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Tribe Get Potential Bargain In Wheeler

The relief market is a hotbed for unusual activity during the off-season. This winter, the Philadelphia Phillies got the party started with its signing of Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract. Since then, Philadelphia’s former closer, Ryan Madson, signed a one-year deal worth around $8 million with the Cincinnati Reds — and their former, former closer, Brad Lidge, just inked a one-year, $1 million agreement with the Washington Nationals.

In addition to that trio, Matt Capps received a $4.75 million salary to return to the Minnesota Twins, and Fernando Rodney got $2 million from the budget-conscious Tampa Bay Rays. But one of the few relievers who could not find guaranteed millions – or even a guaranteed contract – was Dan Wheeler, who signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians.

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Colon Continues Comeback In Oakland

After a successful comeback season with the New York Yankees in 2011, Bartolo Colon is headed west. Reports surfaced last week that the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics were interested in the 38-year-old right-hander. On Sunday, the A’s were announced as the mystery team that secured his services for the 2012 season.

Colon experienced a career-renaissance with the Yankees after signing a minor-league contract in the winter. Despite scoffs from most of the baseball world when the signing was announced, he was largely (no pun intended) effective in New York, posting a 3.83 FIP, 3.57 xFIP, and 3.60 SIERA. He shouldered his highest workload since 2005 by tossing 164.1 innings in 29 appearances. Paid just under a million dollar in Salary, he fell just shy of the 3 WAR mark, making him one of the more valuable signings of the year.

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Shoppach Returns to Boston

Kelly Shoppach is going back to where he started. The 31-year-old catcher agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.35 million contract with the Boston Red Sox — the organization that drafted him in the second round of the 2001 draft. With incentives, the deal could be worth $1.75 million.

Signing with the Red Sox ensures that Shoppach will remain in the American League East, where he spent the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. His time with the Rays was largely disappointing: he hit .185/.285/.340 in 440 plate appearances. In the four seasons prior, he posted a .343 wOBA with the Cleveland Indians — the fifth-best mark among AL catchers with at least 800 plate appearances.

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Anthopoulos Gets Closer and Flexiblity

Barely two months after signing Sergio Santos to a three-year extension worth a guaranteed $8.25 million, the Chicago White Sox have traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for pitching prospect Nestor Molina. Eno Sarris has you covered from the White Sox perspective, so let’s look at the deal through the scope of Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last winter, the Jays acquired the tandem of Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to handle the late inning duties. Rauch was largely disappointing in his 52 innings of work, managing a 5.26 FIP. His 12.9% HR/FB was well above his career average, but a 4.56 xFIP shows that he was mediocre even if his home-run rate was a bit fluky.

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Rays Running For Willingham

Depending on whom you are reading at the moment, the Tampa Bay Rays are making a serious run at Josh Willingham. Still, despite being a reported finalist, there is concern that the team might not be able to outbid the other teams vying for his services. Recent changes to the collective bargaining agreement removed the first-round bounty on Willingham and several other free agents — which is good news for the Rays — but likely expands his market to include deeper-pocketed teams like the Boston Red Sox. If Tampa Bay can somehow outlast the competition it could be a perfect pairing of talent and need.

And all this couldn’t have happened at a better time for the “Hammer.” Willingham certainly helped himself with a powerful contract year in Oakland: he hit a career-best 29 home runs and belted 26 doubles in 563 plate appearances. His .232 ISO was nearly 20 points higher than his career average, whih landed him between Josh Hamilton (.238) and Robinson Cano (.231) on the American League leaderboard.

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Cardinals Find Lynn-chpin

Prior to the start of the National League Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals activated starter-turned-reliever Lance Lynn from the 60-day disabled list (strained left oblique) and added him to the active roster. The 24-year-old last appeared in a game on August 9th before taking the mound in game 1 of the NLCS. Since, he has faced nine batters in the series, allowing just one hit.

Lynn made his major-league debut as a starter in early June. He took two turns through the rotation before being returned to Triple-A. He was recalled later in the month and used as a relief pitcher. Over the next six weeks, he made 16 appearances out of the Cardinals’ pen before straining his oblique.

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White Sox Extend Sergio Santos

In 2008, Sergio Santos hit .228 with a .607 OPS as a 24-year-old shortstop in Triple A. He will begin the 2012 season as the multi-million dollar closer of the Chicago White Sox. The Sox locked the now 28-year-old to a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $8.25 million. With club options, the deal could max out at six years and just over $30 million.

The former first-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks was a once a top-40 prospect as a shortstop. As he advanced in level, his bat failed to do the same. With little development, his future as a major leaguer was in doubt. Santos signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox in early 2009 which proved to be a career-changing move.

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Jarrod Parker Debuts For Diamondbacks

Lost in the shuffle of Tuesday night’s historic comeback by the Arizona Diamondbacks was the major-league debut of D-Backs prized prospect, Jarrod Parker. A top-10 selection in the 2007 draft, Parker missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Despite the injury, Marc Hulet ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in Arizona’s system prior to the season, saying he might be major-league ready by the end of 2011.

During the summer Mike Newman — our other prospect guru — had the opportunity to scout Parker. In his write-up, Newman said Parker’s fastball sat 92 mph to 96 mph with the ability to hit higher velocity, on occasion. As far as secondary options, Parker relied on his changeup more than his previously rated plus-slider, perhaps as a byproduct of his continued recovery. Like Hulet, Newman thought the 22-year-old Parker was ready for MLB action this year. With 5.2 innings of shutout ball on Tuesday, Parker looked ready—  even though his debut was not Strasburg- or Moore-esque.

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Wade & Sonnanstine v. The Process

Althought it appears Andrew Friedman has the Midas touch, not every move he makes turns to gold. While no front office will hit on every transaction, the hope is they come out more often than not. For the Tampa Bay Rays this has been the case since the Friedman regime took over prior to the 2006 season. Relatively small in regards to the grand scheme of things, the team’s decision to release right-handed reliever Cory Wade in June serves as an example of a rare misstep by the Rays front office.

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Sun Will Come Out For Morrow

When a pitcher strikes out a lot of batters while keeping his home runs and walks allowed to a minimum, good things generally happen. Prior to this season, there were 31 occurrences of a season in which a starting pitcher threw at least 140 innings with a K/9 greater than 10.0 with a BB/9 less than 3.5 and a HR/9 below 1.0. The list includes some of the game’s greatest pitchers: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling (3x), Sandy Koufax (2x), Nolan Ryan (4x), Pedro Martinez (4x), and Randy Johnson, who had nine (9!) such seasons. The list also includes some surprises like Jason Schmidt, Mike Scott, and Erik Bedard. Recently, we’ve seen Scott Kazmir, Justin Verlander, and Tim Lincecum (2x) put up these kind of seasons.

Zack Grienke (10.67 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 1.02 HR/9) is close to joining the list; however, as of right now Brandon Morrow is the only pitcher in baseball on pace for membership to my arbitrary statistical club. After his start this weekend, Morrow has a K/9 of 10.41, a BB/9 of 3.45, and a HR/9 of 0.97.

There is one huge difference between the Toronto righty and the rest of the list.

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