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March 23, 2011

Transaction Analysis

AL Moves

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned 3B-S Freddy Sandoval to Salt Lake (Triple-A). [3/21]

Franz Kafka observes: So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.

With Kendrys Morales, Reggie Willits, and Scott Downs all looking like they'll start the season on the DL, the Angels were looking for warm bodies, but Sandoval was not to be found among them. Sandoval's struggle to get noticed and retained goes back to last year's ill-timed injury—when the Angels needed an infielder after the latest Howie Kendrick breakdown, guess who was also on the DL up in Utah?

This time around, Sandoval again had no shot at trying to make a case for himself to make the team, even in a crowded infield, having pulled a muscle in his side very early on. A field of Alberto Callaspo, Maicer Izturis, Brandon Wood, and Mark Trumbo all look like they'll be heading west as a result, a pile from which Mike Scioscia will be picking people to get at-bats at the infield corners. As much faith as I've entertained in favor of the Angels yet again beating expectations and finishing a half-dozen games above their expected record (78-84 at last look), it's becoming hard to sustain in the face of these kinds of initial propositions.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned 1B-R Brandon Snyder and OF-L Matt Angle to Norfolk (Triple-A). [3/19]

Franz Kafka observes: Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.

As cuts go, these were both fairly obvious. Angle is already 25 years old and didn't rate among Kevin Goldstein's Top 11 prospects for the organization, even with a nice OBP and good range in center, and last year's hamate injury somewhat spoiled his above-A-ball debut. Snyder is younger but more thoroughly damned and doomed—even on a roster seemingly predisposed to keeping Jake Fox, first basemen without pop have no shot at bench jobs and perhaps even less use on a 40-man. With several non-roster competitors still in the running for the Opening Day roster, the days of carrying Snyder may well be on the same road to nowhere that his already-gone prospect status went down. That constitutes progress for the organization, even if it doesn't necessarily reflect progress in the standings or automatically connote progress in player development.

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned C-R Mark Wagner and LF-S Daniel Nava to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/20]

Franz Kafka observes: Don't despair, not even over the fact that you don't despair.

You've got to feel for Nava, someone whom David Laurila appropriately referred to as "the unlikeliest ballplayer in the big leagues" when he was called up last June. As an independent league vet who has proven that he can hit at every level, he has his uses, but on a club as deep as the Red Sox, it was impossible to keep him, and in light of the high expectations for their season, the Sox have even less reason to want to make a mercy swap to give him a chance to play regularly in the majors before his 30th birthday. Shackled in Pawtucket, he'll patiently pop, play, and wait for some nagging hurt to fell Darnell McDonald, J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, and/or Jacoby Ellsbury—not unlikely, given their pasts—to get him some additional service time. It might make for a circuitous route to a playoff share, but if there's one thing Nava has shown, it's that he'd earn it, given the opportunity.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Greg Infante, C-R Tyler Flowers, and OF-L Alejandro De Aza to Charlotte (Triple-A). [3/22]

Franz Kafka observes: There is hope, but not for us.

Flowers never had a chance, but the interesting thing about sending down Infante is that it looks like Ozzie Guillen's staff is set, with Jeff Marquez and Phil Humber (or just Humber Humber if you prefer) both looking like they'll be coming north in the wake of Jake Peavy's latest setback.

Between the two of them and Tony Pena, the Sox have a trio of options to ponder for the temporary fifth starter during Peavy's initial DL stint. Will they go with Humber's strike-throwing moxie, having snagged him off waivers in January? Or recall their past fondness for Marquez as part of the Nick Swisher trade? Or will Ozzie decide to revisit his past experiment from late last season with moving Pena to the rotation? Happily—for the Sox—they won't absolutely have to make that call until the first home stand, 10 days into the season, although feeding any of the three to the Rays makes for anything but a soft landing. That's assuming someone more tasty doesn't cross the wires, which—considering Kenny Williams' willingness to get grabbity—isn't out of the question.

Demoting De Aza is interesting, and not simply because it means that they're down to a choice between Lastings Milledge and Brent Lillibridge for the last spot on the bench, but because of what has gone unsaid as a result: It looks like they'll be giving the third-base job to Brent Morel after all, with Mark Teahen liable to get the majority of his at-bats in the outfield corners as the left-handed alternative to the starters. That scenario doesn't rule out Teahen's getting utilized as a spot starter at the infield corners, of course, but selecting Lillibridge would pretty obviously leave the infield fairly well stocked with reserves, since Omar Vizquel is atop that pecking order for bench-player playing time.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Josh Judy to Columbus (Triple-A). [3/19]
Placed RHP Jensen Lewis on waivers. [3/21]
Noted that RHP Jensen Lewis successfully passed through waivers and was outrighted to Columbus. [3/22]

Franz Kafka observes: In the struggle between yourself and the world, side with the world.

Getting released by the Indians has to be fairly traumatic, but keep in mind, last year's relief squad ranked fifth in the league in relief-only FRA. That was without Lewis contributing much, and that was also before signing Chad Durbin three weeks ago. Frank Herrmann and the ubiquitous Vinnie Pestano seem likely keepers for middle-relief chores in front of Tony Sipp, Durbin, and Chris Perez. Lewis has increasingly become a slow-velocity righty who has to cut things fairly fine to survive, leading to lots of corner-painting and corner-missing, so you can see why the Tribe elected to move on. Durbin is already that sort of reliever, after all, just far more successful at it.

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Al Alburquerque and LHP Charlie Furbush to Toledo (Triple-A). [3/19]
Optioned RHP Robbie Weinhardt, 2B-R Scott Sizemore, and OF-L Clete Thomas to Toledo. [3/22]

Franz Kafka observes: One must not cheat anyone, not even the world of its victory.

Jim Leyland has always had his share of "his" guys that seemed to strike his fancy and get taken far more seriously by him than anyone else. Since his opinion has a way of being the one that matters, that has been to the benefit of an odd assemblage over the years, with guys like John Wehner getting careers as a result. Nothing wrong with that—a manager should know and like what he has in the roster spots where he holds the most elective decision-making power.

Which is where the contrasts between Sizemore and Thomas come in, because Sizemore never seemed to enjoy Leyland's favor before getting ditched after last year's season-opening, season-long slump, while Thomas very much did for a stretch in '09, before he had to go and spoil things by getting hurt when not playing all that well. Now both are discards, Toledo-bound and worm-eaten in contrast to the latest shiny apples of Leyland's eye.

In each case, it reflects an increasingly limited future in the organization, because both could have made a case for jobs in camp. At second base, in light of Carlos Guillen's latest unavoidable absence, the Kitties were considering organizational players Danny Worth and Will Rhymes before the announcement that the job belonged to Rhymes. If Sizemore can't compete with these sorts of temps, he has no future here.

In Thomas' case, he's been passed by the latest outfield grinder to turn Leyland's head: Andy Dirks, who showed up as Kevin Goldstein's 16th-ranked prospect in the organization before the season. Dirks is contending with Casper Wells and Don Kelly (and perhaps Brennan Boesch) for what might be the last job or two on the club, a fight Thomas was in the thick of last year; since he was excused already, you can't like his chances for future inclusion.

Now, I know, you might argue camp stats don't matter—and they don't. But this is less about the data than the fact that neither player appeared to do anything to provide substantive reason for Leyland to reconsider last season's judgments—and Leyland is not someone who seems to change his mind quickly or easily once it's made up. Should your children ever ask how Mudhens are made, they're not the product of a single spring's romp.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHPs Blake Wood and Greg Holland, and C-R Manuel Pina to Omaha (Triple-A). [3/21]

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Alex Burnett, INF-R Trevor Plouffe, and OF-L Ben Revere to Rochester (Triple-A). [3/19]
Noted the loss of RHP Pat Neshek on a waiver claim by the Padres. [3/20]

Franz Kafka observes: We all have wings, but they have not been of any avail to us...

Whether it's a matter of Neshek taking flight for a park-friendly future or Revere's jetting back to the farm after swiping five bases in camp action, it seems clear that the Twins have certain predispositions with this team, not all of them easily explained save as flights of fancy. Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker were queued up behind Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing for rotation work, for example, with the loser—Slowey, as it turned out—headed for the pen. There, he'll be joining Royals reject Dustin Hughes and the sporadically unpopular Glen Perkins.

Revere wasn't going to get much consideration for replacing Jason Repko as the team's primary outfield reserve, and didn't earn much more than that. Plouffe seemed similarly unlikely to get past the seemingly unremovable Matt Tolbert, except that Luke Hughes has made a decent case for his retention as the last position player. Tolbert will win in the end—he is the Buntmaster, after all, and this is that kind of club—but at least in this instance they're indulging Hughes his great run. Once they're sure that Justin Morneau can play in back-to-back ballgames reliably, having just done so the first time, they'll have resolved the last major issue from among their position players.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned LHP Josh Outman, RHPs Trystan Magnuson and Guillermo Moscoso, and OF-R Michael Taylor to Sacramento (Triple-A). [3/20]

Franz Kafka observes: Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.

By moving Outman out of the way, the fight for the fifth starter is down to Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross, with Bobby Cramer getting a courtesy mention for the moment. Since McCarthy has yet to walk anyone and leads the team in innings pitched, he has passed the challenges of demonstrating health and execution well enough, while Ross has gone unscored upon. The initial risk of bringing in McCarthy looks well worth rewarding, but Ross is the club's seventh-best prospect as well as someone who was already up last season. Keeping either in the pen will prove difficult should Andrew Bailey and Joey Devine both be ready to answer the bell come Opening Day.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Noted the loss of LHP Garrett Olson off waivers on a Pirates waiver claim. [3/18]

Franz Kafka observes: Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.

Which is another way of saying that it might be a long time before Olson is productive, especially since being a Pirate is rarely mistaken for productivity, not unless fifth-place aspirations are your idea of ambition. He wasn't without value last season for the Mariners (a 4.31 SIERA), and this discard might seem surprising, but in light of the profusion of non-roster candidates for the bullpen, the M's needed the roster spot more than they needed Olson. New managers have no old loyalties to cling to, Eric Wedge doesn't know Olson as anything more than a guy who used to get drubbed with the Orioles, and that's probably not an unfair assessment of Olson's utility.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Michael Ekstrom to Durham (Triple-A). [3/22]

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Eric Hurley to Round Rock (Triple-A). [3/19]

Franz Kafka observes: Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

Hurley didn't get an extended look-see, but he threw hard and well, managed to stay relatively healthy—he did tweak something early—in his comeback from two years on the shelf, and given the club's questions about who does what and where and when, it isn't inconceivable that a former top-40 prospect in all of baseball could put himself into the picture for the staff. Perhaps the initial question will be whether he'll be capable of recovering quickly enough after his appearances to handle relief work. The Rangers are still wrestling with what to do with Neftali Feliz, with a decision supposedly coming later this week, but he's merely the headliner in a long list of pitchers the Rangers might not have a set role for just yet—you can toss Hurley on that pile, and also Michael Kirkman, Alexi Ogando, and Matt Harrison.

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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