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April 9, 2003

Transaction Analysis

March 25-April 6, 2003

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League
I'm back after a short hiatus. As a reward for your patience, enjoy this super-sized version of Transaction Analysis. TA returns to a twice-a-week schedule going forward.

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Placed RHP Aaron Sele on the 15-day DL (shoulder). [3/27]

Optioned SS-B Alfredo Amezaga, 2B-B Chone Figgins, C-R Wil Nieves, OF-B Jeff DaVanon, and LHP Mark Lukasiewicz to Salt Lake; assigned LHP Rich Rodriguez and RHP Doug Nickle to Salt Lake; purchased the contract of OF-R Julio Ramirez from Salt Lake; transferred RHP Matt Wise from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [3/29]

Claimed RHP Elio Serrano off of waivers from the Rockies; designated LHP Mark Lukasiewicz for assignment. [4/2]

All in all, not a bad team to break camp with. Losing Aaron Sele is supposed to hurt, but even once he's healed up, he's only the Angels' fifth-best starter, and Mickey Callaway might turn out to be equally worthwhile in the role. On a certain level, you could believe that Jeff DaVanon and Chone Figgins were both screwed by the decision to sign Eric Owens this winter, since he can be both an adequate fourth outfielder and a useful enough pinch-runner that the Angels could find other uses for the roster spot. However, DaVanon had his shot once Mike Scioscia elected to carry a fifth outfielder, and instead of DaVanon's bat, he decided to carry Julio Ramirez's glove and legs. As long as Tim Salmon is playing most of the time in right, it's a defensible choice. Alex Ochoa ended up getting time last fall as Salmon's defensive replacement, and Ramirez can do the same, which notionally makes Owens available to do things like get playing time spotting for one of the DHs or Garret Anderson or Darin Erstad. Unfortunately, that sort of creates problems, since Owens isn't really good enough to play ahead of any of those guys or do anything more than what Ramirez is for. However, because Owens is expensive and moderately experienced, he gets the benefit of the doubt, and DaVanon ends up rotting in the minors for another year.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Optioned RHP John Patterson, C/OF-R Rob Hammock and 2B/SS-B Alex Cintron to Tucson; assigned LHPs Eddie Oropesa and Ron Villone, PH-L Chris Donnels, and OF-R Mark Little to their minor league camp; designated LHP Greg Swindell for assignment; released RHP Mike Jackson; loaned OF-B Felix Jose to Mexico City of the Mexican League; purchased the contract of PH-B Carlos Baerga. [3/29]

Placed RHP Bret Prinz on the 15-day DL (groin); recalled C/OF-R Rob Hammock from Tucson. [4/1]

Optioned C/OF-R Rob Hammock to Tucson; purchased the contract of RHP Scott Service from Tucson; transferred RHP Bret Prinz from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/4]

Are these your older brother's Snakes? Apparently not, not when Mike Morgan didn't get a phone call, and if Greg Swindell and Mike Jackson don't get handed jobs. Instead, you've got Bret Prinz (briefly), Mike Koplove and Stephen Randolph all getting jobs in the pen, producing a pen loaded with younger, talented pitchers. Sure, there's still the crust of veterandom, with the bumped Miguel Batista and Mike Myers, plus the infrequently healthy Matt Mantei. But all in all, it's a group of guys who can be useful Snakes in three years as well as now, and that's a bit out of the ordinary for this outfit.

If there were a couple of surprises of the more surprising variety, it was keeping Carlos Baerga as the last man on the bench, and Bob Brenly's choice for his fifth starter. These are normal areas for managerial discretion, and I guess Carlos Baerga could be considered your token old school Snake to appease the Geritol generation. He has no defensive value, so that leaves his bat. On a team that has two catchers who can't hit, an extra first baseman, and a three-headed right fielder where all three contributors can hit better than Baerga. So how many times do you think that, between having Mark Grace and a couple of hitting outfielders to spare, they'll have the opportunity to throw away an at-bat on Carlos Baerga? Sure, having him hit for the catchers makes sense, but the Snakes only have two backstops on the roster, which means pinch-hitting for them once per game. Given the shape of the rest of the roster, they might well be one of the only teams that should have a third guy who can catch a little, if only to increase their options and allow Brenly to actually use his passel of useful pinch-hitters. Admittedly, it ought to be a guy like Mike Kinkade or Adam Melhuse, somebody who can hit but not catch particularly well, but who could handle a few innings per week, in a sort of Harry Spilman sort of way.

The other surprise, a choice that surprised even a few members of the team, was Brenly's decision to run with Oscar Villareal over John Patterson as his fifth starter. Villareal is well regarded for his precocious poise and decent assortment of stuff, and he had a nice spring. Patterson has been the long-anticipated "best young arm" in the organization for years, before and since his elbow surgery. Patterson has big league and upper-level experience, and he's as ready as he's going to be. Villareal has promise, but he's very young at 21, and has only a couple of months at Triple-A under his belt. Patterson may well be a disappointment, but better to sort that out now, and then turn to Villareal, than vice versa. Now, it looks like the organization doesn't have much confidence in him after touting him as a near-lock all winter. Even if he sails through the PCL, his value in trade won't go up because his organization waffled at the moment they were supposed to follow through.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Acquired LHP Matt Coenen from the Tigers for RHP Chris Spurling. [3/25]

Released LHP Mike Venafro. [3/26]

Placed RHP Paul Byrd on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 3/21; purchased the contracts of 1B-R Julio Franco and OF-L Darren Bragg. [3/28]

Placed LHP Mike Hampton on the 15-day DL (strained calf), retroactive to 3/28; optioned C-B Johnny Estrada and 3B-R Mike Hessman to Richmond; assigned 2B-R Jesse Garcia and OF-Rs Donzell McDonald and Bo Porter to Richmond. [3/29]

And so the nightmare scenario begins, the one that contributes to the likelihood that nobody in the NL East wins 90 games, everybody flirts with contention, and the Phillies look like the safest bet. Two-fifths of the veteran mob stocking the rotation is already down, leaving guys like Jung Bong and Horacio Ramirez and on the spot, and making it that much less likely that the Braves will get off to a good start and put any kind of pressure on the Phillies to keep pace. If there was tension in camp, it was whether Johnny Estrada would make it, and with the injuries in the rotation, the Braves elected to go with a dozen pitchers instead of three catchers.

What you might consider interesting is that among that dozen are guys whose big league careers have only just started, but they're particularly young. Joey Dawley and Kevin Gryboski are both older than Ray King. Bong, Ramirez, and Trey Hodges are the resident young guys, but two guys have to go down once Paul Byrd and Mike Hampton return. It would take another 2000-style meltdown from Darren Holmes for them to cut bait on him this early. Not that that might not happen anyway, of course.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Optioned LHP Eric DuBose, DH-L Jack Cust, and OF-R Luis Matos to Ottawa; assigned RHPs Darwin Cubillan and Mike Garcia, C-R Izzy Molina and 2B/SS-B Eddy Garabito to their minor league camp. [3/25]

Placed 1B-B David Segui on the 15-day DL (fractured thumb), retroactive to 3/21. [3/27]

Claimed SS-R Jose Morban off of waivers from the Twins; purchased the contracts of RHP Rick Helling and OF/1B-L B.J. Surhoff; placed RHP Scott Erickson and DH-R Albert Belle on the 60-day DL; released INF-Rs John Valentin and Jeff Reboulet; optioned 2B/SS-B Brian Roberts, OF-L Larry Bigbie, and RHP Travis Driskill to Ottawa; assigned C-R Steve Lomasney to minor league camp; placed LHP Erik Bedard on the 15-day DL (elbow). [3/28]

Released RHP Luis Rivera. [4/4]

Activated 1B-B David Segui from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B/3B-R Jose Leon to Ottawa. [4/5]

Well, this is the Orioles, so you probably can't judge them on the basis of whether or not they've fixed all of their problems, and instead need to glean some hope from some of the things they did address. On that score, electing to pick up Jose Morban off of waivers instead of making space on the 40-man roster is a nice decision. Morban might not ever pan out, but he'll almost certainly turn out to be better than Ed Rogers, and this organization could use somebody who can play short who might have a future. Investing a spot on Morban instead of keeping either of John Valentin or Jeff Reboulet is a good move. Of course, I'd be happier still if they stuck with Brian Roberts at short, to see how badly or well that might turn out. Sure, it would be easy to wish Roberts would grow up to Ecksteinian stature, but they're still putzing around with whether or not he could move to the outfield, which would effectively end his career as anything more than a Chad Meyers-style career Triple-A leadoff hitter. Such might have been his career arc from the start, but given that this is a miserable team, why fuddle about with the likes of Deivi Cruz, a player guaranteed to play a weak short and contribute nothing towards a relevant Orioles team in some unnamed future?

In terms of a feel-good story, B.J. Surhoff gets to come back to the team and town where he and his family are happiest. In terms of the not-so-feel-good story, Hargrove has had to play Surhoff in the early going, what with David Segui's regular owies and Marty Cordova's strained back.

Finally, the release of Luis Rivera, damaged goods from the moment he became an Oriole (and long beforehand, of course), closes another sordid blackened blackbird Thrifty Syd moment. It's sort of appropriate that Surhoff outlasted him, since they were dealt for one another. Rivera was the last left of the three players dealt to the Orioles at the deadline in 2000 for Surhoff and Gabe Molina. The other two? Fernando Lunar, who wasn't a prospect, Treni Hubbard, a decent spare part at the best of times. Surhoff may be done, but both he and Molina will have better careers from the point of the deal onwards than anyone that Thrift was bragging about adding on August 1, 2000.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Waived RHP Frank Castillo unconditionally. [3/26]

Claimed RHP Dicky Gonzalez off waivers from the Expos; outrighted OF-B Adrian Brown to Pawtucket; optioned RHPs Hector Almonte and Bronson Arroyo to Pawtucket; assigned C-R Chris Coste to minor league camp; placed RHP Robert Person on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 3/26; placed LHP Matt White on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 3/19. [3/28]

Acquired RHP Ryan Cameron from the Rockies as the PTBNL in the Javier Lopez deal, and optioned him to Pawtucket; optioned RHP Jason Shiell to Pawtucket. [3/29]

Designated RHP Dicky Gonzalez for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Steve Woodard from Pawtucket. [3/30]

Part of the decision to go with the much-discussed bullpen by committee was the choice to go with twelve pitchers, with seven relievers, including two middle relievers. That in itself boxed out Adrian Brown's bid to be the team's fifth outfielder, but Brown also lost out to Damian Jackson's ability to flip between the infield and outfield, not to mention the late addition of Kevin Millar to back up the outfield corners. The other wrinkles of going with thirteen position players that are a little interesting are that they're a little stretched, in that Jackson has to be the backup in center, and losing Lou Merloni on waivers puts that much more pressure on using Bill Mueller as a spare at second, a position he's not really good at. But it's a fun roster, heavy on hitting, with Jackson as the supersub of last resort.

But going to twelve nevertheless left no room for Frank Castillo. It might seem like a drastic step, but it's long overdue, and he's been more than adequately replaced by the multitude of potential swing candidates hauled in this past winter. Steve Woodard and Brandon Lyon are nice risks as long relievers who might step into the rotation for Casey Fossum or John Burkett, and both were available on the cheap, the way that Castillo ought to be in any given year, but that the Duke overpaid for come 2001. Beyond them, Dicky Gonzalez is another similar, reasonable risk, and the Sox have Robert Person gearing up for arriving at some point in May.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Purchased the contracts of OF/1B-L Brian Daubach and RHP Esteban Loaiza from Charlotte; optioned OF-B Joe Borchard, 2B/OF-L Willie Harris, LHP Mike Porzio, and RHP Matt Ginter to Charlotte; assigned C-R Jamie Burke to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Placed RHP Dan Wright on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation), retroactive to 3/25. [3/27]

Optioned OF-R Anthony Sanders to Charlotte; assigned 2B-B Aaron Miles to their minor league camp. [3/29]

Leave it to Jerry Manuel, he's always good for a surprise or four. As a result, sort of like Boston, the White Sox have wound up putting together a roster heavy on hitting. The first bold move was handing the second base job to D'Angelo Jimenez and excusing Willie Harris. Together with Jose Valentin, it gives the Sox a middle infield with a lot more offensive punch than their rivals in the division. The second choice was to keep both Armando Rios and Brian Daubach, giving Manuel a couple of good veteran lefty bats on the bench to spot for the right-handed bats starting in both outfield corners and at first and DH. It does push Joe Borchard out of the picture for the time being, but considering how long they took to break in Joe Crede, you could say there's a Sox way of doing things with their top prospects. Once Aaron Rowand demonstrated he was ready to go by Opening Day, Borchard would have had to have had a great camp, which he didn't. Rather than keep Borchard around to scrabble for at-bats in a reserve role, they've done the right thing in sending him down, and running with the two veteran benchies.

He can also apply to the two of them to the roster's third and most interesting early choice, which was to carry all three catchers and skip really having a winner or a loser. As a result, Manuel gets to keep Miguel Olivo as the team's catcher of the future, Sandy Alomar as a virtual player/coach, and Josh Paul as the pinch-runner for the other two. Apparently the Sox can't let themselves get used to the idea that Paul isn't a commodity, and fear losing him on waivers. Like most teams with similar hang-ups on the value of their third catcher, they'll inevitably reach a point in the season where the importance of having three catchers in the regular season starts looking silly. As long as they outright him before some organization gets hit with a couple of catching injuries, they won't lose him, and even if they do lose him, he's not really a loss.

The final surprise was the decision to turn to Josh Stewart in the wake of Dan Wright's slow recovery. It's a nice little low-pressure gig, where the Sox can pretty much count on sending him back to Charlotte once Wright recuperates. And while both of his first two starts will come against the Tigers, it's still the major leagues, and the Sox can be a little more comfortable bringing Stewart back in-season if anything happens to any of the front five, knowing he's already been blooded.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Optioned 2B-B Bobby Hill and RHP Francis Beltran to Iowa; optioned LHP Felix Sanchez to West Tenn (Double-A); assigned INF-B Augie Ojeda, LHP Mike Sirotka, C-R Javier Cardona, OF-L Midre Cummings, and OF-R Treni Hubbard to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Optioned RHP Alan Benes to Iowa; returned RHP Rod Beck and UT-R Charles Gipson to their minor league camp. [3/27]

Purchased the contracts of CF-L Tom Goodwin and PH-L Lenny Harris; placed RHP Scott Chiasson on the 60-day DL (elbow); placed RHP Antonio Alfonseca on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 3/21; placed LHP Will Ohman on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 3/28. [3/29]

It usually isn't the Cubs if something disappointing hasn't happened, and sure, enough, that's the case here. Now sure, Bobby Hill could have helped himself by having a great camp, but he was good enough to win the job last spring, last summer, and last fall. Why should a little bit of March yips change anything? Because the new sheriff in town probably needed to see something, in the same way that he's convinced that Mark Bellhorn's not good enough if he's only hitting homeruns or drawing walks. But again, perhaps far too predictably, a Dusty-designed team favored the graybeards. So Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek will play, although at least Hee Choi managed to hold onto a job-sharing arrangement at first. And then you've got a Cubs bench loaded with some of the scrubbier scrubs around, Tom Goodwin and Lenny Harris and Troy O'Leary, all years removed from utility, plus Ramon E. Martinez, who, like Goodwin, is another one of Dusty's guys from the Giants. You can almost sense the disappointment that Antonio Alfonseca wasn't healthy, so that Kyle Farnsworth could be flagellated for contributing to the unlamented departure of Don Baylor. Rod Beck had a good enough camp to make it, but having overcommitted to guys like Dave Veres and Mark Guthrie already, the Cubs were a bit hamstrung in terms of their choices in the bullpen. Should they finally find a partner to deal for Farnsworth, they'll have made space for someone appropriately old enough to not be mistaken for one of the batboy's fathers.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Chad Paronto to Buffalo; assigned C-R A.J. Hinch and 2B/SS-B Zach Sorensen to their minor league camp; placed 1B-L Ben Broussard on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 3/14. [3/26]

Placed RHP Aaron Myette on the 15-day DL (strained quadricep), retroactive to 3/26; released LHP Benji Sampson. [3/28]

Purchased the contracts of RHP Jose Santiago, LHP Billy Traber, C-R Tim Laker, 3B-R Casey Blake, and INF-L Bill Selby; placed RHPs Bob Wickman and Mark Wohlers, LHP Cliff Lee, and INF-R Ricky Gutierrez on the 60-day DL; optioned OF-L Jody Gerut to Buffalo; assigned RHP Dave Burba to minor league camp; traded C-R A.J. Hinch to the Tigers for a PTBNL. [3/29]

Acquired RHP Mike Fyhrie from the Phillies as the PTBNL in the Wendell Magee Jr. trade, and assigned him to Buffalo. [3/31]

Accepted SS-R Hector Luna back as a Rule 5 draftee, and outrighted him to Buffalo. [4/2]

Placed RHP Jason Bere on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 3/27; recalled RHP Chad Paronto from Buffalo. [4/4]

It's not a good team, but at least it's an interesting one. It would have been a little more interesting if they weren't quite so wedded to Josh Bard behind the plate, but picking Casey Blake as their third baseman was half inspiration, if unfortunately half desperation. A combination with Blake backed up by Bill Selby may not last long, however. Eric Wedge is already tiring of the idea and trying to get John McDonald on the field, thus getting all three of his shortstops onto the infield at once, if unfortunately sticking with the least among them defensively at the actual position.

The rotation is also already a bit out of whack, although that's not necessarily a bad thing, since Jason Bere wasn't an inspired add in the first place. The Tribe is currently wrestling with whether or not to use Jason Phillips or Dave Burba as their fifth starter, but even that may change, depending on what happens with C.C. Sabathia's elbow. Given that Jason Davis and Ricardo Rodriguez are already in the rotation, and that Billy Traber should earn a look at some point, it's just as well if they run with Phillips on the strength of last year's decent performance after his callup. With Brian Tallet not far behind, the Indians may not know where their rotation is right now, but they should have a pretty good idea of what it should be come August. The bullpen is a collection of oddments, which may not surprise with Bob Wickman and Mark Wohlers down, but Jake Westbrook, Jose Santiago, and Dave Riske have all inspired hope for years, and aren't the worst guys for a rebuilding team to take long looks at.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Purchased the contracts of RHP Dan Miceli, LHP Darren Oliver, and 2B-R Ronnie Belliard; optioned C/LF-R Ben Petrick and assigned PH-L Mark Sweeney and C-B Raul Casanova to Colorado Springs; placed INF-R Pablo Ozuna on the 60-day DL (knee), retroactive to 3/26; placed LHP Denny Neagle on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 3/27; placed RHP Denny Stark on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 3/21. [3/30]

There are teams that will be disgraceful to watch from the get-go, like the Tigers or the Brewers, but then there are roster management decisions that are every bit as disgraceful. If Darren Oliver makes your team, it's basically an admission that you weren't aggressive enough in the minor league free agent market, or the people who were once sort of useful market, or the "veterans so bad not even the Reds or Cardinals would give him a look" market. That's before you even get started on the wisdom of bringing in a mouthy scrub like Dan Miceli, arbiter of who's worthy of managing his modest talents; there has yet to be any comment if Clint Hurdle is worthy of Miceli's consideration or respect. However, at least in Oliver's case, the injuries to the Denny Duo (Oooh! Oooh! Corporate tie-in! This'll put a stop to those pesky lawsuits for the kitsch-less diner chain) serves as an excuse, as the Rockies open with two-fifths of their rotation on the DL with Neagle and Stark out.

The more interesting decisions were made among the position players. The infield isn't going to be Brent Butler at second, Juan Uribe at short, and Jose Hernandez at third, but the much more offensively potent combination of Hernandez at short, Ronnie Belliard at second, and Chris Stynes at third. That leaves Greg Norton reduced to pinch-hitting, and Butler serving as a utility infielder with some modest voltage at the plate by the standards of the breed. With Gabe Kapler and Chris Richard also on the bench, Hurdle definitely has hitters he can use. If he's bold with the double-switch and the relative interchangeability of Kapler and Jay Payton on the one hand, and Stynes and Norton (and even Belliard) on the other, it might make for a bunch of fun box scores, if still only something in the 70s in terms of total wins. But it's an entertainment industry, right?

The guy who has to be feeling a bit of despair in this situation is Ben Petrick. The organization has given up on him as a catcher, and blotted him out of their outfield picture by last December, if not even longer ago. He's still offensively talented enough to have some value for a club, but he's also in danger of achieving little more than Mike Kinkade from here on out. A lot will depend on what happens to him with his next organization once the Rockies either trade him or lose him on waivers at some point in the next year.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Acquired RHP Chris Spurling from the Braves for LHP Matt Coenen; optioned LHP Andy Van Hekken to Toledo; assigned LHP Steve Avery to their minor league camp. [3/25]

Optioned RHP Fernando Rodney to Toledo; assigned RHP Preston Larrison and C-R Bill Haselman to their minor league camp; returned 3B-R Travis Chapman to the Phillies. [3/26]

Released 2B-R Damion Easley, 1B-L Kevin Barker, and LHPs Adam Pettyjohn and Rafael Roque; optioned CF-B Andres Torres to Toledo. [3/28]

Acquired C-R A.J. Hinch from the Indians for a PTBNL, and assigned him to Toledo. [3/29]

Purchased the contracts of RHP Jeremy Bonderman from Lakeland (A-ball) and C-B Matt Walbeck from Toledo; placed RHP Danny Patterson on the 15-day DL (elbow). [3/31]

Claimed RHP Tyler Walker off of waivers from the Mets, and optioned him to Toledo. [4/3]

The Tigers are about as desperately bad as a team can be, a tribute to the cumulative genius of Bo Schembechler and Randy Smith and decades of the capriciousness of pizza barons. The rotation isn't merely bad, it's '85 Indians or '30 Phillies bad. Jeremy Bonderman might be more talented than David Clyde, but he's being asked to do more in an even tougher environment. At least keeping the trio of Rule 5 picks is defensible, the organization's general shortage of talent and years of poor drafting helped to create the space on the 40-man roster.

Bonderman aside, the rotation features Adam Bernero, Nate Cornejo, Gary Knotts, and Mike Maroth. Subtracting Steve Sparks makes sense on the basis of last year's performance, certainly, and if he resurrects his career as the new Wakefield resurrection, that's okay, that rotation is going to need a durable long reliever. It makes sense up to a point, considering Andy Van Hekken did nothing to keep ahold of the job he earned last fall. I guess it's a good thing that they claimed Tyler Walker from the Mets, since Walker immediately becomes one of the best pitchers in the upper levels of the organization, and someone you can probably count as a starter for your 2003 Tigers sometime soon.

Other sensible decisions involve whacking Damion Easley, although it's about three years too late. It does put the Tigers on the spot in another regard, which is the decision to just endure whatever happens with playing Eric Munson at third, even if it involves flashbacks of Keith Moreland or Joel Youngblood for those of us who survived witnessing their Tunguskan fireworks afield at the hot corner. Yes, it means that Craig Paquette is only slightly more useful than Dean Palmer has been or will be, what his still being able to walk and respire and open jars and those sorts of things, but better that Paquette get reduced to an insurance policy you never have to use, or, better still, something you flip to the Cardinals should they ever feel the need to soothe Tony La Russa over some roster quirk. Less explicable is Bill Haselman not beating out either Brandon Inge or Matt Walbeck. What's the point of that, to give Inge a backup who won't outhit him? I suppose there's nothing more embarrassing than having a backup who outshines you, so kudos to the Tigers for protecting Inge from that sort of pressure. Unfortunately, the Secret of Inge makes a better animated mouse feature than a starting catcher.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Kevin Olsen to Albuquerque. [3/26]

Assigned OF-Rs Chad Allen and Robert Stratton, C-L Matt Treanor, and UT-R Jason Wood to their minor league camp. [3/27]

Assigned RHP Toby Borland and LHP Juan Alvarez to their minor league camp; released OF-L Al Martin. [3/28]

Placed RHP A.J. Burnett on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 3/21; placed OF-B Abraham Nunez on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 3/21; placed RHP Justin Wayne on the 15-day DL (leg), retroactive to 3/25; purchased the contracts of LHP Tommy Phelps and OF-R Gerald Williams. [3/29]

Jeff Torborg will carry four catchers (Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Redmond, Ramon Castro, and Brian Banks), as threatened, and may even take some solace that if that isn't enough, Mike Mordecai's got experience as an emergency catcher. And if that isn't good enough, Andy Fox has played everywhere but catcher, and would, undoubtedly, rise to the occasion if asked to fill in for the other five catchers should the inconceivable occur, and Jeff Torborg show up to school without a catcher, because lordy knows, we're all haunted by that dream, right? Heck, by carrying Ice Williams on the roster years past his expiration date, he's even got the roster space for a sixth, just in case.

Otherwise, there aren't any real surprises. Tommy Phelps' initial stint in the majors won't last two weeks, as A.J. Burnett will return from the DL this week, bumping Mike Tejera back to the pen as the second lefty behind Armando Almanza. Those of you with a lack of vision can make fun of Jeff Torborg's catching fetish all you want, but at least he still only needs two lefties in the pen to get by.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Assigned LHP Jesus Sanchez to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Released RHP Shane Reynolds. [3/27]

Optioned RHP Brandon Puffer to New Orleans. [3/28]

Released LHP Jesus Sanchez. [3/29]

The news, such as it is here, is that it looks like expenses snuck up on Drayton McLane again, goldangit! As a result, just as they "had" to deal Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti way back when, now they "had" to cut Shane Reynolds. Fortunately, at least this time it sort of makes sense on the talent side of the equation as well, since Tim Redding really should be given a real opportunity in the rotation. The question is why Jeriome Robertson also enjoys that sort of confidence, after years of getting cuffed around the minors, 2002 in New Orleans being a relatively lonely highlight in a very Doug Johns-ish track record. So after they tire of Robertson and lefty tokenism in the rotation, they'll go back to Kirk Saarloos, Peter Munro, or Rodrigo Rosario eventually. If there's a surprise, it's the retention of Raul Chavez, in a rehash of the organizational apoplexy of "oh no, our third catcher is just way too valuable!" A quick count of the teams that have gulled themselves into this choice, their uses of their 40-man roster spots, and the relative value, now and into the future, of Raul Chavez and the like, ought to solve this problem, but when you've got a Jimy with the bit between his teeth, not even going to the whip will get him to let go.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Scott Mullen to Omaha; assigned LHP Rick DeHart, RHP Sean Lowe, and 3B-L Jarrod Patterson to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Placed CF-B Carlos Beltran on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 3/21; purchased the contracts of C-R Mike DiFelice and INF-R Mendy Lopez from Omaha. [3/27]

Claimed 2B-R Brent Abernathy off of waivers from the Devil Rays and optioned him to Omaha. [4/4]

I'm probably unreasonably pleased with some of the decisions the Royals made. It was sensible to nab Rontrez Johnson to fill their need for a defensive sub in center. It was a nice low-end pickup to claim Brent Abernathy when you're the organization that keeps enduring Carlos Febles' various disappointments, not that Abernathy is the Bobby Grich of tomorrow, but better that they have him to turn to and not someone like Keith Lockhart. I'm unreasonably bullish on the decision to have Desi Relaford around as a veteran caddy for Angel Berroa and a switch-hitting alternative to Joe Randa. Mendy Lopez might even have his uses as a spot starter against lefty pitchers now and again. It's a roster built around guys who might be Royals this year and next year and the year after that, and not merely because they've got multi-year deals forcing them on innocent by-standers and season-ticket holders alike.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Released RHP Giovanni Carrara. [3/26]

Released 2B-B Quilvio Veras; outrighted 2B/SS-R Gookie Dawkins to Las Vegas; assigned CF-R Calvin Murray, 1B-L Larry Barnes, and RHP Bryan Corey to their minor league camp. [3/28]

Assigned 1B-R Ron Coomer to Las Vegas; optioned 2B-L Joe Thurston and C-R David Ross to Las Vegas; placed LHP Derek Thompson on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 3/20. [3/29]

Placed OF-R Chad Hermansen on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 3/22; purchased the contract of LHP Tom Martin from Las Vegas. [3/31]

Purchased the contract of 1B-R Ron Coomer from Las Vegas; optioned LHP Steve Colyer to Las Vegas. [4/4]

There you have it: overtouted Joe Thurston shuffling back to Las Vegas, a middle infield of Alex Cora, Jolbert Cabrera, and Cesar Izturis, and Jason Romano stealthily slipping onto the roster in the face of all sorts of challenges. It's interesting to speculate that Romano might enter the second base picture instead of being marooned in a utility role, a career path that might eerily shadow Cabrera's. But Jim Tracy's bench is nothing if not kept polished through frequent use. Certainly, the combination of having bats like Daryle Ward, Mike Kinkade, Romano, Cabrera, and Ron Coomer (now that Guillermo Mota's suspension is up, and previous notional 11th pitcher Steve Colyer has been dispatched) gives him a variety of weapons.

What's interesting is the choices in terms of who plays where. Romano may not really be an outfielder or a second baseman at this point, having been whipsawed between the two positions by both the Rangers and the Rockies in the last year or so, but he's got experience at both positions. Jolbert Cabrera has been the right-handed half of a centerfielder platoon before, and Tracy doesn't really have a platoon mate for Dave Roberts in center. But it's going to be Cabrera platooning with Cora at second, and Romano sort of hanging out. This isn't the only playing pattern Tracy has to address, since he's also going to have to sort out a playing pattern that keeps Ward useful and ready should Brian Jordan have another one of his breakdowns. And if Ron Coomer gets anything close to 200 at-bats, something will have gone very, very wrong, but that doesn't look to be in the cards.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Optioned INF-Rs Jed Hansen and Wilton Veras to Indianapolis. [3/25]

Assigned RHPs Mike Buddie and Ruben Quevedo and LHP/1B-L Brooks Kieschnick to Indianapolis; placed LF-L Geoff Jenkins on the 15-day DL. [3/26]

Placed RHP Nick Neugebauer on the 15-day DL (shoulder). [3/28]

Purchased the contracts of C-Rs Eddie Perez and Keith Osik, and OF-L John Vander Wal. [3/29]

Signed 1B-L Lee Stevens and RHP Dan Kolb to minor league contracts, and assigned them to Indianapolis. [4/3]

Okay, I've predictably ranted that almost nobody needs a third catcher, because plenty of third catchers (or even starting-quality catchers) have slipped through waivers before, and few teams can afford the roster space to go snarfing for replacement-level catching talent. However, if there's one team that ought to present a menace to anyone that has a worthwhile (or even simply breathing) third catcher who has some fear that he might not make it through, it has to be the Brewers. Armed with two catchers who wouldn't be claimed by most Triple-A franchises after having taken a pass on two better options, there's no predicting what Wendy's Wacky Packers might do next. Raul Chavez or Matt Walbeck would be an improvement on Eddie Perez and Keith Osik. Hell, Matt Nokes coming out of retirement, Box O'Rocks, even boxed Helena would all be improvements on Eddie Perez and Keith Osik. That a team would elect to go with Osik and Perez is one of those stunning choices that could either represent the courage to run with whatever the wire provides, or the foolhardiness of just not caring about the product on the field and whether or not it's any good.

On that level, it's similarly sad to see Brooks Kieschnick go down. He's no less dangerous than John VanderWal is at the plate these days, and he probably wouldn't be less valuable that the least of the four lefty relievers the Brewers felt obligated to open the season with. This is a roster with Scott Podsednik on it--it screams out dullity as well as potentially historic ineptitude. Why not keep one of the few guys who's generated any sort of positive publicity for the Brewers in years? Speaking as someone who loved being in the ballpark, like a lot of other people, whenever Doug Dascenzo got the call for an otherwise unredeemably bad '90 Cubs team, why not have somebody, something on the roster that actually deserves some curiosity, and who can actually do either job well enough to be both an effective use of the 25th spot on the roster and a minor folk hero? With fans already inclined to stay away in droves, I'm surprised the Brewers really think all it takes is so more Jeffrey Hammonds to win hearts and minds.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Brent Hoard to Rochester; assigned RHP Jose Cabrera and 1B/3B-R Shane Andrews to their minor league camp; designated SS-R Jose Morban for assignment; purchased the contract of INF-R Chris Gomez. [3/26]

Released RHP Jose Cabrera. [3/27]

Purchased the contract of RHP Mike Fetters; optioned 1B-L Todd Sears to Rochester. [3/29]

Placed RHP Mike Fetters on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Juan Rincon from Rochester. [4/5]

Beyond the predictable breakdown of Mike Fetters, pretty much everything shook out exactly the way it was supposed to for the Twins. Chris Gomez was signed to be the veteran alternative as the utility infielder, and once it became clear that Rule 5 pick Jose Morban wasn't close, the Twins had a pretty clear choice. Of course, it was also a decision made in light of events subsequent to the Rule 5 draft. With Milton's latest breakdown and the White Sox getting Bartolo Colon, you could understand if the Twins recognize they might not have that much of a cushion between themselves and the Sox in terms of talent any more. Fetters' breakdown gives the Twins the opportunity to use Juan Rincon, which is just as well, since it'll give him major league innings in middle relief role. Rick Reed, Joe Mays and Brad Radke can't really be considered sure things any more, so if they start breaking down as well, Johan Santana can only plug one spot in the rotation.

As for Todd Sears, although he had a great camp, and Doug Mientkiewicz had an awful camp after a stunningly mediocre season at an age where that usually means the beginning of the end, it may not really matter who the Twins first baseman is right now. Okay, it will matter to them, and their moms, concerned Twins fans who might wonder why the answer isn't 'David Ortiz,' and the White Sox. Eventually, the correct answer will be Justin Morneau, but that's in 2004. In the meantime, Sears' window of opportunity depends on the good impression he made, and the very real possibility that Mientkiewicz has nowhere to go but down. Or to the Brewers, but that's lower than 'down.'

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Placed RHP Orlando Hernandez on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 3/21; optioned OF-L Matt Cepicky to Edmonton. [3/26]

Outrighted RHP Tim Drew and UT/C-L Edwards Guzman to Edmonton; optioned RHPs Sun-Woo Kim and Britt Reames to Edmonton; assigned C-Rs Tony Eusebio and Randy Knorr and OF-R Damon Buford to minor league camp; released INF-B Jose Offerman. [3/28]

There's some fun stuff here. First, Zach Day gets first crack at the fifth slot of the rotation, which is fine, he's part of the mass talent deposit that's been made in Montreal for the sake of disseminating people other people wanted around the major leagues. Admittedly, it still doesn't make up for the casual discard of Milton Bradley, but that ill-considered choice was one of several parting gifts from Jeffrey Loria in his drive to ruin multiple franchises in a single lifetime (perhaps part of a personal bet with Tom Werner). Day isn't a great prospect as much as a guy who's earned a shot, although if he falters, the Expos have other alternatives to explore.

Then, there's the delightful no-names, the rewarding of organizational soldiers and no-names, which should remind a lot of teams of the interchangeability of free talent, assuming you're willing to trust stats or go spelunking in the minor league free agent pool. Jamey Carroll and Henry Mateo have been shlubbing their way through the organization for years, but they'll more than adequately replace guys like Wilton Guerrero or Mike Mordecai. Endy Chavez, and Jose Macias have been waiver bait, and both made it and can be useful spare parts. Ron Calloway was stolen away from the Snakes for John Pachot, and should turn out to be a handy fourth outfielder. Luis Ayala has skipped around as a minor league free agent and Mexican League veteran, but the Expos snarfed him in the Rule 5 draft, and he's looking like a pretty thoughtful selection in the early going, reiterating the lesson of last year's Expos bullpen, that quality relief help really does grow in the bushes, if you're willing to give it a break and trust to talent instead of experience. In short, it's an Expos team that's just as fun as last year's, and while they may not be anybody's favorite, they'll push for 80 wins, and in this year's NL East, that's bordering contention.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Designated C-R Chris Widger for assignment; purchased the contract of C-R John Flaherty. [3/29]

Placed SS-R Derek Jeter on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder); recalled SS-R Erick Almonte from Columbus. [4/1]

Here it is, the tragedy for which the Yankees were least-well prepared, losing Derek Jeter for any length of time. Although Erick Almonte gets tabbed as a prospect once in awhile, he's almost outlasted the label after a 2002 season where he earned a demotion to Double-A. However, he's also the guy who hit .287/.371/.464 at Columbus in 2001 as a 23 year old. He's never been a great defensive shortstop, but the Yankees make do with Jeter well enough. Now is as good a time as any to look at Almonte and see what they've got, although the pressure will on the entire lineup to keep firing, not on Almonte to replace Jeter as a hitter. The guys who might be on the spot more than anyone else are Hideki Matsui and Nick Johnson. The happy news suggests that Jeter should be ready to come back by June, but the Yankees have a relatively tough schedule during the first two months, before they move into a June where they might get to fatten up on the NL Central. Certainly, it's not bad news for the Red Sox.

Although Joe Torre's canonization came and went years ago, and nobody's about to scrape him from the baseball's figurative Sistine Chapel, from a management perspective it has to be a bit exasperating to see him take the little freedom of action he has in terms of designing his own roster and invariably make the wrong choice. Like Alberto Castillo last year, Torre managed to select the worst option for his backup catcher. This is less a ringing endorsement of Chris Widger as it is an appropriate condemnation of John Flaherty, who's only coming off of three straight awful seasons, and four of the last five. However, he does have lots of service time, and he's earned an escape clause from his timeshare in hell for all of that time spent with the Devil Rays.

If there's a nice tweak to this year's roster, it's the decision to carry a legitimate backup centerfielder in Chris Latham. Admittedly, Bernie Williams' wheels aren't what they once were, so the decision might be a tacit acknowledgment of what's become a wee bit more obvious over the last few years.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Released LHP Donovan Osborne; optioned C-R Jason Phillips to Norfolk; assigned RHP Aaron Heilman and INF-Rs Russ Johnson and Jorge Velandia to minor league camp. [3/25]

Optioned RHP Jason Middlebrook to Norfolk. [3/26]

Placed RHPs Pedro Astacio and Grant Roberts on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); placed pitcher John Franco on the 15-day DL (elbow); recalled C-R Jason Phillips from Norfolk; optioned 1B-R Jorge Toca to Norfolk. [3/28]

Purchased the contracts of INF-R Jay Bell and LHP Graeme Lloyd; designated RHP Tyler Yates for assignment. [3/29]

Optioned LHP Mike Bacsik to Norfolk; announced that INF-R Marco Scutaro and OF-R Raul Gonzalez cleared waivers and were outrighted to Norfolk. [4/3]

Purchased the contract of 1B-B Tony Clark from Norfolk; optioned C-R Jason Phillips to Norfolk. [4/5]

Once Mike Piazza's suspension was up, Jason Phillips was screwed, which is fine, because it highlights a larger issue from among the Mets' pair of big issues in the lineup: what to do with Mo Vaughn, and what to do with Roger Cedeno. Vaughn's a defensive liability without a lot of offensive up-side, but he's in shape and talking about himself, and maybe that means something, and maybe he'll have to get used to sharing his job with Tony Clark if he has another slow start. Clark serves no other purpose, since he can't really play in the outfield, and the Mets have two outfielders in Timo Perez and Tsuyoshi Shinjo that they're going to have to scare up at-bats for in the first place. They might get pushed over to playing some center, however, should the experiment with sending Cedeno back to his original position fail. I've always been willing to give Cedeno's glovework a lot of the benefit of the doubt; he's bad on balls over his head, and bad going into the corners, but he has speed and he was once considered a natural center fielder. Perhaps, for the sake of argument, he could return to that far-off and lost past. For the money the Mets have invested, they may as well try it, the whole team is built on overlapping risks that might be enough to get them to 85 wins and a shot at the division title, but just as last year's team was a brittle thing that busted up at the first sign of trouble, so too is this one.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Optioned UT-L Jason Grabowski to Sacramento; assigned UT/C-B Adam Melhuse, 1B-R David McCarty, and OF-L Billy McMillon to their minor league camp; placed RHP Jim Mecir on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 3/21; purchased the contract of LF-R Ron Gant from Sacramento. [3/29]

It's an interesting roster, that much is certain. As a result of the decision to not carry a real utility infielder, Adam Piatt might have to play a little bit of third or first, and Mark Ellis or Frankie Menechino some short. But that's OK, because they managed to keep around full platoons to cover left field, center, and DH and first. It looks like Piatt will spot in left against some lefties, Eric Byrnes will be in a platoon with Chris Singleton in center while operating as the fourth outfielder, and Ron Gant will effectively platoon with Scott Hatteberg, with Erubiel Durazo flipping between DH and first base as appropriate. Essentially, that leaves a lineup of four platoons or near-platoons, and the five main offensive regulars being Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada, Jermaine Dye, Durazo, and Mark Ellis. That's a solid set of decisions in the early going, although it'll clearly be more complicated than that as the season progresses, Long or Singleton get spot starts against bass-ackwards lefties, and everyone spots for everyone as nagging injuries pile up. Tip of the cap to Ken Macha and company for putting something together that's flexible and leaves the bench loaded. Few rosters so accurately reflect Earl Weaver's wisdom that your backup shortstop is in Rochester.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Acquired OF-R Wendell Magee Jr. from the Indians for a PTBNL. [3/25]

Assigned PH-B Dave Hollins, C-L Jesse Levis, OF-L McKay Christensen, LHP Jim Crowell, and RHP Amaury Telemaco to their minor league camp. [3/28]

Signed RHPs Jose Cabrera, Wayne Gomes, and Julio Santana to minor league contracts. [3/30]

Optioned 2B-L Chase Utley to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; recalled RHP Eric Junge from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/5]

Almost none of the cuts surprised anybody. By reason of a minor technicality, Dave Hollins can't be a Philly until May, which sort of created Opening Day space for Chase Utley pending Hollins' return to the organization that favors a unique blend of cronyism and nostalgia. Utley's expendability was quickly underscored after Kevin Millwood's minor hammy twinge created the fear that the Phillies might need an emergency starter, hence the recall of Eric Junge since Brandon Duckworth isn't ready to come off of the DL just yet.

The lone real surprise would be the decision to bring Wendell Magee Jr. back to the organization. If you remember the circumstances under which he left, he lambasted the Phillies organization for its miserable instruction and general lack of professionalism. Now, admittedly, that was awhile ago, and perhaps the criticism proved helpful. On the other hand, Magee seems disappointed whenever it's brought to his attention that he's not good enough to be a regular. If anyone should be afraid for any reason, it ought to be Marlon Byrd; a cold start from him in conjunction with any disappointment vis-a-vis the general expectation that this team is supposed to win the division could bring Magee up and leave Byrd scapegoated by a manager ready to point fingers.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Assigned C-R Yohanny Valera to their minor league camp; sold the contract of 3B-R Jose Fernandez to Chiba Lotte of the Japanese Leagues. [3/25]

Optioned OF-R Adam Hyzdu to Nashville; released RHP Matt Herges unconditionally. [3/26]

Well, happy days, sort of. Although it begs the question of why they ever traded for him in the first place, at least the Pirates decided to burn Matt Herges' bed rather than sleep in it. I don't know if I really favor keeping Julian Tavarez over Herges, but at least it keeps Salomon Torres on the roster. Both Tavarez and Torres are available for when Jeff D'Amico breaks down again, or if any of the other starters go down, although the Pirates have a good front foursome that shouldn't be the source of much concern. It also creates a pen with three lefty relievers (former starters Dennys Reyes and Joe Beimel, plus situational maven Scott Sauerbeck), which might prove useful for Dave Littlefield come the trading deadline. If there's a sad note, it's the demotion of Adam Hyzdu, but with twelve pitchers, it was tough to keep a final outfielder who can't really play another position, one of (if not quite the only--he does bat lefty) the virtues of all-around rover Rob Mackowiak.

The interesting roster decision was the choice to forego carrying a card-carrying backup catcher. Whether this will make Lloyd McClendon a little skittish about bringing Craig Wilson into a game, since he's the lone backup to Jason Kendall, remains to be seen. McClendon's very much a caricature of a "book" manager, so this may screw Wilson out of at-bats that he deserves. It isn't often that I'd advocate keeping a catch-and-throw type like Yohanny Valera, but between him or Humberto Cota, it would have made sense to have kept either, eat Kevin Young's contract, and made sure to let Wilson get at least half of the playing time at first base. But it depends--if McClendon is flexible enough to keep Wilson on the field when he isn't catching, then it's technically as well as tactically a better use of the roster spot, and I'd be happily impressed.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Released RHPs Al Levine and Joey Hamilton unconditionally. [3/26]

Placed RHP Jason Isringhausen on the 15-day DL (shoulder); placed OF-L J.D. Drew on the 15-day DL (knee); placed C-R Joe Girardi on the 15-day DL (strained pectoral muscle); placed C-R Steve Torrealba on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); placed RHPs Chris Carpenter and Gene Stechschulte on the 60-day DL (shoulder, the both of them); optioned LHP Rick Ankiel to Tennessee (Double-A); purchased the contracts of RHPs Cal Eldred and Russ Springer, and LHP Lance Painter. [3/28]

Optioned OF-R So Taguchi to Memphis; purchased the contract of RHP Kiko Calero from Memphis. [3/31]

Given the number of injuries, it isn't a great setup, but it could have been worse. This year's bench, with Orlando Palmeiro and Wilson Delgado added to last year's cast of characters, is an improvement, because at least now they've got a pinch-hitter or outfield spare who can get on base, and a backup shortstop who can play shortstop. Cal Eldred, Russ Springer, and Lance Painter are exactly the kinds of veterans who might find new life with Dave Duncan, and they could easily win away jobs from Jason Simontacchi, Dustin Hermanson, and Jeff Fassero once guys like Jason Isringhausen and eventually Chris Carpenter come off of the DL. But clearly, this is an extremely transitional pitching staff. It's cool to see Kiko Calero make it up, and he might even stick, but this is a staff that's going to end up being pretty difficult to manage, between the fragilities among the odd elbow or shoulder. There are really only two certainties, that Matt Morris will continue to be the staff ace, and that Steve Kline will work like a dog. Beyond that, nothing is certain. It's an unwieldy enough situation, given the questions about the durability or the quality of all of the other starters, that a slow start could almost make you wonder about a resurrection of La Russa's wacky rotationless A's experiment of 1993. Fortunately, it shouldn't be too likely, it's just more of a situation where until the Cards can certain about how durable Woody Williams or Garrett Stephenson are, they should keep guys like Calero or Eldred ready to come into the fifth or sixth inning.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Claimed INF-R Lou Merloni off of waivers from the Red Sox. [3/25]

Placed RHPs Jay Witasick (retroactive to 3/21) and Kevin Jarvis and LHP Kevin Walker on the 15-day DL (strained elbows all around), retroactive to 3/21; claimed LHP Mike Matthews off of waivers from the Brewers; released RHP Francisco Cordova. [3/26]

Purchased the contract of 2B-L Keith Lockhart; released OF-R Roberto Kelly; assigned OF-L Brady Anderson to Portland; returned 2B/3B-L Oscar Robles to Mexico City of the Mexican League. [3/27]

Optioned C-R Mike Rivera to Portland; reassigned INF-R Alex Pelaez to their minor league camp; signed RHP Matt Herges. [3/29]

There were some stunning disappointments here, but all things considered, is this really the end of the world? Okay, the positives? Lou Merloni makes a nifty platoon partner for Ramon Vazquez at short, no matter how much Merloni might rather be a PawSock. Brady Anderson and Roberto Kelly aren't on the team, which means that Rule 5 pick Shane Victorino is as the backup centerfielder, which also means that Victorino should get some actual playing time if he sticks all year, and perhaps 100-150 plate appearances. Mike Matthews is a pretty decent waiver claim, no matter how bad his camp with the Brewers, and he gives the Padres an alternative to Clay Condrey as the fifth starter, allowing them to either bump Mike Bynum back to starting at Portland or getting experience in long relief with the big club. Most happily, if nothing else, this year Pads fans will get to see Sean Burroughs and Xavier Nady play.

The downside? Matt Herges will almost certainly pitch, although at least they didn't spend anything to bring him in. They seem unusually pleased or ready to try Condrey as their fifth starter on the basis of the first good minor league season he's had in some time. They've let themselves be gulled by Gary Bennett's swaggering take-charge Al Haig act and sat still with Wiki Gonzalez, keeping both of their worse alternatives to Mike Rivera for duties behind the plate. Admittedly, it might have been tough to deal Gonzalez in the midst of his multi-year deal and in the wake of last season's nagging injuries and down year, but there are several teams panhandling for catching help, and Gonzalez isn't that expensive. Keith Lockhart lives, perhaps to give the bench a smattering of age alongside Dave Hansen in the semi-player/coach role that Dave Magadan held here for awhile, but I guess that's not horrifying in itself, as long as he doesn't play.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Outrighted 1B-L Damon Minor to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Purchased the contracts of 1B-R Andres Galarraga and CF-R Ruben Rivera; optioned RHP Jim Brower, LHP Jeff Urban, C-R Trey Lunsford, SS-R Cody Ransom, CF-R Jason Ellison, and LF-L Tony Torcato to Fresno. [3/29]

Placed RHP Robb Nen on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 3/30; recalled RHP Jim Brower from Fresno. [3/31]

Damon Minor might be entirely ready to outhit J.T. Snow for every year of their careers from here on out, but the Giants apparently aren't comfortable with sinking that particular cost, and they had hauled in one of Felipe's old Expos gang, the Big Cat himself, to help out at first base, so roster space was at a premium. Again, it's a bit of a surprise that Minor went unclaimed, not because he's the next Erubiel Durazo or something, but if Al Martin's being handed a job as a temp because he was available on the wire, then Damon Minor can help a team. Beyond Snow, there are a couple of other pricey boondoggles on the roster, namely Marquis Grissom and Neifi Perez, but Grissom's another ex-Expo from the great '94 squad, and Perez was a waiver gamble gone bad. It's sort of a shame, since they do have a nifty potential platoon on the roster in the outfield with Marvin Benard and Ruben "Stickyfingers" Rivera on the bench, but that duo will lose time to the memory of the Grissom that once was.

I suppose losing Robb Nen for a couple of weeks is supposed to be the end of the world for some roto team or another, but the odds that it'll impact the Giants' season in a meaningful way seems pretty remote.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Assigned C-R Julio Mosquera and RHP Scott Atchison to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Signed RHP Giovanni Carrara to a one-year contract. [3/28]

Purchased the contract of C-R Pat Borders; optioned RHPs Rafael Soriano and J.J. Putz to Tacoma; assigned RHP Ken Cloude to their minor league camp; placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 3/21. [3/29]

Activated C-R Dan Wilson from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Pat Borders to Tacoma. [4/5]

I don't know what's more despicable, that Pat Borders' career as Pat Gillick's catching golem continues to lurch along a decade after his usefulness came to an end, or that the Mariners would betray their own yet again to haul in a journeyman like Giovanni Carrara. Now, keep in mind, I think Carrara can be a sturdy enough middle reliever, but why turn to him when Ken Cloude is ready to stick, and has given this organization years of service without much in the way of being treated seriously or fairly? The excuse offered, that Carrara has experience as a reliever, is at best noxious, since it wasn't that long ago that he was a minor league starter hoping to catch a break. Borders, at least, was certain to be undone and returned to his sarcophagus in Gillick's office once Dan Wilson, expensive aspiring undead catcher of the present, returned from the DL. But shafting Cloude to haul in a warmed-over member of the suitcase set is one of those petty roster injustices for which Gillick deserves to be held accountable.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Released RHP Travis Phelps. [3/26]

Signed OF-L Al Martin and LHP Mike Venafro; claimed OF-L George Lombard off of waivers from the Tigers; optioned OF-L Jason Tyner and RHP Brandon Backe to Durham; assigned LHP Cedrick Bowers to their minor league camp. [3/28]

Purchased the contract of CF-R Rocco Baldelli from Bakersfield (A-ball); signed UR-R Terry Shumpert; purchased the contracts of LHP Jim Parque and RHP Steve Parris from Durham; assigned C-R Hector Ortiz to their minor league camp; designated OF-L George Lombard, SS-R Hector Luna and LHP Hans Smith for assignment. [3/29]

Signed 2B-R Damion Easley; outrighted 2B-R Brent Abernathy to Durham; outrighted OF-L George Lombard to Durham and LHP Hans Smith to Orlando (Double-A); designated OF-L Jason Tyner for assignment; signed RHP Al Levine to a minor league contract. [4/2]

I still don't hold any hope that this team is going to win 70 games, but I like some of what's being done. It was worth snagging Terry Shumpert, Mike Venafro and George Lombard off of the wire, although spending time, money, and roster space on Al Martin or Damion Easley is indefensible. Admittedly, Lombard is a longshot and a big 'if' at this point of his career, but Martin's contributions are easily anticipated. Afield, Martin makes Ben Grieve look light of foot, and offensively, he can give hope that we may yet see a Jason Tyner Bobblehead Day. Lombard, by contrast, is worth giving a couple of months as the starting right fielder, on the off chance that he finally turns into something of value. As long as they're going to waste the at-bats on someone like this, and as long as they're paying Greg Vaughn anyway, they may as well have kept Vaughn. As for Easley, picking him up is going to allow the D-Rays to move Aubrey Huff to right field, so that Easley can handle the hot corner and Grieve winds up at DH, but replacing Martin with Easley is one of those questions where the answers are equally unacceptable.

The other thing that picking up Easley does is make the pickup of Shumpert that much more important, since Shumpert gets to replace Brent Abernathy in the role as Marlon Anderson's platoon mate at second base. It might achieve adequacy, but the nice thing about an Anderson-Abernathy platoon was that you might see one or the other stake a claim on the job, where Shumpert can't and won't, and Anderson isn't particularly likely after several years of wrestling with near-usefulness.

The one unambiguously nice move as picking up Mike Venafro, since he makes a nice veteran complement to Bobby Seay as the lefties in the pen. The bullpen is loaded with younger arms, the rotation with Joe Kennedy, Nick Bierbrodt, and three journeymen in the rotation.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Waived RHP Danny Kolb. [3/26]

Optioned RHP Joaquin Benoit to Oklahoma; assigned RHP Victor Santos and LHP Brian Shouse to their minor league camp. [3/27]

Outrighted LHP Doug Davis to Oklahoma. [3/28]

Purchased the contracts of LHP C.J. Nitkowski, DH-B Ruben Sierra, C-B Chad Kreuter, and 2B-L Jermaine Clark from Oklahoma; placed RHP Jeff Zimmerman and OF-L Rusty Greer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/21; optioned RHP Ryan Drese to Frisco (Double-A); assigned UT-R Donnie Sadler and OF-R Ryan Christenson to Oklahoma. [3/29]

The idea that the Rangers outrighted Doug Davis doesn't surprise me, what surprises me is that a team like the Tigers or the Brewers didn't snap him up, given the alternatives they had to choose from for their rotations. The other interesting decision was not keeping Joaquin Benoit or Ryan Drese around as the fifth starter, but both had awful camps, and the Rangers are supposed to be considering a journeyman temp to stock the last slot in the rotation behind Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdes, John Thomson, and Colby Lewis. Being considered are Shane Reynolds, Rolando Arrojo, or Frank Castillo, all of whom make for adequate options to keep the spot stocked until someone like Benoit or Ben Kozlowski is ready to claim the job.

Otherwise, the roster is extremely provisional, given the number of injuries. Herb Perry should be back shortly, which might produce a difficult decision. There's no reason to send away either Mark Teixeira or Hank Blalock, since they'll still be Rangers after John Hart's a retiree. Jermaine Clark might make sense as the guy to send away, or either Chad Kreuter or Todd Greene, except that there are teams that have managed to maneuver themselves into desperate catching situations who would snarf the odd Kreuter or Greene off of waivers in a heartbeat if they gave the matter thought. Which goes back to Clark, except that he's semi-notionally the team's backup center fielder and backup second baseman, which are jobs also covered by Michael Young, except that he's also the backup shortstop and the starting second baseman. Even though the Rangers are carrying 14 position players, carrying a DH (Ruben Sierra) as their fourth outfielder creates special problems that Perry coming back will only exacerbate.

Elsewhere, the pen might seem to have a bit of a youngish flavor to it, but again, you can lay this less at the doorstep of Showalter's famed decisiveness than you can to a couple of injuries. Todd Van Poppel will be back shortly, and with the addition of one of the aforementioned veterans to the staff to man the fifth starter's slot, Reynaldo Garcia and one of the replacement-level lefties (C.J. Nitkowski or Aaron Fultz) should be ready to have to shlep back to Oklahoma in long before Tax Day.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Optioned OF-L Dewayne Wise to Syracuse; placed RHP Bob File and OF-B Jayson Werth on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/21; assigned OF-Rs Bruce Aven and Mike Colangelo and OF-L Rob Ryan to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Claimed RHP Kevin Frederick off of waivers from the Twins; signed RHP Dan Reichert to a minor league contract. [3/28]

Assigned INF-R Mike Moriarty to their minor league camp; purchased the contracts of LHP Trever Miller and RHP Doug Linton. [3/29]

If there's a surprise or disappointment in the Jays' camp, it isn't that they're carrying twelve pitchers, since they've intended to keep Aquilino Lopez from the start. No, if there's a shock, it's that they're carrying three catchers, two backup infielders, and no fourth outfielder. It wasn't for want of viable alternatives. As much as I'm no big fan of Dewayne Wise, he's never going to grow up to be more than a fourth outfielder; sending him to Syracuse might be doing Syracuse a favor, but it doesn't help the Jays much, and everyday play for Wise isn't going to suddenly transmogrify him into a prospect. Even if they did want to wish upon Wise's future and give him that regular playing time as a SkyChief, there were options. Bruce Aven's primary value is as a guy who can hit a little, has experience coming off of the bench and pinch-hitting, and he can hurt a lefty now and again, so you'd think he'd make a swell fourth outfielder. If you wanted pinch glovework and pinch-running, maybe Mike Colangelo makes sense. If you want a lefty bat on the bench for a team that has no lefty bat on its bench, then Mike Ryan makes sense.

None of that mattered, apparently. Ken Huckaby's defense was never enough to put him in the majors in itself at any point of the previous decade, and his hitting isn't worth mentioning. That hardly matters now, because he's achieved every scrub catcher's dream, the opportunity to have a big league career born of injury, followed by a suddenly conveyed reputation as one particular pitcher's "special" catcher, since Huckaby has latched on to Roy Halladay. So even though the Jays are carrying a nice pair of low-cost offense-oriented catchers in Greg Myers and Tom Wilson, and even if it might make sense to have a right-handed hitting backup for Frank Catalanotto in one outfield corner, instead, at least one day out of five, they'll be futzing around with a luxury in the 25th spot of the roster. It won't help them with any in-game tactical flexibility, and it won't help them win a single game. The most you can say is that it might make Halladay a little more inclined to sign a multi-year deal, after which they can offend him by recycling Huckaby's roster spot and converting it to something useful in terms of winning a game now and again.

Otherwise, the Jays did a nifty job by adding some organizational pitching depth. It isn't often that you can get a pair of decent arms like Kevin Frederick and Dan Reichert, but now's the time, when other teams are making room for veteran mediocrities who only merited NRIs in December. Given what happened last year, when the organization was caught short-handed courtesy of Gord Ash's indolence at the front end of the winter, the Jays understandably want to avoid a similar circumstance and have to rush someone like Mike Smith again, or having to tolerate the struggles of someone like Scott Cassidy.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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