- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Running through the various minor deals of the last 24 hours or so ...
• I don't think much of Yunel Escobar, not as a hitter and especially not as a human being after the eye black incident, but I can't blame the Tampa Bay Rays for getting him practically for free, giving up only fringe prospect Derek Dietrich to acquire Escobar and his very reasonable contract.
Escobar's an above-average defensive shortstop who makes a lot of contact, enough to make up for the fact that he doesn't walk or hit for power -- and he hasn't hit at all since leaving the Atlanta Braves except for a stretch at home in the first half of 2011. It's kind of ironic to think of the Miami Marlins' owners trading a player whose makeup isn't actually any worse than their own. The Marlins must have wanted to shed Escobar's modest salary, as Dietrich's ceiling is a fringe-average second baseman who adds more value with his bat than he can give back with his glove, although he could also provide a similar mix of skills at third.
• Reliever Wilton Lopez is good, but his elbow didn't pass muster with multiple teams over the past few months, notably the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this offseason. Why the Colorado Rockies felt the need to acquire a broken reliever when they have more critical needs is beyond me, even though I do like what Lopez can provide if he's healthy -- maybe a win above replacement value.
Alex White, heading to the Houston Astros in the deal with Alex Gillingham, is probably a reliever in the long run, as he's a fastball/splitter guy who relies on that second pitch for most of his swings and misses and has struggled for years to find a consistently average breaking ball. That said, there is a non-zero chance he's a starter, especially now that he's out of Colorado, with a very good chance he becomes an effective late-game reliever. He's the perfect guy for the Astros to target when dealing a reliever, especially one with a bad elbow. Gillingham is an extreme ground baller (3.29 ground out/fly out ratio in low Class A this year) who throws strikes, but was also 22 years old and very experienced for his level.
• The Chicago White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million deal, presumably to play third base while the team waits for top prospect Carlos Sanchez to take over at second base from the disappointing Gordon Beckham. Keppinger's a contact hitter who's very useful as long as he keeps his BABIP up and doesn't try to pull too many balls, with fastballs on the inner half his main weakness. I don't like Keppinger as a regular, since he doesn't have great secondary skills, but they're paying him a below-regular salary and he's better than any in-house options at third.
• The Giants, meanwhile, gave Marco Scutaro 67 percent more money than Keppinger got even though Scutaro is four years older and only a slightly better player today. They did better with the Angel Pagan signing, which is probably a year too long given his limited track record in the majors, but pays him the same total money that Shane Victorino will get for one fewer year and for inferior performance. Scutaro's deal might be fine for a year, but the odds of him holding this kind of value through his age-39 season seem pretty low, especially given how recently it appeared that his career was over.
• The Cardinals gave three years to lefty specialist Randy Choate, which flies in the face of the history of every three-year contract ever given out to a reliever. So, good luck with that, I guess.