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May 1, 2004

Transaction Analysis

April 26-29

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Recalled SS-B Alfredo Amezaga from Salt Lake; placed OF-L Garret Anderson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/22 (upper back stiffness). [4/28]

Anderson's back problem and numb fingers are a tremendous source of concern, as Will has already pointed out. I'm a little more concerned about whether or not the Angels really gave Anderson a full physical before deciding to break open the piggy bank. Buyer beware, and all that. Like so many of this team's expenses, too late now, I guess. In his absence, it looks like Chone Figgins will get the majority of the at-bats, even playing center. That's not a bad thing, since Figgy can get on base and run, but it is sort of interesting, since it looks like nothing short of our living through the first few chapters of Revelations will get Jeff Davanon regular playing time.

In the meantime, Amezaga is here to spot David Eckstein at short until Eckstein's in better health. (Shocking nobody, perhaps not even Phil Garner any more, the Angels learned that Shane Halter can't play short.) Since Eckstein has struggled, this is a chance for Amezaga to re-initiate his bid for the job at short. However, where the unknowns of Opening Day might have created a lot more interest in Eckstein in the trade market, almost everyone's letting their middle infields ride at the moment, so Amezaga's almost certainly doomed to return to Mormon country.

What losing Anderson, for however long, really highlights is the Angels' sense of organizational willpower. Stubbornness has a time and a place. When you decide your mind is made up, and things are just so, no matter what, that's either infantile or 'leadership,' depending on your point of view, and whether you're in a mood to be led. But when there's nothing to be gained from it, beyond providing a bit of daily certainty about his position to a player who's already been awarded an absurd amount of financial certainty, you ought to be at a point where somebody stops the bus and asks where they're going. I know, how much money Darin Erstad is making has nothing to do with where he plays on the diamond, but his only value to a club is playing center field, and even with Anderson out, he's not playing center field. Conviction is admirable, except when it's blinkered and self-defeating. And if, for the sake of argument, instead of demonstrating their rock-certain rockheaded conviction that Erstad is a first baseman, the Angels are convinced that what they need to do is play Chone Figgins in center to the point that he gets good at it, why then play Erstad at all? Chone Figgins can outhit Erstad, and fewer still are the first basemen above Double-A who can't out-hit Erstad. If Figgins must play, then the only thing that's keeping Erstad in the lineup is his paycheck.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Placed LF-B Chipper Jones on the 15-day DL (strained right hamstring); recalled UT-R Mike Hessman from Richmond. [4/26]

Purchased the contract of OF-R Damon Hollins from Richmond; placed OF/C-R Eli Marrero on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/25 (respiratory infection). [4/27]

Transferred RHP Paul Byrd from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/29]

As noted elsewhere, Chipper went to the DL as something of a last resort, because of Julio Franco's owie and how that exacerbated the team's need for people healthy enough to hit on the active roster. (No 'splaining what DeWayne Wise's deal is, in that case.) After years among the ranks of organizational soldiery, it's nice to see Hollins come up; without any of the hype, he should make Braves fans forget George Lombard in very short order. Nevertheless, it makes the decision to cut Gary Matthews, Jr. seem that much stranger, of course, since having to start Wise or Hollins is far from ideal. Theoretically, Marrero was supposed to help with that, but with his career log of health issues on top of J.D. Drew's, a good outfield spare would really come in handy around now, and the Braves don't have one. Instead, you've got a contender counting on Wise, Hollins, Jesse Garcia, and Hesseman. As if the fates weren't doing Jeffrey Loria enough favors already...

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Placed DH-R Ellis Burks on the 15-day DL (meniscus tear in left knee). [4/26]

Purchased the contract of 1B/OF-L Brian Daubach from Pawtucket. [4/27]

Optioned LHP Phil Seibel to Portland (Double-A); activated RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from the 15-day DL. [4/29]

One of the other cool things about having a knuckleballer--because, let's face it, we all think knuckleball pitchers are cool--is that you can slate them for relief between turns, and then can usually roll with it when you do what the Sox just did in activating Kim and re-shuffling their rotation. It covered them through the doubleheader against Tampa, and their rotation is prepped to run in turn from Saturday on, after getting Arroyo one last start before he heads back to the pen. Add in that Kim's a pretty good pitcher, and you've got the first of what ought to be a trio of important reactivations in the weeks to come that ought to help the Red Sox make tracks in the AL East. Plus, Kim gets his first two turns against the D-Rays and the Tribe, and past transgressions might even be forgotten. Well, you can always hope. I don't think New Englanders have learned to turn the other cheek since Cotton Mather started wondering whether that whole innocence-guilt thing was crimping the justice of good ol'fashioned witch-burnings. Not that that stopped people where Dan Duquette was concerned.

As for the DH and outfield reserve situation after losing Burks, I suppose it's just as well that Burks broke down now. In one sense, it gives the Sox that much more opportunity to see whether or not Gabe Kapler or David McCarty will start hitting, and if neither do in the intervening six weeks, it might not be Daubach who has to worry about his job security as last man on the bench. Perhaps it hardly matters; once Trot Nixon comes off of the DL, Kevin Millar will be pushed into the semi-regular reserve role he had last year, spotting Ortiz and Nixon, flipping between the outfield corners, first, and DH. It'll hard to find playing time for both Kapler and McCarty then, let alone Burks once he returns. In that combination, Daubach's leftyness at the plate might preserve him, and make McCarty a PawSock. The other thing you hope for is that maybe Burks will be healthy for a stretch of important games in a couple of months or so.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Activated 3B/OF-R Brandon Larson from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Corky Miller to Louisville. [4/26]

Purchased the contract of OF-L Jacob Cruz from Louisville; placed OF-R Austin Kearns on the 15-day DL (broken forearm), retroactive to 4/27. [4/28]

A mixed bag, certainly. Getting Larson finally gives them a bat worth investing some regular playing time at third base on, only to lose a pair of pistons: Kearns, for about six weeks, and immediately afterwards, Jason LaRue. So Miller won't be going to Louisville to get regular at-bats, and I guess the real test for Dave Miley is going to be sorting out whether to go crazy and just plug Wily Mo Pena into the lineup, or let him split playing time in right between Pena and the perpetually retreaded Cruz, not to mention Ryan Freel and Jason Romano. Pena and Romano each got one of the first two post-Kearns starts, but I'm worried that he'll simply wait for a hot hand, reshuffling constantly, until he finally gets one. That makes for a lot of pennypacketed playing time where nobody's too likely to have a good run.

At least in getting Larson, they're getting a right-handed bat with some power to balance a lineup leaning left with Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, and Sean Casey. Because after that, it's slim pickings. Barry Larkin's not a power source any more, and D'Angelo Jimenez and LaRue can only menace you so much. That's why you might anticipate another temptation to lean on Pena, but we'll have to see how the Reds cope with their month-long flirtation with relevance.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Placed RHP Chad Fox on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled LHP Franklin Gracesqui from Albuquerque. [4/28]

That's so neat, the elbow that goes ping! just made its biannual funny noise. If you missed it, Chad Fox is hurt again. If you're a South Park-style Rip Van Winkle and slept through the last few months, it's that time of year again, that's all. Like death, taxes, and bad hair days, there's just nothing to be done for it; these things just happen, and wailing about it would be narcissistic acting-out. The Fish have talent on hand, and Gracesqui is a big lefty who pumps gas. As a middle reliever, he'll get a chance to prove he might be able to handle a higher-leverage role when Fox breaks down again, because if there's one thing about which there should be no doubt, it's that Fox will break down again.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Ricky Stone to New Orleans. [4/28]

Activated LHP Andy Pettitte from the 15-day DL. [4/29]

It isn't even May, and already Jimy Williams is having trouble with some players. Stone's good work has been quickly forgotten, but it is a pen crowded with talent, Stone struggle in what little work he got, and he had an option. Less explicable is Brandon Duckworth's already dropping into the dusty end of the bullpen, where you have to wear a nametag to help everyone besides the bullpen coach remember who you are.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Returned Rule 5 pick OF-L Rich Thompson to the Pirates after designating him for assignment. [4/29]

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of LHP Rigo Beltran from Edmonton; recalled first OF-R Valentino Pascucci from Edmonton. [4/26]

Placed RHP John Patterson on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled RHP T.J. Tucker from Edmonton. [4/28]

Hooray, Val Pascucci's up, and for any self-respecting member of the long-gone Rob Deer Fan Club, Val's a slugger for you. His Three True Outcomes rates (HR+BB+K, divided by PA) on his five year minor league career is right around 40%, which still means an awful lot of at-bats without evoking memories of The Deer, but us Deer fans need to take our heroes where we can get them, what with this Productive Outs silliness (isn't the operative word in that label 'Out'?). Val was slugging .625 in his three weeks with Edmonton, so why not have him here, considering the alternatives? He can handle an outfield corner, but he'd be better off at first base, which would in turn let them put Brad Wilkerson back out in center field, and mixing and matching Juan Rivera, Terrmel Sledge, and Matt Cepicky in the other two slots, which would happily banish Endy Chavez to pinch-running and ninth-inning fly-chasing. Of course, Carl Everett's two weeks away from coming back, so this is a time for Val to shine, because a good week could win him a job at the expense of Cepicky or Sledge.

On the other hand, I guess I'm a little skeptical about the wisdom of having Rigo Beltran up, but that's an awfully young pen, and when Rocky Biddle is your eminence grise, it probably doesn't hurt to add another adult to the mix. Who the last reliever is won't cost the Expos their shot at the World Series, after all. And now that Patterson is out for a month, you're going to have to live with that month's worth of mayhem having Sunny Kim start every fifth day, so perhaps having a graybeard around to talk about whuppings and how to take'm provides some added value.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Placed 1B-L Randall Simon on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled 1B-L Carlos Rivera from Nashville. [4/26]

Reclaimed Rule 5 pick OF-L Rich Thompson from the Royals. [4/29]

That's right, in Lloyd McClendon's wisdom, this too does not represent a good opportunity to just sit back, plug Craig Wilson into the lineup, and see what you've got on your hands. Yes, a Simon-Wilson platoon is defensible on paper, and yes, it helps you field a team that might achieve the lofty heights of fifth place or something. But that's not what the Bucs should be about right now, they should be determining how good Wilson might be, in case they have a hidden star. If nothing else, playing Wilson a lot might at least bring them something more in trade than the Bratbuster ever will.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Designated RHP Kevin Jarvis for assignment; recalled LHP Matt Thornton from Tacoma. [4/26]

Add about $5 million to the cost of making Jeff Cirillo go away, because that's what cutting Jarvis will cost them. I guess it still ends up being a cost-cutting measure, in that Cirillo's due money up through 2006. Of course, the Mariners are paying part of that, so I guess the real question is whether getting Dave Hansen and assuming the responsibility to pay Wiki Gonzalez to play in Tacoma really makes up for it, or if Vince Faison (the last throw-in of this garbage exchange) can make it all worthwhile. I really doubt it, and I suspect the Mariners would have made potential season ticket holders a whole lot happier or more enthusiastic or in a wallet-emptying frame of mind if they had just flat-out cut Cirillo. Pirates know what I'm talking about: when things get as ugly as the last few years, was there no happier news event than shutting down 'Operation Shutdown'? (I make the distinction between news events and games because the games are always fun, despite not really being taken seriously as news by the 'working' press.)

Anyway, it's a bit perverse of the Mariners to have even gone out of their way to have picked up Jarvis, since all he did was stand in the way of one more member of the Mariners' vaunted collection of young arms. Not counting Thornton, a rehabbed retread with his share of scars, and somebody you hope makes it. But Thornton is only here briefly, until Raffy Soriano is ready to return. It's just as well, since Thornton hasn't really shown he's all the back from his 2002 Tommy John. But the organization has J.J. Putz and Aaron Looper both about as ready as they're ever going to be, and this sort of thoughtful day-to-day doofing around isn't really going anywhere. They should have just cut Cirillo from the outset, and looked to whatever else the future might bring.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Placed RHP Dustin Hermanson on the 15-day DL (strained lower back), retroactive to 4/21; purchased the contract of SS-R Deivi Cruz from Fresno. [4/26]

Signed LHP Jason Jacome to a minor league contract and assigned him to Fresno; placed 2B-B Ray Durham on the 15-day DL (strained left patellar tendon); designated RHP Brian Cooper for assignment; purchased the contracts of UT-R Brian Dallimore and RHP Tyler Walker from Fresno. [4/28]

Transferred RHP Robb Nen from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/29]

The term 'spectacularly badly screwed' comes up in a few socially acceptable situations. Liza Minelli's marriage to David Gest, for example, or Neil Young's to Geffen, or the Giants, right around now. It's not a question of who turned the screw, Giants fans, just take solace in the fact that the bell tolls for thee. (Well, except in Casa Huckabay.) The real losses here are Durham and the already departed dear, Robb Nen, Nen through a rehab setback, and Durham because some particularly cruel god decided to test all of the underpinnings of an awful lot of sabermetric theory, and see what a lineup of Barry Bonds and eight out-of-work bee-keepers would do if you let them try.

A silver lining... well, they're hard to come by. Edgardo Alfonzo will play second, which puts Pedro Feliz in the lineup, and that might staunch the bleeding. I suppose having Cruz on the roster gives Felipe Alou someone he might feel more comfortable turning to when (or perhaps only 'if,' should it occur to him) he has to pinch-hit for Neifi Perez. Beyond the warm fuzzy that getting Dallimore up creates for an eight-year minor league vet, I guess the nice thing about having him around is that he can play almost anywhere, which you'd hope would create that much more comfort for Felipe with the idea of pinch-hitting for his shortstops once per game.

If there's one thing I like, it's the call-up of Walker. He's been a fairly consistent successful minor league starter after coming out of Cal as a 1997 second round pick by the Mets, and not that Giants season ticket holders should get all jazzed up about it, but he's a local guy. A torn labrum at the end of 2000 shredded his prospect status, but he's still managed good strikeout rates the last two years. Stranger people have wound up having careers as relievers after significant injuries, so in terms of exchanging a more definitive Quadruple-A pitcher like Cooper to take a chance on Walker, it's a risk worth taking. I mean, as long as you're stuck, and you're not at the point of suing, you may as well see if spicing things up works, right?

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Transferred RHP Seth McClung from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed RHP Jason Standridge on the 15-day DL (shoulder surgery). [4/27]

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Designated OF-R Chad Allen and RHP John Wasdin for assignment; activated OF-R Brian Jordan from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Doug Brocail from Oklahoma. [4/27]

You can say this for free talents, you designate them for assignment free from care. That isn't to say, as Emile Ollivier made the mistake of doing, that you're taking action with a 'light heart,' but perhaps the nicest thing about getting to employ players like Wasdin or Allen is that you don't need to overly concern yourself with the repercussions of passing them through waivers. If they make it, great, you might not need to teach the team's signs to some new temp when the need to call one up arises. Of course, you can pretty easily lump Brocail, not to mention about half of the Rangers' pitching staffs over the last several years, into that category.

The more interesting problem is presented by getting Jordan back. He steps immediately into the lineup as the right fielder, pushing Kevin Mench into a rotation in the other fields, which really boils down to a lot fewer at-bats for David Dellucci. That's not bad news; at least the Rangers are giving people Hank Blalock and Laynce Nix, Adrian Gonzalez (if only briefly), and you can hope that Mench gives them a great year or two before they trade him for goodies, lest he give the organization a Rusty Greer-style dose of the regrets.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Placed C-L Greg Myers on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); purchased the contract of C-B Gregg Zaun from Syracuse. [4/27]

Talk about fortuitous timing. No sooner do the Jays sign Zaun to provide an experienced early-season alternative at catcher in case something happened to Myers or Kevin Cash, than they need an experienced early-season alternative at catcher. Myers should miss a month, and in his absence, the Jays will mostly get to show off Cash to good advantage, but Zaun will get a nice chunk of playing time, starting against tough veteran righthanders, or day games after night games. It won't be a platoon or even that much of a job-sharing arrangement as it will be Zaun getting used as a frequently-used backup. Meanwhile, Guillermo Quiroz polishes his craft, and Cash becomes either a keeper or a bartering chip. In an ugly first month, this is a facsimile of good news, at least after a fashion, since losing Myers isn't all good.

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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