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May 26, 2005

Transaction Analysis

May 10-24, 2005

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Placed RHP Kelvim Escobar on the 15-day DL (bone spur - elbow); purchased the contract of OF-L Chris Prieto from Salt Lake. [5/12]

Activated C-R Bengie Molina from the 15-day DL; optioned INF-R David Matranga to Salt Lake. [5/13]

Optioned OF-L Chris Prieto to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Ervin Santana from Arkansas (Double-A). [5/16]

Placed RF-R Vladimir Guerrero on the 15-day DL (partially dislocated shoulder); purchased the contract of OF-L Curtis Pride from Salt Lake. [5/21]

Placed RHP Francisco Rodriguez on the 15-day DL (strained forearm), retroactive to 5/15; purchased the contract of RHP Joel Peralta from Salt Lake; optioned RHP Kevin Gregg to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Chris Bootcheck from Salt Lake. [5/23]

Lose a star slugger, a closer and a rotation regular, and you'd think this was the end of the world for the team that I picked to win the division. (And not out of any reverse-psychology trying to cross up the crones; I just didn't think the A's would gel.) Not here; the Angels' depth is such that they should be able to endure almost all of these setbacks.

The pitching side of the equation is the tidier one, since losing Rodriguez for another week after his already missing a week is the sort of damage most teams can bear in the closer's role. Scot Shields and Brendan Donnelly have both been effective as the less-heralded workhorses of a pen that has allowed just four inherited runners to score. Moreno's minions should be fine. Similarly, losing Escobar for a couple of starts isn't a major setback, not when it looks as if Santana is ready to enter a big-league rotation, and perhaps settle into the swing role that Gregg couldn't keep hold of. This is the same outfit that let K-Rod's talent win out over considerations about his inexperience (or ineligibility for the postseason roster), so if Santana continues to show good stuff, he might well stick. Scioscia's better at keeping his pitching staff fully utilized than he is at using his last spot or two on the bench.

That's not to say that his bench isn't getting a workout. Losing Guerrero is easily the worst of all possible outcomes, not simply because he's their best hitter, but because so many of their other vaunted regulars aren't hitting, and may not. Players like Darin Erstad, Steve Finley or Garret Anderson aren't young or patient. So what about the cavalry that's supposed to come riding in? As much as I've liked Jeff DaVanon, and it might seem like he's only just gotten here, he's already 31. As Will Carroll has noted, we can't be too sure about what's going on with Guerrero's shoulder, so the offense becomes a source of more and more concern. It will probably fall on the guys who should be busting out now, like Juan Rivera or Dallas McPherson.

Finally, for the curious, Peralta is another conversion project, having switched over to pitching after starting off his career as an infielder. Don't get too excited; some sources list him as 25, but he's actually 29, another Dominican snared in Visagate.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Placed OF-R Sammy Sosa on the 15-day DL (foot), retroactive to 5/5. [5/10]

Transferred RHP Jason Grimsley from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed OF-R Luis Matos on the 15-day DL (broken finger); optioned RHP Rick Bauer to Ottawa; purchased the contracts of C-R Sal Fasano and OF-R Keith Reed from Ottawa; purchased the contract of OF-L Jeff Fiorentino from Frederick (A-ball). [5/11]

Acquired INF-R Mike Moriarty from the Cubs for future considerations, and assigned him to Ottawa. [5/17]

Optioned OF-R Keith Reed to Ottawa; transferred RHP Kurt Ainsworth from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP James Baldwin from Ottawa. [5/20]

Talk about contrasts… is there a pair of call-ups more distinctive than having to haul up Fiorentino and Baldwin during the same stretch, and could two guys be less similar?

Fiorentino has been a rocket, last year's third-round pick for the O's out of Florida Atlantic. An ex-catcher with that Craig Biggio-like athleticism to move to an entirely different area of the defensive spectrum, he took less than a hundred professional games and 400 plate appearances to reach the majors. As long as Larry Bigbie, B.J. Surhoff and David Newhan all keep flailing, Fiorentino has every opportunity to rack up some playing time, because none of them really address the Orioles' need for a center fielder in Matos' absence, and Matos might not be back until late in June.

Sosa wasn't going to be out more than two weeks, so the Orioles will have a bit of a crowd in the outfield corners and for DH at-bats. You'd normally expect that first base would enter the mix, especially with Raffy Palmeiro doing so little to put runs on the board, but he's graduated into some sort of sacred bull status that makes the more bloody-minded wonder what's the big deal about an old cow. The sooner the Orioles get over icons and get used to fielding their best lineup, the less they'll have to worry about gets fans in the stands. It isn't like anybody's clamoring to go to Camden Yards to see the Viagra guy, is it?

As for Baldwin, if he came up and finally stuck in the majors after a lot of minor-league struggling--being touted all the while, courtesy of that still occasionally gorgeous curve--he's well into the wanderjahren portion of his career. He's back up to help patch a rotation that has two starters getting routinely drubbed, Sidney Ponson (unsurprisingly) and Daniel Cabrera (even more so). This might be the situation in which Baldwin finally slips back into a big-league rotation, although since it's Cabrera who has options, it won't be for Ponson. Since this is the team where Bruce Chen finally caught a break, I wouldn't bet against Baldwin at this point.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Activated LHP David Wells from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Cla Meredith to Pawtucket. [5/18]

Placed C-R Doug Mirabelli on the 15-day DL (wrist); purchased the contract of C/1B-R Shawn Wooten from Pawtucket; transferred OF-L Adam Stern from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/20]

Wooten's bat seems pretty lifeless these days, but a catcher who can catch the knuckler has value to a team with a knuckleballer. It's one of those specific versus general issues where, no, a spork will not necessarily do.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Signed INF-R Ricky Gutierrez to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Charlotte. [5/11]

Outrighted UT-R Jamie Burke to Charlotte. [5/12]

Purchased the contract of RHP Brandon McCarthy from Charlotte; placed RHP Orlando Hernandez on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 5/17. [5/22]

Losing El Duque isn't exactly a major setback for the Sox, not when McCarthy seems so very close to being ready to step in. Hernandez had been the least effective starter in the rotation, allowing opposing baserunners on at a .370 clip, and no matter how cagey a veteran you are, the other team eventually scores when they're on base all day. Consider this a nice trial for McCarthy, while the Sox starter that was supposed to break down can take his time working his way back. This way, if something happens to anyone else in Chicago's rotation, McCarthy will have seen the elephant, and the Sox will know they can plug him back in.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Activated OF-L Jody Gerut from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Buffalo. [5/13]

Recalled OF-L Jody Gerut from Buffalo; placed OF-B Coco Crisp on the 15-day DL (sprained thumb). [5/18]

Optioned RHP Jason Davis to Buffalo; recalled RHP Matt Miller from Buffalo. [5/20]

Gerut needs to get back into full working order, but it seems as if he's been rushed into action. Once Crisp returns, then the Tribe can move along to the more interesting question about where to fit him back in. If Aaron Boone still isn't hitting, perhaps moving Casey Blake back to his original position wouldn't be such a bad idea. Admittedly, that involves admitting that the wholesale stockpiling of infielders didn't work out so well, but Boone has been worthless, and Alex Cora's trade value isn't going up as he rusts away on the bench.

As for swapping in Miller for Davis, as much as it makes sense in terms of performance, and as worthwhile as it appears to be to Davis' benefit (he's going back to starting in Buffalo), it still does leave the Tribe without someone in the pen who can be used as a long reliever. That might not hurt you most nights, but a slugfest after an extra-inning game the night before, or just back-to-back slugfests, can place a lot of strain on a staff and make you fire up the Buffalo shuttle mighty quick. What, you think that isn't going to ever happen, that the day after another explosive Scott Elarton outing, the Tribe's next starter gets rocked? Well, I guess thank you, Dr. Pangloss.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Placed OF-L Bobby Higginson on the 15-day DL (sore elbow), retroactive to 5/6; purchased the contract of LHP Doug Creek from Toledo; transferred RHP Colby Lewis from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/13]

Color me bummed, because I did like having Higgy around to mix in at right field, but if he couldn't hammer with a bum elbow, he isn't worth much. In his absence, the Tigs are alternating between Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames, and as cool as it might to get to pick and choose between a doctrine and a tidal estuary on any given night, the fact that they are choosing is because they're enamored with an Alex Sanchez impersonator in center field.

In his absence, the Tigers have given in to the inevitable, going out and hauling a second situational lefty because… well, nobody in the division really has a left-handed pinch-hitter to worry about, but you never know. If Timo Perez makes your blood run cold, odds are you're a lizard, and worried he's going to invite Julio Machado to dinner.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Recalled RHP D.J. Carrasco from Omaha; placed RHP Kyle Snyder on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder). [5/12]

Activated 3B-R Chris Truby from the 15-day DL, and outrighted him to Omaha. [5/13]

Placed RHP Denny Bautista on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 5/12; recalled OF-R Matt Diaz from Omaha. [5/15]

Purchased the contract of RHP Ryan Jensen from Omaha; placed DH-R Ken Harvey on the 15-day DL (back), retroactive to 5/19.

One of these losses hurts, and one of them doesn't, and believe me, the one that hurts doesn't involve losing the "All-Star" DH. Without Harvey around, the Royals can get by with Matt Stairs. No, the far greater pity is if Bautista's breakdown after his outstanding April 8 start is sort of the Runelvys Hernandez experience writ small. Now that the rotation has to rely on Carrasco and Jensen, the Royals more closely resemble a team that you might glibly guess couldn't beat Omaha. Except that the O-Royals have their share of problems, with Dennis Tankersley and Jimmy Gobble looking like they're never going to be right, and Calvin Pickering not hitting. At least Aaron Guiel is finally hitting a little again (.265/.355/.553) and Chad Santos (.275/.357/.530) and Justin Gemoll (.350/.416/.537) are both clubbing things. The Royals are hard up enough to take whatever help they can get (how much longer can an allegiance to Terrence Long last?), but it's pitching that's really the problem, and Omaha doesn't have any, not unless you want to turn to the likes of Danny Tamayo or Steve Stemle.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Scott Baker to Rochester; activated RHP Juan Rincon from the suspended list. [5/12]

Optioned SS-R Jason Bartlett to Rochester; recalled 2B/SS-B Luis Rodriguez from Salt Lake. [5/19]

You'd think May would be early for getting panicky, but apparently the Twins are starting to notice that they aren't in first place just yet. Even if none of us should expect the White Sox to play .700 ball all season long, it's clear that the Twins are starting to fidget if they're demoting Bartlett and playing Terry Ryan's biggest mistake pickup from last winter, Juan Castro. Gardenhire lamely observed that he still thinks that Bartlett will be an effective hitter, which is more than should ever be said of Castro. Although a quick glance at Castro's DT player card might make you think that he's a latter-day Belanger with the glove, keep in mind that his track record isn't exactly consistent, while also noting that Bartlett's fielding numbers aren't too shabby either.

I guess there is the hope that having Rodriguez around gives Gardy another "better than Rivas" choice at second base, a quick trip to the Mall of America could probably provide a few dozen of those. At some point, the Twins are going to have resolve who does what and why, instead of futzing around and randomly blaming the wrong players for their lot in life, and "fixing" the lineup in ways you wish they wouldn't.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Released RHP Steve Karsay outright. [5/12]

Optioned 1B-R Andy Phillips to Columbus; activated OF-B Ruben Sierra from the 15-day DL. [5/20]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Tim Harikkala from Sacramento; placed RHP Kiko Calero on the 15-day DL (tendonitis - elbow). [5/10]

Designated UT-L Jermaine Clark for assignment; recalled OF-L Matt Watson from Sacramento. [5/14]

Recalled RHP Seth Etherton from Sacramento; placed RHP Rich Harden of the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 5/14. [5/15]

Acquired RHP Ryan Glynn from the Blue Jays for cash, and assigned him to Sacramento. [5/16]

Re-purchased the contract of Jermaine Clark from Sacramento; placed RHP Octavio Dotel on the 15-day DL (strained elbow), retroactive to 5/17. [5/20]

This is pretty much the stretch where the A's get to stop pretending that they're just having one of their traditional cold starts, and that they simply aren't ready to contend. You pick Harden's trip to the DL as the appropriately symbolic moment, because suddenly that reduced the rotation to Stickyfingers Zito and the kids, not that Harden's all that old, and not that Etherton can still boast the promise of youth. It's a rotation which has made Keiichi Yabu and Justin Duchscherer into the staff's heroes, since somebody has to clean up the mess and log innings a now-broken closer wasn't going to give them. Add in that Dotel's elbow problems sound ominous enough to make him untradeable, and this might be a July where Billy Beane doesn't even have much to bandy about before the trade deadline.

The fact that the college of outfielders has failed so completely that Watson had to be hauled up to shake things up is indicative of how much the A's simply need to snap out of the reverie of Octobers already lost, and settle into the more normal grind of a basic rebuilding project. In the meantime, they have to suffer with the minor-league vets like Harikkala, Watson, Etherton and learning to get over Marco Scutaro.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Joel Pineiro to Tacoma; recalled LHP George Sherrill from Tacoma. [5/14]

Recalled C-R Rene Rivera from San Antonio (Double-A); placed C-R Wiki Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [5/15]

Recalled Jorge Campillo from Tacoma; optioned Sherrill back to Tacoma. [5/17]

Purchased C-R Pat Borders from the Brewers. [5/19]

Purchased the contract of C-R Pat Borders from Tacoma; optioned C-R Rene Rivera to San Antonio (Double-A); transferred LHP Bobby Madritsch from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/20]

Optioned RHP Jorge Campillo to Tacoma. [5/22]

Punitive or "instructional" demotions, like Pineiro's, might make sense when you're talking about an organization like the Yankees, where the pitching coach has long since drifted into emeritus territory, and actual coaching has to be done in minor leagues. But Bryan Price isn't lightly regarded in the pitching coach fraternity, so this move is all the more puzzling. Perhaps it's a communication issue, but regardless, it more closely resembled a bit of organizational pique.

As for the catching situation, as disappointing as it is to not see whether Gonzalez could get his career back on track, and however embarrassing it might be to have to make inquiries after the availability of someone like Borders, let's face it, this isn't as bad as the Jays having to play Ken Huckaby every day, because the Mariners still have Miguel Olivo, and it isn't like he's going to keep plumbing sub-Mendozian depths.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Activated RHP Jesus Colome from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Jonny Gomes to Durham. [5/10]

Optioned RHP Dewon Brazelton to Durham; MLB voided the option of RHP Franklin Nunez (strained shoulder) by the Devil Rays, returning him to the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Jon Switzer from Montgomery (Double-A). [5/12]

Recalled RHP Seth McClung from Durham; placed RHP Rob Bell on the 15-day DL (personal reasons). [5/14]

Placed RHP Dewon Brazelton on the restricted list for failing to report to Durham. [5/16]

Designated OF-L Chris Singleton for assignment; activated 1B-L Travis Lee from the 15-day DL. [5/20]

There isn't much to say about Brazelton's fall; it wasn't epic, because it took the D-Rays to make sure he never achieved any particular greatness to fall from. They rushed him up in his first full season as a pro, jerked him around in 2003 (including a punitive assignment to A ball), grudgingly left him in the rotation for much of last year, and have now lost their patience with him again. After this sort of fun ride, Brazelton wandered off, refusing to report to Durham. Can you blame him? Even if his performance has been nothing close to what some of the scoutier types anticipated when he was compared to Mark Prior as an amateur, you're left with an example of how a bad organization makes a crummy situation worse. Brazelton simply wasn't ready, and blaming him for that says more about the D-Rays' inability to self-diagnose their particular lot of problems than it does about any chance that they'll ever snap out of it. Add that to Bell's apparently debilitating self-doubt, and you've got what I think we've all come to expect from a franchise that has the right stuff to do less with more.

That isn't to say there aren't reasonable fallbacks. Whatever complaints exist about Casey Fossum's coachability, it's worth giving him a shot in the rotation. I guess it's worth seeing why Doug Waechter is on the 40-man, even if it ends up being a demonstration of why not. And while I'm not wild about seeing Gomes demoted, he wasn't playing, and at least he's been sent down so the Rays can play Damon Hollins and see whether they need to cut bait there, instead of for someone like Singleton. It's still ridiculous, though, because Gomes is obviously one of their three best outfielders, but at the end of the day, this remains a situation where guys like Alex Sanchez or Lee need this franchise more than baseball does. When both of them are in the lineup at Gomes' expense, it's the sort of thing that inspires talk of relegation, not that I think the International League would take the Rays.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Placed OF-B Gary Matthews Jr. on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of OF-R Andres Torres from Oklahoma. [5/25]

Signed RHP Steve Karsay to a minor league contract. [5/16]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of LHP Scott Downs from Syracuse; outrighted RHP Matt Whiteside to Syracuse. [5/11]

Sold RHP Ryan Glynn to the A's. [5/16]

Placed 3B-L Corey Koskie on the 15-day DL (broken thumb); designated 1B-L Eric Crozier for assignment; purchased the contract of SS->3B-R Aaron Hill from Syracuse. [5/19]

Losing Koskie put the Jays in an interesting position to make a choice. They could have called up Crozier and pushed Eric Hinske back across the diamond, but Crozier is off to a slow start. They could have simply plugged in Shea Hillenbrand, and split the Freed Johnsonotto platoon in left to soak up the DH at-bats. But instead of relatively conservative fixes like that, the Jays did something bold, hauling up Hill after he'd opened at .301/.335/.468 at Syracuse, and plugging him in at third base. At some point, Hill was supposed to come into the picture, and it almost certainly wasn't going to be to play second base or shortstop. I wouldn't think this means there's any pressure on Russ Adams; despite his struggles at the plate, he's exceeded expectations afield in the early going. Even if Hill keeps hitting, the Jays' still have both Koskie and Hinske signed through 2007, so something will have to give. No doubt, if you're banking on Hillenbrand being a Blue Jay in August, you might want to rethink that.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Signed C-R Kelly Stinnett to a minor-league contract. [5/13]

Placed RHP Brandon Lyon on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis); recalled INF-B Matt Kata from Tucson. [5/18]

Normally, I kvetch that losing a closer isn't that much of a loss, but the Snakes' pen isn't that deep, and Lyon was one of their few effective relievers in any role. Even then that's using a broad definition of "effective," since Lyon is hittable. Now, maybe Lance Cormier continues to shine, and maybe Brian Bruney or Mike Koplove improves his control. Really, what this team can use is four months of Jose Valverde at full steam. If, once he returns next week, Lyon gets saves while Valverde dominates in the high-leverage situations, the Snakes might be able to keep things interesting.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Placed RHP Kevin Gryboski on the 15-day DL (viral infection); recalled LHP Frank Brooks from Richmond. [5/10]

Placed RHP John Thomson on the 15-day DL (strained finger); purchased the contract of RHP Matt Childers from Richmond. [5/17]

Designated 2B-R Jason Bourgeois for assignment; placed C-R Eddie Perez on the 15-day DL (tendonitis - shoulder); purchased the contract of C-B Brayan Pena from Richmond. [5/20]

Recalled RHP Kyle Davies from Richmond; placed LHP Mike Hampton on the 15-day DL (forearm tightness), retroactive to 5/15. [5/21]

Activated RHP Kevin Gryboski from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Frank Brooks to Richmond. [5/22]

Here's an interesting dilemma for the Braves, who have to turn to the almost certainly unready neophytes of their own organization while trying to contend. Unlike the blue-chip (or Chipper) talent that they could plug in without concern in the past, this is a little more dicey.

At 21, Davies is very young, having signed out of high school at 17 after the Braves picked him in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. Although he owns the mid-90s heat that invariably gets the paunched scouty set all slobbery, it isn't clear that he's mastered a secondary pitch to the point that he can consistently fool Triple-A hitters, let alone big leaguers, as he barely has more than three months of experience above A ball between 2004 and 2005. Since Thomson is probably out until after the trade deadline at the end of July, Davies will be given every opportunity to show how much aptitude he has for working with Leo Mazzone, to see if he can spare John Schuerholz the need to make a deal. This also represents an opportunity for Mazzone to remind us if he can handle a young gun, something that has come into doubt in recent years, as he simply retreads veterans with an aplomb no different than that of a Dave Duncan or Don Gullett.

Less important is Pena. As prospects go, he's not much of a threat to do more than have that occasional sort of Junior Ortiz streak of singles to make you keep him around as a backup catcher, since he has almost no power or patience. He has no shot at snagging starts from Johnny Estrada, especially with the post-Maddux Braves, but how well he does now will, again, have to be watched to see if it means that Schuerholz has to pick up a veteran backstop for the stretch. If he can get one as a throw-in whenever he gets around to trading for two corner outfielders, so much the better.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Sergio Mitre from Iowa; optioned RHP Jon Leicester to Iowa. [5/10]

Optioned RHP Sergio Mitre to Iowa; recalled 2B-L Michael Fontenot from Iowa. [5/13]

Optioned SS-R Ronny Cedeno to Iowa; transferred RHP Chad Fox from the 15- to the 60-day DL; signed INF-B Enrique Wilson to a one-year contract; acquired future considerations from the Orioles for INF-R Mike Moriarty. [5/17]

Optioned 2B-L Michael Fontenot to Iowa; activated RHP Joe Borowski from the 15-day DL. [5/20]

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Elizardo Ramirez from Louisville; placed SS-R Rich Aurilia on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [5/11]

Purchased the contract of INF-B Luis Lopez from Louisville; designated 2B-B D'Angelo Jimenez for assignment. [5/20]

Designated RHP Danny Graves for assignment; purchased the contract of LHP Randy Keisler from Louisville. [5/23]

Maturity is a quality you expect from an organization, if not always from individuals. But when you're talking about a franchise that feels the irrational need to forgive someone like Pete Rose, or to craft a downtown riverfront ballpark without a view of the riverfront or downtown, I'm guessing that mature, sober decision-making generally isn't part of the program. So welcome to Middle America, where a familiar gesture is enough to elicit the overreaction of an insecure organization. Graves has been awful, to be sure, so this might represent a casus fabrica to get the guy outta Dodge, but still, the notion that prissy sensibilities of a few suited hypocrites would be the cover story for this blame game is a bit noxious. Who closes in the meantime? Does it matter? I think we all expect Ryan Wagner to take on the role at some point. In the meantime, we'll see which appropriately desperate team wants to trade for Graves' particular brand of a relief ace's moxie.

Similarly, ditching Jimenez strikes me as the move of a team desperate to show that somebody's in charge, and that they've noticed that the season isn't going well. He had a cold start on a team that's overlooked a few other cold starts (Aurilia, Jason LaRue, Austin Kearns), not to mention Sean Casey's return to normalcy. But this seems to be a bit of obvious scapegoating, aided by Jimenez's spotty reputation in a big-league clubhouse. Ryan Freel might be fun to watch, and giving him a shot at everyday play will certainly tickle the local crowd's Oester bone, but this isn't really going to improve the club as much as it will underscore the message that the Reds are taking their suckitude very, very seriously.

At least some accidents spare you the worst indignities. The club's unfortunate fascination with Aurilia's flopping homage to the timbering antics of similarly immobile infielders like Carney Lansford or Rich Dauer led to a lot of wasted playing time that should have been going to Felipe Lopez. There really shouldn't have been any confusion over who to play: Lopez has a future as well as a present, and even a recent past that outshines whatever it was that Aurilia was supposed to offer. I guess he was supposed to be steadying the nerves of impressionable youngsters like Jimenez or Joe Randa, but this is what happens when a team is lurching from narrowly-avoided bad idea (Austin Kearns at third?) to another (Eric Milton, gazillionaire?). Ideally, Lopez will get every opportunity to win the job for keeps, but some bad ideas seem to have lives of their own.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Claimed RHP Blaine Neal off of waivers from the Red Sox; claimed LHP Randy Williams off of waivers from the Padres; acquired a PTBNL from the Pirates for OF-R Michael Restovich. [5/11]

Optioned LHP Randy Williams to Colorado Springs; placed RHP Chin-Hui Tsao on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 5/12. [5/13]

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Designated LHP Jim Crowell for assignment; recalled INF-R Joe Dillon from Albuquerque. [5/17]

Recalled RHP Logan Kensing from Carolina (Double-A); optioned RHP Travis Smith to Albuquerque. [5/20]

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of 1B/OF-L Todd Self from Round Rock; placed 1B-R Jeff Bagwell on the 15-day DL (sprained shoulder), retroactive to 5/4. [5/10]

Released RHP Brandon Duckworth; purchased the contract of RHP Mike Burns from Round Rock. [5/12]

Recalled LHP Wandy Rodriguez from Round Rock; optioned RHP Mike Burns to Round Rock. [5/22]

I guess the good news is that Bagwell's contract only has to go through 2006, since 2007 is a club option. While I don't think any of us can predict too accurately how well or how completely Bagwell will hit next spring, I guess this is that much more troubling after you get past writing off the Astros this year when you look at Bagwell's career numbers and wonder if they're enough. Hitting .297 with 446 home runs might not mean much to the BBWAA by the time he's eligible, and factor in his hitting in Pulp-free Mashed Citrus Field the last several years, and his candidacy gets a bit dodgy if it includes a Dale Murphy pratfall at the end. Considering he's the greatest hitter in franchise history, I think we can all worry. Ideally, he'll heal and he'll be good enough to play.

In his absence, Mike Lamb should get most of the playing time, not that this will help them get out of the basement, but there'd be an awful lot of throwing errors if nobody played first. Self is a bit of an organizational soldier, a big guy without a lot of power, a first baseman or corner outfielder whose primary offensive skill is getting on base. I guess I'm not surprised to see Dave Bergman and Pete LaCock as his top comps, but unlike Bergman, Self doesn't have a great defensive rep, and at 26, he's not meant to enjoy a long career. Having only hit 11 home runs in 577 plate appearances at Round Rock last year, he's going to have to walk to add much value at all. At this rate, most of the Astros' outfield prospects are starting to remind me of the post-collapse late-'80s Orioles, who had to take long looks at guys like Ken Gerhart, Pete Stanicek and Jim Traber.

Finally, as for Duckworth, I can't help but feel a little sorry for him, and can't help but feel inclined to blame Jimy Williams for some large portion of his plight. But he could have helped himself, and didn't. It'll be interesting to see where he catches on. Wandy Rodriguez is another talented product of the organization's Venezuelan pipeline, and beyond having a cool name like Wandy, should at least give the club a cause for future optimism.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Activated RHP Eric Gagne from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Steve Schmoll to Las Vegas. [5/14]

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of C-R Mike DiFelice from Norfolk; placed C-R Ramon Castro on the 15-day DL (strained quadriceps). [5/16]

Optioned OF-R Victor Diaz to Norfolk. [5/16]

Activated LHP Kaz Ishii from the 15-day DL. [5/17]

With Mike Cameron back and Cliff Floyd not yet injured, it wasn't like Diaz was going to get the at-bats he needs to show that he's just about ready to be an everyday big-league corner outfielder. There are invariably the games with wishing that Floyd would go to first base, so that Diaz could soak up Doug Mientkiewicz's playing time, but this is a team that made do with Todd Zeile for a couple of years, and it won't be as if Floyd would volunteer for the job. So it's a sub-optimal solution, but Diaz will be back.

Speaking of sub-optimal, Ishii's return to the rotation isn't good news. Sure, he looked good against the Reds, but it seems that everybody can do that, whereas Aaron Heilman did some solid work against tougher opponents like the Braves, Cubs and Nationals, not to mention his shutout against the Fish. At some point, you would think that the fascination with finding problems to fix and then… well, not exactly fixing them, as much as tackling them, and finding that sometimes they win, you would think that those sorts of things would lose their novelty after a while. Last year's exciting private science project, Victor Zambrano, still hasn't worked out, and yet the Mets want to continue to pretend that they have some secret way to identify pitchers who can bounce back with a few mechanical tweaks. To my way of thinking, it helps if the guy's any good, and nothing Zambrano or Ishii have shown is encouraging. It does make you ask what your brilliant pitching coach is for, though, if having him around encourages you to ditch the Kazmirs and pitch the Ishiis of the world.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Acquired OF-L Endy Chavez from the Nationals for OF-R Marlon Byrd. [5/14]

Designated PH-B Jose Offerman for assignment; activated CF-L Kenny Lofton from the 15-day DL. [5/20]

Activated 1B-L Jim Thome from the DL; optioned 1B-L Ryan Howard to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/21]

If, to paraphrase Pondo Sinatra, everything Ed Wade touches goes bad, can we be surprised that he's the sort of guy to go out and get Endy Chavez? I guess as a defensive replacement for Lofton or for Jason Michaels, he has his uses, and as a last guy on the bench to use as a pinch-runner or in a throwaway pinch-hitting situation, there are worse players to have. But dump Byrd to get him? Add in Howard's miserable stint as Thome's replacement, and no guarantees that Thome's going to be Thome going forward, and you can see why an organizational meltdown might finally seem to be in the offing.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Acquired OF-R Michael Restovich from the Rockies for a PTBNL. [5/11]

Optioned OF-R Ray Sadler to Altoona (Double-A). [5/13]

A nifty little move, and one that leaves the Pirates better off not simply in the interim, but even after Craig Wilson comes off of the DL. Restovich makes a great platoon partner for Matt Lawton, and having him even frees up the Bucs to put Jason Bay in center field against certain pitchers if they get tired of waiting for Tike Redman to turn into somebody better than Tike Redman. If you're one of those people who expected Restovich to be more than that, it probably isn't going to happen. He's a better spare part to have than Adam Hyzdu; get used to it.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Activated INF-B Geoff Blum from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Brian Falkenborg to Portland. [5/18]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Scott Munter from Fresno. [5/10]

Placed RHP Al Levine on the 15-day DL (strained neck); recalled RHP Brad Hennessey from Fresno. [5/12]

Purchased the contract of UT-R Brian Dallimore from Fresno; placed CF-R Marquis Grissom on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 5/18; transferred LF-L Barry Bonds from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/20]

If, however feebly, the Giants can cry out that they're not dead yet when brought to the cart, losing Schmidt for any length of time is almost reason enough to give the club an additional DNR to supplement the one issued when Barry Bonds bit the dust. Happily, however, Schmidt returned on Tuesday; in his place, Hennessey looked useful enough to keep around, which might finally mean the Giants can round out a rotation that's been a man short since Jerome Williams flopped. It isn't like losing Grissom is a loss either, not when he's returned to the miserable offerings of his late Brewers period, and especially not when Jason Ellison is looking useful enough in his place. It's almost enough to make you listen to the never-say-die whimpering.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Placed 3B-R Scott Rolen on the 15-day DL (sprained shoulder); optioned C-R Mike Mahoney to Memphis; recalled 3B-R Scott Seabol from Memphis. [5/12]

Outrighted RHP Kevin Jarvis to Memphis; activated RHP Jason Isringhausen from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of LHP Gabe White from Memphis. [5/13]

Acquired RHP Vladimir Nunez from the Rangers for a PTBNL, and assigned him to Memphis. [5/22]

So now we're already into that part of the season where the Cardinals get to play hare to the five legless tortoises in their division, and where the Cards can goof around with showing how little it might take for them to coast into the division title. So what if it takes Rolen six weeks or two months? So what if John Mabry can't really play third base, or if the fix is more likely to involve mighty mighty Abraham Nunez? Just about the only thing could make this fool-proof situation less fool-proof would be some sort of Wil E. Coyote geniusdom from the Cardinals' manager, and even then, it might only mean a loss or two, with the usual histrionics. As cool as it would be to see Seabol get some real playing time, that doesn't look like it's going to happen, and I guess we should be simply grateful that he's here at all.

Besides, it isn't all bad news. I'm intrigued to see whether or not pitching coach Dave Duncan can get any mileage out of White. Uncharacteristically, Tony LaRussa seems to have noticed that he can use White as a long reliever, instead of reserving him for the specialist's role nearly in which he's placed nearly every left-hander he's managed since Sandy Alderson picked up Rick Honeycutt. With Brad Thompson doing good stuff as well, the Cards aren't short in middle relief.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS Return to Top

Optioned OF-L Endy Chavez to New Orleans; activated RHP Claudio Vargas from the 15-day DL. [5/11]

Acquired OF-R Marlon Byrd from the Phillies for OF-L Endy Chavez. [5/14]

Placed 2B-B Henry Mateo on the 15-day DL (shoulder). [5/15]

Recalled 2B/3B-R Brendan Harris from New Orleans; placed OF-R Jeffrey Hammonds on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [5/22]

I've tended to be critical of Mr. Bowden over the years, but one of the benefits of being a transactions addict is that you get that reputation as the always-available dance partner come closing time. So when the Phillies had let their exhaustion with Byrd get to them, all Bowden had to do was bat his eyes and collect, dumping his useless bit on the oft-gulled Ed Wade. As a result, the Nats have ironed out a kink in their roster that needed it, adding a right-handed hitting-outfield reserve who can hit and play center, things that neither J.J. Davis nor Jeffrey Hammonds were ever going to do. Now Frank Robinson's free to mix and match with Ryan Church, Byrd and eventually Terrmel Sledge, using two at once on days Nick Johnson's been run off by a tough lefty or enduring a lesser owie (with Brad Wilkerson shifting over to first base). Basically, adding Byrd makes it that much more a roster with which Robinson can gun for runs.

Less happy is the predicament in the rotation. The last three slots remain a bit of a problem, with John Patterson hurting, Tomo Ohka slowly rounding back into form, Tony Armas trying to get by on fastballs while trying to avoid reinjuring himself, and Vargas and Zach Day doing little to inspire confidence. It's the sort of situation that could lead to overworking a young, talented bullpen before the All-Star break. Ideally, Ohka will keep up his recent good work while Armas creeps back to his better days; a staff can usually endure one spot where it's tough to expect more than five innings out of a starter, but more than that can be destructive, especially for an organization with as little depth as the Nats.

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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