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July 29, 2004

Transaction Analysis

July 27

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of OF-L Curtis Pride from Salt Lake; placed LHP Jarrod Washburn on the 15-day DL (ribs), retroactive to 7/21; recalled RHP Bobby Jenks from Salt Lake, and placed him on the 60-day DL. [7/27]

Curtis Pride is back? What is this, the season that the Bavarian Illuminati go ga-ga for the Ken Phelps All-Stars? Bucky Jacobsen and Russell Branyan are already up. Who's next? Well, Cal Pickering is engendering widespread panic amongst pitchers in the PCL. I know that the Royals are currently amused with the Tableresque stylings of Ken Harvey (or Rickey Jordan, if you prefer; do I hear a "Ron Jackson" from the audience?), but if guys like Bucky catch a break, there's hope for every minor league masher. Well, okay, probably not for Pride, since he's 35, but still, it's always cool to see him up, even if he'll basically be begging for an at-bat, pinch-hitting for one of the catchers at most.

As to the more serious business, losing Washburn shouldn't affect the outcome of the season. He's only expected to miss the two weeks, meaning he'll be back in time for next weekend's series against the Royals. In the meantime, Ramon Ortiz gets to briefly set aside his aggrievedness while getting plugged back into the rotation for a couple of turns. He may as well settle down and get used to the swing role for the time being: given that the Angels have no true star pitcher (Bartolo Colon's three quality-start streak notwithstanding), there's no way Ortiz would be dealt without the Angels getting a starting pitcher back in the deal. To do so would leave them shorthanded if any starter breaks down, and the Angels aren't so good as to be able to afford that.

Elsewhere, Bobby Jenks is done for the season. I know he pops up on some prospect lists, but not mine. You might consider it a form of conceit, but for me to take anybody in that general Dalkowski-Neugebauer wacky name and wild stuff category seriously, he, she, or it has to do a bit of effective pitching first.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Designated LHP Jeriome Robertson for assignment; activated LHP Brian Tallet from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Akron (Double-A). [7/27]

That deal which ceded the rights to Willy Taveras to the Astros in exchange for Robertson is looking worse and worse. I know, the Tribe needed and still needs big league-ready pitching, but Robertson wasn't a great bet in the first place, and as innings soaks go, you could have found better. The Astros got off easy, rather than having to return a Rule 5er, and the Tribe may lose the one tangible thing they got for having been such good sports on the waiver wire.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Recalled SS-R Jason Bartlett from Rochester; placed INF-B Nick Punto on the 15-day DL (fractured clavicle). [7/27]

This isn't exactly good news. First, Punto had played his way into a middle infield rotation, and while yes, it is just Nick Punto, neither Cristian Guzman or Luis Rivas have earned the right to go unchallenged for playing time. So losing Punto is a loss, and one that having Bartlett up doesn't exactly fix. Beyond what you might consider a systemic unwillingness to press a kid into action in the middle of a pennant chase, Bartlett only got back into Rochester's lineup two weeks ago, having lost most of the last two months to a broken wrist. Bartlett's only 24, plays a solid short, gets on base, and he's coming off of a year in Double-A where he hit .296/.380/.425, so he still has promise, but it's hard to see how the Twins would be willing to press him into action considering the injury and his relative youth. If they won't give Justin Morneau any breaks, why would they treat Bartlett any differently?

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Activated LHP Chris Hammond from the 15-day DL; designated 1B-R Eric Karros for assignment. [7/27]

Well, this just in, Billy Beane's nomination god emperor got gummed up a bit by assorted human frailties.

Surprising some and not others, Karros didn't turn out to be the bench weapon and platoon menace that the A's had hoped he'd be. Practically speaking, a stathead would refer to data that a certain platoon split isn't something you're guaranteed to get from a guy year-in and year-out. I'm a little more contingency-oriented: Karros was 36, so he's close to the end of the line anyway, and he didn't come cheap. Beyond that, his utility on a roster is seriously constrained by his defensive ability being limited to a statuesque first base. You could ascribe his failure to immutable mathematics, a career-ending busted bat, a failure to get the sort of playing time he needed get comfortable and produce platoon numbers of the sort Beane was expecting, or an inability to adapt to a platoon role. You can select some or all of the above. Regardless, I still feel now as I felt at the time of his signing, that he was a poor use of limited financial resources, and a dubious way to use a roster spot.

Which sort of leads me to the other problem, the nascent return of the "too many lefties" issue in the pen. Now that Hammond is back, they're at two, which is fine, but once Arthur Rhodes is ready to be reactivated, you're back in the same unhappy place you were at the start of the season. Hence my happiness about the Ricky Rincon rumors. Not that Placido Polanco is the same thing as Brian Giles, but he's a nicer thing to have than Marshall McDougall. Or a boot to the head. Here's hoping Ed Wade indulges his relief fantasies one more time.

Now watch, I say something like that, and don't you just think that Rincon will get Eric Chavez out in the World Series with the game on the line or something? Damn the hoodoo, I'd-a take-a my chances.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Placed RHP Joel Pineiro on the 15-day DL (strained flexor bundle - elbow), retroactive to 7/26; recalled INF-B Ramon Santiago from Tacoma. [7/27]

As Will Carroll stated, Pineiro's elbow isn't great, but it isn't going to need a sawbones to do anything serious with it just yet. What's ugly is the Mariners' reliance on Ron Villone and his ilk to fill out the rotation for the time being. At press time, it looked like Gil Meche will be given a reprieve and be reinserted into the rotation. At this point, it's an open casting call: Bobby Madritsch should get a look, and Clint Nageotte will be called back at some point. Who knows, maybe J.J. Putz will get a shot at going back to starting.

Santiago has had a miserable season at Tacoma (he hit .174/.274/.226 as a Rainier), but that's far below what you might reasonably expect. His PECOTA comps are all big league ballplayers, and with the competition at short restricted to Willie Bloomquist, I wouldn't bet against Santiago getting some playing time, if only to justify his future on the 40-man roster.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Optioned C/OF-R Josh Willingham to Carolina (Double-A); purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Small from Albuquerque. [7/27]

I've given Jack McKeon a long leash on this bullpen talent-tweaking idea, on the faith that he knows what he's doing. And now here's Aaron Small, and my confidence that there is a plan gets shot all to hell. Small? Small?!? Now sure, any bullpen counting on Nate Bump and Justin Wayne has more than its share of problems. Ben Howard's control issues are daunting, and nobody's going to trust Billy Koch with other people's baserunners until he does some consistent good work. But Small? He was struggling with adequacy in the Isotopes' rotation. What's the point? The Phillies shouldn't be the only team in the NL East hunting for relief help between now and Saturday, that much is certain.

The other downside is sending Willingham away. Not that Willingham was obviously ready, but Jeff Conine clearly isn't and probably won't be ever again. Since it looks like Steve Finley doesn't want to move to Florida--there's a election coming, donchaknow, and what solid citizen doesn't want his or her vote counted--the Fish are still trying to get by without a left fielder. Under the circumstances, it might be pretty cool if they gave Abraham Nunez a legitimate shot, but apparently the only risks worth taking on this team are in the bullpen.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Signed LHP Doug Davis to a two-year, $4.75 million contract extension through 2006. [7/27]

Okay, you might be thinking that this is like the Podsednik deal, and another bit of irrational exuberance from a team perhaps a wee bit eager to be pleased and please others. After all, they're paying high now because of the 3.60 ERA Davis has given them in his 187.2 Brewer innings over this year and last, and not the 5.08 he put up in his previous 404 IP.

Will it last? A peek at the PECOTA card serves as a nice reminder that he compares well with some pretty useful guys, like Charlie Leibrandt, Paul Splitorff, or Kirk Rueter. However, the danger implicit in his being a lefty junker is highlighted by his also being comparable to Paul Kilgus and Gorman Heimueller. Also, keep in mind that while Davis was considered a nuisance by several of his former employer's pitching coaches, particularly the always-spicy Oscar Acosta, well...for starters, that was Oscar Acosta, and how often was he right with his molten lava approach to everyone and everything? In the end, people get paid for performance.

Then there's the sense of history, which in Milwaukee, cuts some ice. On some level, you might see the hope invested in Davis as being derived from the experience the organization had with Mike Caldwell. Both became Brewers around 28. Both aren't or weren't the sorts of guys who overpower you, although Caldwell was a pretty extreme control artist. Both were available because they'd disappointed their previous teams. Caldwell became a workhorse you could build a rotation around, and clearly, they think of Davis as a nifty second fiddle to Ben Sheets. (Happily for Sheets, a comparison to Pete Vuckovich barely works on any level beyond genus and species.)

Now, you may have reservations about paying anybody who looks like John Turturro's character in The Big Lebowski. I know I do. Still, we're talking about a rotation starter with a fine minor league career, some big league bumps and bruises, and a recent track record of success and durability. Unlike Podsednik, Davis has a great shot at being a regular on a division-winning Brewers ballclub in the years to come. Looks like a good investment to me.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed RHP Ryan Madson on the 15-day DL (sprained finger); recalled RHP Josh Hancock from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/27]

This isn't quite up there with Vince Coleman's being eaten by the tarp in 1985, but when a player gets injured during pre-game stuff, it's one of those happenstance events that you can't help but mull over and wonder why. Besides thinking that the Gods hate you, of course, but Philadelphians already deal with that. But losing their best reliever to that always-dangerous sport of shagging flies really has to leave you wondering if Atlanta has some special mujambo that keeps other people out of their way. Who knows what ill fates were meant to befall the '94 Expos.

Anyway, losing Madson on top of already-missing Billy Wagner has to feed Ed Wade's borderline congenital fear of bullpen inadequacy. As it stands now, the pen is mostly stocked with people Larry Bowa hesitates to use (Brian Powell, Geoff Geary, and probably now Hancock), and people he should hesitate to use (Roberto Hernandez's been bad news for years now). Having being burned several times over, Bowa's obviously reluctant to go to the pen, which only leads to unfortunate decisions, like consistently leaving Paul Abbott almost exactly one inning too long. I don't have a good handle on how much of this is related to the new park's cinched-up dimensions, but does anyone think Bowa's the sort who can adapt? I'm willing to bet that the man's VCR has been flashing "12:00" "12:00" "12:00" for the last twenty years.

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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