Division rivals make challenge trade: Church for Francoeur

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Now this one was positive stunning. One-for-one trades involving
established players at the same positions are unusual enough. To see
division rivals making such a deal in the middle of the season when
they’re separated in the standing by a half-game makes this one of the
most unusual trades in memory.

This seems like a huge gamble for the Mets, who are banking they can
turn Francoeur around. Francoeur is the younger player by more than
four years. He’s the better athlete and he’s more durable. Plus, it’s
not like Church was having a very good season. Still, Francouer has
been a terrible player for a year and a half now and it’s not like he
was very good before that. Church had an average of 73 points of OPS
this year, 132 points last season and 31 points in 2007. His career OPS
is 790, compared to 732 for Francoeuer. Church has played in tougher
environments as well. While Turner Field has a rep as a pitcher’s park,
right-handed hitters have always done quite well there.

For the Braves, getting another left-handed hitter to go along with
Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman was
hardly ideal. Still, I imagine they jumped at this opportunity pretty
quickly. While Church’s numbers are well down this year, he’s hit
.310/.360/.424 against righties and .326/.359/.444 away from Citi
Field. The Braves can put him in a strict platoon with Matt Diaz in
right. That makes Garret Anderson an everyday player, but manager Bobby
Cox seemed to like him as one anyway. Besides, he’s equally mediocre
against lefties and righties.

Money isn’t much of a factor here. Both Francoeur and Church are in
their first years of arbitration. Francoeur makes $3.375 million, while
Church is earned $2.8 million. Francoeur, if he fails to turn it
around, looks like a strong candidate to be non-tendered at the end of
the season. Church could be as well, but probably only if he gets hurt
again. Neither is eligible for free agency until after 2011.

I see the Braves as the clear winners here. Church has the greater
offensive upside and should work out very well in a strict platoon with
Matt Diaz. Francoeur was a huge liability as a full-time player and
wasn’t even good enough against lefties to contribute as a reserve.
Still, while I dislike the deal, I do appreciate that GM Omar Minaya
was willing to try something that could go down as a spectacular
failure if the Braves go on to make the playoffs and the Mets fall
short. Most in his position wouldn’t have the guts.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.

Orioles “searching everywhere” for outfield help

L.J. Hoes
AP Photo

CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Rich Dubroff reports that the Orioles are “searching everywhere” for outfield help. The club recently acquired L.J. Hoes from the Astros in exchange for cash considerations, throwing him into a stable of six outfielders that could potentially crack the Opening Day Roster.

Adam Jones, of course, will open the season in center field. But in the corner outfield and on the bench, Dubroff lists Hoes along with Dariel Alvarez, Junior Lake, David Lough, Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia. Both Lough and Reimold are eligible for arbitration — Lough for the first time, and Reimold for his third and final year — so it remains to be seen if the Orioles will retain both of them.

The Orioles could target outfield help in the Rule-5 draft, and they could also target outfielders in free agency. Gerardo Parra, acquired by the O’s in a trade with the Brewers at the trade deadline, remains a possibility but the team is reluctant to offer him more than two years.

Indians sign Anthony Recker to a minor league deal

Anthony Recker
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports that the Indians have signed catcher Anthony Recker to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Recker, 32, has spent the past three seasons with the Mets, compiling an aggregate .190/.256/.350 batting line with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 432 plate appearances. He’ll serve as catching depth for the Indians.

Recker was selected by the Athletics in the 18th round of the 2005 draft. They then sent him to the Cubs in exchange for Blake Lalli in an August 2012 trade, and the Mets selected him off waivers from the Cubs in October 2012.

Report: Yasiel Puig started a fight at a Miami nightclub

Yasiel Puig

When last we posted about Yasiel Puig it was to pass along a rumor that the best player on his team wants him off of it. If that was true — and if this report is true — then expect that sentiment to remain unchanged:

Obviously this report is vague and there has not been, say, a police report or other details to fill it in. Perhaps we’ll learn more, perhaps Puig was misbehaving perhaps he wasn’t.

As we wait for details, however, it’s probably worth reminding ourselves that Puig is coming off of a lost season in which he couldn’t stay healthy, so trading him for any sort of decent return at the moment isn’t super likely. Which leads us to some often overlooked but undeniable baseball wisdom: you can be a distraction if you’re effective and you can be ineffective if you’re a good guy. You really can’t be an ineffective distraction, however, and expect to hang around very long.