Acquisition Roundup

We did a half-month report on player movement just a few days ago, but with spring training commencement so close, teams are in a mad rush to sign free-agents and send out ST invites.

A few slightly interesting pickups in the past couple days …

Astros invite Runelvys Hernandez to spring training

Runelvys was beginning to resemble Elvis — meaning, the “fat” Elvis we saw in the mid-1970s just before The King’s death. Hernandez was once mildly promising, while serving as the Royals “ace” and Opening Day pitcher in 2003. However, he demolished his elbow that year and underwent Tommy John surgery, and hasn’t been the same since. After ballooning to Bartolo Colon proportions, the Royals cut him loose and the Red Sox kept him around AAA until the end last May — at which point an opt-out clause kicked in because he wasn’t on the MLB roster. He did fairly well, albeit as a 5-inning starter, posting a 3.06 ERA in 7 starts. The Yankees picked him up for 6 AAA starts, and he continued to perform well with a 3.56 ERA. However, the Yankees released him and he caught on with the Pirates and did poorly — 8.47 ERA in four starts. For the Astros, Hernandez is a fair risk as he has an outside chance to win the 5th starter spot. Although I wouldn’t have minded seeing the Mets take a flyer on him, my guess is the NY spotlight is not the ideal place for him to continue his comeback.

Mariners invite Arthur Rhodes and Chris Reitsma to spring training.

Two veteran relievers with similar issues — Reitsma coming back from an ulnar nerve injury and Rhodes returning from TJ surgery. Both have some experience as closers, and have shown success as setup men. On minor league deals, these are no-brainer risks for the M’s, especially considering that both are expected to begin the season in AAA. If the Mariners didn’t already have strong ties to these individuals, they might have been considered by the Mets for AAA / mid-season depth.

Cubs sign Jon Lieber

Damn. On the bright side, the Mets may have the chance to overpay in a trade for Jason Marquis.

Rangers sign Jason Jennings

This makes a lot of sense for both parties, though I was hoping the Mets would have held interest in the righthander. A one-year, $4M contract is all it took, and perhaps Jennings gave the Rangers something of a hometown discount (he grew up in Mesquite, TX and attended Baylor U.). I feel strongly that Jennings will return healthy, but again, NYC was not the right place for him to recover. Let him have a good comeback season and the Mets will get a chance to sign him to a bloated 4-year deal during the winter of 2008-2009 — to pitch once every five days and play first base the other four.

Marlins sign Mark Hendrickson

Damn again. Hendrickson could have slid right in to the Aaron Sele role — except, he would have been more valuable as a LOOGY and spot starter. He received an MLB contract from the Fish, and perhaps wasn’t worth such a guarantee from the Mets.

Cubs invite J.D. Closser to spring training

It wasn’t long ago that Closser was considered a future All-Star. The switch-hitting catcher was a “can’t miss” hitter when anointed as the starting backstop for the Rockies in 2005, but struggled with the bat and found himself back in the minors. He had a terrible year at both levels in 2007, after being a solid .290 hitter with power throughout his minor league career. There’s either a confidence problem or a PED issue here, and if it’s the former and it can be overcome, then the Cubs might have a decent bench guy. In addition to catching, he can play the infield corner positions and some outfield. If he can ever hit again, he’s an ideal 25th man and late-inning pinch hitter.

Meantime, the Mets continue their course of surreptitious, covert operation. In an effort to keep the rest of MLB guessing, they are not revealing any of their ST invites, other than those sent to Jose Valentin, Fernando Tatis, and a handful of guys no one has ever heard of.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude January 18, 2008 at 8:42 am
    Mark my words: Jason Jennings will either pitch in less than 20 games, or lose close to 15 games with an ERA around 5.50 in 2008.
  2. joe January 18, 2008 at 8:55 am
    C’mon, dude, that’s not fair (though you’re absolutely right) … Jennings will be pitching at the Ballpark in Arlington, which has balls bouncing off outfield walls (and over them) like a pinball machine.

    Which means, if he posts a 5.50 ERA, he’ll likely be viewed as an ideal candidate to improve simply by leaving Texas … and going back to the NL. Look at their “ace”, Kevin Millwood, who had a 5.16 last season.

    Yeah, I agree he’ll have bad numbers, but if he proves to be healthy I doubt it will matter to his value in this market.

  3. isuzudude January 18, 2008 at 9:55 am
    I think it’s completely fair, because it shows just how poor of a decision is was by a “re-building” franchise to give a ML contract for $4-mil to a guy who won’t produce much better numbers than one of their young pitchers who could use the ML experience.

    And if posting a sub-5 ERA for Colorado while winning 10 games has apparently done little to boost Josh Fogg’s value, I don’t see how losing 15 and having a 5.50 ERA in Texas will do anything to improve Jennings’.

    I give Jennings credit, though. He’s taking a tough road to try and get his career back on track. IF he proves healthy AND successful in Texas, most certainly teams will be lining up next offseason to give him a Gil Meche-esque contract.

  4. skibolton January 18, 2008 at 10:28 am
    I don’t know that it’s that big a mistake for them to sign him to a one year deal. Someone has to pitch for them, why not jennings? If he bounces back to form, great…if not, he’s not makeing much more than the going rate for middle relief. Besides, signings like this have allowed teams like texas to flip the guy in july for a decent prospect or two, and help with their rebuilding. At that point the rangers can get the young guys in there with much less pressure.
  5. joe January 18, 2008 at 11:19 am
    The Rangers signed Jennings for a few reasons that make sense. First, he’s a hometown Texan and therefore something of a feel good story and draw for the fans. Second, they need all the pitching they can get, and didn’t have to give him much in dollars nor commitment. Third, by signing him, it looks like they’re trying for 2008 (sort of). Finally, there’s an outside chance he does relatively well.