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February 27, 2004

Transaction Analysis

February 24-26, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Signed OF-R Ryan Thompson to a minor league contract, with a spring training NRI. [2/26]

With Orlando Palmeiro, Jason Lane, and Rule 5 pick Willy Taveras all in the way, Astros fans should be able to breathe a sigh of relief if they're concerned about Ryan Thompson of infamous inside-the-park-home run-allowed-Ryan-Thompson fame haunting the outfield in Spicy V8 Park any time soon. Zephyrs fans, on the other hand, need to be concerned. Assuming there are any, which would mean a bunch of people angry about losing Colin Porter to Memphis, but isn't that the nature of minor league fandom?

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Released 1B/3B-L Tyler Houston; signed 1B-L Travis Lee to a $2.25 million contract for 2004, with a team option for 2005. [2/25]

Released 3B-R Aaron Boone; announced that Darryl Strawberry resigned from his player development post. [2/26]

Who's more upset, Aaron Boone at the Yankees for getting released, or Tyler Houston at Boone for playing pickup basketball? With the A-Rod deal clinched as an unexpected benefit of Boone's hoop dreams, Houston was out of even a whiff of a shot at a job, so he punted showing up to camp. He was even more doomed by the interest in signing Travis Lee, which sort of says something about where the Yankees see Jason Giambi's knees being by season's end. Why else burn four roster spots and the guaranteed money involved on Giambi, Lee, Tony Clark, and Ruben Sierra to cover first base and DH, not counting Bernie Williams? Sierra's a notional outfield reserve, I guess, but I don't know whose team this resembles more, one of Ralph Houk's, or one of Dick Williams'? Sure, Joe Torre could take the Houk route, and forget about learning the first names of his bench players. On the other hand, having all of those spare famous people around to pinch-hit could let him play the old Williams gambit of trying to keep bats out of his second basemen's hands. But you need three to make it work, the Yankees have only two, and that's if they go north with eleven pitchers. Even that leaves Mike Lamb screwed, so basically, Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo have to be laughing themselves silly that they're going to be taken seriously as never before.

As for Lee, what's the point of the expense? He's an expensive bench player, a brilliantly glovely luxury on a team expressing its bottomless hunger for excess in all things, but he's also widely considered flakier than a Selsun Blue commercial. Maybe he'll tread the path of the pinstriped straight and narrow, awed by Yankee mystique or whatever. Maybe he'll annoy the bejeezuz out of Joe Torre, and wind up an expensive mistake. Maybe he'll be Joe Pepitone without the wiseguy cachet, but with a more contemporary Avril Lavigne post-hip twist. All in all, I wouldn't bet on it. Take heart, beantowners. Between that and the Yankees' pitching staff, I wouldn't get all mopey just yet.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Claimed LHP Luis Martinez off of waivers from the Brewers. [2/24]

Apparently, the last thing the Brewers wanted was a return to their old association with Julio Machado, the Venezuelan pistollero. So they dropped him, fast, and the Cardinals picked up Quick Draw when it appeared that the other guy went for the gun first and everyone was satisfied that it wouldn't happen again. So now the Cardinals have a lefty with decent velocity and a pretty nasty curve for a pitching staff desperately short of talent. I guess the other benefit is that Martinez may not have to worry about the normal hazing most rookies have to accept as a matter of course, but a little bit of anger management training to keep any staff parking lot incidents from getting out of hand might be in order.

Far more seriously, it's a great waiver claim. The Cardinals' rotation is still a two-man show, followed by prayers for surprise off-days, scheduled rain-outs, and a lot of whistling. Even then, there's a lot of wishcasting involved, because both Woody Williams and Matt Morris aren't models of durability. Jeff Suppan should fill one of the slots behind them, with the hope that he'll be one of the appropriately aged retreadings that Dave Duncan made his name on. And thenů and then it's the hope that Dan Haren sticks, or that Chris Carpenter's finally healthy, or that Jason Marquis will be one of those infrequent ex-Brave success stories. In that circumstance, you can be sure that as the group's token lefty and one of the few guys with a decent health record, Martinez will be taken seriously.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Placed RHP Seth McClung on the 60-day DL; claimed RHP John Webb off of waivers from the Cubs [2/25]

If you're the Cubs, consider this the price of trying to get cute roster management-wise, and developing a few too many live arms on a team already loaded at the big league level. Although Webb broke his leg in a home accident and isn't expected to pitch until June, that's exactly the sort of person you stash on the DL until you figure out how he fits into your 40-man. Why he got put on waivers seems hard to explain, because he's almost too easy a claim to make because of the injury. I guess to be fair to the Cubs, Webb hasn't had a lot of success at the Double-A level in a season and a half. But he's got a good sinker-slider combo, a live arm, and the leg should only put his career on hold, not cripple it. As a Florida native, it made all sorts of sense for the D-Rays to claim him, even if there's no obvious movie tie-in.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Sold RHP Pete Walker to the Yokohama Baystars of the Japanese Leagues. [2/26]

Consider this a case where the team did a veteran a favor, because the Jays' list of potential swing men, long relievers, and candidates for the fifth slot has five names on it without reaching any of the organization's actual prospects: Josh Towers, Justin Miller, Jason Arnold, Vinny Chulk, and Mike Smith. With that sort of crowd to contend with, what sort of attraction do you think Syracuse represents for a guy like Walker? Better to give him the chance to make some money abroad, regardless of what it means to his shot at the International League Hall of Fame.

As for the madding crowd, there's no time like the present. The wave of outstanding young pitchers in the organization, headlined by but certainly not limited to Dustin McGowan, is just not that far off. This year should see some debuts, and the prospect of stardom for some doesn't seem too far behind.

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

Related Content:  Aaron Crowd

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