Acquired C-S Sandy Leon from the Nationals in exchange for cash considerations; placed C-R Christian Vazquez on the 60-day disabled list (sprained elbow). [3/30]
A situation that could get worse before it gets better. With Vazquez hurt and Blake Swihart green, Ben Cherington grabbed the finest out-of-options backstop he could get his hands on. Unfortunately, Leon might be the majors' least-exciting 26-year-old, switch-hitting catcher. His best asset is his mitt, which tells you all you need to know about his bat, and in an ideal world he'd be riding buses in Triple-A—or, at minimum, hidden behind a durable starter. Neither of those scenarios are available to the Red Sox, who have to hope that Ryan Hanigan's durability issues don't surface in the coming weeks. Otherwise, Cherington will choose between rushing Swihart and employing emergency options behind the dish.
Acquired LHP Sam Freeman from the Cardinals in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. [3/28]
Having recently released Joe Beimel, Jon Daniels didn't wait long to acquire a different left-handed reliever to slot into his Opening Day bullpen. Freeman is a 27-year-old who over the last three seasons appeared in 81 games for the Cardinals. He is not, despite the inclination to label him as such, a left-handed specialist. Mike Matheny didn't use the hard-throwing Freeman as a LOOGY because there was no reason to do so. Freeman's riding fastball and splitter are effective against righties, to the point where his True Average without the platoon advantage is 70 points superior to his True Average with it. (What Freeman really is, then, is an interesting mid-game conversation waiting to happen.) New Ranger skipper Jeff Banister should be familiar with Freeman from his time spent in Pittsburgh; we'll see if he took notes.
Claimed 1B-L Andy Wilkins off waivers from the White Sox. [3/29]
It's not baseball season until Alex Anthopoulos makes an unnecessary waiver claim. Wilkins arrived in the majors late last year, floundering during a 17-game sample by striking out in nearly half his 45 plate appearances. His Triple-A numbers were impressive—he homered 30 times and posted a .265 ISO—but scouts question his athleticism and bat speed. The Jays have a stable of these fringe types—Matt Hague, Chris Colabello, and Jake Fox on the right side, Daric Barton and Wilkins on the left—but Wilkins' placement on the 40-man roster ought to leave him near the top of the depth chart when the need arises for another first-baseman-slash-bench-bat.
Released LHP James Russell. [3/29]
Another team releases an arbitration-eligible player with whom they'd previously agreed to a one-year deal. The Braves acquired Russell last deadline, then kept him through the offseason after signing him for about $2.4 million. Apparently John Hart wanted a do-over after watching Russell struggle this spring—the damage: 10 hits, 10 runs, three home runs, and as many walks (three) as strikeouts—and opted to cut bait now and save roughly $1.8 million. You can question the wisdom of this move, but it's not going to matter much either way for the 2015 Braves.
Released LHP Felix Doubront. [3/28]
Doubront is without options and wasn't going to win a job, so the Cubs did him a favor by releasing him now so he can search for a spot rather than placing him on waivers at week's end and taking the decision out of his hands. (A favor that, it should be noted, will cost the Cubs around the league minimum.) Because Doubront is a southpaw with quality stuff and a semblance of past success, he's certain to find a job sooner than later—likely as rotation depth, though a return to the bullpen would do him well.
Acquired LHP Jerry Blevins from the Nationals in exchange for OF-L Matt den Dekker. [3/30]
Acquired LHP Alex Torres from the Padres in exchange for RHP Cory Mazzoni and a player to be named later. [3/30]
Think Sandy Alderson took his hunt for a left-handed reliever seriously? In the span of hours, Alderson landed two quality arms in exchange for depth pieces. Both Blevins and Torres are lefties on their third teams in three seasons, but that's where the similarities end.
After one season spent with the Nationals, Blevins is on the move again. He's the same-handed specialist of the two, having held same-handed batters to a .208 multi-year True Average against. Blevins is also taller than Torres is, and comes at hitters with a more assorted arsenal, including a low-90s fastball, cutter, and curveball. Here's one more thing Blevins can hold over Torres' head: he'll qualify for free agency at season's end, meaning his stay in New York could be a relatively short one.
Torres pitched for the Padres in 2014 following an offseason trade from the Rays. Torres is a little guy who relies heavily on his fastball-changeup combination. He pitched down in the zone more often last season, which led to an increased ground-ball rate. Torres has no problems missing bats or barrels, so the question is whether he'll throw enough strikes for Terry Collins to trust him in the late innings. He won't qualify for Super Two until after the season, meaning he's a plausible long-term fit.
Acquired RHP Cory Mazzoni and a player to be named later from the Mets in exchange for LHP Alex Torres. [3/30]
Claimed RHP Jandel Gustave off waivers from the Royals; placed C-R Tim Federowicz on the 60-day disabled list (knee surgery). [3/26]
Gustave joins his fourth organization since the season ended, having been selected from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft by the Red Sox, traded to the Royals, and now claimed by the Padres. He's not expected to make San Diego's Opening Day roster due to his looseness within the zone and lagging secondary stuff, but his massive arm strength could coerce another team (or three) to claim him off waivers before his permanent residence is resolved. —R.J. Anderson
The Mets selected Mazzoni in the second round of the 2011 draft, and while he hasn’t pitched terribly in his time in the New York system, he hasn’t developed into the mid-rotation arm they believed him to be four years ago. He sits in the low 90s with his fastball, and he’ll also show an average slider and fringe-average split-change. He throws all three pitches for strikes, so there’s a nonzero chance he becomes a back-end starter, but more than likely Mazzoni is a swing man without the out pitch to get left-handed hitters out. —Chris Crawford
Acquired OF-L Matt den Dekker from the Mets in exchange for LHP Jerry Blevins. [3/30]
The regular season hasn't even started, yet the Nationals are already dealing with numerous injuries to key players. The most relevant to this space involve outfielders Denard Span and Jayson Werth, both of whom will miss Opening Day. You might remember that Mike Rizzo signed Nate McLouth for times like these but, wouldn't you know it, McLouth is also on the mend. Left to pick between non-roster invitees and trading from a position of strength, Rizzo opted for the latter, turning one of his multiple left-handed relievers into a spare outfielder.
As impressive as den Dekker's numbers were last season in the PCL, there's no reason to believe he's going to be quite that good heading forward. He has a hitch in his swing and—well, let's just quote his Annual comment: "he has one(!) career hit on balls up in the zone, and he whiffed on fully half(!) of the breaking balls he saw in 2014." What's more likely, depending on your read of den Dekker's defense, is that he settles in as a fourth or fifth outfielder. The good news for the Nationals is he should be ready to fill a bench role immediately.