Carlos Lee

Thoughts on the Carlos Lee-to-Miami deal

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– It was obvious the Marlins had to upgrade. Gaby Sanchez looked like a borderline All-Star at this time last year, but he hit just .225/.320/.359 after the break, and even that would be a big improvement on his 2012 line of .194/.240/.283. He posted OPSs of .576 in April, .484 in May and .496 in June. It’s not Marlins Park, either: he’s hit .163/.212/.245 on the road this year. I wouldn’t write him off entirely for 2013 and beyond, but his 2012 looks like a lost cause.

– So, in steps Carlos Lee. I like the fit. Lee isn’t a big home run guy anyway, so Marlins Park won’t scare him off. His .286/.336/.412 line this year is modest enough, but he has more extra-base hits (21) than strikeouts (17). He’s a league-average first baseman, and that’s a big upgrade for Miami right now.

– The price was surprising, but that’s because the Marlins, unlike the Dodgers, wanted the Astros to pick up all Lee’s remaining salary. They’ll pay only about $200,000 of the approx. $9 million he’s still owed. It’s not my money, so I think the Astros did better here than they would have getting right-hander Garrett Gould from the Dodgers.

– In Matt Dominguez, the Astros get a potential third baseman of the future. I’ve never been very high on the former first-round pick, but he truly is an excellent defender, and if he can just shake the injury bug, he might prove adequate enough offensively to make it as a regular. He’s still just 22 years old. I’m not a Chris Johnson fan, and I don’t think he’ll prove to be any sort of long-term answer for Houston. Besides, he’s a poor defensive third baseman, so even if he does prove me wrong offensively, he’ll make more sense at first or DH for Houston anyway.

– Left-hander Rob Rasmussen was the other prospect in the deal. The 2010 second-round pick is 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA and a 75/36 K/BB ratio in 87 2/3 innings as a repeater at high-A Jupiter this season. Baseball America rated him as the Marlins’ No. 7 prospect headed into the season (Dominguez was No. 4), but realistically, he’s probably a reliever at best.

– Besides getting a couple of youngsters, the other benefit here for Houston is they’ll get to see whether Brett Wallace should be included in their future plans. If they had the chance, they’d certainly take back the trade that brought him from Toronto for center fielder Anthony Gose two years ago. Wallace did excellent work filling in for an injured Lee earlier this season, going 12-for-36 with two homers in 11 games. Still, that only pushed his career OPS up to .701 through 516 major league at-bats. He still has the nice line-drive stroke that made him a prospect, but he possesses limited power and little defensive value. The Astros should give him every chance to succeed in the second half and then look to move on this winter if he doesn’t progress.

– Given that the Marlins didn’t take on any salary here, they should still have the ability to go get another piece this month, whether it’s a center fielder or a late-inning reliever. The problem is that the cupboard is pretty bare: the Marlins have two excellent prospects in outfielder Christian Yelich and right-hander Jose Fernandez, but there probably aren’t more than two or three minor league systems with less depth to them.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.