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July 15, 2005

Transaction Analysis

July 8-14

by Christina Kahrl

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American League
National League


Placed 3B-L Dallas McPherson on the 15-day DL (hip inflammation). [7/8]

Designated INF-R David Matranga for assignment; purchased the contract of UT-B Zach Sorensen from Salt Lake. [7/9]

Optioned LHP Jake Woods to Salt Lake. [7/10]

Although it's easy to feel sorry for McPherson, the Angels have the sort of depth that allows them to survive this sort of thing. Now it just means that Chone Figgins will play a bunch of third, and the outfield will instead have to make do with more playing time for both Jeff DaVanon and Juan Rivera. Even with three substitutes in the lineup, the Angels still field a functional offense, and since they expect center fielder Steve Finley and shortstop Orlando Cabrera back during this weekend, they won't even be that short-handed for long. Heck, with Sorensen on the bench, they even have a reserve who, like Figgins, can play seven positions in a pinch.

What I find particularly interesting is whether or not Woods is going down to get a few starts under his belt, resuming the role that he'd been in before this year's big league breakthrough as a reliever. If he does and he thrives, he might become an alternative to Ervin Santana in the rotation's last slot. Santana has taken serious beatings in half of his six starts since his recall, and both manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black may be running out of patience.


Activated OF-L B.J. Surhoff from the 15-day DL; optioned UT-L David Newhan to Ottawa. [7/7]

When you have to go someplace you don't want to go, you usually complain about it. It's a time-honored thing. I never wanted to go to the dump, but Dad usually dragged me along because somebody had to listen to his godawful puns or jokes so bad that even Carson couldn't use them. Nor do I consider those trips something that gave me some sort of wisdom years later; I'd heard the puns before, the jokes far too many times, and I have never subsequently needed to know where the Sacramento municipal dump is. I was simply a better conversationalist than the dog, while getting just about as much value out of the trip as Zenobia would have.

So consider me sympathetic when Newhan bitterly complains about his lot, taking a trip to a place he'd rather not go. Would you want to wind up in Ottawa? Of course, firing on the fans and the city might make sense if you're trying to talk your way into a release, and who can blame the guy? This is his eleventh year as a pro, and before last season, he had 95 big-league plate appearances. He's on his sixth professional organization (not counting a Tim Pugh period where he got swapped back and forth between the Pads and the Royals like a one-too-many copy of a Larvell Blanks card you couldn't stomach keeping. Since Newhan can play five or six positions well enough in a pinch, he's a useful bench player, and he has enough pop to be slightly more valuable than that.

Now that Surhoff is back, I guess the pressure is really on for Larry Bigbie to wake up and play. Sure enough, he has started hitting, but Bigbie's been in the organization long enough to realize that Surhoff has become a bit of a local favorite, and given Surhoff's outspoken desire to remain an Oriole for whatever is left of his career, he's got sympathy and popularity that Bigbie can't claim for himself. Either way, the winner in this minor struggle will be platooning with Eli Marrero.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Acquired 2B/SS-L Alex Cora from the Indians for INF-L Ramon Vazquez; designated OF-R Jay Payton for assignment; optioned LHP Lenny DiNardo to Pawtucket; activated OF-L Adam Stern from the 60-day DL. [7/7]

Activated RHP Curt Schilling from the 15-day DL; outrighted RHP Scott Cassidy to Pawtucket; acquired RHP Chad Bradford from the A's in exchange for OF-R Jay Payton; optioned 3B-R Kevin Youkilis to Pawtucket. [7/13]

An interesting series of tweaks, but not bad stuff all in all. Cora gives them an infield reserve who can really pick it at either second or short, so he's a nice alternative to Mark Bellhorn and Edgar Renteria, plus he can fulfill pinch-running duties, hit lefty, and basically make himself useful in a little role that exploits his little man's skill set. Since Bellhorn can play third or short as well, and Bill Mueller can even fill in at the keystone in a pinch, depth isn't that much of a problem, which is why the underplayed Youkilis won't be missed too badly. (Technically, Bradford will be activated with the resumption of play, but that's what forced Youkilis off of the roster.) There is the question of whether or not Youkilis is ready to step in as an everyday player, but dealing Mueller would be only slightly less controversial than trading Nomar Garciaparra was. If there's a question about the roster's setup, it's whether or not the Sox will really stick with Stern as their fifth outfielder now that they've discarded Payton, or if the plan to bring Gabe Kapler back will come to pass.

I do wonder about the pen as it's shaping up, however. As much as we might want to laugh off having Schilling in the closer's role (or co-closing with Mike Timlin), a pen with situational weapons like Bradford and Mike Myers and a mop-up guy like John Halama isn't really fully stocked. The combination of Schilling, Timlin, and Embree will have to carry a significant load from the seventh inning on, and it remains to be seen if Embree's going to snap out of it or whether Schilling will have any rust to shake off. But ponder that group, as opposed to the decision that the organization would have to face about which starter to bump if and when Schilling is ready to start again. Who comes out? Bronson Arroyo is the choice if service time is the determining factor, but if the Sox refer to player performance, it makes more sense to bump David Wells or Wade Miller. But would either of them adapt to a relief role, or would they sulk? There's no easy way to say, but this is where performance analysis falls short, and you have to tip your cap to the professionals on matters of team chemistry.


Optioned LHP Kevin Walker to Charlotte. [7/10]


Acquired INF-L Ramon Vazquez from the Red Sox for 2B/SS-L Alex Cora; recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Buffalo. [7/7]

Optioned LHP Brian Tallet to Buffalo; recalled 2B/SS-R Brandon Phillips from Buffalo. [7/9]

Substituting Phillips for Cora doesn't exactly reflect a growing readiness to give the AL Central their best shot while relying on their own, it's more of a case of compensating for Ron Belliard's hamstring injury. Phillips has only recently gotten his bat re-started at Buffalo, shaking off a cold start that some ascribed to mopery induced by losing out to Jhonny Peralta in camp, and getting up to .252/.312/.400 at Buffalo. I wouldn't expect Phillips to stick around with the Tribe, should he be dealt as rumored, or demoted now that Belliard's hammy has been rested. If snagging Cora didn't work out as well as they might have liked, if the Tribe can't fashion a role that keeps Phillips, Jhonny Peralta, and Ron Belliard fresh, I'd suggest that it's Aaron Boone who ought to be getting splinters. As is, although I don't know if Casey Blake's struggles have anything to do with his move to the outfield, given that he's struggled almost as badly as Boone has would make me think that the Indians need to start making some choices that are much more difficult than wondering what to do about Alex Cora. Besides, Blake should continue to lose time in right field to Jody Gerut, so the Indians' infield soap opera hasn't been entirely resolved, but simply reconfigured with some new cast members. Wherever Phillips goes, whether it's Buffalo or Cincinnati or wherever, I wouldn't be surprised if we then saw Vazquez up at some point, to fill in as an infielder reserve now that Eric Wedge might be tabbing Jose Hernandez for more platoon playing time anywhere on the diamond against lefties.


Outrighted INF-L Jason Smith to Toledo. [7/7]


Activated LHP Jeremy Affeldt from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Jonah Bayliss to Omaha. [7/7]


Acquired 2B-R Bret Boone and cash from the Mariners for a PTBNL. [7/11]

So what is it that has all the Boones hitting like dear old dad, especially when they might have recently been mistaken for Ray? Whatever it is, a new breakfast of champions, beef no longer being what's for dinner, or simple age, what Bret Boone remains is a better player than Luis frickin' Rivas, even if he doesn't slug .400 or get much further than a .300 OBP. The peril here is that Terry Ryan might consider his second base situation fixed, when he ought to be trying to do more than settle for a Boone whose bat is pining for the fjords if he wants to catch the White Sox. Relying on Boone is only an improvement from execrably bad choices, and not necessarily a big step up from Nick Punto. There's still the daily car crash in the lineup as far as who plays short.


Recalled CF-B Melky Cabrera from Columbus; placed RHP Carl Pavano on the 15-day DL (shoulder soreness), retroactive to 6/28; transferred 2B/SS-R Rey Sanchez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/7]

Purchased the contract of LHP Darrell May from Columbus; optioned OF-L Bubba Crosby to Columbus. [7/8]

So, what else would you have them do? Trade for Tike Redman? Time to roll over and give it up to get Preston Wilson? Calling on Cabrera with less than a half-season above A-ball under his belt is bold, but it's the sort of boldness that reminds me of similarly spazzy summonings like Jason Anderson. It's the sort of promotion that makes you wonder if a half-season of Crosby hitting .260/.300/.400 and buried in the ninth slot wouldn't be so terrible. It's unlikely Cabrera could match that. Not only is he not considered an adequate glove for center, but hitting .267/.310/.413 in Albany doesn't make it likely he can do that in the big leagues, even if he is only 20. It would be easy to consider this as something similar to the decision to bring up Robinson Cano and call it good, especially in light of Cano's successful adaptation, but I don't see Cabrera's possibilities as anywhere near as potentially positive as Cano's were. I know the organization is publicly spitting bile over this particular move, but I can't help but wonder if this wasn't the time to try to get by with Crosby instead of telegraphing their obvious desperation and making it that much more likely that they'll have to give up real goodies to get a guy like Wilson once Cabrera has consecutive ofer days.

As for Pavano, he's actually expected to be back in the rotation this weekend, so this was more about letting him rest as an ongoing precaution, and filling the roster space with noted mopster May in the meantime (complete with complimentary shellacking in his first and perhaps last Yankee start). He won't even get to stick in a mop-up role, not when it's an open question as to whether he's definitely better for it than fellow slop-worker Wayne Franklin. Since Felix Rodriguez and Kevin Brown both aren't far behind Pavano, Yankees fans can keep hoping that this was just that darkest dark before daylight as far as the pitching staff is concerned. Brown and Pavano bump May and Tanyon Sturtze from the rotation, Sturtze would then go into the pen to join Rodriguez, earning Franklin his banishment, and perhaps the organization sticks with Anderson this time around. I know, it sounds too good to be true, so I wouldn't bet on it.


Re-signed CF-L Mark Kotsay to a three-year contract extension through 2008. [7/9]

Acquired OF-R Jay Payton and cash from the Red Sox for RHP Chad Bradford; acquired RHP Jay Witasick and LHP Joe Kennedy from the Rockies for OF-R Eric Byrnes and SS-L Omar Quintanilla. [7/13]

And so, with Kotsay's extension, we bear witness to the squandering of thousands of acre-feet of ink wasted on the question of whether or not Kotsay was about to become the centerfielder the Yankees haven't had since... well, Bernie Williams may not be dead, but his career as a centerfielder is in the boneyard. Before that, I guess we have to start dickering about what you thought about Henry Cotto, or whether Rickey Henderson's arm in center was the sort of thing you could overlook (I'd say it was, especially if the alternative was Henry Cotto). Or how fondly you might remember Mickey Rivers; I mean as a player, not as a punch line to a Billy Martin anecdote.

I guess I didn't really understand a lot of the fuss. Kotsay's a California sort of guy, and seemed happy to stick around. He's given the A's what Johnny Damon did not, and how many good everyday centerfielders are there out there who were actually available? If you have Kotsay no later than through 31 or 32, that's the last of what ought to be the normally good portion of a career, and the no-trade provisions aren't overly complicated (only eight teams are ruled out past 2006). In the meantime, it isn't like the A's have a standard-issue flychaser like Stan Javier at the ready these days, or any reason to believe that Charles Thomas might do the job, and I don't think anyone should be sold on the notion that Nick Swisher could manage the position on an everyday basis. So a commitment to Kotsay makes sense, for the defensive value and useful enough hitting he'll bring to the table through 2006. It's certainly not a move to be regretted, like Scott Hatteberg's or Terrence Long's.

I guess I'm less excited about the Kennedy trade than most A's fans, and that's even with the acceptance that Byrnes almost certainly needed dealing before next year's arbitration case. The achievement here is swapping out Byrnes and Bradford for Witasick and Payton, with the rub really being getting Kennedy's near-term future for Quintanilla's career. In those terms, it's a reasonable series of risks. I don't see Witasick as a major addition; he's just a better guy to have around than Ryan Glynn, but he seems a reasonable bet to do as well as Bradford from here on out, with perhaps less of an injury risk and without the nagging platoon worries. Consider that a minor gain. In the outfield, taking the step down from Byrnes to Payton gives you a guy who might more properly be a reserve center fielder and someone who has his uses against lefties, but it's less about the relative virtues of the two as it is about letting Swisher and Bobby Kielty play every day; consider this a larger loss than swapping Bradford and Witasick is a gain.

Which leaves you with Quintanilla's career for Kennedy's possibilities, and I'll take that swap. As mentioned in the Rockies' portion of today's program, Quintanilla isn't looking that special, and in an organization that has Bobby Crosby at short and that just snagged Texas A&M shortstop Cliff Pennington in the draft, Quintanilla had gone from prized asset to dealable commodity. Kennedy has always had people like us singing his praises, because he throws strikes, carries a good rep for intelligence on the mound, and who can't sympathize with a guy who's had to grow up pitching for the D-Rays and the Rockies? But his positives don't extend entirely across the board. There are concerns about his shoulder, and just because we've seen all sorts of pitchers do even better than expected once they escape Coors Field, consider the cumulative hitter profile that our own James Click dug up about Kennedy:

2001  TBA   .003 .265 .333 .430
2002  TBA  -.004 .263 .331 .420
2003  TBA  -.018 .261 .329 .421
2004  COL  -.103 .260 .330 .420
2005  COL  -.146 .254 .315 .391

MLVR is park and league-adjusted, so even with a Coors effect, he hasn't exactly been beating the best of the best; he's being beaten by some of the worst of the worst. Now sure, we can chuck all that into the statistical woodchipper of liberty because he's no longer a Rockie, but it's not a happy thing to think about, even for a lefty who can strike out six guys per nine on average.

The real question is what is Kennedy for? Fifth starter, boxing out Kirk Saarloos? Saarloos is probably a better utility pitcher than rotation regular, but he has been effective as a starter this season. It's just hard to invest a lot of faith in him when he's so very dependent on his defense to shut down the opposition. If Kennedy doesn't get that job, how about his being used as a long reliever and second lefty? Not a bad idea, and if Kennedy could handle working more often, he could be a Craig Lefferts type, cranking out 90 innings or more in a setup role. Or is he simply bait for the next big deal? That's the fun thing about Billy Beane, youneverknow. But it's definitely worth Quintanilla's career to find out if Kennedy is somebody who can be rehabilitated into a significant pitcher.


Acquired a PTBNL from the Twins for 2B-R Bret Boone. [7/11]


Activated RHP Rob Bell from the 15-day DL and designated him for assignment. [7/9]

Signed RHP Joe Borowski. [7/11]

Announced that RHP Rob Bell cleared waivers and outrighted him to Durham. [7/13]


Optioned RHP Juan Dominguez to Oklahoma. [7/13]


Purchased the contract of RHP Justin Miller from Syracuse; recalled RHP Brandon League from Syracuse; optioned OF-L Gabe Gross to Syracuse; placed RHP Roy Halladay on the 15-day DL (non-displaced fracture - leg). [7/9]

Now that Halladay's out for a month, and given that we've seen so much leeway granted in the past few decades to hitters when it comes to body armor, I think I have to agree with Will Carroll's comment about armoring our pitchers in some fashion. Perhaps not to Jeff Bagwell-clankworthy status, but how about enough so that we don't have to keep worrying about every liner through the box breaking noses, faces, or the odd leg? This shouldn't be a machismo thing; hurlers have to stand there and make split-second decisions about high-velocity projectiles coming at them, always have, and always will have to. But do they have to have their careers at risk? In the same way that I hate watching pitchers hit, I can't say I'm a fan of seeing pitchers getting pelted out of action.

So in Halladay's absence, the Jays are in Temptation Island territory. Will they plug Miller into the rotation? Or will it be League? Or perhaps Scott Downs? Wait, which one is the plumber? Or is a David Bush comeback in the offing? Let's just say the answer is academic, since the outcome still involves the Jays not having the horses to mount much of a challenge in a situation where nobody is running away with the division. But I'd bet on Bush's return before I'd try any of those other possibilities. League hasn't been dominant down in Triple-A, and Downs hasn't impressed anybody since his call-up. Miller is perceived as a utility pitcher at most, although he was thriving at Syracuse, striking out 39 in 39.1 IP, with 31 hits and nine walks allowed. Still, this staff is already counting on turning career utility pitcher Pete Walker into a rotation regular, and this isn't one of those games where two of a kind makes for a better hand.


Placed LHP Shawn Estes on the 15-day DL (stress reaction - ankle), retroactive to 7/6; recalled RHP Brandon Medders from Tucson. [7/7]

I guess this means that if you leave a snake in the desert heat, it melts. The team doesn't seem known how long Estes is out, and with Russ Ortiz still on the DL, you could argue that the D-backs have three fifth-starter types in the rotation. However, even if I wouldn't stock up on Mike Gosling futures if you're a roto-minded shopper (having a good day against the Reds isn't the sort of thing you hang your hat on); Brad Halsey has been more than adequate, and Claudio Vargas seems to be making little bits of progress each time out. It isn't a great rotation, but it is one with which you can get by. That's really sort of the team's leitmotiv, despite its desperate pretensions as a contender, but they're slowly changing gears and pondering how swappable some of their big contracts might be. Unfortunately, with so many injuries, I doubt the Snakes will be able to consummate as many deals as they may want to. Although the Javier Vazquez rumors are piling up, here I'm thinking of Jose Cruz and his nagging back pain, since it looks like he's about to be overrun by callups from within the system.


Released RHP Seth Greisinger outright from Richmond. [7/6]

Optioned RHP Jorge Vasquez to Richmond; recalled 3B-R Andy Marte from Richmond. [7/8]

Two weeks in the minors and back again might seem rough on Marte, but Wilson Betemit has only one extra-base hit in the last two weeks, and when you're an organization with the happy choice between the two, you can afford to be a little fickle. However, I don't know if we should necessarily expect Marte to go back down as soon as Chipper Jones is reactivated. If Marte looks good, Jones might simply push Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson, and Ryan Langerhans into some sort of job-sharing arrangement in right field, with Marte and Betemit continuing their duel for the job at the hot corner. However, Marte didn't do anything last weekend, and Betemit's still cooling off, so we'll have to see whether the Braves get creative or not.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Optioned CF-L Corey Patterson and OF-R Jason Dubois to Iowa; purchased the contracts of OF-L Adam Greenberg and OF-R Matt Murton from West Tenn (Double-A). [7/7]

Although I'm sympathetic to Dubois, there isn't much to be said in defense of Patterson. Guys who hit less than their tenth percentile PECOTA projection are doing something very, very wrong. Pointing the finger at Dusty Baker or Gene Clines might make for some sort of spiteful glee, but a failure of this proportion can't be put on the manager or the hitting coach. Patterson seems to think he's identified the problem, and while it's troubling to think that nobody noticed it beforehand, hopefully, he'll get this ironed out, because counting on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s durability is a stretch. Happily, Hairston is continuing to look good in center, so he does give the team a solid enough leadoff man for the time being. Assuming that Greenberg can dust himself off after his debut plunking, I'd expect he'll be more than just the organizational soldier you might assume him to be. After a good career at the University of North Carolina, he's shone since being a 9th round pick in 2002. He has the speed and range for center, and he's a relatively patient hitter, clocking in at .278/.386/.420 in this, his first full season at Double-A. If well short of being the next Brett Butler, I like to think he might be a nice mighty mite in the John Cangelosi mold.

As for Dubois and his only hitting .239/.289/.472, the slugging was spot-on, and he just needs more consistent playing time to hit; since May 31, he'd only gotten back-to-back starts once, and making the jump to the majors is difficult enough without being shunted off into a platoon role. There is the larger question of whether or not Dubois can be a good enough hitter to be an everyday player, or if he'll have to make those adjustments to stick as a platoonie and spare part. It's the same challenge that Murton faces, but he's a better offensive prospect than Dubois, however unfortunate having most-comparables like Darryl Motley and Al Cowens might be. He's torn up Double-A (.342/.403/.498), runs well, and looks like he's the regretted one who got away from the Red Sox in the Garciaparra trade. A weak arm should limit him to left, but given that the Cubs don't have a legitimate regular for left field, it would be nice to see him get a larger role, just as it would have been for Dubois.


Optioned RHP David Cortes to Colorado Springs; signed RHP Mike DeJean to a one-year contract. [7/7]

Acquired OF-R Eric Byrnes and SS-L Omar Quintanilla from the Athletics for LHP Joe Kennedy and RHP Jay Witasick; acquired RHP Zach Day, OF-R J.J. Davis, and a PTBNL from the Nationals for OF-R Preston Wilson and cash. [7/13]

As far as the evolution of a better Blake Street ballclub was concerned, this was only a matter of time, especially when you're starting off with a roster as destined for collective good things as the trilobites. Sometimes when you're a seller the best offers come at the break instead of at the deadline, and given Dan O'Dowd's reputation for being difficult to deal with, you can forgive him for pulling the trigger on a pair of decent-seeming deals. This certainly clears the rotation of conflict, so Rox fans can count on seeing both Byung-Hyun Kim and Shawn Chacon every fifth day. That's a source of relief. Isn't it?

First, the move with the A's. It's almost a good deal. Let's face it, Kennedy isn't the new John Tudor, and Witasick is your basic bit of a scrap-heaper, good to have when he's going good, and easy to release when he isn't. Witasick's recent two good months are nice, but they don't erase that his career has one good full season in it (2002). He's filler. So really, the question is whether or not O'Dowd got value for the Legend of Joe Kennedy. Byrnes is the sort of guy who could have been a superstar if he'd come up in Coors a couple of years ago, but goldilocks charisma aside, he's only a year and a half younger than the recently departed Wilson. Wilson, however, had a nice career with the Marlins before getting elevated to superstardom on the basis of his one full season in Coors in 2003, a guy who made a nice regular in center if you had him. In contrast, Byrnes will be useful enough as a regular wherever he starts, but being the best regular in an outfield that will also boast guys like Matt Holliday isn't enough to build on, and at 29, Byrnes isn't a player you'll have on your next good Rockies team. Still, he has a good shot at being the token Rockie in the 2006 All-Star game, and that might be the sort of thing to help keep the GM employed.

I guess I'm slightly more interested in the decision to get Quintanilla in the deal, since he's at a point where he still has some promise. However, he's also a guy who played at the University of Texas, so he's supposed to be a prospect, and when you hit .296/.350/.398 in the Texas League, you're not really living up to blue-chip billing. As our own Clay Davenport noted after the deal, Quintanilla has a "total projected future DT line is on the order of .275/.320/.400, for a .250 Equivalent Average. His projected line for this year is about the same, .247. He'll hit for a decent average, but he looks to be below average at drawing walks, below average in power, and he hasn't demonstrated any base-stealing aptitude. As a shortstop, he racked up -10 fielding runs in 163 games." Speculation that Quintanilla would need to move off of short started as soon as he was drafted, so perhaps if he really learns to pick it at second, you're looking at the new Jim Gantner. Now, that isn't without value. Heck, it's better than getting worked up about Aaron Miles. But is getting that and an adequate outfield regular enough for the Kennedy and a scrapheap reliever? I'm inclined to say that it is, it just isn't the sort of deal that fixes a broken franchise.

The Wilson deal is similarly "okay, but..." as deals go, and there was a wee bit more at stake than seamlessly clearing out a slot in the outfield for Byrnes. Once he recovers, Day will be an eventual alternative for the rotation, a necessity for a rotation relying on the aforementioned Kim and Chacon, let alone the immortal Jamey Wright. But he's essentially an aspiring fourth starter going to a place where at best you endure, and if you're lucky (like Kennedy), they make you leave. Add in that he's not someone who fools a lot of people at the plate, and you can reasonably worry about his coughing up ERAs in the Boeing range (seven and up).

The better half of the deal might be Davis; although you might consider him waiver bait after he was dumped on the Nats for roster space by the Bucs this past winter. That's not to say that Davis can't play; on a roster relying on someone like Holliday, lots of people become good enough to play. Davis was hitting .282/.356/.546 at New Orleans. Good, but not great, so what gives? I guess here I'll nod to Rany Jazayerli's point from a few years ago, that guys who strike out a lot tend to enjoy an outsized benefit from playing at altitude, where breaking pitches flatten out, and Davis, an unfinished product at the plate, has been striking out about a third of the time. Call it a hunch, or simply overthinking the fact that Davis is a hitter going to Denver. Either way, if it doesn't seem like a lot of value for Preston Wilson, take that as a sign that the world had woken up and noticed that 2003 was a while ago, Wilson's not the player he was then, and park factors aren't mistaken for ground rules in ultimate frisbee in the game these days.


Placed RHP Josh Beckett on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 7/6; recalled RHP Randy Messenger from Albuquerque. [7/8]

What's the joke about engineers, chefs, policemen, the Italians, the Germans, and the British? I never quite understood it, since both the engineering traditions of all three as expressed in motor vehicles as varied as passenger cars or main battle tanks seemed collectively burdened with quirky idiosyncrasies and unpredictable performance far more than they were with high-end reliability. At any rate, I have to figure that the same stork that gave us Lamborghinis gave us Josh Beckett, where an otherwise inspired design seems undone by a notable design flaw and a perpetual shortage of spare parts that seem to doom his masters to frequent trips to your friendly neighborhood chop shop. This time around, Beckett's broken for at least two turns, but in the show as in life, the dealership's good for a loaner. The real problem is that when you're spending a wee bit too much time tooling around the Show in a Hyundai, it takes more than a bumper sticker announcing that your other car is an Alfa Romeo to tell people you're a contender.


Optioned LHP Wandy Rodriguez to Corpus Christi (Double-A). [7/8]

Purchased the contract of RHP Travis Driskill from Round Rock. [7/9]

This is a temporary exchange, not a case of surrendering your destiny to being Driskilled every fifth day. Rodriguez is simply being kept on rotation, after which he'll be back to resume his place in the rotation. I won't say that's all good, considering how Rodriguez has performed (a 7.25 ERA and a homerun allowed every five innings), but he has gotten to the sixth inning five of his last six games, and that sort of thing matters to Phil Garner. That said, Rodriguez has not been abused, and since starters in working order are in short supply and he hasn't been as bad as either Brandon Duckworth or Ezequiel Astacio, you can understand there being some enthusiasm for a man named Wandy.


Placed SS-B Cesar Izturis on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 6/30; activated LHP Odalis Perez from the 15-day DL. [7/5]

Placed LHP Kelly Wunsch on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); activated OF-L Ricky Ledee from the 15-day DL. [7/8]

So now Wunsch has joined the roster's ghost battalion, another player lost for the season, and leaving what? Wilson Alvarez should be ready to be activated by sometime next week, so at least the pen will have its token lefty. With Izturis on the DL, shortstop belongs to Mexican import Oscar Robles, and while he's pasting singles at a furious pace, he's also been pasting them in Denver and Houston as opposed to Chavez Ravine. However enthusiastic rotoheads might be about his batting average, I'd suggest that given his lack of patience or power, don't get too excited just yet.

Over in the rotation, Perez didn't look good in either of his first two starts back, although the first one was in Coors, and he was cruising through five in the second start against the Mashstros in the cozy confines of Spicy V-8 Jumbodome, at which point he ran out of gas and got hammered in the sixth inning. Perhaps he'll work his way more fully back into form, but it'll take a lot more than that or having Ledee around to spice up the outfield to make the Dodgers relevant.


Activated 1B/OF-R Craig Wilson from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R David Ross to Indianapolis. [7/9]

How are the Bucs fun? Because now that Wilson's back, they have this insane, jumbled-up combination of overlapping platoons, where lefty hitters Rob Mackowiak, Tike Redman and, to a lesser extent Daryle Ward get playing time in center field and the infield corners, splitting time with Wilson (first and left), Jason Bay (in left when Wilson isn't, and in center when Redman or Mackowiak aren't), and Freddy Sanchez (at third when Mackowiak is in center). It's a platoon that covers center, left, first, and third, involves six players with very different sets of skills, and would do even Casey Stengel proud. It doesn't make the Pirates a good team, but they're almost certainly one of the most entertaining teams to watch while keeping score. Add in Lloyd McClendon's perhaps understandable willingness to tolerate (some would say his identification with) catchers who aren't great catchers, and keep Ryan Doumit and Wilson as his backup backstops, and Doumit's part-time play in right field (when Mike Restovich isn't getting the platoon at-bats against lefties in Matt Lawton's place), and I think we have to start talking about whether a manager doesn't do more good in creating roles in which players can be useful, as opposed to assessing him only on the basis of whether or not he's overly infatuated with the intentional walk.

Oh, yeah, the roster move... well, Ross isn't chopped liver, but all he does is catch, and in a roster where everyone's supposed to be some sort of transformer who turns into something else as needed, a plain old catcher seems awfully prosaic. On this bench, you've got to be a Hong Kong Cavalier. I mean, can the guy even dance?


Activated C-R Ramon Hernandez from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Miguel Ojeda to Portland. [7/7]

Optioned RHP Brian Falkenborg to Portland; recalled RHP Pedro Astacio from Portland. [7/10]

Wow! Not only is Hernandez back, but Rob Fick showed enough in his catching work to be handed the backup spot, and since he can actually still menace people at the plate and play a bit of first or an outfield corner, this is a much better way to use a roster spot than carrying Ojeda around. Admittedly, he can't stop the running game, but Hernandez is a regular catcher, and Fick's particularly ugly shortcoming (catching only two of 18 attempts) won't show up very often when it isn't starting on a daily basis.

Now that Eric Young is back and seems to be taking on most of the playing time at second, the bench seems pretty well-equipped with useful reserves. Damian Jackson is doing a poor man's Chone Figgins impersonation, flitting between positions and pinch-running. Mark Sweeney is doing good stuff splitting first base with Xavier Nady in Phil Nevin's absence, and with both getting time in the outfield. Ben Johnson probably isn't playing enough to justify his being around, but I suspect he isn't complaining. I guess Geoff Blum gets to tut-tut about how poorly that young Mr. Burroughs is turning out, although that's just not going to be enough to cost Burroughs his job to someone like Blum, not when it will probably be Mark Loretta who gets it as soon as he's back. And then you have Fick, a spare lefty bat with pop.

Also, shame on me, I got Astacio wrong, as he had not stuck around to pitch in the Rangers' farm system, but instead signed up with the Padres on the 30th, making himself available to slip into the fifth slot on an emergency basis. Considering that Astacio's work with Texas wasn't completely awful, I guess I wouldn't bet against his sticking around somewhere. Since Adam Eaton may not be back for the rest of the month, the pitcher-friendly sun-dappled sward of Petco makes as good a place as any.


Optioned UT-R Brian Dallimore to Fresno; recalled RHP Brad Hennessey from Fresno. [7/9]


Recalled C-R Mike Mahoney from Memphis; optioned UT-R Hector Luna to Memphis. [7/8]

Optioned LHP Carmen Cali to Memphis; activated LHP Randy Flores from the 15-day DL. [7/9]

Nothing too major as the Cards continue to cruise. Yadier Molina is handicapped by a minor break in one of his hands, so to be on the safe side, they hauled up minor league vet Mahoney. Down at Memphis, Mahoney had hit .255/.309/.412, or about as completely non-descript as a guy you might consider a non-descript aspiring backup catcher might hit, just enough to prove he has a pulse and put the fear of some god to be named later in the always pitiable Einar Diaz, but not so well enough as to make the Cardinals ponder whether or not Mahoney might be good enough to claim a chunk of playing time from Molina at the outset of his career.


Activated OF-L Ryan Church from the 15-day DL; signed LHP Mike Stanton; placed 2B-R Junior Spivey on the 15-day DL (fractured radius), retroactive to 7/9; placed 1B/OF-R Tony Blanco on the 15-day DL (vertigo, sinus infection, "I was picked Rule 5" disease), retroactive to 7/11; transferred 2B-B Henry Mateo from the 15- to the 60-day DL; acquired OF-R Preston Wilson and cash from the Rockies for RHP Zach Day, OF-R J.J. Davis, and a PTBNL. [7/13]

So, the Nats are primed for their big move, the shift to contention, the opportunity to cement for themselves a place in local sports history that Dan Snyder or Michael Jordan or Ted Leonsis could not, the opportunity to get Jim Bowden some honest-to-goodness job security, and... well, I suppose it was too good to last. Wilson comes over after having hit .224/.280/.411 this season in baseball stadia not named Planet Coors. Even supposing the purported Mile High hangover effect will reinflate those numbers in the fetid air of RFK, this is what you want to bench Church for? Admittedly, that benching won't come until Nick Johnson comes off of the DL, and with Johnson, he could be back later on this month, or he could disappear into a huge swaddle of bandages and show up in the next Mummy movie before he ever gets back on a diamond. I guess I'm just not that excited about getting Wilson, even if it didn't cost all that much to get him (Day and Davis aren't the sorts of guys it's difficult to replace). Flags may fly forever, but I don't see Wilson as one of the guys who will help you run it up the flagpole.

So in the meantime, Church and Marlon Byrd will play a lot of left, Brad Wilkerson a lot of first, and Wilson can be a hero or goat, joining either Jose Guillen or Cristian Guzman, respectively, in local legend. Since Jose Vidro's back in action at second, it's still a full lineup, but it's one that shouldn't make the Braves frightened, not with the rotation about to rejoin the land of the active, and not when the Nats have to hope that Stanton can join Hector Carrasco as one of the season's best comebacks.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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