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March 12, 2003

Transaction Analysis

March 9-10, 2003

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Claimed LHP Eric Cyr off of waivers from the Padres. [3/5] Assigned C-R Ryan Budde, C-L Jeff Mathis, OF-B Kenny James, 1B-L Casey Kotchman, SS-R Tommy Murphy, 1B/OF-L Mike O'Keefe and LHP Tommy Milo to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Optioned RHP Rich Fischer to Arkansas (Double-A). [3/10]

The first cuts are always the most predictable and least interesting, so there isn't much to say about these guys that you won't find out in this year's Prospectus, or from keeping up with John Sickels. Casey Kotchman is the name you need to remember, although his arrival to stay as a major leaguer is a couple of years off. So what that really leaves us with is the interesting development of nabbing Eric Cyr off of waivers. He's got a nifty curve, spots his fastball well, and if he was healthy, he wouldn't be too far from being able to help a big league team. However, he also had to have "minor" surgeries on both his elbow and shoulder, so he's not likely to be ready to help soon. That said, as a body to put on the 60-day DL to make room for someone else on the Opening Day roster, and as a future lefty alternative for a team short on left-handed relief, he's a worthwhile claim. In the meantime, it might make it a little easier for Rich Rodriguez to crack the roster, or create some wiggle room for Bill Stoneman to acquire another lefty at the end of camp.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Assigned RHPs Greg Aquino, Beltran Perez, Jose Valverde, Jeremy Ward, and LHPs Chris Capuano, and Mike Gosling to their minor league camp. [3/8]

The Snakes hauled in a number of journeymen for shots at the back end of their bullpen this spring, with the candidates ranging from Mike Jackson to Ron Villone to Manny Aybar, so there aren't a lot of opportunities for the organization's homegrown future prospects. Mike Koplove should be able to claim a job, and John Patterson and Stephen Randolph have decent shots at jobs, but Bret Prinz probably won't make it, which means there wasn't a whole lot of opportunity for any of the guys from this first round of cuts.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Optioned LHP Jorge De la Rosa, RHP Anastacio Martinez, UT-B Cesar Crespo, 2B-R Freddy Sanchez, and INF-B Angel Santos to Pawtucket; assigned 3B-R Kevin Youkilis and RHP Hansel Izquierdo to their minor league camp. [3/10]

Freddy Sanchez and Kevin Youkilis were longshots before Theo Epstein's winter acquisitions program, so they were both already doomed to make the trek to Pawtucket. They both remain where they were last October, which is as intriguing alternatives come July or August, should the current options flop or get hurt. Certainly, by acquiring Bill Mueller, Todd Walker and Damian Jackson while keeping Shea Hillenbrand and Lou Merloni around, the Red Sox are well-stocked at second and third. Youkilis and Sanchez give the Red Sox both in-between bargaining chips for their drive on contention now, and options for their roster makeup come 2003. That doesn't make this camp as important as this year for their place in the near-term picture.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Luke Hudson to Louisville; optioned RHPs Chris Booker and Josh Hall, 2B/SS-B Rainer Olmedo, OF-R Steve Smitherman, and C-R Dane Sardinha to Chattanooga (Double-A); assigned OF-Ls Jacob Cruz and Robin Jennings, UT-L Reed Secrist, INF-B Felipe Crespo, INF-R Kelly Dransfeldt, UT-R Ryan Freel, DH-R Juan Thomas, RHP Sean DePaula, LHPs Travis Miller, Brian Reith and Mark Watson to their minor league camp; released LHP Bruce Chen and RHP Osvaldo Fernandez; invited RHPs Bobby Basham and Dustin Moseley to major league camp. [3/10]

Bob Boone went through his now-annual, chest-thumping, hair-shirt-donning, "Woe is me, it's so hard to tell people they're gone" press conference. It makes for a nice little drama in early March, where it really reveals Boone at his most frustrating and creative. As I've frequently kvetched, Bob Boone's problem isn't that he's got bad ideas or good ideas, it's that he has a surfeit of ideas, and the lack of constancy to stick with any of them. So it's easy to have some sympathy, because he's smart enough to identify ways in which to identify how everyone has value under all sorts of scenarios. Almost everyone cut has value for one of the last two or three roster spots anywhere in the majors. That's the problem with an organization that understands the relatively ready availability of free talent: They'll get a bunch of it, know that it's all pretty worthwhile, and then have to make tough choices knowing that these guys deserve a little bit more of a look than you can afford to give them. But the public anguish? For whose benefit is that?

The surprise amidst all of this is, in the end, perhaps not all that surprising. Bruce Chen, on the road again? There's no point in acting surprised or upset about it. Some of the best pitching coaches in the game have gotten exasperated and given up on him, and not just given up, but given up quickly. There's not even a hint of an off-field issue, just the persistent whispers that there are issues with aptitude, attitude, and focus. Will he be valuable? Can anybody get good work out of him? Maybe. Maybe he'll go to a team with a pitching coach who will let Chen do it his way, and maybe Chen would have a little run of success. Life's full of maybes. At this point, Chen's gone from being one of the best young pitchers around to a maybe maybe. He might be a maybe, and he might not be even that. But he isn't an 'is' any more, and he's moving into 'was' territory with unusual speed.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Optioned RHP Ryan Cameron, LHP Cory Vance, C-B J.D. Closser, OF-B Rene Reyes, LF-R Matt Holliday, and 3B-R Jeff Baker to their minor league camp; assigned LHP Colin Young and C-B Tino Sanchez to their minor league camp. [3/9]

About three years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Baker and his father about the difficulties of growing up playing on bases and through military assignments, and it was a really compelling story. The site in question was http://www.militarylifestyles.com/, and it left me with an impression of a very serious young man with a genuine interest in the traditions and rivalries of college baseball in the ACC. Heck, it was also a great portrait of a father and son, and all of that sort of stuff that defies the tired modern devices of irony or sarcasm, the good stuff that just is what it is. This won't be the last we hear of him, for which I'm glad beyond any level as an analyst or someone who aspires to an unachievable objectivity.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Assigned 1B-L James Loney and C-R Mike Nixon to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Optioned LHPs Hong-Chih Kuo and Jose Diaz to Vero Beach (A-ball). [3/10]

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Optioned RHPs Matt Childers and Dave Pember and OF-R Cristian Guerrero to Indianapolis, and RHP Pedro Liriano and LHP Luis Martinez to Huntsville (Double-A); assigned RHP David Manning to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Released RHP Dave Mlicki outright. [3/10]

There are people in the baseball industry, and other people positioned to give advice to people in the baseball industry, who valued Dave Mlicki as an acquisition this past winter. No, really. And not just people employed by the Brewers. And not Gord Ash. And not because he might be a good parent or a solid citizen or an organ donor. The good news to infer from Mlicki's release is that former Red Sox and Twins prospect Matt Kinney and Mexican League import Francisco Campos are being taken seriously for a couple of slots on the roster. The Teddy Higuera-Campos comparisons can be stretched into broader comparisons to the vile Brewers staffs of the mid-80s that Teddy Higuera arrived to redeem, and on a similar level, you have to hope Kinney finally gets his opportunity to shine. Because if Todd Ritchie is as good as he can be...what, he's going to turn into a bunch of fun swag from Kenny Williams again? The Brewers need to take risks on guys like Kinney or Campos if they're going to clamber up to something as lofty as fourth place in the NL Central before Czar Bud's reign of error ends.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Willie Eyre, OF-R B.J. Garbe and C-B Rob Bowen to New Britain (Double-A); assigned C-R Gabby Torres and SS/2B-B Luis Rodriguez to their minor league camp. [3/10]

There weren't any real surprises among the initial Twins cuts. Luis Rodriguez's chance to threaten Luis Rivas's job wasn't going to really come to anything before July, B.J. Garbe's floundering career at least seems to have a medical basis to it, and Rob Bowen floated some prospect mavens' collective boats without quite earning the accolades. The organization has enough depth that they can afford to clear away talent that needs to make progress before it gets to earn 'prospect' labels.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Optioned LHPs Danny Borrell and Alex Graman and RHP Jorge DePaula to Columbus, and RHP Chien-Ming Wang to Trenton (Double-A); assigned LHP Brandon Claussen and C-R Omar Fuentes to their minor league camp. [3/10]

This is the Yankees--as if anybody making the minimum had a chance. I suspect Chien-Ming Wang's screenplay, unifying the themes of life in the Yankees' organization and death in the Hong Kong classics of John Woo, probably didn't help his chances any. I suppose if Ed Whitson had ever written down his side of the story, that would explain why he had to go.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Optioned RHPs Heath Bell, P.J. Bevis, and Jeremy Griffiths, LHP Phil Seibel, OF-L Jeff Duncan, OF-R Prentice Redman, and 1B-L Craig Brazell to Norfolk; assigned RHP Bobby Munoz, LHPs John Bale and Pete Zamora, C-R Justin Huber and OF-PR Esix Snead to their minor league camp. [3/10]

Again, the Mets are stocked with enough pitching depth that nobody in this group was going to have much of a shot. They have an overstuffed pen. If there's a surprise, it's that they didn't take a longer look at Esix Snead. Snead's value in fantasy is perhaps sort of like Pamela Anderson Lee's, a better concept on paper than as a practical matter, to be sure, but still worth entertaining. But this being the Mets, and considering the main contender for the last outfielder's job on the squad is another one-tool talent in Tsuyoshi Shinjo, why not kick around carrying a deluxe pinch-runner instead of a defensive replacement for that last spot on the bench?

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Shane Bazzell, 2B-L Freddie Bynum, and UT-R Adam Morrissey to Sacramento; assigned C-B Mike Rose, 1B/OF-R Mike Edwards and OF-L Chris Prieto to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Optioned RHP Joe Valentine to Sacramento, and RHP Rich Harden to their minor league camp. [3/10]

The battle for the bullpen jobs gets more and more interesting, now that Valentine has been excused early. If the A's carry six relievers, you can count out Jim Mecir because of the injury that will keep him out until late April. So that leaves the three locks (Keith Foulke, Chad Bradford, and lefty Ricky Rincon), and then the other guys. At this point, that's optionless Chad Harville, Jeremy Fikac, Roy Smith, Rule 5 picks Mike Neu and Buddy Hernandez, lefty Micah Bowie, and either or both of John Halama or Ed Yarnall if they don't beat out Aaron Harang for the fifth slot in the rotation. Harang's got options and no relief experience, so odds are he's SOL, but that still leaves either Halama or Yarnall in the fight with the other six for one of the last three jobs in the pen. And even then, everyone's going to have to have a good month, because Mecir will eventually be back. It makes for some interesting competition, to be sure, and if it wasn't for the complicating factor of Czar Bud's cockamamie premature Opening Day for the benefit of the Mariners' absentee owner, you might expect a deal or two at the end of the month.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Signed OF/3B-R Albert Pujols to a one-year contract; optioned RHPs Matt Duff and Jimmy Journell to Memphis; reassigned LHP Dan Serafini, INF-L Ivanon Coffie, and OF-L Jon Nunnally to their minor league camp. [3/10]

They danced, they flirted, but at the end, Mr. Pujols coquettishly refused to give that raffish old gentleman, Mr. Jocketty, a birthdate, so there is, as of yet, no multi-year contract to be had. Still, the Cardinals generously overtipped, making it clear that they're still feeling that the night holds promise. Meanwhile, Jimmy Journell was washed away from the fifth starter's competition by Cal Eldred's great camp, Garrett Stephenson's apparent health, and Dustin Hermanson's just being there. Hermanson and Alan Levin and Joey Hamilton aren't having great camps, but they'll get the benefit of the doubt for another couple of weeks.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Optioned RHPs Ben Howard and Dennis Tankersley, LHP Cliff Bartosh, 2B-B Bernie Castro and OF-R Jason Bay to Portland; optioned LHP Cory Stewart and OF-L Vince Faison to Mobile (Double-A); assigned RHPs Pat Flury and Brian Tollberg, LHPs Randy Keisler and Rob Ramsay, 2B-L Jake Gautreau, SS-R Khalil Greene, and C-R Humberto Quintero to their minor league camp. [3/10]

Not many surprises among the demotions. With Phil Nevin's injury, the major concern will have to be with watching the waiver wire, because there's a real danger that Brian Buchanan might have to play every day, or that Brady Anderson or Roberto Kelly or both might make the team. Rule 5 pick Shane Victorino's shot as the fifth outfielder certainly looks pretty strong at the moment. Dennis Tankersley didn't give any indication that he's over his jitters, all the more unfortunate considering that treadless invitees like Charles Nagy or Jaret Wright are (predictably enough) not looking good, and Kevin Jarvis is still working his way back.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Reassigned RHP Clint Nageotte to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Optioned LHPs Ryan Anderson, Steve Kent, and Matt Thornton, RHPs Jeff Heaverlo, Aaron Looper, and Rett Johnson, OF-Rs Kenny Kelly and Jamal Strong to Tacoma; optioned C-R Ryan Christianson to San Antonio (Double-A); assigned RHP Allan Simpson to their minor league camp. [3/8]

If there's a surprise, it isn't much of one, just a notional error of omission. However, the Mariners want to take a long look at Gil Meche, and while he's being outpitched by Jamey Wright and Ken Cloude so far, he's not doing any worse than Ryan Franklin, so he's still in the running for a rotation job. However, there's enough flux on the staff that somebody like Cloude or J.J. Putz or Aaron Taylor could stealth his way onto the roster. Otherwise, the item of note is that by demoting both Kelly and Strong already, it looks like Mark McLemore will be the de facto fifth outfielder, with John Mabry being the other outfield reserve. Chad Meyers isn't going to beat out organizational favorites like Willie Bloomquist or Luis Ugueto for a last spot on the bench, so in comparison to the pitching staff, the position players are almost set already.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Released RHPs Wayne Gomes, Mike James and Lesli Brea; optioned LHP Hans Smith, RHPs Brian Stokes and Matt White, C-L Pete LaForest, and OF-L Josh Hamilton to Orlando (Double-A); assigned 2B-R Jay Canizaro, 1B/OF-L Ryan Jackson, SS-Rs Gabby Martinez and B.J. Upton, C-Rs Charlie Greene and Angel Pena, OF-Rs Brian Lesher and Chad Mottola, LHPs Brian Fitzgerald and Matt Perisho, RHPs Jeremi Gonzalez, Mel Rojas, Kevin McGlinchy, Erik Sabel, Carlos Reyes, and Blake Stein to their minor league camp. [3/10]

This is the D-Rays, so there's always plenty of indignity to go around, but how do you think it feels to be Mike James or Wayne Gomes, and be cut while somebody like Mel Rojas gets kept? You could infer some promise that veteran outfielders like Brian Lesher and Chad Mottola won't make the team, but you have to be a Baldelli cultist to really see this as a good thing. Even more horrifying, Jason Tyner was not demoted. You could argue that a guy like Jay Canizaro didn't get a shot at the second base job because aspiring mediocrity Marlon Anderson was brought in, but by May, Anderson may have inspired some thundering from Mt. Piniella, and Canizaro might be a Durham paesan with a hitting streak. At this level, they're relatively interchangeable, and both would be hard-pressed to underwhelm Brent Abernathy. Finally, the demotion of Pete LaForest reduces the battle for the backup catcher's job to Jorge Fabregas, Sandy Martinez, and Hector Ortiz, a sort of who's who from the category of "Worst Backup Catchers of the '90s." That's not really the end of the world in itself; if you're the D-Rays, fourth place is a distant dream, and it's probably better from a development point of view to have a catcher with language skills for the 2003 season.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Travis Hughes, LHPs Mario Ramos and Ben Kozlowski, CF-R Ryan Ludwick, 1B/LF-R Jason Hart, OF-L Laynce Nix, and assigned OF-L Jim Rushford, LHP Justin Thompson, C-L Scott Heard, C-Rs Danny Ardoin and Fernando Lunar, and 2B-L Drew Meyer to their minor league camp. [3/10]

Like a lot of the other teams here, this was mostly a matter of clearing away people who are injured or rehabbing, extra catchers who were just around to help out with the catching chores in the early portion of camp, and the extra bats who were going to be crowded out by the arrival of Mark Teixeira, Doug Glanville, and Ruben Sierra to a roster already packed on the left end of the defensive spectrum by an extra like Mike Lamb. This same problem is what has helped push Hank Blalock to a spring experiment at second base, a risky solution to a problem that might have been better solved with Palmeiro getting more DH time, and with Blalock and Teixeira claiming the majority of playing time at the infield corners.

What's also interesting is that this really seems to reduce the catching situation to Einar Diaz, Chad Kreuter, and Todd Greene. Kreuter and Greene are dueling for the backup job, but given Diaz's offensive limitations, it wouldn't be surprising to see all three in a Rangers uniform in the early going, with Greene getting some at-bats at DH or first base as well.

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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