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May 17, 2010

Transaction Action

Pad Squadding

by Christina Kahrl

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ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated SS-R Yunel Escobar from the 15-day DL; placed OF-R Matt Diaz on the 15-day DL (infected thumb). [5/15]
Optioned SS-R Brandon Hicks to Gwinnett (Triple-A); purchased the contract of OF-R Brent Clevlen from Gwinnett; transferred INF-R Diory Hernandez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; activated LHP Jo-Jo Reyes from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Gwinnett. [5/16]

Getting Escobar back is a positive enough good, but they got the benefit of plugging Omar Infante into the lineup, and he did his usual good stuff as a supersub while also playing a good short. Indeed, Infante's play suggests that they may have a useful enough platoon partner for Eric Hinske on hand in left field now that it's Diaz's turn to break down. Not that Infante's .265/.310/.391 clip against lefties is all that, but Clevlen's a poor enough alternative, and the shine's already off Melky Cabrera's SHINO qualities. If they're going to have to find someone to spot for Hinske against lefties and for defense, why not Infante, if only to keep him in the playing-time rotation?

Of course, now that Hinske's hit his way into platoon play, the lineup's already gotten some measure of desperately-needed good news in light of Cabrera's crash and Diaz's doing likewise. Add in Troy Glaus' hot May, and the low-budget veteran rentals seem to be making up for their more considered choices for corner playing time. You can consider this the benefit of stocking up on variety rather than putting all of their offensive eggs in any one, bigger basket, but the problem's been less a matter of eventually finding Hinske and Glaus to be their keepers from among the fungible to fill out the corners as much as the lineup's power outage where everyone else not named Jason Heyward is concerned. Seeing Escobar play back toward expectations should help fix that, but you can say the same for Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, and Chipper Jones, and the offense isn't the club's only item of concern.

 


COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Noted the loss of RHP Shane Lindsay to a waiver claim by the Yankees. [5/14]
Placed 2B/OF-S Eric Young Jr. on the 15-day DL (stress fracture – leg); activated RHP Jason Hammel from the 15-day DL. [5/15]
Activated LHP Jeff Francis from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Matt Daley to Colorado Springs. [5/16]

With three rainouts in a week, the Rockies' schedule and roster plans got washed out, but certain immutable facts were going to transpire: Hammel and Francis were going to return to the roster and resume their places in the team's rotation, come hell and flying water. As a result, the one man they're down from their ideal quintet is Jorge De La Rosa, but with Jhoulys Chacin delivering two quality starts in his first three spins, it isn't like they're short-handed for starting help for the time being. So, predictably enough, Greg Smith has been bounced to the bullpen, but the more surprising development is the decision to dispatch Daley, given that he's in the black as far as situation-sensitive performance (0.2 WXRL). However, he also hasn't been excellent, with a -0.6 ARP, a 4.74 FRA, and a staff-worst 1.3 inherited baserunners allowed to score, and after his contributions toward taking a winnable ballgame against the Nats on Thursday and making it decisively less so, a punitive demotion of an optionable reliever struggling to contribute didn't seem like the strangest fruit to find germinating along one branch on the team's decision tree.

The upshot is that this means Esmil Rogers remains with the team for the time being, joining Smith in some sort of a swingman's netherworld in the bullpen. That's just as well: Smith's ongoing inability to get right-handed persons out (.340/.432/.620 this year) argues against his employability in a starting role, so it's no surprise that he managed just one quality start in seven. The more long-term question is whether or not a role exists for Smith very far into the future. The pen already has Joe Beimel and Randy Flores knocking around for situational southpawry, and Franklin Morales should be healthy again at some point this season to provide a third left-handed alternative. Rogers getting squeezed out seems to be merely a matter of time—even with Huston Street's recent setback, someone's heading down to Colorado Springs once they decide that Taylor Buchholz has rehabbed long enough. But what will they do with Smith once Street's back? Or De La Rosa? You'd think that Smith's ability to throw multiple innings might make him a handier asset to have around than Flores, but they may decide that what makes the most sense will be kicking Smith back down to Triple-A to take regular turns and remain ready to be their seventh(-ish)-best starting option in case anybody else from the starting staff breaks down.

 


MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed C-L John Baker on the 15-day DL (strained flexor), retroactive to 5/13; recalled OF-L Bryan Petersen from New Orleans (Triple-A). [5/15]

Baker's injury goes toward explaining the initial decision to bring Brett Hayes up last week, but once it became clear that Baker's problem wasn't going away, there was little point in carrying a non-functional catcher for more than a day or two. Given that Hayes is a cipher, you can expect that this means a whole bunch of playing time for Ronny Paulino in the meantime. That shouldn't make a huge difference in terms of anything beyond an improved deterrence capability against the running game, balanced against a modest hit on the platoon possibilities. It stacks the Fishies' bottom end of the lineup heavily toward the right side while also leaning toward the slow and getting slower, because with Brett Carroll already cadging outfield starts from Cameron Maybin, you can lump Cody Ross, Carroll, and Paulino in the six through eight holes and wind up with a whole lot of hack-or-gack contributions on offense: none of the walk, or run, or play little ball, or deliver big-time power, which leads to a sort of Fishy absence of palatability from the bottom of the order, exacerbating the issue of the team's short-sequence offense.

 


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned OF-L Adam Stern to Nashville (Triple-A); recalled RHP John Axford from Nashville. [5/15]
Placed LHP Doug Davis on the 15-day DL (pericarditis); recalled OF-L Adam Stern from Nashville. [5/16]

Hauling up Axford to shore up a bullpen hampered by Trevor Hoffman's losing fight with Father Time and LaTroy Hawkins' breakdown was sensible enough, but Davis' latest major setback in a career already interrupted by a cancer diagnosis threatens to put the team once again in the position of having to fall back upon the still-employed Jeff Suppan to make Tuesday's turn. Davis was due to start on Sunday, but last Thursday's open date on the schedule let them spot David Bush on regular rest, with Yovani Gallardo able to do likewise on Monday. Come Tuesday, they'll have to make a choice, between Suppan, or perhaps Manny Parra if they think they can stretch him out enough from his throwing 20-30 pitches out of the pen. Against a Reds lineup that goes wherever Joey Votto and Jay Bruce takes it, spotting another lefty wouldn't be the worst idea, although it might prove to be a pen start of sorts if Parra can't go farther than three or four frames. Sticking with southpaws, the rehabbing Chris Capuano would be on track for taking that turn on regular rest if they so choose, and he just spun eight shutout innings in his first spin with Nashville on Thursday, but they're full up on the 40-man, and Capuano isn't on it. Marco Estrada's on the 40, but he started Friday's Sounds game, so he'd be unlikely, and it's equally doubtful they'd reach lower down. So it may well be Suppan and bust, or bust, but mostly just bust.


NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated C-R Henry Blanco from the Bereavement Leave List; optioned C-L Josh Thole to Buffalo (Triple-A). [5/16]

Thole didn't even get into a single game, so the extent to which this was no ado about nothing is represented by that. The future may belong to him, and you don't need Copernicus to tell you the sun's going to set on Rod Barajas, but this was about as minor a move as it gets, a mild inconvenience for the Bisons made more minor still by the fact that Thole wasn't hitting a lick—just .203/.270/.329 at the time he was hauled up from their roster. Omir Santos hasn't done anything either, so suffice to say that they're probably congratulating themselves on the decisions to sign Barajas and Blanco.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Brad Lidge on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 5/10; recalled LHP Antonio Bastardo from Lehigh Valley (Triple-A). [5/16]

The negatives seem to be legion, between last season's slow-motion multi-month debacle to create the worst closer campaign of all time, the concerns over his mechanics, his velocity, or the inevitable second-guessing from people still ready to forget historical facts like 2008 and still hung up on some homer Albert Pujols hit. But for all that, Lidge managed a save the one time he was asked to try to convert one, and the time before that he stranded a runner at second from scoring with nobody out in a tie game. Looking at their bullpen in the wake of losing Ryan Madson, the Phillies lack the kind of depth in right-handed relief to be able to easily afford losing Lidge, even with Jose Contreras and Chad Durbin doing good deeds; the Phillies are the latest team trying to live down a spin with Danys Baez, after all, and with the decision to carry Rule 5 pick David Herndon, they're working from a slightly shorter stack, even in a seven-man pen.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated SS-R Everth Cabrera from the 15-day DL; optioned INF-S Lance Zawadzki to Portland (Triple-A). [5/14]
Activated RHP Kevin Correia from the Bereavement Leave List; optioned RHP Adam Russell to Portland. [5/15]

Losing Cabrera hurt as much on defense as you might expect—as multi-week options go, you don't lovingly unwrap Jerry Hairston Jr., you break glass and hope the pitchers are deaf to the klaxons. Petco helps make that possible, and getting five shutouts from the staff during Cabrera's absence certainly didn't hurt, but that speaks to a lot of the many other positives the Pads have going for them on defense: They're fourth in the majors strikeout rate, for example, at 20.6 percent, which means that they're creating that many fewer defense-dependent outcomes before opposing hitters even get to take their chances with the ballpark. They're also third in MLB in their rate for SNLVAR, and easily boast the best bullpen in baseball, with a 2.46 relief-only FRA and a league-best 4.0 inherited runs prevented. Since Hairston wasn't hitting any—and outside of the Gap's cozy comforts, never has—there's no offensive hit to fuss over, making this a straightforward improvement that lets them return Hairston to his primary role of spotting David Eckstein now and again, fulfilling early-inning pinch-hitting chores, and being the least-dangerous Hairston on the roster.

As for Correia, he came back in time to have only missed the one turn in the rotation, but had to submit to a beating at the hands of the Dodgers. That low-impact absence and that beating should provide a reminder of what the Padres have in him: a nice utility pitcher who filled last season's need, yes, delivering a .521 SNWP, but someone who could be knocked from his perch as a rotation regular by younger talents like Mat Latos and Wade LeBlanc, and basically not a radically different asset than Jon Garland (or Clayton Richard, although I'm a little more enthusiastic about him than most). Once Chris Young heals up and is ready to come back—which is looking like it will happen in June—they'll have a nice problem on their hands. Latos is still young enough for them to reasonably worry and wonder about how to manage his in-season workload, so they can certainly mix and match a bit out of consideration of that, but it will be interesting to see who loses his slot in the rotation should the time come when all six are simultaneously healthy.

As long as we're talking about a first-place Pads squad, we're in a situation where the freedom of action to do things we might have talked about in the abstract during the offseason—dealing Garland, or trading Correia before he becomes eligible for free agency—become a little more difficult to sell to the ticket-buying public. Not impossible, of course, but that's where a new owner and a new general manager will be on the spot. The outfield's struggling to produce runs, but dealing from depth to address the problem won't be easy, especially early, and how much do you really expect to get for someone like Kevin Correia? Even that kind of proposition demands buy-in on the concept that the Pads have enough pitching to deal from, which with LeBlanc's spotty track record, Latos' workload, and the always questionable extent to which they can trust Young, may not be enough after all.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated UT-R Mike Morse from the 15-day DL; designated OF-R Willy Taveras for assignment. [5/16]

And so, our brief Nationals nightmare is over, as Mike Rizzo elects to free Willy and favor a four-corners reserve who provides better sock as a right-handed option to add to their right-field mix (behind Roger Bernadina and Willie Harris), and expanding Jim Riggleman's freedom of action as far as what he can do with his bench. If Bernadina seems to be the hot hand in right, Harris has his virtues as far as spotting at second or third, while Morse has experience at short. Add in the presence of Adam Kennedy on the Nationals' bench, and it adds up to a multitude of multi-positional options beyond the standard-issue catch-and-throw backup catcher (Wil Nieves) and the equally cookie-cutter-y Alberto Gonzalez in the infield.

The real implication here is that they've decided they're comfortable enough with the proposition that Bernadina can play center on Nyjer Morgan's days off that there really was no reason to retain Taveras beyond pinch-running chores. Even that only got Taveras into five ballgames in almost three weeks, and however much faith you place in deterrence theory, nobody was living in fear of the proposition that maybe, just maybe, Riggleman could bring in Willy Taveras, because there he was, looking extra-fast on the bench. I doubt even tail fins or a Flash-style costume would have helped; whatever else Willy Taveras has been, he's not even a latter-day Herb Washington anymore. Since they were only expending the minimum to see if Taveras could add anything, and found that he wasn't, they're not out anything beyond wasted curiosity, and since they boast a useful enough bench in the meantime, it's far from a setback.


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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