May 11, 2016
Everything's Fien In Los Angeles
Well, at least the Angels are going from a world-class defensive shortstop to another world-class defensive shortstop, right?
Oh, excuse me for a moment, I’m getting word through my earpiece that it is no longer 2012. It turns out that Brendan Ryan’s age has caught up with him, at least somewhat, since his defensive heyday. Let’s go live to Fielding Runs Above Average.
Sure, some of that is playing out of position at non-shortstop locations. Sure, it still could be likely that he’s an above-average defender. But this is not Andrelton Simmons in his prime, and it’s certainly not Brendan Ryan in his prime. The Angels need serious help to climb out from the nethers of the AL West, and the downgrade from Simmons to Ryan certainly won’t help.
Offensively, one can only assume that Ryan is the same offensive zero that he’s always been. Among shortstops with 800 or more plate appearances since 2012, Ryan has the lowest batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in baseball with a stunning .196/.262/.272 triple-slash line. That’s almost bad enough to consider using the designated hitter for their new shortstop instead of their pitchers.
Though he’s not free, Ryan came cheaply, and he could very well provide replacement-level performance during his tenure in Los Angeles. Of course, the Angels just lost two of their three top players in Simmons and Garrett Richards, so they’ll need quite a bit more than an over-the-hill defensive specialist in order to turn this season around. —Bryan Grosnick
Too many of the trades made in the first week of May involved third-string catchers. Gimenez was formerly an Indians catcher, and has now become an Indians catcher for the third time. He’ll slot in behind Yan Gomes in place of Roberto Perez, who’s out due to injury, and should be perfectly fine in the role of backup.
In 2015, Gimenez saw a small sample power spike that carried his slugging percentage to .490, an outlier compared to his previous seasons. His profile is that of a worthwhile backup who can handle a pitching staff and frame a little, but the nascent power is a difference maker that could separate him from the horde of catch-and-throw guys at the fringes of 40-man rosters. Naturally, he went yard in his first game back with the Indians this year, so thumbs up on the first impression.
With Gimenez in the fold, the Indians were able to ship Recker to the Braves to offset some of the cost of their previous backstop acquisition. Recker’s claims to fame are a decent run as a position player pitcher and a reputation as one of the more handsome ballplayers in the game. Recker is an offense-first backup catcher who hasn’t found a way to make his offensive talents translate above Triple-A, as his .231 career True Average can attest. —Bryan Grosnick
Just before the beginning of the season, the Rangers and Tigers decided that they fancied the other team’s generic old catcher depth than their own. Therefore, they swapped Bryan Holaday and Bobby Wilson. There were theoretically good reasons for this move on both sides of the equation, but explaining it to you, dear reader, could very well result in the melting of your brains out of sheer boredom.
Naturally, I will therefore explain why the Rangers have re-acquired Wilson. Robinson Chirinos was supposed to be the primary catcher, but is currently on the disabled list with a fractured forearm. Chris Gimenez, who was DFA’d to make room for Wilson on the 40-man roster, also found himself on the business end of the injury bug. That led to Brett Nicholas making his big league debut at age 27. Nicholas hit well in his limited time in the Show, but was optioned to Round Rock.
So now, it will be Holaday and Wilson handling the catching duties for the Rangers. It’s not the sexiest duo in the world to be sure. Our catching metrics are lukewarm on Wilson, and Holaday’s framing graded out negatively last year. What matters is that both men are both currently healthy and can handle a pitching staff. It’ll have to do until Chirinos can return.
For his part, Bell had a 4.58 ERA in Double-A as a 26-year old last year while operating almost entirely as a starter. Three of his five appearances at Triple-A this year have been in relief, and his K/9 has jumped by 2 ticks to 9.5. He also sports a 1.50 ERA. I am not a scout and have no clue if Bell has the fabled Great Stuff (being 27 years old and having rookie eligibility tells part of that story), but perhaps a move to the bullpen could have unlocked something. He is, after all, left-handed, and therefore will likely have a job somewhere in baseball for years to come. —Nicolas Stellini
Signed OF-L Michael Bourn to a minor-league contract. [5/10]
The Diamondback didn’t need a center fielder to start this past offseason: they had budding star A.J. Pollock and underrated contributor Ender Inciarte. As fate would have it, the Snakes dealt Inciarte to address their rotation needs, and Pollock suffered a severe season-ending injury that left baseball a worse place. Now? The Diamondbacks need a competent center fielder in the worst way. Enter Bourn.
After years as a defense-first speedster with Philadelphia, Houston, and Atlanta, he signed a big-ticket contract with the Indians and fell off the map entirely. His signature speed translated to baserunning runs and balls tracked in the gap, and while he can still give you a couple of extra runs on the basepaths (2.1 BRR in 2015), he no longer can compensate for his noodle of a bat. PECOTA projects Bourn for a .236 True Average in 2016, which is simply not good enough to hold down a regular job, no matter what is going on with David Peralta’s injured arm.
Even in an ideal world for Arizona, the former All-Star is a stopgap, an emergency player, a measure of last resort. Bourn is still the same under-powered hitter he’s been for years, only now he’s lacking the speed and defense that made him a valuable contributor in the past. Since those skills seem to have gone away, it may take some shift in his offensive profile to make him anything more than a replacement-level platoon caddy for the equally uninspiring Chris Owings. On the bright side, the path to playing time is even clearer in Arizona than it was in Toronto, Atlanta, or perhaps anywhere else in the major leagues. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired C-R Anthony Recker from the Indians for cash considerations. [5/9]
It seems possible, albeit unlikely, that Recker could unseat A.J. Pierzynski as the Braves’ primary right-handed-hitting catcher. Pierzynski has been terrible so far this season, earning -0.8 WARP in just 20 games behind the dish, but he’s also the team’s cleanup hitter and one of the few veterans on the youthful roster. At the same time, Recker has never posted a positive WARP in his limited big league action, and may be one of the few pitch framers in Pierzynski’s league; Recker is also not very good at presentation.
In the end, this is part of the series of catcher swaps that resembles a rousing game of musical chairs. There’s a lot of movement, but most of it really doesn’t matter. In the end, perhaps one or two of these backups will be crowned “winners” with a spot in the lineup on and off for a month or so, but in the end will end up out of the spotlight, waiting for another go-round between the majors and minors. —Bryan Grosnick
Claimed RHP Casey Fien off waivers. [5/7]
We go now to a live look-in at the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen.*
* - Kenley Jansen notwithstanding.
Sure, it’s overstating it to call the Dodgers’ ‘pen a house on fire, but it’s far below the standard that a contending team would want. As of yesterday, the team has a lousy 3.84 ERA despite a crazy-low .252 BABIP, thanks to their inability to strand runners. Chris Hatcher, who I’ve championed for a few years, has completely fallen apart. J.P. Howell hasn’t looked sharp. They could use an upgrade.
Enter Casey Fien, who has been… let’s just say “serviceable”… over the past few years with the Twins. He’s been lit up in 2016 after a few years under the radar, and the Twins were forced to cut him loose after playing roster games this season. Yes, his ERA and FIP numbers look horrible due to five homers allowed in just 13.7 innings, but he’ll have time to get himself right in Triple-A before being thrust back into the bigs. His velocity still looks similar to his previous seasons, so it is quite possible he’ll be a guy who holds the seventh inning for the Dodgers as the team rights itself over the course of the rest of the year. —Bryan Grosnick
Bryan Grosnick is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @bgrosnick