Scouting Cuban defector Dayron Varona 

January, 22, 2015
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Cuban defector Dayron Varona worked out in front of about 70 scouts from almost all MLB clubs on Tuesday morning in Delray Beach, Florida, the first time these scouts had seen him live except for a few who saw him play one game against Team USA in 2013. I was among those in attendance and also gathered a little video (below). Varona showed some above-average tools and looks like he could

Atlanta cleans up in Gattis trade 

January, 15, 2015
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In dealing a trio of prospects for Evan Gattis, I really don't understand what the Astros are doing. The prospect depth they have in their system could allow them to acquire a player of a much higher caliber than Gattis, preferably a younger one as well, someone who's going to contribute to the next good Astros team in a few years. Atlanta, meanwhile, has gone from a bottom-five system in baseball to likely a top-10 system, overhauling its major league roster while adding a broad mix of near- and long-term talent to its farm, in this case trading a player somewhere near the apex of his value for

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A's build infield with Zobrist, Escobar 

January, 10, 2015
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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesBen Zobrist will make an immediate impact on Oakland's middle infield.
Oakland continues to try to maintain its contender status for 2015, despite the loss of two major rotation pieces, adding an entire middle infield in one shot by acquiring Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from Tampa Bay for John Jaso and minor leaguers Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell. The Rays get younger and cheaper, likely acquiring their second baseman of the future in Robertson, and they avoid losing Zobrist as a free agent after 2015.

The A's had no capable everyday middle infielders on their roster for 2015, and in one fell swoop, they add two of them -- a net gain of five or six wins for the major league team with even a conservative forecast.

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Yankees rebuild pen the right way 

January, 2, 2015
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The Yankees are overhauling their bullpen the right way. They've only spent money on one outside reliever, Andrew Miller, a high-risk guy due to lack of track record but who was among the best in baseball in 2014, and are building the rest of their bullpen with cheaper guys to create more depth from the right and left sides. Yesterday's trade of Manny Banuelos for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve adds to that depth.

Carpenter was one of many shrewd waiver claims by Atlanta over the last few years

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Byrd deal makes sense for Phils, not Reds 

December, 31, 2014
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Marlon ByrdAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMarlon Byrd is headed to the Cincinnati Reds, his sixth team since the start of the 2012 season.
The Phillies refused to begin a rebuilding process in July when they needed to take advantage of the market for several of their players, but they've committed to it now, having traded Jimmy Rollins, Antonio Bastardo and now Marlon Byrd, clearing payroll and adding some much-needed young talent to the top two levels of their farm system.

The Reds, meanwhile, fill their hole in left field all right, but it's nowhere near enough to change their outlook for 2015, and it might muddle their outfield picture beyond that.

Philadelphia gets right-hander Ben Lively back from the Reds in the exchange, a fair return for a player of Byrd's age and value.

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Eovaldi durable, but not a finished product 

December, 19, 2014
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Nate EovaldiAP Photo/Jeff RobersonIn 2014 with the Marlins, Nate Eovaldi threw nearly 200 innings, finishing 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA.
The New York Yankees and Miami Marlins executed a surprising swap on Friday morning, with the Yankees sending erstwhile second baseman Martin Prado to Miami for right-handed starter Nate Eovaldi, as part of a five-player deal.

Eovaldi is a durable, two-pitch starter who's always had issues with left-handed hitters, especially in terms of power -- not the ideal fit for a team that plays half its games at Yankee Stadium. He's got a huge fastball that can touch 100 mph and sits pretty comfortably in the 95-96 range, although it's relatively straight, and his best secondary pitch is the mid-80s slider, although its break isn't as sharp as you'd expect given its velocity.

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Justin Upton a smart bet for Padres 

December, 19, 2014
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Justin UptonDale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsJustin Upton is a smart bet for the Padres, who didn't lose either of their top two prospects.
The Padres just keep making transactions -- I feel like they're about to get in a waiver-wire war over Tim Pugh -- to the point where they seem to have too many cooks in their lineup, but acquiring Justin Upton is a smart bet on a great athlete who hasn't reached his potential. Atlanta couldn't retain Upton long term anyway, so they cashed him in for a solid package of prospects to help them a few years down the line.

Upton's career hasn't quite matched expectations;

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Derek Norris deal a win for both sides 

December, 18, 2014
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Derek NorrisBrad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesCatcher Derek Norris is headed from Oakland to San Diego.
The Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres, both among the more hyperactive front offices so far this offseason, made a swap on Thursday night that managed to address a critical weakness on both sides. The A's probably get more value in the end, but the Padres get a catcher with a rare offensive skill set and some further growth potential remaining.

Derek Norris is a perfect part-time catcher and first baseman for a team desperate to add some offense -- the 2014 Padres were a few hundred runs below the poverty line -- at just about any position. Norris rakes against left-handed pitching,

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Nationals make out like bandits in trade 

December, 17, 2014
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Wil MyersTom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesWil Myers is the big name in Wednesday's deal, but the Nationals made out the best.
Today's three-team, 11-player trade was a rarity for its focus on young players, both major leaguers and prospects, with just two backup catchers as the veterans in the deal. The San Diego Padres got something they wanted, but at a substantial cost; the Washington Nationals seemed to make out like bandits in a de facto one-for-two swap; and the Tampa Bay Rays appeared to be much lower on Wil Myers and higher on Steven Souza than the rest of the industry.

San Diego's haul

The Padres get a tremendous buy-low opportunity here with Myers, who turned 24 last week with less than two years of major league service so far.

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Astros make a nice pickup; Royals don't 

December, 16, 2014
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Jed LowrieJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsHe might not be able to stick at SS, but Jed Lowrie is a good short-term upgrade there for the Astros.
Jed Lowrie has agreed to terms with the Houston Astros and will be paid about what I expected, getting three years and $23 million with a fourth-year option for another $5 million. It's a deal that underpays him based on expected performance but prices in his injury risk and the probability that he's not able to stay at shortstop for the entire deal.

The Astros did need a better shortstop solution in the short term, with Jonathan Villar, who still has the potential to be at least a quality backup infielder, showing no progress at the plate over two partial years in the majors.

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Chase Headley a solid re-sign for Yankees 

December, 15, 2014
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The Yankees have all kinds of issues with their infield right now, and while re-signing Chase Headley -- which they did today for four years and $52 million -- doesn't solve the age problem, he's a very good (and slightly underrated, at least by fans) player who

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Cabrera an overpaid upgrade for Chicago 

December, 14, 2014
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Melky CabreraKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe White Sox paid a lot to land Melky Cabrera, but he fills a need.
I've liked what the Chicago White Sox have done so far this offseason, as they've repositioned the major league club to make it more competitive while the Detroit Tigers, winners of four straight American League Central titles, seem to be sliding back toward the rest of the division. Adding Jeff Samardzija improved the rotation without hurting the major league roster and with minimal damage to the farm system, and while their two relief additions were too expensive, they did upgrade the worst non-Astros bullpen in the American League.

With Adam LaRoche on for part-time DH duty and the chance that Carlos Rodon sees the big leagues this summer, the White Sox are a much more watchable club and have given themselves a chance to remain relevant into September and possibly, with some luck, even October.

That's the explanation I can see to justify giving Melky Cabrera, a useful but flawed regular in left field, a three-year, $42-43.5 million deal to replace Dayan Viciedo, who now has more than 3,000 pro plate appearances in the United States that tell us he's just not a very good hitter.

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Moving Rollins the right move for Philly 

December, 11, 2014
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Jimmy RollinsAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallThe Dodgers got exactly what they needed in Jimmy Rollins. And Philly did the right thing.
The Philadelphia Phillies threw up the black flag about a year or so too late, but appear to be finally acknowledging that their major league roster was too damaged to repair and that it was time to begin the process of weeding out the old guard. In trading Jimmy Rollins, their icon shortstop and one of the best players in franchise history, they've taken a critical first step in turning the page on the 2008-09 pennant winners so that the next season isn't wasted again on a team that can't go anywhere.

Rollins, 36, is exactly what the Dodgers need

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Mat Latos could be bargain for Marlins 

December, 11, 2014
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The Reds needed to clear some payroll to be able to make more changes to the major league roster, and moving Mat Latos, which they did Thursday, seemed to be a priority given dissatisfaction in Cincinnati with his makeup and the shoulder issues that cut his 2014 output in half. Those variables are probably what led to such a light return for him

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Kemp's not cheap, but Padres get a bat 

December, 11, 2014
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Matt KempJeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsMatt Kemp will play a key role in boosting the Padres' weak offense.
The Padres' 2014 offense was one of the worst in big league history, and acquiring Matt Kemp is a huge boost toward fixing that weakness (although I'm not sure that any one player, even Mike Trout, could do that by himself). Padres left fielders hit .229/.318/.366 in 2014 -- and that was their most productive outfield position. Kemp's bat alone is a three- to four-win upgrade if he just has a solid, healthy Kemp season, with the nonzero chance that he produces a lot more now that his shoulder issues seem to be behind him. In total, the deal the Dodgers and Padres agreed to terms on sends Kemp along with catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego. The Dodgers will receive catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and right-handed pitching prospect Zach Eflin.

The issue

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