Signed 3B-R Casey McGehee to a minor-league deal. [2/23]
McGehee’s respectable 2014 feels foreign and far off, as if it happened on Mars. But even Ray Bradbury couldn’t have penned McGehee’s horrific 2015, during which he posted the worst True Average in the National League among players with more than 250 plate appearances. What’s he going to do in 2016? Probably frustrate International League pitchers with his mature approach. Otherwise, McGehee will wait for an opportunity (read: an injury to Miguel Cabrera and/or Nick Castellanos) to make amends for last year. You’d be justified in betting against him accomplishing that. —R.J. Anderson
Signed 1B/OF-L Chris Parmelee to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training [2/23]
A heavy portion of the Yankees' offensive strategy revolved around having Greg Bird waiting in the wings. That all changed when he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. With Bird on the mend, Brian Cashman needed someone to bring up the rear at first base; that someone is Chris Parmelee. The 27-year-old lefty has seen time with the Twins and Orioles as an up-and-down piece. (He hasn't done much to impress with that action, posting a substandard .251 TAv.)
Parmelee is going to open the season with Scranton, but he stands a good chance at seeing the Bronx. He won't be the only player called upon to provide insurance at first base. Mark Teixeira will be 36, Alex Rodriguez will be 41, and both of them have an injury history as long as The Iliad. They're not very likely to make it through the season unscathed. Dustin Ackley and Chase Headley are also capable of temporarily picking up slack at first base, so Parmelee isn't the only contingency plan at the cold corner. Unfortunately for the Yankees, none of these three players provide the level of offense that one expects to get from the position. It's a level of offense that Bird would have provided.
Parmelee is a fine enough get as a Triple-A depth piece. Nobody should mistake him as a replacement for what the Bombers have lost, though, and that's going to be a problem for the Yankees. —Nicolas Stellini
Signed OF-L Domonic Brown to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training [2/24]
We have to stop expecting Brown to be good. If you’re a Phillies fan, you probably leapt off his bandwagon some time during 2014, but the rest of us remember the prospect rankings prior to his MLB debut, the inexplicable handling of him by the Philadelphia front office, and maybe even his first half in 2013 that earned him an All-Star appearance despite earning just 2.2 WARP over a season.
What the Blue Jays wouldn’t give for a repeat of that 2013 performance, when Brown battered 27 homers and posted a .292 TAv. Unfortunately, since then—but also before then—he’s looked nothing like that hitter. Much like fellow fallen prospect Delmon Young, his approach deteriorated when faced with big-league pitchers, and that gives him a career .305 OBP that just isn’t enough without top-end power or the ability to play the field well. See, he’s also one of the league’s worst defenders in the outfield both by reputation and by some of the metrics out there; FRAA has a kinder view of Brown, but no one wants to split hairs there—things are bad on the grass.
The Blue Jays have had some success in the past with outfield reclamation projects such as Brown—you may recall the whole “turn-Jose-Bautista-into-a-superstar” thing that happened half a decade ago. This feels similar to that scenario, but if we just went on feels, we’d be blogging about puppies instead of sports. This is Baseball Prospectus, and the odds are not in Brown’s favor. In fact, PECOTA gives him only an 8 percent Upside rating for the year. There’s a nice hitter’s environment in Toronto, but that didn’t really help him in Philly. There’s no clear path to playing time with Chris Colabello, Kevin Pillar, Bautista, Dalton Pompey, and a "healthy” Michael Saunders ahead of him on the depth chart.
No, Domonic Brown is not a signing that should engender hope in any fan of the Jays. At the same time, it’s a low-risk move with the potential to have some kind of payoff. The Jays “fixed” Bautista, Colabello, and Edwin Encarnacion at points in their careers, and so it’s possible that Brown could finally find his way during his time in the Great White North. Among NRIs, he’s one of those players with a bit more upside than your average Brennan Boesch. But as an offense-first wild card on a team full of offense, it will take something special for him to finally, finally break through. —Bryan Grosnick
Signed OF-R Jeff Francoeur to a minor-league deal. [2/22]
Remember last winter, when the Braves kept adding good clubhouse types? This signing feels like a spiritual nod to that movement. Think of Francoeur then as the new Jonny Gomes: he’s extremely limited as a ballplayer, but he’ll help Fredi Gonzalez with his younger charges and, with some luck, he might hit just enough to catch a contender’s eye come late August.
Granted, there’s no guarantee Francoeur breaks camp with the Braves. His .258 True Average last season represented the highest mark he’s posted in the majors since 2011, and his reverse platoon split forbids us from calling him a left-handed masher (the trusted fallback label for limited right-handed hitters). So what is he? Seemingly veteran insurance in case Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher pull something before Opening Day . . . like, say, a hamstring, or, say, another team’s jersey over their head. If everyone remains hearty and hale and in camp, then Francouer’s previously established willingness to ride buses ought to come in handy.
At some point, though, you should expect to see Frenchy trotting out there in a Braves uniform for the first time since 2009. —R.J. Anderson
Signed RHP Jamey Wright to a minor-league deal. [2/24]
We hadn’t seen or heard from Wright since last spring, when he failed to make the Rangers, so this signing qualifies as a surprise. (Though maybe it shouldn’t, since he signed with the Dodgers before the 2012 and 2014 seasons.) There’s no telling what Wright has left in the tank, if anything, but there is reason to keep an eye on his spring efforts: if he can still sink his fastball and spin his curve, then he just might find his way into a 20th big-league season. Not bad for someone who had a 5.13 ERA and 1.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his age-30 campaign. —R.J. Anderson
Claimed LHP Sean Nolin off waivers from the Athletics. [2/22]
Part of the Josh Donaldson payout, Nolin’s season with the A’s went as poorly as possible. He missed the start of the year due to sports hernia surgery, then missed additional time due to a sore shoulder. When Nolin cracked the majors in September, his fastball clocked in around 88 mph and he was as ineffective as your generic Triple-A arm. Oof. At his prospect-list peak, he was considered a potential back-end starter whose strengths were his command, changeup, and ability to eat innings. Alas the Brewers intend to use Nolin in the bullpen—perhaps in a long relief role? That could be just as much about the logistics of keeping him around (he’s without options) as it is a firm belief that his averageish stuff will play better in spurts. Either way, this move fits the Brewers’ ongoing buy-low strategy on big-league-ready post-hype prospects. —R.J. Anderson