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July 31, 2005

Transaction Analysis

July 30

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned LHP Jake Woods to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Chris Bootcheck from Salt Lake. [7/30]

This is an injury-forced swap, so whatever relief Mike Scioscia may have felt from finally having a lefty in his pen, it's already time to go back to the Bromo. Jarrod Washburn can't take his turn this weekend, which forced Bootcheck up into the breach, the alternative being something like plugging Kevin Gregg into the rotation. Using Gregg might have made sense if Scioscia had reason to have confidence in him; it would have kept things simple, leaving Woods in place. Sadly, Woods looked terrible in his appearance on Saturday, and Gregg has been pretty awful since his recall at the beginning of July, so somebody else has to be pressed into action.

So it's Bootcheck, spiced by three seasons spent in the Rocky Mountains' salt lick, a first-round pick from 2000 in his sixth season in the organization, teetering on the edge of minor-league free agency thanks to a mediocre assortment. However, he can throw four pitches for strikes, and in his most recent Utah incarnation, he's managed a 66/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 89 2/3 innings, with nine home runs allowed. It's not great, but that plus a good showing on Sunday against the Yankees might at least earn him a better split contract and NRI deal somewhere this winter, not to mention that it would help the Angels a wee bit right now.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Traded OF-B Jose Cruz Jr. to the Red Sox for 2B/SS-B Kenny Perez and RHP Kyle Bono. [7/30]

Nicely done. Although the Snakes are reputed to be loaded with young infielders, the only one who might be close to the big leagues isn't Sergio Santos (he's managed to suck pretty badly at Tucson), but perhaps Stephen Drew. Drew, lighting up the Cal League now that his holdout is over, is the eventual solution at shortstop, not Santos.

Although as overhyped as most Sox farmhands, Perez might be the near-term patch at second base should something happens to Craig Counsell. (Santos is expected to move to third or the outfield if he can't stick at short; he's considered a little large for second base.) Although he's hit just .285/.328/.375 in a repeat season at Double-A New Britain, he's also been hampered by injuries. He's not a great prospect, but he was a middle infielder with some value crowded out of a Red Sox organization genuinely loaded with middle infielders.

Bono was one of several good pitching picks from a superb '04 draft for the Red Sox. Although he really only had two years of pitching under his belt before he was picked, he's moved up quickly in his brief career as a pro, spending his first full season in high-A ball. He's been a bit wild there, giving up 32 walks in 48 2/3 innings while striking out 56. If he harnesses his sinker/slider combo, he could move up even faster, although there is the danger that the vacuum in the big-league bullpen might suck him upwards sooner than he's ready.

More basically, Joe Garagiola Jr. got two decent prospects for an outfielder who might be done, and who was worth releasing outright? Tasty.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed RHP Jay Powell on the 15-day DL (elbow); optioned C-B Brayan Pena to Richmond; recalled RHPs Kyle Davies and Roman Colon from Richmond. [7/30]

Davies steps back into the rotation for Mike Hampton, Colon takes Powell's place in the pen, and we're still all left wondering if John Schuerholz is going to make a deal for a big-league reliever. Powell wasn't going to be the answer even if he had been able to avoid reinjuring his elbow, and as well as Chris Reitsma has been doing of late, Colon has been terribly inconsistent in his opportunities, and veterans like Danny Kolb and Jim Brower haven't done much of merit. Ideally, once Hampton and/or John Thomson come back, Jorge Sosa will help shore up the pen.

It may seem strange that it's injuries in the rotation that are not the problem on the mound, but as long as Davies is their first line of defense against an injury in the rotation, they're in great shape there. The problem is cannibalizing the pen and costing themselves Sosa to cover for Thomson and Hampton. That's not to say the Braves don't have the right sense of priorities: it's always better to see what sort of game you have on your hands after five or six innings than count on someone like Tim Drew to hand a lead to a fully stocked pen.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Activated OF-R Gabe Kapler from the 15-day DL; designated OF-R Adam Hyzdu for assignment; acquired OF-B Jose Cruz Jr. from the Diamondbacks for 2B/SS-B Kenny Perez and RHP Kyle Bono. [7/30]

When you're desperate, when you know the Yankees might also want the guy, and when you have had a good draft or two, I guess you can afford to throw out some goodies to get a Jose Cruz Jr., but that doesn't mean you should be happy about it. From the price paid to the object acquired, this is a bitter pill for the Sox. Cruz has an old player's skill set, so if you haven't forgotten Tom Brunansky, perhaps it's time for the bad memories to start coming back.

Say Cruz becomes the guy who handles right-handed pitching in a platoon of convenience with Kapler, on the strength of his having hit .222/.347/.487 against righties this year. He did that in the BOB, and now he's not in that bandbox, or even in the parking garage that the Devil Rays play in. Is there really that much reason to expect mighty deeds? Or is this another dose of wishing, like they have with John Olerud, that he isn't done? I guess Cruz purportedly does is give the Sox a reserve who might also play center field in a pinch, as Trot Nixon did. But even that's wishful, as his defensive numbers in center for the Snakes are execrable.

If you'd rather look at the glass as half-full, there is the fact that he isn't Larry Bigbie, and that can't be repeated often enough. Better to have to shipped Bono and Perez to patch the hole in right than to have lost Kelly Shoppach.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed 1B-L Todd Helton on the 15-day DL (strained calf), retroactive to 7/26; recalled INF-B Eddy Garabito from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of 2B/SS-L Omar Quintanilla; designated INF-B Desi Relaford for assignment. [7/30]

So the Rox finally give in and put Helton on the DL. This is far from tragic, since it affords them the opportunity to showcase Ryan Shealy in the meantime. It's better for the Rox to have a sense of what's on their 40-man roster, and to have other people have that same sense, when it comes to the winter dealing to come. As noted previously, Shealy is screwed by Helton's legacy contract, so it's better for Dan O'Dowd if a good number of major-league scouts see him hitting now, so that they might support another team's interest in him later.

As for Quintanilla's call-up, the A's fan in me is happy for him, but I wouldn't get all worked up. He's not really well-suited to stick at shortstop, so his future remains at second base, and the keystone has been something of an organizational meatgrinder for the Rox. Who's Colorado's second baseman of the future? Quintanilla? Aaron Miles? Anderson Machado? The wrong guy named Luis Gonzalez? Quintanilla did impress his new organization with a great two weeks' worth of playing time at Colorado Springs, hitting .346/.375/.538. (If you can't walk over the mountains, do you slug your through them? What would Leland Stanford say?) Although I'm not a big booster of Quintanilla's, I still think he can be an NL knockoff on Orlando Hudson at second, and that's better than the rest of this lot. He is a better prospect than any of the other infield misfits, and ideally, he's going to get every opportunity to simply claim second base for himself, and be left alone to become the other half (with Clint Barmes) to give Colorado a good combo on the deuce.

Finally, there's the Bigbie-Almost-Dealt postscript that needs mentioning. Who knew that when it comes to paying a Stupidity Tax, you could almost find a way to pay it forward? Kudos to the Red Sox for weaseling their way out of their follow-on Bigbie deal, and recognizing that there was nothing in it for them in giving the Rockies Kelly Shoppach for Larry Bigbie. For the Orioles, it would have been doubly swell, because not only did they delete their own Bigbie problem, they might have ended up seeing it move to the Red Sox in exchange for Shoppach, hampering Red Sox teams in the present while possibly hurting them in the future. A pity that it didn't come to pass, leaving the Rockies with their own regrets.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Recalled OF-L Mike Ryan from Rochester. [7/30]

If worse comes to worst, Ryan isn't the worst hitter to alternate with Matt LeCroy, soaking up the playing time that's come free with Torii Hunter's injury. It's a reversion to traditional Twins roster management, with Ryan slipping into the Randy Bush outfield reserve and pinch-hitting role that Bush did well with in the '80s. Like Bush, Ryan is a good fastball hitter, which is generally a great skill to have for a pinch-hitter. On a team where almost anybody starting at second, third or short ought to be pinch-hit for with runners in scoring position, that can be especially handy.

Of course, it won't be enough to keep the Twins in the running for the wild card, but it remains to be seen whether or not Terry Ryan is going to do anything to fix his lineup to keep that goal within the realm of the possible.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Signed LHP Alan Embree; designated LHP Buddy Groom for assignment. [7/30]

Embree seems to wear out his welcome wherever he goes, having been ditched by the Indians, the Braves, the Diamondbacks and Giants, and the Sox both White and Red, and he always seems to step up and make a good impression wherever he lands. Naturally, with the overwrought plot that already gets slathered onto the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, a former Red Sock helping the Yankees down the stretch would inspire the regional antipathy against anything outside of New England that's been a hallmark of the states east of New York since at least King William's War. At any rate, I like the chances that Embree will make the Sox rue the day they let him go: his strikeout rates are still good, and he just seemed to be mired in a bad patch of hittability somewhat like his excruciatingly awful '01 with the Giants.

NEW YORK METS
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Signed 1B/OF-R Wil Cordero to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Norfolk. [7/30]

Gosh, Omar Minaya signs another one of his Latin favorites? I'm shocked. Cordero has little value, but I suppose if the Mets do nothing at the deadline, he might slip onto the big-league roster as a platoon partner at first base for Doug Mientkiewicz. It would be a waste of a roster spot, as well as a way to throw away at-bats better used on Chris Woodward.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired RHP Chan Ho Park from the Rangers for 1B/3B/C?-R Phil Nevin; acquired C-R Miguel Olivo from the Mariners for C-R Miguel Ojeda and RHP Nathanael Mateo. [7/30]

Got scrubs? I guess Park is supposed to be the fifth starter that Pedro Astacio is not, and dumping Nevin to make first base the property of Xavier Nady makes sense. Finding guys who can play the infield corners and slug under .400 isn't too hard. Eventually, Tagg Bozied or Paul McAnulty might enter the picture, and Nady can move to the outfield again (say, should Brian Giles skip town this winter, for example).

With Park, I'm not sure what needs to be done, but I can see why you might think he's fixable. He remains tough on right-handed hitters, and although not as dominant over them as he was in his Chavez Ravine days, he hasn't given up a home run to one this year. That plus pitching at Petco might help him create his own Deadball Era effect. As for lefties, well, that's different, as they're slugging almost .500 as a population against Park, and if that's also an old feature of Park's pitching and one you hope that Petco can ameliorate, it's still a formula for a quick hook if you've reached the sixth inning and two of the first three hitters stand to the left of the plate. As for the karma, well, maybe this is a case of the Pads getting the Far Eastern import they've wanted ever since they got caught up in the Hideki Irabu scandal, where having Park now is their punishment for wanting Irabu then. What I really take from this trade is that nobody's counting on Adam Eaton to pitch, and as ominous as that may be for the Pads' fortunes, nobody's taking this division by storm.

I do like the Olivo pickup, and although squeamish about the announcement that he'll do most of the catching, David Ross provides a nice enough insurance policy in case Olivo's not merely Mariner-ated and can't just be dried out and made useful again. I remain optimistic, although it's the chutzpah of publicly handing the job to Olivo that I'm not so sure about. But better to do things boldly if you do them at all, and if Kevin Towers and Bruce Bochy know in the back of their minds that they can always just say Olivo has played his way out of the job, and it's now Ross's job to lose until Ramon Hernandez comes back, I guess it all works out in the end. For their lineup needs, the Pads now have a pair of guys in Olivo and Ross that they can use, and there's still the fun of bringing in Robert Fick on those days when someone who isn't too wild is pitching.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired C-R Yorvit Torrealba and RHP Jesse Foppert from the Giants for OF-B Randy Winn; acquired C-RMiguel Ojeda and RHP Nathanael Mateo from the Padres for C-R Miguel Olivo. [7/30]

Wow, leave it to the Mariners to move the one guy everyone who needed a center fielder seemed to be willing to barter for, and what do they get? A backup catcher who won't fix their catching problems and an already damaged oversized pitcher to squeeze into their homegrown menagerie of similarly lucky pitching "prospects." I've said Bill Bavasi was burdened with a peculiar form of genius before, but it's rare when it flowers into such strange and useless fruit. There's nothing in the Giants deal that will help the Mariners win now, or next week, next year, or ever, so at best, it's a salary dump, but more basically, it's pathetic. The Mariners deal is just an addendum to that, where he dumps a previously good idea to make way for his latest inspiration.

Same as before his Tommy John surgery, Foppert is still a mechanical mess, and he's no longer the flamethrower he was before his injuries. He might get his velocity back as he recovers more fully, but it's worth remembering that not every surgery delivers perfect results. Beyond that, expecting that pitching coach Bryan Price will fix him seems to be an unfair additional burden on Price. The upside is that they get a temporarily healthy guy with a fastball, who they plug into the pen or the rotation before the ticking time bomb of his mechanics use up another joint sometime in the unfortunately near future.

As for Torrealba, he's just the latest journeyman, somebody else's catcher of the future whose future wasn't with somebody else, but with Seattle. Whether it's Miguel Olivo or Ben Davis or even Dan Wilson, it's never paid off. At best, Torrealba might well be thoroughly adequate and young enough (26) to have a career as gray and nondescript as a Seattle afternoon; hoping for much more than a .300 OBP or a .400 SLG would be extreme wishcasting. Then there's the waste, since having Torrealba around provided an excuse to ditch Miguel Olivo for very little in return, like Davis before him, the sort of spoilage that left the Mariners having to rely upon someone like Pat Borders in the breach. Trading for multiple backup catchers doesn't fix your catching problems, and it hasn't saved you from a Borders menace.

At this rate, the crew of U.S.S. Mariner is likely to form its own minuteman group, staking out the Tacoma city limits to stand guard against Borders incursions almost certain to happen again as long as this team is stuffing Torrealbas and Ojedas into the tools of ignorance and saying "good enough."

The prize in all of this might be Mateo, since you never know where useful relievers might come from, and the former Phillies and Japanese Leagues farmhand has made a decent enough transition to Double-A this year. In his second season in the Pads organization, the Dominican has allowed 57 hits in 52 2/3 innings to go with 39 strikeouts and 15 walks, and if he has a solid low-90s fastball and little else, at 24, maybe this is the organization that will teach him a breaking pitch he can use. Or not, but I'm grasping at straws when it comes to saying something nice about Bill Bavasi's latest mayhem.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Acquired OF-B Randy Winn from the Mariners for C-R Yorvit Torrealba and RHP Jesse Foppert. [7/30]

Our own Jay Jaffe has made the comment on this: Brian Sabean misunderstood his mandate to read "Winn now," and the Giants now get to live with the useless benefits of that sort of Delphic diktat. Although you might initially worry that Winn might take over in center field, it looks more like the Giants will put him in left, leave Jason Ellison alone in center, and flip Moises Alou from left to right. It won't really help them score any more runs, and it's also unfortunate in that it blocks Pedro Feliz from taking over in left field and letting Edgardo Alfonzo play third base regularly.

Look at it this way: you can't fit everyone into third, center and the non-Alou outfield corner, so two somebodys will have to sit. Take a look at their Marginal Lineup Value rates (MLVr) and Equivalent Averages (EqA):


Player    MLVr    EqA
Winn     -.011   .273
Feliz     .037   .260
Alfonzo   .003   .261
Ellison  -.011   .256
Tucker   -.003   .265
Keep in mind, none of these metrics are position-adjusted: we should only be concerned here about what might make for the best combination of bats. Since the expectation is that Winn will be chasing Tucker to the bench, and there's no reason to believe that Winn can significantly out-hit him, you're left wondering if Winn might be a better center fielder than Ellison (probably not). If the price was right, the point still seems to be lacking, barring a decision to flip Winn for something more useful.

I guess the remaining question is who gets to be the backup catcher. If I had to hazard a guess, it's probably time to bring up Justin Knoedler. However, hitting .276/.341/.410 in Fresno is nothing to brag about, so I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Sabean ends up trading for a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired 1B/3B/C?-R Phil Nevin from the Padres for RHP Chan Ho Park. [7/30]

So the ground shook, the heavens opened, fortunes changed... and so what? As much as Rangers fans should take some solace in the fact that Park won't be tossing a loss for the Rangers ever again, what is it that Nevin does that Adrian Gonzalez can't do better? Yes, the move should mean that David Dellucci is moving to an outfield corner, but that was overdue, and with the at-bats of the DH slot freed up by belatedly recognizing the wisdom of putting Dellucci in the field, playing time had been created for Gonzalez. Instead, most of them appear doomed to go to Nevin.

Now I know, Nevin is a guy who's hit 40 home runs before, a hitter who bopped 26 just last year. But he's also 34, last year was his first healthy season in the last three, and he's mired in an awful season at the plate. Worse yet, he's under contract through 2006, so he's a stumbling block not just for Gonzalez, but also for guys like Jason Botts. All of that just to get out from under Park's contract, which also runs through '06? That might make sense if the Rangers had a starting pitcher ready to plug into the rotation, except that they don't. This is the Rangers, and they're the type of team that discards a Doug Davis so that they can get back on the John Wasdin fun-ride, or take a spin with waiver fodder like James Baldwin. I don't know if Korea has an equivalent of seppukku, but it's a strange turn of events when trading Chan Ho Park leaves you feeling gutted. Practically speaking, Texas is now out of it, unless they do something really unfortunate, like dealing Gonzalez for the next John Burkett.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Placed LHP Ted Lilly on the 15-day DL (biceps tendinitis), retroactive to 7/25; recalled RHP Dustin McGowan from New Hampshire (Double-A). [7/30]

I was a pretty noisy booster for McGowan back in the day (especially for our 2004 top prospect list, if I remember correctly), so I'm happy to see that he's finally back from Tommy John surgery. He was back and pitching just over a year after his surgery, and after some ugly early outings and some trouble with the long ball (six home runs in 35 innings is an indication that he's not gotten his command back entirely), he's pitched well: 33 strikeouts and ten walks, a 3.34 ERA. Having him here will add pressure on the Jays' middle-relief corps, since McGowan's effectively rehabbing and pitching in the majors at once, but as long as he's kept on a short leash and used in a Mike Morgan sort of starting role (five innings or 100 pitches) for the rest of his active time this season, he should be useful.

Add in that Roy Halladay might be back next week, and the Jays might maintain their stalking horse status in the wild-card chase, even with Lilly on the DL. The question by September might be what do the Jays do when Lilly's back, and if kids like McGowan and David Bush have also been earning their keep? Will they bump a Scott Downs or even a Josh Towers? Or spare themselves some drama, and just shut McGowan down once they get a sense that he's in full operating order and prepped for next year? Or go with the six-man September rotation? It's not a bad problem to have, but it should serve as a reminder that the opportunities that we expected Bush and McGowan to get in a Ricciardi regime almost two years ago are finally happening, and that same enthusiasm I had for the Jays then is still sensible to have now, however much delayed it was by injuries and happenstance in the interim.

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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