Lost in Transactions 12/1-12/7/08: Vazquez heads to Atlanta

Javier Vazquez (Icon/SMI)

Welcome to Lost in Transactions. Two pretty interesting trades occurred this week, but that’s nothing compared to the information we’ll find out this week. A lot of what happened last week will shape what happens this week with the winter meetings and arbitration decisions, so let’s bone up on what happened…


Boston Red Sox signed LHP Billy Traber to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Traber should be first in line to be promoted to the majors should Hideki Okajima or Javier Lopez get injured. He pitched in the Yankees organization last year, getting torched in a couple major league appearances.

Kansas City Royals signed RHP Franquelis Osoria to a Minor League contract with an invitation to spring training. Re-signed C Matt Tupman and RHP Matt Wright to Minor League contracts with an invitations to Spring Training.

Milwaukee Brewers signed 1B Scott Thorman to a Minor League contract with an invitation to spring training.

Oakland Athletics signed RHP Kevin Cameron, 1B Tagg Bozied and OF Matt Carson to Minor League contracts with invitations to spring training. Signed RHP Jonathan Hunton to a minor league contract.


Houston Astros signed RHP Doug Brocail to a one-year contract.

The penny-pinching Astros bring back a player entering his age-42 year who has had ERAs of 3.05 and 3.93 the last two years, respectively. You could do a lot worse.


Chicago Cubs signed RHP Chad Fox to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Houston Astros signed LHP Mike Hampton to a one-year contract.

It looks like the Astros are going to have to move on from Randy Wolf despite GM Ed Wade’s lusting for Wolf. Hampton was brought in on a low $2 million base salary which is an excellent get. Hampton is far from the top-flight, innings eating starter that he used to be, but slotting him in the back of the rotation for $2 million allows the Astros to put what little money they have to better use elsewhere.

Minnesota Twins released DH Randy Ruiz.

New York Mets re-signed LHP Adam Bostick, RHP Nelson Figueroa and INF Andy Green to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training. Signed C Rene Rivera to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

San Francisco Giants signed RHP Bob Howry to a one-year contract.

The Giants have rebuilt their late-inning bullpen corps and have sufficient fallbacks should closer Brian Wilson falter. The Giants should turn their attention now to offense, and if they can get a couple key contributors, they could be a factor in the NL West.

Seattle Mariners signed INF Russell Branyan to a one-year contract.

Jack Zduriencik’s first ever signing is Branyan for $1.4 million and it’s a nice signing. The club, with holes currently at first base and left field, can use Branyan at either position and get some power out of him. Sure, Branyan will power some windmills with his whiffs, but he could also pop over 30 homers given a starting role.

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St. Louis Cardinals signed LHP Trever Miller on a one-year contract.

The Cardinals are looking to bolster their left-handed presence. While Miller isn’t a shutdown lefty specialist, he has rattled off six solid years in a row.

Boston Red Sox signed 2B Dustin Pedroia to a six-year extension. (2009-2014 $40.5 million; Opt 2015, $11 million)

For someone who has won a World Series ring, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year and MVP award in his first two seasons, this is a bargain for the Red Sox, who buy out two of his free agent years and possibly three. He’ll be in Beantown through age 32 and if the Sox pick up his option, he will also receive a no-trade clause due to the Red Sox’s policy of granting a no-trade clause to anyone with eight consecutive years of service as a major league player for the organization.


Atlanta Braves acquired RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Boone Logan from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for C Tyler Flowers, INFs Jonathan Gilmore and Brent Lillibridge and LHP Santos Rodriguez.

This is a great move for the Braves. They add an innings-eater (eight years of over 200 innings pitched) who is only 32 despite 11 years of service. He can rack up the strikeouts, and despite his 4.67 ERA, his xFIP was 3.96, making this a potential bargain for the club. The 2009 Bill James Handbook projects him to pitch 214 innings of 3.80 ERA ball, whiffing 195. Keep in mind that this is with Vazquez pitching in The Cell, a hitter’s park, so he may do better at Turner Field. Also, don’t rule out peace of mind because he finally gets his wish to pitch closer to his native Puerto Rico, a fact that spurred him to request a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks three years ago. Logan is a young left-hander who hasn’t experienced success at the major league level yet and probably won’t win a bullpen job.

For the ChiSox, it opens the ability for the club to chase after a young pitcher via trade. Rumor has it they have their eye on Cincinatti Red Homer Bailey, possibly in exchange for outfielder Jermaine Dye. Flowers is the real prize here, as Kenny Williams reportedly salivated over him after seeing him play fall ball. He has questions defensively, but the ChiSox are hoping he is A.J. Pierzynski’s replacement. Gilmore is too far off to project while Lillibridge will compete with Jayson Nix and other retreads for the second base job. He can also fill in as a utility man off the bench and has excellent speed. He could be Williams’ answer to Chone Figgins, who he has coveted for a long time. Rodriguez, 20 and pitching in Rookie ball last year, could be the gem of the trade. He whiffed 49 in 25 innings while walking just 13, giving up nine earned runs and zero homers.

Boston Red Sox signed RHP Junichi Tazawa to a three-year contract.

Scouts are split on Tazawa, with some seeing him as a possible No. 3 starter and others seeing him as an average middle reliever. The general consensus has him as another Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who contributed years of above-average middle relief. Either way, the general consensus is that he would have gone in the late first-round or early second-round of the amateur draft, and he received a commensurate salary. Tazawa has the chance of seeing the majors in 2009 (and will likely do so no later than September as his minor league options will start ticking).

Cincinnati Reds re-signed RHP Mike Lincoln to a two-year contract.

So, let me get this straight. Howry gets a one-year contract, but Lincoln, who hadn’t pitched since 2004 before reappearing last year, gets two years? The right-hander pitched 70.1 innings last year with a 4.48 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

Milwaukee Brewers signed RHP Jorge Julio to a one-year contract.

Julio has teased teams for years (et tu, Daniel Cabrera?) with his talent ever since his 25 save, 1.99 ERA in 68 innings performance in 2002 with the Baltimore Orioles. It’s been pretty much downhill since that, and the Brewers are hoping that he can replace Salomon Torres capably. He pitched terribly for the Cleveland Indians in 17 innings last year but then had an eye-raising 12.1 innings with the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he whiffed 19, walked eight and gave up one run.

San Francisco Giants signed INF Edgar Renteria to a two-year contract with a team option for 2011.

Count me among those who love this contract. Renteria showed up out of shape to Detroit Tigers spring training (granted, his fault) but once he finally got in shape mid-season hit .299/.340/.493 the rest of the way. He has declining defensive abilities and may see himself at second base before the end of the contract, but should he stay in shape, the 33-year old has an outside chance of reaching 3,000 hits (currently at 2,070). He is just one year removed from hitting .332 for the Atlanta Braves and may just simply not like the American League. This is a short-term, low-risk investment for the Giants, a team that had Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen and Eugelio Velez as second and short options. Now only one of them will start (unless they sign Ray Durham, which wouldn’t be a bad idea.)

St. Louis Cardinals acquired SS Khalil Greene from the San Diego Padres for RHP Mark Worrell and a player to be named later .

A salary dump if there ever was one. Sure, Worrell has the ability to become an excellent reliever, and we don’t know the caliber of the player to be named later, but still… ouch. Greene, who certainly doesn’t get on base, has a career .802 OPS on the road as compared to .682 at Petco Park. He is capable defensively and will give the Cardinals a deep lineup with nearly everyone a threat to hit a home run. The value on the Padres’ side was clearing his salary as Greene is worth more in terms of the talent they got. He’s a free agent after the year.


Atlanta Braves signed C David Ross to a two-year contract.

The Braves have shirked on backup catchers for a while now, but no longer. Ross, who hit 21 and 17 home runs in 2006 and 2007 respectively, brings pop off the bench and can fill in capably should starter Brian McCann go down to injury. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a couple reps as a backup first baseman either.

Cleveland Indians signed RHP Tomo Ohka to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Houston Astros signed INF Matt Kata to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.

Los Angeles Angels signed RHP Pil Joon Jang to a minor league contract.

Jang is from South Korea and is 20 years old. The righty has just completed a tour in the Korean Army and is the second Korean in the Angels’ system.

Pittsburgh Pirates signed LHP Daniel Haigwood to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Sent C Raul Chavez and RHP Jason Davis outright to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Tampa Bay Rays signed RHP Jason Childers to a minor league contract. Re-signed LHP Jeremy Cummings and INF/OF Chris Richard to minor league contracts with an invitation to major league spring training.

Chicago White Sox signed RHP John Van Benschoten to a minor league contract.

Van Benschoten won’t follow in the footsteps of Rick Ankiel and Adam Loewen, at least not yet. The former college slugger remains adamant as staying as a pitcher despite having baseball’s worst career ERA in at least 90 innings pitched. While his minor league track record suggests an ability to be a back of the rotation starter or capable middle reliever, he certainly hasn’t translated it to ability at the major league level. Perhaps White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can spin another feel-good story.


Seattle Mariners sent RHP Sean White, RHP R.A. Dickey outright to Triple-A Tacoma.

The Mariners want Dickey back on a cheaper contract. Dickey, who recently converted to being a knuckleballer, threw 112.1 innings of 5.21 ERA ball for the Mariners last year. Don’t count this guy out; as he gets used to the knuckleball, he could emerge as the next Tim Wakefield and spend the next ten years pitching. Odds are that he won’t, though.


There were no official transactions today, although the deadline to accept or reject the offer of arbitration extended teams was at midnight Sunday night. Angels reliever Darren Oliver is projected to accept arbitration while Mariners left-fielder Raul Ibanez and Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek are rumored to decline.

Next week’s Lost in Transactions should be extremely interesting once we find out who has accepted arbitration and witnessed the fallout from the winter meetings.

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