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May 7, 2004

Transaction Analysis

May 3-5, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Announced that LHP Yoshitaka Mizou cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Salt Lake. [5/5]

Recalled 1B-R Robb Quinlan from Salt Lake; optioned RHP Matt Hensley to Salt Lake. [5/6]

When Robb Quinlan represents a potential upgrade at first base, you know you don't really have a first baseman, but as I've flogged this particular swabbo before, no sense in leaving the issue unflogged. Indeed, an Angels-themed re-enactment of Billy Budd, with Darin Erstad in the central role, makes perfect sense. He's perfect and popular and overwhelmingly irksome, and just like Billy, justice demands he be made an example of.

The odder element here is calling up Quinlan instead of Adam Riggs, at least on grounds involving merit. But Quinlan's a notional prospect and on the 40-man, where Riggs is one of Triple-A's toughest of tough-luck stories, and non-roster organizational material. Quinlan is at least in his Age 27 season, so maybe he'll luck into a happy stroke of good fortune and wind up with more of a career than Phil Stephenson; stranger things have happened.

But in the twinned absences of Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon, if the choice is between playing Chone Figgins or Erstad in center, it's becoming clear that Figgins is the more sensible choice. Erstad might sit against lefties, or get some spot duty in the outfield, so that Quinlan might get some spot work, but I wouldn't bet on it.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Acquired a PTBNL or cash from the Blue Jays for 2B/OF-L Stubby Clapp. [5/4]

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Craig Dingman from Toledo; placed RHP Nate Cornejo on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation). [5/5]

Cornejo will be out for a month, leaving Alan Trammell with a choice between Esteban Yan or Gary Knotts for the final slot in the rotation. This isn't nearly as much as a difficult proposition as pushing Nate Robertson forward slot-wise: anybody can and does man the skippable fifth slot, but Robertson's struggling and pushing him into the fourth starter's role could yield ugly results. A pretty neat solution would be to keep the front three on a regular five-day schedule, and mix and match Yan, Robertson, and Knotts by opponent, flipping between them as off-days permit, which in turn lets the un-used or skipped body or two move into long or middle relief roles, extra inning soaks, and the like.

So why bring up Craig Dingman, when Franklyn German is doing great? The public comment that Dingman's doing well is pretty silly; four homeruns allowed in 10.1 IP doesn't strike me as something you'd overlook. I suspect it's probably for the same reason that Shane Loux didn't get the call to fill a slot in the rotation in Cornejo's place, which is that Toledo basically has only two pitchers of note doing well, and they're Loux and German, and since both should have roles within the organization in the future, why not leave them to build on a month's success in Toledo, while sifting through the retreads or low-treads? It won't cost you your shot at postseason glory, and (sadly), like perhaps too many roster moves, it's a short-term choice. I would be a lot more impressed with a decision to let German pitch in the same pen as Uggy and see if the Tigers might help themselves do something really incredible, like top 70 wins, by improving every nook of the team's roster, but Dingman might make a useful last man in the pen, and we all know how everyone prays to any and every god to get one of those.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Recalled LHP Jaime Cerda from Omaha; optioned RHP Eduardo Villacis to Wichita (Double-A). [5/3]

Having sacrificed Villacis to the greater glory of adding an entry to the Baseball Encyclopedia, and with Darrell May ready to return to the rotation, the Royals were ready to straighten out their pitching staff. Among their lefty options, Cerda should be the pen's situational guy, while Dennys Reyes continues to fill the utility pitcher role that seems to offer him some measure of redemption, although he might get consideration for a start next Tuesday, the next spot where a fifth starter might get used. Kevin Appier won't be ready, and supposedly, Zach Greinke's "scheduled" for a call-up in another two weeks.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Recalled RHP Bret Prinz from Columbus; optioned RHP Jose Contreras to Tampa (A-ball). [5/5]

In the same way that the Yankees are the industry's study in exceptionalism, Tampa isn't really a normal A-ball affiliation. Consider it the organization's pleasure gulag, for posh rehab assignments and modestly proposed wristslaps for the liberally compensated underperformer. The Yankees' schedule is such that Contreras will be ready to be called up on the 15th, missing a lone start, at which point they have to hope that the tend days of immersion amidst the hellfire of Tampa's bluehair-infested bay should be enough to inspire some sort of reaction.

But who will get this Sunday's start? I'm expecting the memory lane scenario, where Donovan Osborne gets to harken back to his days of youth and worthiness, when he wore Cardinal red, a time when he had the honor of playing for Joe Torre before Torre had contracted his career-altering case of brilliantitude. The alternative would be something like taking another spin with Alex Graman, but Torre already got bored with that idea the first time around; it's far too soon to start talking about Sean Henn or Chien-Ming Wang.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Placed UT-R Willie Bloomquist on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 5/2; recalled RHP Rafael Soriano from San Antonio (Double-A); released RHP Kevin Jarvis. [5/4]

Exercised their option of Manager Bob Melvin for 2005. [5/5]

There comes a point where you have to be inured to pain, right? Either that, or Mariners fandom is becoming like the execution scene in Richard Morgan's Broken Angels. Not that I'd want Takeshi Kovacs to fix this team, I like seeing the Mariners return to their Age of Alvin Davis roots. So you can consider my curiosity about whether or not the Mariners will ever get around to plugging Rafael Soriano into the rotation as academic. Sure, it makes sense to trade Ryan Franklin, the sooner the better, but it seems so inherently Mariner that they'd probably use the opportunity to let Ron Villone start, and prove that they were right-on in drafting Villone twelve years, a trade, and seven major league organizations later.

But really, cattiness aside, this is good news. Soriano can pitch, and they kept J.J. Putz up. Sure, similar to what Derek was saying in Breaking Balls about their misaligned outfield and haphazardly arranged pen, the Mariners still need to get around to putting people in the right spots, but at least they have the talent to put into them.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Optioned UT-R Damian Rolls to Durham; purchased the contract of OF-L Midre Cummings from Durham; announced that LHP Damian Moss cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Durham. [5/5]

I suppose you're expecting me to say something mean-spirited in this space, what with the tradition and the inevitable perambulations of a franchise consistently kinked by coconut-creased noggins and surprise about the mean, competitive world we live in. And it would be fun, too, except it would miss the point, which is that, by their lights, the Devil Fishies are improving. Midre Cummings is a huge improvement on Al Martin, for starters.

More appropriately, Damian Rolls had become noticeably useless on a roster that's slowly making some sense. Aubrey Huff's return to third base reprises some original wisdom, while reducing Geoff Blum to a utility nuisance. Cummings becomes the fourth outfielder, since Rob Fick and Eduardo Perez aren't really good choices to ask to stand around in a corner for any length of time. Again, progress is relative, but it's not the worst bench or set of player usage patterns, and it's a big improvement over what we were all afraid would happen at the start of the season, where notions that Blum and Rey Sanchez would play everyday were fuelling all sorts of HACKING MASS wishcasts.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Designated C-R Bobby Estalella for assignment; recalled 2B-R Scott Hairston from Tucson. [5/4]

On a certain level, the Snakes were compelled to make some sort of move like this once Robbie Hammock came off of the DL: either Hammock was going to have to play some infield, or they were going to need another infielder. As is, they only recently started carrying a fourth outfielder by calling up Doug Devore, freeing them from having to take their reliance on the ever-execrable Donnie Sadler any further than their former fancy. On some level, I suppose Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga are infielders, if only because they remember when they were infielders, but mostly, they're a pair of pinch-hitters who won't see much time getting reacquainted with their gloves if Bob Brenly can avoid it.

So hauling in another infielder made sense on the face of it, and calling up Hairston adds an extra wrinkle. Hairston could wind up playing some second base, but any conviction that he can handle the keystone with any reliability is pretty brittle, since there's almost no aspect of the job he does well. This isn't a Marcus Giles sort of situation, where people don't think he's very good at second; it's more like Danny Tartabull or Ron Gant, where he's just flat-out bad at it. There's a further question as to how overrated Hairston may or may not be as a hitter; I'm with those who think that the Snakes' chain of bandboxes are nice places to generate gaudy minor league numbers. But at 24 (almost), he's young enough to become a great hitter, which lends itself to thinking that maybe Hairston could do as Tartabull or Gant did, and make a quick move to the outfield.

Another thing to keep in mind is that generally speaking, for Hairston's career, a move away from second will almost certainly help him at the plate. It's an unquantified and anecdotally-driven suggestion, to be sure, but one armed by two considerations. First, second basemen seem to have more than their fair share of career-altering injuries or difficulties avoiding injury. (You masochists should feel free to trot out your favorite Brent Gates or Geronimo Pena or Carlos Febles wishcast right around now.) Second, and this is more of a gut-level thing, is that players generally do better when they move away from positions with greater defensive responsibilities. Now, obviously, there's a potentially circular bit of logic involved: people get moved to easier positions if they can hit because they can hit, so maybe they're just hitting as well as they were supposed to instead of better than that. Where individuals are concerned, cause/effect relationships about this sort of thing are really just wild-ass guesses.

Even so, what I'm taking the long way 'round to saying is that should the Snakes do something like put Hairston in left (and presumably, shift Gonzo to first if Sexson can't come back soon), I sort of see that as a good thing for all concerned. Meanwhile, outside of the realm of theory, the Snakes seem pretty happy with Matt Kata at second, and he's also their primary utility infielder. Basically, I wouldn't be surprised if Hairston only gets a few weeks of time spent watching, seeing, and spitting sunflower seeds with Sadler.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Signed RHP Josias Manzanillo to a minor league contract. [5/5]

You can probably consider this a hedge against the always-doubtful future of Chad Fox's elbow. Not that Manzanillo might have a lot left in the tank, but Toby Borland ranks pretty high among the organization's list of choices to fill Fox's shoes, and until Ben Howard's conversion to relief pitching starts helping him show improved control or consistent results, the organization is a bit short of worthwhile replacements for the big league bullpen.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Placed RHP Chad Harville on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Ricky Stone from New Orleans. [5/6]

With just about everybody in the Astros' pen doing well, whether Harville or Stone is the last man in it won't affect the standings an awful lot. The 11th pitcher on the roster apparently exists for the sole purpose of being somebody between Brandon Duckworth and the rest of the staff. At this point, Duckworth is reduced to waiting on injuries or that Tim Redding loses his job when he isn't being skipped in the rotation. Since Jimy Williams has been pretty fickle this year, it might not all be wishful thinking.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Signed OF-L Scott Podsednik to a two-year contract extension. [5/5]

There's nothing more destructive to the most delicately-crafted consensus than a quickly demonstrated instinct for hypocrisy. In this case, we have a tidy distinction between Jerry Reinsdorf and Bud Selig. Where Reinsdorf droned for frugality all through the Great Labor War of 1994, only to ink Albert Belle, Selig decries franchise debt loads, and then gives Scott Podsednik multi-year security. On some level, I suppose the difference between the two reflects the relative ambitions of the two men.

It doesn't matter if each deal made sense in some way or another, although Podsednik, as an old rookie in 2003, isn't someone you really want to commit too many drachmas to long-term. The problem isn't the wisdom of an individual decision as it is the collateral damage that comes from espousing an ideology and then doing something that makes every previously claimed conviction seem pretty empty. We're talking about honking off your twenty-eight fraternity buddies by going straight to a jazzy new age management riff after a few years' worth of single-note bleating. Okay, I exaggerate, re-inking Podsednik is really just a sort of unambitious bit of mimicry of the Indians' and White Sox' trailblazing arbitration eradication programs of the late '80s. But the last thing I'd think Czar Bud the Rubbery would want is a further illustration of his slippery grasp on concepts like convictions, commitments, and absolute truth.

Meanwhile, I'm sure this will get the locals to tamp out the kettles of hot tar, and stop plucking their chickens. See, the Seligs are loveable: they just spent more money they claim they don't have to pay a player who doesn't actually cost much. Doesn't everyone feel better already?

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Placed LHP Rigo Beltran on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 4/29; recalled RHP Jeremy Fikac from Edmonton. [5/4]

Well, as much as Canadian players are a commodity to the two franchises of the Great White North, I guess ethnic Hungarian players might inspire some sort of crazy, happy feeling. I mean, the best Hungarian studies program in the hemisphere is up there and everything, so even if it's in the wrong big league city, there must be a half-dozen excited graduate students tuning out their studies of Admiral/Regent Miklos Horthy (Admiral in a country without a navy, Viceroy for a country that wanted no return to Habsburg rule, all vestiges of the noisome nationalism that cluttered up Central Europe in the scramble to wipe the Dual Monarchy off of the map) to follow the equally compelling exploits of an Expos middle reliever. For very similar reasons, our resident Expos nut Jonah Keri--himself half-Hungarian--is suitably riled up.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Ricky Bottalico from Norfolk; designated RHP Grant Roberts for assignment. [5/4]

Overreactions can be self-indulgent or goofy. I mean, just because I think the crescendo in Korn's No One's There is one of the great works of modern music doesn't make it so, it's just my way of saying that I really liked it. Just as strange, but far more indefensible, is a juvenile decision to whack Grant Roberts after fewer than five bad innings. It's one thing if your manager has lost all faith in a player, but lost all faith in him so you can call up Ricky Bottalico? The last time Bottalico was more than staff filler was 1997. At best, the Mets get to force interest in a minor deal, in that they have ten days to deal Roberts before having to pass him through waivers. Like a lot of hostage-taking where the gunman is his own hostage, this might not really work out. It takes a bit of mulish confidence that somebody will give you something, and that there might even be a competitive bidding situation to be generated out of this. Considering how cheaply they've valued him already, and his supposedly long-distant smoky embroglio, it won't be easy to get anything of value.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed RHP Roberto Hernandez on the 15-day DL (strained calf); purchased the contract of LHP Jim Crowell from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/5]

After the passage of time, some names and some verbs cease to work together in the same sentence. 'Roberto Hernandez' and 'lost,' for example, unless it's in the context of 'lost opportunities to sign somebody else,' or 'money lost because it was being given to Roberto Hernandez,' or 'Having lost his reason, Ed Wade insensibly overpaid the already infamous Roberto Hernandez.' I guess once acquire a taste for the Jose Mesas of the world, it's a tough habit to kick, but Philly must have been blighted by 12-step religiosity by now, I'm sure Wade can beat this addiction before it beats him.

Anybody else remember that Jim Crowell was the fourth player in the package shipped over to Cincinnati by the Indians in the deal that was supposed to cinch the Tribe the pennant because they'd just landed John Smiley? I mean, sure, Danny Graves was the headliner, and Damian Jackson was supposed to be Barry Larkin's heir apparent, only to wind up as fatelessly nondescript Babe Ruth's legs. Scott Winchester and Crowell were the extra arms, included for ballast, to make up for the throw-in of utility infielder Jeff Branson (who was sort of the new and improved Wayne Krenchicki, if you remember either). Anyway, Smiley's tragically done, but all four bodies the Reds picked up are still playing, although only Graves is still with the Reds. As the lefty in the foursome, Crowell should be able to hang around forever, although on a Phillies team that already boasts Billy Wagner and Rheal Cormier, the most Crowell can hope for is a third lefty situational role in a seven-man pen, and even that's a long-shot.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Released CF-R Emil Brown from Memphis. [5/5]

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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