Low wattage moves that carry potential for electric affects
Ryan Doumit will be free to hit with Twins without burden of being primary catcher
Opening of DH role likely to make Eduardo Nunez a regular for Yankees in 2012
Michael Pineda's 9.11 K/9 last season ranked second in AL and seventh in majors
There may be snow on the ground in much of the country but in less than a month baseball players report to training camp, reprising the smell of freshly cut grass, perfectly drawn lines and the sound of baseballs crashing into bats and gloves. While there are many loose ends still remaining -- most notably teams for Prince Fielder, Johnny Damon, Roy Oswalt and Vlad Guerrero -- most big offseason acquisitions have been finalized. Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Buehrle and Yu Darvish all have new homes. In the coming weeks you're going to be bombarded ad nauseum by analyses of how big name players on new teams teams will affect the fantasy forecasts and stats of individuals, their teammates and teams in general. However, some less-heralded moves have also made an impact. Here are a trio of under-the-radar American Leaguers whose fortunes have improved greatly in light of recent transactions.
Ryan Doumit, C/DH/1B, Twins: It took eight years, but Doumit has finally reached the American League, where he's belonged all along. Among catchers with at least 2,000 plate appearances who'll be active in 2012, only Joe Mauer, Mike Napoli Brian McCann (and possibly Pudge Rodriguez) have a higher career OPS than Doumit's .777. A classic signing by Minnesota's returning general manager Terry Ryan, a master bargain hunter, Doumit has threatened to become a standout hitter many times but has been sidelined by injuries, mainly due to his time behind the plate. That shouldn't be a problem with the Twins, where he will serve as the primary DH, with an occasional appearance at first or, less likely, behind the plate. The switch hitter caught 60 games last year, making him eligible there in virtually all leagues, but with much less chance of the bumps and bruises that may slow down his catching brethren. In fact, you could do much worse than pairing him with new teammate Joe Mauer in leagues that require two catchers.
Eduardo Nuņez, IF, Yankees: New York's acquisition of Michael Piņeda for Jesus Montero has opened up designated hitter at-bats for Yankees regulars on a rotating basis. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are expected to rest their gloves the most among New York's starters, which, in essence, makes Nuņez, the team's promising third-year backup infielder, an everyday player. His biggest asset is speed, having stolen 22 bases in just 99 non-home run times on base. Only Tampa Bay's left field duo of Desmond Jennings and Sam Fuld stole 20 or more bases in fewer at bats. Manager Joe Girardi loves to play a National League style, creating runs on the basepaths, which is why Nuņez and left fielder Brett Gardner are among his favorites. Look for both of them to once again make major contributions.
Mike Aviles, SS, Red Sox: Never a Bobby Valentine favorite, Marco Scutaro was shipped to the Rockies last week with pitcher Clayton Mortensen going to Beantown. With Jed Lowrie gone to Houston in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon at the winter meetings, a platoon between Aviles and utilityman extraordinaire Nick Punto is in place at short for the Sox . Although his offensive contributions (.317/.340/.436) were minimal in 107 plate appearances last year for Boston, his career at-bat/home run rate of 48.04 is better than Yunel Escobar, Brian Roberts and Howie Kendrick, all of whom have reputations of having good power for middle infielders. Of course, to try to keep up with the league's other superpowers -- the Yankees, Rangers and Angels -- Boston may yet add a more high profile shortstop, but it's just as possible that Aviles will be a draft day steal in a potent lineup.
And now the question of the week from the mailbag: If you want your queries on baseball, basketball or football answered here each week, send them to me on Twitter @SI_DavidSabino.
Thoughts on Pineda for next year and beyond pitching in AL East?
-- @breakingballz (Ed Dillon)
I love this deal simply based on the fact that both teams traded from positions of strength to improve their ballclubs. The finances involved seem to be in the background, as opposed to most other moves these days when nearly all have some component of a salary dump involved in them. That said, while the Mariners likely received their cleanup hitter until 2020, in the short term the Yankees seem to be getting the better of the deal in that Piņeda has the ability to miss bats in a division that features baseball's toughest offenses. As a rookie, Pineda struck out 9.11 batters per nine innings, a number that placed him second to Toronto's Brandon Morrow in the AL and seventh overall, among the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Yovani Gallardo. As a large (6-foot-7, 260 lbs.) power pitcher, he has the perfect mentor in place in CC Sabathia and should benefit greatly from the vast resources the Yankees have in technology, player development and seemingly endless troop of big name ex-major leaguers who are always surrounding the team. With a great bullpen and an unparalleled offense behind him, he's in a great position and is a worthy pickup, especially in keeper leagues. A 15-win season would be the low end of what to expect.
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