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May 4, 2004

Transaction Analysis

April 29-May 3, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

Anaheim Angels Return to Top
Purchased the contract of RHP Matt Hensley from Salt Lake; placed DH-R Tim Salmon on the 15-day DL (knee); designated LHP Yoshitaka Mizuo for assignment. [5/1]

Hensley should only be up for a brief cameo, showing off to the brass how well his conversion to relief work has gone, so that they can take that into consideration amidst other roster issues, like what to do about the rotation with both Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey not looking so good, and what to do with a crowded bullpen once Brendan Donnelly's ready to return. Ideally, they'd have a way to deal from strength to get a rental vet that they could use right now (at first base, for example). The prized prospect trio of Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson and Jeff Mathis are holding their own at Arkansas, so 2005 looks like it should be a great transition year. The problem is what to do about now, because after having spent top dollar in the offseason, it would be a neat trick (or a page out of the Beane playbook) to win while shrugging off concerns about roster stability.

Baltimore Orioles Return to Top
Placed DH-B David Segui on the 15-day DL (knees), retroactive to 4/25; recalled OF-R Darnell McDonald from Ottawa. [4/30]

David Segui breaking down is news in the same ways that some people might not know the Earth is more than 6,000 years old: it's the sort of information where you have to make a choice to ignore history or science. Through willpower, faith, and willful self-indulgence, you might wish David Segui into wellness, but reality will have a nasty habit of disappointing you. Expressions for sympathy for Segui are nice, but the injuries have only helped maintain the fiction that he might someday provide value, and he's been richly compensated for his non-contributions. With the organization pushing, and Lee Mazzilli even publicly tut-tutting his regrets, there's a chance Segui will retire.

Considering that there's an injury involved, you might be wondering why Little Rock Raines isn't up. The 10-day rule on demotions can be ignored where an injury is concerned (as Cincinnati just demonstrated with Corky Miller). But having not played much during his time with the Orioles, you can understand where Raines can use the at-bats, so it's now McDonald's turn to watch B.J. Surhoff remind his employer that last year's lightning in a bottle apparently got spread on somebody else's toast this time around. Raffy Palmeiro has moved over to first base from DH, exactly the situation wehre Jack Cust would have been pretty handy, but this team wanted Keith Osik to be their backup catcher, and B.J. Surhoff playing. Orioles fans, what can I say, you get what they paid for.

Chicago White Sox Return to Top
Optioned RHP Dan Wright to Charlotte; recalled C-R Jamie Burke from Charlotte. [5/2]

Wright's pitched his way off of the roster, and the Sox don't need a fifth starter until the middle of the month, so it made sense to put the roster spot to better use. But a third catcher? What, Sandy Alomar Jr. is already worn out? Burke may not last more than another day or two, because someday soon, Jose Valentin's going to need reactivating, leaving Ozzie Guillen with a choice between Burke and Kelly Dransfeldt. Although Dransfeldt has hit in his few at-bats, it'll depend entirely on what balance Guillen feels he has to strike on his bench.

As much as some general themes have been hit upon where Guillen's debut as manager have been concerned-the dumb baserunning, and the questions about bullpen management, in particular-one thing to his credit is that Guillen is using his bench. It's almost a Tom Kelly sort of thing, and I mean that in a good way: Guillen hasn't forgotten anybody on his bench. Ross Gload, Timo Perez, and Alomar haven't done much early on to reward that confidence, but it's generally a positive for a manager to look past that and avoid burying guys early.

Detroit Tigers Return to Top
Acquired LHP Felix Sanchez from the Cubs for LHP Jon Connolly and a PTBNL. [4/29]

Released RHP Ariel Prieto. [5/1]

Notionally, the Cubs were clearing a spot on the 40-man roster for Glendon Rusch, but this is a nice bit of pilfery by Dave Dombrowski. Not that Connolly isn't useful; like Andy Pratt, he very well could be, if things go his way. That's the way life is for command-and-control lefties: one out of ten becomes Jamie Moyer, one out of ten becomes Glendon Rusch or Dave Otto, maybe one more becomes Mike Remlinger, one Joe Beimel or Scott Sauerbeck, and the remaining half-dozen get to be scrabbling, light-fingered bastards inspired by Blaise Ilsley's Fagin-like brotherhood of American (Association) gloom. That, or insurance salesmen. So dealing that for a power lefty like Sanchez makes sense on the talent side of things, and that's while admitting that far more of those guys wind up being Mike Bertotti or Valerio De Los Santos than even just Felix Heredia. But Heredia's name is worth bringing up, since he was one of those guys that Dombrowski's Marlins team developed back in the day, and the similarities (a Dominican with heat and some control issues, basically). It's a nice high-risk, high-reward type of deal for the Tigers, who can afford to take a few chances; what the Cubs get is a space for Glendon Rusch now, and somebody who could win the Southern League ERA title someday, with a slim shot at something more than that.

Kansas City Royals Return to Top
Activated IF-B Desi Relaford from the 15-day DL; optioned SS-B Andres Blanco to Wichita (Double-A). [4/29]

Placed 2B-R Tony Graffanino on the 15-day DL (knee--meniscus tear); purchased the contract of RHP Eduardo Villacis from Wichita (Double-A); activated SS-R Angel Berroa from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Justin Huisman to Omaha. [5/1]

As much as the Royals might like to ease Relaford back into full-time duties, with Graffanino out, they're still short in the infield. Although it's a happy turn of events to get Berroa back at the same point in time that they've lost Graffy, Mendy Lopez hasn't hit his way into more playing time. Still, Lopez should be able to garner a few spot starts, usually against lefties. Blanco had a few yips, but he didn't embarrass himself in his brief stint in the majors, so if anything goes horribly awry for Berroa later on in the year, the Royals should have a little freedom of action, choosing between recalling Blanco or making Relaford the regular at short.

A little more odd is the decision to bring in Villacis for an emergency start. The need to get through Saturday's game with Darrell May unavailable was a problem, to be sure, but it was one that they could have handled better. Sure, they swapped out Huisman for Villacis, although Huisman didn't earn the demotion and he should be back. Could the Royals have made this a starterless game covered by the bullpen as a shared responsibility? After all, if you're carrying six relievers, how hard can it be? Did they have to demote Huisman?

Unfortunately, they probably had to. Look at what Tony Pena had to work with. First, they'd covered for May once already by bringing Dennys Reyes out of the pen to spot last Thursday (April 29th), effectively delaying the choice by two days. But if the game on May 1 was going to be a pen start sort of game, who could Pena rely on to get him three-plus innings, so that he didn't totally scrag the rest of the pen? Nate Field and Jared Camp are two warm bodies at the back of the pen, and while they've earned their keep, neither were starters in the minors. Although both were pretty fresh for Saturday (and both ended up pitching), asking either to go several innings might have been tough. Jason Grimsley's a former starter, but he's 36 and hasn't gone more than two innings in an appearance in a few years, and as the pen's resident rubber-arm, Pena was probably going to be reluctant to stretch him out. Okay, maybe that seems silly, since Scott Sullivan is the Royals' other rubber-armed reliever, but that's how far role-centered manias can get you. You've got two middle relievers who can't go long, two rubber-armed relievers who can't spot-start, and two short relievers (Curtis Leskanic and Mike MacDougal) who can't pitch more than an inning at a time. The one thing the Royals didn't have two of were swingmen, and Reyes had already been plugged into the rotation once before. So Villacis gets the call. Villacis is the Venezuelan organizational soldier picked up from the Rockies for Bryan Rekar nearly two years ago, and this is his first year above A-ball.

So they got to haul up Villacis for a 'take-one-for-the-team' beating where they still effectively placed the same demands on the other relievers in the pen as if they had an extra swingman on hand in the first place. Camp, Field, Leskanic, and Sullivan all pitched; it was Field's first game action since the previous weekend (when he pitched an inning). The Royals knew they had a problem with May that far back, but Pena didn't seem to run his pen any differently in the meantime. If carrying all of these relievers who can't handle emergency starts and long relief outings really helps, I'd love to see how, because it also cost them a game. Field spent a week on the team and pitched twice in a week, two individual innings in two different blowouts. Is that really the best use of a roster spot? For that matter, was Huisman, since he's also a career reliever?

Lord ha'mercy, I guess I'm arguing for the reinvention of Dan Spillner, because that's the sort of back o'the staff pitcher who would be pretty handy on a staff as banged-up as this one. Plenty of people can be useful for single innings now and again.

Minnesota Twins Return to Top
Sold RHP Todd Erdos to the Brewers. [4/30]

New York Yankees Return to Top
Optioned LHP Alex Graman to Columbus; activated RHP Jon Lieber from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of 2B-R Homer Bush from Columbus; placed 1B-L Travis Lee on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); transferred RHP Jorge De Paula from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/1]

Optioned OF-L Bubba Crosby to Columbus; activated OF-L Kenny Lofton from the DL. [5/2]

There is something inspiring about having to hear that the Yankees have been reinforced by the arrivals of... a post-surgical Jon Lieber? Kenny Lofton? Homer Bush? I guess Yankee fans can seek solace in the idea that a Bush in the hand might lead to a decision to bury Enrique Wilson in some backwater, because a Cairo/Bush job-sharing arrangement would be an improvement. As is, Cairo has basically started to win the job away from Wilson, and as long as you have a third baseman who can play a pretty good game at shortstop, you don't need to worry if you infield reserves cannot.

But that's the minor bit. Far more important is plugging Lieber into the rotation, because it gets Jose Contreras into the skippable fifth slot. Lieber looked solid in his first start, and assuming that Mike Mussina gets straightened out, on paper, it's a front four that can match the Red Sox, quality start for quality start. For a few weeks, at least.

Blending the virtues of those two moves (a lineup question, and a veteran's return) is having Lofton back. In a sense, the drama over who's in center pales next to the more significant problem of picking a shortstop between your two shortstops; consider it something of a proxy war, but one with stakes and winners and losers, just like a real proxy war. If Lofton enters the lineup, Ruben Sierra winds up out of it; and Torre gets all soft in the head about the strangest players. So Lofton's quest to replace Jerry Mumphrey in the hearts and minds of Bronx faithful might have to wait.

If there's some element of sorrow, it's for Crosby, who learned exactly what a New York minute is, and will now get to tell all of his Columbus teammates all about it.

Seattle Mariners Return to Top
Recalled RHP J.J. Putz from Tacoma; optioned LHP Matt Thornton to Tacoma. [4/30]

It wasn't a straight swap, waiting out the 10 days until after they had sent Putz down to have him replace Kevin Jarvis as the club's long reliever, but it was close. As it turns out, it was also necessary, as the pen needs all the help it can get, as it's compensating for a recently vincible rotation. Putz may not last, since Raffy Soriano is due back at some point, and the organization is stuck with their hasty generosity to Shiggy Hasegawa for last season.

Texas Rangers Return to Top
Activated 1B-B Mark Teixeira from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B-L Adrian Gonzalez to Oklahoma. [4/29]

Announced that RHP John Wasdin cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Oklahoma. [4/30]

That went even better than you might have hoped. A-Gonz showed that he's back among the first rank of prospects, taking his two weeks as a chance to show that he's healthy. He hit, so the cup of coffee didn't catch him flat-footed, and now if the Rangers need to call on him again, he'll be armed with a positive experience. Teixeira should consider himself on notice, although more properly, it's Brad Fullmer whose days as a Ranger aren't numbered beyond this season. Blalock, Teixeira, A-Gonz, and Laynce Nix, with young vets Michael Young and Kevin Mench, Alfonzo Soriano as the graybeard, and one of the old expensive guys and Gerald Laird? That'll score runs, but if the current Rangers want to outlast comparisons to the early Valentine/Grieve Ranger squads, it'll be on the basis of building a successful pitching staff.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays Return to Top
Designated LHP Damian Moss for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Dicky Gonzalez from Durham. [4/30]

Announced the retirement of consultant Syd Thrift. [5/2]

If you're going to whine about your local revenue stream after years of providing entertainment that only Spike viewers might sit through, and then spend $850,000 on a player, you really need to be able to tell yourself that if he gives you eight bad innings, you won't quit on him. I'm not a big Moss believer, but I'm not crazy silly optimistic about Mark Hendrickson's virtues either. Beyond the expense, the Devil Fishies have correctly identified that Gonzalez and Moss are roughly equivalent in terms of value. There's all sorts of reasons to hope that Gonzalez could be the next Tanyon Sturtze, which, if memory serves, is what passes for good news in these parts.

Arizona Diamondbacks Return to Top
Placed 1B-R Richie Sexson on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of OF-L Doug Devore from Tucson. [4/29]

It's thought that Sexson should only be out for two weeks, which presents mostly good things. I mean, sure, it's not good to see Sexson out, but as long as it isn't a season- or career-altering injury, in the short term, as long as we're talking about a team that has problems, Sexson's breakdown at least gives them options. First, it means keeping Chad Tracy in the lineup at third. At first, they'll get to give Shea Hillenbrand the playing time he'll need if he's going to heat up and pick up some trade value. Devore has his uses as a platoon hitter, so he makes a nice outfield reserve and pinch-hitter if they ever get tired of carrying two pinch-hitters Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga) and instead carry an actual backup outfielder this year.

That lack of a reserve outfielder is even more galling when you consider Luis Gonzalez's bum wing. If Sexson was hurt for a more significant length of time, making a decision about moving Gonzalez to first might have deserved some consideration, but since they have no reserve outfielder, let alone one they could work into a platoon with Devore, you have to take it for granted that they'll leave Gonzo out there until it becomes unwatchable, or a few steps shy of Ivan Calderonian out there.

Chicago Cubs Return to Top
Acquired LHP Jon Connolly and a PTBNL from the Tigers for LHP Felix Sanchez. [4/29]

Purchased the contract of LHP Glendon Rusch from Iowa; optioned RHP Michael Wuertz to Iowa. [4/30]

When your manager is stomping around the field, offering his kingdom for a lefty reliever, and you've got one of a suitably vinegary vintage in Triple-A boasting a 16-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, you don't ask questions, you just do it. Besides, Wuertz had gone from a spring evening fancy to a morning-after regret, reminding everyone that we live in fickle times.

On a certain level, this was also a bit of anticipation, since the hope is that Mike Remlinger will be back soon, so while Rusch will have an opportunity to win a few hearts and minds; his performance in the early going at Iowa had already separated him from fellow retreads Jimmy Anderson and Kevin Tolar. If Rusch shows something in the meantime, he could swipe Francis Beltran's job in the pen, or perhaps Sergio Mitre's in the rotation.

Cincinnati Reds Return to Top
Placed C-R Jason LaRue on the 15-day DL (fractured finger). [4/29]

Recalled C-R Corky Miller from Louisville. [4/30]

Miller had just been sent down to make room for Brandon Larson, but LaRue's injury negated that in short order. Miller will share the job with Javier Valentin for as long as it takes to get LaRue back. It's a nice setup for the pair, since it's the best opportunity either is likely to ever get to establish themselves as a useful backstop. Valentin still has some sock, and Miller's a superb glove with an underrated bat, so they both have their uses. Basically, this isn't going to hurt the Reds as much as it might handicap their ability to deal LaRue at the deadline.

Colorado Rockies Return to Top
Recalled OF-L Brad Hawpe from Colorado Springs; optioned OF-B Rene Reyes to Colorado Springs. [4/30]

I love this move. Sure, Hawpe might be a bit of a slug in the outfield, but I remember watching John Kruk and Pete Incaviglia play center, and as laugh-out-loud funny as those spectacles may have been at times, as converted first basemen go, Hawpe is a solid enough athlete. It might only be an early cuppajoe for him, until Larry Walker and Preston Wilson heal up, but Hawpe can hit (he's already poked seven home runs in 17 games at Colorado Springs), and a temporary platoon, sticking Hawpe and Kit Pellow in right field, is a lot better than pretending Rene Reyes is a prospect. That said, I am concerned about banishing Reyes outright, because you're left with a team that has Jeromy Burnitz in center and Denny Hocking as his defensive replacement. It won't cost the Rockies the pennant, so as long as they're comfortable with a group of outfielders who can't provide the pitching staff a lot of support, why not? If Hawpe has a future in the organization, it's in an outfield corner; the Helton contract makes sure of that. If this call-up provides them with a glimpse of Hawpe's viability as an outfielder, John Hart and company will be able to make some slightly better-informed decisions going forward.

Milwaukee Brewers Return to Top
Purchased RHP Todd Erdos from the Twins, and assigned him to Indianapolis. [4/30]

Montreal Expos Return to Top
Signed 1B-R Jorge Toca to a minor league contract and assigned him to Edmonton. [4/30]

Pity the class clown who, out of the desperate desire to get some acceptance, makes a fool out of himself through some repetitive shtick. I suppose it's possible that this sort of thing could be done out of heartfelt conviction: a clown might mistake laughter for popularity, and Omar Minaya might really think that Jorge Toca has value. As much as I'd like to think Omar's smarter than that, and that he's merely giving Toca a break, he did haul Luis Lopez onto the Opening Day roster, and that was hopeless. At any rate, if Omar was that smart, that might represent some sort of a condemnation of the Expos' relevance, raising questions about there being any real commitment to this being one of thirty real-live big league organizations and all, instead of increasingly being reduced to the island for misfit former prospects, odious contracts, and players that the game's 29 operating banditti haven't figured out how to steal off of the roster just yet. Can't we just re-name them the Spiders and get it over with already?

San Francisco Giants Return to Top
Optioned RHP Kevin Correia to Fresno; recalled RHP David Aardsma from Fresno. [5/1]

St. Louis Cardinals Return to Top
Recalled RHP Josh Pearce from Memphis; optioned 2B-R Bo Hart to Memphis. [4/30]

I guess it's to Tony LaRussa's credit that, rather than get hung up on not having a second baseman, he's really just making do with the two he got off the rack (Tony Womack and Marlon Anderson), until there's a midsummer sale or a nice catalog offer or something. Pretending that Anderson can play the outfield is similarly to his credit; it's only a corner now and again, and I suppose if Womack really does break down, the Cards will have a big league-tested replacement prepped and ready.

What's a little more difficult to understand is the bullpen. Cal Eldred is barely pitching, and when he does, it isn't a happy thing, but that's symbolic of how all four right-handed setup men have pitched in the early going. Pearce was probably the best reliever in-house at either Triple- or Double-A. As ever, the Cardinals are good at being busy, if not exactly getting underway in any particular direction. Few teams are so determined to keep their nose above .500 to achieve... well, that's the goal, there is nothing to see beyond that nose, so why bother looking?

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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