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April 9, 2004

Transaction Analysis

April 6-8, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Placed RHP Shane Reynolds on the 15-day DL (shoulder); recalled RHP Andrew Good from Tucson. [4/6]

Sometimes happy accidents happen, which ought to produce some introspection about the wisdom of design. Take Shane Reynolds. Although I don't doubt for a second he's suffering from shoulder inflammation, the fussing over his low-80s velocity seems to have conveniently overlooked he was in the low 80s last year. Reynolds might have had an even worse camp than you might expect as the result of an injury, but last year's miseries should have tipped the Snakes off to what they were getting. Sure, he's a hard worker, and people like him for that. But if Jerry Colangelo wants to complain about money problems in his latest search for sympathy and capital, he could probably stand to evaluate his front office for the decision to spend a million dollars on an old starter with performance issues. Looking beyond last year's 5.43 ERA or the -1.4 Support-Neutral Value Added, he had (or subsequently blew) 13 quality starts in 29 starts; six were against four teams from among the league's bottom third, the lineups everyone's supposed to keep you in games against. Is that who you pay cash money to, when you had alternatives like Good or Edgar Gonzalez or John Patterson (no longer, natch)? The virtues of carrying an old hand to tide you over until you're certain the kids are ready, that's understandable. But this guy, for that much? Save your pity for the Snakes on the pavement; the ones in the BOB are the best that Joe Garagiola thought to acquire.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Acquired OF-L Todd Dunwoody from the Cubs for cash or a PTBNL, and assigned him to Buffalo. [4/7]

Acquired C-L Sandy Martinez from the Pirates for a PTBNL; claimed RHP Jason Anderson off of waivers from the Mets and optioned him to Buffalo. [4/8]

The Bisons might need help, but I'm not sure this is the sort of thing that qualifies. Sandy Martinez's brief brush with utility had more to do with his stumbling into being Kerry Wood's lucky catcher in 1998 than with any actual usefulness. But the organization is short on upper level catching talent, and Josh Bard's injury didn't help that any, so thanks to Dave Littlefield for small favors. As for Dunwoody, again, an injury to Ryan Ludwick and the tart dispatch of Milton Bradley to a sunnier venue eliminated some people from potential or right-now Bisondom, so Dunwoody makes for a similarly warm body until people like Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Cooper, and Nathan Panther are crowding Buffalo's outfield. (With the pickup of Gutierrez, Akron's outfield might be Double-A's answer to the talent Triple-A Syracuse will be showing off in its outfield.)

The coolest pickup is the one that only cost a waiver claim. Jason Anderson may or may not get ironed out or pick up a functioning off-speed pitch, but in the meantime, he's a guy with a fastball who had to deal with getting jerked around by the Yankees and Mets both. Left alone to soak up some instruction and simply pitch, he could finally have a career. Scoffing, are you? I guess I think on where Jason Grimsley once was around 1993, and where he got to, or how Turk Wendell finally grew into something more than a ridiculously superstitious licorice addict.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Re-signed OF-L Cory Sullivan to a minor league contract. [4/8]

Sullivan's out for the year after tearing up his elbow, so he was outrighted, cleared waivers, and was re-signed by his parent organization. Generally speaking, this is the sort of situation where a gentleman's agreement exists, unless of course the player in question is really, really good, or Luke Prokopec. Remember, people like Theo Epstein are out there, smart enough to break the unwritten rules, instead of sticking by the letter of the law. Yes, that means hurting people's feelings and everything. Take note, all you people who seek life lessons from that neato biz-spirational book on Attila, captain of industry, or Tamerlane's heart-warming example for how the handicapped can rise above their challenges and massacre millions, just like anybody else. We're all only limited up to a point by our obedience to informal social expectations.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Released RHP Matt Wheatland, placed DH-B Dmitri Young on the 15-day DL (broken leg); purchased the contract of CF-R Andres Torres from Toledo. [4/7]

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Re-signed UT-B Brian Banks to a minor league contract. [4/6]

After injuring his knee, Banks was outrighted, and has now been re-signed, clearly indicating that the team wants him, but only if it doesn't have to fulfill it's original obligations. Card-carrying former Teamster that I am, I'm lining up with the MLBPA: this is bull, or standard operating procedure in the NFL, where chattelry remains in fashion. At it's core, my problem is that Banks signed a deal when he could have fought for more through arbitration. Now, the team wants him on its terms after he got injured in the workplace, electing to ignore its agreement, and robbing him of service time and cash instead of depositing him on the major league DL, where he belongs. It's pretty nakedly exploitive, although as some might point out, cost-effective, but that's assuming you can ignore any concern about the legal expenses and potential penalties of treating your players this way. The Player's Association might be a little flat-footed at the moment because of overarching issues like steroids, but this isn't the sort of thing you can afford to let slide, lest it become standard practice. I know, I'm contradicting my advice to emulate great men and launch wars of conquest in Central Asia, as I suggested with Colorado today. The distinction is that Banks is a vet and a journeyman signed what was supposed to be a guaranteed deal, whereas Sullivan hasn't gotten above Double-A, and has a future that extends several more tomorrows than Banks's.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Recalled LHP Jaime Cerda from Omaha; placed 2B-B Desi Relaford on the 15-day DL (hamstring). [4/7]

The Royals are finding themselves a little shorthanded all over the place, but in the same way that taking a chance on Desi Relaford as a spare part last year blossomed into a major improvement on the doomed promise of Carlos Febles, signing Tony Graffanino as this year's top infield reserve leaves the Royals with a Plan B that should work out a lot better than okay. Relaford is only expected to miss a couple of weeks anyway. Again, a tip of the cap to Allard Baird.

Besides they still have Mendy Lopez around to provide some righty sock off the bench as a utility infielder, and since Graffy, Angel Berroa, and Joe Randa should handle the lion's share of the innings in the field, Lopez's limited defensive skills don't really represent a major handicap in the breach. His ability to occasionally hurt a lefty will come in handy to mix and match with Matt Stairs (I'm thinking back on his 1998, and not just the Ozzeroo's Opening Day egg facial).

All of which brings me to saying it's OK for them to have Cerda up to replace a position player, even if, horror of horrors, it means a 12th pitcher. Given that I expect the Royals' pitching staff to spend most of the year being treated for shell-shock, and the leftyness of their rotation, it makes sense to carry at least one lefty reliever. Otherwise, when the Royals turn to right-handed relievers for that lefty rotation, because that they have to do, the opposing manager can pretty much be counted to rush his left-handed hitters into the lineup, lest the go a series without getting much playing time. And without at least someone like Cerda to make the other guy think twice, or give Pena a few high-leverage moments of choice, the Royals wouldn't be doing themselves many favors.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Purchased the contracts of INF-R Jose Hernandez, RHP Jose Lima and INF-R Olmedo Saenz from Las Vegas. [4/5]

A fine gaggle of Latin mercs to slap onto the roster at the last moment. Hernandez gives the Dodgers a right-handed bat with some sock to alternate with Alex Cora at second now and again, and perhaps spot-start in places like Miller Park. And when you mix an experienced hitter like Saenz, you've got a bench where Jim Tracy gets to mix and match two lefty bats (Jason Grabowski and Robin Ventura) with three right-handed ones (Saenz, Hernandez, and Jason Werth), suddenly, you've got a better collection of hitters on your bench than the Giants have in the non-Bonds portions of their lineup. Okay, non-Bonds, non-Durham.

On the mound, Lima gives them both a veteran long reliever and an easy alternative should any of their dicier propositions in the rotation not work out. Sure, we all hope Jeff Weaver turns the corner, but what if he doesn't? What if Wilson Alvarez fizzles out before his comeback goes any further? What if neither Hideo Nomo or Kaz Ishii get their mechanics ironed out? Lima's not a great starter, but he's useful, particularly in Chavez Ravine. As insurance goes, he's just another part of what has worked out to be a very flexible, downright supple roster.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Seth Greisinger from Rochester; placed C-L Joe Mauer on the 15-day DL; designated RHP Michael Nakamura for assignment. [4/7]

Placed DH-R Matthew LeCroy on the 15-day DL; recalled C-B Rob Bowen from Rochester. [4/8]

Will's already done a bang-up job of running through the injuries, and we should see Mauer back by May; the long-term implications of his knee injury remain to be seen. A little more troubling is losing LeCroy as well at the same time, because losing both at once handicaps the Twins at a position where their depth got tapped out pretty quickly, while also occurring in such a way as to prevent their being able to play to their organizational strengths.

What I'm trying to say is that life would have been a lot easier if the injuries didn't overlap. If they'd lost LeCroy, someone like Justin Morneau or Mike Restovich could have been called up to soak up the playing time that would have become available at DH, and they would have been find behind the plate with Mauer being caddied by Henry Blanco. If they'd only lost Mauer, they could have let LeCroy catch a lot more, while having Blanco around for his catch-and-throw talents, and again, they could have let Morneau or Restovich come up and get some PT. But by losing both at once, you're stuck with the unhappy choice between Bowen and Blanco, and it's hard for an expected contender to just plug in Bowen and leave Blanco in his best role, benched. Some analysts and some scouts really like Bowen, but I've never been a real believer, not when we've got an OK season in the Midwest League in 2001 and around 40 good games in Double-A last year to go on. But he is young, and he can catch, and he isn't Blanco. If Ron Gardenhire at least lets them share the job, it's about the best you could wish for under the circumstances.

I don't see Greisinger being around long; he was called up in the wake of a couple of games that worked the pen hard. I can see it as an emergency move, but I hope they undo it before the weekend is out. With Friday's off-day, Greisinger's game-breaking/losing outing on Wednesday, and the sense Gardenhire showed in not letting any of his relievers reach 30 pitches in either of those first two bloodbaths, I can't see the need for him going into Saturday and beyond. If it costs them Nakamura on waivers, serves them right for overreacting, when they could have just plugged the hole with Nakamura.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Picked up their 2005 option on RHP Steve Trachsel, and added an option for 2006. [4/6]

Released OF-R Kenny Kelly. [4/7]

Don't get me wrong, I like Steve Trachsel, and not just because I respect the honestly surly attitude, or enjoy the way he stretches out a ballgame to the limits of true timelessness. But I really don't know if I like Steve Trachsel so well that I'd pay $10 million for his company the next two years, plus afford myself the privilege of keeping him around that extra year longer for the low, low price of $7 million. I'm a fan, but this is the sort of cost certainty you'd prefer to be a little less certain about.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Acquired a PTBNL from the Indians for C-L Sandy Martinez. [4/8]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Designated UT-R Charles Gipson for assignment. [4/5]

Outrighted UT-R Charles Gipson Durham. [4/7]

This was all to make way for Jason Romano, which makes sense. They get to replace a glorified pinch-runner whose only recommendation was a stale tie to Lou Piniella's Seattle incarnation with an actual ballplayer. Romano has some ability to get on-base, and if left alone at second base, he could turn out better than passing fancies like Aaron Miles. As long as the Rays are farting around with Carl Crawford and Damian Rolls at the top of the order, and Rey Sanchez and Geoff Blum playing a lot of second, they're still really just in the business of talking smack. It's a little more legit than 2000's brilliantly wicked scheme to spend cash for the power to retain that stranglehold on last place that is the franchise's birthright, but much of the happy things being said about the D-Rays these days has everything to do with changing the channel for its own sake as with anything that's really concrete.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Signed SS-R Michael Young to a four-year, $10 million contract, with a club option for 2008. [4/5]

Signed OF-B Gary Matthews Jr. to a minor league contract; released OF-L Jason Tyner. [4/7]

As Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie once observed (at length, truly a man after my own heart), questions of love, death, and money obsess peoplekind pretty much anywhere, anytime. So when you propose that you have this fun young ballplayer who can play a nifty shortstop, and you want to compensate him pretty liberally, I have to ask how many other people you love so well, because it's that sort of fondness that can be the death of you. The overworked 'payroll flexibility' thesis for making A-Rod go away has gotten sopped up pretty quickly with the expense of employing Soriano or the expenditures on Blalock and Young. It's also worth remembering that Tom Hicks is paying part of A-Rod's salary, so that's lurking in this new budget as well. And then there's Brian Jordan, who didn't come free, but who might spend more time pallin' around with Rusty Greer over the life of his contract than learning the names of his active teammates. Let's just say the new regime has a lot to prove, and a lot of water to carry, before I'm going to invest their cover story with much value.

As for Young, I've sung his praises, but buying out his arbitration years came at a pretty steep price. He's already 27, so he isn't going to get much better, and since, as we note in this year's book, a lot of his offensive up-tick was a few more singles, that doesn't reflect some fundamentally improved skills set that's going to propel him to greatness. He's just not who you give out this kind of money to for this length of time. But hey, I'm an A's fan, so this is great news.

As always, Matthews potentially makes for an adequate outfield reserve. While he managed to annoy the Orioles last year, and not make a good impression with the Braves in camp, when the choice is between that or Tyner, you take 'that,' with prejudice, and twice on Sunday. After all, right now, Eric Young is their leading outfield reserve, and that's not good. Meanwhile, if people are burning cell phone minutes debating the merits of Kerry Robinson, I suspect Tyner will be somebody's problem soon enough.

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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