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May 17, 2003

Transaction Analysis

May 12-14, 2003

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Activated C-R Brook Fordyce from the bereavement list; outrighted C-R Robert Machado to Ottawa. [5/13]

Generally speaking, I feel obligated to comment on everything and every move in this space. There have been, of course, times where I do not, just as there are far too many times where I feel I should say everything I have on my mind on every subject under the sun, to the general annoyance or amusement of friends and family. So it isn't very often when I stop short and have to acknowledge that almost nobody besides the Orioles' pitchers and the coaching staff and perhaps one or two really revved-up Hacking MASSters noticed Brook Fordyce's absence, Robert Machado's start, or Geronimo Gil's continued flailing. Each follows the river of his own Tao, never overrunning his banks as they meander ever forward into the orange oblivion of Orioledom. There are, of course, three teams doing worse than the Orioles in the league offensively, but this remains one of those spots where the team could really help itself very easily, save for the remorse of accepting some costs as sunk.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Optioned RHP Steve Woodard to Pawtucket; activated RHP Robert Person from the 15-day DL. [5/13]

I'm one of Steve Woodard' biggest fans and consistent champions, but it's getting to the point that I have to acknowledge that a lot of that is sympathy born of the abuse piled on him by Phil Garner's basic incomprehension of the pitching profession ("Broken wrist? Walk it off, kid, we need you out there.") In terms of an easy upgrade for the Red Sox, this makes perfectly good sense, with the only surprise--if any--being that Woodard lost his job to Jason Shiell in the last two weeks.

Person was going to come up regardless, since it wasn't like he signed with the Red Sox to enjoy the scenery and summer fun in Pawtucket and environs. The basic question is if Person can be an asset in the pen, and I don't see why not. Beyond the generally lighter workload, and the organization's apparent sensitivity towards his durability this soon after his shoulder and elbow trouble, he showed good velocity during his rehab and in his 2003 debut, and it isn't like he's Chad Fox or something. The only pens in the league that have done worse or as poorly as Boston's in the early going are those of Texas and Toronto, so it isn't like there's no room for improvement.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Activated CF-L Ken Griffey Jr. from the 15-day DL; designated OF-R Ruben Mateo for assignment. [5/13]

Griffey will move straight into the lineup, with Austin Kearns moving over to right field, and the Reds getting another crack at fielding that dream outfield we all want to see bop, hopefully for the rest of the year. The stratification of team offenses in the early going has been pretty interesting, with the Reds falling short of being one of the ten teams doing well (according to Equivalent Average). While Griffey is replacing Jose Guillen's productive bat, and thus doesn't do much to fix the team's lack of a consistent (or consistently healthy) middle infielder, it wasn't as if Guillen was going to slug over .600 all year.

Ruben Mateo slipped through waivers, which is a little surprising, but there's enough concern that he might not ever be right physically that he might be one of the best prospects ruined by injury in recent years. Hopefully, he'll hit in the minors and reclaim a portion of his career, but at this point, there's reason to worry that he'll get even that outside of the International or Pacific Coast Leagues.

Perhaps I'm easily amused, but I can't help but get a chuckle out of Jose Guillen's grousing about his playing time now that Griffey is back. Apparently, an on-again, off-again relationship with the waiver wire has taught him nothing about his prospective or perceived value within the industry. His threats to leave Cincinnati after the season if he isn't traded are up there with my threats to abdicate my claim to the throne of God-Emperor if I'm not given every Lipizzaner on the face of the Earth. Nobody's going to give you something they don't have for something you can't reasonably claim as your own. I guess that's the nice thing about being confronted with childish threats like this, where someone is saying he'll hold his or her breath till they turn blue; at the most, they eventually pass out, and get up later, feeling a little sheepish. Jose Guillen needs a thwacking with the reality stick to be reminded that he's still just Jose Guillen, good hundred at-bats or no.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Placed RHP Dave Elder on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff tendinitis); purchased the contract of RHP Jerrod Riggan from Buffalo; placed 1B-L Travis Hafner on the 15-day DL (broken toe), retroactive to 5/10; recalled 1B/LF-L Ben Broussard from Buffalo.

Exchanging Elder for Jerrod Riggan, reigning champeen of the randomly-generated phony Star Wars name contest, isn't a major shakeup of any proportion. The more interesting exchange is Broussard for Hafner. Broussard is probably another one of my blind spots, in that I like him considerably more than I should given the fact that his most recent comps, according to PECOTA, are Greg Brock or Jack Howell. On the other hand, neither he or Hafner seem really close to any contemporaries, although Hafner's comps are generally rosier (who would want to forget Mike Epstein?).

It's worth noting that neither is particularly young at 26, and both are what you'd call 'gifted' in the old player's skills set: walking, slugging, and standing. For each, the future is now, and the Indians the kind of team they'll get their best shots at careers. The Tribe has the modest problem of having Ellis Burks at DH, so they can't really look at both simultaneously, not unless Eric Wedge decides to aggravate his pitchers by planting Broussard in left and benching one of his outfielders (Matt Lawton or Jody Gerut for not hitting, and Milton Bradley for being Milton Bradley).

If Mark Shapiro is going to get a good read on the future value of Hafner or Broussard, however, he's going to have to see it on the field. It's not a problem while one is out, but when Hafner is ready to come off of the DL, the Indians will either have to have made up their minds about Broussard, or they'll have a lineup management decision to make.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Recalled LHP Jeriome Robertson from New Orleans; optioned RHP Kirk Saarloos to New Orleans. [5/12]

"Why did you waffle over who your fifth starter is?"
"Manager's decision."
"Blueberries, bananas, or strawberries?"
"Manager's decision."
"Can you pick now?"
"Manager's decision."
"So you're your own man, I take it."
"Manager's decision."
"So you wouldn't have to be your own man, if you chose not to be?"
"Bloogeroots! Whaaaa! Wacka-wacka-wacka! Wooga-wooga-wooga! Nobody home!"

Okay, I know there's some doubt about Saarloos's value as a starter, but two bad starts are meaningless as a sample of anything more than how quickly Jimy Williams and Gerry Hunsicker can reverse a decision to go back to their original bad decision. On the other hand, my faith in the reliable value of minor league performance aside (Saarloos: going good; Robertson: bombed in his lone Zephyr start), Robertson immediately logged a quality start against the Phillies to mark his return to the fifth slot, so Hunsicker and Williams undoubtedly feel pretty smart at the moment.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Placed LHP Troy Brohawn on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff tendinitis); recalled LHP Steve Colyer from Las Vegas. [5/13]

As exchanges go, this is pretty meaningless: token second lefty in the pen for token alternative second lefty in the pen. The anticipated return of Paul Shuey within a week or so means that Colyer's claim on the roster spot barely rises to the level of a test-drive, and well below a decision to lease or buy. It might become significant if Tom Martin's injury-checkered career hopscotches over to one of those injured moments, but so far, Martin has been outstanding, particularly with men on base, rewarding the Dodgers' decision to take a flyer on him. Consider this another feather in the cap of Jim Tracy.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Activated SS-R Derek Jeter from the 15-day DL; optioned SS-R Erick Almonte to Columbus. [5/13]

Activated RHP Antonio Osuna from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Randy Choate to Columbus. [5/14]

All things considered, the six weeks without Jeter could not possibly have turned out any better than they did. Jeter seems to have made a complete recovery, the organization got to take a long look at Erick Almonte and see that he has value right now, and they didn't slip out of first place in the AL East. The organization sensibly elected to play Almonte and not Enrique Wilson, and just as sensibly returned Almonte to everyday play in Columbus. Hopefully, before the end of August, they'll place Almonte on their playoff roster at Wilson's expense, both because it looks like he's the better player right now, and because he'll be far fresher from having gotten that playing time. And of course, with Nick Johnson's latest breakdown, getting Jeter's bat back is more than a little timely.

Elsewhere, Randy Choate gets another dose of stepchild treatment, although he helped by pitching poorly in two of the five games he got into (one of them was the product of Torre's decision to let him face A-Rod with the bases loaded down by three, which became six), while Sterling Hitchcock has been a reasonable facsimile of a useful second lefty. Unfortunately, the primary lefty, Chris Hammond, has been ineffective in high-leverage situations, but there have been more than enough questions about how the pen is being handled now that Torre is working with his first really new group of relievers during his tenure in pinstripes.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed 1B-L Tyler Houston on the 15-day DL (fractured finger); recalled SS-B Nick Punto from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/14]

Losing Tyler Houston for six weeks isn't good news, but replacing him with Nick Punto while having Marlon Byrd back gives Larry Bowa the option to relegate Ricky Ledee to lefty pinch-hitting duties while also being free to use Tomas Perez to pinch-hit without costing his bench a spare infielder. It's sort of a left-handed way to force them into doing the right thing in terms of simply playing Byrd every day, but it works.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Placed 2B-R Pokey Reese on the 60-day DL (torn ligaments - thumb). [5/14]

Well, losing Pokey for most of the rest of the season scotches at least one of the Pirates' season leitmotifs, the "we'll win with superior interior defense" palaver. His likeliest replacement at second, Abe Nunez, will still kick in his contributions towards that other McClendonian theme, "runs are for today's softies." If McClendon had any concern for his job security, he could probably try to get offense and employ a platoon of Rob Mackowiak and Jeff Reboulet, although I can't really bring myself to say that's a 'win now' gambit.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Placed C/OF-R Eli Marrero on the 15-day DL (ankle); recalled OF-L Kerry Robinson from Memphis; purchased the contract of C-R Chris Widger from Memphis; transferred C-R Joe Girardi from the 15- to 60-day DL; optioned LHP Kevin Ohme to Memphis. [5/13]

Having effectively lost Marrero until some point in August, the Cardinals wind up with an annoying repercussion of having exploited the flexibility of flipping Marrero back and forth between catching and the outfield, which is that they now needed both a backup catcher and a spare outfielder. Chris Widger is a worthy backup catcher, although the absence of Marrero will only hurt more as Mike Matheny's continued slide back to Mathenydom leaves them without an alternative for the lineup. It'll be great for Widger, in that he's got more pop than Matheny, but it won't help the Cardinals much in terms of chasing the Cubs and Astros all summer. As for Kerry Robinson, he'll pinch-hit in the low-leverage situations Tony LaRussa doesn't want to expend Orlando Palmeiro on, pinch-run, and help everyone hold the team's collective breath hoping that nothing bad happens to Jim Edmonds or J.D. Drew.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Claimed OF-R Cristian Guerrero off of waivers from the Brewers, and assigned him to Inland Empire (A-ball); designated OF-R Kenny Kelly for assignment. [5/14]

Generally speaking, this isn't the worst choice in terms of swapping one toolsy non-prospect for a younger, toolsy, related-to-one-of-the-best-players-around non-prospects. This is a Pat Gillick sort of decision from start to finish, without the introspection to say "What else could I do with that spot on my 40-man roster?" to "No, I don't remember who Aquilino Lopez is" to "If this guy learns how to hit, he'll be a hell of a ballplayer."

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Jorge Sosa to Durham. [5/12]

Announced that CF-L Josh Hamilton has been granted personal leave for the remainder of the season; recalled 3B-R Jared Sandberg from Durham. [5/13]

Announced that 3B-R Chris Truby and OF-L George Lombard have cleared waivers and were assigned to Durham. [5/14]

So there it is--back to Jared Sandberg at third, accompanied by the continuing pretense that he's a prospect. Not that Chris Truby is, naturally, but this is just another squalid little moment in baseball's pigpen franchise. Basically, last year's Devil Rays didn't have to go very far or wait very long before they were back, spiced with such neato additions as Travis Lee, Marlon Anderson, Damion Easley, and Al Martin. If it wasn't for Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff, there wouldn't be much to hold anybody's interest.

There isn't a whole lot to add to what's unknown and/or unsaid about Josh Hamilton's season-ending problems. There isn't a term for a position player prospect who just jumps off the tracks and seems to have lost his way. If depression (over a family member's illness) is the story here, it's no laughing matter; depression nearly de-railed Pete Harnisch's career, and destroyed Tony Horton's. It's worth keeping in mind that Hamilton will turn 23 next year, and there's still plenty of time for him to have a career. Hopefully, he'll get his issues ironed out, and come back to camp healthy and ready to play next year.

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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