February 15, 2013
New Homes for Tampa Infielders
Acquired INF-S Elliot Johnson from the Rays as a player to be named later in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade. [2/12]
Here's what I said about Johnson when he was designated for assignment last week:
His best attribute is his speed, which showed up in games more often last season. Although Johnson has experience at multiple positions, his arm is better suited for second base. Alas, his bat doesn't allow him to stick at the position as he doesn't have the secondary skills to overcome poor contact skills. Johnson has been outrighted once before so if he clears waivers he can still elect free agency over an optional assignment.
Johnson—who signed with the Rays an undrafted high-school player—is expected to compete with Miguel Tejada and Irving Falu for a spot on the Royals bench. It's not clear who has the edge at this point since each has something going for them: Tejada with a rich history, Johnson with his athleticism, and Falu played well in 2012 in a brief stint. Johnson's escape clause should the Royals attempt to send him to the minors could make the difference.
Signed LHP Rafael Perez to a minor-league deal. [2/14]
The Twins will reportedly stretch Perez out as a starter. It's an intriguing and creative thought. Perez came up in the minors as a starter but has not thrown more than three innings in a big-league game since 2007. He gets groundballs and avoids walks, and has turned into a three-pitch guy with a high-80s sinker, slider, and changeup. Perez boasts a tall release point, though he shows the ball to right-handers a lot on the backside, which could sabotage his platoon splits. The chances of Perez turning into a solid starter are limited. It's still a worthwhile, low-cost gamble.
A nice move by Brian Cashman. Kelley—having lost his spot on the Mariners' 40-man roster to Joe Saunders last week—is closing in on 18 months since Tommy John surgery. Even if he fails to recover his lost velocity, he should be able to log middle relief innings as a fastball-slider pitcher with a history of throwing strikes. You can do worse for $900,000 and a piece of organizational depth.
Signed RHP Kameron Loe to a minor-league deal. [2/13]
Designated OF/1B-L Mike Carp for assignment. [2/13]
Acquired OF-S Abraham Almonte from the Yankees for RHP Shawn Kelley. [2/13]
There are two kinds of relievers you can net on minor-league deals: Total upside plays and nice situational types. Loe is the latter. He's a tall man with a simple two-pitch mix: sinker, curveball. Groundballs are his favorite thing in the world, left-handed hitters his least favorite. A solid two-year run with the Brewers showed Loe can be useful in the league. Provided the Mariners give him a shot, don't be surprised if he makes last season look like a fluke.
Carp's production in 2011 belies his ability. He does pack some punch, but his plate approach is poor and his bat appears slow. There's not a lot to like athletically, leaving Carp without a true defensive home. In a sense, he's a professional pinch-hitter. Perhaps a National League team will give him a shot.
Almonte is a small, switch-hitting outfielder with a remote chance of becoming an extra outfielder in the majors.
Acquired SS-L Reid Brignac from the Rays for a player to be named later or cash considerations. [2/14]
When Brignac was designated for assignment last week, I wrote of him:
You might remember him as a highly touted prospect with a grand glove and some power potential. The glove still glimmers but the bat is dull. His plate discipline is poor and he seems unwilling or unable to change his swing-happy approach. Brignac clashed with coaches over his hitting philosophy and was then passed over by less talented players for promotions throughout the season. A change of scenery might do Brignac well, and he expects to have suitors because of his defense.
Brignac figures to compete with Jonathan Herrera for the Rockies' utility infielder job. Neither is going to hit much but Brignac provides some wallop whereas Herrera is a speedster. Colorado's decision to give up something to acquire a challenger for the spot could tip the odds in Brignac's favor. He's out of options, so if he loses grip on the job then he may be on the move once more before the season begins.