Friday, December 14, 2012

This Has To Be Trolling, Right?

I didn't want to get into the Hall of Fame debate.

I really didn't.

But with every article coming out more polarizing than the next, it was only a matter of time before I reached my tipping point.

Enter Howard Bryant. Now I've pretty much disagreed with everything he's ever written, it's only out of a great sense of self-loathing that I even read his work, but his article today asking people to stop blaming the writers really got me going. It wasn't just that he got up on his soap box to wag his finger at us mere mortals without a Hall of Fame vote, but it was the backwards anti-intellectual arguments he used to make his points which really got to me. So let's analyze his work:
The latest Hall controversy -- who deserves entry into Valhalla -- has taken place amidst a field of straw men (MacGuffins, to use the Hitchcock phrase), which divert the eye far from the truth, from what all the consternation is really about.
I assume this means there will be no straw man arguments in this piece.
The straw men are everywhere. Ex-players are angry (still angry) that the Baseball Writers Association of America and it alone has been bequeathed such Supreme Court-style privilege over initial selections and has had it for as long as there has been a Hall of Fame. Those players use this tired, annual charade as a vehicle for transferring decades-old player-writer grudges and grievances into a contemporary talking point. 
The anger the players may have for the writers is nothing compared to the contempt the writers have for the players. Take Mr. Bryant's entire article as an example. It probably also helps that writers actually have an outlet for their "tired annual charade" since you know, they are employed as writers.
Pretending to be progressive in recent weeks, Mike Schmidt, the Hall of Fame third baseman from the Phialdelphia Phillies, expressed his belief reform was needed, and offered a plan to do just that.
I've never seen a writer suggest that the Hall of Fame needed to be reformed.
There is also the angry new generation of new media, long without access or sources or voice in the traditional sense, yet convinced it knows what it was watching better than the reporters in the press box and often the players in uniform. 
"You kids better stay off my lawn!"
This Generation M (yes, for "Moneyball") has been enabled and empowered by changing times, changing emphases on player evaluation, greater democracy (both within the sport and at the keyboard) and the dramatic diminishment of the newspaper as a public force. In many ways, from enumerating the rise of statistical analysis in front offices to spreading the influence of analytics without traditional clubhouse reporting, the Moneyballers have enjoyed the spoils of reader and online attention.
This is where he really loses me. Moneyball has somehow become the symbol for all that's wrong with baseball from the "old-school" baseball men. Moneyball was a system looking to determine what types of skills are truly related to winning in baseball and how they could be used to exploit market inefficiencies. Shouldn't this be the goal of every front office? I don't understand why this is being looked at as a bad thing. Is it just a fundamental lack of understanding? People in baseball have worked EXTREMELY hard to formulate a system where players can be properly evaluated and future performance can be predicted and history has shown this method to be extremely effective. The disdain which seems to effervesce from Mr. Bryant because he doesn't seem to care to put the time into understanding some of these new metrics is exactly what is wrong with society. Since I don't care to understand what you're talking about I'm just going to belittle you into shutting up. It's disgusting and Mr. Bryant should be embarrassed, although I'm sure that thought never crossed his mind. People evolve and we get smarter. We no longer practice medicine the way we did 100 years ago, and nor should we evaluate baseball players the same way either.
 Where they haven't gained much ground in the overheated revolution and culture war is in the one area that infuriates them the most: the honor and responsibility of voting for baseball immortality. It remains gallingly in the hands of the BBWAA, a group that does not own their professional respect.
The lack of respect comes from the shocking lack of effort on many members of the BBWAA's parts to try and understand what has been learnt about baseball in the last two decades.
The straw men of reform and outrage stand hollow in the field, and only the hot air whistling through their stalks gives them voice to offer solutions where there is no problem.
Colourful imagery aside, I can't possibly agree that there is no problem. I understand that we are discussing a trivial matter such as baseball while there are children being shot in schools, but we're here and we're involved, so let's not pretend that this isn't important to us. There seem to be major disagreements in the world of baseball on how the Steroid Era should be viewed. In the world of baseball, that's a problem.
There are, however, two real truths to face. The first is that, since the Great Depression, the Hall of Fame has asked the writers to choose which players on the active ballot will be enshrined. The Hall can, any time it chooses, revoke this right and give it to Bill James or Bill Lee or Bill Gates. It has chosen not to do that, and for good reason. The system is not broken.
Fixing a broken system does not mean that it has to be handed over to a magical algorithm. The Hall of Fame has reformed the voting process many times in its past and will likely continue to do so into the future. The five-year waiting period after retirement didn't exist until 1954. Until the late 1950's voters were advised to vote for the maximum 10 players. In 2001 players dropped from the ballot became eligible to be voted in by the Veteran's Committee and the Veteran's Committee's procedure has changed many times over the years. Problems exist, and solutions are found.
The BBWAA is as much a part of the sport's lineage, for better and for worse, as the Hall itself. The awards the players respect and cherish the most -- MVP, Cy Young, etc. -- are the ones historically awarded by the baseball writers. On numerous occasions, both baseball (the Hank Aaron Award, for example) and the players association (the Players Choice Awards) have attempted to undermine or at least compete with the power of the BBWAA's awards, defeated by the same conclusion: the players, the ones who make up the game, want to win the same awards that DiMaggio and Williams and Mays and Aaron and Koufax won.
Try not to strain a muscle patting yourself on the back there. It's true, the players do value the MVP over the Hank Aaron award, but I think that has more to do with the definition of the awards than who is voting on it. If MLB decided to drop the BBWAA voting and adopt another MVP award as their official one, I don't think many players would notice.
Then there's the second truth: Despite the false narrative that voters are slightly less competent than NFL replacement referees, virtually everyone who belongs in the Hall of Fame is there. There are comets (Kirby Puckett, Ralph Kiner) and compilers (Don Sutton) and legends (Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle). There are cases considered to be borderline by writers, executives, fans and players alike who were finally inducted (Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice), and those who still are not (Jim Kaat, Jack Morris). That's why they are called borderline. There are players who have been denied entry by the Hall and the game (Pete Rose, Joe Jackson and his Black Sox). The idea that the process needs to be reformed is nothing but a mask to resume hostilities or add a few seats at the table for people upset that they've never had one.
I think Ron Santo might disagree. This also applies just his standard to all the players in the Hall. A writer who voted for a player for 15 straight years only to see him drop off the ballot might take issue with this broad stroke of the brush.
The next straw man is that, because of the steroid era, the baseball writers are going to guess who deserves enshrinement based on who had big muscles or who had a suspicious career year. Thus, goes the thinking, the system must change. It is a disdainful mindset that doesn't just miss the bull's-eye, but the entire target altogether. It is the great MacGuffin of the game, and reveals a complete lack of respect for voters who for years have done the work, covered the games, and taken the privilege seriously.
From Dan Graziano: I don’t know for sure that Bagwell took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs to help him attain his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. I don’t have evidence, like we do against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. But I’m suspicious. And this year, that suspicion was enough to make me send back my ballot without the Bagwell box checked […] This isn’t about whether I believe what Bagwell says. It’s about suspicions I harbored long before he spoke out on the issue. It’s about where he played and when he played and the teammates with whom he played and a whole bunch of circumstantial evidence that I readily admit wouldn’t hold up in a court of law."

So there goes another theory Mr. Bryant.
The truth is that the writers are reduced to being a mop, left with cleaning up a colossal mess created by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for enormous profit. 
No one is asking them to do any of the sort. In fact the BBWAA has explicitly not changed the instructions that accompany the Hall of Fame ballot.
The fans also must take their share of responsibility simply because professional sports franchises respond only to loss of revenue. To the people watching, steroids were always someone else's problem, not an issue to get in the way of the fun and games -- until their guy was accused or their team wronged
This is true although I fail to see the relevance to Hall of Fame voting. The fans were responsible for segregation too but Ty Cobb still got voted into the Hall.
The journalists whose job it was to hold the institution accountable failed, too, for too little reporting allowed a corrupt culture to flourish.
I think this is a point that deserves much more than one line in Mr. Bryant's piece. He continually states the importance of the writer and how their access makes their word carry so much more weight than the bloggers. Access is good, but it's what you do with that access that's much more important. Where were the journalists breaking the big steroid in baseball stories in 1998? For a group of people who spend so much time around athletes their investigative journalism skills clearly have to be questioned. Are these votes against the Steroid Age players just trying to correct for past oversights by journalists?
The emerging Generation M, influenced by its Godfather, Bill James, and his capo, Billy Beane, is also deeply culpable for allowing their calculations to blissfully ignore steroids and, through that omission, attempting to legitimize the whole dishonest era (and themselves) by attempting to make the game revolve around only numbers.
For the life of me I have absolutely no idea what this means. Apparently people who value numbers are in the mafia and the calculations were setup to ignore steroids. I don't know, this is mostly nonsense.
It is no surprise, then, that two of the Gen M standard bearers, power and on-base percentage kings Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi (directly linked to Beane and James) were both disgraced by steroids.
Along with half the league, most of which didn't have the power or on-base percentage of Manny and Giambi. Greg Zaun took PEDs and I never saw him mentioned in Moneyball. I also don't remember any Scott Hatteberg steroid rumours and he was the face of Moneyball. No straw man here, let's move on. 
The biggest culprits, though, remain the people who could have prevented the current mess but were too busy building record numbers of stadiums and collecting record-breaking contracts.
Give someone an inch and they'll take a mile. I'm not saying that was okay, but that was the culture then so we have to evaluate it in it's proper context. Just like we have to evaluate the segregation and greenie eras in their proper context.
Focusing on whom the writers select and whom they do not is the easy way, the lazy way, the cowards' way to complain about the broken past.
 I object to being called lazy, this is already over 2000 words.
It continues to hand the leaders of the game the free pass they have had since Brady Anderson wafted his first home run (on his way to 50) over the fence way back in 1996. Nobody in baseball publicly questioned that feat then, and nobody has publicly admitted they saw anything amiss in a clubhouse since, and yet the entire charade collapsed around them in a heap of subpoenas and diminished record books.
So it's a good thing we have you now Mr. Bryant 16 years later to retroactively correct everything.
It is also an intellectually vapid and historically naive position, for anyone who knows anything about the Veterans Committee knows that no voting body is more insular and petty and crony.
The irony, it hurts.
To assess how the Hall of Fame will look over the next decade is to stay on target, to maintain focus on the institution of baseball and all it did not do. It is to consider the consequences when Reggie Jackson stated the obvious, that Alex Rodriguez used steroids and that affects how people will think about his career. The Yankees silenced the Hall of Famer.
True, but it won't affect any of the numbers Rodriguez put up, MLB has made sure not to change any of those. So the numbers don't change, and he never broke any rules, seems like you have to analyze the numbers for what they are.
It is to think about Jeff Conine, who last week said he believed the Hall of Fame should be free of the steroid taint, but that same Conine played 17 years in the major leagues during the steroid era and was, like his union brothers, silent.
 Again Mr. Bryant, where was your mid-90's book on steroids? It didn't come out until 2005. Convenient.
More than anything else, if there is to be anger that the Hall of Fame may not enshrine perhaps the greatest pitcher of his time (Clemens), perhaps the greatest player of all time (Bonds) and the one of the great, most exciting sluggers of his time (Sosa), it should be directed at them for the choices they made.
They aren't the ones with any control over the issue now. It serves no purpose to be angry with the players. It's the writers who seem to have just recently discovered their backbone. Since the writers are the only people with any authority at this point, it's extremely justified to direct the anger at their pettiness.
It should be directed at Jeff Bagwell, who now if not inducted will be conveniently cast as a "victim" of the steroid "witch hunt" when the truth is that Bagwell never once during his playing days voiced a single bit of concern that he was a clean player being tainted by dirty players. Like everyone else, he rode along and took the money.
I think I just wrote something about being petty.

He continues to swing at hypothetical straw men for a little more but I think that's enough from this article. My opinion on Howard Bryant's Hall of Fame voting has been formed for years and this most recent tirade only strengthens my opinion. He's about as inconsistent as they come and plays by his own personal set of insane rules.

He doesn't vote for players on the first ballot unless they are on the "A List". 
The first Hall of Fame class consisted of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb. This is the standard for the first ballot. 
This is obviously ridiculous, but it's the reason that Rickey Henderson was the only player he voted for on the first ballot, and "Greg Maddux will be the next candidate."

To make it even more frustrating he adds that "all [players] are equal once inducted, but the first ballot should be reserved for the definitive." I think he's trying to set a record for most contradictions in one paragraph.

Mr. Bryant seems to truly value the 15 year period of eligibility. He didn't vote for Andre Dawson in 2008, but did in 2010 when he finally captured enough votes for entry. I would love for him to tell me what Dawson did between those two years that suddenly made him Hall of Fame worthy.

According to Mr. Bryant, year-to-year "one uncast vote matters little." I guess that depends on how many people take his point of view.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Winter Meetings Wrap

Taking a look at some of the more significant moves since the big Jays-Marlins swap and during the Winter Meetings, while throwing in a few insignificant moves just for fun.

Angels trade Jordan Walden to Braves for Tommy Hanson, sign Joe Blanton
In two moves that seem to indicate the Angels are resigned to letting Greinke go, they added two rotation pieces for the upcoming season. Hanson is 26 years old and is under team control for 3 more seasons. His first three seasons with the Braves were excellent, pitching to a 3.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, with 8.4 K/9. His 2012 season was a bit downhill as he suffered from shoulder issues and couldn't get his fastball speed up to what it was when he first came to the majors. The Angels are obviously hoping that last season's decline was just a result of injuries and he can get back to his pre-2012 form. I really like this move for the Angels. They get a good, young, cheap, and controllable rotation piece for a reliever. Walden has been good with a 3.06 career ERA and 11.1 K/9. He has had walk issues though and was unable to hold onto the Angel's closer job this season. Ultimately though, any time you can turn a reliever into a young proven starter, you jump at the opportunity. This move is a little more puzzling from the Braves' point of view. They had an excess of starters, but the back of their bullpen has been excellent (second best bullpen ERA in the league) and I have to believe that they could have gotten more for Hanson than just Walden or could have looked to fill a greater need.

I don't like the Joe Blanton addition for the Angels nearly as much. I'm not entirely sure who the Angels were bidding against when the offered Blanton two years at $15M since aside from staying healthy, Blanton does not offer much else to a team. He's never had higher than 8 K/9 in a season and his carrer low in ERA was 3.95 back in 2007. For a team with World Series aspirations, they'll need more than just an innings eater to get it done.

Astros claim Phil Humber
What do you do after a 107 loss season? Look for diamonds in the rough. One might remember my lack of enthusiasm for when Humber threw a perfect game earlier this season. To this point in his career Humber seemed like a quad-A player who was unable limit his hits enough to be a viable starter in the majors. Little has happened since to change my mind, but I like this move purely from a philosophical point of view. It never hurts, especially when you're a bad team, to stockpile players. Throw enough guys out there and maybe you'll find one that works. When the player comes cheap and you're in a season with low expectations it can't hurt to see if a guy can recapture some of the magic that let him get 27 straight outs in a single game.

Rangers sign Joakim Soria, re-sign Geovany Soto
The Rangers bullpen was good last year, but for a team looking for a World Series win, another arm always helps. They have also lost a few players to free agency or the rotation so adding the Royals ex-closer will ease the transition. Soria had Tommy John surgery last April and missed the entire 2012 season but looks to be ready for May 2013. Before the injury Soria was one of the most consistent pitchers in the league, compiling a career 2.40 ERA. His 2011 season was his worst but the Rangers are hoping that he rediscovers his old form after the surgery. He's still fairly young, only 28, and the contract is very affordable at two years, $8M. He'll be a reliable setup arm behind Joe Nathan this season as the Rangers look to recapture the division.

With Napoli on his way out the catching market looked extremely thin. Soto was bad last season having posted a .198/.270/.343 line with the Cubs and Rangers. However when looking at alternatives such as A.J. Pierzynski or Rod Barajas, the Cubs are decided to roll with Soto again and hope that he can put up numbers like he did with the Cubs in 2008 or 2010. This is really a lateral move for the Rangers and I have to think that they're looking at trade options (J.P. Arencibia?) but with the thin catching market there weren't a lot of alternatives.

Nationals sign Dan Haren
A quick disclaimer. I have this irrational weakness for Dan Haren. No matter his inconsistency, I think he's always one season away from a Cy Young award. His time in LA started great, which I think made his later performances seem worse than they actually were. In 2011 Haren pitched 238.1 innings with a 3.17 ERA. He looked to be an anchor of the Angels' rotation for many years to come but a 12-13 record in 2012 with a 4.33 ERA led to the team passing on his option. Haren replaces Edwin Jackson now in the Nationals rotation on a very affordable 1 year, $13M deal. The deal works for both sides, Haren looks to rebuild his value this season in search of another multi-year deal, and the Nationals get a player who put up 12.1 WAR in two seasons the last time he pitched in the National League. Washington will have a solid rotation again this year, and with full seasons from Harper and Strasburg, they have to be considered the favourites to repeat in the NL East.

Red Sox sign Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli
The Red Sox added a new outfielder and first baseman to fill the holes left by Carl Crawford, Cody Ross, and Adrian Gonzalez. Victorino and Napoli both signed 3 year, $39M deals. These new players come with some pretty significant warts though. At this point in his career Victorino has basically become a platoon player.His numbers against righties this year were terrible as he hit only .229/.296/.333. He is still a great hitter against lefties, .323/.388/.518 in 2012, but since he'll face about 2.5 times more righties than lefties this is going to be a major issue. Now that he's 32 he's not likely to improve either. He's still a good defensive outfielder, but the Red Sox might be marginalizing his talent by playing Ellsbury in center and Victorino in right. It's a fairly big contract to give to someone who likely won't be an everyday player by the end of the deal.

Napoli's days at catcher seem to be coming to an end as he'll most likely be the Red Sox everyday first baseman. Napoli has gotten most of his value in the past from being a catcher. Over his two years in Texas, including his crazy 2011 season, Napoli has put up a .398 wOBA, putting him first place among catchers, and by far in first place among American League catchers. That number drops to 4th though when we consider him among first baseman. If we stretch the time period out to the last four seasons to try and temper down a bit what seems like an anomalous 2011, Napoli slips to third among catchers in wOBA but down to 9th as a first baseman. At the age of 31 Napoli is likely to be on the decline for the next few seasons. He's a better option than James Loney, but there's a reason he was traded for only Frank Francisco just two years ago. With his days off from catching he's going to need to keep his power numbers high to make this contract worth it, especially given how much he strikes out and that he's a negative defender at both first and catcher.

I'm not sure how excited I'd be as a Red Sox fan if this is where the money is going from the Dodgers blockbuster trade.

Rays trade Derek Dietrich to Marlins for Yunel Escobar, sign James Loney
"It's a player making more than league minimum! Quick trade him!" I assume that was the sentiment in the Marlins front office after a Jays trade in which I can only assume the Marlins were forced to take back Escobar. Escobar's hitting took a step back last season but he was excellent defensively and by pushing Zobrist over to second base, he'll give the Rays one of the best defensive infields in the league. Escobar has the infamous eye black issue at the end of last season and was traded out of Atlanta when the Braves had similarly soured on him, but if there's one manager in the league I have confidence in to work out these issues it's Joe Maddon.

Loney adds to the solid defensive infield but his signing came as a disappointment to me. The Rays are in serious need of offense and power and we've seen enough of Loney to know that it's just not going to happen. his career high in homeruns was 15, back in 2007, and it's tough to play in the AL East with a first baseman like that. It's a cheap contract, but at some point the Rays are going to have to make a play for a real bat if they want to play into October.

Giants re-sign Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan
Two prime examples of how a good performance in a contract year can payoff. Last season Angel Pagan was traded for Andres Torres, a player who has since been non-tendered by the Mets (Edit: Torres has since been signed by the Giants for 1 year, $2M). Pagan has arguably his best season in 2012 though and earned himself a 4 year, $40M extension. I'm mixed on this signing. Pagan will be 31 next season and I don't think has shown enough in his career yet to warrant a 4 year commitment. On the other hand, unless the Giants wanted to start wading into the B.J. Upton/Michael Bourn bidding war, Pagan may have been their best option. If he can produce 4 more years of the type he did this past year, this contract will end up being one of the best signings from this offseason.

I love Scutaro from his two seasons in Toronto, but prior to his trade to the Giants this season I don't think anyone could have imagined that he would get a three year $20M deal. Between his Toronto and San Francisco stints Scutaro put up a .281/.334/.390 line which included a .320/.379/.434 line in 54 games at Coors. Not bad, but nothing particularly special, comparable to players like Jeff Keppinger or Omar Infante. But then Scutaro came to the Giants, hit .362/.385/.473, won the NLCS MVP, and was a big reason the Giants won the World Series. That was great for him and the Giants, but it was obviously a performance that was unsustainable in the long term. Meanwhile the contract that Scutaro got is almost twice as big as the one Keppinger just got, except that Keppinger is 32 years old while Scutaro is 37. I don't really see how this contract can possibly be worth it and I'll be impressed if Scutaro is still a regular starter at the end of it. I think the Giants too highly valued his recent performance with the team instead of looking forwards to what would be best for the team.

Orioles re-sign Nate McLouth
Since McLouth's 2008 All-Star it's been pretty much all downhill. In the four seasons since he's hit .235/.332/.381 with only 37 HR. Fortunately he ended last season on a bright note, going .268/.342/.435 with 7 HR in a third of a season after being traded to the Orioles. McLouth reportedly wanted only a one year deal to try and reestablish value which works out well for the Orioles. He played well for them at the end of last season and he's a cheap option to carry this year as they try and make it back to the playoffs. His BABIP spiked in his time in Baltimore, but even if his average regresses, if he can keep his power and become a 20 HR player again this contract will be more than worth it. This is more of a treading water move than one that pushes the Orioles back into the playoffs, but a full season of McLouth at the level he played at at the end of the season won't hurt.

Mariners sign Jason Bay
The best part of Bay's buyout from the Mets is that he was available super cheap to the rest of the league. The Mariners capitalized by signing him to a more than reasonable, low-risk, 1 year deal for $1M with an additional $2M in incentives.

It's difficult to tell exactly what kind of player Bay is anymore. From 2004-2009 Bay posted a .280/.375/.519 line while averaging 30 HR per season. Then Bay moved from the hitter's confines of Fenway to the spacious outfield of Citi and hit .257/.349/.402 in his first season with the Mets. It was easy to blame the change in home park, but after two more seasons at .221/.302/.351 including a .215/.297/.321 road line in 2011, it's difficult to attribute his lack of hitting to coincidence anymore. There's still hope though, we've seen the player he was and at 34 he's a few years removed from that, but hopefully not over-the-hill. One of the biggest things that works for Bay in Seattle (aside from the Canadians coming down from Vancouver) is that Seattle's outfield isn't very good. Casper Wells and Michael Saunders aren't scaring anyone with the bat. There could also be DH opportunities for rest on the rare days that Miguel Montero catches. It's not a big move, but it's extremely low-risk. It gives Bay a chance to keep playing baseball while earning his big Mets money, and the Mariners can easily cut-and-run if Bay really is done.

Diamondbacks sign Eric Chavez, White Sox sign Jeff Keppinger, Pirates sign Russell Martin
I'm grouping these players together not because of the teams they signed with, but because of the team they didn't sign with. The Yankees expressed interest in all these players and for various reasons were not able to land them. When was the last time we saw that happen?

Chavez and Keppinger were both being looked at to fill the void at third base that ARod's hip created. I can't fault Keppinger for chasing the money the White Sox offered. The Yankees don't usually get outspent, but going 3 years at $12M for Keppinger seems a bit crazy. Keppinger had his first good season last year, posting a .325/.367/.439 line, albeit with a .332 BABIP. Before last season though he's been fairly awful, posting a career -0.6 WAR. He won't add a lot to the White Sox infield and 3 years seems to be a long commitment to a corner infielder with no power.

The Chavez signing is more intriguing. The one-year $3M contract the Diamondbacks gave him should prove to be a great deal and something the Yankees could have definitely afforded. He played well in a reserve role for the Yankees last year so it seemed to be a good fit going forwards. Maybe there was some drama between him and the team which hastened his exit.

Martin got a good deal, 2 years $15M, from the Pirates, which I'm surprised the Yankees weren't willing to match given their now awful catching situation and the fact that Martin has done reasonably well in his time in New York. His .211 AVG last season leaves a lot to be desired, but he had a last-for-catchers .222 BABIP, and was league average in most other offensive categories. Although the money he got is fairly reasonable, getting it from the Pirates took me by surprise. Pittsburgh is a team that still needs to upgrade a lot of positions and dedicating $15M to a catcher who isn't a major upgrade over recently departed Rod Barajas seems like an inefficient use of limited funds.

Rockies re-sign Jeff Francis
It isn't easy to get pitchers to sign in Colorado so it's nice to see that Francis and the Rockies have found and re-found each other over the years. Francis is not a particularly good pitcher, which works out since the Rockies are not a particularly good team. I'd say Coors Field has been messing with his numbers, but he actually has a better ERA at Coors, 4.82, than his career ERA of 4.86. The contract is cheap though, $1.5M-$3M depending on incentives so if Francis can stay healthy he'll have some value. Really this is just a way for the Rockies to eat innings as they look forward to 2014 and beyond.

Phillies trade Vance Worley and Trevor May to the Twins for Ben Revere
I have to think that the Phillies know something about Worley that the rest of the baseball world doesn't. Maybe they believe his elbow injury will have much longer lingering effects than what's currently showing up on medical reports. If this isn't the case though, then I really have a hard time explaining this one. The Phillies definitely needed outfield help, thus all the Bourn rumours, but Ben Revere is hardly the answer. He's a speed demon who will track down balls in the outfield and cause some havoc on the bases, but beyond that he's won't be of any help. If he can't track down a ball on the fly, the Phillies are going to need about two cutoff men to handle his weak arm. The stolen bases are impressive, he's 4th in the league over the last two seasons, but he doesn't hit or get on base nearly enough to fully take advantage of it. He also has absolutely no power. He currently leads the league in plate appearances without a home run and even with all his speed he was only able to muster 19 extra base hits last season. For a team that's in "win now" mode like the Phillies with their aging core, a player like Revere is not going to give them that final push to put them over the threshold. 

Vance Worley seems like the superior player in the deal, which makes it even more surprising that the Phillies threw in Trevor May, who projects to be a mid-rotation starter. Worley needs to show he can pitch a full season, but he's young, controllable with some good experience under his belt. He doesn't have a great out pitch which may make his current K rate seem a bit unsustainable. He can give up a fair amount of contact, but getting a better defensive infield behind him should help. I don't see how the Twins don't win this trade. They clearly didn't see Revere as their answer in CF, and Bourn may not have been the solution in Philly, but I really can't say that it will be Revere. Also with the Blanton signing (I realize that he was traded from Philly last year) and now Worley gone, the Phillies rotation is starting to look very thin after their top three.

Red Sox sign Koji Uehara
What do you do after you've stripped your team for parts? Sign a 38 year old reliever to a $4.25M contract!  Now Boston's bullpen was a mess last season, finishing 4th worst in the AL with an ERA of 3.88 and Uehara has been great since coming to the MLB, pitching to a 2.36 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, with a 11.4 K/9 over the last 3 seasons, but this move will have only a minor effect on the overall team. Uehara has never been worth more than 2 WAR in a season, and at his age there isn't much room for improvement. His health will be a concern after spending 77 days on the DL last season with a shoulder strain. I like the move and it will help the Red Sox, but if the their rotation isn't able to put together some good outings, it's going to be a long season for Uehara.