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The Week in Cleveland Indians Transactions: 11/23 - 11/29

A review of Indians roster moves, as well as important moves from around the league. This week: the Indians swell their stable of NRIs, and swap a AAA outfielder for a reliever.

J.A. Happ is now a wealthy man
J.A. Happ is now a wealthy man
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This week we're going to try something a bit different. Usually my Sunday news and notes post contains the latest 40-man roster, as well as roster-related comments, but starting today it will be a separate post. In addition, I'll cover moves from other teams, especially during particularly slow weeks, of which this is certainly one.

Tribe transactions for the week of Nov 23-29

November 25

Acquired LHP Kirby Yates from the Tampa Bay Rays for Cold Hard Cash

Designated OF Michael Choice for Assignment

First, the first important fact in a move like this: Yates was first added to a 40-man roster in November 2013, which means he has at least one more option year left. So if Yates doesn't make the 25-man roster, he could be optioned to Columbus. Meanwhile, Choice has essentially the same option status (he was added to Oakland's 40-man roster in September of 2013), so the Indians traded a AAA outfielder for a AAA reliever. They may be able to sneak Choice through waivers (this is a time of the year when most 40-man rosters are full), and if so, they should be able to bring him to camp as an NRI.

Yates, who is the younger brother of former MLB reliever Tyler Yates, had a decent 2014 campaign but then contracted a case of a homerunitis, which is probably why the Rays designated him for assignment when they needed a roster spot. A look at his Fangraphs Pitch/FX indicates that he has a low-mid 90s fastball along with a slider and some sort of changeup. Even before giving up the home run ball in 2015, he struggled with walks, so perhaps Mickey Callaway thought a mechanical fix could make him an effective reliever.

With Yates' addition, the Indians have four true left-handed relievers on the roster: Kyle Crockett, Nick Hagadone, Giovanni Soto, and Yates. Of that quartet, only Hagadone doesn't have an option left, so they can mix and match with the other three depending on how they perform this spring and throughout the season.

Signed C Anthony Recker to a minor-league contract and invited him to Spring Training

Recker spent parts of the last three seasons with the Mets, and before that played briefly with the Cubs and the Athletics. He should compete with Adam Moore to be the primary catcher in Columbus (I don't see Tony Wolters getting promoted) and to be the first catcher called up in case of injury.

Selected MLB Transactions (emphasis on AL teams)

November 23:

Seattle Mariners signed C Chris Iannetta to one-year contract ($4.25M, $4.25M 2017 TO)

Looks like an insurance policy in case Mike Zunino can't recover from an awful 2015 season.

November 24:

Los Angeles Angels signed C Geovany Soto to a one-year contract ($2.8M)

And so the backup catcher musical chairs begins. Iannetta was with the Angels last year, and Soto will be his replacement. And who will replace Soto on the White Sox roster?

November 25:

Chicago White Sox signed C Alex Avila to a one-year contract ($2.5M)

In what had to be an awkward series of events, Avila declared free agency after his father took over as GM of the Detroit Tigers. He'll presumably be the backup catcher for the White Sox, with somewhat of an opportunity to take playing time away from Tyler Flowers.

Houston Astros traded SS/3B Jed Lowrie to Oakland Athletics for RHP Brenden McCurry

Lowrie might wake up in the middle of the night and forget whether he's playing for the Astros or the A's. He was traded to the A's from the Astros before the 2013, then signed with the Astros last winter. Now he's back with the A's, and will play somewhere in Oakland's infield. He's signed through 2017 (with a team option for 2018). I guess you could see this move coming, as he was Houston's starting shortstop to begin the season, but then Carlos Correia was called up...

McCurry is an impressive-looking relief prospect who could help Houston in 2016. This past season he struck out 11.7 batters per 9 and allowed just 5.6 hits per 9 between Oakland's High-A and AA affiliates.

Toronto Blue Jays signed LHP J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36M contract ($10M, $13M, $13M)

I guess $10-12M is the going rate now for a 3rd/4th starter, which is what Happ will be in Toronto's rotation. Happ and his agent probably made the right call in signing early; there's a big risk for a lower-tier free agent to wait until the big free agents sign. The Jays aren't likely to re-sign David Price, and while Happ isn't going to replace Price as far as production is concerned, he'll replace the innings hole Price leaves.

Latest Tribe 40-man roster

(embiggened version here)

Nov 30 2015

Just some tinkering this week, with Yates replacing Choice on the 40-man roster.