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August 4, 2004

Transaction Analysis

August 1-2

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Added SS-R Orlando Cabrera to the 25-man active roster; optioned C-R Andy Dominique to Pawtucket. [8/1] Placed INF-B Mark Bellhorn on the 15-day DL (fractured thumb); added OF-L Dave Roberts to the 25-man active roster. [8/2]

Literally a bad break for the Sox, as they lose Bellhorn right after tearing up their lineup. I suppose this is where Larry Lucchino lets us know that Bellhorn actually wanted to break his finger. "There are communists in the clubhouse, I tell you. And guys pinstriped right down to their underwear, like Ramiro Mendoza." Or maybe Joe Nathan is an agent in cahoots with the Evil Empire. It's easy when you know all, and have achieved everything, like Lucchino has. This is what happens to toadies when they get old enough: their tongues exceed their grasp.

Anyway, beyond the finely spun fantasy life of one mouthy major league executive, the Red Sox have real problems and have to seek out real solutions. For all of the jibber-jabber about their concern for infield defense, moving Bill Mueller to second base and popping Kevin Youkilis into the lineup at third hardly represents a happier circumstance. It was accidental, of course, and I suppose that once Pokey Reese returns from the DL, they can either beat the concept of defensive replacements into Terry Francona, or let Reese and Youkilis share the playing time for a while. That's because of two bits of bad news: first, Bellhorn will be gone longer than the two weeks, and second, the PawSox offer three alternatives--Tony Schrager, Cesar Crespo, and Carlos Febles--that the Sox can't, won't and shouldn't trust, respectively. They could always turn to Ricky Gutierrez, I suppose; he's been around for weeks, virtually, so he'll get to go from last week's mistake pickup to next week's mistake starter.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Jesse Crain from Rochester. [8/1]

As much enamel-cracking tooth-gnashing as I might appear to be prone to, keep in mind that one of the things that's so achingly possible with the Twins is their ability to improve themselves. After initially being some people's pick for Rookie of the Year (ahem, oops), Crain has had an outstanding season at Rochester, allowing only 38 hits and 17 walks in 50 2/3 innings, while striking out 64 and posting a 2.49 ERA. He should definitely be ready to step into the pen and give the Twins a fourth bit of nastiness in a pen that already boasts Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon and Grant Balfour.

That's all to the good, because they're going to need to take advantage of their ability to craft new sources of strength from their own resources. As Will Carroll anticipated from the start, Joe Mauer's knee is a serious problem, now and into the future. The middle infield is still a source of offensive weakness. Johan Santana is hitting his stride, but Kyle Lohse looks like a lost cause, and having to count on Carlos Silva or Terry Mulholland in the postseason doesn't bode well. This is a team infinitely capable of inspiring both confidence and frustration.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Clint Nageotte from Tacoma; optioned LHP Travis Blackley to Tacoma. [8/1] Recalled LHP Matt Thornton from Tacoma; placed LHP Eddie Guardado on the 15-day DL (tired shoulder). [8/2]

Believe me, it isn't clinical sadism when I admit to being more interested in the Mariners now than I was two months ago. Beyond a bit of wishing the Buckybackers well, I'm intrigued by seeing what guys like Nageotte or Justin Leone or Jose Lopez can do. Unlike fant-heads, I don't really care who gets the saves in Guardado's absence… is the answer "Who is Edwin Nunez," Alex? Damn, Karl Best? Who knew? A little more seriously, it could be Shiggy Hasegawa, in a bit of the scripted "if/then" management style Mariners fans have come to know and expect from Bob Melvin. Hasegawa makes enough money to close, after all. However, Hasegawa has been so irredeemably awful this year that almost anyone might get an opportunity should the Mariners actually have any late-inning leads.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Optioned INF-R Jorge Cantu and OF-L Joey Gathright to Durham; purchased the contract of SS-R B.J. Upton from Durham; recalled UT-R Damian Rolls from Durham. [8/1]

A little consistency would go a long way towards fulfilling any of the confidence this team seems to flirt with inspiring. This futzing around with who's in the infield of the future this week is a little exasperating, but Upton is not Cantu. I'd like to think that how they handled Rocco Baldelli is a little more instructive in this situation, and that Upton is up to stay. This way, the D-Rays get an in-season look at how well Upton and Julio Lugo mesh up the middle, which will matter come time to make some choices in November.

But these are frivolous concerns compared to the very fact of Upton's being here. The kid won't turn 20 for another three weeks, after all. He's obviously raw in some aspects of the game: 35 errors in four months, minor league dirt or no, is a bit frightening, and an even hundred strikeouts in 433 plate appearances might trouble a few old-timers. But he also drew 55 unintentional walks and slugged .505 across Double-A and Triple-A this year, and he stole 19 bases in 24 attempts. The power wasn't just a lot of singles, either: when someone his age bops for a .190 Isolated Power, it means he's going to hit for some power. In the D-Rays' quest to actually field a baseball team, Upton is the centerpiece of a future that promises to be entirely different from the rest of the franchise's history. Or, what we could call the Damian Rolls Era.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Transferred RHP Jay Powell from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/2]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Added C-B Koyie Hill to the 25-man active roster; recalled OF-R Luis Terrero from Tucson. [8/1]

Hill and Terrero will step directly into the lineup, behind the plate and out in center field, respectively. I've talked about Terrero in the past, and Hill just this last weekend. I probably like Terrero more and Hill less than I should, but I sort of expect that both will be somewhat like Scott Hairston or Chad Tracy. Hairston, Tracy and Terrero were all born within a few days of each in May '80; Hill is a little more than a year older, and shortstop Alex Cintron about 18 months older, than the trio. It makes for an interesting cadre of almost young, definitely low-cost players from which to build a 2005 roster.

Then you can count on Luis Gonzalez's contract, which comes with the concern that his surgically-repaired elbow might force him to first base. On top of that, there's the ambition to re-sign Richie Sexson, which would make Shea Hillenbrand infinitely dumpable or dump-dealable as he heads into arbitration. Danny Bautista is heading into free agency, which opens up an outfield corner. As a result, the Snakes have a couple of working parts to consider, with Gonzalez's future position being the nexus from which Joe Garagiola's decision tree sprouts.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Added LHP Tom Martin to the 25-man active roster; optioned LHP Sam McConnell to Richmond; transferred LHP Horacio Ramirez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/1]

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Todd Wellemeyer to Iowa; activated RHP Ryan Dempster from the 60-day DL. [8/1]

Ugh. Let me get this straight: the Cubs are in the middle of a pennant chase, and they want to haul in the retreaded ex-useful guy now, just when he's going to be wild as he gets reacquainted with his arm's various functions and utilities in live action? Just because he's old enough to have given a current-events report featuring Gennifer Flowers in high school? Blech. Wellemeyer has been and should continue to be one of the good things in a bullpen increasingly defined by creaky veterandom. Until they start getting some sort of consistency out of Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Remlinger, the Cubs are really down to LaTroy Hawkins and Kent Mercker and a few forget-me-nots. They're about to go toe-to-toe with the toughs in the NL West, after they get through with Denver. It'll be a pretty important stretch, because they could pick up or lose ground in the wild-card race.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Placed RHP Armando Benitez on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation), retroactive to 7/23. [8/2]

Benitez won't miss more than the two weeks, so the Fish will get to see if they can muddle along with Mota at closer and nobody else in the pen. They're used to having just one good reliever, so they should be able to futz around .500 for another week, which will … well, keep them neither in nor out of the wild-card race. Amazing how that works out, isn't it? I mean, they still have the same number of holes in the lineup, and a new one in the rotation, and people call that genius? I guess grade inflation finally reached baseball.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Recalled UT-R Trent Durrington from Indianapolis; optioned RHP Ben Hendrickson to Indianapolis. [8/1]

Durrington may not be up to stay; now that Hendrickson has shown that he clearly wasn't ready to be the fifth starter, there wasn't any reason to keep him around. The question is who comes back up to fill the slot the next time it comes up, on Saturday. Early guesses involve Matt Wise getting a spot start, which would spare Durrington, and that's okay. Now that Junior Spivey has broken down (again), Durrington could come in handy as an extra infield reserve, pinch-runner, and emergency catcher. I suppose we can forgive him for the unlikelihood of his helping out at the plate, because the Brewers do have Double-Duty Kieschnick handy.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Activated LHP Joey Eischen from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Zach Day on the 15-day DL (fractured finger). [8/2]

It's getting harder and harder for Frank Robinson to run a credible team out there, so losing his second-best remaining starter hardly helps. Behind Livan Hernandez, he's down to the recuperating duo of John Patterson and Tony Armas, reconverted starter-closer-starter Rocky Biddle, and a very special guest. (As I write this, that looks to be Jeriome Robertson, in something of an act of charity.) His ability to soldier on has been admirable, and I can't help but confess to a bit of nostalgia as I think of seeing him manage the team I hope to vulture away from the good people of Montreal. More than 20 years ago, he was the other show in town, maanging the Giants opposite Billyball in the Bay Area. Those days weren't simpler or better or any of that other baloney that gets larded onto the past with hindsight, except for our being younger, and as long as I'm on the subject of the Expos, it's hard to avoid a subject like pity, even the self-indulgent kind.

On that note, Eischen's return has to be something of a burr under Jonah Keri's saddle, since he represents one of Omar Minaya's more regrettable mistakes. Instead of non-tendering the infinitely interchangeable journeyman after 2002, Omar got taken to school, and had to pay Eischen seven-figure salaries the last two years. I suppose it can be forgiven, on the level that it was a mistake paid for by the 29 co-conspirators who foisted this Potemkin franchise upon us. Hopefully, Minaya learned from the exercise, because he's eventually going to wind up working for employers who might pay attention.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Designated OF-R Shane Spencer for assignment. [8/1]

A situation like this is that very basic litmus test, like a stray dog: Do you save it, shoot it, or ask a handy-dandy nearby bureaucrat to pick between those two options for you? The Mets are responding to the public revelation that Spencer has too intimate a relationship with John Barleycorn. Since they don't have a long-term investment in him, do they care? Hell no, this team already proved it's a law-and-order outfit after last season's reefer madness. It isn't like he's going to wear a Mets cap when he gets elected to the Bob Costas Hall of Brief Fame (Timo Perez is another matter), so to hell with him.

I'd have a lot more assurance about the future of the relationship between the 29 and the Player's Association if they were working together to get players in this situation ironed out. Here's hoping Spencer gets a grip, assuming that's what he wants to do.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Optioned RHP Mark Corey and C-R J.R. House to Nashville. [8/1] Activated C-R Humberto Cota from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Dave Williams from Nashville; activated LHP Mike Johnston from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Nashville. [8/2]

Although Williams is up in the wake of the Benson deal, it will be Ryan Vogelsong who gets first crack at the open slot in the rotation. If Vogelsong fails, well, he did look okay in the pen, and there would be nothing wrong with letting him help there. Williams doesn't have the velocity he used to flash, but he has had a solid season in Nashville's rotation, giving up four runs per nine while posting a 103-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 116 2/3 innings. Despite the velocity issues, he managed to get over enough junk to allow only 113 hits, and given the number of people he was fooling some of the time, it's worth the Bucs' while to look and see if he can finally stick this time. If he just happens to be the antithesis of Sean Burnett in terms of strikeouts versus stuff, but winds up being just as successful, that isn't such a bad thing.

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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Prospectus Triple Play... (08/04)
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Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (08/01)
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Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (08/10)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: The D... (08/04)

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