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Towers Also Adds Putz

Kevin Towers is a man on a mission when it comes to upgrading the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pen. After acquiring two relievers via trade, Towers turned around and signed the team’s prospective closer in the form of J.J. Putz. Ken Rosenthal reports the deal to be worth $10 million over two years, although $1.5 million of that is in the form of a third-year buyout; the maximum value of the deal is $15 million.

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Were The Padres Right to Trade Gonzalez Now?

Parting with a star player is difficult regardless of the circumstances, but no one could blame San Diego if they admitted their internal struggle was fiercer than the usual. Just two months ago, Adrian Gonzalez played in the regular season finale that proved to be a bittersweet ending to a surprise run that lasted all season. The team fell just short of the playoffs, but still won 90 games.

Teams often make decisions coming off emotional highs or lows. These decisions seem to find a way to bite the team in the hand down the road. San Diego’s season represents a high. The emotional response would ostensibly be to hold onto Gonzalez and make one more run at the division crown before bidding him farewell. As such, it appears the Padres relied on rationale thought instead of emotional response.

They had three options to weigh. One being to keep Gonzalez and collect the draft pick compensation once he went in search of a major payday; the next being to trade Gonzalez now; and the last being to trade Gonzalez in-season. Did they make the right one?
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Berkman Joins The Cardinals

In a pairing that appears most unusual, Lance Berkman will play with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2011 season.

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Hinske Remains in Atlanta

In recent years, Eric Hinske has become nothing more than a bench player. Is being a reserve a disappointing career arc for a man with the 2002 Rookie of the Year award? Perhaps, but Hinske is notable for reasons outside of his potential’s steep demise.

One of those reasons is Hinske’s catholicity towards money. Evan Longoria credits Hinske for advising him to make his first million as quickly as possible. Clearly Hinske understands the time value of money. As such, it should be no surprise that Hinske signed relatively early in the offseason. What is a surprise, though, is the length and amount of dollars that Hinske received.

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White Sox Non-Tender Jenks

Earlier today, the Chicago White Sox announced they would not tender a contract to closer Bobby Jenks. The decision marks the end of the hard-throwing righty’s career on the Southside while adding another worthwhile relief pitcher to a free agent market already full with them.

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Winston Abreu Heads North

Minor league relievers rarely receive attention on these pages. Minor league relievers celebrating their 34th birthday the week of Opening Day with fewer than 50 career big league innings receive even less attention. I hope that I can be excused for making an exception for Winston Abreu, because here goes nothing.
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Tejada to The Other Part of The Bay

About four years ago, Baseball Prospectus offered this exchange during the Winter Meetings:

Scene: Cal Ripken, Steve Finley and Jim Leyritz are sitting on a couch in the Opryland hotel.
Observer: “All that’s missing is Brian Sabean and a pen.”

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The Marlins Prepare to Add Javier Vazquez

For the second time in Javier Vazquez’s career, he will rejoin the National League after a miserable season with the New York Yankees. Following the 2004 season, the Yankees traded Vazquez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Barring an injury, Vazquez will play for his third National League East team in 2011, as he has chosen to sign with the Florida Marlins by his own devices.

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Huff Returns to The Beanstalk

Three weeks ago, I wrote that the Giants needed to avoid overcompensating the free agents from their World Series team. Today, they re-signed Aubrey Huff for two years and $22 million (with a club option for a third year). Although the Contract Crowdsourcing series had Huff valued two years, $16 million, did the Giants do well in what (seems) to be an inflated market?
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Dontrelle to Cincy

Dontrelle Willis’ history is no secret. To attempt and retell it in a manner that proves anything but insulting and trite is pointless. Willis is undoubtedly the world’s most famous replacement level pitcher. His last acceptable season came in 2006; since then, he has thrown more than 400 innings between the majors and the minors without much success. The persistent state of ineffectiveness did not dissuade the Cincinnati Reds from signing Willis yesterday, although the minor league capacity of the deal is a strict reminder that this is not 2006.

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Hitters Who Could Pitch

Over the weekend I discovered Alec Zumwalt’s name. Zumwalt’s career is unspectacular and mostly unworthy of examination. The only interesting thing about his toils came as a last resort to change his outlook. Drafted as an outfielder, the Braves converted Zumwalt to the mound. His ability to throw hard translates to the mound to some extent, as he was able to pitch in the low-90s. His command lacked polish and, and he never reached the majors in any capacity – although the Devil Rays did take him in a Rule 5 draft.

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Houston Acquires Clint Barmes

Ed Wade and Dan O’Dowd combined for a straightforward deal of major leaguers.

Clint Barmes turns 32 in early March. It’s a little early to start setting depth charts, but one has to figure Barmes will be under serious consideration to start at shortstop in place of Tommy Manzella and Angel Sanchez. Part of that consideration may stem from his price tag (more than $4 million) which could have led to a non-tender from Colorado. The book on Barmes begins and ends with defense since he profiles as a plus defender at either middle infield position. His leather is slick enough that Colorado kept him at short during the 2006 season despite racking up -41.7 park-adjusted batting runs.

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The Jays Acquire Rajai Davis

The offseason is still in its infancy, but rest assured: this deal will involve the most unique names of any completed ever. The Oakland Athletics just acquired David DeJesus and cleared a piece of their outfield logjam by sending Rajai Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays for a pair of arms (with bodies attached!) named Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar.

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Marlins Ink John Buck

No owner attracts more synonyms of cheap than the Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria. Parsimoniously or prudently—depending on your perspective – the Marlins roster usually consist of players in the Land Before Dime stage of their careers. The conversation briefly, ever so briefly, centered on Loria’s sudden generosity yesterday when the team inked John Buck for three years and $18 million … then the team went and traded Dan Uggla for a (perceived) whimsical return.

On Buck – who possesses one of the most preposterously pun-able names for two separate categories of player: 1) home run hitting 2) paid baseball player – the contract appears overproduced. Too much pay and too many years make for a poor soundtrack. The 2010 season stands out in Buck’s portfolio as it does for many of his Blue Jays teammates. Buck racked up nearly 2,000 plate appearances with the Royals from 2004-2008 and hit .234/.298/.398 with 20 home runs per 592 trips. Over the last two seasons, Buck has 639 plate appearances with 28 home runs and a line of .271/.309/.487.

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Loney’s Trade Value

James Loney is the position player the Dodgers are most willing to move according to Ken Rosenthal. The hostile (and snarky) response here is, “Duh.” The more tactful response includes noting that Loney is not the kind of player that a team should overpay for his production. That statement is banal as it can apply to just about any player, but Loney’s production is more easily replaceable than most, which is exactly why his trade value is likely minimal.

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Kuroda Appears True to True Blue

Friday marks the month anniversary of the Los Angeles Dodgers re-signing Ted Lilly for three years and $33 million. If Lilly wants to throw a grandiose party to celebrate his good fortune in life he now can do so while splitting the costs with the Dodgers’ newest rotation member who will also make eight figures annually. Describing Hiroki Kuroda as “new” to the Dodgers is ungenuine. Kuroda has 82 starts with the franchise, thus encompassing his entire North American league career. His reward for good performance is reportedly worth $12 million and is legally binding for the 2011 season only.
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Blum in Arizona

Timing is everything with analyzing signings like this one. The signing of Geoff Blum probably has little to do with the knowledge that Mark Reynolds is much on the market, but until that other string is tied in a knot, the two will dangle next to each other. That dangling state leads folks to wonder whether Blum is the Diamondbacks’ new third baseman or if he’s just the placeholder. And that line of thinking is unfair to Blum and unfair to the Diamondbacks, unless Blum being the starter is the plan, in which case this whole ordeal is just unfair to Diamondbacks’ fans.

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The Return of Angel Salome’s Name to Relevancy

Matt Eddy and Baseball America released their annual collection of minor league free agents yesterday – it’s a must bookmark for those who partake in organizational rosterbation. The offseason becomes officially underway once the legions of busted prospects pop up on the radar once again, if only to cause for great reminiscing about those who the game passed by. One of the names delivered in this year’s edition is Angel Salome.

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Eric Hacker’s 15 Minutes

Signs that the uneventful portion of the offseason is upon us: Eric Hacker stole the spotlight for about an hour’s span yesterday. There are a lot of starting points in most acquisitions, but not here, as the protagonist is a virtual unknown. One could say that Hacker’s offseason job is forest ranger and nobody would know any better. His onseason job is starting pitcher and more relevant to the discussion at hand.

Hacker is a short righty originally drafted by the New York Yankees in 2002. The Yankees traded Hacker to the Pittsburgh Pirates in May of 2009 for Romulo Sanchez. Hacker made a trio of relief appearances with the Pirates during the 2009 season before eventually hitting free agency and signing with the San Francisco Giants. That major league stint left some pitchfx residue in its wake, allowing us to confirm his low-90s fastball and usage of a mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball.

Why is he relevant? Because the Minnesota Twins made a questionable decision yesterday by signing Hacker to a big league deal – a contract that places him directly onto the 40-man roster.

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Uehara Even Controls his Sideburns

In a free agent market brimming with capable relief options, Koji Uehara is an enticing option. Originally brought over as a starter, Uehara finished his Orioles’ career as their closer. Besides his majestic sideburns, the most noticeable tool in his shed is excellent control. The 2009 season may have marked Uehara’s first on American soil and by extension his first in the frigid American League East, but he still managed a strikeout-to-walk ratio of four.

Uehara worked exclusively out of the bullpen in 2010 in between injuries and topped himself. In 44 innings, he struck out 55 and walked five. Uehara’s season included no intentional walks, no hit by pitches, and a single wild pitch. Keith Law wrote that his control plays up even more in the bullpen, citing a “grade 70 or better” on the 20-80 scouting scale. The numbers certainly support the assertion.

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