The Indians completed a pair of deals today that could positively impact their 2010 pitching staff. The team a nnounced that they have acquired Mitch Talbot as a player to be named later from the Tampa Bay Rays, completing the earlier trade of Kelly Shoppach. In an unrelated move, the Tribe signed relief pitcher Saul Rivera, who had been recently let go by the Washington Nationals.
When the Indians sent Shoppach to the Rays, GM Mark Shapiro said the club had a chance to add a player who could make an impact on the 25-man roster this season. Mitch Talbot stands a chance to do that. I'm sure the Rays would've love to keep Talbot in the organization, but with him being out of options, they were in a familiar situation; move Talbot or face the chance of losing him on waivers. The Indians are hoping that Talbot works out as well as the other out of options starters Tampa Bay had to move: Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel.
Unlike Jackson and Hammel, Talbot, 26, has little Major League experience. He spent the last three seasons in Durham pitching for the Rays Triple-A affiliate. He pitched a combined 70 innings in 2009 due to injuries. Even though he's had above average numbers in each season (~3.5 FIP), he's only pitched 9.2 innings at the Major League level. This has less to do with Talbot's talent, and a whole lot more to do with the Rays pitching depth.
The move for Talbot makes sense; he is a ready as he'll ever be to pitch in big leagues, and the Indians have spots available. He doesn't have overpowering stuff as his fastball tops out in the low 90s, but his plus change up is a perennial organizational award winner. He has also shown good control at each level.
After the announcement, Keith Law tweeted that with all things considered he rather have Talbot over Shoppach; I would agree...somewhat. Even a league average starting pitcher is worth about 2.5 WAR. Shoppach would need a pretty good season to approach that mark. However, in context, Talbot was at least the seventh best option in the Rays rotation and probably eighth best in the bullpen. Shoppach on the other hand stands to be a major upgrade over Dioner Navarro, and the Rays need all the 2010 wins they can get. The Indians get six years of Talbot which could easily make them the winners of the trade down the road, but right now I see the trade as beneficial to all parties, teams and players, involved.
About two weeks ago when the Nationals released Saul Rivera, I wrote the following: whoever his next team is will likely be getting a bargain as he'll probably cost no more than a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Today, the Indians made the move for the regression likely reliever, and the cost was a minor league deal with a spring training invite.
Rivera spent four seasons in the Nationals pen racking up a career FIP of 3.95. In 2007 and 2008, he posted back to back sub 3.5 FIP seasons in a pretty heavy work load of 177 innings. In 2009 his FIP ballooned to 5.71 thanks to an increase in HR/9 from .20 the previous seasons all the way to 1.64 this past. A ground ball pitcher, Rivera carried a HR/FB rate of 19.4 in 2009. Of the 36 fly balls allowed, seven left the yard; that is just unsustainable. His stuff is mediocre and he doesn't miss many bats, but he does get ground balls and usually limits the big fly. It won't grab many headlines, but it's under radar moves like Rivera and the earlier signing of Jason Grilli to minor league deals that often prove to be the biggest keys to bullpen construction.