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August 24, 2004

Transaction Analysis

August 17-23, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Activated C-R Bengie Molina from the 15-day DL; placed 3B-R Robb Quinlan on the 15-day DL (strained oblique). [8/17]

It's stretch-drive time, and while it might hurt to have Quinlan missing in action for now, the Angels get a major boost by replacing Jose Molina and Josh Paul with Bengie, while exchanging Quinlan's bat for an opportunity to get both Jeff DaVanon and Tim Salmon into the lineup a little more often. That's flexibility purchased by having Chone Figgins available to shift over to third. While Figgins is never going to be mistaken as a smooth leatherman at the hot corner--I mean, sure, he could make some of the same lifestyle choices as George Michael, but we're talking about defense--Quinlan really wasn't considered one either. And the cumulative benefit of getting their best-hitting catcher and their most patient hitter (DaVanon) into the lineup more than makes up for losing Quinlan, especially if you're reasonably wondering whether or not Quinlan can hit .344 or slug .525.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Placed 2B/CF-R Jerry Hairston Jr. on the 15-day DL (broken ankle); recalled OF-R Darnell McDonald from Ottawa; placed OF-L Larry Bigbie on the 15-day DL (groin); purchased the contract of OF-L Val Majewski from Bowie (Double-A). [8/18]

Ugh, talk about a joyless circumstance. I know, it could be a Dauer effect in far too few games to say anything definitive, but it looked like Jerry Hairston was turning out to be a useful glove in center, and given that his combination of skills pretty much limit him to that position or second base, the remainder of the season was going to be a great opportunity to see if peaceful coexistence and having Hairston and Brian Roberts on the same roster was within the realm of possibility. Now the O's get to make do with a platoon of Karim Garcia and McDonald in center, which isn't the end of the world, but it conveys next to nothing of value about what should be done in the off-season, or who should play next year.

A slightly more strange event is calling up Majewski. Yes, Bigbie was only just now finally hitting, but he's entering that age where still holding onto some element of mystery might leave people wanting more, instead of shaking it off and recognizing he may never be any more than a corner outfielder who's hit .270/.336/.409 on his career. But why add Majewski to the 40-man now? He wasn't dominating the Eastern League, having hit .307/.359/.490--decent numbers, to be sure, but that only translates to a .235 Equivalent Average in the big leagues. As is, Jay Gibbons needs the at-bats, so Majewski isn't even up to play on a daily basis. Why fire up his service time clock now, when you could take a last determinate look at Jack Cust? I know, I'm dreaming. How about Little Rock Raines, considering their need for a center fielder, and considering he's already on the 40-man? If you don't call up Raines in this situation, when Hairston and Luis Matos are down, why keep him on the 40-man at all?

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Placed 3B-R Kevin Youkilis and 1B-R David McCarty on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of 3B-R Earl Snyder from Pawtucket; activated RHP Curtis Leskanic from the 15-day DL. [8/17]

Optioned 3B-R Earl Snyder to Pawtucket; activated INF-B Mark Bellhorn from the 15-day DL. [8/20]

For those of you trying to wear out that 'Cynical Posturing' category on BoSox Jeopardy, we give you the temporary commitment to defensive excellence. Now that Nomar's brand of bolshevism has been banished far from the sights of John Henry and his still-loyal thralls, I suppose the coast is clear for the actual exercise of this season's commitment to defensive indifference, all for the good cause of runs scored and opponents bludgeoned. It is, after all, one of the oldest brands of old school, despite whatever it is that children of the '70s (technically referred to as the Age of Kuiper) keep bleating in their reactionary panic against everything that smacks of the M-word: Moneyball.

But simply put, getting Mark Bellhorn back at second base is good news. Not only does it keep Ricky Gutierrez on the bench--far from doing damage to the defense and the lineup--it gives the Sox one of their most reliable sources of OBP. Of course, in their dated, rigid sabermetric orthodoxy, they'll point out that having him bat ninth instead of second doesn't matter, except that it will, since it means about a plate appearance more per game for Orlando Cabrera over Bellhorn, and that won't help score runs, particularly since Cabrera's the most likely man in the lineup to convert opportunities into outs.

The other good news is getting Leskanic back in the pen. Now that it looks like Scott Williamson is as much a rumor as Steve 'Hearsay' (to borrow a slight from Steven Goldman) is for the Yankees, the Sox needed to get the Royals castoff back.

If there's a bittersweet note to strike, it's the brief reappearance of Earl Snyder. He's a long-suffering minor league bopper of some merit. With the PawSox this year, he's hit .273/.326/.558, or better than at least 10 big league regulars if you check his translated Equivalent Average. Admittedly, he's not considered much of a fielder, but neither is the Greek God of Walks, and everyone's happy to seem him out and about, and rightly so. Anyway, Snyder deserves some consideration as a minor league free agent this winter; if people will toss money at Eric Karros or successfully resurrect Olmedo Saenz, there has to be room for Snyder, right? I'd like to think so, even if, at 28, his horizon is unfortunately close.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Placed C-R Sandy Alomar Jr. on the 15-day DL (groin pull), retroactive to 8/16; recalled C-R Jamie Burke from Charlotte; claimed OF-R Alex Escobar off of release waivers from the Indians and placed him on the 15-day DL. [8/17]

Optioned RHP Felix Diaz to Charlotte; purchased the contract of LHP Josh Stewart from Charlotte. [8/20]

Having space on the 40-man roster for Escobar was once a luxury several teams wished they could afford, but injuries have sucked a lot of the value out of the notion. At this point, he's a flyer worth taking, just barely, but that's in part because there's no reason to consider Joe Borchard a sure thing. With Magglio Ordonez's future in anybody's uniform sort of up in the air as he reaches free agency, the Sox need to explore their options, and claiming Escobar gives them one more at little cost.

Not that the Sox can salvage much from this year, but an early exit for Sandy Alomar isn't going to hurt. They're better off seeing if Ben Davis is the near-term answer for their catching needs, and it isn't like Jamie Burke is a spring chicken (or a prospect, lest you think so; the guy's a month away from turning 33, old enough to make Josh Paul seem a prospect again). A catching corps of Davis and Burke might cover 2005 quite nicely, and for not all that much money.

What I find a lot less inspired is the now-incorrigible flip-flopping on which kid is in favor for the rotation on a start-to-start basis. Apparently immediate familiarity breeds immediate contempt, prompting the Ozzeroo to ask for somebody else. So Felix Diaz gets a turn, and falls from grace, which prompts calls for Stewart or Arnie Munoz as it once inspired cries for Jon Rauch. It's time to settle, and to see, instead of wigging out. The division is lost, the wild card out of reach. Nobody's impressed by a theatrical desire to die as publicly as possible with your spikes on.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Cliff Bartosh to Buffalo; recalled RHP Fernando Cabrera from Buffalo; acquired future considerations from the Dodgers for LHP Scott Stewart. [8/18]

Given the season-long problems with the pen, I can understand the desire to bring Cabrera up, but keep in mind, while he has a great fastball and the peripherals to prove it (84 strikeouts in 70.2 IP), he's got all those other peripherals which tell you he also has the talent to contribute to the team's recent tradition of relief combustion (37 walks, nine home runs allowed).

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Robert Novoa to Erie (Double-A); recalled RHP Craig Dingman from Toledo. [8/22]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Jorge Vasquez to Wichita (Double-A); activated LHP Jeremy Affeldt from the 15-day DL. [8/21]

Designated OF-R Ruben Mateo for assignment; placed DH-R Ken Harvey on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); activated 1B/OF-L Matt Stairs from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of 1B-L Calvin Pickering from Omaha. [8/22]

There is perhaps no double-dipped transactional joy like this. Perhaps only fond memories of waxy-dipped Dairy Queen cones compare, where you get two flavors of goodness to ease a summer's day. Matt Stairs and Cal Pickering, here on the same day? Holy Major Reno, Batman, it might be too little too late, but it's the best bet to inject something interesting into an otherwise godawful season. The Wonder Hamster is of course a personal fave from way back, a hero to all undertall sluggers for years.

Pickering is perhaps his perfect foil, and if he's no longer the beefy thing of days gone by, he's also finally healthy and dangerous, in ways Ken Harvey could only dream of. At Omaha this year, Pickering mangled PCL pitching to the tune of .314/.451/.712. He pasted 35 home runs and drew 63 walks (unintentional) in 379 PA, or a walk every six times up, and a home run every 10. It's exactly the sort of performance that explains why anyone would wait out a guy who averaged barely 65 games played over the previous nine years, and it's to the Royals' credit that they're the ones who finally have the courage to see what they have, although to be fair, you can't really fault the Orioles for losing hope. Pickering's weight issues were legendary, his defense a non-factor. How long do you wait? (Well, too long for Ed Rogers.)

Anyway, I'm glad to see his comeback really underway. Despite the long delays, Pickering's still only just about to turn 28. While a comparison to Cecil Fielder's latter-day stardom would be gratuitous, if Pickering can remain healthy, he'll be one of the best examples active of what you can get by combing through the various sources of free talent. I'm no fan of the Royals, but I'll be happy if Pickering's an All-Star for them. Of course, that might have to involve making Ken Harvey someone else's problem, but since he lacks real power or a glove, that's not exactly bad news. He'll make a nifty Ricky Jordan knockoff for somebody.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Activated RHP Grant Balfour from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Matt Guerrier to Rochester. [8/17]

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Optioned INF-R Andy Phillips to Columbus; activated RHP Mike Mussina from 15-day DL. [8/18]

Whew, that was easy, the kid didn't even have to stick around long enough that anybody had to learn his name. Anyway, now the Yankees can get back to the more entertaining and agonizing decision on what to do about their rotation. It's the five old men at the moment, or perhaps six. I mean, this picking stuff is hard. But beyond El Duque rounding into shape, the other non-Browns merely look like formerly great pitchers, and even then, Brown's pretty vincible these days, and the Cubano is as vulnerable to lefty hitters as ever. It's a situation where Tanyon Sturtze tumbles into far too many ballgames after other people's early exits. I know, we don't weep for the Yankees, but it does add to the histrionics that seem to define that New York state of mind.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Activated LHP Arthur Rhodes from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Jairo Garcia to Sacramento. [8/18]

Not that Garcia's arrival and soonish subsequent demotion should be considered much ado about nothing, but control wasn't one of his suits, and he looked about as raw as you'd expect a guy without college experience who opened the year at A-ball to look. So it would look like his bid to join the postseason bullpen remains about as unlikely as "Panzer" Lehr's. Somebody between Barry Zito and Mark Redman is going to the pen in October, and with Chad Bradford due off of the DL shortly, the real question isn't whether Lehr's off, but who else won't make the cut.

It's highly unlikely that the A's would go into a postseason series with a dozen pitchers, so somebody's going to have to go; that was one of the contributing factors to the willingness to make one of the extra relief lefties somebody else's problem. Don't be surprised by an October imbroglio involving somebody's angry press conference. If it's Rhodes or Redman, it might be a bit prickly trying to live with either through the remainder of their contracts, both of which run through 2006.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Recalled INF-B Ramon Santiago from Tacoma; placed 3B/SS-R Justin Leone on the 15-day DL (fractured hand). [8/18]

Yick, so the Mariners are down one of the guys for which there's any reason for the coffee-addled denizens of the Pacific Northwest to pay attention? Please don't take offense, gang, I'm a fellow hopped-up caffeine junkie. It's one of my two favorite drugs--both legal--and if the "Caffeine: It's What's For Breakfast" campaign ever gets underway, I'd happily sign up for some spokesmodel payola.

Anyway, my point is that if people like Willie Bloomquist, you should have been more discriminating in your tastes, because you're about to be as sick of it as Hugh and Fred got on tapioca pudding in Hell. Of course, just as they had to confront other horrendous fates in Hell (fat cats, demon Honda mechanics, and Sacramento, for starters), so too do Mariners fans, given their cornucopia of third sack delights beyond Bloomquist: the expensively empty stylings of Scott Spiezio, or John Stuart Mill's epic on Jolbert Cabrera, Unutilitarianism. Happily, there's still plenty of Bucky Jacobsen to go around, not to mention Ichiro's recordquests.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Signed 1B-L Randall Simon. [8/19]

Optioned OF-L Joey Gathright to Durham. [8/20]

See if you understand the reasoning here: Your starting center fielder, let's call him Rocco, happens to be on the DL. So you're playing this kid, let's call him Gathright, in center while the paesan' is healing up. You're a bit strapped at the moment, so you don't really have a fourth outfielder; you're still hauling around some stiffs from the last job, and you're a busy guy. You haven't had the time to find the right cornfield to plant Damian Rolls and Geoff Blum in, not just yet, but you were gonna get around to it. But in the midst of those responsibilities, you go shopping? And not for good stuff, but for some empty suit whose only mission in life is to make people forget Rob Fick? And to do that, you get rid of that kid Gathright, who's playing center for you? How the frick does that make any frickin' sense? What? Do I amuse you?

Let's face it, when moves like this are still being made, the only way to fix the Devil Rays is going to involve guns, with or without the cannoli.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of LHP Dave Maurer from Syracuse; placed OF-L Frank Catalanotto on the 15-day DL (strained groin). [8/22]

Cat's done for the year, but you can forgive him for getting surgery instead of limping through the conclusion of a generally disappointing season. Even without him, the Jays are covered in the outfield, since Gabe Gross and Alexis Rios should remain in the lineup for the remainder of the season. And they're getting a token lefty for the pen out of the whole thing, which is understandably a desirable thing. Although I'd like to see Howie Clark or Eric Crozier get some at-bats in the last quarter of the season, that would require cutting bait on Dave Berg before roster expansion, and that seems about as likely as my candidacy to succeed the Pope.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of C-R Chris Snyder from El Paso (Double-A); placed C-B Koyie Hill on the 15-day DL (broken ankle). [8/18]

Activated PH-B Alan Zinter from the 60-day DL; optioned UT-R Tim Olson to Tucson; acquired OF-R Jerome Milons from the Dodgers for RHP Elmer Dessens and cash. [8/19]

Recalled RHP Brian Bruney from Tucson. [8/20]

Recalled SS-R Jerry Gil from Tucson; optioned OF-L Doug Devore to Tucson. [8/22]

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if we get to start anticipating whether or not the Snakes could win 50 or lose 120 games. We've got a lot of the sort of things that could contribute to it: an inexperienced interim manager, a bandbox ballpark aiding opposing teams in their bid for cheery blowouts, bad defense, and both a lineup and a rotation swamped by injuries.

As a result, you can sort of understand the instinct to address at least some portion of the problem, while also looking at the talent within the organization. Now that Koyie Hill has had his literal bad break, it makes sense to see whether or not Snyder is anywhere close to mounting a challenge for the job next spring. After hitting .301/.389/.520 at El Paso, he should be primed for a legit claim on the job. If he has a good six weeks, the Snakes will be able to consider their options in choosing from among Hill, Snyder, and Robbie Hammock. Hammock's ability to play the infield or outfield corners might allow them to keep all three, but that would interfere with Snyder's getting the playing time he needs to develop, so I'd be happier if the Snakes had a trio of Hill or Snyder, plus Hammock in a utility role, with the third job going either to a veteran hitter who can occasionally catch, like Zinter, or organizational hitting machine Craig Ansman (whose otherwise promising career is handicapped by catching skills that are supposed to be limited, at best). Of course, I've already made it clear I don't have a lot of use for Hill, since I see him as a jobwarmer for Snyder at best, but if the organization decides to play Hill next April, it would be silly to keep Snyder around as well.

The other bit of defensive adjustment comes with the promotion of Gil. He's young (21 until October), and he's a got a rep as a slick fielder, plus he's hit for some power this season at Tucson: .278/.299/.468. That's the good stuff, but keep in mind, he did that playing in Tucson's sandbox. Gil is also short of his 50th professional walk in roughly 1,800 plate appearances. Now, sure, I suppose we can all hope that he'll achieve the same sort of magic transformation that Jose Oquendo did, but for all his youth, Gil's 21, or a couple of years older than Oquendo was when he got his initial premature intro to the majors. It's possible Gil could learn to bop with sufficient abandon to resemble a good ballplayer; that's always been the consideration with Alex Cintron, except that he hasn't hit, hasn't fielded, and managed to come across as skulky in recent weeks. So it's to Gil's slick candidacy, with the hope that this somehow fixes the infield.

As for other roster odds and ends, Olson's demotion puts Andy Green on the spot as Chad Tracy's platoon mate of the moment. Under the circumstances, it would be a little more interesting to have Ansman play some first to see if his bat really can stick, and shuttle Shea Hillenbrand across the diamond against lefties, but at this rate, that could wait for September, along with a more important decision on whether or not to promote Josh Kroeger.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Roman Colon from Richmond; placed RHP Tim Drew on the 15-day DL (strained calf). [8/18]

I'm not going to argue that Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone doesn't deserve his reputation as one of the best in the business, but I think it is appropriate that being a miracle worker requires a worthwhile loaf or fish to start off with, and even that guarantees nothing. Jaret Wright, for example, wasn't exactly some randomly assembled meatfood in a uniform, while Mike Hampton and John Thomson might involve fancy ingredients, but you're still left wondering if it won't be better to order take-out by the third game of a postseason series. And from the back end of the pantry, trying to work with sawdust just leaves you with twice-baked Will Cunnane or Tim Drew, and nobody needs that much fiber in their diet.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Signed SS-B Neifi Perez to a minor league contract. [8/19]

It would be easy to criticize this move, but to be honest, for as awful as it looks at first glance, let's be fair to the Cubs. Should Nomar's limitations in the field continue to be a handicap, it might be defensible to retain a defensive replacement on your postseason roster. But that's only if he's on the roster at the expense of Jose Macias or Ramon E. Martinez or Tom Goodwin, and only if Todd Hollandsworth is healthy enough to also be there, and only if some adult reminds Andy MacPhail and Dusty Baker that carrying more than 11 pitchers into the postseason would be a mistake. Do all of that, and I'm happy.

More importantly, I guess I'm taking hope that the Cubs' brass has noticed the team has weaknesses. Considering Hollandsworth's slow recovery, perhaps they'll similarly keep their eyes peeled on a lefty bat with some pop on the waiver wire, because without Hollandsworth, they'd go into October with just about the weakest bench of any playoff team.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Placed RHP Danny Graves on the 15-day DL (lower back spasms); recalled RHP Matt Belisle from Louisville. [8/20]

I think we're all gratified that Bobby Thigpen has behaved with considerably more dignity in the face of potential threats to his corner of history than Brian Kingman did. Not that Graves was ever really having a good season, but his early agglomeration of saves, as anomalous as it was (reflecting the team's early sprint), might have made a lesser man sweat. Or at least fax his concerns hither and yon. Anyway, I suppose Joe Valentine and perhaps Ryan Wagner will collect whatever glory is to be gained by closing games for the Reds for the next couple of weeks.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Chris Gissell from Colorado Springs; optioned RHP Allan Simpson to Colorado Springs. [8/20]

Designated RHP Vladimir Nunez for assignment. [8/21]

I really don't have much to say, beyond my being impressed that Gissell, like Kyle Lohse before him, wound up being a Cub farmhand with that right combination of talent and staying power to outlast a lot of minor league struggling. Both were taken in the 1996 draft, both weren't products of big college programs, both had good fastballs, and both had a couple of years in the minors where they posted ERAs around six as rotation regulars. Lohse ended up making it as a starter, while Gissell has moved into the pen, but that both made it is a credit to Jim Hendry in particular, but also to David Wilder and the men who were running the farm system at that point. TINSTAAPP might be easy to criticize, but that's because of that other pitching truism, which is that with young pitchers, youneverknow.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Placed LHP Andy Pettitte on the 15-day DL (torn tendon - elbow). [8/18]

Recalled RHP Brandon Backe from New Orleans. [8/20]

Done for the year, only a month or so after the Astros were. Isn't it neat how the team is effectively a hostage of two pairs of handcuff buddies, Biggio and Bagwell and Pettitte and Clemens? Can you blame Jeff Kent for feeling left out? Not that anybody wants to cuffed to him, perhaps not even his ready apologists in the Bay Area, where role modelry is arbitrarily defined by clubhouse furniture.

Regardless of the graying bitterness in other departments, here's hoping that Backe gets to make the most of this opportunity. Where Carlos Hernandez is trying to put his career together after losing too much of it to injury, Backe is trying to overcome the early season roller coaster of rising and falling with Jimy Williams' various mood swings. Having returned to starting with the Zephs, he's been primed to step into a rotation already bereft of so many of its veterans.

For those who've forgotten, Backe's a converted outfielder in his fourth year of professional pitching, and a refugee from the D-Rays organization. (Is it just me, or are the D-Rays the only team kooky enough to propel a conversion project to the majors in just his second season on the mound, as they did with Backe in 2002?) Don't get your Kieschnickian sensibilities all worked up: Unlike Brooks, he didn't hit, so he's not really a two-way player any more than Kieschnick ever has been. Just where Kieschnick is a hitter who can mop up, Backe might be a pitcher who can hit well for a pitcher. And since he's back having posted a 74-25 strikeout-walk ratio in 64.1 IP at New Orleans, there's reason to believe that as much as he might be a work in progress on the mound, he really can pitch.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Acquired LHP Scott Stewart from the Indians for future considerations; acquired C-R Tom Wilson to the Mets for C-L Tony Socarras. [8/18]

Placed RHP Darren Dreifort on the 15-day DL (torn ACL - knee), retroactive to 8/17; acquired RHP Elmer Dessens and cash from the Diamondbacks for OF-R Jereme Milons. [8/19]

Optioned LHP Scott Stewart to Las Vegas. [8/20]

It would be easy to overstate sympathy for the Dodgers, but let's be serious, Dreifort wasn't that great, he was actually pretty wild, and Giovanni Carrara has been more valuable, so how valuable could Dreifort have been. The more basic problem is losing Dreifort now, after having dealt Mota, and after having been forced to press both Jose Lima and Wilson Alvarez into the rotation. Hence the twin tweaks of adding Dessens and Stewart. As a mop-up man and long reliever, Dessens can be adequate, and it will be easier to pitch in Chavez Ravine that it ever could be at the BOB. If Stewart works out his kinks in what's left of the PCL season, that's another arm they'll need, even after people start coming back off of the DL.

Less impressive is picking up Tom Wilson, long though I have argued for him. I suppose a Brent Mayne-Wilson platoon makes sense, but I really think that if the Dodgers can ride out letting David Ross shake the rest of the rust off, they'll be better off with his combination of power and defense in a regular role.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Ben Hendrickson to Indianapolis; purchased the contract of RHP Travis Phelps from Indianapolis. [8/18]

Outrighted RHP Matt Ford to Huntsville (Double-A). [8/20]

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Recalled OF-L Ryan Church from Edmonton; placed 1B-L Nick Johnson on the 15-day DL (broken cheekbone). [8/21]

You might consider Nick Johnson to be almost as unlucky as Ambrose Burnside, who even with his attempts to dodge a fate of disappointments could not escape the career-altering quagmire of the Mud March. At least Johnson has better taste in facial hair, but that's small solace when he's lost another chunk of another season to more injuries which transcend the realm of simple fragility and move into the epically unlucky. At this rate, I think we all have to hope he gets a break someday, but whether or not it's with the Expos or in Montreal seems unlikely.

In his absence, for the remainder of the season I guess les Expos can turn to their bevy of outfielders. Brad Wilkerson gets shunted back to first base, again, and while that's a waste of a good throwing arm, it does get Ryan Church into his first taste of big league action. He was a monster at Edmonton, hitting .342/.429/.618, which even accounting for Edmonton translates to a .277 Equivalent Average. He's not a runner, but he's athletic enough to handle either corner every day, and center in a pinch. That he came over with Maicer Izturis for the since-kaboomed Scott Stewart makes it all the sweeter, since Izturis is also looking like a decent prospect. Because he'll turn 26 after this season, Church is a right-now sort of prospect, a guy who can start for the Expos until the combined timing of his age and his arbitration eligibility after the 2007 season would make him a great bargaining chip to send to somebody else.

OK, I know that doesn't get anybody's heart racing, but it's a great bit of talent management by Omar Minaya. So Church gets one corner; the other two slots seem to be going to Endy Chavez and Juan Rivera, with Terrmel Sledge and Ron Calloway in reserve roles. It isn't great, but it still involves promising talent and people who can play, and that's something.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Placed RHP Victor Zambrano on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis); recalled RHP Bartolome Fortunato from Norfolk; acquired C-L Tony Socarras from the Dodgers for C-R Tom Wilson. [8/19]

Placed UT-R Joe McEwing on the 60-day DL (broken fibula); recalled 2B-R Jeff Keppinger from Norfolk. [8/20]

Optioned 1B-L Craig Brazell to Norfolk; recalled RHP Matt Ginter from Norfolk. [8/22]

When they're not fretting about their own troubles, I suppose that Yankees fans can always find solace in the fact that they're not the Mets. Indeed, when NBC remakes Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, which will of course be stocked by the cast of "Friends" and whatever other impossibly good-looking vacuities survive from the appalling U.S. adaptation of Coupling, I expect that in the Mr. Creosote scene, after guest star Michael Moore explodes, the cleaning lady will assure us, with all proper political correctness, that it could be worse. She could be a Mets fan, after all. And as humiliating as the present might be, nowadays, being a Mets fan involves some publisher marring your favorite memory by siccing the inimitable Jeff Pearlman on a thesis about their glorious 1986, so not even the past is safe. They were smart enough to pick Scott Kazmir recently. That's something, right?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed RHP Brian Powell on the 15-day DL (strained biceps); recalled RHP Geoff Geary from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/19]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Recalled RHP John Van Benschoten from Nashville; designated RHP Willis Roberts for assignment. [8/18]

Optioned RHP John Van Benschoten to Nashville; recalled RHP Ian Snell from Altoona (Double-A). [8/19]

Optioned RHP Ian Snell to Altoona (Double-A); purchased the contract of RHP Nelson Figueroa from Nashville. [8/20]

Recalled RHP John Van Benschoten from Nashville. [8/23]

Let's give some golf claps to Dave Littlefield for cycling three people through town in four moves to cover two starts and two missing starters, both of whom will hit the DL on Monday. At the end of the day, the Bucs will wind up with Van Benschoten and Figueroa in the rotation, joining Josh Fogg, Oliver Perez, and Ryan Vogelsong. Considering they're losing Kip Wells and Sean Burnett, it's actually impressive that they'll still wind up with four guys with a youngish prospect-y vibe in the rotation, plus the oft-overlooked but still useful Figueroa. It's at least a competitive rotation, so it won't be as if the Pirates are phoning it in down the stretch. Considering that Littlefield has dealt for most of them (Van Benschoten being the homegrown exception), it's a nifty reflection of where the organization has gotten in a short period of time at his direction.

That said, it's still not clear that Van Benschoten is in the correct line of work. Although a top pick, he hasn't been a great pitcher. He was giving up plenty of baserunners (135 hits and 48 unintentional walks in 131.2 IP), while flashing some hints of the hitting credentials that made him one of the nation's top amateur prospects once upon a time. If he thrives as a good-hitting rotation regular, it might be support for speculation about what Brooks Kieschnick might have been, if a lot of things had worked out just right for him as a pitching prospect. Like staying healthy, of course, or being good enough at it to make the majors as Van Benschoten has. Regardless, for those of us with a warm spot in our hearts for Dan Schatzeder, it's a hopeful moment for all fans of wacky-named hitting pitchers.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Recalled CF-B Freddy Guzman from Portland; requested unconditional release waivers on RHP Rod Beck. [8/17]

Placed RHP Jay Witasick on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); purchased the contract of RHP Steve Watkins from Portland. [8/18]

Outrighted OF-R Brian Buchanan to Portland; purchased the contract of RHP Marty McLeary from Portland. [8/20]

Joe Sheehan has already pointed out the clear advantages to promoting Guzman: It gets the Pads a center fielder and a leadoff man, and those are things they need. I'm a little less enthusiastic about the likely results in-season, but Jay Payton has become another deflated Rockie, and flirting with Terrence Long in center was asking for trouble. One of the ripple effects of benching Payton is that he immediately gets bumped over into Brian Buchanan's job as Ryan Klesko's platoon partner and legs. That's not great, considering he isn't really a platoon godling, not to mention the expense or that Buchanan has been pretty good at it in years past. The thinking that having a glove to switch into left field to cover Petco's wide pasture after Klesko gets three at-bats seems reasonable enough to me, barring need for some more offense in-game, but this is a situation where the Pads are trying to work with what they have in-season.

The other interesting move is the decision to quit on the Shooter. Let's face it, a home run allowed every three innings is too rich for anybody's blood, but given the contrasting success that they've had with guys like Scott Linebrink or Aki Otsuka, why bother with the formerly famous? It's a bit bold for them to have turned to a rookie and a relative unknown in the pen down the stretch, but they've got young vets already there, and Jay Witasick on the DL. It'll have to do, but it can't be any worse than what Beck was giving them.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Al Reyes from Memphis; optioned RHP Danny Haren to Memphis. [8/20]

This was just driven by Friday's double-header, not a reflection on Haren's performance. He did well in his pair of starts, but between Monday's off-day and having Jason Simontacchi handy for long relief chores, Haren would have been dead space on the roster until the tail end of this week. With Chris Carpenter coming back into action, the Cards sensibly decided to put the spot to work. Reyes remains wild and hard to hit, even at 34, having allowed 51 hits in 59.2 IP, with a 67:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And if you're the sort who believes in this sort of thing, he logged 32 saves in Triple-A this year. I know, it seems unlikely anyone would get stoked up on minor league saves any more than they would the real thing, but even the South Sea Bubble had its believers. Well, except for a young Warren Buffett; I think he was still betting on tulip futures.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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