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September 22, 2010

Transaction Action

Phillies, Nationals, Cubs

by Christina Kahrl

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CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated C-R Geovany Soto from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Welington Castillo and OF-L Sam Fuld to Iowa; recalled 1B/OF-L Micah Hoffpauir from Iowa. [8/23]
Optioned RHP Justin Berg to Iowa; purchased the contract of LHP Scott Maine from Iowa. [8/24]
Recalled C-R Welington Castillo from Iowa. [9/2]
Activated RHP Carlos Silva from the 15-day DL; recalled RHPs Justin Berg and Jeff Samardzija and OF-L Sam Fuld from Iowa; transferred LHP John Grabow and RHP Esmailin Caridad from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of OF-L Brad Snyder and UT-S Bobby Scales from Iowa Cubs. [9/7]
Placed C-R Geovany Soto on the 15-day DL (shoulder surgery), retroactive to 9/19; placed OF-L Tyler Colvin on the 15-day DL (punctured chest); activated Esmailin Caridad from the 60-day DL,and optioned him to Tennessee (Double-A); designated RHP Mitch Atkins for assignment. [9/20]

Obvious Good Move: Nothing in particular. With so many of the usual suspects summoned up for their third or fourth or fifth spin in Wrigleyville, it isn't like these guys don't know their way around the cramped clubhouse, or the names of the guys already here. Maine might come in handy as an extra lefty, but his rates at Iowa were bass-ackwards. Welington Castillo should get a few more reps behind the plate with Soto done for 2010, not least because there's something sort of depressing about the proposition that Koyie Hill could end up starting a third of your team's games behind the plate, but also because Castillo is a decent prospect who's up after a slugly season for the I-Cubs, with a .243 ISO while gunning down 39 percent of opposing base thieves (to accentuate the positive).

Non-Obvious Good Move: Hauling up the one new-ish name in the mix, Snyder. An interesting enough pickup back in the day, he probably won't turn into a useful regular in the majors, but he did deliver a nice season in the cornfields, hitting .308/.381/.568, and getting his walk rate back up around 10 percent for the first time in five years. He's already 28, however, so I'm basically celebrating a good year from a fourth-outfielder aspirant. Or, at best, the Marlins' next starting center fielder, because it isn't like they're going to be able to move Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome without eating huge quantities of cash and asking for very little in return.

Meh: They've given Samardzija a pair of starts, and he's won both games, even managing his first big-league quality start on Sunday. Whether or not they actually make space for him in the rotation this winter is probably the biggest tell as far as whether they've closed the book on ambition for this amalgamation of talent-they control a full quintet of starters already, nobody's likely to trade for Carlos Zambrano, even with five quality starts in his last six, while Silva is almost as unlikely, and Gorzo the Magnificent is one of the odd bits of brag-worthy low-cost additions that Jim Hendry has to his credit, and he's the lone lefty in the bunch. If Hendry gets anything dealing either the Big Z or Silva beyond a quarter of their salaries, it might have to involve another exchange of expensive regrets, not unlike last winter's Bradley deal. If he manages to make the Cubs better-as he did in getting Silva, surprisingly enough-it'll be cause for compliment on making the best of a bad lot.

There's also the decision of what to do at first base, where they've made the unexciting decision to play Xavier Nady regularly, and define Hoffpauir's position more regularly as "witness." That's just as well-Hoffpauir is already 30, and he didn't outslug Snyder or even Bryan LaHair with the I-Cubs.

Takeaways: Hopefully, we'll see a lot of Castillo behind the dish in the last week-plus of action, because he's worth showcasing, barring a decision to capitalize on a better player's under-control value by trading Soto next spring after his first spin through arbitration, and once he proves he's healthy. Soto's value may never be higher, and he's already heading into his age-28 season.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted 4C-L Greg Dobbs to Lehigh Valley (Triple-A). [8/20]
Activated 1B-L Ryan Howard from the 15-day DL; placed 1B/OF-L Ross Gload on the 15-day DL (strained groin), retroactive to 8/19. [8/21]
Signed LHP Nate Robertson to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Lehigh Valley. [8/26]
Placed RHP Danys Baez on the 15-day DL (back), retroactive to 8/25; recalled LHP Antonio Bastardo from Lehigh Valley. [8/27]
Purchased the contract of C-R Paul Hoover from Lehigh Valley. [9/1]
Activated 1B/OF-L Ross Gload from the 15-day DL; repurchased the contract of 4C-L Greg Dobbs from Lehigh Valley. [9/3]
Recalled RHP Scott Mathieson from Lehigh Valley. [9/5]
Purchased the contract of LHP Nate Robertson from Lehigh Valley; recalled RHP Vance Worley and LHP Mike Zagurski from Lehigh Valley. [9/6]
Recalled OF-R John Mayberry from Lehigh Valley. [9/7]
Activated RHP Danys Baez from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Scott Mathieson on the 15-day DL (strained lat), retroactive to 9/6; designated LHP Nate Robertson for assignment; claimed RHP Cesar Carrillo off waivers from the Padres. [9/9]
Released LHP Nate Robertson. [9/10]
Designated RHP Cesar Carrillo for assignment; purchased the contract of SS-R Brian Bocock from Lehigh Valley. [9/12]
Noted the loss of RHP Cesar Carrillo on a waiver claim by the Padres. [9/15]

Obvious Good Move: Nothing in particular stands out, because the Phillies have long since gotten the regular crew back in action-aside from the re-broken Jimmy Rollins-so the Phillies' additions are mostly a matter of packing the dugout with witnesses as they roll all the way back to the best record in the league. Making Baez go away for a few weeks doesn't qualify as an intentional move, but Señor Smokeless has been bad news all season, performing almost as badly as Rule 5 pick David Herndon, but in more important game situations. If a veteran pitcher can be voted an honorary member of the '93 Gas Can Gang, it's Baez.

Non-Obvious Good Move: Here again, nothing really fits, although you can credit them with bringing Bastardo back sooner rather than later. Somebody's going to have to be the designated second lefty in the pen, although with Jamie Moyer's presence on the 60-day DL, they could expand their search within the organization easily enough. If there was an obvious challenger Bastardo, it might have been Zagurski. Bronco managed 71 strikeouts against 24 unintentional walks in 52 ⅓ IP down in the Piggery, but he was also completely bass-ackwards, letting lefties hit .274/.378/.429 against him; they also popped all three homers hit off him. Then he put an exclamation point on an early September loss to the Marlins, and he hasn't been let out of the pen since. Add in Nate Robertson's brief, ugly spin in the organization, and you wind up with the club's options for a second lefty effectively limited to Bastardo. That's not the end of the world, but it's an interesting endorsement within an organization that seemed awfully hung up on stocking the end of the roster with veteran help for much of the season.

Meh: What's harder to kill off, Brian Bocock, or a flatworm? I suppose in this particular petri dish, where Rollins' repeated breakdowns provide an amenable environment for the likes of Bocock now or Juan Castro initially, but Wilson Valdez ends up being the real victor. Snark aside, having Rollins healthy in time for October is the only serious consideration here-sure, re-adding Bocock to the roster cost them Carrillo, but since they'd only enjoyed the association for less than a week, carrying a dodgy back-end rotation option over an unfortunately necessary bit of infield depth is your basic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul-but only of whatever he had in his pockets, say, some loose change, a dry cleaning receipt, and maybe a piece of gum so stale that not even Topps would distribute it.

Takeaways: There's not much to say here in terms of impact moves. The Phillies' critical period as far as their own roster management came earlier this year. Other than Rollins, they're handily re-establishing their status as the league's best ballclub as a result of their stars starring, especially ith Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt all cruising. The only pressing matter is getting Rollins healthy, because otherwise there's just sorting out who might get the last spot or two on the bench on the post-season roster. Mike Sweeney? Domonic Brown? Bocock? A third catcher like Hoover? As drama goes, it's fairly non-dramatic, and you can be fairly certain that Charlie Manuel will pick what he needs.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jordan Zimmermann to Syracuse (Triple-A); recalled LHP John Lannan from Harrisburg (Double-A). [8/1]
Optioned LHP Atahualpa Severino to Syracuse; recalled CF-R Justin Maxwell from Syracuse; transferred RHP Tyler Walker from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/2]
Placed CF-L Nyjer Morgan on the 15-day DL (sore hip), retroactive to 8/4; purchased the contract of OF-R Kevin Mench from Syracuse; transferred RHP J.D. Martin from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/6]
Activated RHP Jason Marquis from the 15-day DL; placed LHP Ross Detwiler on the 15-day DL (strained hip), retroactive to 8/6. [8/8]
Optioned RHP Collin Balester to Syracuse. [8/9]
Activated RHP Stephen Strasburg from the 15-day DL. [8/10]
Transferred RHP Luis Atilano from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/17]
Placed C-R Wil Nieves on the Temporary Leave List; recalled C-R Wilson Ramos from Syracuse. [8/18]
Placed LF-R Josh Willingham on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 8/16; activated CF-L Nyjer Morgan from the 15-day DL. [8/19]
Reactivated C-R Wil Nieves; optioned C-R Wilson Ramos to Syracuse. [8/21]
Returned RHP Stephen Strasburg to the 15-day DL (strained forearm), retroactive to 8/22; recalled RHP Collin Balester from Syracuse. [8/24]
Optioned RHP Collin Balester to Syracuse; recalled RHP Jordan Zimmermann from Syracuse. [8/26]
Recalled C-R Wilson Ramos from Syracuse; purchased the contract of SS-S Danny Espinosa from Syracuse; transferred RHP Stephen Strasburg from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/1]
Transferred LF-R Josh Willingham from the 15- to the 60-day DL; optioned RHP Garrett Mock to Syracuse. [9/3]
Recalled RHP Collin Balester from Syracuse. [9/5]
Activated LHP Ross Detwiler from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Yunesky Maya from Syracuse; purchased the contract of RHP Joe Bisenius; designated C-R Carlos Maldonado for assignment. [9/7]
Outrighted C-R Carlos Maldonado to Syracuse. [9/10]

Obvious Disaster: With Strasburg shut down for now and most of 2011 as a result of his needing Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, you can kiss most of any hoped-for bump in season ticket sales good-bye.

Non-Obvious Good Move: Assuming you aren't deafened to all other Nationals noise by the sound of one elbow going boom, there are plenty of little things to like. Danny Espinosa is getting his crack at taking over at second base; he and Ian Desmond won't walk a lot, but they'll provide modest power from the middle-infield slots. Ramos is getting to split time behind the plate with Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate. Mike Morse has earned himself a contract, here or somewhere, if not necessarily a specific role. Desmond isn't the only slow-developing prospect to finally stick-Balester is pitching well enough that he might also finally be up to stay.

Meh: Kevin Mench's comeback is present in cleats if not performance. A trip to Japan didn't get the fork out of him, nor did a spin in the International League. On the list of least likely September additions to the major leagues, you would think that Mench's presence on a 40-man roster rates little better than Tyra Banks'.

The Hope & Faith Boneyard: … is a bit overstocked as far as the Nats are concerned. Take the rotation, for starters-or the lack of them. Beyond breaking Strasburg, Chien-Ming Wang never did pitch this season. Temps like J.D. Martin and Luis Atilano broke down as well. Jason Marquis is trying to recover something from this season, while Jordan Zimmermann can ideally just demonstrate that he'll be good to go next season. Scott Olsen's comeback was another case of much ado about nothing, like much of his career despite innumerable fantasy touts. Signing up Maya just adds another name to the ever-lengthening list of Cuban émigrés who were more interesting on the shelf, before you got them out of the wrapper and found yourself with yet another case of "batteries not included." Yet despite it all, the Nats' rotation doesn't rank among the worst of Retrosheet-recorded history, where this year's Royals and Pirates starters very much do.

How much of what went wrong can you lay at management's feet? I'm inclined to be charitable and say not a lot. Signings like Wang or Olsen-as well as Livan Hernandez-were rolls of the dice from the get-go. The Nats were careful with Strasburg after his initial shoulder injury, and at some point he was going to have to pitch again, after all. Strasburg didn't top 100 pitches in any of his big-league starts, they were equally scrupulous in observing his workload in Double- and Triple-A on the way up, and his combined season tally of innings pitched isn't a massive increase on what he'd done in his last season at San Diego State. The question is whether there was some special level of additional care they should have taken is setting the Nats up for a standard few clubs, if any, might rise to, or ever be able to.

As far as the position players, none of the veteran temps rose to the same level of success that, say, Livan did among the pitchers. Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell haven't really earned futures for themselves, although Maxwell can at least hide behind the fact that he's been yo-yo'd to Syracuse so often he might violate patent law.

More depressing still, they came up against the fact that, yes indeedy, Nyjer Morgan is not a 10-win player. It's funny how that transient bit of sabermetric certitude died a predictable, necessary death, hopefully hauling down with it assumptions of infallibility as far as the still-crude defensive metrics available to us. Still, you can't blame the Nats for wishing it weren't so.

Takeaways: Modest gains and small bits of promise only lightly leaven a loaf heavy with less digestible elements. While next season should provide a young middle infield combo and some better news as far as health in the rotation, it's hard to avoid anticipating another bitter slice of the same haplessness and hopelessness in 2011.


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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