Kansas City Royals for cash.

USS Mariner compares Corona to Willie Bloomquist and likes Lugo as a LOOGY.

Tampa Bay Rays selected RHP Derek Rodriguez from the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 Draft.

Rays GM Andrew Friedman likes Rodriguez as a LOOGY according to DRays Bay.

Texas Rangers acquired RHP Beau Vaughan from the Boston Red Sox as the player to be named later from the Wes Littleton trade. Re-signed RHP Brian Gordon to a Minor League contract and invited him to Spring Training.

Washington Nationals selected RHP Terrell Young from the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 Draft.

Young has a “big arm” and three good pitches says the Hot Stove Blog.

12/12/08

Arizona Diamondbacks signed INF Felipe Lopez to a one-year contract.

I love this deal for the Diamondbacks. It’s one year for short money. Scott Boras must have been unable to play Lopez’s torrid streak with the St. Louis Cardinals into a multiyear deal, so the cash-strapped Snakes step in. Lopez plays a very good second base, grabbing 11 balls out of his designated zone in 2007 for the Nationals. His bat has always been a tease, and if he can put it together should be looking at a very nice payday next year. Really, both teams benefit: the Diamondbacks get a solid player that can keep them competing and Lopez gets a chance to make money.

Chicago Cubs signed RHP Chad Gaudin and LHP Neal Cotts to one-year contracts.

Detroit Tigers signed INF Ramon Santiago to a one-year contract.

Kansas City Royals designated INF Jason Smith for assignment.

New York Mets acquired RHP Connor Robertson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for LHP Scott Schoeneweis.

Okay, so I just got done commending the Diamondbacks for signing Felipe Lopez. Now I disparage them.

Let’s get this straight—Randy Johnson was willing to pitch for the Diamondbacks at half the salary of 2008 (so he would have signed for $5 million) but the Diamondbacks couldn’t afford it. So they go and get a lousy LOOGY who will cost them $2 million? Huh?

They won’t miss Robertson—this was a dump—but it’s baffling as to why the Diamondbacks couldn’t invest $5 million in Randy Johnson but could invest $2 million in Schoeneweis.

Oakland Athletics signed C Rob Bowen to a one-year contract.

Pittsburgh Pirates signed INF Ramon Vazquez to a two-year contract.

Okay, don’t get this either. Vazquez provides nice depth, but that’s about it. Shouldn’t the Pirates be more interested in spending for high-impact players? If the Pirates trade Jack Wilson, which looks less and less likely, Vazquez could step in as a starter but if not, he’ll play off the bench. He’s a solid bench player, that’s about it. Will he repeat his torrid streak with the Texas Rangers or go back to being a mediocre bench player? I’m betting on the former.

Toronto Blue Jays signed RHP Matt Clement to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training.

Washington Nationals signed OF Willie Harris to a two-year contract. Signed INF Ryan Zimmerman, OF Josh Willingham, LHP Scott Olsen and RHP Shawn Hill to one-year contracts.

Boston Red Sox signed P Enrique Gonzalez, 1B/LF Paul McAnulty, RHP Marcus McBeth and SS Gil Velazquez to minor league contracts.

12/13/08

Cleveland Indians signed RHP Kerry Wood to a two-year contract.

Great move. Relievers are so volatile that they need to get short-term deals, and the Indians nabbed the best closer on the market (stuff-wise), and one that threw just two innings less than K-Rod. He has far better control than K-Rod as well and while the transition to the American League should see him give up a few more runs than normal, he is a weapon at the end of the game that the Indians desperately need (and needed in 2007).

Kansas City Royals signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth to a two-year contract.

I’m going to refrain from piling on here because so many have and I think Craig Brown said it best… “Removing situation from the equation, Farnsworth would have contributed less to the Royals bullpen last year than Jimmy Gobble.”

Jimmy Gobble, ladies and gentlemen!

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