Last-place Royals downgrade to Kendall

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kendall elbow.jpgThe Royals got 31 homers and 101 RBI in 618 plate appearances from their two primary catchers on their way to finishing 65-97 last season. Now they’re going to someone who had two homers and 43 RBI in 526 plate appearances.
That’s the way it is in Kansas City. Dayton Moore’s two biggest priorities after taking over the club in 2006 should have been acquiring long-term options at shortstop and catcher, two spots which the Royals have generally filled with spare parts and subpar veterans through the years. Finding cornerstone players at those spots is notoriously difficult, of course. But Moore is like a blind man playing darts.
So, now we get Kendall, apparently on a two-year, $4 million contract. He’s 35, he’s hit in the .240s three straight years and he hasn’t slugged as high as .350 since 2004, his last year in Pittsburgh. That his OBP is still adequate is largely due to the intentional and unintentional walks he received while hitting in front of the pitcher for the Brewers. In his last stint in the American League, he hit .226/.261/.281 in 80 games with Oakland to begin 2007. By any measure, he’s one of the game’s weakest regulars offensively.
Whether he’s an asset defensively depends on who you ask. The Brewers seemed happy with him for the most part, though they made no effort to re-sign him this winter. He was often criticized for his glove towards the end of his Oakland tenure. Incredibly, he threw out 43 percent of basestealers in 2008. However, he came in at nine percent in 2007 and 20 percent last year.
That Kendall is getting a two-year contract is pretty remarkable, and it seems rather likely that he’ll be the Royals’ Opening Day starter. Olivo won’t be back as a free agent, and it’s long been assumed that Buck would be non-tendered prior to Saturday’s deadline.
Now, the Royals had no chance to go out and find themselves a long-term catcher in free agency, but there were alternatives. Before he was traded to Tampa Bay, Kelly Shoppach was available for next to nothing. Dioner Navarro still might be. Arizona’s Chris Snyder is another who would cost little. It is possible Moore will go out and get someone to pair with Kendall, perhaps even someone who would do the bulk of the catching. But it’s not like he deserves the benefit of the doubt at this point.
Update – The deal is actually worth $6 million, according to The Associated Press. Also, it’s being reported that the Royals are releasing Buck.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.