Signed OF-L Chris Parmelee and RHP Dane De La Rosa to minor-league deals. [1/26]
The Orioles have had a dismal offseason, losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis while adding a class of free agents topped by Delmon Young and Wesley Wright. Still, for as long as Dan Duquette is in charge—and who knows what his Baltimore expiration date is anymore—he's likely to find a contributor or two from his NRI pool. Might one of these two become just that? Doubtful.
A former first-round pick who knows the route from Minnesota to Rochester better than any man should, Parmelee combines a middle infielder's bat with a corner outfielder's glove. He doesn't hit for enough power to offset his strikeout rate, nor does he defend to the extent that he can serve as a Daric Barton facsimile. As a result, the most interesting thing you can observe about Parmelee is the reverse platoon split he owns for his career. Otherwise, blah.
De La Rosa, during his career's lower points, used to sell real estate. Lately, he's covered enough of it by heading to and from Triple-A with the Rays and Angels. At his finest, De La Rosa was a tall flamethrower with wild tendencies. Two-thirds of that remains true, yet De La Rosa's fastball sat in the low 90s last season; alas, the reduction in velocity did little to help his control, and he walked more than six batters per nine during his time in Triple-A. Barring a stuff turnaround, De La Rosa is probably the new Evan Meek.
Signed OF-L Endy Chavez and OF-R Franklin Gutierrez to minor-league deals. [1/26]
Is there a general manager more loyal to players than Jack Zduriencik is to these two?
Chavez joins the Mariners for the fourth time overall and for the third consecutive season. He was better than realized last year, posting the second-highest True Average of his career in 258 plate appearances. Unfortunately for Chavez, the Mariners won't have room for him in the lineup most days, as two-thirds of their outfield is left-handed. Consider that a good thing, since relying on a 37-year-old journeyman outfielder to repeat a near-banner year is akin to expecting a turkey to learn the shmoney dance; it's impressive if he comes close. Chavez figures to serve as the M's fifth outfielder.
Gutierrez could, in theory, top Chavez in spring for the final bench spot. In practice, however, Gutierrez hasn't topped the 50-game mark in three seasons, and missed the entirety of last year due to health woes. There's always a chance, but relying on Gutierrez to stay healthy is like asking the same turkey to dunk; it's not his fault his body won't let him.
Agreed to a four-year extension with C-R Devin Mesoraco worth $28 million guaranteed with an additional $2 million available in incentives. [1/27]
First a piece of trivia: Did you know Mesoraco is the first catcher in the three-to-four service years range to ink an extension since Nick Hundley in 2012? It's true.
Now some analysis: The deal's breakdown—reportedly $2.4 million this season followed by years of $4.9 million, $7.2 million, and $13 million—makes a lot of sense for the Reds. As Tim Dierkes noted, Mesoraco was projected to earn $2.8 million through arbitration (though he filed at a higher number), meaning Walt Jocketty effectively saved on his 2015 budget while buying out a free-agent year at sub-market costs. Not bad.
The degree of not-badness hinges on how much sustainability you see in Mesoraco's 2014, during which he reached base nearly 36 percent of the time, posted a .260 ISO (best among catchers) and increased his True Average by more than 100 points. He was, based strictly on results, the most improved hitter in baseball:
Biggest TAv Gainers, 2013 to 2014 (min. 300 PA)
But what does that kind of improvement mean historically? Do batters who make such leaps usually maintain, or do they re-plummet into the abyss? As you'd imagine, there aren't many historical reference points. Javy Lopez's TAv increased by 120 points from 2002 to 2003, and he kept about half of the gain the following season. Yet Lopez, while a catcher, is a poor comparison to Mesoraco for age- and substance-related reasons. Jimmy Wynn wasn't a catcher, but his TAv returned to normal by increasing 112 points following a down 1971 season. He lost more than half the difference the following season. Larry Walker enjoyed his third season in Colorado, during which he gained 97 TAv points, that, unlike the others, he kept most of the improvement in year three. Meanwhile, recent catcher comparables Alex Avila and Geovany Soto each finished year three closer to year one than two.
Where will Mesoraco fall? There are reasons to think he'll be more like Walker than Wynn, Avila, or Soto. Mesoraco doesn't turn 27 until mid-June and has the impressive pedigree that always hinted at better than his first few seasons delivered. Additionally, he credited the offensive outburst to mechanical changes that freed his inner athlete. Even if you defer to PECOTA, which pegs Mesoraco for a .274 TAv, it's not a big stretch to think he could retain closer to half the difference in '15.
Here's the beauty of this deal: if Mesoraco does fall closer to '14 than not, it's one of the game's better recent extensions. And if he simply remains an above-average hitter it's still pretty good.