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July 16, 2010

Transaction Action

Junior Circuit Jumble

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated OF-L Felix Pie from the 60-day DL; placed RHP Kevin Millwood on the 15-day DL (strained forearm); released 1B-R Garrett Atkins. [7/6]
Optioned 3B-S Josh Bell to Norfolk; recalled RHP Chris Tillman from Norfolk. [7/10]
Placed C-S Matt Wieters on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/10. [7/15]

Well, slowly but surely, it might seem as if the Orioles are morphing into the younger club that might at least create some cause for optimism, but there continue to be little setbacks that muck matters up, thwarting even that kind of modest ambition. Faith and hope of the more eventual kind is a song they've already sung in the past, but with so many of their young stars failing to hit their notes, it's beginning to sound like another fifth-place dirge.

Wieters' getting hurt last week and finally surrendering himself to the DL just adds to the glum news. Pie's return to action was promptly abbreviated by a quad issue that the O's hope will clear up by the time they resume play this weekend, and losing Wieters makes Craig Tatum an everyday player. They don't have to call up another catcher to take his place in the meantime, since Jake Fox can play the position. (And their Norfolk options, Adam Donachie and Michel Hernandez, don't have a lot to recommend them in the meantime. What do you want, major help*, Orioles fans?)

So, until Luke Scott comes back from the DL, they're not yet in a position to cleanly bench Corey Patterson, assuming that they'll work their way up to that. The other feature of having Pie out was that it helped create some additional playing time for another ex-Cub ex-prospect in Fox, spotting him at first base and mashing lefties, which suggests at least some kind of role for him; given his ability to stand at any one of the four corners and squat behind the fifth, they have enough lineup flexibility to fit him into the lineup against any left-handed pitcher if they so choose, but until it's sorted out if or when Buck Showalter is moving into the dugout, any talk of any bench player getting trusted with anything is about to change radically, because a new skipper represents an opportunity for everyone to make a good first impression and change their stars.

There's also the bittersweet matter of slotting Tillman back into the rotation in Millwood's place. Any chance of flipping Millwood by the deadline to add a prospect or two just took a big hit; they could still trade him while he's on the DL, but you have to figure it would slash the sticker price on a player already not worth a ton after posting a .361 SNWP and managing just six quality starts in 18. Tillman fulfilled at least one part of his promise by spinning a quality start going head to head with newly-minted Texas Ranger Cliff Lee, but he didn't put to rest any of the current concerns about his velocity drop, throwing heat that averaged around 91 yet again. That said, with Brad Bergesen managing just one quality spin in his three turns since his reinsertion into the rotation, Tillman has a shot at winning a slot to himself, perhaps at that particular somebody's expense, once Millwood returns to action.

*: Not a link for the easily offended or for those wearing ears bruised by strong language.


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Clay Buchholz on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 6/27; recalled LHP Felix Doubront from Pawtucket (Triple-A). [7/5]
Designated INF-S Niuman Romero for assignment; purchased the contract of 1B-R Ryan Shealy from Pawtucket. [7/7]
Outrighted INF-S Niuman Romero to Pawtucket. [7/9]

It looks like the Red Sox will be conservative with Buchholz and Josh Beckett in terms of giving them both rehab starts with the PawSox this weekend instead of hauling back either for Friday's start, which will give Doubront another spin in his capacity as the designated seventh starter. The chances of both Beckett and Buchholz being back in the rotation at the end of next week seem pretty good, bringing us back to the quandary of who they'll bump from the rotation beyond Doubront. It's not really that tough a subject: Tim Wakefield remains the worst-performing non-Beckett among the front six, and with his considerable experience pitching out of the pen, I'd expect that's where he's headed. But with Victor Martinez and Manny Delcarmen also nearing returns from the DL, there's going to be a bunch of turnover in short order. Replacing the Shealys or Doubront or Robert Manuel won't be such a big deal, but what happens when Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida finally come back-at some point in the very near future, useful players like Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, and Eric Patterson stand to be at risk for their roster spots.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Randy Williams to Charlotte (Triple-A). [7/1]
Reactivated RHP Bobby Jenks from the Bereavement Leave List. [7/2]
Placed RHP Jake Peavy on the 15-day DL (shoulder); recalled RHP Jeff Marquez from Charlotte. [7/7]
Optioned RHP Jeff Marquez to Charlotte; recalled RHP Dan Hudson from Charlotte. [7/11]

Peavy's season-ending injury is more of a setback in terms of what they expected and what they were beginning to get from him, as opposed to his relatively mediocre full-season numbers. However, after delivering five consecutive quality starts after managing just three in his first 11, he'd certainly turned his season around, and seemed set to take his place alongside John Danks and Gavin Floyd atop the rotation.

As a result, the proposition of contending with a top rotation has taken a big in-season hit, but happily, Mark Buehrle has also been making his own in-season comeback, logging six consecutive quality starts, so the question of their having a quality quartet up top isn't dead yet. Add in their ability to turn to a top prospect like Hudson for the fifth slot, and they could ride out Peavy's absence, however strong their sense of loss at the moment. There's the question of whether or not they could afford another injury, but you could say that of any team losing two top starters. With the fifth-best rotation in the league despite the slow starts from Peavy and Buehrle, there's still a chance for them to improve on that. It requires Buehrle's rally to continue into the second half, and for Freddy Garcia to continue providing useful work from the back end, but that's not inconceivable.

It also depends on Hudson being serviceable, but that's also a worthwhile bet. He posted a 108/30 K/UBB ratio in 93 1/3 IP, although he did give up 13 home runs en route to allowing four runs per nine. That's far from dominating as Triple-A performances go, but he allowed 17 of his 41 runs on the season in back-to-back disasterpieces back in April; since then, he's allowed just 2.3 RA/9 while lowering his walk rate from one every other inning to 2.6 UBB/9, and allowing just seven homers in his 77 IP since April. In short, he's become a hot hand after a bad first month, one that came immediately after the upset of not making the team in spring training. He took a few lumps at the hands of the Royals his first time out, but home-plate ump Brian Knight calls more than a few balls, leading to one of the highest walk rates among MLB's men in black, so I wouldn't get too down on Hudson after a single spin.


CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RF-L Shin-Soo Choo on the 15-day DL (sprained thumb), retroactive to 7/3, 2010; recalled OF-L Michael Brantley from Columbus. [7/4]
Designated C-R Mike Redmond for assignment; purchased the contract of C/OF-S Chris Gimenez from Columbus. [7/10]

Losing Choo for most of the rest of the month reduces the Indians that much further to the indignity of resembling a Triple-A team on major-league fields. Hell, an outfield of Michael Brantley, Austin Kearns, and Trevor Crowe wouldn't even be a good International League pasture patrol, but it has created an opportunity for Shelley Duncan to get a few starts, which he's making the most of. At shortstop, at least Jason Donald's hitting well if predictably short as a fielder, but with Jayson Nix running riot since becoming an Indian, there's no guarantee that Donald will take over at the keystone once Asdrubal Cabrera comes back from the DL to give them back their shortstop. You can interpret releasing Redmond as somewhat consistent with this tack, and of a piece with letting go of their old Grudzes, although his nabbing just two of 27 stolen-base attempts won't help him land his next gig, even in a world where the Red Sox are stuck with Kevin Cash as their starter. Gimenez does at least boast the virtue of being a backstop you can stick at the other four corners, and in the age of 12-man staffs, that's not a bad quality to have.


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jay Sborz to Toledo (Triple-A); purchased the contract of LHP Andy Oliver from Erie (Double-A); transferred RHP Zach Miner from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/25]
Placed RHP Joel Zumaya on the 15-day DL (elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Casey Fien from Toledo. [6/29]
Optioned LHP Fu-Te Ni to Toledo. [7/1]
Recalled LHP Daniel Schlereth from Toledo. [7/2]
Activated RHP Ryan Perry from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Casey Fien to Toledo. [7/3]
Transferred RHP Joel Zumaya from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/6]
Optioned RHP Armando Galarraga to Toledo; purchased the contract of RHP Robbie Weinhardt from Toledo. [7/7]

The news in the rotation isn't quite so bad as it might appear, although four starts into his hasty promotion to the majors, 2009 pick Andy Oliver definitely appears to be unready, having taken three beatings of varying severity since spinning a quality start in his big-league debut. So set aside the Galarraga demotion for what it is-a matter of keeping him in turn across the break-and focus instead on the fact that the Tigers have just one alternative to Oliver within their farm system: Rick Porcello, sooner or later. Sure, they might plug in a journeyman like Enrique Gonzalez, but that would just be a holding pattern, and the extent to which they don't consider Gonzalez an option is reflected in the fact that while the schedule's going to force them to haul up Porcello over the weekend to keep them stocked up to cover for Saturday's doubleheader, they seem pre-set to send him back to the Mudhens. That said, performance has a way of changing the best-laid plans-if Porcello pitches effectively this weekend, he may very well have changed a few hearts and minds in the process.

Moving past the hefty Gonzalez, could the Tigers expand their options and rob Peter to pay Paul by employing Eddie Bonine to round out the rotation? In the abstract, that's a possibility, but not one I'd take very seriously, even with Bonine's mediocre performance in the pen (4.55 FRA, -7.0 inherited runs prevented), because with Zumaya done for the year, their pen situation's a bit desperate as far as their right-handed options, endangering the initial good work that has the pen clocked at ninth in MLB and fourth in the AL in FRA. Beyond All-Star Jose Valverde, you've got Bonine, the flame-throwing Perry (5.56 FRA) is doing a great gas can impression, and the overdue promotion of side-armer Weinhardt. At least the latter clearly belongs, as he was setting down the same-handed at an incredible .125/.143/.146 pace.

The situation's better among the left-handed; Jim Leyland's nights saying Ni are over after the latter "contributed" an 8.02 FRA, but Leyland still has Phil Coke (2.80 FRA) and Brad Thomas (4.13 FRA), and now that they've added the power-pitching Schlereth, it's almost as if they have a series of lefty/righty bookends in front of Valverde: Thomas and Bonine for middle-inning chores, Perry and Schlereth for speed-gun heroics, Coke as the southpaw'd set-up man, and Weinhardt for situational stardom. That's not quite so bad, but it will require a careful touch to tap the talent that nobody questions exist in the arms of Perry and Schlereth.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Sold the minor-league contract of C-R Edwin Bellorin to the Astros. [7/4]
Transferred RHP Gil Meche from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/14]

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed INF-S Matt Tolbert on the 15-day DL (finger), retroactive to 7/1;activated SS-R J.J. Hardy from the 15-day DL. [7/3]
NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed 1B/3B-L Chad Tracy to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [7/9]

While I would still expect Brian Cashman to hunt bigger game for his potential bench reinforcements, Tracy still makes for a nice little pickup as a lefty bat they might stick on the bench and use at first, third, or DH as needed. His hitting in Iowa was excellent, even allowing for his age and experience (.337/.365/.522, good for a .294 TAv), and he moved around well enough at third base in the majors and minors to make him look again like a plausible-'plausible' not being the same thing as 'good,' mind you-multi-positional player.

That and his past track record could give him critical advantages over Juan Miranda if Cashman and Joe Girardi decide that they can't afford to leave the DH slot to a daily choice that is getting Colin Curtis a few too many at-bats. In light of Nick Johnson's latest setback, they can't assume that their DH slot problem is going to go away later this season; if Cashman leaves matters be and doesn't trade for a bat, Tracy would have that much better a chance at being added to the mix.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Tyson Ross to Sacramento (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Ross Wolf from Sacramento; transferred DH-L Eric Chavez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/7]
SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated 1B-S Justin Smoak; optioned LHP Luke French to Tacoma (Triple-A). [7/10]
Optioned RHP Sean White to Tacoma; RHP Chad Cordero filed for free agency after refusing an option to Tacoma; signed RHP Jamey Wright to a one-year contract; purchased the contract of LHP Chris Seddon from Tacoma. [7/15]

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Released DH-L Hank Blalock. [7/8]
TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated LHP Cliff Lee; recalled LHP Matt Harrison from Oklahoma City (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Pedro Strop and Doug Mathis to Oklahoma City. [7/10]

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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