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Roundup of Moves

Red Sox sign LHP Billy Traber to a minor league contract with invite to spring training.

After spending some brief time with the Yankees in 2008, Traber is back to square one. The good news: his fastball velocity was up two miles per hour since 2007. The bad news: Traber allowed 1.62 homeruns per nine. That total was in 16.7 innings of work, so its only three homeruns, and one of which came to a right-handed batter. Traber's minor league numbers were far better and he'll make a fine addition to Pawtucket until the Sox need him.

Houston Astros sign RHP Doug Brocail to one-year deal.

This is more of a re-signing. Brocail had a club option worth 3.25 million that was declined, otherwise he's making the same amount of money as he did in 2008. Expect some regression and don't be fooled by Brocail's increased strikeout rates. Those were almost entirely from an upping of called strikes, which are less sustainable than swinging strikes. Brocail will have to be worth 0.45 WAR to "earn" his salary, which is easily doable.

Seattle Mariners sign INF Russell Branyan to one-year deal.

Presumptuous people are going to write this off as just another Mariners flub up. Those people are wrong and poor judges of talent. Branyan has a thunder stick and will likely play first base while occasionally DHing and usually striking out quite a bit, but despite that, he's actually a rather disciplined hitter, capable of a low O-Swing%. Branyan's career .345 wOBA is only slightly above league average, but it's going to look awfully good on the cheap for Seattle.

San Francisco Giants sign RHP Bob Howry to one-year deal

The Giants are quietly having a very good off-season. Between Josh Phelps, Jeremy Affeldt, and now Howry they've avoided awful contracts to overrated players as well as draft pick compensation gracefully while upgrading their bullpen and first base situations. Howry gets equal outs via air and ground, but his swinging strike rate has decreased three years running. The deal is only worth 2.75 million, so 0.5 WAR will justify the move.


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