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February 18, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Looking for Lefty Relief

by Daniel Rathman

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Four teams in on Oliver Perez
Two years ago, the Mariners revived Oliver Perez’s major-league career by moving him to the bullpen. He ended up spending two seasons in Seattle, the latter on a one-year, $1.5 million contract that he signed on November 3, 2012, less than five months after the Mariners brought him back to the Show. But the 32-year-old’s stay in the Emerald City might be over, with four teams in the running to become his next employer.

Cafardo believes that Perez could choose his team in the coming days so that he can report to camp and catch up with the pitchers who settled in last week. The four teams that are courting him remain a mystery, but Bob Dutton, who covers the Mariners for the Tacoma News Times, hasn’t heard anything to suggest that he might be back. First-year manager Lloyd McClendon already has a couple of lefties at his disposal in Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge, and the Mariners invited Joe Beimel and Randy Wolf to camp to compete for jobs.

When the Mariners considered moving Perez at last year’s trade deadline, the Orioles came calling, according to Baltimore Sun beat writer Dan Connolly, But Buck Showalter’s bullpen already features at least two southpaws (Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland), with Zach Britton a candidate to join them while Troy Patton serves his 25-game suspension. Baltimore also has a pair of left-handed Factors on the Farm in Mike Belfiore and Jason Gurka.

Perez’s 2013 campaign was a tale of two seasons. He fanned 50 batters in 36 innings before the All-Star break, posting a strikeout rate of over 33 percent, and walked only 15, adequate control for a pitcher who consistently missed bats. But his strikeout rate declined to 28.5 percent during the second half—acceptable for most pitchers, but not for one issuing 11 walks in 17 innings and getting shelled to the tune of a .324 average fueled by a .455 BABIP.

The left-hander wound up with respectable overall numbers in spite of the summertime stumble, mitigating the .358 on-base percentage that he coughed up to lefties by holding them to a .287 slugging mark and a .265 True Average. Still, clubs that are interested in Perez as a specialist might be turned off by the idea of more than one-third of his assigned opponents reaching base. That would explain why Perez’s representatives, Mike Fischlin and Scott Boras, have not yet found a suitable landing spot.

The Nationals expressed interest in Perez early in the offseason, and they were still considering him two weeks ago, even though they had already nabbed Jerry Blevins in a trade with the Athletics. Xavier Cedeno, who struck out 45 batters in 34 1/3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse after the Nationals claimed him off waivers from the Astros, is also in contention for a bullpen job. And general manager Mike Rizzo could convert either Ross Detwiler or Sammy Solis into a reliever and roll with Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan as his fifth starter.

Clubs looking for a free-agent southpaw with whom to round out their bullpens are likely down to Perez or former Brewer Michael Gonzalez. The 35-year-old Gonzalez made 75 appearances for Milwaukee in 2013 and whiffed 60 batters in 50 innings, though he also doled out 25 walks and served up 10 home runs. Gonzalez is more of a true specialist than Perez; he has held lefties to a .247 TAv over his career but watched righties tee off for a .316 TAv last year that raised his lifetime mark to .299.

So far, so good for Carlos Santana at the hot corner
The Indians probably won’t know how Carlos Santana would take to a conversion to third base until they see him in Cactus League action, but if his workout on Monday was any indication, the experiment just might work.

MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweeted yesterday afternoon that Santana “looked comfortable” at the hot corner, where he spent the bulk of his time during Dominican Winter League play. Santana, who turns 28 on April 8, hit .313/.389/.438 for Leones del Escobedo, so the move down the third-base line did not seem to affect him at the plate.

The Indians’ current third-base mix, sans Santana, involves a timeshare between Lonnie Chisenhall and Mike Aviles, but neither of them can match his offensive output. Terry Francona’s group could also benefit from getting Santana out of the squat, because Yan Gomes—the primary catcher if the conversion works—is a vastly superior pitch framer. Some Indians pitchers, including Ubaldo Jimenez, fared better during the second half of last year, when Gomes became the primary backstop.

Cleveland would most likely bring a true backup catcher north from Arizona if Santana moves off the position. Veteran second-stringers Luke Carlin and Matt Treanor joined the club this offseason as non-roster invitees. Jake Lowery, a 22-year-old who turned in an .812 OPS for Double-A Akron last year, is also at big-league camp this spring.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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