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June 7, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Kila Ka'aihue Freed, of Obligation to Play in Oakland

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Jamie Moyer to a minor-league deal. [6/6]
Signed OF-L Nate McLouth to a minor-league deal. (6/5]

If one were commissioned to make a list of the places where Moyer’s success was least likely, Coors Field and the American League East would be at the top. Yet, here Moyer is, joining a team in the East after a Coors-based shellacking. Does fate hate Moyer? No, but this isn’t a positive development.  

Moyer allowed 83 baserunners in 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies, along with 11 home runs. The odds of Moyer being able to survive in Camden Yards and the other East ballparks against average lineups are low. Factor in that he won’t be facing average lineups and the odds dwindle further.  But maybe this is fitting; after all, what seems more improbable than Moyer playing a part in a division-winning Orioles squad?

How about McLouth contributing to a division-winning Orioles squad? Here’s what I wrote when the Pirates released McLouth:

The question about McLouth is not whether he can regain form, but, rather, if he will have a productive season before retiring. McLouth turns 31 in October and looked horrid during his time in Pittsburgh. He struck out more often than usual, walked less often than usual, and showed no power; all that despite playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers.  Injuries stink.

McLouth might get another chance with the Orioles. Baltimore has used five different outfield alignments since placing Nick Markakis on the disabled list, with those sets including Endy Chavez, Ryan Flaherty, Bill Hall (since removed from the roster), Steven Tolleson, and Steve Pearce. The bunch is producing okay so far, but reread those names. If Baltimore continues to foster playoff hopes, then a move for a new corner outfielder is in the cards. 

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Designated 1B-L Kila Ka’aihue for assignment. [6/6]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Evan Scribner and 1B/OF-L Brandon Moss from Triple-A Sacramento. [6/6]
Placed RHP Andrew Carignan on the 15-day disabled list. [6/6]

Self-evaluation is important in any industry. There’s an old business adage, something like, “You have to be good at firing or good at hiring.” In baseball, self-evaluation is critical. There are more players in an organization than 40-man roster spots, more players than plate appearances, more pitchers than innings. You have to know who is worth playing and developing and who isn’t. That sounds cold because it is.

Whether the Royals are a good organization is debatable. What isn’t debatable is their treatment of Ka’aihue. With a lacuna at first base, the Royals were eager to look anywhere but toward Ka’aihue as the solution. They acquired Mike Jacobs, used Billy Butler, and promoted Eric Hosmer rather than giving Ka’aihue a full season to prove his worth. Argue about the Royals’ quality of hiring (particularly with Jacobs), but give them credit: they were right to doubt Ka’aihue’s major-league prospects.

The Royals gave Ka’aihue 326 big-league plate appearances. He looked poor, minus a bright spot here and there, and they know then their evaluation was correct. A late-September trade to the Athletics seemed like a positive development in Ka’aihue’s career. You could almost sense the A’s looking at Ka’aihue’s numbers and the cost involved and shrugging, “What the heck, why not?” Ka’aihue’s .234/.295/.398 line this season answered the question, and the A’s ended examination.

What does the future hold for Ka’aihue? Presumably, he will clear waivers and head to Triple-A. No one should be surprised if he hits there. As for whether Ka’aihue will ever find success in the majors, that’s tougher to say. It takes more than introspection to make it in the show.

Neither call-up is much of a sure thing. Moss showed flashes of decency during his time with the Red Sox, but has not hit in the majors since, though he did have strong seasons in Triple-A over the past two years and has taken up playing first base. Scribner is a former waiver claim via the Padres who throws strikes with mediocre stuff. That means he could develop into a middle reliever, or he might wash out of the league quickly.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Designated 1B-L Brandon Allen for assignment. [6/6]

‘Tis the week for first baseman with Quad-A labels to hit the waiver wire. Allen hit a game-winning home run for the Rays in his first official at-bat with the squad. He went 1-for-12 from thereon and headed to the disabled list with an injury. A lengthy rehab assignment in High-A and the promotion of Hideki Matsui seemed to spell the end for Allen’s tenure on the 25-man roster, just as his lack of options spelled doom for his 40-man-roster spot. The good news is that the Rays have admired Allen for a while and would presumably like to hold onto him. The bad news is that means a trip to the minors.

It’s hard to find a match for Allen, in part because 20-something teams passed the last time he hit the waiver wire and nothing has transpired to raise his stock since. The Rays tend to read the market as well as anyone, so the safe money says Allen passes through untouched.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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