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May 25, 2004

Transaction Analysis

May 20-24, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

Anaheim Angels Return to Top
Acquired UT-B Zach Sorensen from the Indians for a PTBNL. [5/23]

This isn't a brilliant move, but it wasn't merely a necessary one either. Sorensen's roster filler, to be sure, but he can play the seven positions beyond pitching or catching, and he can switch-hit. Most importantly, he has all of his fingers and toes, and the Angels need healthy bodies to help fill out the organization at every level from Double-A on up. As a Buzz, er, Stinger (no legal entanglements there, right?), he'll make Joe Buzas proud, and if anything bad happens to Shane Halter, the Angels have a ready-made utilityman for infrequent playing time standing by.

Baltimore Orioles Return to Top
Signed CF-B Eugene Kingsale to a minor league contract. [5/22]

Kingsale has spent so much of his recent career being swapped around that it's worth remembering that originally, he was an organizational flygirl for this posse. The Orioles got him out of Aruba in the first place, after all. And with Chad Mottola, Darnell McDonald, and Little Rock Raines all struggling to do anything at the plate for Ottawa, you can sort of understand why the Orioles would bring back this particular little fish. It's a catch-and-release scenario anyway, where he'll only get back to Baltimore if they're stuck.

Boston Red Sox Return to Top
Recalled RHP Anastacio Martinez from Pawtucket; placed RHP Scott Williamson on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation), retroactive to 5/19; re-signed DH-L David Ortiz to a two-year, $12.5 million extension with a club option for 2007. [5/21]

Losing Williamson for any length of time might add another palpitation or two to the always-overheated frenetics of New England, but Boston's getting the best performance in the AL from its pen. But the move is being dressed up with confident assertions that the elbow is sore but sound, and that he'll be fine with rest. Besides, Martinez isn't liverwurst, having struck out 27 in 24.2 IP. Sadly, that comes with other, less flattering statistical catcalls: four wild pitches, 25 hits allowed.

Cleveland Indians Return to Top
Signed OF-L Raul Gonzalez to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Buffalo. [5/22]

Acquired a PTBNL from the Angels for UT-B Zach Sorensen. [5/23]

Detroit Tigers Return to Top
Sold the contract of RHP David Cortes to Tijuana of the Mexican League. [5/23]

Kansas City Royals Return to Top
Purchased the contract of OF-R Brandon Berger from Wichita (Double-A); designated OF-B Adrian Brown for assignment. [5/21]

Purchased the contract of RHP Zack Greinke from Omaha; optioned RHP Shawn Camp to Omaha; designated RHP Eduardo Villacis for assignment. [5/22]

Here he is, the latest kid who puts 'wunder' in wunderkind, pitching for the organization that gave us the beardless genius of Bret Saberhagen and (briefly) David Cone. Is calling up Greinke now, in the midst of this incomplete trainwreck, really such a good idea? Given that he's here after a half-dozen starts at Omaha, I really hate the move. I realize that in terms of Support-Neutral numbers, the Royals' rotation has done the least outside of St. Petersburg or Denver to help their team win games. But is putting Greinke here because he can't really be worse than the other guys sensible? The Royals are aware of pitch counts and that sort of thing, so I doubt they're going to overwork him any more than they would have at Omaha.

So assuming he won't get asked to do anything dumb in the short-term, I guess the Royals get to trade off the other cost of having him here already, which is that his arbitration clock just started ticking, and even if he does have a rough year or two, there's a pretty good chance that that's going to get expensive by 2007. Against that, you have the benefit of giving people another small reason to care right now, because it's nice to see a bit of the future if the present is so much otherwise a simulacrum of a big league ballclub. Still, it was clear that Greinke was going to have his contract purchased at some point this summer, so you might rationalize this as a fait accompli. But I don't like the timing, coming as it does out of early desperation. I just don't see it working out well in the near term, and there had better not be any grumbling when the Royals and Greinke exchange arbitration figures a year sooner than they might have had to.

Although Berger is up to help paper over the hole in the lineup that appears every time that Juan Gonzalez's back says today's not a good day, I like having him around beyond that. Now that Aaron Guiel's on the DL, Matt Stairs has to be in left pretty regularly, and Stairs needs a platoon partner. As long as Carlos Beltran's playing every inning of every game, why bother with a fourth outfielder who can play center? Although the big league results (what few he's been allowed to accumulate) haven't been all that impressive, Berger's mauled minor league lefties in years past, so why not? At this point, so few things are going well for Tony Pena's charges that even with a heavily righthanded lineup, nobody should reshuffle their rotations to have their lefties skip having to face Gonzo or Mike Sweeney or the mostly-harmless bulk of Ken Harvey. ("Man, he killed that pitch. Got to the outfield and everything He's no Kevin McReynolds, donchaknow.")

Minnesota Twins Return to Top
Placed OF-R Shannon Stewart on the 15-day DL (plantar fasciitis). [5/20]

Recalled 1B-L Justin Morneau from Rochester. [5/21]

Placed 2B-R Luis Rivas on the 15-day DL; recalled OF-R Michael Restovich from Rochester. [5/22]

The Twins are putting one sort of happy face on this situation, by stating that they're hoping that Stewart might miss only three weeks, but as Will's already touched on, this isn't one of those injuries that goes away that quickly. But replacing Stewart with Justin Morneau hardly represents the end of the world, and if Morneau earns not just his keep, but the job, in the meantime, that only makes for an interesting decision by the end of June. Considering that Morneau's here after hitting .356/.427/.644, there really isn't anything he's going to learn in the International League beyond mastering curtain calls and clichés. So we should be done with the Offerman shenanigans, and Lew Ford will still get his at-bats in an outfield corner. Once Stewart is ready to come back, Morneau should be established, which will push Stewart into left, Ford into a fourth outfielder's role, and Doug Mientkiewicz to the block. Well, okay, that last bit seems unlikely, unless the Twins flip Minky for a starting pitcher for the stretch. OK, probably not that last bit; they're more likely to be taking some big hits off of the 'team chemistry' pipe so many Moneyball-hating well-wishers are quick to offer Terry Ryan and company, while granting free passes on previous uninspired stretch pickups like Stewart or Rick Reed. The important thing is that Morneau is here now, and it's now in his power to claim a job he might not lose, not for at least six years.

The other news is also good. I mean, a 'Get Away From Luis Rivas Free' card? And you get the $200? And you get an outfield reserve with some serious right-handed sock? I'll take all of that. Sure, it means that the Twins are short-handed in the infield for the time being, but Nick Punto should be back soon, and he might have won the second base job in time anyway, even with Rivas healthy. Then, when Corey Koskie gets back, Ron Gardenhire can pick between Punto and Michael Cuddyer, and Rivas might only come back to slip into a reserve role. Restovich comes up after thumping at Rochester, but having done very little else; he hit .247/.290/.529. He doesn't seem likely to take up the unclaimed mantle of Tom Brunansky, but if he's a nice right-handed alternative to Morneau or Minky or Jacque Jones now and again, soaking up plate appearances that Matt LeCroy won't need if he's catching more often, the Twins can profit from their depth during the current spate of injuries, and later have that much more to put on the table at the deadline if they want to deal.

New York Yankees Return to Top
Recalled RHP Jose Contreras from Columbus; recalled OF-L Bubba Crosby from Columbus; optioned RHP Bret Prinz to Columbus; placed 1B-L Jason Giambi on the 15-day DL (sprained right ankle). [5/22]

There is, of course, considerable entertainment to be derived from the Yankees losing Giambi at a time when Travis Lee is out for the year, since that leaves them stuck with Tony Clark at first. That isn't without precedent; for all of the braggartry about the team's history at first base, there's an awful lot of a broken-down Don Mattingly or a used-up Chris Chambliss between those high points, and it wasn't Tino Martinez that made the Yankees the recent dynasty they once were. Clark's perfectly capable of stepping into the Moose Skowron role of hanging out in the eighth slot. There are a few larger fish to fry while Giambi heals up anyway, like getting some good work out of Derek Jeter-if he keeps hitting like Scooter, can he finally get bumped from shortstop every bit as ceremoniously?-or some pop out of Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams. Meanwhile, Kenny Lofton gets a reprieve, and won't have to worry about more unfavorably comparisons to Jerry Mumphrey, at least for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, on the pitching side of the ledger, sure, another spin with Jose Contreras is all well and good. Who knows, you might see some results, and it's just the fifth slot. But keep Tanyon Sturtze? Prinz hadn't even pitched badly, indeed, he'd outperformed everyone beyond Mariano Rivera and Flash Gordon. Of course, there's still the question of what they were thinking in picking up Sturtze in the first place.

Seattle Mariners Return to Top
Signed RHP Andy Shibilo to a minor league contract; optioned INF-B Ramon Santiago to Tacoma; activated UT-R Willie Bloomquist from the 15-day DL. [5/21]

Man, that was rough. They were without Willie Bloomquist for more than two entire weeks! It got so bad, they had to start Santiago in two games, and if his exploits were no less memorable than Bloomquist's, that's undoubtedly because they were snuggled in the reassuring veteran warmth that Pat Borders, the other organizational security blanket, provides. Imagine how much more confident Linus Van Pelt would have been in all social situations, if only he'd been so prescient.

By way of contrast, I guess this means that Lucy was an A's fan, if only because she might share some people's sadistic glee that the Mariners aren't as much of a nuisance any more. Because, after all, what real solace does a blanket provide? Plus, she's enough of a cynic to have leapt from the funny pages to those of Moneyball, if only because she's got the gumption to say you can swindle Santa because he's an old dope. And what kid doesn't sort that out, before reaching Christmas atheism? I mean, some guy with subhuman slaves distributing toys for the odd cookie and glass of room-temp milk? That's crazy talk, not like the Easter Bunny.

Texas Rangers Return to Top
Purchased the contract of C-R Ken Huckaby from Oklahoma; placed C-R Gerald Laird on the 15-day DL (torn ligament - thumb). [5/21]

This just sucks. I mean, sure, I'm an A's fan, but bad things do not need to happen to other organizations to make me happy. (No amount of time in Chicago was going to make me that much like White Sox fans.) Laird may not be the next Gary Carter, but young and talented catchers who are good in all phases of the game don't grow on trees. Having him gone until August or so will be brutal, not that having Einar Diaz still around would help. You might wish that Rod Barajas will keep slugging, but such hopes are doomed to founder. It's more likely that losing Laird reduces Rangers fans to memories those grim times when all they had were guys like Donnie Scott and Ned Yost. But persistent fandom dishes out little indignities such as these to the faithful.

I suppose there's also a reassuring message of sorts, in that both Huckaby and Barajas were gotten on minor league deals, and that's the price at which you ought to be stocking up on replacements, instead of shopping for ill-conceived luxuries like Diaz.

Toronto Blue Jays Return to Top
Signed C-R Bobby Estalella to a minor league contract and assigned him to Syracuse. [5/20]

Not a bad move, but certainly a necessary one. With Guillermo Quiroz banged up and Gregg Zaun already up, the Jays had to press organizational soldier Paul Chiaffredo into action at Syracuse, and that seems to be beyond him. So ink up Esty, and hope he pastes the International League for a few months while trying to keep his Mark Parent skills set sharp for somebody who might want that out of their backup catcher. It's a living, to be sure.

Arizona Diamondbacks Return to Top
Activated 1B-R Richie Sexson from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-L Doug Devore to Tucson. [5/21]

Recalled OF-L Doug Devore from Tucson; returned 1B-R Richie Sexson to the 15-day DL (shoulder). [5/23]

Golly, that was keen. In their haste to sort out what sort of team they were, contender or neverwuzz, Sexson's done, possibly for the year. As if that wasn't dispiriting enough, you've got the former Brewer talking about this being the low point of his career. A former Brewer. I guess you have to wonder why they'd screw around again, beyond Sexson's not being signed beyond this year, but even if he's out until, say, only July, they'll still only be battling the Rockies and Giants for the dignity of third place, and that's only if a lot of things go ridiculously well in the meantime.

Beyond losing Sexson, the shame of it is that their answer to that question-contender, or hopeless if not faithless?-had been left ambiguous all winter, and now the disjointed assembly of this year's team has left Arizona with another team that will inspire nothing beyond another ill-timed cash call. I guess Joe Garagiola Jr. can take credit for a stronger Brewers ballclub, or Curt Schilling pitching meaningful games, and who knows, perhaps he'll dispatch formerly famous people like Carlos Baerga or Robby Alomar or Greg Colbrunn or Brent Mayne to the contenders who like their scrubs to be rheumatically gifted. It's the sort of broadminded generosity you normally expect in wholescale tear-downs, but that's clearly the one thing that Garagiola did not achieve.

Kidding aside, this highlights one of the most difficult things a general manager might have to deal with, which is managing a successful organizational re-tooling while the pistons are firing. Last season and this winter give little reason to believe that Garagiola is aware that the challenge is here, but you'd have to think even he'd pick up on current events. Still, with only Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson locked up for big money beyond this year,

Chicago Cubs Return to Top
Placed LHP Kent Mercker on the 15-day DL (sore back), retroactive to 5/16; activated LHP Mike Remlinger from the 15-day DL. [5/22]

This might seem all the more troubling because Mercker was being moderately effective in a pen characterized by a lot more failure than success, and because Remlinger didn't look sharp in his rehab work. But since the Astros seem content to spend the season turning off at every historic marker, contentedly observing mementos of other people's accomplishments, and kibitzing about how interesting this all is, and nobody should take the Reds over-seriously, you can understand the inspiration to do something that might help the Cubs make tracks. Even though Woody will miss extra time, you've got Mark Prior due back in less than two weeks, and there's an almost desperate faith that his return will be some sort of turning point. Why not give that a jump by giving Remlinger some live action where it counts?

Well, he could cost you a game, for starters. Or he could really hurt himself. There's the other problem, which is that Mercker wasn't doing so well in situational work, and Remlinger's never really been a lefty-getting lefty. Over the previous three seasons, lefties have hit .277/.335/.455 against him, while normal people have hit .186/.280/.290. Ideally, once the Cubs have both, Mercker should be good for blowing away Shawn Green and the like, while Remlinger owns the seventh or eighth inning (much of that depends on who's closing by then).

Colorado Rockies Return to Top
Waived RHP Scott Elarton; announced the retirement of C-R Ben Petrick. [5/20]

Placed RHP Jason Young on the 15-day DL (strained ribcage muscle); recalled OF-B Rene Reyes from Colorado Springs. [5/22]

With Chin-hui Tsao still working his way back to pitching in actual games, the Rockies were caught a little flat-footed by having to place Young on the DL already. This new breach will suck Jeff Fassero back out of the bullpen; I think the second half of the compound verb adequately describes what we should all expect from Fassero during the exercise.

We can add Petrick to the list of the organization's tragedies now that he's retired and made an announcement that he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. I feel for him: I have an aunt who has lived with Parkinson's for decades, and it's the sort of thing you would wish on no one, let alone those you love. Frankly, it's the sort of thing that makes me want to kick some deity to be named later in the chops for having cooked it up in the first place, particularly as we struggle as a species to find a cure, but saying that probably betrays my willingness to accept medical research using fetal tissue, and I understand some people are sensitive about that. I'd rather have the healthy woman who was one of the family's liveliest lights thirty years ago, although we still see her, she's still here, and she still shows us that the disease is only a mask that the person within can still reach through. And she does, to let us know that she has the strength to rise above the challenge and enjoy the family that she raised and the life she leads to this day. On a lesser note, I would have liked to have seen a Ben Petrick who had a chance to live up to the promise he once held. You can choose to disagree; it's still a free country. I merely wish Ben and his friends and family well, because his challenge surpasses anything most of us will ever know.

Milwaukee Brewers Return to Top
Recalled OF/3B-R Corey Hart from Indianapolis; placed 3B-R Wes Helms on the 15-day DL (torn left meniscus). [5/21]

OK, I'm being silly, because the Brewers have taken their cue from Fred Astaire and called the whole thing off where Hart and the hot corner are concerned; he's only played in the outfield at Indy. So despite Wes Helms's multi-week absence because of an injury inflicted by Hiram Bithorn's laughably inadequate playing conditions (us DC-region residents have to cheer anything that might get the union to ask for an end to the Expos' limbo), you almost certainly won't see Hart returning to third. Instead, Keith Ginter should get regular playing time, and Bill Hall might get a few more spot starts around the infield.

At any rate, it's nice to get an early look at Hart. Although J.J. Hardy's season-ending injury makes it easy to forget, there's other good stuff going on with the Microbrewers. Hart was hitting .276/.343/.543 at Indy, and down at Huntsville, Rickie Weeks is an on-base terror, Prince Fielder is happily mashing, and Brad Nelson is reminding everyone that he can hit when healthy. So as much fun as the current Brew Crew may be, they're going to have to make some really tough choices over the next seven months, where the team of the future gets worked into the present. I don't know about you, but that makes me more enthusiastic, not less, and as Joe Sheehan has pointed out, this is already a fun team to follow. Whatever he gets a chance to show over the next few weeks, Hart doesn't have to worry about unseating the recently remembered Lyle Overbay, only Ben Grieve, but that highlights the difficulties Doug Melvin will have to deal with. Can he comfortably deal Overbay once Fielder is ready? Will he expect too much in return? And how many people want first basemen who won't make their living hitting bombs?

All of which adds up to a reminder that the time that this team outgrows Wes Helms in a regular role is fast approaching. How many of the gamers that Melvin and Ned Yost haul in stick remains to be seen; Scott Podsednik, naturally, and probably Chad Moeller. I can't imagine running out of uses for Ginter.

New York Mets Return to Top
Recalled RHP Tyler Yates from Norfolk; optioned OF-B Esix Snead to Norfolk. [5/22]

There's nothing quite so silly as re-choosing an original choice. I suppose we can give the Mets the benefit of the doubt, and that Yates is entirely righted by his hitless 5.2 inning start in Norfolk, but let's face it, they're staggering from solution to solution until something goes right and they can actually fill out a complete rotation. They're not there yet.

Philadelphia Phillies Return to Top
Optioned RHP Geoff Geary to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/21]

Optioned RHP Josh Hancock to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; recalled RHP Elizardo Ramirez from Clearwater (A-Ball). [5/23]

San Diego Padres Return to Top
Activated RHP Rod Beck from the restricted list; outrighted LHP Eddie Oropesa to Portland; placed INF-L Ramon Vazquez on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled RHP Dennis Tankersley from Portland. [5/21]

Wow, talk about gutty, but I sort of like the Pads' decision to say screw it, and go without a utility infielder on the roster while Vazquez is on the DL. Notionally, they're covered at short if Khalil Greene strains something and has to leave a game: Mark Loretta can play short, but that means pushing either Sean Burroughs or Jeff Cirillo to second base, not to mention playing Cirillo. Of course, a related consideration is that they do want to go to twelve pitchers (more on that in a bit), but could you come up with a better collection of uniformed donut-muchers to watch the action outside of the Springfield P.D.? Terrence Long, Kerry Robinson, Cirillo? Brian Buchanan at least commands the respect a platoon caddy on the short end, the joblet that sees lefties, deserves. But let's face it, generally speaking, Bruce Bochy's best off letting those guys pinch-hit for the pitcher, although I suppose you can use Robinson to pinch-run for one of the catchers.

Meanwhile, where the pitching is concerned, for starters, they get to plug the Shooter into the back end of a pen already living large in the open spaces of the Kennel. I don't really think Beck has to worry about pitching for his job: Brandon Puffer is going to have to carry a lot of water to challenge, and Antonio Osuna is far from a safe bet to give the Pads consecutive healthy months once he's ready to come off of the DL. The decision to call up Tankersley as the twelfth man is what's particularly interesting. Is it a case of seeing if Tank's latest good run in the minors is proof he's finally ready? I'm a little reluctant to say 'yes,' and not just because I'm among the ranks of those disappointed by him. A 2.29 ERA looks great, as does 43 hits allowed in 51 IP, but almost a third of his runs allowed were unearned, and while he's striking out 6.9 batters per nine, he's walking nearly four. So I'm doubtful, but the Pads get to see for themselves if he's ever going to beat his homage to similarly maddening young pitchers like Adam Peterson or Scott Ruffcorn. Of course, they also get to showcase him, and since the Pads aren't long on suitably talented chattel to barter with, they should take a good look at him themselves to see if he needs peddling or keeping.

---

Finally, let me close by saying that it is hard for me to express the extent to which I miss Doug Pappas already, and will always miss Doug. Even if economics and labor law were gifted with one more person ready to deal with those topics with anything approaching Doug's depth and humor, the loss would be no less keen. I can be a complicated friend to have, but I flatter myself in thinking that Doug treated me with the same solicitousness, the same concern, the same humor and the same care, as he did baseball. The truth has lost a paladin, wit a happy warrior, and all of us, a willing teacher. We can achieve no better legacy here than to emulate, in thought and deed, the qualities Doug so generously shared.

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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