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August 19, 2010

Transaction Action

NL West Updates

by Christina Kahrl

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ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Juan Gutierrez on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflamation); activated OF-L Ryan Church. [8/3]
Optioned INF-S Tony Abreu to Reno (Triple-A); recalled RHP Rafael Rodriguez from Reno. [8/4]
Activated RHP Juan Gutierrez from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Rafael Rodriguez to Reno. [8/18]


COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated 2B/OF-S Eric Young Jr. from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [8/2]
Activated 1B-L Todd Helton from the 15-day DL; optioned MI-S Jonathan Herrera to Colorado Springs; claimed 3B-R Wes Hodges off waivers from the Indians, and optioned him to Colorado Springs. [8/3]
Placed RHP Aaron Cook on the 15-day DL (sprained big toe), retroactive to 8/4; recalled INF-R Chris Nelson from Colorado Springs. [8/5]
Optioned INF-R Chris Nelson to Colorado Springs; recalled RHP Esmil Rogers from Colorado Springs. [8/8]
Placed LHP Jeff Francis on the 15-day DL (shoulder ), retroactive to 8/12; recalled 2B/OF-S Eric Young Jr. from Colorado Springs. [8/14]
Placed RHP Taylor Buchholz on the 15-day DL (lower back), retroactive to 8/14; recalled RHP Jhoulys Chacin from Colorado Springs. [8/17]
Released 1B/RF-L Brad Hawpe; purchased the contract of LHP Matt Reynolds from Colorado Springs. [8/19]

Significant Changes
1. Pre-picking the 2011 outfield.
2. Patching up a pair of rotation slots.
3. Handing the keys to the kids.

Releasing Hawpe outright might seem surprising if you're stuck on what he was, but that's up until you see that he really had no business starting in front of either Carlos Gonzalez or Seth Smith in this outfield, and may not really be someone you can carry in anyone's pasturage.

A converted first baseman, Hawpe was never a defensive asset in a corner, but like Garrett Atkins, he was an important part of giving the team its best offenses ever, because the Rockies were effectively carrying three first base-grade bats in the lineup, and compensating with the lumps they had to take by fielding a good up-the-middle defense keyed on Troy Tulowitzki at short. Once Hawpe's bat stopped carrying him, his career with the Rockies was on short time, no differently than was the case for Atkins. Add in the suggestion from Hawpe's road line (.211/.305/.272) that, like Atkins, he's a bad bet for a seven-figure commitment in the future, and you can see why Hawpe slipped cleanly through waivers. The Rockies did him the favor of letting him pick his place down the stretch by setting him loose as an entirely free agent on the market at a time when somebody's going to be willing to take a chance on him as a part-time option.

Naturally, you might wonder about why he's gone and not Todd Helton, who he's outhit considerably, with a .271 TAv to Helton's .246. However, the Rockies long ago shackled themselves to Fatboy as the face of the franchise, and even with the subsequent renegotiation, that increasingly corpse-cold embrace has three years left to run, where Hawpe was already free agency-bound. However, to think on sunnier times, remember that Helton's presence initially created Hawpe's opportunity in its way, since the Rockies bumped the minor-league slugger out to right field in part because he wouldn't have any other place to play with Helton already locked in at the major-league level. Hawpe at 31 looks like a classic example of an old-player skills guy who's shot his bolt; his value might have been exaggerated slightly by a career played at altitude, and he may never reap the free-agency riches others who established themselves earlier than their age-26 seasons have, but he's enjoyed a pretty good career. If he can adapt to life as a pinch-hitting reserve, he could extend his career the way that Mark Kotsay or Ross Gload have.

That's not the only change in the lineup, of course. Little EY is getting reps at second base; add him to a lineup that has Dexter Fowler in center, Carlos Gonzalez in right, and Tulo back from the DL and looking none the worse for wear, and you've got a considerably faster, more athletic ballclub than the 2007 pennant-winners. Whether that translates into another contending team remains to be seen, but trusting in that collection of regulars doesn't automatically represent a white flag as the stretch drive just gets into gear.

Instead, the real challenge to whether the Rockies can rally and make a run from six games back of the wild card-leading Phillies will depend on whether they can adequately replace Francis and Cook in the rotation. That's not quite as hard as it sounds, in that Francis and Cook weren't pitching that well, but it's not just up to their rookie plug-ins, Rogers and Chacin. Keep in mind, all of the non-Ubaldos have SNWP marks below .500, so this year's rotation is a shadow of last season's crew, which generated the most quality starts in the game. The odds are obviously long, but they can keep hope alive on the thought that maybe Jorge De La Rosa hits stride, and maybe Chacin builds on his initial spin from earlier this season, when he produced five quality starts in 12.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Jeff Weaver on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled RHP Ramon Troncoso from Albuquerque (Triple-A); signed INF-R Juan Castro to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Albuquerque. [8/3]
Placed C-R Russell Martin on the 15-day DL (hip); optioned OF-L Xavier Paul to Albuquerque; activated OF-R Reed Johnson from the 15-day DL; recalled C-R A.J. Ellis from Albuquerque. [8/4]
Designated PH-L Garret Anderson for assignment; recalled OF-S Jay Gibbons from Albuquerque; signed RHP Geoff Geary to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Albuquerque. [8/8]
Optioned RHP Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque. [8/9]
Activated RHP Ronald Belisario from the Restricted List. [8/10]
Placed SS-S Rafael Furcal on the 15-day DL (back), retroactive to 8/3; purchased the contract of INF-R Juan Castro from Albuquerque. [8/11]

Significant Changes
1. Dull, drawn out, and everybody dies to little point-who's in charge here, Michael Cimino?

After trading for Ted Lilly, you can't say the Dodgers didn't try, and didn't take themselves seriously. They did, however belatedly. It's just that they took so long getting around to patching up their rotation or doing anything about a bullpen that's been among the game's worst all season that you're left with the futility of the exercise, a season perhaps doomed to be blown off as the McCourt partnership blew up.

So, now Martin is done until Opening Day 2011. Furcal is back out of action and struggling to begin his rehab work, Manny Ramirez is still out of action but has finally started his own rehabilitation in the Cal League. Meanwhile, the team already stuck with dragging around James Loney's slugless performance at first base finds itself desperately short of power? Consider this one of the most un-stunning developments of the season.

Going back to the outset of the season, this was a failure of design. Blame an inability to spend if you wish, but the Dodgers weren't spending the minimum while employing guys like Garret Anderson or Reed Johnson or Jamey Carroll, or Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis behind the plate. Tot the lot up, and it might represent the most massive overcommitment to the powerless since the founding of the United Nations. Of course this team traded for Scott Podsednik-he's cheap, weak, and always there. So are the Virgin Islands. Jay Gibbons returns from career death to smite a shot off a Rule 5 pick in Philly's cozy alleys, in a blowout win, and that's noteworthy? Only as part of this crew. Considering the ghastly reassociation with Castro, what's next, a Tom Goodwin comeback tour?


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted OF-L Quintin Berry to San Antonio (Double-A). [8/5]
Activated RHP Mike Adams from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Ryan Webb to Portland (Triple-A). [8/7]
Placed CF-L Tony Gwynn Jr. on the 15-day DL (broken hamate); recalled RHP Ryan Webb from Portland; signed OF-L Jody Gerut to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Portland. [8/19]

Significant Changes
1. The Lord Taketh Away, but The Wire Giveth Back.

Happily, the rest of the division seems to be excusing itself from the It looks like Li'l Gwynn is done for the season, which is a glum thing, not because he's a legacy playing on his first Padres contender, but because he was a key defensive asset on a team for which defense has been an important component of its success. Add in that they've already borrowed against some of that glove work to risk Miguel Tejada as their near-regular at short, and that they might have to use the range-free Chris Denorfia without a defensive replacement in his absence, and you wind up with a potentially unhappy situation indeed.

The question is what they can do about it. Gerut's release by the Brewers provides one familiar possibility, since he was the man the Pads traded to land Kid Gwynn in the first place. Whether Gerut can still stump around in the middle pasture as effectively as he did in '08 and '09 is worth asking-he's 32 and doesn't have the best wheels, which in part was what made his comeback from knee troubles so remarkable in the first place. But if he can handle center, the only outfield slot the Pads really need help at, then you shouldn't worry too much about his ability to contribute after his feeble .224/.279/.371 line with the Brewers. With just 38 starts scattered across the bulk of two seasons, he never did get into anything resembling regular playing time, and pinch-hitting's a lousy way to try to put together a respectable-looking season. If he shows enough spring in his step in center for the Beavers, it isn't like Bud Black has forgotten who he is after being partly responsible for Gerut's successful comeback in '08.

The problem is that they won't necessarily have a good read on Gerut's play in center for a few days or more, and time's a-wasting. If they put all their eggs in this particular basket, they're in danger of not helping themselves with a waiver deal while there's still one to potentially be struck. If not, and if Gerut can't handle center, the 40-man roster doesn't hold out a lot of alternative sources of joy: Luis Durango can't really hack center, and Aaron Cunningham is a corner guy. They could reach beyond the 40-man and turn to Cedric Hunter, a 22-year-old singles hitter, who might do-he bats lefty, and has chipped away with a .303/.362/.415 line between Double- and Triple-A this summer. They could also go straight for pure gloveliness and haul up Blake Tekotte-his defense would play just fine, but with less than two months of experience above A-ball after a late-June promotion to the Texas League, he'd be rushed.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned INF-R Ryan Rohlinger to Fresno (Triple-A). [8/2]
Activated RHP Todd Wellemeyer from the 15-day DL; designated RHP Denny Bautista for assignment. [8/5]
Designated RHP Todd Wellemeyer for assignment; recalled MI-S Emmanuel Burriss from Fresno. [8/9]
Placed SS-R Edgar Renteria on the 15-day DL (biceps); activated 2B/OF-S Eugenio Velez from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Fresno; outrighted RHP Denny Bautista to Fresno; acquired INF-L Mike Fontenot from the Giants for CF-R Evan Crawford. [8/11]
Acquired OF-R Jose Guillen and cash from the Royals for a PTBNL. [8/13]
Activated OF-R Jose Guillen; optioned MI-S Emmanuel Burriss to Fresno. [8/14]
Released RHP Todd Wellemeyer. [8/17]
Activated LHP Jeremy Affeldt from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Chris Ray on the 15-day DL (intercostal strain). [8/18]

Significant Changes
1. The End of the Ishiwand Multi-Positional Platoon.
2. Sadly, Brad Wellman and Randy Kutcher weren't available, but for door prizes, there are other San Francisco treats to reward those with the courage to be Giants among men.

The Giants' lineup is beginning to resemble the cast of Hollywood Squares, what with all of the additions and deletions of semi-ex-famous people. Is Charles Nelson Reilly available on waivers? What, he's dead you say? Looking at some of these more tripped-out bits of hat-swapping, why should that be a handicap? If you used to be a giant in the past, you're apparently welcome to be a Giant of the present, and if your standards for who's big enough seem a bit on the undertall side of things, keep in mind, that's almost always been the problem with Brian Sabean's selections.

The problem is that they're really not much better off despite Sabean's latest bit of frantic activity. Renteria was already at risk of losing reps to Juan Uribe at shortstop, acquiring Fontenot is the roster equivalent of an iron-on patch over one of the off-season's worst elective decisions, and filler vets like Ray or Wellemeyer are utterly besides the point. The whole scenario smacks of desperation, because the Giants are indeed desperate.

Consider the addition of Guillen. He's been a liberally overcompensated under-useful slugger in four of the last five years. He's been a reliable disappointment going back even further, exasperating managers and GMs, talking his way out of Anaheim-and the postseason-when he was at his best, before then costing far too much to acquire for the Nats because he's one of Jim Bowden's permanent objects of fancy. In a 14-year career, you're left with an adequate peak in his age-27 through age-29 seasons (which still didn't stop three teams from moving him aside) and his nice 2007 season with the Mariners that got him in good shape to shake down the Royals.

After his glove died a natural death about five years ago, what you're left with is a 34-year-old DH with a dated record for delivering on the 'H.' It doesn't matter that the Royals are effectively paying all of his salary-however hot a hand he might wield for a series or a week, he's a negligible upgrade on Aaron Rowand's bat, while offering nothing on defense. Adding him might give the Giants the cover to put Aubrey Huff back at first base every day, but they didn't need Guillen to work up the nerve and make that call, they could have just gone back to Rowand and at least enjoyed some defensive benefit. Instead, they'll hope he gives them a meaningful week or two, after which you can start wondering when Jose Guillen is going to show up.

Fontenot is a similarly depressing addition. He's a nice reserve if you've got him, and he can have value spotted against mediocre right-handers and in a pinch-hitting role, but make him an everyday player, and he gets overexposed. Use him to mix and match with Uribe or the lamentable Sanchez, and you might get some value, but pretend that he's the solution to your previous bad ideas, and he exacerbates your problem in your lineup, for your defense, and with your sense of discretion, since this is somebody you went out of your way to go get, to replace the other guy you went out of your way to keep.


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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