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September 24, 2010

Transaction Action

Reds and 'Stros, Brewers and Bucs

by Christina Kahrl

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CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Homer Bailey from the 15-day DL; optioned 3B/LF-L Juan Francisco to Louisville (Triple-A). [8/15]
Signed C-S Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $2.99 million big-league contract; designated RHP Micah Owings for assignment. [8/17]
Optioned RHP Carlos Fisher to Louisville; recalled LHP Travis Wood from Louisville. [8/19]
Placed OF-L Jim Edmonds on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); optioned RHP Jordan Smith; recalled RHP Sam LeCure and INF-R Chris Valaika from Louisville. [8/24]
Outrighted RHP Micah Owings to Louisville. [8/25]
Placed RHP Mike Leake on the 15-day DL (shoulder fatigue), retroactive to 8/25; recalled 3B/LF-L Juan Francisco from Louisville. [8/27]
Placed OF-L Laynce Nix on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 8/26; optioned RHP Edinson Volquez to Dayton (Low-A); activated RHP Aaron Harang from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Aroldis Chapman from Louisville. [8/31]
Recalled RHP Carlos Fisher and 1B-S Yonder Alonso from Louisville; purchased the contract of C-R Corky Miller from Louisville; transferred RHP Russ Springer from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/1]
Activated SS-R Orlando Cabrera from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Jordan Smith and LHP Matt Maloney from Louisville. [9/3]
Recalled RHP Edinson Volquez from Dayton. [9/7]
Activated RHP Mike Leake and OF-L Jim Edmonds from the 15-day DL. [9/10]
Acquired UT-R Willie Bloomquist from the Royals for future considerations; recalled RHP Jared Burton from Louisville; designated RHP Enerio Del Rosario for assignment. [9/13]
Sold RHP Enerio Del Rosario to the Astros. [9/16]
Activated OF-L Laynce Nix from the 15-day DL. [9/18]

Obvious Good Move: Slipping Aroldis Chapman onto the active roster. Think K-Rod 2002 without the roster chicanery. Think Livan Hernandez in '97 or David Price in 2008, since he's good enough to shut the door or get something started. If anything goes wrong with any component of the staff, the hard-slinging Cubano has the potential to dominate.

Non-Obvious Good Move: Having the benefit of absenting O-Cab for a month, because from August 3 to September 3, Paul Janish contributed a .263/.336/.400 and quality defense toward an 18-9 run that helped put the division away. Add in the oddity that Janish is one of the few stick-bearing bipeds who hasn't gotten a massive benefit from hitting in the Gap, and you have a nice little supporting argument for not exercising their option on Cabrera in 2011, and just turning the job over to the homegrown item. He's not a future star, but credit Dusty Baker for reasonably taking a shine to the kid's virtues in 2009.

Tough Choice to Make: Picking a post-season rotation. Even if we set Mike Leake aside as a likely shutdown, and Aaron Harang because of his problems with both health and performance, but keep Volquez in the mix thanks to the presence of pitchers on the 60-day DL who he could slot in for, take a look and consider the numbers of the other fistful of choices:

Dude
GS
QS+BQS
IP
K%
ERA
SIERA
SNWP
Arroyo 31 21 203.2 13.6 3.98 4.71 .517
Bailey 17 7 97 20.2 4.73 3.98 .476
Cueto 30 16 178.2 17.8 3.73 4.17 .534
Volquez 11 6 56.2 20.4 4.45 3.88 .527
Wood 15 8 89.1 23.6 3.43 3.82 .543

So who does Dusty run with? Bailey seems like the easy guy to delete from the rotation, but what order do you line up the other four? Travis Wood has a pair of good games against the Rockies, and a complete-game shutout against the Phillies; he missed the Braves and had a bad day against the Giants. Cueto had a pair of quality starts against the Phillies, and didn't have a good game against any of the other potential playoff opponents. Arroyo has never won a game in Coors, he's 0-4 in San Francisco, he missed the Phillies, and he took a beating by the Pads back in April. Volquez had good games against the Braves and Rockies. Other than leaning toward Wood and Cueto against the Phillies, with Arroyo and Volquez at home on short leashes if that's their matchup, I'm not sure there's a happy pattern to pick from there. Leading with Wood against the Braves makes sense because of Atlanta's losing record against lefties, I suppose. But a quick glance at the options doesn't suggest an easy bunch of picks, and Arroyo's utility as an innings eater doesn't mean as much in must-win games against better lineups.

Meh: The split on playing time behind the plate isn't a platoon, but more a matter of letting Ryan Hanigan catch Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo, and letting Ramon Hernandez catch everyone else. Since both catchers are contributing at the plate as well as behind, it's another bit of interchangeability if Dusty wants to get aggressive with double-switches in a post-season series, not unlike what the team has going for it at shortstop (see above) or the outfield.

What About the Children? Alonso is no longer over yonder in Louisville, and you might look at his four months in Triple-A and be wildly unexcited about the prospect's prospects: .296/.355/.470 is nice, but hardly fearsome, hence his tepid .237 TAv. However, after an ugly first two months, he managed to hit .335/.416/.561 in his last 197 PAs, and since this is only his age-23 season, the Reds can still consider him a top prospect-or bargaining chip, because it isn't like Joey Votto is going anywhere.

Gack: While the needlesslly fretful pickup of Bloomquist won't get Wee Willie into his first-ever October action, there's still the real danger of something like "Miguel Cairo, post-season roster." These things go together like cockroaches and ice cream. Here's hoping Jim Edmonds' Achilles tendon is healthy enough for him to be available for post-season heroics.

Takeaways: It's not a great ballclub, but it has turned into an interesting one, one with a lot of depth in the rotation, bullpen, and lineup. That generally translates better into a 162-game team than a short-series team that figures to run into better starting pitching in October, but never say never when you're talking about a series sure to feature a few ballgames in the Rhineland's bandbox, where cookies almost bake themselves given the park's second-place ranking behind Coors for homers.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Matt Lindstrom on the 15-day DL (back); traded 3B-R Pedro Feliz to the Cardinals for RHP David Carpenter; activated SS-R Tommy Manzella from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Fernando Abad from Round Rock (Triple-A). [8/19]
Placed 2B-R Jeff Keppinger on the 15-day DL (fractured toe), retroactive to 8/20; re-purchased the ontract of MI-S Anderson Hernandez from Round Rock. [8/20]
Claimed 2B-R Matt Downs off waivers from the Giants. [8/25]
Activated RHP Matt Lindstrom and 2B-R Jeff Keppinger from the 15-day DL; transferred RHP Brian Moehler from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of C-R Brian Esposito from Round Rock; recalled LHP Wesley Wright, 1B/OF-L Brian Bogusevic, and 2B-R Matt Downs from Round Rock; recalled RHP Henry Villar from Corpus Christi (Double-A). [9/1]
Outrighted RHP Chris Sampson to Round Rock. [9/2]
Activated RHP Felipe Paulino from the 60-day DL. [9/12]
Purchased RHP Enerio Del Rosario from the Reds; designated MI-R Oswaldo Navarro for assignment. [9/16]
Outrighted MI-R Oswaldo Navarro to Round Rock. [9/20]
Claimed RHP Cesar Carrillo off waivers from the Padres; designated INF-R Edwin Maysonet for assignment. [9/22]

Obvious Good Move: Ditching Feliz and simply handing third base to Chris Johnson was overdue. Johnson figures to be a better Strat card than real-world ballplayer, because a BABIP above .400, even for a player who has beat BABIP expectations in the past, is still high relative to his minor-league career. Happily for him, he'll run out of season before the regression monster finds him hiding in the trainer's room or under his bed or whatever.

Beyond that, they're reliably raiding the wires for mediocrities on waivers or about to be, because the Astros have no other alternative if they want to shore up their shallow pool of talent. Del Rosario and Carrillo and Downs aren't great prospects, and Carpenter's just a 24-year-old college arm out of West Virginia still knocking around in High-A in his fifth season as a pro. (What, you expected Feliz would generate value beyond addition by subtraction? Silly wabbit.) Carrillo bounced from the Pads to the Phillies and back again before the Astros cut in on the action and figured if he was bouncing around, there must be something to him. Sadly, he's just a lanky right-hander who used to be a prospect, because TJS sapped his arm strength, and his performance for Portland this summer didn't really change that in his age-26 season.

Non-Obvious Good Move: Not handing shortstop Tommy Manzella his job back outright once he was reactivated. He might be homegrown, and he might have been the Opening Day starter, but Oyler-esque contributions can't cut it in the face of Angel Sanchez's brand of adequacy.

Meh: Former first-round pitching pick Brian Bogusevic bobbed up onto Astros prospect lists with his move to the outfield. Already in his age-26 season and completing his second full campaign as a position player, how successful he was depends on your standard. He batted .277/.364/.414 for Round Rock, walking in more than 11 percent of his plate appearances, stealing 23 bases against a lone time caught, and splitting his time between all three outfield positions as well as first base. If you consider him a flop as a first-rounder, you can nevertheless credit the Astros for making a silk purse out of a sow's ear and winding up with a useful bench player who should keep them safe from looking up the Darin Erstad types again.

What About the Children? Obviously, it's slim pickings, which is why the Astros have to get grabbier than a bunch of gypsies, except that no doubt somebody will decry any such reference to the Roma, at which point I expect to benefit from the indignity of having the French stick up for me, which leaves us all regretting the existence of an entire branch of metaphors. Wright and Abad have their virtues beyond mere left-handedness, since they throw harder than the average southpaw'd bear.

Takeaways: Since re-gearing's a long, slow haul, the Astros are basically in the butter business, so churn is good. The point isn't whether Sanchez or Manzella is next year's shortstop, or Del Rosario sticks as a finesse righty in the pen, or if they grant opportunities to Bogusevic or Abad.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP LaTroy Hawkins on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/11; purchased the contract of RHP Mike McClendon from Nashville (Triple-A); transferred C-S Gregg Zaun from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/12]
Released OF-L Jody Gerut. [8/13]
Released RHP David Riske. [8/23]
Activated CF-R Carlos Gomez from the 15-day DL. [8/24]
Recalled RHP Jeremy Jeffress from Huntsville (Double-A); recalled RHP Carlos Villanueva and 4C-L Mat Gamel from Nashville. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Brandon Kintzler and MI-R Luis Cruz from Nashville. [9/7]
Recalled RHP Mark Rogers from Huntsville. [9/10]

Obvious Good Move: Well, there must be something, so how about touting the arrivals in the bullpen in the wake of the latest Hawkins-related disappointment? There's Ol' Smoky, Jeffress, since he's talented and between suspensions, and that's something, plus he's as live-armed as they come, with 43 strikeouts in 32 ⅓ IP, and almost as many wild pitches as earned runs allowed. Mark Rogers is tout-worthy, since the former first rounder's shown enough durability this season to make it into the 90s for his pitch count while making it all the way through three times through an opposing order on his best days. There's also Kinzler, the organization's latest indie league find, which is brag-worthy on some level. McClendon is a big, grounder-genderating organizational arm who has earned his keep, and who might hang around in a supporting role.

Meh: Remember how signing Hawkins and Randy Wolf represented a commitment to... well, something? Good times, good times. Of course, there was also the enthusiasm for Alcides Escobar, the fast-fading excitement over George Kottaras... if it wasn't for Rickey Weeks' bat-and a blind eye toward his glove work around the keystone-the Brewers' briefly vaunted young up-the-middle combo was fairly unvaunted.

What About the Children? Who can tell'em apart, so why bother? Gomez? Chris Dickerson? Lorenzo Cain? Why pick, when you can impart timeless wisdom about irrelevance and failure by making them watch it happen at the major-league level from the bench? After all, who needs to figure out who the center fielder of the immediate future is? Who has to figure out what Gamel is for, and where, when he's just the best hitting prospect left, and they have minor-league discard Casey McGehee to exult over as one of their few successful low-expense grabs?

Takeaways: Other than showcasing young arms in relief roles, there's a lot of just marking time and celebrating a bit of adequacy hereabouts, since that represents improvement of a sort. Trusting to Chris Capuano and Chris Narveson to paper over the rotation's agonies is nice for placeholding, at least, but Doug Melvin is going to be put in the tough spot of having to sort through what he's got and gunning for something more significant than another Randy Wolf or Hawkins-level mistake.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Chris Jakubauskas from the 15-day DL, and outrighted him to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [8/18]
Placed 1B-L Jeff Clement on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 8/21; recalled LHP Justin Thompson from Indianapolis. [8/23]
Placed RHP Ross Ohlendorf on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/24; recalled LHP Brian Burres from Indianapolis. [8/25]
Optioned LHP Justin Thomas to Indianapolis; recalled RHP Charlie Morton from Indianapolis. [8/28]
Recalled 1B/OF-L John Bowker from Indianapolis. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Joe Martinez from Indianapolis. [9/5]
Purchased the contracts of RHPs Steven Jackson and Brian Bass and OF-Ls Alex Presley and Brandon Moss from Indianapolis; recalled LHP Justin Thomas, RHP Brad Lincoln, C-S Jason Jaramillo, and INF-R Pedro Ciriaco from Indianapolis; designated C-R Erik Kratz and B-L Akinori Iwamura for assignment; transferred RHP Ross Ohlendorf and 1B-L Jeff Clement from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/7]
Released 2B-L Akinori Iwamura; outrighted C-R Erik Kratz to Indianapolis. [9/10]
Claimed RHP Chris Leroux off waivers from the Marlins; designated RHP Brian Bass for assignment. [9/13]
Outrighted RHP Brian Bass to Indianapolis. [9/15]

Obvious Good Move: Most of the names are familiar and obviously something short of saviors, but there is the decision to end Clement's season and move Garrett Jones to first base. That creates playing time in the outfield for Ryan Doumit and for Bowker (who's getting time at first base). Similarly, they're sticking with Morton and James McDonald in the rotation down the stretch, which is turning out OK-Morton has two quality starts in his last three, while McDonald managed five in his first nine turns of Piracy.

Non-Obvious Good Move: Giving Presley a shot. He delivered more pop than expected this season in his upper-levels debut after consecutive stints in the Carolina League, hitting .320/.373/.474 between Double- and Triple-A. A 2006 eighth-round pick out of the University of Mississippi, he's not a real speedster, or a bopper, or an everyday center fielder, but the Pirates being the Pirates, they could use a good fourth outfielder in the same way they could use a lot of things. He may not be a product of the present regime's development program, but he could have value every bit as good as what they've collected from their innumerable dump deals over the last couple of seasons.

Meh: The much-discussed "Andy LaRoche is going to second!" experiment at the end of June/beginning of July lasted all of four games, during which the Bucs went 3-1. Naturally, they had an allergic reaction, and didn't let that happen again, never letting him start at the keystone since. Upon Neil Walker's lone day off, the start went to Delwyn Young, for whom considerable evidence exists as far as the proposition that he plays second base about as well as your barcalounger. Later, they announced they'd play LaRoche at first base, and they did-once. They lost, so they took that as natural and decided they'd seen enough of that too. He hasn't helped himself, of course, but somebody's going to have a crack at him someday.

Takeaways: The Pirates are look for a bit of everything, but sorting out roles for the players they have is going to be as important over the winter and next spring as it is now. That's not to say there's some combination with the talent on hand that will produce 85 wins, but there's room for improvement. Deciding where Walker and Pedro Alvarez and Doumit and Jones and Bowker play doesn't have easy, automatic answers, but it does provide the kind of depth that should afford Neal Huntington the opportunity to bandy about the odd trade proposition or two.


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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