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March 28, 2010

Transaction Action

Any Frandsen of Yours Is...

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned 1B-Ls Rhryne Hughes and Michael Aubrey, 1B-R Brandon Snyder, 3B-S Josh Bell to Norfolk (Triple-A); optioned SS-S Pedro Florimon Jr. to Bowie (Double-A). [3/26]

No shockers in this group, although this does not mean that all of the first-base chores are getting turned over to Garrett Atkins, because the Luke Scott-at-first experiment is alive and kicking. Add to this the likelihood that Atkins struggles—hitting in the toughest division in the better league would be rough enough, and if he winds up recovering from last season's disaster to deliver something around his projected .272 TAv, that still isn't all that valuable at first base. If Scott starts cadging starts and the Orioles use DH at-bats to get Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie in the lineup simultaneously, it's grim news for Atkins.

 


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired INF-R Kevin Frandsen from the Giants for future considerations; signed LHP Scott Schoeneweis to a minor-league contract. [3/26]

Jed Lowrie's capacity for lucklessness defies rational analysis, but this spring's problem is a matter of his coming down with a case of mono, so his bid to stick as one of the club's primary infield reserves is on hold. Dealing for the almost equally luckless Frandsen might be a way of doubling down on unlucky infielders—he's had his own share of injury troubles to derail his own bid for everyday play—to find a guy who can stick around as a matter of misfortune-busting. Frandsen has a relationship with Dustin Pedroia that stretches back to their days on college diamonds, and the Red Sox have had little buddies on the roster before—who can forget Roger Clemens' little buddy, Mike Brumley?—so keeping Frandsen as a utility infield option has the virtue of camaraderie beyond just the standard-issue scrappiness. There is the more basic question of whether or not he can play shortstop well enough, but the Sox got away with a minor-league second-base type last summer with Nick Green.

The real question is whether or not Frandsen represents improvement upon, say, Tug Hulett, a sluggier utility infield type with the additional benefit of also batting lefty; neither is going to be a great shortstop, but if Marco Scutaro doesn't fill the bill, the Sox have bigger problems. The additional question is whether either's keepable on a roster that will have Bill Hall on it in addition to Mike Lowell and Jeremy Hermida. There is always the possibility that Hall loses favor—he's had a bad camp on top of a series of bad years, and whether he can really handle middle-infield positions is in question—and the Sox keep Frandsen or Hulett instead, although that decision could cost the Sox as much as $1.75 million. Then again, there's also the possibility that the Sox somehow convince some other club to take Mike Lowell, which would open up the non-Hall infield-ish roster slot to Hulett or Frandsen. Frandsen already seems resigned to a spin as a PawSock, but we'll see what happens in the next week. Theo Epstein's never one to sit still, so there's always a chance for another development beyond whoever's presently on the roster.

 


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed LHP Bobby Seay (shoulder) and RHP Zach Miner (elbow tendonitis) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/26; optioned LHP Daniel Schlereth and OF-R Wilkin Ramirez to Toledo (Triple-A). [3/27]

So, will the Tigers go with 12 pitchers, or 11? It's an interesting conundrum because of the situation with their rotation, which is now really just down to who they bump from among Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis, and Jeremy Bonderman, and whether the loser gets dealt—for pennies on the dollar, of course, given their deals—or put in the pen. Willis' wildness and general unpredictability would be hard to stomach in a relief role, and since Willis and Robertson are both lefties in a pen that has three decent options already (Phil Coke, Brad Thomas, and Fu-Te Ni), you can understand why the rumors are buzzing. Counting on any two of them plus a very young Rick Porcello and in the face of the unanswered question about whether or not Max Scherzer can handle a full-season workload. But carrying seven relievers runs up against the question of whether or not a collection of position players with too many DH candidates works with just three non-catching bench players. If Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn are locks, and Clete Thomas should be, but is that it? Or will they squeeze in journeyman Don Kelly for his utility? Or Jeff Larish, for his bat?

 


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned INF-S Matt Tolbert to Rochester (Triple-A). [3/27]

If you squint a bit, you might feel that Tolbert's equipped with the Punto suite of skills—everything Punto can do, Tolbert sort of does, too. He runs the bases well, walks or bunts or flails at the plate, and plays second, third, or short interchangeably well enough, right? The problem is that it isn't exactly true, which is why Punto's a man guaranteed his gig and his paydays. Tolbert doesn't steal bases as well as Punto does, he doesn't really play shortstop well enough to be a legitimate utility option in any but the most desperate situations, and his walk rates in the minors are lower than Punto's have been in the majors. So while it's easy to rail about how well Punto's paid, that's my point of departure with many of his critics: the man's payday obviously hasn't kept the Twins from making other, more important financial commitments, he's useful in a way that the complete zeroes at the plate from among the utility infield crowd are not, and it isn't his fault that his team plays him so much. Hate the decisions, not the player.

Meanwhile, with Brendan Harris seemingly set to get most of the playing time at third, Punto's role as the primary bench player seems exactly right. The question was really whether or not keeping Tolbert when you've got such a similarly skilled reserve made sense, since it would have instead meant exposing Alexi Casilla to waivers. The Twins decided to keep Casilla, because even after trying and failing to hold down the starting job at second base, and in the face of enduring doubts over whether or not he can play shortstop well enough to make an effective middle-infield reserve, it was only Matt Tolbert we were talking about, and why go out of your to lose talent to keep that?

 


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Vin Mazzaro and 1B-R Chris Carter to Sacramento (Triple-A). [3/27]

Mazzaro's departure reduces the fifth starter sweepstakes to Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. It isn't like the loser from among those two will have lost his opportunities forever, any more than Mazzaro has; given the other pitchers in play for starting slots, the future for the one who doesn't get the role might come in a future as far off as Tax Day.

 


TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired MI-S Andres Blanco from the Cubs for future considerations; optioned LHP Derek Holland, RHP Brandon McCarthy, and OF-R Craig Gentry to Oklahoma City (Triple-A); optioned RHP Alexi Ogando to Frisco (Double-A). [3/27]

The big deal is the decision to set the rotation. Holland and McCarthy are out, Matt Harrison is in, and the two names that would have been surprises in, say, November are C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. Tommy Hunter's bid is on hold, as he recovers with a strained oblique; who would have bet that a Rangers starter would break down, and it wouldn't be McCarthy or Rich Harden? At any rate, the suggestion that Harrison, Wilson, and Lewis represent the bulk of an expected contender's rotation was of course conceivable, but it's still a bit stunning that this is how the matter played out.

The levels of risk involved—not simply risk, but outright daring—is striking enough. Wilson's a converted reliever, Lewis a Japanese leagues re-import, and Harrison's work last season wasn't far from demonstrably better than Holland's, or McCarthy's body of work, for that matter. In each instance, you can identify different factors feeding into the decision: a frank evaluation of Wilson's stuff, an interpretation of Lewis' performances, or scouting Harrison. You can disagree with the decisions, but by assembling so many alternatives, the Rangers' rotation was invariably going to be dependent on certain bets on upside. By pegging Harrison, Wilson, and Lewis, the Rangers have made their commitments. Holland's future remains bright, and McCarthy might represent the eventual safe sixth man to patch in once one of the initial selections invariably fails, but you can admire the design and the boldness, as well as the investment in making sure they had this multiplicity of options in play, because nobody, not even "safe" starters like Harden or Scott Feldman, represents a truly safe bet.

On the minor solutions front, Blanco can't hit and won't, but he's a brilliant defender and an automatic (albeit option-less) solution to the team's needs for a middle infielder. If this allows Joaquin Arias to try and take his latest shot at renewing his prospect status as an everyday player at Triple-A, that's swell; Blanco's had some experience with playing from the bench, and being a defensive replacement.

 


ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Manny Acosta to Gwinnett (Triple-A). [3/27]

Because of his experience and success in the majors, demoting Acosta makes for a modest surprise, but in 114 big-league innings spread across three seasons, he has only managed to accumulate a half-win's worth of difference above replacement level (via WXRL). That's not a lot, but it's a full win's worth of difference over what Jesse Chavez did as a Pirate in his 82 1/3 big-league innings. Still, Chavez lights up the occasional radar gun, and there is a reasonable bit of faith worth investing in him as a scouting-driven selection who might be someone Bobby Cox makes something of. Maybe, but Chavez has been all sorts of ghastly, whatever you make of spring-training stats, hardly putting a spot shine on that track record in the games that count. Acosta's demotion and Chavez's struggles make for an interesting problem for middle-innings relief help, because it very opens up the possibilities for who might land the last spot or three in the pen. The main quartet is set, of course: Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Peter Moylan, and Eric O'Flaherty. Scott Proctor's almost certainly a lock if he proves to be healthy enough to be ready to go in what little is left as far as pre-season action. It would be easy to anticipate that Jo-Jo Reyes and Chavez would be the young veterans who might also represent safer bets, but we'll have to see. Farmhands Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are both getting consideration; Kimbrel gets high-end billing for his stuff (despite his wildness), while Venters is a lefty with knack for inducing ground-ball outs. The other question is whether or not the Braves would keep Reyes and Kris Medlen in a long-relief or spot-starter's role, or if they might not prefer to deposit one of them in Gwinnett in the early going, so that either or both might get regular rotation work. So, the last week figures to be interesting, and because Cox has so frequently surprised so many observers with his ability to get decent bullpen performances out of unlikely combinations, it'll be more interesting still to see who he selects, and why.

 


CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted Rule 5 pick RHP Mike Parisi to Iowa (Triple-A); traded MI-S Andres Blanco to the Rangers for future considerations. [3/27]

Carrie Muskat's already explained how this worked out really very well, as far as how it is that the Cubs could keep their Rule 5 pick. Effectively, it boils down to Parisi having a choice since he'd been outrighted before, and he chose to stick with the Cubs. Since he's also more than a year removed from the mound because of a TJS, he probably wasn't especially ready to pitch in the majors, but a regular gig in the cornfields might return him to that longshot fifth starter-type bid he had going for him beforehand. As long as the Cubs' fifth starter options involve names like Tom Gorzelanny or Carlos Silva (once Ted Lilly returns), it isn't like his situation for a return to the majors is hopeless.

The decision to deal Blanco is interesting because it basically tasks the team's second basemen—Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker—with the responsibility of also fulfilling most of the team's utility infield duties. In light of the announcement that Tyler Colvin's a lock to make the roster, the four contenders for the team's last bench slot are Chad Tracy, Kevin Millar, Micah Hoffpauir, and Sam Fuld—none of whom add much to the infield mix. Admittedly, they've given Tracy a lot of looks at third base, which would help his cause immensely if they decide he's playable at the position, but it hasn't been entirely pretty to watch. Millar and Hoffpauir are first basemen who can be occasionally parked in one of the outfield corners, although that usually lights up the "operator error" indicator on the dashboard. Fuld's case would depend on the hope that somehow the Cubs need his blend of speed and defense, but if Colvin's on the club and Nady's eventually in the mix for more playing time in the outfield, it's looking a lot like Iowa's in his future.

Moving Blanco created yet another spot on the 40-man, which is now down to 37, and figures to move down to 36 once the always fragile Angel Guzman officially lands on the 60-day DL after his latest shoulder problem required surgery. From among the non-roster invites, Lou Piniella's already talking about how camp surprise James Russell has made the team, but there will be plenty of space to add Millar or Tracy. But because of the club having that much wiggle room and Guzman's redisappearance from the land of the healthy, it's going to be interesting to see if Jim Hendry does finally swing that much-rumored deal for a veteran reliever. It isn't exactly clear that Jeff Samardzija belongs among the team's initial 12 pitchers, and an initial rotation with Silva and Gorzo in it already figures to keep Sean Marshall busy with long-relief chores. If Samardzija's isn't retained, that's perhaps the ultimate indictment of his ever being so heavily invested in, because the primary right-handed relievers in front of closer Carlos Marmol are home-grown farm arms Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg, hardly the sort of name talent you'd expect to be crowding out the $10-million man at this stage. Of course, with Lilly due back in April at some point, Silva may be the eventually patch in the right-handed middle-relief role, there's probably not much point to keeping Samardzija around as a transient.

 


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned MI-R Luis Cruz to Nashville (Triple-A). [3/27]

With Joe Inglett making the team as an all-positions utilityman and with Craig Counsell booked for the primary infield reserve duties, Cruz's opportunity was already effectively dead. Considering that it was a mild surprise that the Brewers even made the effort to grab him on waivers in the first place, the real question is whether or not his erasure from the bench picture pretty much sews up the all-lefty bench since the decision to officially add Jim Edmonds and ship out Adam Heether. While it's worth remembering that they've got switch-hitter Ray Olmedo in camp (as a product of the Treanor trade), barring injury or some late-camp switch, they should be set with their five lefty-batting reserves.

 


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned CF-R Darren Ford to Richmond (Double-A); optioned CF-R Francisco Peguero to San Jose (High-A); traded INF-R Kevin Frandsen to the Red Sox for future considerations. [3/26]

The decision to trade Frandsen isn't really news, not with the full-fledged Eugenio Velez cult flowering, and with Juan Uribe re-signed this past offseason. Add in Mark DeRosa's utility at seven positions, a crowd of keep-worthy outfielders to select a starting right fielder plus a couple of reserves from, and a similarly smothered and probably Fresno-bound Matt Downs, this was a matter of doing Frandsen a favor, because even Fresno has a likely crowd of competitors for infield playing time this season, between Downs, Brock Bond, perhaps Brandon Crawford, and eventually a recuperating Emmanuel Burriss to contend with. Frandsen had nothing left to prove in the minors, but had provided no compelling reasons to be kept; if anything, this represents an act of generosity from the Giants, as they set up one of their own organizational soldiers with a great shot at a big-league utility role he might be able to land.

 


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned OF-L Jon Jay and INF-R Tyler Greene to Memphis (Triple-A). [3/26]
Optioned RHP Adam Ottavino to Memphis (Triple-A). [3/27]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned OF-R Justin Maxwell to Syracuse (Triple-A). [3/28]

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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