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August 22, 2012

Transaction Analysis

San Diego Excises Bartlett

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated DH-L Luke Scott from the 15-day disabled list. [8/21]
Optioned INF-R Sean Rodriguez to Triple-A Durham. [8/21

Sometimes a general manager must worsen his roster in the short-term to better his roster in the long-term. Rodriguez is a better player than Elliot Johnson. But Rodriguez has options and Johnson does not. The Rays are notoriously clingy and hate to lose pieces of depth without compensation whenever the situation is avoidable. Thus, Rodriguez heads to the minors while Johnson sticks around and bathes in Evian.

There is some good news for Rodriguez. To start with, he’ll spend fewer than 20 days in the minors before being recalled. That means two things: 1) no option will be used, and 2) he’ll receive big-league service time in the interim. Because the Rays have position players on the 60-day disabled list, Rodriguez can be added to the postseason roster without being in the majors come August 31. Another stroke of genius by the Rays? No—not when the prize is giving Johnson more plate appearances. This is just business as usual.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed 1B-L Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal. [8/20]

Atlanta never seemed to be a likely destination for Overbay. Not only do the Braves already have a left-handed hitting first baseman in Freddie Freeman, but their bench seems to lack openings. The Braves are seemingly going to make another play here. They have three real choices: 1) keep Overbay in the minors until September and use him for the rest of the regular season; 2) dispose of Eric Hinske and insert Overbay in his place; or 3) throw Matt Diaz on the 60-day disabled list and Overbay on the 40-man roster by September 1, thus allowing Overbay to be on the postseason roster. It’s possible the Braves made this move without having Overbay’s presence in October in mind; it’s just not terribly likely.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Activated RHP Rubby De La Rosa from the 60-day disabled list. [8/21]
Optioned RHP Javy Guerra to Triple-A Albuquerque. [8/21

There used to be a time when pitchers took 18 months to get back up to speed following Tommy John surgery. De La Rosa returns to the majors in about 12 month’s time. It’s a testament to De La Rosa’s work ethic and the improvements made to the rehab process. Ostensibly, De La Rosa will return in a relief role. Look for lots of strikeouts and probably a good number of walks, too.  

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Designated RHP Juan Cruz for assignment. [8/20]

Not often does a contending team designated a reliever with 40-plus appearances and a 2.78 ERA for assignment, but here we are. The story with Cruz is the same as usual. He brings strikeouts, walks, and fly balls in bushels. Cruz recently came off the disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation, so health could be a concern, too. The Pirates reportedly have no interest in retaining Cruz should he pass through waivers. One would think a team like the Yankees would claim the veteran right-hander before it came to that.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Released SS-R Jason Bartlett. [8/20]

The Padres acquired Bartlett prior to the start of last season with an eye on him stabilizing the position. A fair plan, albeit unfulfilled by Bartlett. He followed up on a rough 2011 by missing most of this season with a sprained knee. After letting Bartlett sit on the disabled list for three months, the Padres have ended the relationship.

Bartlett’s immediate future is unclear. He last appeared in a game back in May. The results were poor when Bartlett did play. Age and numerous lower body injuries have lowered Bartlett’s status from defensive maestro to defensive sieve. Bartlett’s ability to make contact wavered in his 98 plate appearances this season, and he struck out 28 percent of the time—a factoid sure to raise eyebrows given his reliance on hitting for average.  There are some positives to Bartlett’s game worth mentioning, such as his wits. Bartlett is renowned for blocking the bag with his shin, and occasionally attempts to psych out baserunners; hardly consequential, sure, but added value is added value.

Depending on how teams feel about Bartlett’s health and struggles this season, he could receive opportunities to compete for a starting shortstop gig or a utility infielder position next spring.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Re-signed RHP Jake Westbrook to a one-year contract extension with a mutual option for the 2014 season. [8/21]

With a grim 2011 season behind him, Westbrook and the Cardinals have essentially agreed to a one-year extension. A mutual option, previously held for the 2013 season, now applies to the 2014 season.  Perhaps Westbrook and the Cardinals eventually agree to a Tim Wakefield-inspired extension, though one with mutual options—another option being tacked on every time another is exercised.

Westbrook doesn’t live to get groundballs so much as he gets groundballs to live. It’s a fine distinction, and a skill set unlikely to kindle jealousy. Still, having a pitcher like Westbrook around as the fourth starter is a luxury, particularly if he continues to record a quality start in two-thirds of his tries.

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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