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September 25, 2004

Transaction Analysis

September 20-22, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Recalled RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from Pawtucket. [9/21]

Long-suffering, easily forgotten, but not exactly forgettable, Byung-Hyun Kim's 2004 season has reduced him to a pantheon of anti-heroes, mired with Neil Allen, Ron Davis, Tom Niedenfuer. I'm less than sure he'll ever escape his sojourn in Tartarus; it seems likely that his sentence will last as long as the Red Sox control his rights, and if Boston is a suitable punishment, it's also one to be escaped, gladly. The sooner Kim can slip anonymously to some place that isn't shuddering in anticipation of its next witch hunt, the better. He's another name on the list of players suspected of harboring deeply uncomradely instincts, just like that damned Nomar, and on a team that has a time-honored bogeyman in the "25 men, 25 cabs" phenomenon, that doesn't play here. He's had discussions with a front office that handled the Nomar situation with Gallagher-like deft, apologized to his teammates, and had a bad initial outing. Given that he's been asked to start, close, and then start during his brief time with the Sox, the cultural dimensions, the ham-handedness from on high, and Kim's iconoclastic tendencies, I just don't see it working out.

Then we'll have to ask if he's actually fixable. He wasn't exactly a superweap on with the PawSox, giving up 71 hits in 60 2/3 innings in what was effectively an arm-stretching role. More troubling still, he struck out just 39 hitters, although he did have his old control, allowing a dozen walks. He's supposed to have his arm strength back and the kink in his legs worked out. Either there's something more to the story physically, or it's up to Kim to make it better. Doing that would scatter the mob, win friends, and influence people. Boston might be able to forgive, after all; it isn't like this is Philadelphia.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Travis Hughes; designated LHP Ryan Snare for assignment. [9/22]

Hughes hasn't really mastered his control issues; he's up as a spare arm, and as a guy with a fastball, it doesn't hurt to look at him before potentially losing him as a minor-league free agent this winter. Spending his first full season as a reliever at Frisco and Oklahoma, Hughes allowed 84 hits in 88 1/3 inning, striking out 90 while walking 37. Not great, and considering he gave up five runs per nine, hard to project into a big-league bullpen. Still, the guy throws a sinker above 90 miles per hour, and that deserves a peek. In mop-up work only. Admittedly, the Rangers have higher priorities at the moment.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Transferred OF-L Frank Catalanotto from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/20]

Activated RHP Roy Halladay from the 15-day DL. [9/21]

Speaking guiltily as one of the prematurely enthusiastic about the Blue Jays, I suppose it sounds like hollow reassurance to repeat that it's going to take more than getting Halladay back in action. Even though you can accept that a year when only Eric Hinske and Reed Johnson gave you full seasons is a definition of disappointment, it's going to take more than having everyone healthy. It's more than finding the right sort of replacement for Carlos Delgado this winter. At this point, I think contending next year shouldn't even be considered. For the near term, they need to focus on realizable goals, like seeing how Alexis Rios and Gabe Gross work out over a full season, building a bullpen that works over an entire season, and hoping they get an opportunity to weave Guillermo Quiroz into the mix.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Activated RHP Kyle Farnsworth from the 15-day DL. [9/20]

Although it isn't quite so epic as Kim's situation in Boston--and let's face it, Boston is code for "drama," a word I use in the entirely self-absorbed, self-important, petty, pathetic sense of it--Farnsworth has earned the right to be cordially loathed by otherwise Alf Landon-ly cheery bleacher minions. Ten home runs in 62 innings, a baserunner and a half allowed per inning, a grandstanding manager, and a tendency to look frustrated when he's not doing well...it all adds up to a stadium-wide shoulder slump when Farnsworth is brought in. I still think he can contribute, especially when we're talking about a team that's otherwise talking itself into the proposition that Ryan Dempster is the answer.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Activated RHP Brad Penny from the 15-day DL. [9/22]

Will Carroll has already covered this situation with his usual verve, but there are few things more dispiriting than a proposed Superman with a Kyptonite-lined cape. Still, you can't blame everyone for trying. I know, I know, it might sound like special pleading, but I'd think that the performance of the rest of the rotation only reinforces the need to have added a good starter. Part of the problem with making (or evaluating) a trade is that it has to be judged in two very separate contexts: what factors informed the deal at the instant of its consummation, and how it worked out afterwards. At the time, the Dodgers needed a starting pitcher; even if we now know Penny is broken, at the time, Paul DePodesta made a move this team needed.

So instead of one of the top 15 or so pitchers in the NL, the Dodgers have to have both Wilson Alvarez and Jose Lima in the rotation for the final 10 games of the season. That's not the end of the world--you'd find that sitting in the bullpen, wearing Hideo Nomo's uniform. What I find a little more interesting is whether both might remain in the rotation in a postseason series. Would you hand a playoff start to Kaz Ishii? His only quality starts in over a month have been against the Expos and Mets, who don't seem likely to be LCS or LDS opponents. Otherwise, he's faced playoff or playoff-minded teams: the Braves, the Pads, and the Cardinals twice. All have mauled him and left him for dead, leaving it to pitching coach Jim Colborn to scrape up the rest. As much as it might be cool to shore up the bullpen by depositing Alvarez into it, the Dodgers might not be able to afford the luxury.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Recalled RHP Ian Snell. [9/21]

The former Ian Oquendo, Snell's a short right-hander with a power assortment and a big bender. Repeating Double-A after spending a month there last season, he was the ace of Altoona's staff this season. Giving up only a single unearned run makes his 3.16 ERA a good read, but a 142/38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 152 innings doesn't hurt. Normally, a guy pitches this well, and you might count on the organization to start listing him as a six-footer. Although he recently strained his back, it looks like he'll get a couple of starts for the Bucs, allowing him to at least leave a calling card for consideration for next spring's auditions for rotation slots. Behind Kip Wells, Oliver Perez and Josh Fogg, the Bucs have a great gaggle of kids to look over: John Van Benschoten you already should know, but Snell and David Williams should also get their opportunities. Beyond them in the wings are Bryan Bullington and perhaps Matt Peterson. I'm sure people like Nelson Figueroa will be re-upped as just-in-case types, but Dave Littlefield shouldn't have to shop for starting pitching this winter, beyond the normal bargain-basement perusals.

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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