Friday, March 28, 2014

Minor Moves: Sipp, Schuster, Moore, Francoeur
On Monday, the San Diego Padres informed several players (including Patrick Schuster, Tony Sipp, and Ryan Jackson) that they would not make the major league team and announced several corresponding transactions. The team waived Rule V pick Patrick Schuster, acquired catcher Adam Moore for cash considerations or a player to be named later from the Royals, and signed outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract.

These moves do have some interesting effects on the dynamics of the team:
  • Tony Sipp did not opt out of his contract after being informed that he would not make the team, but he could still leave if he finds himself with an opportunity to join a major league bullpen or if he chooses to leave on June 1st.
  • Patrick Schuster was claimed off waivers by the Royals, who proceeded to return him to Arizona. The move was designed to create a reason to designate outfielder Carlos Peguero for assignment and try to sneak him through waivers after major league rosters are set.
  • The addition of Adam Moore provides depth at catcher in two scenarios:
    • Rene Rivera does not make the team and is waived and claimed.
    • Rene Rivera makes the team, and is not the catcher at El Paso.
      • This could be if the team carries three catchers or if the team places Yasmani Grandal on the disabled list to start the season.
  • Jeff "Frenchy" Francoeur, a minor league signing, carries minimal risk. The 30-year old hit just .204 with three home runs in 245 at bats last season, but he has a plus plus arm and a career .264/.306/.419 line while averaging 18 home runs over every 162 games. He will provide valuable depth in the minor leagues, and with Carlos Quentin's spotty injury history, we could see him in San Diego at some point this season.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring Training Battle: Left-Handed Specialist

The San Diego Padres have position battles raging this spring, but one of the most interesting is the bullpen slot for a second left-handed reliever after new acquisition Alex Torres. The top candidates are minor league signing Tony Sipp and offseason acquisition Patrick Schuster (who I had the pleasure of interviewing), but veteran Eric Stults is also a dark horse candidate for the job.
Patrick Schuster

Patrick Schuster, 23, has a 3.00 ERA in three innings of spring play, but he has also allowed six hits and only struck out one in that time. While playing in the California League (A+) last season, he posted a 1.83 ERA in 45 innings as a reliever. The young southpaw was drafted first overall in the Rule V draft and traded to San Diego in exchange for right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass. His Rule V status gives him a slight advantage over Sipp. If Schuster wins the job, it will allow San Diego to keep both Sipp and Schuster, while they would lose Schuster (he would have to be offered back to the Diamondbacks) if Sipp won the job.
Tony Sipp
Tony Sipp, 30, has a career 3.84 ERA in five seasons with the Diamondbacks and Indians. Sipp signed a minor league deal with two opt out clauses (March 26th and June 1st) and an invitation to spring training late this offseason. At one point (prior to the signing) it occurred to me that Sipp could be a fit for San Diego, but I changed my mind after viewing his splits:

vs RHB
vs LHB

Sipp has only been marginally better against left-handed hitters than against right handed hitters. Sipp may have had the better spring training so far (four innings and no earned runs) but he still has proven to be a slightly below average bullpen arm in his career, while Schuster has potential to be an above average left-handed specialist. 

Another interesting scenario would be if Burch Smith won the fifth spot in the rotation. In that situation, Eric Stults (who is out of options) would be displaced and possibly compete for a spot in the bullpen. San Diego seems to value Stults highly, and he would be an intriguing addition to a bullpen battle that is already very competitive. Stults would provide Bud Black with another option (Tim Stauffer) out of the bullpen for long relief in the case of a meltdown or injury.