The first month of the season is in the books and teams are starting to find out what kind of team they have. General Managers start to clean house and cut some the dead weight on their rosters. They start to bring up their top prospects, since they stalled to keep them from becoming Super 2 eligible. When they bring up a player from the Minors, they have to make a roster move, which usually means that either a veteran is put on waivers or a younger player can be sent down.
Veterans are starting to be smart when they sign a minor-league contract in the off-season. They have started to put an opt-out clause that if they are not on the Major League roster by May1st, they can opt-out of their deal. Not all of the players have this clause, but it’s becoming more common.
Which deal deserves an A+ grade? Is bringing up 21-year old Jordan Lyles too early? We grade this past week’s MLB transactions.
Houston Astros called up RHP Jordan Lyles
In 2011, then 20-year old Lyles started 15 games for the Astros. They tried to keep his innings down and finished the season in the bullpen. Houston is in rebuilding mode and he’s the best pitching prospect in their farm system. He has been working on his curveball in the off-season and he will test in against MLB hitters. I like this move because the Astros have nothing to lose. They aren’t playing for a pennant, they are trying to build a team and Lyles needs experience. – Grade: A
Tampa Bay Rays signed OF/DH Hideki Matsui to a minor-league contract
Matsui played in Oakland last season and mostly played DH. He started out poorly, but he had an above average second-half of the season. I don’t see him playing the outfield in Tampa Bay, so he is an insurance policy for Luke Scott. Matsui would come in handy if Zobrist or Joyce had injury issues. I like this signing because the risk is low and he could be a piece that you need during the playoff push. – Grade: B+
Oakland Athletics signed 3B Brandon Inge to a one-year contract
Since 2009, Inge hasn’t had a very good year at the plate. He benefits a team as a utility player and that’s about it. He moved all around the field for Detroit, he even played catcher.When the Tigers moved Miguel Cabrera to third-base, Inge had to know that his time was up. Eric Sogard is batting .140, which is lower than Inge, so he will actually be an offensive improvement at that position. – Grade: C+
San Diego Padres called up RHP Jeff Suppan
The Padres needed a starting pitcher to pitch in place of Cory Luebke. They didn’t expect much from this move because he might only start a few games. In his first start, he gave them five solid innings and probably earned him a second or third start to see what’s left in Suppan’s arm. – Grade: C
Cleveland Indians called up OF/DH Johnny Damon
Damon was one of those veterans with the May 1st opt-out clause. Cleveland has a surplus of outfield talent with Shin-Soo Choo, Shelly Duncan, Michael Brantley, and a few on their minor-league team, the Columbus Clippers. Damon had an excellent 2011 season with Tampa Bay and he could be very useful. If Cleveland sees themselves out of the AL Central race at the trading deadline, he could be a trade chip. In the meantime, I liked this move in the off-season and I still like it. – Grade: A-
Cincinnati Reds signed RHP Michael Wuertz
Wuertz had a few good seasons, but shoulder and finger issues derailed his pitching career. He had an astronomical ERA in 2011(6.68 in 39 appearances). This move is another low risk/high reward, but his upside isn’t very high. – Grade: D+
Boston Red Sox called up RHP Aaron Cook
Cook had already said that he was ready to opt-out, but Boston waited until the last second and called him up. Josh Beckett has a lat injury and they needed a starting pitcher. I’m not sure how long he’ll hold on to a roster spot. It all depends on how his first start goes and if he shows them that he has something left in his arm. – Grade: C
Los Angeles Dodgers signed OF Bobby Abreu to a one-year contract
Abreu has always been a slow starter. He has a sub-par batting average in April and May. The Dodgers picked him up at a discount and will use him to rest Matt Kemp, Andre Either, or Juan Rivera/Tony Gwynn platoon. On days that he’s not in the field, I expect that Don Mattingly will use him at a pinch-hitter. I love this move and it’s all reward for the Dodgers. – Grade: A
Texas Rangers traded Cleveland Indians for OF Ryan Spilborghs in exchange for cash
I don’t get this trade, other than the GMs were bored. Texas has an excess of outfielders and/or guys that could occupy left field (Mitch Moreland). The Rangers must be collecting assets in hopes of trading for either bullpen depth or a fifth starter at the trading deadline. – Grade: D-
There was a potpourri of deals made this week. A few of them could make a big difference, but it’s too early in the season to know. Cleveland’s GM will have a busy year. Their Triple-A team in Columbus has won the Triple-A Championship the past two years and it is fulled with trade chips. Stay tuned and play ball!