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April 6, 2004

Transaction Analysis

March 31-April 5, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Reassigned LHP Yoshitaka Mizuo to their minor league camp; outrighted RHP Rich Fischer to Arkansas (Double-A); placed RHPs Brendan Donnelly and Greg Jones on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/26. [4/1]

Optioned SS-B Alfredo Amezaga, INF-R Adam Riggs, and OF-R Barry Wesson, to Salt Lake; reassigned RHPs Scott Dunn, and Matt Hensley, and OF-L Brian Gordon to their minor league camp. [4/4]

For the Angels' final roster, the essential tweaks were deciding to carry Josh Paul as a third catcher, and accepting the spate of injuries in the bullpen as just their sort of luck, but taking advantage of that to keep Kevin Gregg up as well as carrying Aaron Sele as an extraordinarily expensive mop-up man. Neither decision will last, of course. Although the Angels' bench has Jeff DaVanon, Chone Figgins and Shane Halter around to give them switch-hitting and right-handed hitting options that cover just about every position, they're still short a major league first baseman.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Placed RHP Brandon Lyon, LHPs Casey Fossum and Shane Nance, and C-R Robby Hammock on the 15-day DL; reassigned LHP Jim Parque, RHP Brandon Villafuerte, C-R Juan Brito, OF-R Julio Ramirez and 1B-B Alan Zinter to their minor league camp; optioned 3B-L Chad Tracy and RHP Greg Aquino to Tucson; purchased the contracts of 2B-R Donnie Sadler and C-R Bobby Estalella from Tucson. [4/3]

Color me amused that people still take the Snakes overly seriously as a contender. Beyond having to make do with Danny Bautista as an everyday outfielder, they've got a roster larded with a couple of professional pinch-hitters (Carlos Baerga and Greg Colbrunn), and no fourth outfielder. Why Chad Tracy isn't on this team beggars description; although he isn't quite as significant a prospect as some believe, he's ready now, and neither Shea Hillenbrand or Bautista should get 100% of the playing time at their positions when Tracy's available to mix and match. Matt Kata can't fulfill all of their infield reserve needs, which means Carlos Baerga's going to play some second base (badly), even if Bob Brenly pulls a John McNamara and tries to pre-submit a single lineup card for the next 160 games or so.

The news isn't all bad, though. It's definitely reassuring to see them take their future a little more seriously than their present by putting Casey Daigle in the rotation. Although not a top-shelf prospect, and despite allowing 14 runs in 21.2 spring innings, the competition was Shane Reynolds and Steve Sparks. Yes, looking at that, you might think that keeping John Patterson instead of trading him for Randy Choate would have been a good idea, but this is a team that doesn't know if it's coming or going while being willing to simultaneously try it both ways. Since Daigle did manage to post a 4.59 ERA in El Paso's bandbox last year, he's at least used to hitter's parks, and allowing only nine home runs in 176.1 IP last season was especially impressive given the venue.

The real issue is deciding to keep Reynolds at all. Although Brian Bruney had an awful camp, Andrew Good and Edgar Gonzalez both had their moments, both have futures, and both have already gotten some big league experience. If, in a worst-case scenario, you need to push Reynolds back into the rotation, how is that going to help? If you're a contender dependent on Shane Reynolds, it's hard to make that claim stand up, no matter how weak the NL West might be.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Released OF-B Gary Matthews Jr.. [3/31]

Optioned RHP Trey Hodges and SS-B Wilson Betemit to Richmond; reassigned C-R Joe DePastino, C-B Lee Evans, INF-R Jorge Velandia, OF-R Damon Hollins, and RHPs Tim Drew and Ryan Glynn to their minor league camp; placed RHP Paul Byrd and LHP Armando Almanza on the 15-day DL; placed OF-R Eli Marrero on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/29; purchased the contracts of OF-L DeWayne Wise, LHP C.J. Nitkowski and 1B-R Julio Franco from Richmond. [4/3]

As much as I believe that useful bullpens really can be scared up from lint traps, dumpsters, and out from under sofa cushions, and as much as the Braves should inspire faith that this particular belief is true, the Braves' pen gives me the willies. Nitkowski? Antonio Alfonseca? When Will Cunnane isn't one of your worst relievers, but potentially one of your best, you want to grow up to be the 1980 Athletics (and enjoy it for only slightly more time than your average cicada orgy).

Worse still is the decision to assemble the worst bench in baseball. Mike Hessman and Jesse Garcia aren't good regulars for any Triple-A team; Hessman hit .248/.296/.440 in '03, pretty standard fare for him, while Garcia turned in a line of .306/.329/.374, a career year for someone who's hit .263 and slugged .348 in his minor league career. Here, they're the primary infield backups on a team with its utility infielder starting at third while Russ Branyan gets to spin his wheels in Richmond. Add in DeWayne Wise as the team's fourth outfielder, and I think we've found a team that could use Kerry Robinson, or a Brian Hunter to be named later, or a Goodwin, any Goodwin. Not that Philadelphians are given to overconfidence, but could you blame them if they felt a wee bit smug?

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Reassigned UT-R Clay Bellinger to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Placed 2B-R Jerry Hairston Jr. and OF-R Marty Cordova on the 15-day DL; placed LHP Omar Daal on the 60-day DL; optioned CF-R Darnell McDonald to Ottawa; reassigned RHPs Aaron Rakers and Darwin Cubillan, and 1B-R Carlos Mendez to their minor league camp; designated RHP John Stephens for assignment; purchased the contracts of 1B/OF-L B.J. Surhoff, INF-B Luis Lopez and C-R Keith Osik from Ottawa. [4/3]

As already discussed, Osik over Geronimo Gil doesn't make a whole lot of sense on its own. But if you remember that Osik has played some third base, that element could end up mattering now that the roster has taken shape. Particularly interesting was the decision to go with Luis Lopez over Mark McLemore. It makes sense, in that they don't otherwise have a backup shortstop; McLemore doesn't really make anyone comfortable when he's out there, and Brian Roberts just hasn't shown much at the position. You could argue that they ought to have kept McLemore, because by retaining Rule 5 pick Jose Bautista, they don't have a third baseman on the bench with experience above A-ball, but that's what could have helped Osik. Since they're carrying two first basemen and a DH, Melvin Mora might need to play some outfield when he's not starting at third, which leaves them short in the infield. Add up McLemore's banged-up knee, a Rule 5 pick worth keeping, and Lopez's solid rep as a defensive replacement at a couple of infield positions, and you can sort of understand how it worked out.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Bryan Hebson to Pawtucket; placed RHP Jason Shiell on the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Tim Hamulack to Pawtucket; reassigned OF-R Adam Hyzdu to their minor league camp; purchased the contracts of UT-B Cesar Crespo, 1B-L Brian Daubach, and 1B-R David McCarty from Pawtucket. [4/3]

Purchased the contract of LHP Bobby M. Jones from Pawtucket. [4/4]

I've already sort of touched on the shape of the Red Sox roster. Although they're stuck with the bad Bobby Jones, they're not really in terrible shape as far as trying to survive Trot Nixon's absence. Kevin Millar can handle first pretty much every day, and a platoon of David Ortiz and McCarty at DH will still score you some runs. It does leave them pressing Gabe Kapler into a regular role, but sort of like having Mark Bellhorn in the lineup every day because of Nomar's injury, building a good bench creates a few rewards in the breach. If the worst the Red Sox can say is that they have to play Kapler and Bellhorn, and live with Pokey Reese in the ninth slot, that's a lot less debilitating than seriously thinking you're going to play Enrique Wilson or Miguel Cairo every day.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Optioned RHP Jason Grilli and C-R Jamie Burke to Charlotte. [4/1]

Placed LHP Kelly Wunsch on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

Purchased the contract of RHP Mike Jackson from Charlotte. [4/4]

Jackson's retention spares him the indignity of potentially losing a roster spot fight with Jon Adkins, the great reward that came Chicago's way in exchange for the Little Bull back in 2002. Like a lot of pitchers, Adkins has arms and doesn't need batteries or nothin', so he's pretty handy. Both were pitching for jobs in part because of the Sox's unfortunate late realization that Japan might have All-Star caliber players, but it also has its share of Masao Kida-caliber players too. With Shingo Takatsu stuck on the roster, the pen has two guys with closer labels and performance issues. Taken your chances with Billy Koch are all well and good, but this is a staff built for badness even before the debacle of Opening Day.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Reassigned RHP Gary Glover to their minor league camp; signed UT-R Damian Jackson and LHP Glendon Rusch to minor league contracts, and assigned them to Iowa. [4/1]

Purchased the contract of RHP Mike Wuertz from Iowa; reassigned 1B/3B-R Scott McClain and RHP Brian Corey to their minor league camp; acquired a PTBNL from the Rangers for SS-B Santiago Perez. [4/2]

Signed SS-R Benji Gil to a minor league contract. [4/3]

Placed RHP Ryan Dempster, on the 60-day DL; placed UT-B Jose Macias, LHP Mike Remlinger, and RHP Mark Prior on the 15-day DL. [4/4]

Look, Ma, Iowa's more grow'd up than the Expos! Not that it means anything extra to you, me, or Jayson Stark, Montreal's roster has all of two people over the age of 30 on it (Andy Fox and Carl Everett). Iowa? Well, if the Almost-Cubbies wind up with McClain, Gil, Jackson, Bill Selby, Calvin Murray, and Treni Hubbard, that's almost an entire lineup's worth of plus-30 players. As much as I'll argue that McClain or Selby or Hubbard could have once been useful big league regulars, that was years ago. (To his credit, McClain declined to hit the cornfields, preferring to go back across the Pacific to return to the Japanese Leagues.) It would be easy to paint broadly, and claim this as a ripple effect of a GM trying to acquire minor league veterans his big league manager might have some confidence in should injuries strike, but more fundamentally, it's a reflection on the organization's lack of depth. Iowa's prospects have even lost a bit of their blush: Guys like Nic Jackson or Nate Frese have lost time to injuries, and may never catch a break should they even earn one. You can still hold out some hope for Dave Kelton, but is this really why big league ballclubs carry minor league affiliates? To have one legit prospect, a couple of ifs, and a bunch of minor league mercs? The relationship between the minors and the majors has gotten a little more fluid, but with the indy leagues offering big league ballclubs the opportunity to not pay the guys hanging on there, hoping for a break, it might get more fluid still.

Otherwise, yes, doom and gloom, Prior's on the DL for the month of April, making the Maddux signing look that much more sensible in retrospect. Those holes in the lineup at catcher and short, and the uncertainty about what and how much they'll get out of Moises Alou should squelch that sort of comfortable rationalization pretty quickly. Sergio Mitre's only going to really get a shot to lose a game or two every three weeks during the time that Prior is away, but Alex Gonzalez and Michael Barrett will get to "contribute" with every sunrise. Meanwhile, three interesting starting alternatives to Mitre--the recently acquired Andy Pratt, Mike Wuertz, and Todd Wellemeyer--are all on-staff. Don't be surprised if all three contribute, the Cubs talk this up as proof of their strong farm system. Before you start believing it, think on who's playing short and catcher in the majors, and those Iowa Cubs.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Reassigned LHP Jesus Sanchez to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Released 1B-R Alejandro Diaz; placed RHPs Josh Hall on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

Purchased the contracts of C-B Javier Valentin and RHP Todd Jones from Louisville. [4/3]

I'm one of those people who likes to see Javier Valentin catch a break or two after the amount of time he lost settling down into Tom Kelly's doghouse and an injury, so I'm happy he's made the Reds. I guess this only keeps the rumors that Jason LaRue's on the block alive, considering his expense and the team's multiple needs. I have a lot less use for Todd Jones, but hopefully he's a short-term insurance policy until they feel confident in what they have in Ryan Wagner, John Riedling, and Brian Reith should anything happen to Danny Graves.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Placed C-B Josh Bard, RHP Bob Wickman, and OF-R Ryan Ludwick on the 15-day DL; placed LHP Brian Tallet on the 60-day DL; outrighted LHP Matt White to Buffalo. [4/2]

Reassigned RHPs Luther Hackman, Jason Bere and Bobby Howry, C-R Dusty Wathan and INF-B Chris Clapinski to their minor league camp; optioned CF-B Milton Bradley to Buffalo; purchased the contracts of INF-R Lou Merloni and RHP Jeff D'Amico from Buffalo. [4/3]

Acquired CF-R Franklin Gutierrez and a PTBNL from the Dodgers for CF-B Milton Bradley. [4/4]

I guess we can tip our collective caps to Mark Shapiro for being able to acquire something of value after having the courage to take a stand on behalf of his manager in the face of Bradley's incorrigible defiance. He even got to ratchet things up a notch, at least for 24 hours, by optioning Bradley to the minors. At any rate, the Dodgers were suitably desperate, and offered legitimate value. Gutierrez hit for power in the Florida State League, tough for anybody, but amazing for a 20-year-old, before getting a taste of Double-A. He didn't embarrass himself there, so although he'll open at Akron, he might move up fast. Between Akron and Buffalo, he'll be easily viewed by Shapiro and company, so it wouldn't be shocking if they decide to accelerate his timetable and get him to the majors by September. He can handle center, hits for power, and basically does things that make you think he could be the superstar Bradley was supposed to be. It's a great exchange of problems and possibilities, even if it means that the Tribe is that much more certainly going to wind up in fourth place this year.

On that note, the commitment to Jeff D'Amico as their fourth starter of the moment is another case of age before beauty. Eventually, D'Amico or Jason Stanford will have to fend off challenges from Jeriome Robertson, Jeremy Guthrie, Francisco Cruceta, and perhaps Kyle Denney. That's as it should be. If D'Amico can't hold the job long enough to become contender bait by the trading deadline, he's meat on the hoof. Even then, given his injury history, he's not likely to fetch an awful lot, so it depends as much upon how Guthrie, Cruceta, or Robertson are doing as it does on D'Amico.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Optioned RHPs Chin-hui Tsao, 1B/OF-L Brad Hawpe, and OF-R Choo Freeman to Colorado Springs. [4/1]

Received Rule 5 LHP Mike Bumatay back from the Tigers. [4/2]

Placed OF-L Larry Walker on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26. [4/3]

Optioned OF-R Matt Holliday and RHP Tim Harikkala to Colorado Springs; placed LHP Denny Neagle and RHP Adam Bernero on the 60-day DL; designated LHP Cory Vance, RHP Justin Huisman and OF-L Jorge Piedra for assignment; purchased the contracts of RHP Vladimir Nunez, SS-R Royce Clayton, LHPs Shawn Estes and Jeff Fassero, UT-B Denny Hocking, OF-R Kit Pellow and RHP Turk Wendell from Colorado Springs. [4/4]

Signed SS-R Erick Almonte to a minor league contract and assigned him to Colorado Springs. [4/5]

Purchasing eight players at once? Purchasing eight players, and surrendering talent to keep the likes of Shawn Estes or Jeff Fassero? Even if you can set aside the limited merits of the three players outrighted (and who could have been lost on waivers), what is more compelling, what that says about the state of the Rockies' 40-man roster after four complete years in the Age of O'Dowd, or what it says on the abundance of replacement-level talent? Perhaps inevitably, I'm more prepared to condemn: people like Kit Pellow or Fassero or Denny Hocking are always there. Having to add all of them at once says something about poor execution in the draft, and poor player development for an extended period of time. A pair of poster children for that failure are here, Choo Freeman and Matt Holliday, although both are holdovers from the previous regime. But it sort of adds up to early-season despair in Denver, as Tsao goes down because Denny Stark and his ilk are optionless and get handed rotation slots they hardly earned. Royce Clayton? I know it was a near-certainty, but it's also a script for fifth place in a division where nobody's going to win 90 games.

That may be disgraceful, but at least the nice thing about being needy is that you can use other people's discards. Almonte might not have been good enough for the Yankees, but on a roster now populated by Claytons, he's one of the best upper-level prospects in the system. That wasn't so hard, was it?

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Ugueth Urbina to Lakeland (A-ball); released RHP Esteban Yan; acquired LHP Steve Colyer and a PTBNL from the Dodgers for OF-R Cody Ross. [4/1]

Returned Rule 5 LHP Mike Bumatay to the Rockies; reassigned INF-R Danny Klassen to their minor league camp; placed RHPs Lino Urdaneta and Fernando Rodney on the 15-day DL; placed RHP Chris Spurling on the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of RHP Esteban Yan and INF-B Greg Norton from Toledo. [4/2]

Released C-R Mike DiFelice. [4/4]

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Reassigned OF-R Gerald Williams, C-R Matt Treanor, OF-R Ryan Christenson, 1B-L Larry Sutton to their minor league camp; optioned SS-R Wilson Valdez to Albuquerque. [4/1]

Released RHP Tanyon Sturtze and OF-R Gerald Williams; optioned LHP Michael Tejera to Albuquerque; outrighted RHP Blaine Neal to Albuquerque. [4/2]

Placed RHP A.J. Burnett on the 15-day DL; placed RHP Tim Spooneybarger on the 60-day DL; acquired RHP Ben Howard from the Padres for RHP Blaine Neal; purchased the contracts of INF-R Damion Easley, PH-L and LHP Matt Perisho from Albuquerque. [4/3]

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Brandon Backe and LHP Mike Gallo to New Orleans; purchased the contract of RHP Jared Fernandez from New Orleans. [4/3]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Reassigned LHP Greg Swindell and RHP Kris Wilson to their minor league camp; placed RHP Mike MacDougal on the 15-day DL. [3/31]

Released RHP Erik Hiljus. [4/1]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Placed RHP Paul Shuey on the 15-day DL; acquired OF-R Cody Ross from the Tigers for LHP Steve Colyer and a PTBNL. [4/1]

Acquired RHP Aaron Looper and LHP Ryan Ketchner from the Mariners for UT-R Jolbert Cabrera; acquired SS-R Antonio Perez from the Devil Rays for 2B/OF-R Jason Romano. [4/3]

Acquired CF-B Milton Bradley from the Indians for CF-R Franklin Gutierrez and a PTBNL; purchased the contracts of OF-R Wilkin Ruan; optioned RHPs Edwin Jackson and Aaron Looper, 2B-R Antonio Perez, 2B-L Joe Thurston, and C-B Koyie Hill to Las Vegas; outrighted RHPs Doug Nickle and Rick White to Las Vegas; placed RHP Brian Falkenborg and C-B Todd Hundley on the 15-day DL. [4/4]

More nifty little moves by Paul DePodesta, and one major coup. Sometimes, life reminds us that it isn't fair, and so in the same way that Gary Sheffield never really got much more than a slap on the wrist for tanking plays in Milwaukee before being liberated by the Padres, Milton Bradley may have sparred his way to Hollywood, but now he's in a major media market, where he could be its Reggie Jackson and Eric Davis and healthy and successful and unincarcerated and all that sort of celebrity goodness. And frankly, why not wish it to be so? Although Bradley seems to have some issues with authority, these days, who doesn't? Not that we should all act like idiots during a traffic stop or insult our boss for daring to point out a failure to execute in the workplace, but here's hoping L.A. and Milton are made for each other. Yes, DePo had to give up a real prospect to get him, but the Dodgers' GM was in a position of very particular need, and Bradley gives him the kind of top-shelf offensive output this lineup is desperate for.

On a lesser note, picking up Antonio Perez is an extremely cool little flyer to have taken. Although perceived as a disappointment, he's still only 24, still has a bit of power, and can still play a pretty good second base. As a potential regular on a team that needs all the sock it can get, he's perfect; as someone who might get that shot after a good month in Las Vegas, he's an opportunity waiting to be exploited. If Jose Hernandez looks finished early on, don't be surprised when they rotate Perez in.

Finally, getting a pair of useful arms for Jolbert Cabrera is a bit of a steal. Dan Evans swiped Cabrera from the Tribe for lefty Lance Caraccioli, who has almost no shot at making Tribe fans forget Jolbert. Now in a position to have to flip him, DePo did more than get value. Looper is just about big league-ready, durable, tough on right-handers, and great at keeping the ball on the ground; it'll be as if they never lost Bloody Paul Quantrill. Ketchner is intriguing, a functionally deaf control artist with superb command and an ability to attack hitters fearlessly, even in the bandboxes of the Cal League. How he does moving up to Double-A this year remains to be seen, but as throw-ins go, he's better than your average bear.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Nick Neugebauer to High Desert (A-ball). [4/2]

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Dave Burba, Ben Ford, and Adrian Hernandez, and UT-R Trent Durrington from Indianapolis. [4/4]

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Carlos Pulido to Rochester; reassigned RHPs Seth Greisinger to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Outrighted SS-B Augie Ojeda to Rochester. [4/2]

Purchased the contracts of C-L Joe Mauer, 1B-B Jose Offerman, RHP Joe Roa, and LHP Aaron Fultz; placed RHP Grant Balfour on the 15-day DL; placed RHP Joe Mays on the 60-day DL; recalled LHP Carlos Pulido from Rochester; reassigned RHP Rick Helling to their minor league camp. [4/4]

A few things cropped up that will add to some in-season drama. Grant Balfour hid his injury, and while the Twins don't have quite enough pitching depth to afford Tom Kelly-like conceits, grievances, and punitive banishments, Balfour might have just put a dent in his near-term future above and beyond any handicaps incurred by his injury. Jose Offerman's comeback is a fact of sorts, although he hardly had a great camp, and his value as a hitter, pinch-runner, or any defensive role whatsoever seems a little bit on the speculative side of the tracks. I don't know who's more surprised, Joe Roa or me, but here he is, having lucked into an Opening Day roster spot just as much as Offerman. I don't see either one of them still here at the All-Star Break, but by then I think the Twins will have finally gotten cranky with themselves for not pulling away from the Sox and Royals, and addressing obvious weaknesses like these.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Reassigned 1B-R Joe Vitiello and C-R Paul Hoover to their minor league camp; optioned OF-L Matt Cepicky to Edmonton. [4/1]

Placed RHP Tony Armas Jr., LHP Joey Eischen, 3B-L Scott Hodges, and 1B-L Nick Johnson on the 15-day DL; placed RHP Dan Smith on the 60-day DL; optioned OF-L Endy Chavez, RHP T.J. Tucker, and 2B-B Henry Mateo to Edmonton; optioned RHP Shawn Hill to Harrisburg (Double-A); purchased the contract of 1B-R Luis Lopez and RHP Jeremy Fikac from Edmonton; acquired C-R Einar Diaz, RHP Justin Echols and cash from the Rangers for 2B-B Josh McKinley and RHP Chris Young. [4/3]

Nick Johnson, broken? What's next, sunsets in the west? Diet drinks with no carbs or calories? The miracles of the modern age never cease to inspire. At least this year's iteration of Expodom has options, as they can bump Brad Wilkerson over to first and take the time to see if Peter Bergeron or Terrmel Sledge or Juan Rivera can stick. If all three do well and Johnson returns, that would be a pretty happy development, because Johnson disappears into hospitals more often than Evel Knievel.

Baseball's dumping ground for bad contracts, future non-tenders, and options left unpicked gets a new once and future ex-Expo. In Einar Diaz's case, there are few more deserving. It's hard to be so inoffensive and yet so well compensated and overrated, but John Hart possesses special powers we mere mortals cannot comprehend. Like a craptastic super power that allows you to only parallel park on your right, conjure up only compact parking places in any lot, or to tangle every phone cord you touch into knots (that one's probably mine), only John Hart can see into those dimensions of player value where Einar rights wrongs and dispenses modest justice, and can only gnash his teeth and hope that by sending Diaz to Montreal's Fortress of Solitude (give or take 24 other guys), he will tap into his unseen, unknowable power, and find whatever it is that is his life's work while laboring among normal working stiffs as just another prole.

At least the Expos also got an arm, although it cost them one in turn, and Young has better upside than Echols. In short, this is just another little bit of pillage in the ongoing exploitation of baseball's syndicate franchise. They give up a pair of adequate prospects for a bad, overpaid major leaguer and an even iffier prospect. What's supposed to be left by the time they're sold? At this rate, I suspect that Omar Minaya's last move before the team is sold will be to trade himself for Chuck LaMar, at least insisting on a potted plant for transaction ballast, and clinching the Expos' place in history as the worst sports deal since Arnold Johnson's dealings with the Yankees.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Aaron Heilman, 2B-R Danny Garcia and RHP Matt Ginter to Norfolk; reassigned RHP James Baldwin and OF-R Raul Gonzalez to their minor league camp. [4/2]

Acquired C-R Chris Widger and INF-B Wilson Delgado from the Cardinals for OF-B Roger Cedeno. [4/3]

Purchased the contract of OF-L Eric Valent, RHP Scott Erickson, and OF-R Shane Spencer from Norfolk; placed 1B-L Mo Vaughn on the 60-day DL; designated C-R Chris Widger and RHP Jason Anderson for assignment; optioned RHP Jae Seo to Norfolk; placed 2B/SS-B Jose Reyes on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/26. [4/4]

Tyler Yates and Scott Erickson fill out the rotation? I can understand a decision to send Aaron Heilman back to Norfolk; he had a lousy debut last year, and might have something left to learn. But he also outpitched Yates in camp, and Yates has never made it through a full season as a starting pitcher. There is hope that his electric stuff is entirely back from his 2002 Tommy John, but Yates would probably be better off in either a minor league rotation or a big league middle-relief role designed to build up his durability. Having Yates beat out both Heilman and Jae Seo after his solid 2003 smacks of a team desperate to show how smart it is. I don't like the odds that this is going to help Yates or the Mets in the near-term. If anything, I can see both Erickson and Yates struggling, Seo awkwardly being asked back, and the Mets finally getting their roster right by mid-May, or after a whole bunch of games count.

On the other hand, they saved themselves about a million bucks, and a roster spot, because those are the things of value they received for handing the Cardinals Roger Cedeno and a guarantee to pay most of what they owe him. It does put them in a semi-awkward position in not really having a backup center fielder on the roster, but Cedeno's a bit of a stretch there, and Mike Cameron should be durable enough to make 150 starts or so. A little bit of Super Joe McEwing isn't the end of the world, as long as that's the extent of it.

I guess the happy news, such as it is, is that Eric Valent and Shane Spencer make a nice pair of outfield reserves. One's lefty, one's righty, both have power and can handle an outfield corner well enough. I'm less excited about having McEwing and Todd Zeile and Ricky Gutierrez around, but compared to the mistakes in the rotation, these are more idiosyncratic choices than anything else.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Signed C-R Tom Wilson to a minor league contract. [4/3]

Optioned RHP Rich Harden to Sacramento; reassigned RHPs Britt Reames, and C-B Mike Rose to their minor league camp; signed UT-B Mark McLemore to a one-year contract and placed him on the 15-day DL; placed 2B-R Frank Menechino on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/26. [4/4]

Harden should be back when the schedule demands a fifth starter, so Justin Duchscherer can, at best, consider this a stay of execution where Sacramento stintery is concerned. And second base is now in a spot which A's fans might have welcomed after Mark Ellis' multi-month swoon, although the specific circumstances aren't the sort of thing you wish on a guy. Ellis hopes his shoulder will heal in time to let him play in this calendar year, but to their credit, the A's recognize a certain interchangeability when you're dealing with this type of talent. So Marco Scutaro will get his big break, Esteban German perhaps his last chance, and Frankie Menechino can fret over being hurt at the worst possible time. I'm not wildly optimistic about how much McLemore has left in the tank at this point, even after his knee heals up.

Historically, second base is a high-turnover spot for the A's. Tony Phillips couldn't handle the position on a daily basis, so the teams of my physical memory involved the halt of foot and lame of bat, and players at the end: Joe Morgan, Glenn Hubbard, Willie Randolph, Tony Bernazard, all fine players in other people's uniforms. Homegrown hopes like Donnie Hill or Brent Gates were less than you'd like, leaving A's fans groping for memories of Dick Green if they didn't want to wind up arguing if Lance Blankenship or Mike Gallego was the best they'd seen. In that kind of company, adding Scutaro and German to the mix only generates more sorry debate. Scutaro can get on base a bit and hit for some pop, sort of like we hoped for from Ellis, and with pretty much the same range of potential successes and failures. Similarly, German might give you a lefty-hitting variation on a Blankenship-like theme, mixing speed and a few walks, but we're still just talking temporary solutions until the next failed contender with players to peddle or the next happy accident on waivers comes along.

On a similar note, claiming Wilson is sensible enough. He's not much of a catcher, but neither is Adam Melhuse. As semi-handy offensive alternatives to Damian Miller's reputation as a defender, having Wilson around makes sense. I'm still hoping something happens with Mike Rose, who had a decent camp, because he can hit a little and catch, but in the meantime, mixing and matching between Melhuse, Wilson, and Miller as needed works adequately enough.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Optioned C-R Michel Hernandez to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/1]

Acquired RHP Brian Sanches from the Padres for a PTBNL. [4/2]

Outrighted RHP Dave Coggin to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned 2B-L Chase Utley and RHP Geoff Geary to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; reassigned INF-R Lou Collier, RHP Jim Crowell and C-R A.J. Hinch to their minor league camp. [4/3]

Placed RHP Eric Junge and SS-B Anderson Machado on the 15-day DL. [4/4]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Placed OF-R Jason Bay and 2B/SS-R Freddy Sanchez on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Jose Mesa from Nashville. [4/1]

Optioned 1B-L Carlos Rivera to Nashville. [4/2]

Optioned LHP Sean Burnett to Nashville; reassigned RHP Rick Reed to their minor league camp. [4/3]

Signed UT-R Terry Shumpert to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Nashville. [4/5]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Kiko Calero to Memphis. [4/1]

Released OF-R Mark Quinn and RHP Allen Levrault; acquired OF-B Roger Cedeno from the Mets for INF-B Wilson Delgado and C-R Chris Widger. [4/3]

Optioned 2B-R Bo Hart to Memphis; reassigned OF-R Emil Brown, OF-R Brian L. Hunter and LHP Doug Creek to their minor league camp; purchased the contracts of OF-L Ray Lankford, UT-L Tony Womack and C-L Cody McKay from Memphis. [4/4]

Sometimes, a player is irredeemably awful, and sometimes, like Claudell Washington, he can remind you of what it was that people once thought was so special. Not everyone lives up to that sort of wishcasting, and I'm not wildly optimistic that Cedeno will. But once upon a time, Cedeno was a pretty good ballplayer, and once upon a time, Tony La Russa was a master of retreading unlikely castoffs. Dave Henderson was probably the best example of a player going from occasionally useful regular to castoff to a La Russa All-Star. Again, I'm not going to hazard a guess that that's in the Cards' cards, or Cedeno's, but I like the odds a hell of a lot more than So Taguchi's. Since it only took two bits of waiver bait to fetch him, maybe the Cardinals just got themselves a leadoff man, and maybe they acquired a multi-month headache. Given their otherwise very solid third-place destiny, it's a risk worth taking. It only gets sweeter when you think that the Mets are footing around nine-tenths of the bill.

The roster adds are similarly interesting. Cody McKay has been someone I've thought earned a big league job years ago; lefty-hitting catchers with a bit of pop who can also throw well don't grow on trees, after all. For St. Louis, he should get 200 plate appearances or so backing up Matheny, and while he might deserve more, it's better than a summer in Memphis. Ray Lankford's comeback has been unfolding for months; I'm still skeptical, but again, when the alternatives at the start of camp included Taguchi or Kerry Robinson, it can't hurt to give it a try. The least happy addition is Womack, of course, since he's an offensive zero and infield menace on a staff that can't afford his uninspired defensive work. But with Marlon Anderson for competition, the challenge becomes less one of whether or not Womack will play than if Cedeno can keep him out of the leadoff slot.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Outrighted 1B-L Todd Searsto Portland. [4/1]

Traded RHP Brian Sanches to the Phillies for a PTBNL. [4/2]

Acquired RHP Blaine Neal from the Marlins for RHP Ben Howard. [4/3]

Purchased the contract of LHP Eddie Oropesa from Portland; placed 3B-R Jeff Cirillo on the 15-day DL; reassigned RHPs Joey Hamilton and Brandon Puffer, OF-B Gene Kingsale, and C-R Yamid Haad to Portland; optioned LHP Sterling Hitchcock to Lake Elsinore (A-ball). [4/4]

A lot of MIT people are really excited that Jason Szuminski has made the roster, as they should be. Unfortunately, in two weeks, Hitchcock will be back to respond to the need for a fifth starter, and the Padres will have to make a decision about which pitcher gets cut at that point. On a 12-man staff, you'd think there would be space for a Rule 5 pick, so I hope Szuminski sticks even then. But what then? I'd think Szuminski will break down with one of those convenient strains Rule 5 picks seem to get that take forever to heal, but Scott Linebrink or Oropesa might be SOL if Szuminski has a good couple of weeks.

Similarly, I can't see Kerry Robinson getting comfortable. Once Jeff Cirillo is ready to come off of the DL before the end of the month, Robinson's renewed relationship with the waiver wire will be in the offing.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Placed RHP Jesse Foppert on the 60-day DL; claimed LHP Kevin Walker off of waivers from the Padres; designated RHP Ryan Jensen for assignment. [3/31]

Announced that RHP Ryan Jensen cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Fresno. [4/1]

Designated LHP Chad Zerbe for assignment; optioned OF-B Todd Linden, OF-R Jason Ellison, LHP Noah Lowry and C-R Trey Lunsford to Fresno; reassigned RHPs Brian Cooper, Dave Veres and Tyler Walker, LHP Jeff Urban, SS-R Deivi Cruz, 1B-L Francisco Santos and OF-L Nathan Haynes to their minor league camp; placed 1B-R Lance Niekro, RHP Jason Schmidt and OF-R Jeffrey Hammonds on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/26; purchased the contract of RHP David Aardsma from Fresno. [4/3]

I've already beaten some of these particular long-dead horses, so forgive me my fleeting brush with mercy when it comes to the Giants, may Huckabay forgive me. Others have latched onto David Aardsma's place in alphabetical Valhalla, with much hand-wringing over this latest assault on the historical memory of Hank Aaron. Skip that; as Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette's superb new Baseball Encyclopedia reminds us, segregation still exists historically, but between hitters and pitchers, and not simply men. So let's not weep for Hank Aaron, who is unforgettable; instead, shed a tear for Don Aase, and not just because you're an embittered Orioles fan who's a little long in the tooth. Aase was a flamethrower in his day, and an impressive relief monster at a time when relievers were instead more notable for looking or acting goofy: Goose's Fu Manchu, Al Hrabosky's anger management, Quiz's insurance salesman good looks, Kent Tekulve's freaky pencil head of distracting doom; Todd Worrell's impossibly equine neck and Manga-like musculature was a hitter's nightmare yet to come. Aase's not even getting as much press as Brian Kingman does almost any given year, and yet his place in history is more permanently changed than Kingman's ever will be. Aase doesn't have a cottage industry built on lovable loser sympathy, or the Kingmanettes, or a theme park, or action figure sets that come with terrific villains like George Brett or Rod Carew. He's simply been bumped to a different place on the page, and that's forever.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP J.J. Putz to Tacoma; reassigned C-R Pat Borders, INF-B Mickey Lopez, SS-R Jose Lopez and UT-R Hiram Bocachica to their minor league camp. [3/31]

Placed RHP Aaron Taylor on the 60-day DL; placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Aaron Looper to Tacoma. [4/1]

Acquired UT-R Jolbert Cabrera from the Dodgers for RHP Aaron Looper and LHP Ryan Ketchner. [4/3]

Reassigned LHP Terry Mulholland to their minor league camp; placed INF-B Scott Spiezio on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/28; optioned SS-B Ramon Santiago to Tacoma; purchased the contract of LHP Mike Myers from Tacoma. [4/4]

What is it that Jolbert Cabrera is supposed to do for them exactly? Actually, surprisingly, a lot, regardless of if or when Scott Spiezio's back heals up. Keep in mind, this team has John Olerud and Raul Ibanez looking for platoon mates, and Willie Bloomquist invoking the same shared mass psychosis that gave Charles Gipson a free pass onto the roster for seasons at a them. They don't even have a proper fourth outfielder. I guess I'm a little more curious about the rationale behind keeping Bloomquist over Santiago, but let's face it, at best, 'Santiago' conjures up a vision of tasty Chilean cabernets, while 'Bloomquist' inspires visions of Broadway or an Everyman or some damned fool notions. As is, Seattle conjures up visions of Bobo epicures and soggy snobbery. The last thing they need is another way to remind people of the tyrannies, both caffeinated and electronic, that their city represents. So what better than a popular, ineffectual, inferred scrapper like one improbably named Willie Bloomquist? It's all a shallow marketing shtick.

Which is why you need a real ballplayer, like Cabrera. He might play a lot of third, even after Spiezio returns from the DL, but he'll also get time in left field. The M's gave up more than they probably should have, but at least they nabbed a useful player in return.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Acquired 2B/OF-R Jason Romano from the Dodgers for SS-R Antonio Perez. [4/3]

Superficially, you might consider this another craven pickup of another son of Italy's shores by Vince Naimoli's paesan' operation, but I guess if the Rays take Romano seriously as a second baseman, this isn't as bad as it looks at first glance. After all, this team has Rey Sanchez at second, and Geoff Blum and Damian Rolls knocking around, likely to gracelessly absorb time and money like so many needy in-laws. A rationalist would point out they could have let Perez fix some of that, but there's very little space for reason when it comes to baseball's most hopeless franchise.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Released LHP Glendon Rusch. [3/31]

Reassigned RHP Todd Williams to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Placed OF-L Rusty Greer on the 60-day DL; placed RHP Jeff Zimmerman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/27; released RHPs Jovanny Cedeno, Willie Banks and David Mead, and LHP Jordan Zimmerman; acquired SS-B Santiago Perez from the Cubs for a PTBNL. [4/2]

Acquired C?/2B-B Josh McKinley and RHP Chris Young from the Expos for C-R Einar Diaz, RHP Justin Echols and cash. [4/3]

Placed LHP Brian Shouse and OF-R Brian Jordan on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/27; optioned RHPs Ricardo Rodriguez and Ryan Drese to Oklahoma; reassigned RHP Doug Brocail, C-R Ken Huckaby, INF-R Manny Alexander, OF-Ls Jason Conti and Chad Allen to their minor league camp; recalled CF-R Ramon Nivar from Oklahoma. [4/4]

If nothing else, it's clear that the Rangers' lineup has been remade. Remade into what isn't quite so easy or polite to say. Losing Brian Jordan really only helps the Rangers lose face they'd already written off, and hopefully insured: You sign Brian Jordan, you have to know you're going to lose him. So you've got an outfield of Kevin Mench, David Dellucci, Laynce Nix, Eric Young, and Ramon Nivar, and that's not a bad group, but it's one where you'd better play Nix and Mench, if nothing else. But you're looking at a suddenly non-descript team of Hank Blalock, Alfonso Soriano, and a bunch of useful non-stars, supporting a cringe-worthy pitching staff. The question isn't whether they won't contend now, or next year, but whether they're headed anywhere in particular. Taunting the Devil Rays on your Christmas cards, boasting of another 70+ win season is not an objective you look forward to achieving. I guess trying to build a rotation where none of the regulars has an ERA over six is a place to start.

There is good news, however. I am impressed that they managed to discard Einar Diaz. It clears the way for Gerald Laird, first and foremost. They'll still have to pay all but $500,000 of his $2.5 million salary this year, but between those savings, getting out from under the $400,000 buyout they'd have had to pay to avoid his $3.25 million option in '05, and not having to play him, John Hart did well here. Laird has a nice if modest future as a workmanlike regular, sort of Jim Sundberg in an age where, like the loftier modern standards for shortstops, some of the best-hitting catchers in the history of the game are around.

As for the goodies they got for him, Chris Young is a survivor of a Pirates organization with a remarkable track record for not developing its own talent. As one of the mound's always-frustrating gentle giants (a big man who can't break 90-91 is more frequent than the Randy Johnsons of the world), Young has exasperated scouts and organizations, and it remains to be seen if the Rangers are really the outfit that can turn him around. But the other asset brought in was Josh McKinley. Although still a work in progress behind the plate, he's turned into an offensive asset in his five full minor league seasons. I'd sort of liken him to Jason Grabowski: athletic yet positionless, a good bat, but not quite as good as a notional Ken Phelps All-Star. A catcher who can hit a little and play multiple positions is always handy, and that much more useful in a competitive environment where people take seven-man bullpens seriously instead of seeing them as a waste.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Justin Miller to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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