Phillies, Placido Polanco agree to three-year deal

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Various sources are reporting that Placido Polanco and the Phillies have agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract with a mutual option for 2013. Polanco was not offered salary arbitration by the cash-strapped Tigers, allowing the Phillies to sign the Type A free agent without surrendering their first-round pick.
Despite being a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base Polanco will shift across the diamond to third base in Philadelphia, manning a position that he hasn’t played regularly since 2002. In the seven seasons since then he’s logged a grand total of 332 innings at third base, including zero since 2005, but he certainly projects to be an above-average defender there.
The same may not be true offensively, because the MLB average for third base this season was .265/.335/.421 and Polanco hit just .285/.331/.396. His combined .310/.356/.424 line over the past three seasons would put Polanco safely above average at third base, but his OPS has gone from .846 to .768 to .727 during that time and he’s 34 years old.
Polanco should be at worst an average all-around third baseman in 2010, which would be a clear upgrade over Pedro Feliz and certainly worth $6 million, but his age and the length of the contract make it a risk for the Phillies. Philadelphia has committed to paying him $6 million per season through the age of 36 and the 2013 option covers his age-37 season. My guess is that the Phillies won’t want a 37-year-old Polanco getting everyday at-bats regardless of position.
Philadelphia figures to use Polanco as a No. 2 hitter, pushing the switch-hitting Shane Victorino into more of a run-producing spot while making the lineup less dominated by left-handed bats. As for the Tigers, they say goodbye to Polanco after five seasons of .311/.355/.418 hitting and strong defense while likely turning second base over to prospect Scott Sizemore, although the 24-year-old is currently recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the Arizona Fall League.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.