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April 14, 2004

Transaction Analysis

April 9-12

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Designated DH-L Jack Cust for assignment; recalled LHP Erik Bedard from Ottawa. [4/10]

If you're keeping track, between dumping Stephens and now risking the loss of Cust, you're looking at an Orioles team that just dumped some decent talent to no obvious point or worthwhile gain. They lost Stephens to add the immortal Keith Osik to the 40-man roster while keeping Geronimo Gil on it as well, and now they're risking the loss of Cust because they want a fifth starter who isn't either of the fifth starter candidates (Rodrigo Lopez or Rick Bauer) currently in their pen. So after a week's worth of baseball, you get three candidates for the fifth starter's slot, and despite counting a Rule 5 pick among your position players, you're carrying 12 pitchers. And to achieve that menu of choices, you wind up with Stephens and Cust gone, and a roster enriched by the contributions of Osik and David Segui and Lopez and Bauer? When was this supposed to help the Orioles? It won't help next year, by which time you have to hope that Segui is an ugly memory. And it won't help this year, not when any reasonable best-case scenario involves a slim shot at third place. So you can basically consider this a minor disaster of roster mismanagement, as the Orioles hold on to some bad investments, and manage to shed talent despite not having an awful lot of it.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Claimed RHP John Stephens off waivers from the Orioles and assigned him to Pawtucket; placed RHP Reynaldo Garcia on the 60-day DL (elbow). [4/8]

Placed RHP Ramiro Mendoza on the 15-day DL (shoulder); recalled LHP Mark Malaska from Pawtucket. [4/9]

Purchased the contract of RHP Frank Castillo from Pawtucket; designated 1B-L Brian Daubach for assignment. [4/10]

The Red Sox see themselves as handicapped, short a pitcher or two, and needing help. But as some New England wag might note, is losing Ramiro Mendoza a loss? Last year, he earned his (pin)stripes as a Yankee fifth columnist, so excusing him early for a spot of shoulder trouble isn't going to send season-ticket holders to Red Sox fan crisis centers.

What's a little more surprising is the return of Frank Castillo, particularly in the wake of claiming Stephens. As is, they're making do with Bronson Arroyo in those few spots where a fifth starter will be needed before Byung-Hyun Kim's return by month's end, and Arroyo would be available in spots as a reliever. So why go to 12 pitchers now, when it costs you your lefty pinch-hitter on the bench? Not that Brian Daubach is particularly valuable in himself, but when your best lefty bat in the upper minors is George Lombard, you might want to think twice about cutting people willy-nilly. Nevertheless, he wasn't going to outlast the returns of Nomar and Trot Nixon, so it's a perfectly defensible choice on that level; I simply question the need to have Castillo around with an off-day on the 12th, and the fifth starter's slot buried in the upcoming weekend.

Malaska's call-up makes a wee bit more sense. As expected, Bobby "the Other Bobby" Jones isn't looking so hot in the early going, so the inevitable second lefty role in the pen is still subject to an open casting call. Right now, Malaska might only need a third or fourth good outing before inflicting Jones on Pawtucket's summer residents. Which is where I really have to wonder about purchasing Castillo in the wake of claiming Stephens. Admittedly, Castillo should make it back through waivers if they try to outright him, while Stephens might not if they kept him around for the brief stint before Kim returns, but with Jones nearing a point where he'll be excused, you could keep Stephens and Malaska, forego purchasing Castillo, and put Kim in Jones' spot on the roster when he's ready to come back. Then, when Nomar and later Nixon are ready to be activated, you can see what's going on with the pitching staff, if any pitcher has some joint to be named later twanging or whatnot. At any rate, Rico McCarty's future on the roster is a bit up in the air when those two come back, especially if the Sox want to stick with a dozen hurlers, but probably even if they come back down to 11.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Acquired RHP Zach McClellan, 1B-L Chris Fallon and cash from the Royals for RHP Justin Huisman. [4/8]

A bit of a surprising exchange, since McClellan isn't a pitcher of promise, but having taken Huisman off of the 40-man roster, you can sort of understand Dan O'Dowd's willingness to take what he could get if it adds up to more than a waiver claim. A college pitcher picked out of Indiana University in 2000, and only just now reaching Double-A after repeating the Carolina League, McClellan is an oldish minor league rotation stalwart and all-around organizational soldier. I'm sure he'll do Tulsa proud. Fallon is similarly minor league roster filler; as a 25-year-old college hitter not yet out of A-ball, he'd either better have power or be funnier than that other Fallon guy, and I suspect the latter's the easier feat. After all, he has to pack more punch, and probably has enough dignity not to laugh at his own at-bats.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Acquired RHP Bryan Gaal from the Padres for RHP Marty McLeary. [4/9]

A decent little pickup for the Marlins, in the sense that Gaal is an upper-level arm with a solid track record as a reliever, where McLeary is a journeyman of little note. That said, Gaal is already 27, he doesn't have great stuff, and his translated performances show a warm body with a slender shot at big league success. Still, that's more than McLeary. Overall, this looks more like a deal where the Marlins did the Isotopes a favor, giving them an arm they can count on keeping, whereas people like Mike Tejera, Mike Neu, or even Toby Borland might get called up.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Placed LHP Andy Pettitte on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Brandon Backe from New Orleans. [4/10]

As Will Carroll has pointed out, Pettitte should only miss the two weeks, but I'm a little less sanguine about his long-term health, being a worrier by nature.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Acquired RHP Justin Huisman from the Rockies for RHP Zach McClellan, 1B-L Chris Fallon and cash. [4/8]

As a little win-now insurance move goes, this is a nifty deal for the Royals. Much as I can be fairly accused of being prejudiced against minor league closers in general, Huisman might be the exception that proves the rule. A closer in college, he isn't dominating, but he has a great sinker and outstanding command. He's yet to really struggle at any level, and if he can handle Triple-A after successfully handling the bigger jump to Double-A last year, he should be able to help out in the major leagues at some point this season. And although Allard Baird hasn't made a name for being unconventional, Huisman did play shortstop in college. If you could spare yourself some of the utility infielders swaggering through seasons getting 100 bad at-bats while providing on-roster position insurance at short, and instead got to carry a reliever/utility infielder, that would make for some fun double-switching. That said, Huisman hasn't played the field since college, so I'm wishcasting in a Kieschnickian vein here.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Recalled OF-R Lew Ford from Rochester; placed OF-R Torii Hunter on the 15-day DL. [4/9]

Signed LHP Joe Beimel to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Rochester. [4/11]

Signed LHP Terry Mulholland to a one-year contract; designated LHP Brad Thomas for assignment. [4/12]

Ack! I'll be shocked if Thomas makes it through waivers, and the fact that the Twins would do this to themselves to add Mulholland defies description. After last year's exercises in futility with Mike Fetters, James Baldwin, and Jesse Orosco, I'd thought that they'd finally gotten the hang of culling the roster of its ill-deserving veteran elements. But all it took was three games to forget about Thomas' promise and start worrying about catching the Tigers. And yes, they're keeping Seth Greisinger in the meantime. I'm not a Sox fan or a Royals fan, but it's becoming harder and harder to respect what the Twins are trying to achieve, if anything. There's no honor in bringing yourself back to the pack; certainly, no one thinks better of Kenny Williams for doing so much to keep the AL Central interesting over the last three years. That the Twins would casually discard pitchers like Thomas or Mike Nakamura and pick their pitching staff on the quality of their belches during an April gut check is a great way to create a lack of faith.

That said, let's go over Mulholland's merits: he's death on the running game, so maybe he'll teach some of the surviving kids a thing or two. He's got a rubber-arm rep, so unlike most situational lefties, he can double as a long reliever or spot starter. He's left-handed. Related to the first point, he's pretty comfortable from the stretch, and can do good work stranding other people's baserunners. But why keep Greisinger or Carlos Pulido or Joe Roa or Aaron Fultz and add Mulholland? The Twins' pen is starting to look aged, and not in the good beef, cheese, or wine senses of the word, but more along the lines of that four month-old pack of baloney stewing in its own juices way in the back of your average bachelor fridge.

If there's good news, it's that they can afford two weeks with Torii Hunter away. Much as it might surprise them, considering the alacrity with which they added Mulholland, I think it's safe to expect that the Tigers will not build up an insurmountable lead in the meantime, and that two weeks with Michael Cuddyer and Ford in the lineup won't kill them. I'm a little less excited about Jose Offerman, but once Hunter returns, he's just going back to the bench, and if he earns his keep in the meantime, then I guess the sunny side is that Justin Morneau won't have to worry about being jerked around, and will simply play every day in Rochester in the meantime.

As far as free talent pickups go, at least nabbing Beimel might turn out well. He might have value as a second lefty, the price was right, and he'll have to prove himself as a Redwing to get further consideration.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Placed RHP Scott Erickson on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Jae Seo from Norfolk. [4/9]

Placed OF-L Cliff Floyd on the 15-day DL (hamstring); recalled OF-L Jeff Duncan from Norfolk. [4/12]

At least initially, it looks like Floyd's injury is a strain, and not a tear, but when it comes to Floyd and health, you can afford a bit of skepticism on however durable he'll prove to be. I'm not entirely distraught with a situation where Duncan and Shane Spencer and Eric Valent might all get at-bats in Floyd's absence. It wasn't like the division title's at stake, after all, and the three give Art Howe a moderately interesting blend of choices between a lefty bat with some sock (Valent), Spencer's lefty mashing, and Duncan's fresh legs. It's better than playing make-believe with someone like Jason Tyner, at any rate.

As for Scott Erickson's meltdown during warm-ups, maybe his comeback has legs, and maybe the Mets are paying seven figures for someone formerly famous. But on a happier level, it rights at least one roster wrong, as the Mets get to return Seo to the job in the rotation that he never really deserved to lose, certainly not to Erickson, who barely pitched all that much in camp. After last season, Seo obviously deserves to be in the rotation. He's not going to win them the pennant, and as much as a bad camp following last year's late-season slump make for sources of concern, it's worth seeing him up.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Announced the retirement of RHP Rick Reed. [4/9]

After not winning the fifth starter's job, and faced with the prospect of taking his aging bones down to Nashville or calling it a career, Reed called it a career. He may be the most famous of the players who crossed the line in 1994-95, having been a former member of the union and all, especially since he made the All-Star team as a Met some years after making that choice. He got seven full years out of his career after that, although you could argue he would have gotten a chance at some point, simply for his talent, without having crossed the line. But after being run off by the Royals and barely getting a glance from the Rangers before the strike, and given his comments on his family's financial need (apparently there were some health issues involved), you can sort of understand the place he was in. Keep in mind, being a former member of the union in 1994 didn't get him any help from the MLBPA, nor did they offer him anything beyond brimstone. It was a lousy time, and much as his choice left him isolated, I'm happy for him simply on the level that he had a career after all.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Acquired RHP Marty McLeary from the Marlins for RHP Bryan Gaal. [4/9]

McLeary is big, and he throws, and he was successful in A-ball in 1999. He was even good enough to be a prospect picked in the Rule 5 draft by the Expos in 2000. Then he lost a couple of years, and he's struggled for a couple beyond that. If anything, I suspect this was a matter of doing the Fish a favor; better to stay on their good side, so if they fall out of things, you're one of the people whose phone calls get answered at the end of July or August. Of course, if the Phillies wallow for much longer, that may not matter much.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Activated OF-R Jeffrey Hammonds from the DL; designated RHP Leo Estrella for assignment; activated 1B-R Lance Niekro from the DL and optioned him to Fresno. [4/11]

I guess there's supposed to be some sort of enthusiasm now that Jeffrey Hammonds is here to save the day, but this is more like the arrival of the Judean People's Front, coming to Brian Cohen's rescue, and to so little point. I wonder if a schism as pointless as those that plagued Brian's brief messiahdom will divide Giants fans deeply faithful, arguing the different yet so very unsatisfyingly similar contributions of Hammonds and Michael Tucker. To be fair, however, it does give Felipe Alou another pinch-hitting and mix-and-match alternative, so that if he so chooses, he can shuttle in Hammonds, Tucker, and Dustan Mohr, and in a perfect world, keep the bat out of Neifi Perez's hands as much as humanly possible.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Placed OF-B Roger Cedeno on the 15-day DL; recalled 2B-R Bo Hart from Memphis. [4/11]

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Claimed LHP Cory Vance off of waivers from the Rockies. [4/9]

He's breathing and he pitches, so almost by default he's a good pickup for the Rangers. Behind someone with more obvious promise, namely Juan Dominguez and Ryan Snare, this adds to the interesting yet relatively interchangeable group of journeyman selections to be found in Oklahoma City. Between Vance, Mike Bacsik, John Wasdin, and Ryan Drese. I guess we don't have Pat Mahomes or Mark Petkovsek to kick around any more.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Signed OF-R Bubba Trammell to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Durham. [4/10]

Consider this an exercise in déjà vu for Trammell, as he returns to the organization that originally rescued his career from the Tigers when they were thrashing about at their most clueless, "but we like Kimera Bartee," stage. More practically, Durham can use his bat in the outfield, what with the Bulls having to count on Midre Cummings to be one of their big thumpers.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Claimed RHP Michael Nakamura off of waivers from the Twins; signed C-B Gregg Zaun to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Syracuse. [4/9]

A nifty pair of pickups for what they're here for. Nakamura might end up helping out in the big league bullpen at some point, and was clearly worth a claim in the meantime. If his adaptation to sidearming shows any further improvement, the Jays might wind up with their own Bradford clone. Bradford was naturally more expensive, having been a bit more promising, but the value guys like these provide won't always rate with what somebody like Miguel Olivo's capable of contributing. As for nabbing Zaun at this date, I take it as a nice insurance move. If Kevin Cash crashes, or if anything happens to Cash or to Greg Myers, you'd hate to have to rush Guillermo Quiroz up to the majors before he's ready. So enter Zaun, to back up Quiroz for now, and to serve as the big league fill-in until Quiroz proves he's ready to make the jump. All in all, a nice bit of waiver shopping and contingency planning on the fly.

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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