Claimed 2B-R Ronald Torreyes off waivers from the Yankees; designated LHP Bobby LaFromboise for assignment. [1/25]
The bacon-bit-size Torreyes has changed uniforms a lot throughout his career, to the extent that the Angels are his fifth organization since the start of last season. If he's destined to find a forever home, the odds are pretty good it'll be on a team managed by Mike Scioscia. As he's proved time and again, Scioscia adores middle infielders with impressive bat-to-ball skills. (Think David Eckstein, or Chone Figgins, or Johnny Giavotella, or . . . .) Torreyes isn't Eckstein or Figgins, but he fits the template; in addition to a career .287 average in Triple-A, he's struck out in only 6.1 percent of his plate appearances. There are legitimate reasons why other teams have passed Torreyes around like a rumor—most notably, his inability to bop and reluctance to walk—but, just 23 years old, he has plenty of time left to become a Scioscia fav. —R.J. Anderson
Signed RHP Matt Albers to a one-year deal worth $2 million with a club option worth $3 million. [1/21]
Magnet to your hard drive, what would you guess Albers' ERA was last season? How about his ERA+ since 2011? You probably wouldn't have said 1.21 and 137—figures so good that it's hard to believe the White Sox were the only ones to notice them before last week.
More surprising than those numbers is how Albers stayed the same despite losing velocity. Though shoulder tendinitis wrecked his 2014 and left him pitching in the 89-90 mph range (as opposed to the mid-90s of days past), he continued to throw strikes, coerce grounders, and bear-hug right-handed hitters, who in 2015 he held below a .200 True Average. Yes, Albers' weaknesses remained as well—most notably, he's less effective against lefties and his pitches evade bats as often as Gotham criminals—but there's an obvious place for his ilk—your Ryan Webbs, Burke Badenhops, Jamey Wrights—in most every team's bullpen.
As such, it's hard to find a negative to this deal. We can ponder all Albers' worst-case scenarios—his shoulder blows up; his stuff decays beyond the point of no return; his passion egresses—but the potential reward here is worth the risk twice over. —R.J. Anderson
Signed RHP Josh Tomlin to a two-year, $5.5 million contract (plus one-year team option and incentives)
Ten-year-olds may dream of being Hall of Famers like Clayton Kershaw or fireballers like Noah Syndergaard, but I think more people my age dream of being Tomlin. If you’re an optimist and a dreamer, but your ego hasn’t subsumed every last scrap of your reason¬, perhaps on your more fanciful days you can imagine a world in which you’re a fifth starter for a mid-market baseball team. Even in these daydreams, you don’t have the 100 mph heater or the Nintendo slider...but you hit your spots and get out of jams on grit and guile. And when you watch Josh Tomlin pitch a part of you says “hey, maybe if things were different, I could do that.”
Last year the oft-injured back-of-the-rotation guy bounced back in a big way. Despite doing most of the big things much the same way he did in the past (he gave up nearly two homers per nine innings and walked just 3.2 percent of batters faced), he maintained his strikeout gains from a shortened 2014 and then, well, everything else fell into place. Nothing batters hit–other than the dingers–found purchase and he posted a .199 BABIP despite lots of hard contact. Thanks, improved Cleveland defense! Then, he stranded nearly everyone who reached base, and his DRA (3.51) was superior to teammates Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer and was just a shade under Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.
As a professional athlete, I don’t expect Tomlin has my mediocre Josh Tomlin dreams. Josh Tomlin probably dreams of being Kluber, or at least Cy Young Bret Saberhagen, or Greg Maddux. The Indians don’t dream, they’re realists–the new contract pays Tomlin like the risky fifth-starter-with-upside he is. It’s a great bet on a guy who may become expendable by May, and lets the team maintain their depth for the next three seasons (thanks to an option year). We don’t have to pretend that Tomlin will have the 29th-best DRA among starting pitchers again next year. We...and he...and the Indians...just need him to be the same old Josh Tomlin. That’s good enough. —Bryan Grosnick
Signed OF-L Jaff Decker to a minor-league deal. [1/23]
Once described in the Annual as "Matt Stairs-meets-Snake Plissken," Decker failed to escape Indianapolis for most of his two seasons with the Pirates. At first glance, the road from Durham to St. Petersburg appears as untraversable as the one leading to Pittsburgh. The Rays have Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza entrenched in their daily lineup, as well as a left-handed first baseman and designated hitter, and enough left-field options to keep them juggling deep into the summer.
Obviously Decker has his pluses—or his plus, anyway. His patient approach has borne impressive on-base percentages throughout his minor-league career, including a .369 mark in Triple-A. Yet he lacks the bat control and power to become John Jaso, or the speed and defense to become Sam Fuld. Where does that leave Decker? In the International League, again, where he'll wait for James Loney or Logan Morrison to tweak something. At that point, who knows, Decker might get his long-awaited shot. —R.J. Anderson
Signed LHP Chris Capuano to a minor-league deal. [1/25]
While it's not a homecoming by definition, there is something sweet about Capuano returning to the organization with whom he threw more than 700 innings last decade. Savor those warm and fuzzy feelings for as long as you can, because they'll be hard to maintain when camp opens. Capuano had a miserable year with the Yankees, all the while providing little reason to believe he has more left in the tank. It's tough to bet on a rebound effort from any 37-year-old, let alone one who made a career out of being average. Maybe Capuano stuns everyone and wins a roster spot, but this seems like a favor to an old friend above all. —R.J. Anderson
Signed OF-L David Lough to a minor-league deal. [1/25]
Lough turned 30 last week. His reward? An invitation to spend February and March in sunny Clearwater. Not bad. What is bad is how Lough's stock has crumbled over the last 13 months. Previously considered a solid reserve outfielder—one who'd contribute a little with the stick and run down darn near everything hit to his side of the lawn—he's since suffered through a miserable 2015 that saw him lose his 40-man roster spot in August. As such, Lough is now starting from the bottom of the ziggurat with a new organization. Expect him to get a look if/when the Phillies suffer an injury—provided, that is, he shows he can still hit Triple-A pitching. —R.J. Anderson