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June 23, 2014

Transaction Analysis

The Exception to the Raul

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Released DH-L Raul Ibanez. [6/21]

Sigh. Ibanez is a TA fav due to his unusual career arc and unpredictability. The end appears near, however, and boy does that suck. You don't see players transition from non-entity through the first 10 seasons of their career to outplaying Hall of Famers after they turned 30 often, but that's what Ibanez did. He was never going to hang around forever, even if we wanted him to, yet you get the feeling his baseball career won't end on the field. A team will hire Ibanez—lauded for his dedication and professionalism—in some capacity. Hopefully that'll be enough for future generations to look back on Ibanez's unusual, odds-defying career—and, after doing so, to appreciate its charm.

As for the baseball side of things, Ibanez's release frees the DH spot for C.J. Cron. It's the correct move. Cron has performed better than anticipated thus far, and deserves the opportunity to prove that his production is more than a sample-size mirage. Hulking sluggers with a higher total of doubled plays grounded into than walks might not be your thing, but an upgrade is an upgrade, and these days Cron looks to be the better bet than Ibanez.

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jake Buchanan from Triple-A Oklahoma; optioned RHP Paul Clemens to Triple-A Oklahoma. [6/21]

With Brad Peacock recovering from food poisoning, the Astros turned to Buchanan to start Saturday's game against the Rays. The results were not good. Still there is reason to believe Buchanan just might be okay in the long run, provided you have reasonable expectations. The raw stuff is nothing special, yet Buchanan has enough command and affinity for groundballs to project him as a future back-end starter or middle reliever. That's not the stuff that legends are made of, but it is a nice yield from an eighth-round pick.

Fun fact: Buchanan's top PECOTA comparable is Dallas Keuchel. Less-fun fact: it's the 2012 version.

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Yohan Pino from Triple-A Rochester; placed INF-R Eduardo Nunez on the 15-day disabled list (hamstring); transferred RHP Mike Pelfrey to the 60-day disabled list (elbow surgery). [6/19]

The 30-year-old Pino became the second-oldest player to debut in 2014 on Thursday, when he threw seven quality innings against the White Sox. He is what you would expect from a long-time Twins farmhand, as he atones for an upper-80s fastball with location, sequencing, and deception. That profile has a limited ceiling, and will leave Twins fans eager to move on to someone juicier—like Alex Meyer or Trevor May. Still, Pino's accomplishment fulfills a lifelong dream and a decade-long journey; so let him have his moment, gals and guys, because yours is coming soon enough.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Brad Mills from the Brewers for $1; purchased his contract from Triple-A Sacramento; optioned LHP Evan Scribner to Triple-A Sacramento. [6/20]

Once Mills gets beyond the indignation of being traded for a dollar, he should recognize this for what it is: a blessing.

Because this is Oakland, and because Mills pitched well in Triple-A, there are questions about whether his true-talent level has improved. The answer is, in all likelihood, no.

Mills had similar, albeit worse statistics at Triple-A back in 2011. That same year, he allowed 37 baserunners and four home runs in 18 big-league innings. Yes, small sample; no, there's not much reason to believe his arsenal can lead to a higher ceiling than back-end starter. Mills' fastball lives in the upper 80s and near the top of the zone, where he uses it to set up his curveball. (He also throws a changeup and cutter, all from an over-the-top release point.) The best-case scenario sees Mills treat hitters like this is Triple-A before sliding to the pen upon Drew Pomeranz's return. More likely: he's just tolerable and the A's flip a coin on whether to keep him or Jeff Francis.

On a related note, Jason Wojciechowski raised a good question: what does this mean for Dan Straily?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Designated RHP J.J. Putz for assignment. [6/20]

Purchased the contract of RHP Matt Stites from Triple-A Reno; optioned OF-L Tony Campana to Triple-A Reno; transferred RHP Daniel Hudson to the 60-day disabled list (elbow). [6/19]

Kevin Towers sheds the past to make room for the future. Truthfully, Putz has been old news for the better part of two months, when his name surfaced in trade rumors. Were it not for a forearm injury, which cost him five weeks, he might have already been half past gone. Just as the years and injuries have taken their toll on Putz's stock, so have they robbed him of valuable fastball mileage; in what was his final appearance with Arizona, his fastball was clinging to the 90-91 range—not quite the high-octane heater of yesteryear. Yet Putz's peripherals and history will land him another gig because, hey, it worked for Heath Bell and Kyle Farnsworth. That'll come after he clears release waivers, and as such, the D'backs will owe him $3.5 million over the course of the season.

Stites, part of last July's Ian Kennedy trade, takes Putz's place in the bullpen. A small right-hander with the chance to develop into a late-inning force, Stites' arsenal features a mid-90s fastball and quality slider. That combination married with his arm action and closed landing should make him hell against same-handed hitters. The key for Stites, then, is the same as it is for most relievers with good stuff: control the baseball. Expect to see him setting up Addison Reed soon.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed RHP Gavin Floyd on the 15-day disabled list (fractured elbow); recalled LHP Ryan Buchter from Triple-A Gwinnett. [6/20]

Recalled RHP Juan Jaime from Triple-A Gwinnett; placed RHP Pedro Beato on the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]

The Braves add two fresh, if volatile, relievers to their bullpen.

Jaime was the first to debut and, thanks to his elite velocity, is more likely to capture imaginations. The Braves have tried improving his control since they signed him to a minor-league deal in 2011, yet progress has been limited. His delivery continues to include some red flags—like a head jerk and balance issues—and his minor-league walk rate flirted with seven free passes per nine. As a result, the best-case scenario here is something like old-school Carlos Marmol. There's just one problem with that comparison: Jaime doesn't have a knockout secondary offering like Marmol's slider. The velocity difference from the fastball should help anything play beyond its grade, but one scout told Ethan Purser that Jaime's breaking ball is one of the worst pitches in the upper-minors. Just how far can a one-pitch pitcher with horrible control go? The Braves intend to discover the answer.

Buchter, who was acquired from the Cubs in 2011 for Rodrigo Lopez, made Atlanta's Opening Day roster. Unfortunately, he was optioned to the minors in favor of Pedro Beato before he could appear in a game. The story has a happy ending, though, as Buchter returned on Friday and earned the win in his first career appearance. Buchter's fastball-breaking ball combination gives him a chance to become a useful second lefty, but his poor control could limit him to an up-and-down role.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of OF/1B-L Jake Goebbert from Triple-A El Paso; placed 1B-L Yonder Alonso on the 15-day disabled list (wrist tendinitis). [6/19]

Though Goebbert did not debut until Friday, he has appeared in this column before; first when he was swapped for Travis Blackley, then earlier this season when he was part of the Kyle Blanks trade. Amusingly enough, Goebbert's trip to the majors was telegraphed by that second deal. Were Blanks still around, he would've been the easy fix at first base until Alonso returned. Instead Bud Black figures to use Goebbert and Tommy Medica in some kind of timeshare.

Don't get it twisted: Goebbert lacks the bat to start at the cold corner. He's a line-drive hitter with a grinder's mentality; good enough to post solid minor-league rates, not good enough for those numbers to translate to the majors. Unfortunately, he's similarly capped defensively, where his range and arm preclude him from playing center and right fields. As such, the important part of this cameo might be the games where Goebbert is not in the starting lineup; on those nights, Bud Black can test his pinch-hitting chops. If Goebbert succeeds, he could stick around as a bench bat. Otherwise, he's bound to be cast as an up-and-down player, or worse yet, thrown into another trade.

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

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