Getting a Shot
After years of toiling as a quasi-part time player for the Angels, Maicer Izturis has inked a three-year deal (with a team option for a fourth year) with the Toronto Blue Jays to become their latest starting second basemen.
Coming off a 2012 campaign that saw Izturis struggle with perhaps one of his worst seasons, the multi-year pact seems a bit late in coming considering Izturis is post prime at 32-years of age. Although an excellent contact hitter, the switch-hitter is just a .273 career hitter and has experienced a three-year decline in the power department, down to a measly 2.7% HR/FB rate and paltry .059 isolated power. It is also noteworthy that Izturis produced the second highest ground-ball and second lowest fly-ball rates of his career in 2012 and unless these figures are outliers, could be harbingers of the beginning of the end.
On the flip side, Izturis provides position eligibility at second, third, and shortstop. The former Expo is still a very good base runner and was successful in 17 of 19 attempts, a career best and made contact 88% of the time with a .289 BABIP. In other words, there is room for some amount rebound and value to be had. The stolen bases could earn Izturis double-digits, but it seems wiser to focus on him as a sub $10 pick given the risk that he could be pushed back into the role he had with the Jays.
Scott Baker is attempting what Chris Capuano and others have done recently. Sign a reasonable one-year deal with incentives that could serve as a spring board to a larger long-term contract. The type of deal is a potential win-win for both Baker and the Cubs. Should the team fall from contention, Baker becomes an easily tradable commodity.
The righty is coming back from Tommy John surgery and could be back as soon as late spring training, but quite easily as late as next June. Baker is a control artist with a career 2.1 BB/9, so it will be rather easy to see how well his elbow has healed/how good a feel for pitching again he has quite quickly.
When healthy, Baker has a solid four-pitch mix and has a good track record for creating swings and misses despite a lack of a blazing fastball. Baker is primarily a fly ball pitcher and the long ball on occasion has been almost single-handedly been the culprit of inflated ERAs. Baker could be one of the better NL-only end game targets of 2013.
Jeremy Affeldt has parlayed two outwardly identical seasons into a three-year deal to stay with the San Francisco Giants. Actually, the last five years have been somewhat similar at least in the strikeout department. Since 2010 Affeldt’s walk rate has trended downwards from the mid 4’s to a solid 3.3 and remained at that level for two years. 2012, however, was a marked improvement in other areas too. The lefties’ splits vs. righties were nearly identical to that of his splits against lefties. In the past, Affeldt has posted wider splits and struggled at times in the command department against righties. Additionally, Affeldt’s HR/FB was 7% below career norms in 2012. Yes, Affeldt is a very dominant groundball pitcher, but also one known for leaving the ball up in the zone and 2012 looks like an aberration when contrasted against the context of his career. The 33-year old should still be an effective left-hand specialist for the Giants in 2013, but some regression against righties and in the homerun against department should be expected.
The Royals were busy making room on their 40-man roster and managed to make a few trades rather lose players to waivers altogether. Tommy Hottovy went to the Rangers for cash and a player to be named while cash only was received from the Blue Jays in exchange for Jeremy Jeffress.
Hottovy is a 31-year old minor league veteran. The lefty had a breakout campaign where in 41 Triple-A games he posted an 11.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 and then appeared in 9 games for the Royals. Hottovy’s a soft-tossing fastball/curveball guy who could challenge for a situational spot with the Rangers next spring.
Jeffress was once a highly regarded prospect with the Brewers and was part of the package for Zack Greinke. The righty can still hit the mid to upper nineties with his fastball and struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors. For much of his career, Jeffress has been more “thrower” than “pitcher” and command/control have been elusive. 2012 was a high-water mark as the former first-round pick produced a 3.9 BB/9 over 58 innings. It is most likely that Jeffress will begin 2013 in Triple-A and it is also very possible that the Blue Jays will try to pass him through waivers to clear up room on their own 40-man. The move is a good example of a low-risk, potential high-reward move.
In late breaking news, post this article's completion, the Marlins/Blue Jays blockbuster that would send Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, others and cash to the Jays has yet to be finalized. Once it is official, it will broken down as a special MastersBlog piece.