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May 2, 2010

Transaction Action

NL Roundup

by Christina Kahrl

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ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHPs Kris Benson (strained shoulder) and Leo Rosales (sprained foot) on the 15-day DL; recalled RHPs Daniel Stange and Kevin Mulvey from Reno (Triple-A). [4/29]
Traded SS-S Rey Navarro to the Royals for RHP Carlos Rosa, and assigned Rosa to Reno (Triple-A); transferred RHP Leo Rosales from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/2]

The issue here is less a matter of losing quality as it is a matter of increasing problems with upper-level depth. As noted on Thursday night after the series opener here in Chicago, it's a strange predicament to be lefty-less, but to be lefty-less with a pen relying on filler like Mulvey or Blaine Boyer, let alone the oft-discarded Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman? At least Stange represents a nice change from that lot, in that he can pump gas, and adding the hard-throwing Rosa in a scramble to add depth to the Aces' pen provides another arm who can at least smoke the speed gun. Indeed, the Rosa/Navarro trade makes for a nice exchange of favors, as the two organizations exchange middling prospects on the basis of need, the Snakes because Reno was becoming increasingly tapped out, the Royals because Wilmington needs a shortstop and the organization that loves Yuniesky Betancourt should (of course) favor a shortstop prospect almost as exasperating on the small stage. Rosa might be up in short order, given the pen's awful performance this season, and his mid-90s heat.

For all that, the pitching situation is less dire because of its losses than you might think, at least if you were simply scoring by body count. Rosales is out for a couple of months now that his foot will require surgery, but he isn't really cut from different cloth from most of the club's other well-traveled bullpen options; it's guys like Stange and Rosa who might change that. In the rotation, losing Benson after two good turns in three is perhaps a silver lining, since he wasn't exactly a great bet to keep that up. The real issue is the one they've had all along, which is that Brandon Webb won't be back in action until sometime in June (hopefully), and they have to find a replacement in the meantime, starting tomorrow night in Houston. That might be Mulvey if they have any faith in his sinker showing up, but just two quality starts in four for Reno plus hittable stuff doesn't make him an easy choice.

The rest of the 40-man provides a trio of alternatives, possibly all pyromaniacal in nature. First, there's big Bryan Augenstein, who took another beating yesterday, scratching him for Monday's Astros assignment. Nibbly sinkerballer Billy Buckner has had his past opportunities, and reliably handed them back; he's been cranking out ground-ball outs, but he spun a quality start on Thursday, so he'd be on short rest. And then there's their last rostered option, Cesar Valdez, who because of the decision to bump him from yesterday's scheduled start tells me that I think we know the identity of the fifth Snakes starter du jour. At least while the D'backs wait to see Augenstein and Buckner justify their faith in them, Valdez's reliance on a blend of sinkers and different types of changeups could make him interesting as a back-end rotation filler. He missed a good chunk of last year with a dead arm, a tough break for a right-handed junkballer, but he's been good in his first four spins through the Aces' rotation, with a 25/5 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 IP.


COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Jason Hammel on the 15-day DL (strained groin); placed LHP Jorge De La Rosa on the 15-day DL (torn tendon – finger); optioned C-R Chris Iannetta to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); designated RHP Al Alburquerque for assignment; transferred RHP Greg Reynolds from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of RHP Juan Rincon and C-R Paul Phillips from Colorado Springs; recalled RHP Jhoulys Chacin from Colorado Springs. [4/27]
Designated RHP Juan Rincon for assignment; recalled RHP Esmil Rogers from Colorado Springs. [5/1]

Losing two-fifths of a starting rotation is no small thing, obviously, especially when it still leaves you with Greg Smith as one of your regulars. To the Rockies' credit, however, they're taking this as a chance to look at what Chacin and Rogers can do for them, rather than lurching into something silly, like reminding themselves that Matt Belisle's not the answer, or immediately making space for veteran Tim Redding. Instead, by reviewing what the kids can do, the Rox will see if either's up for an eventual challenge to Hammel or Smith. Helping avoid any question of panic is the fact that they're near to sending Jeff Francis out for a rehab assignment, contingent upon their evaluation of his bounce-back from yesterday's simulated game. Francis could beat both Hammel and De La Rosa back, creating a slow-moving opportunity to both test the youngsters and phase out Smith. In the best case, you can consider this an opportunity for the team to wind up with some experience-driven arguments for who to rank where as far as later replacements should anybody from among the top five break down again down the stretch. If anybody shines, that's great; if not, they might ponder Redding's virtues.

In contrast to the logistical necessity and the understandable faith in young talent where the pitching staff's concerned, you have the decision to ship out Iannetta and hand the catching job to Miguel Olivo. While the official explanation as far as the need to provide Iannetta with regular at-bats seems anti-septic enough, the decision's nothing short of noxious. Olivo's virtues behind the plate are exaggerated by his ability against the running game, helping to mask his stiff receiving skills. However much Jim Tracy may be riding the hot hand, Olivo's success is a predictable product of getting to play in Coors Field. Iannetta was also mashing at home; it's what people wielding clubs do in Denver, as a function of being there. Getting wound up over the results from five starts on the road scattered across two weeks, and making a decision to demote on that basis ought to call into question what better ways there might be to get Iannetta at-bats in the major leagues, instead of getting elaborately excited about Olivo.


MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Clay Hensley on the Bereavement List; recalled LHP Hunter Jones from New Orleans (Triple-A). [5/1]
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jon Link to Alburquerque (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP John Ely from Albuquerque; transferred C-R Brad Ausmus from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/28]

With both Vicente Padilla and Jeff Weaver out of action for more than a week, the Dodgers are somewhat stuck as far as filling out a rotation. Not only will they have to continue to wait for Charlie Haeger's first quality start (he'll get his next shot on Tuesday against the Brewers), they can see if Ely's finesse suits them any better. Having the other half of the produce received in the Pierre dump deal from December might at least prove encouraging compared to, say, taking a spin with Josh Towers, and certainly Scott Elbert hasn't earned his keep with the Isotopes so far, averaging two baserunners and almost a run per inning.

However, there are alternatives on the 40-man, even with so many absent friends. James McDonald hasn't looked too shabby in his spins. Josh Lindblom has had his moments with his power fastball/curve assortment, while also struggling to maintain that stuff deeper into ballgames now that he's been moves to starting duties full-time this season. Even so, Ely isn't the worst guy to look at, since he mixes fastballs and changes well and is perhaps about as developed as he's going to get; he could certainly stick around as the rotation's fifth man if Haeger continues to flub his opportunity.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Antonio Bastardo to Lehigh Valley (Triple-A). [4/29]
Activated RHP Brad Lidge from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Ryan Madson on the 15-day DL (broken toe); recalled LHP Antonio Bastardo from Lehigh Valley. [4/30]

You can shudder in fear for what's to come, because absent Madson, things could get more than a little hairy in the weeks to come. While Joe Blanton's return sometime this next week plus J.A. Happ's rehab assignment beginning shortly should help the rotation considerably—finally bringing the ghastly Kendrick vs. Moyer squabble to a necessary, overdue end—the more horrifying issue is whether to hand save opportunities to Lidge or Danys Baez, the sort of argument a pyromaniac has with himself over which fires you want to set alight first. Given those choices, I like the chances that a stealth saves candidate emerges, with my thought being that Jose Contreras makes the best pick of the litter. In the meantime, expect late-game excitement of a type Phillies fans should be already far too familiar with.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned SS-R Argenis Diaz to Indianapolis (Triple-A); recalled RHP Chris Jakubauskas from Indianapolis. [4/23]
Traded OF-L Jonathan Van Every to the Red Sox for a PTBNL. [4/24]
Placed RHP Chris Jakubauskas on the 15-day DL (concussion); optioned RHP Daniel McCutchen to Indianapolis; recalled LHP Brian Burres from Indianapolis; purchased the contract of RHP Brian Bass from Indianapolis; designated OF-L Brandon Jones for assignment. [4/25]
Designated OF-R John Raynor for assignment; recalled RHP Jeff Karstens from Indianapolis. [4/27]
Noted that OF-L Brandon Jones cleared waivers and was outrighted to Indianapolis. [4/28]

With McCutchen not earning his keep and Jakubauskas enduring tragedy via a line drive to the face, the Pirates' shifting cast of characters in the rotation has had to take shape with this latest iteration: chance N+1 for both Karstens and Charlie Morton, plus another couple of spins with Burres because Ross Ohlendorf's slow recovery from his back problem. Ohlendorf's rehab schedule has him on track to come back a week from Monday, at which point the Bucs might pick between Burres and Karstens. If at least McCutchen managed a quality start for Indianapolis on Thursday (allowing a run on a solo shot against eight baserunners in seven innings), you might expect they'll wait on further results before adding him back into their rotation jumble. By then, Morton might have gotten his ERA out of the dozens, after all, at which point he might enjoy some job security.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed SS-S Everth Cabrera on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of INF-S Lance Zawadzki from Portland (Triple-A); called up 2B-R Matt Antonelli from from Portland and placed him on the 60-day DL. [4/30]

Losing Cabrera can't be seen as good news for the first-place Padres, as... wait a minute, the first-place Padres? Their 12-3 run hasn't come against the cream of the league, but it isn't like they've had the Pirates and Astros to fatten up on, and sweeping both the Giants and Snakes at home certainly doesn't harm their credibility in-division any. Offensively, they're solidly mid-pack in TAv (.261), with Adrian Gonzalez doing his usual mashing, but he's being supported by Chase Headley's coming into his own now that he's at third base, while Nick Hundley provides a solid reminder that he's coming of age as well. You can hope that Kyle Blanks will star soon, but in the meantime the scoreboard's getting the benefit of the disparate contributions of Kid Gwynn's OBP, the slugging of Scott Hairston, and Will Venable's ongoing thumping of right-handed pitching.

The good news is that the team seems confident that Cabrera will be back around the minimum, making this an aggressively proactive move to make sure they're not shot-handed in the meantime. Jerry Hairston Jr. may not be a great everyday shortstop, but between a major league-leading strikeout staff on the mound and a home park that forgives so many mistakes, he's more survivable for a two-week run with this club than he would be on most others.

As for Zawadzki, don't be misled—he has a PECOTA card right here. What he doesn't have is a player comment from the annual, which since he was a guy playing a good chunk of his age-24 season in the Cal League, seems to me like an understandable decision to have made back in December. That said, he's more than just a nice little organizational player, and a local product from having played his college ball at San Diego State. Although pushing him up to Portland and now the majors is a bit aggressive, he has a plus arm and the range for short, a career unintentional walk rate north of 10 percent, an excellent track record as a high-percentage basestealer in the minors (48/8 SB/CS career), and more power than your usual middle infielder, with ISO marks above .100, even allowing for last spring's explosion generated by Cal League bandboxes. He may not get much of an opportunity to show much now, and he still has to earn his keep in the PCL, but he could end up being a useful bench player at the very least.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated CF-R Aaron Rowand from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Waldis Joaquin to Fresno (Triple-A). [5/2]

During Rowand's absence, Bruce Bochy initially opted for a job-sharing arrangement between Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres, but Velez handed his share of the job back after an extended slump, while Torres contributed some OBP and some defense. Since the Giants wound up going 7-6 over the stretch, and better than that after they started sitting Velez in favor of Torres, they can count their blessings. Not least among them might be at least some semblance of a resolution for picking a right fielder as a result of being able to spread around the outfield playing time some. If Torres at the very least shored up his status on the roster, Nate Schierholtz trumped that by seemingly winning the right-field job outright with a hot week's worth of hitting, ripping a half-dozen doubles that may doom John Bowker to the bench for weeks.


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

Placed UT-S Felipe Lopez on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); optioned 4C-R Allen Craig to Memphis (Triple-A); recalled MI-R Tyler Greene and OF-L Jon Jay from Memphis. [4/26]
Optioned C-L Bryan Anderson to Memphis; activated C-R Jason LaRue from the 15-day DL. [4/27]

You had to figure that sending down one of the trio of right-handed reserve outfielders was just a matter of time—it was uncharacteristically un-platoon-y of situational fetishist Tony La Russa to carry Craig and Nick Stavinoha and Joe Mather, when all three can't really play center, and when both starting corner outfielders bat right-handed as well. Jay makes for exactly the right solution, as he bats lefty, plays a decent center field, and he runs better than any of the three right-handed lugs. He was also off to a good start in Memphis, hitting .347/.427/.542 with seven steals (without being caught). While getting Jay enough at-bats should be a consideration as far as what to do once F-Lop can come back from the DL, the chances that he gets to stick around at the expense of Mather or Stavinoha seems pretty good. That's probably another two weeks off in the future at least, given that the Cards won't send Lopez out for another MRI on his elbow until next week, and reportedly won't have him resume baseball activities in the meantime. What might seem strange is not keeping Craig as an alternative at third base, as opposed to Mather or Stavinoha, but between La Russa's skepticism about Craig's utility at the hot corner and the confidence David Freese has earned in the early going, the question's somewhat academic.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Jesse English to Syracuse (Triple-A); recalled OF-L Roger Bernadina from Syracuse. [4/28]

This may hardly seem fair, since English hadn't done too badly, but the combination of some good work from the rotation at the same time as there has been a shortage of position-playing bodies during the overlapping injuries to Willie Harris and Ryan Zimmerman created the need to come back down to—gasp—11 pitchers. What remains to be seen is whether that will remain the case once Harris is 100 percent and Mike Morse completes his rehab stint in Syracuse. Will Bernandina and Justin Maxwell both get to stick around? Will they retain both, risk Morse on waivers, and put Willy Taveras out of their misery? At some point, you have to expect a return to the seven-man pen, and you can anticipate that they might already be waiting to see if Ron Villone can earn a return engagement as the club's second lefty in the pen now that he's on the mound in Syracuse.



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Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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