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July 2, 2004

Transaction Analysis

June 28-30

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

Baltimore Orioles Return to Top
Purchased the contract of OF-R Chad Mottola from Ottawa; placed OF-L Jay Gibbons on the 15-day DL (strained hip flexor). [6/29]

Gibbons is the sort of thunderstick you want around, but not if he's at less than his best--and during the two weeks since his return from the DL, it was clear that he wasn't at full strength. I hope that the Orioles give him the time to heal up, so that he can come back and give them a good couple of months at the tail end of the season. I mean, it's fun to see the guys who can't buy a break, journeymen like David Newhan or Chad Mottola, finally actually catch one, but you don't want to build a team around that sort of thing. It isn't significantly different from playing B.J. Surhoff regularly, although I suppose there's less cachet. Besides, you never know when some contender will go all goofy and make an offer for Surhoff; that's never going to happen with Newhan or Mottola.

Boston Red Sox Return to Top
Signed RHP Pedro Astacio to a minor league contract. [6/30]

As Will Carroll has already pointed out, this is worth trying, but I'm probably more enthusiastic about it than Will is, as I'm of the opinion that Astacio was always better than he was really given credit for. Maybe it's the long labors in Coors Field. I guess my sympathies are with a guy having endured that sort of career-long bum luck. Not that I'm all that hopeful for a full recovery--it was his shoulder, after all--but I like to think that if there's a guy who can learn to get by with what he has left, maybe it's a guy who learned how to survive in an environment where you can't trust your own breaking pitch.

Chicago White Sox Return to Top
Designated LHP Vic Darensbourg for assignment. [6/29]

Cleveland Indians Return to Top
Designated RHP Jack Cressend for assignment; optioned LHP Cliff Bartosh to Buffalo; purchased the contracts of RHP Bob Howry and OF-R Mark Little from Buffalo. [6/29]

I'm intrigued to see Howry back. Although perhaps overly well-regarded in his day for notching a few saves, he's one of those guys I always liked watching pitch. It wasn't his fault that Keith Foulke got stuffed into Jerry Manuel's doghouse, after all. And given that the Indians' pen has resembled a Cecil B. DeMille set with all of them disasters and crowds and stuff, should we be surprised at how many of the formerly famous have shown up? I mean, this isn't Star Wars III: The Schedule C Scandal; you have to actually dredge up real people and pay them, instead of stocking the pen with CGI whizbangs.

More seriously, Howry might be part of the actual fixing of the pen, as opposed to its constant refurbishing. He seems to have recovered from last season's elbow surgery, and although his 5.19 ERA as a Bison isn't a big source of encouragement, he had allowed only 22 hits and six walks in 26 IP, while striking out 24 batters. I'm hopeful, which is a step short of optimistic, but as I said, I'd like things to work out, and not just because it would be fun to see the Tribe stay in the race.

It's a bit different wondering what's going on with right-handed hitting outfielders. Mark Little hasn't hit any better than Raul Gonzalez had in Buffalo. As is, it made no sense to recall Cressend in the first place, which is what got Gonzalez outrighted. Since an injury wasn't involved, Gonzalez was stuck in '10-day rule' limbo, so the Tribe had to purchase Little when they decided that they needed a fourth outfielder after all, only three days after forgetting. It's the sort of ticky-tack move that borders on transaction spam, I tell you. At least nobody involved claims to be from Nigeria.

Detroit Tigers Return to Top
Placed RHP Danny Patterson on the 15-day DL (shoulder bursitis), retroactive to 6/28; recalled LHP Steve Colyer from Toledo. [6/30]

This year's Tiger spring seems to be dissipating pretty quickly. Although everyone can focus on how great it is that Uggy's here and all that, Patterson has been the team's most reliable reliever over the first three months. That isn't to say things are hopeless in his absence, just that Franklyn German and Colyer had better start doing good things, or that Esteban Yan and Alan Levine had better start pitching as if their livelihoods depended on it.

Kansas City Royals Return to Top
Placed 3B-R Joe Randa on the 15-day DL (knee); purchased 3B-R Jose Bautista from the Devil Rays; transferred RHP Kevin Appier from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/28]

Nothing, not nothing, is going right for dem Royals, as Slats Grobnik might have said. Randa should miss about a month, which keeps him shelved and unscouted at a time when the Royals had hoped to peddle him to the appropriately desperate and unwise. I've been a little surprised at how often his name has come up: we're talking about a 34-year-old third baseman hitting .282/.348/.387. What's next, a scramble to get Paul Schaal? Bobby Knoop? If you have access to our PECOTA cards, check out Randa's list of comparables: it's a list of people in their last or next-to-last seasons, guys like Keith Moreland or Ray Knight, Scott Brosius or Kevin Seitzer. Randa will outlast them, but is that really someone you want for the stretch? For the Astros, Randa would have been a step down from the Morke Lambsberg platoon. As an A's fan, I'd wish him upon the Angels, except he'd start channeling the spirit of his hitting coach and give me nightmares, with my luck.

Anyway, in his absence, I suspect we'll see a whole lot of Desi Relaford at third. (Now where's Jarrod Patterson when you need him?) Relaford makes more sense than rushing up Mark Teahen, to be sure, but the organization can use help at third. So on that level, nabbing Rule 5 victim Bautista makes sense. Bautista's peregrinations through baseball are beginning to resemble Eddie Williams' at this rate, as he winds up going everywhere before anyone even gets a sense of whether or not he's any good. For the time being, the Royals can afford the roster space to wait till next year to find out.

Minnesota Twins Return to Top
Activated INF-B Nick Punto from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Matt Guerrier to Rochester. [6/29]

Now that Luis Rivas has hit just enough to inspire some unfortunate confidence in him, Punto's return means less in terms of fueling the controversy of who plays second than it creates in the question of where Michael Cuddyer is going to get his at-bats. The middle infield is crowded again, Corey Koskie's healthy, and Lew Ford shouldn't come out of the lineup. I think if there's one thing the Twins have shown us, however, it's that they have an almost uncanny ability to sift through the wrong choices, and only occasionally reaching the right one. They're putting Terry Mulholland into the rotation, after all. If this keeps up, the White Sox might not have that much to worry about.

New York Yankees Return to Top
Signed LHP C.J. Nitkowski to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Columbus. [6/28]

Texas Rangers Return to Top
Released LHP Cory Vance. [6/28]

Tampa Bay Devil Rays Return to Top
Sold OF-R Jose Bautista to the Royals; optioned RHP Chad Gaudin to Durham; recalled RHP Bartolome Fortunato from Durham. [6/28]

Beyond the delightful name, what is a Bartolome Fortunato? His age once a Dominican mystery, and now an admitted 29 year-old, he's been something of an organizational fave, even beyond the misfortune of finding out his real age; I suspect 397 strikeouts in 354.2 career minor league innings pitched have a way of inspiring a strange faith. Still, Fortunato isn't a flamethrower, he's been a man among boys in his six years in the organization, and the results haven't been that hot, as he's allowed 4.4 runs per nine in a career spent mostly in the pen. It's an even stranger move when you consider that Gaudin was doing well in a pen that is one of the team's strengths, but the D-Rays think of Gaudin as a starter, and having invested (or perhaps wasted) the space to carry Fortunato on the 40-man roster, I suppose it's to their credit to sort out if they have something, or just a Domingo Jean impersonator.

Arizona Diamondbacks Return to Top
Optioned RHP Greg Aquino to Tucson; activated RHP Shane Reynolds from the 60-day DL. [6/28] Recalled RHP Greg Aquino from Tucson; placed 1B-R Greg Colbrunn on the 60-day DL (wrist); placed RHP Shane Reynolds on the 15-day DL (knee); re-purchased the contract of OF-B Quinton McCracken from Tucson. [6/30]

Wow, after all that anticipation, this is what Shane Reynolds does for them? Well, I guess there's more, in that any sort of misplaced faith in Reynolds probably contributed to the decision to dump John Patterson. There's no 'i' in Shane, I guess, as he finds all sorts of ways to contribute that transcend what he's chipped in on the field.

Going into the season, the Snakes had two slots to fill. Keep in mind, Elmer Dessens was still being counted on at that point, behind the Big Unit and Brandon Webb. Casey Fossum was hurt, which took him out of the equation. Steve Sparks got one slot, and that worked out well enough, I guess. And Fossum eventually replaced Dessens, sort of. But there's been non-stop trouble in trying to figure out who the fifth man should be. After months of screwing around, wondering about Reynolds, trading Patterson, or rushing up Casey Daigle and Lance Cormier, Bob Brenly has finally accepted the notion of putting Andrew Good into the rotation. It took way too long to get here, but perhaps they'll stick with an idea more than one swing through the rotation. Good will only live up to his name if he's given a legitimate opportunity, instead of whipsawed in and out of spots as Arizona tries to dodge an irrelevant destiny this year.

Colorado Rockies Return to Top
Recalled C-B J.D. Closser from Colorado Springs; designated RHP Kevin Jarvis for assignment. [6/29]

Because he's only here to spot for Charles Johnson for a couple of days, Closser is barely up long enough to get the cream into his cup of coffee, let alone enjoy it, ask for a warm-up, or banter on Juan Valdez's lot in life. It's just as well; although I think he's one of the better catching prospects around, he's only managed to hit .292/.377/.416 at Colorado Springs. It is his intro to Triple-A, so I wouldn't call him a disappointment or anything, just not quite there yet. The far larger obstacle is Charles Johnson's paycheck. He's due $9 million next year, plus an extra million if he's dealt. Closser just needs to keep improving, and wait for it.

For the curious, the Rockies' excuse is that they simply had to call up Jarvis because they might otherwise lose his valuable services which got them two innings pitched, 10 baserunners, and six runs allowed. Some compulsions are really best avoided.

Florida Marlins Return to Top
Designated RHP Toby Borland for assignment; recalled OF-R Chris Aguila from Albuquerque. [6/28] Outrighted RHP Toby Borland to Albuquerque. [6/30]

Not that Jack McKeon is new to the organization, but new managers get crazy about some players in their new organizations. This was McKeon's first camp with the Fish, and he made it plain in spring that he liked the cut of Chris Aguila's jib. In this his eighth season in the organization, it was exactly the sort of break a guy like this needs to avoid minor league free agency.

Aguila makes a good fourth outfielder: he can handle all three positions, and he has a decent bat (.300/.370/.451 in his first season in Triple-A). He's a bit overrated for an organizational soldier, though. The Marlins think he's a power prospect, but he's a 25-year-old who had to spend three years in Double-A. He's not a solution to Jeff Conine's rotting away after his return to the tropics, but perhaps, between Conine, Aguila, and Abraham Nunez, McKeon will be able to get the most out of them by mixing and matching. It has to be better than playing Lenny Harris.

Houston Astros Return to Top
Optioned SS-R Eric Bruntlett to New Orleans. [6/28] Activated LHP Andy Pettitte from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Wade Miller on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 6/26; recalled RHP Jeremy Griffiths from New Orleans. [6/29]

O happy day, the excuse lingers yet. See, it isn't anybody's fault if the Astros don't win, it's those darned injuries. And the bullpen. And Richard Hidalgo. In Ausmus We Trust, I guess, because I just don't see a division winner in a team that has to trust its contention to Peter Munro and Jeremy Griffiths. I don't know whose expectations Wade Miller hasn't lived up to (Rotoheads? Bah, humbug), but he's been the only bright light in Houston's rotation not named Clemens. Notionally, Andy Pettitte is OK, but having to wonder has to be this team's monster under the bed until further notice. If either Miller or Pettitte misses any more time than the two weeks Miller has to spend away, the Astros could very well pack it in. At which point, the Beltran move will rank among the most October-irrelevant moves of the summer, unless keeping him out of somebody else's clutches is considered a positive end. If the Astros are futzing around .500 at the end of July, and if anyone else has broken away from the pack, I wouldn't bet against a re-deal, with Beltran someplace else.

Milwaukee Brewers Return to Top
Activated 3B-R Wes Helms from the 15-day DL; outrighted DH-L Jeff Liefer to Indianapolis. [6/28]

Ned Yost hasn't had to make that many tough calls. True, he's made some good ones, but now that Helms is back, should Yost give him his job back? Keith Ginter should stay in the lineup, and with Lyle Overbay doing so well, the option of moving Helms across the diamond has withered into a mere tactical gambit. They're both 28, born within a week of one another, so it isn't like one is the prospect. Ginter can also tackle some time at second or in the outfield, but Helms hasn't hit well enough to make you want to go out of your way to accommodate him. In a season like last year, when he hit .261/.330/.350, he was about as good as he's ever going to get. Ginter's flexibility probably keeps him stuck in the bench weapon category, but on a team without realistic postseason aspirations, it seems like a waste.

New York Mets Return to Top
RHP Scott Erickson cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Norfolk. [6/30]

San Diego Padres Return to Top
Recalled RHP Brandon Puffer from Portland; optioned RHP Brian Sweeney to Portland. [6/30]

I don't mean for it to come across as self-pity because this is sort of move that won't last, so saying something seems like a waste, but here's a pretty good example of a roster...well, abuse is a strong word, so how about micromanagement, with an intent to ignore the spirit of the rules on roster size?

Here's what I mean: Sweeney just started on Tuesday, and Jake Peavy will be replacing him in the rotation, but in the intervening two-game 'gap,' Puffer's up to give the bullpen an extra arm. It isn't illegal, but it does mean that you're not exactly operating with a 25-man roster, more like 26 or 28 or whatever, where you activate people on a day-to-day basis as need dictates. It circumvents the intent of rules on roster limits, but it does spread service time around, and it probably might even help avoid an injury now and again if it keeps a manager from overusing somebody because he's short in the pen. If anything, it sort of reflects how several teams are working with a 23-man 'regular' roster, and a four or five-guy taxi squad of sorts to fill in the last couple of spots on a day-to-day basis. And since the game prefers to keep its roster management rules murky, you wind up with reshuffling like this.

Which is a long way of saying that, the more I think about it, the more I like Jim Riggleman's suggestion of fixing September roster management by making the active 25-man roster a game-day decision, and extending it to the other five months with a 27-man roster. It means a better shot at a pension for third catchers or seventh relievers, which isn't a bad thing, and it gives teams a little more flexibility without constantly having to raid their affiliates. I'm probably complaining about a problem nobody else thinks needs fixing, however, so don't mind me.

(Pause.)

What do you mean Puffer's back in Portland already? We were just talking about him...

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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