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May 17, 2010

Transaction Action

Changing their Stripes

by Christina Kahrl

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LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated C-R Bobby Wilson from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Ryan Budde to Salt Lake (Triple-A). [5/17]
BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned 1B-L Rhyne Hughes to Norfolk (Triple-A); recalled LHP Alberto Castillo from Norfolk. [5/16]

Perhaps it's another case of the Orioles being the Orioles, but they saw Garrett Atkins hit two doubles and drive in a baserunner last week—no, really, he did!—and figured he'd gotten this whole pesky hitting thing sorted out well enough to let him be while the organization does with Nolan Reimold what they'd already done with Luke Scott. So, Reimold's getting a crash course in first-base play while marking time with the Tides, this while Scott doesn't get employed at first base after all, leaving at-bats to be burned on Atkins until some new idea becomes fashionable. Meanwhile, they decided they had to had to had to have a second lefty in the pen with the decision to spot utility pitcher Mark Hendrickson for David Hernandez on Sunday, which turned out about as well as you could hope in terms of Hendrickson's performance (three runs allowed in five innings). Meanwhile, Dave Trembley's managed to leave a number of roster spots idling—Jason Berken hasn't pitched in a week, and Lou Montanez hasn't played in almost two weeks—but if Hernandez isn't able to make his next turn on Friday, you can hope that they might at least make a retroactive move and reclaim at least that slot and apply it to some useful purpose, unless they want to just start listing certain players' positions as “witness,” given what little else they're being asked to do.


CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed INF-R Andy Marte on the 15-day DL (undisclosed medical issue); recalled OF-S Trevor Crowe from Columbus (Triple-A). [5/15]

The timing of this couldn't have gone more neatly, because no sooner did the Tribe have a backup outfielder with enough spring in his step to caddy for Grady Sizemore than Sizemore got hurt. Meanwhile, with Matt LaPorta already losing at-bats to Russell Branyan at first base and Austin Kearns in left field, having a right-handed bat to spare for corner-oriented playing time's already a matter of fact, so Marte's utility had been effectively reduced to “Jhonny Peralta's caddy,” and even that was becoming less meaningful as Mark Grudzielanek begins to win away the majority of the playing time at second, increasingly reducing Luis Valbuena to a utility role. Being the last position player on the Indians could go in any one of a number of directions as long as Kearns is enjoying a comeback of sorts, but using it on a position player who can handle center and pinch-run might just be the best possible utilization of a slot that otherwise doesn't figure to get a lot of playing time. What that means for Marte's long-term future isn't good, at least not for him, but his future's long since moved from assured to doubtful, and it remains to be seen if anyone would even enter a claim on him once the Tribe risks exposing him to waivers.


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Alfredo Figaro to Toledo (Triple-A); recalled OF-R Casper Wells from Toledo. [5/14]
Optioned RHP Max Scherzer and 2B-R Scott Sizemore to Toledo (Triple-A); recalled RHP Armando Galarraga from Toledo; purchased the contract of INF-R Danny Worth from Toledo. [5/16]

Credit the Tigers with boldness, if nothing else. Not for them the patience of waiting to see Sizemore and Scherzer develop and deliver as expected, not when there are punishments for poor performance to be meted out, a division title to chase, and radical changes to be made. Now the rotation and the lineup are in flux, and it remains to be seen if the Tigers' temporary plans will come to fruition. Happily, neither big-name demotion appears to be a case of permanent banishment as much as they are a pair of prescriptive reassignments. That's just as well, because the immediate patches being made in their place aren't exactly cause for lasting confidence.

The rotation's an obvious sore point, since they're already finding out how little they can rely upon everyone not named Verlander. Dontrelle Willis has been wildly inconsistent with his location and his performance, and they've also had to ride out an ugly first six starts from Rick Porcello. But as inconsistent as Willis has been and as consitently bad as Porcello had been before his shut-down seven-frame outing against the Yankees, Scherzer had been even worse, ranking among the game's five worst rotation regulars in the early going. It's perhaps little solace that Edwin Jackson's among the worst 10, but the more galling problem is that Scherzer had given them three quality spins in his first quartet of turns before delivering four different shades of ugly in his next four. The concern that has been expressed is that he's struggling with command of his breaking stuff and with his arm slot. Correcting both of those things may be interrelated, so his absence shouldn't be for very long once he shows an ability to repeat and succeed similar to his Snakey past and his first run through the Tigers' rotation. Add in the presence of a pair of days off on next week's schedule, and he should be in good shape to get at least two spins in the Mudhens' rotation before the Tigers can step back and re-evaluate who should be doing what by the end of the month.

In the meantime, Galarraga's in after managing five quality starts in seven turns for the Mudhens. In his Toledo work, he'd thrown 41 1/3 IP, striking out 38 against 12 unintentional walks while allowing just under four runs per nine. Less happily, he was still something of a fly-ball pitcher, and less happily still, he wasn't fooling lefties in the least, getting tattooed by them at a .292/.363/.542 clip. Given that he's never going to overpower lineups as much as sell his slider effectively enough to keep people guessing, it's hard to expect that he'll be a lasting solution in anything beyond back-end chores. There's a place for a guy like that here, of course, especially if Willis' availability evaporates in another bout with Blassitis.

As for the infield, Sizemore's weak debut did little credit for his case as a ready-now playability guy without big-time upside; beyond a few walks, he was contributing next to nothing in any phase of the game, struggling in the field as well as at the plate. He doesn't seem to have gone straight into Jim Leyland's doghouse, so you shouldn't count him out of the near-term picture. It should be noted that even with Sizemore's dispatch to Toledo, it isn't as if the Tigers aren't on an anti-youth kick—I'm sure that if Brennan Boesch keeps slugging .600 and Austin Jackson hits .330, they have nothing to worry about. Because of Boesch's bashing, however, the Tigers are giving thought to their latest solution to the seemingly annual question: What is Carlos Guillen for? The latest answer? Second base.

Now, no doubt that sounds like a laughing matter. The man's progression down the defensive spectrum has been at turns Ernie Banks-like—with his moving from short to first base with no intervening stops, then being tried at third, then left, and lately DH when not DL'd, his career's flight path has seemingly entered into a bumblebee-like zone of improbability. That they're willing to try him at second says a lot about one team's willingness to zag while so many others are abasing themselves before the newly forged godhood of defensive metrics, and is all the more amusing when you consider that the Tigers were among that madding herd, what with their decisions to go out and get Adam Everett and Gerald Laird before last season. Giving Guillen a go at second isn't necessarily an avowal of defensive indifference, however, as much as it is their latest bit of wishcasting with a player who seems too athletic to be relegated to DH duties alone. His arm lacks its former zing, but should prove accurate enough on the shorter throw from second. Range may prove the more basic problem, since going to his left was once one of his virtues, but that was years in the past, and how well he'll move to the right and cover the base or manage on the pivot remains speculative at best. If he ends up being the sort of second baseman who simply can't manage around the bag, I suppose it's just as well that they invested in so many glovely shortstop types to compensate.

In the meantime, until Guillen's back and actually trying his hand at keystone coping in the majors and not during a rehab gig, the middle infield's set with a more regular role for Everett back at short, and with a platoon of sorts between Ramon Santiago and Worth. The latter's a slick-fielding second-rounder out of Pepperdine from the 2007 draft, and not really enough of a hitter to represent much more than another variation on a theme already being played by Everett and Santiago. That said, if he makes a good impression now, that should count in his favor later, considering the Kitties already count leather among their favorite flavors for position players. Add in the potential for disaster scenarios involving Guillen's complete failure to stick at second, and the chances for all manner of subsequent scenarios get a boost. Ryan Raburn, perhaps?

In all of this, you may wonder why Casper Wells is up, but it isn't that much of a surprise, even with Wells hitting a tepid .203/.282/.390 for Toledo. Having already sung for Figaro to help with their overworked pen and last week's rain-marred rescheduling, they chose to get back to a 12-man staff once they were done with the doubleheader. Leyland fave Clete Thomas was struggling to hit effectively for the Mudhens since coming off the DL, and would just stick another lefty bat on the bench to add to Don Kelly's. However, since there was no injury involved, they couldn't just bring back Raburn inside of 10 days, and Wells, like Raburn, hits righty and can play center. So Raburn gets to play every day and crush the International League (he's already ripped five doubles among nine hits in four games). Unless an injury crops up in the meantime, they can to exchange the two on Saturday.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned 1B-L Kila Ka'aihue to Omaha (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Bryan Bullington from Omaha. [5/17]

It's hard to endorse anything involving an eight-man pen, but the Royals are understandably fidgety about having less than seven available, and Robinson Tejeda's nursing a calf injury that leaves the team a man short, they decided to readapt their last roster spot from the bat they're ignoring to a reliever they hope they don't need. Like Tejeda, Bullington's capable of throwing multiple innings, having fulfilled a swingman's role with the O-Royals, notching quality starts all five times out plus a pair of three-inning relief stints, and surrendering just a baserunner per inning while striking out 31 in 42 frames while generating a nice ground-ball rate (1.7 gound-ball outs to every caught fly). Since it's expected that Rick Ankiel will come back off the DL tomorrow, the length of time this choice lasts may be measured in hours instead of days. In the meantime, Bullington's nothing more than an insurance policy in case Kyle Davies makes an early exit tonight, since the alternative would be a whole lot of Bruce Chen—a hurler who has yet to even pitch for Yost three games into the Royals' Age of Nedliness.

Which is another way of bringing up the extent to which the team's going to be in observe-and-report mode, until the inevitable changes come where Yost decides which moving parts he likes where. It remains to be seen if Chen's one of those ex-Braves who enjoys fellow ex-Brave Ned Yost's confidence to the same limited extent that he has with that other ex-Atlantan and former Braves front-office minion, Dayton Moore. As Yost evaluates what he's got and doesn't already remember well enough from his days coaching for the Braves or skippering for the Brewers, we'll have to see if that translates into a lasting commitment to Mike Aviles at second, for example. Chen may well be the guy who gets bumped for Ankiel tomorrow. Later, there's going to be that decision over who loses at-bats to Alex Gordon. So seeing Ka'aihue get shipped out without much thought and even less opportunity shouldn't be cause for surprise—he wasn't going to get at-bats at Jose Guillen's expense, he wasn't going to get to play in front of Billy Butler, and having a pinch-hitter for any one of the sub-functional regulars in the lineup is a luxury item for a team that can noisily evaluate its on-hand assets and come to an eventual, no doubt equally noisy realization that they need to make a few changes.


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated LHP Jose Mijares from the 15-day DL. [5/14]
NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed RHP Shane Lindsay off waivers from the Rockies, and assigned him to Tampa (High-A); released RHP Christian Garcia. [5/14]

Since Garcia was already out of action with a second TJS, the Bombers sensibly re-employed the slot on the 40-man to take a flyer on a hard-throwing wild card, snagging the Aussie flamethrower from the Rockies on the thought that maybe his high-90s heat will flourish on their watch. Between touching 97-98 and spinning a nasty knuckle-curve, he has the stuff to be a quality reliever, but wildness and injuries have kept him in wild-card territory as a prospect. As long as the Yankees' regular roster remains relatively static, they can afford to take a look and see what they can make of him, while affording him the additional benefit of getting him out of pitcher-pounding Colorado Springs, a tough assignment for a guy with very little pro game experience (84 games and 255 2/3 IP) in his first six seasons as a pro—counting 2007, which was spent entirely inactive after labrum surgery—and obviously even less upper-level experience, with just last year's 22 relief appearances in Tulsa under his belt before this season.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed C-R Adam Moore on the 15-day DL (leg); purchased the contract of C-S Josh Bard from Tacoma (Triple-A). [5/16]

As Will Carroll noted this morning, losing Moore might be for a more extended period of time than just the two weeks you might wish for, but we'll see if it lasts long enough that they start mulling over whether or not Bard's really that much of an answer. Rob Johnson isn't hitting—again—and the organization's options from the farm included Bard plus Eliezer Alfonzo (an oft-caught visitor to the PEDs dispenser) at Tacoma, plus Guillermo Quiroz at Double-A. (“You may remember me from such classic Mariners benches as those of 2006 and 2009.”) It's the sort of collection of talent that might put Mariners fans into the wayback machine and mulling those old arguments from the early '80s, over whether they were better off with Rick Sweet or Orlando Mercado or Jamie Nelson or Bud Bulling, a ghastly debate over the merits of equally awful choices that led to an understandable "None of the Above" and a less-understandable subsequent decision to trade for Bob Kearney and make folks pine for the good old days when they could safely pencil in N. Above and not have to think who that might be. Hopefully, Moore will be back in short order and live up to his modest enough prospect billing to give the club a real alternative to the tedium of Rob Johnson.


TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RF-R Nelson Cruz from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B-R Ryan Garko to Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [5/14]
Optioned RHP Doug Mathis and OF-R Craig Gentry to Oklahoma City; recalled RHPs Guillermo Moscoso and Pedro Strop from Oklahoma City. [5/15]
Activated INF-R Joaquin Arias from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Pedro Strop to Oklahoma City. [5/16]

I admit, I wrote the General Garko comment for this year's edition of the book, so I can't say the proposition that he's seen as less handy to have around than the multi-positional singleriffic stylings of Joaquin Arias surprises me in the least. On today's short-benched rosters, if you're going to stick around as a right-handed reserve bat who can do the thumpty-thump, you had better be able to quote Cliff Johnson chapter and verse or they'll make a monkey out of you. We'll see if Justin Smoak's struggles against lefties reach the point that the Rangers really follow through with their playing Arias at first base during his rehab stint and have him spot there, but if he adds the position to his repertoire, that would make him a four-position infield reserve with some uses as a pinch-runner—not a great player, but a useful one. What makes that strange is that they do already have defensive whiz Andres Blanco on the bench, so this seems like a redundant accumulation of defensive substites, but it was up to Garko to show something in his five weeks with the team, and he failed to. Whether the Rangers can continue to carry both utility infield types that far into the season remains to be seen.

Beyond the temporarily overtaxed pen requiring a double reinforcement of both Moscoso and Strop that lasted just a day, the move of note was swapping in Moscoso for Mathis, a straightforward enough upgrade, but one involving exchanging one oft-beaten swing guy for a younger, more tricksy version. Moscoso had managed to strike out 33 in 36 2/3 IP, but his more finesse-oriented assortment also produced 16 walks, mostly a matter of trying and failing to get left-handed hitters to go after his pitch (13 were to lefties, as he was walking 16 percent of them). He's somebody who works high in the zone and generates a lot of fly balls, and hoping folks don't catch up to his offerings because of the deception in his delivery. Maybe that'll work for stretches coming out of the pen, and if Ron Washington takes care to limit his exposure to individual opponents, but his home park won't help him at all. But we are just talking about the designated garbage-time long-relief guy, so you know it isn't like they're going out of their way to pick their spots for him—perhaps by definition, those spots will get created for him, as they had been for Mathis.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted 3B-R Shawn Bowman to New Hampshire (Double-A). [5/13]

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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