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August 17, 2005

Transaction Analysis

August 9-15

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned RHP Chris Bootcheck to Salt Lake. [8/11]

Activated LHP Jarrod Washburn from the 15-day DL; placed C-R Josh Paul on the 15-day DL (sprained thumb), retroactive to 8/8; recalled C-R Jeff Mathis from Salt Lake. [8/12]

Optioned C-R Jeff Mathis to Salt Lake. [8/15]

Bootcheck gave the Halos one good start in two while filling in for Washburn, but his lack of a serious out pitch showed in his drubbing at the hands of the Devil Rays. As a spot starter and fill-in, he was adequate for the needs of the moment. Now that Anaheim's team is in what looks like a fight to the finish with Oakland, it's best that they have their A team on the field.

The real question is whether or not Washburn is really ready. The Angels were worried last week, and against a feeble Mariners squad in Safeco, he still managed to allow four runs in six frames. Add in that the Angels will have to see a lot of the AL East in the month to come, and life doesn't get any easier for him: the Orioles and Jays are particularly stronger offensively against LHPs, and it isn't like the Red Sox are ever an easy opponent.

The idiosyncrasies of roster design are one of my petty delights, so I'm intrigued by the apparent decision to follow what appears to be organizational rote and replace Josh Paul, generic skinbag and third catcher, with the franchise's presumed catcher of the future without actually giving Mathis much of a look-see. No, instead, he appears to be fulfilling Paul's purpose as a witness, fully prepared to testify that big-league ballgames have been played in his presence. Admittedly, that does give Mathis an initial experience without any of the pressure of actually playing in the middle of a pennant race, and I would suggest that however much he's improved upon last year's awful season at Double-A, hitting .282/.343/.485 at Salt Lake isn't something that by itself makes you forget Todd Greene's hype. Happily, Mathis is just 22, and he should continue to improve in the years to come, but I don't think now is the time to assume that he can step in and replace either half of Los Dos Molinas behind the plate.

No, the real issue probably wasn't a formulaic desire to bring in a third catcher to replace the third catcher, it's the shortage of healthy bodies on the 40-man roster. With Paul, Dallas McPherson and Robb Quinlan all taking spots on the 40-man while residing on the 15-day DL, the Angels were down to just a few healthy hitters in the minors who wouldn't need to have their contracts purchased, triggering another move to get someone off of the 40-man. Mathis, Curtis Pride, Kendry Morales and Alberto Callaspo were the options. Morales has just been introduced to Double-A, Callaspo to Triple-A, and neither look ready for even this much of an audition, so the choice was really between Pride and prejudice, since we know that manager Mike Scioscia does like having a third catcher.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Activated RHP Russ Ortiz from the 15-day DL, and RHP Brandon Lyon from the 60-day DL; optioned RHP Mike Koplove and C-B Koyie Hill to Tucson; transferred LHP Shawn Estes from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/13]

O woe, is there anything more upsetting than to be three games out of first place, but perhaps a worse team than almost everyone you have to play for the rest of the month? If it wasn't for the essential onanism of the exercise and the expense, you'd almost feel sorry for the D'backs. The fact that they've basically had to stoop to employing a press gang to go to the DL and roust some unready help is an admission that these may be singular Snakes, halt and lame.

Neither Ortiz nor Lyon seem ready, but the alternatives involved relying on guys like Mike Gosling, and that wasn't what this team signed up for so noisily last winter. Ortiz was signed to be the staff's ace, but it's been symbolic of the season's problems that he hasn't even been the durable third starter that even the most optimistic cynic might have expected. In Lyon's case, the bullpen has been a season-long problem, with only one reliever pitching well all season (Jose Valverde; Lance Cormier seems to have been used up by the All-Star break). Lyon gives the pen a third veteran reinforcement, along with the equally immortal Buddy Groom and Tim Worrell. As three amigos riding to the rescue go, I don't think even Martin Short could make them any less effectual.

Basically, this was a great time for Joe Garagiola Jr. to get out of Dodge and move into cushier and even less results-oriented surroundings.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed C-R Johnny Estrada on the 15-day DL (lower back), retroactive to 8/7; recalled C-B Brayan Pena from Richmond. [8/11]

Activated RHP John Thomson from the 60-day DL; optioned RHP Kyle Davies to Richmond. [8/13]

Activated LHP Mike Hampton from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Macay McBride to Richmond. [8/14]

From one rookie patch to the next, the Braves' season's worth of quilting keeps paying off. During Hampton's latest absence, Davies gave the Braves two starts they could win (and did), while McBride pitched creditably outside of a particularly ugly outing against the Cardinals.

In Estrada's absence, Brian McCann seems more than ready to step in and contribute from the bottom of the order on an everyday basis, much the way the Cardinals boasted they'd get to do with Yadier Molina, only to better effect. Although McCann has had a few rough moments behind the plate, he's expected to improve. He does seem to have helped deter the running game, with opponents attempting steals less than half as often against him than against Estrada (although they've been successful in eight of nine attempts).

Meanwhile, the rotation is back to boasting its veteran cast, and while we should all really like Davies' future, I suppose the expectation is there for the famous people to get the call come the postseason. On that level, the Braves' lead in the division offers some comfort, as they can afford to let Thomson and Hampton ease back into their jobs, and ideally get tuned up over the next six or seven weeks. Both did not look good in their initial starts, however, and although the Braves won both games, I guess it's interesting to speculate how long either vet's leash may be. Thomson hasn't had a good start since May 5, and Hampton since May 8, after all. Bobby Cox made appropriately supportive noises after their initial outings, so it might not be until rosters expand that either gets rested involuntarily should they continue to struggle, because Davies will be back at that point.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Reinstated 1B-L Rafael Palmeiro to the active roster; designated OF-L Midre Cummings for assignment. [8/11]

Optioned RHP Aaron Rakers to Ottawa; recalled RHP John Maine from Ottawa. [8/12]

Remember (the) Maine? Not that it's going to re-stoke the boilers and fuel Baltimore's bid for contention, but it is nice to see them use Sidney Ponson's absence to look at a homegrown farmhand who might actually be able to pitch in the major leagues, instead of pitching an unready Hayden Penn into the flames. No time like the present to see if Maine, after spending most of the last two seasons at Triple-A, can be the next Josh Towers, or if he's instead doomed to be the new Anthony Telford. When you're a right-hander with four pitches you can throw for strikes, but none of them are overwhelming, you don't get called "crafty," you struggle to get taken seriously as a prospect, and you're often in danger of winding up as the staff workhorse in exotic locations like Louisville or Pawtucket. In Ottawa this year, Maine had allowed 128 hits and 13 home runs in 128 1/3 innings, with 111 strikeouts and 38 walks. Less impressive was his 4.56 ERA and 6-11 record. While scouts don't expect Maine to blow away big-league hitters the way he's been able to dice up minor leaguers, strikes are strikes, and it took Towers time to settle in. Although I'd caution people about how seriously to take the comparables who show up on Maine's PECOTA card, it does represent a testament to how well Maine has done in the minor leagues with "just" command as opposed to great stuff. The Orioles should afford themselves some patience with Maine. It isn't like there should be that much incentive to get Ponson back on the mound, after all.

I guess if I'm frustrated about anything, it's that Rakers didn't get a legitimate shot, as the team instead keeps hoping that this time, Eric DuBose will finally be helpful somehow. Better to leave DuBose for September, when you might also finally work up the nerve to cut bait on Jason Grimsley, seemingly that most deathless of mop-up men. That's the roster spot that Rakers should have his claim on, and one which the Orioles should give him every opportunity to earn.

Finally, gosh golly, why are people booing Mr. Palmeiro? The president seems to think he's innocent. Perhaps our fearless leader is no more human than the rest of us, identifying with a sports hero. After all, if you have something in common, you may find yourself rooting for the guy; Derrek Lee went to the same high school as I did, and has perhaps long since passed Larry Linville as El Camino High's most famous graduate, and how can I not root for a guy for that? In Bush's case, I guess the common bond of telling a few fibs to those mean-tempered grumps in Congress is just that extra bit of cement.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Placed OF-L Scott Podsednik on the 15-day DL (strained adductor), retroactive to 8/13; purchased the contract of OF-R Brian Anderson from Charlotte. [8/15]

As much panic as Podzilla's departure for the DL is inspiring in fantasy leagues around the country, the injury shouldn't affect his availability later on in the season, especially for October, and it shouldn't put the Sox at any risk for finishing anywhere other than first place. If anything, it might give Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen reason to think about their roster, who should be on it, and why. Guillen has been outspoken on the subject of preserving the team's chemistry as-is, but losing Podsednik does serve as a necessary reminder that Timo Perez serves no useful purpose. That Podsednik's injury comes on the heels of losing Frank Thomas for the year means the Sox really need to evaluate what sort of hitting help they want to have on their bench.

Although Willie Harris would have made sense as a replacement for Podsednik in left and as the team's leadoff hitter, I don't think it's such a bad idea to look at Anderson. The organization's top hitting prospect, he's had a good first season at Triple-A this year, posting triple crown rates of .295/.360/.470. His arrival isn't a matter of considering him for really replacing Podsednik--Podzilla's job is his to have back as soon as he returns. Instead, I would think Anderson's blend of power and defensive ability represents an interesting potential patch for Thomas. Carl Everett and Jermaine Dye aren't known for their durability, and neither boasts a great rep in the field. If something happens to either of them, somebody would have to step into the heart of the order. If Podsednik was gone for an extended period, Harris would make a fine patch in the leadoff slot, but if Dye or Everett break down, Harris wouldn't be able to fix that, Perez perhaps even less so. So I'm looking at Anderson's call-up as a low-key audition, a prospective evaluation that allows the Sox to see if they should bother with a waiver deal for a veteran hitter.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Optioned LHP Rich Hill to Iowa; recalled LHP John Koronka from Iowa. [8/11]

Optioned LHP John Koronka to Iowa; recalled RHP Todd Wellemeyer from Iowa. [8/14]

With the patience of a salmon gone a-spawning without eyes or a nose or a compass or a liveried chauffeur, but who nevertheless still eventually finds the right place to be at come the bitter end, the Cubs have once again eventually bumped into the right group of pitchers in what appear to be the right roles, and have to hope that it isn't too late to get the party started. Yes, it meant they first repeated the mistake of returning Glendon Rusch to the pen, but now that Hill is in Iowa, that's done with, and Rusch is back in the rotation. And now that they have two tender arms in the bullpen in the recently reactivated Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson, they do need an arm in the pen who can give them multiple innings now and again. It could have been Koronka easily enough, since he's spent most of the season starting ballgames down in Iowa. But so too has Wellemeyer, and Wellemeyer has a great arm, which the Cubs remember now and again (at least up until Dusty forgets, and starts seeing a new Kyle Farnsworth in every corner). Put into a long reliever's role, Wellemeyer should be able to show off his 90+ heat, and perhaps finally stick. It's certainly the right move in terms of putting the best big-league-ready arms in the organization on the spot while the Cubs try to keep their flickering wild-card hopes alive. I may not perpetuate October ambitions, but it might help keep hope alive that things will somehow get better next season.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Activated RHP Ben Weber from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Louisville. [8/13]

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Activated LHP Arthur Rhodes from the bereavement list; optioned LHP Brian Tallet to Buffalo. [8/12]

Placed LHP Arthur Rhodes on the 15-day DL (knee inflammation), retroactive to 8/12; recalled RHP Jeremy Guthrie from Buffalo. [8/13]

Optioned RHP Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo; recalled OF-R Jason Dubois from Buffalo. [8/14]

Looking for redemption from an earned reputation as a failed first-rounder, Guthrie was here to help the pen compensate for the long-relief outings thrown by Tallet and Fernando Cabrera in the days previous, not as a reward for posting a 5.28 ERA in the Bisons' rotation. It made sense, what with a Scott Elarton start coming on the 13th, and sure enough, Guthrie got pressed into action, sparing the rest of the pen from having to pitch in a loss.

But having spared them for a day, he was expendable, and the organization seems to have started noticing that Ben Broussard's value to the lineup is just about done. So now they're looking at Dubois again, with Jeff Liefer and Casey Blake getting playing time at first base. Perhaps predictably, all Dubois did in Buffalo was hit (three home runs in six games), and with the lineup's need for some power, a solution to Broussard's inadequacy seems to be suggesting itself. Ideally, Dubois should get the most playing time, since he has the most prospective value to the team as a power source now and into the future, while guys like Blake, Broussard and Liefer scrabble for whatever at-bats they can get prior to the Indians deciding which of them to let go as non-tendered free agents.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Activated 1B-L Todd Helton from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B-R Ryan Shealy to Colorado Springs. [8/10]

Transferred RHP Dan Miceli from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/15]

I've belabored the curse of Helton's contract and how it will handicap the franchise for years beyond the eventual end of the O'Dowd regime, but it was sort of nice to see Shealy provide a small reminder that finding a hitter for first base isn't that tough. I doubt O'Dowd can afford to take on some significant chunk of Helton's salary in order to make Helton someone else's problem, especially after already having to afford paying Mike Hampton to pitch for other people. But who knows? Considering that several teams are stocking first base with mediocrities at the moment (Doug Mientkiewicz? Travis Lee? Tino Martinez?), maybe O'Dowd can achieve some sort of miracle, and dump some salary before the memory of Helton's twenties fade.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Placed OF-R Rondell White on the 15-day DL; recalled CF-L Curtis Granderson from Toledo. [8/15]

Well, shame on me, I missed Granderson's demotion, and while I would have wailed, I guess you, gentle reader, were spared that particular exercise. And just as well, since it was eventually set aright. It's just as well: Craig Monroe has his virtues as a fourth outfielder, but nobody thinks he makes a good everyday center fielder, and his bat isn't good enough for either corner in anything other than a situation like this, when an actual valuable regular like White has to hit the DL. If the Tigers are taking their '06 season as seriously as they claim to be, they're better off getting a sense of whether or not Granderson will be that team's center fielder, or if Dave Dombrowski has to go shopping for someone better than Monroe or Nook Logan. I'm convinced that Granderson will earn his keep, and while that might kill his bid for Rookie of the Year next season, it's better for the Tigers to do what they can to pursue team trophies, not individual ones.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Activated 1B-R Carlos Delgado from the 15-day DL; designated LHP Valerio De Los Santos for assignment. [8/13]

With the Marlins among the four or five teams who can still seriously consider the NL wild card a goal, obviously it's a good thing to get Delgado back. It matters that much more when you consider that essentially everyone not named Miguel Cabrera hasn't been helping put many runs on the board of late. While the Fish's moundsmen (the Mongers, perhaps?) have been doing a great job keeping games low-scoring, it's too much to expect that A.J. Burnett is going to win every game from here on out, or that Todd Jones will never blow a save. Getting Delgado might at least give the lineup some semblance of balance so that Cabrera doesn't have to try to do his best impression of George Brett on the '86 Royals. Who knows, if two people in the lineup are hitting, maybe we'll see more of the teams twin waterbugs, Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre, scoring runs and stealing bases and all that stuff the Fourth Estate's more reactionary members like to claim is the source of the Marlins' offensive success.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned OF-R Mike Edwards to Las Vegas. [8/10]

Activated OF-R Jayson Werth from the 15-day DL; placed LHP Wilson Alvarez on the 15-day DL (shoulder). [8/11]

Of a sudden, the Dodgers almost have a fully-stocked outfield again, with Werth in left and Milton Bradley in center. Although Jose Cruz Jr. hasn't done anything to help, they may not need him to. Instead, Jim Tracy can always turn to some combination of Ricky Ledee and Jose Valentin, and perhaps Jason Repko in some spot platoon duty. As feeble as it may seem, considering they're more than ten games under .500, they are still just five games out of first place, and the rotation is finally healthy, and the lineup is getting good work out of supporting players like Oscar Robles and Dioner Navarro. The bullpen's still a disaster, but there's little to be done for that, and when you're a contender in the NL West, you come with a few warts.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Recalled OF-R Corey Hart from Nashville; optioned UT-R Trent Durrington to Nashville. [8/13]

Placed RHP Matt Wise on the 15-day DL (strained intercostal muscle), retroactive to 8/9; placed RHP Julio Santana on the 15-day DL (elbow tendinitis), retroactive to 8/10; recalled RHP Jose Capellan from Nashville; purchased the contract of RHP Kane Davis from Nashville; transferred 1B/3B-R Jeff Cirillo from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/14]

A mea culpa is overdue, because I wasn't fair to the Brewers on the subject of what they should be doing with their bullpen. As some readers sensibly pointed out, both Mike Adams and Jeff Bennett have been on the DL down in Nashville, so the resurrections of Rick Helling and now Davis are more matters of necessity than of taste.

More happily, Capellan's a different kettle of fish, as one of the farmhands swiped from the Braves in the Danny Kolb heist. Although I remain hopeful that Capellan's eventual fate is to be a rotation regular, he struggled as a starter in Nashville, posting an ERA over five, which in turn led the Brewers to convert the 24 year-old to the bullpen in June. There, his high-90s velocity served him well, bringing his overall numbers down to a 3.87 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 90 2/3 innings, although those numbers are blighted by 42 walks. Given his age, letting him pitch out of the pen makes sense as an arm-saving move, but eventually, you have to have to hope that Capellan masters his off-speed and breaking pitches and resumes starting, since that's the more valuable commodity. The rotation isn't a problem, though, so Capellan may well wind up being a reliever for more than just the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to see Hart get called up, even though for the time being, it isn't expected to last longer than Brady Clark's need to rest his ribs. Chris Magruder is nice as fifth outfielders go, but that's his ceiling, so the Brewers are taking the opportunity to see what Hart will do in a few games. Considering Hart's going to get to start the three games the Brewers will play in Coors Field this week, it gets a little more fun still. Hart's progression from first base to third to right field to center makes him about as interesting as a prospect can be. How many guys keep moving to more and more difficult defensive positions as their careers progress? Although an athletic 23-year-old, the real question is whether or not he can make it as a center fielder. At 6'6", he's a virtual lamppost planted between the power alleys since Dale Murphy was patrolling the sward in Fulton County Stadium. Like Murphy, he can run, and as a hitter, Hart is going to stick, having always shown power while shining in the three years he's already been above A-ball. This year, he's pounded the PCL to the tune of .304/.375/.530, enough to make him a potential challenger for a job in the outfield corners, but if he can make it in center, the Brewers might be that much more willing and able to pick up Carlos Lee's option for 2006.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Placed INF-R Juan Castro on the 15-day DL (strained knee), retroactive to 8/11; recalled INF-R Brent Abernathy from Rochester. [8/13]

And so a shadow passed from the land of lakes, freeing its beefy residents from the odium of observing daily perhaps the most egregious of errors committed by their well-loved general manager. I guess the misfortune is that the infield bogeyman will be back, as the name of "Castro" becomes a bete noir for Boltons and the "ya hey dere" set alike. Besides, Nick Punto is so now, so in the moment, so... blech. This wasn't going to be the Twins' year for all sorts of reasons, but as long as they continue to screw around with players who might not start for even the Royals, they're going to throw away a lot of great seasons from their pitching staff.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned LHP Wayne Franklin to Columbus; activated RHP Jaret Wright from the 60-day DL. [8/15]

Well, whether you consider him their third starter or co-fifth starter (tied for that ignominy with Al Leiter), the Yankees broke Wright back in the right way, letting him pitch on the road against the Devil Rays, about as similar an experience as a rehab outing in Tampa as the major leagues have to offer. Wright obligingly cranked out a quality start, and now Red Sox fans can start freaking out about whether or not the Yankees actually have a rotation for the rest of the year. Shawn Chacon has exceeded even my expectations for him, and I was one of the few people who liked that particular acquisition, and if Leiter has struggled, he's at least tossing five innings every fifth day. At this rate, the Yankees may not need Jason Giambi to hit 14 home runs a month to be able to catch Boston.

NEW YORK METS
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Placed 1B-L Doug Mientkiewicz on the 15-day DL (bruised lower back), retroactive to 8/4; activated 2B/SS-B Kazuo Matsui from the 15-day DL. [8/9]

Placed OF-R Mike Cameron on the 15-day DL (broken cheekbones and nose); recalled OF-R Victor Diaz from Norfolk. [8/11]

Signed RHP Shingo Takatsu to a minor league contract. [8/12]

If you've been a fan for any length of time, some outfield collisions stick with you. For me, it was when Dwayne Murphy and Mike Davis ran into each other; Murphy never seemed the same. I can only share the hope of Mets fans that Cameron's recovery is complete.

In the meantime, now that there's a real possibility that Cameron is out for the season, at least one of my colleagues has speculated that this season's great lost opportunity was dealing Cameron with a year to go on his contract, but I'm not so sure. First, I don't think the idea ever really presented itself to Omar Minaya, since he built the '05 Mets to win now. More importantly, to who, and for what? A franchise first baseman would be great, but who's peddling those? It isn't like the Brewers are just itching to get rid of Prince Fielder, and I'd rather have Cameron than Lyle Overbay. Michael Aubrey? Injured, and perhaps nevertheless untouchable. Brad Eldred? Eldred's blend of skills and limitations are almost exactly the ones that Minaya doesn't seem to like, as if the Pirates would want to deal him. Ryan Howard? Again, I'd rather have Cameron and make sure that moving Victor Diaz's move to first was made posthaste.

So if not a first baseman, what? A second baseman would be nice, but again, the young ones you want aren't the ones you can get, and I wouldn't trade Cameron for a Josh Barfield or a Chris Burke. How about something win-now oriented, then, like Alfonso Soriano? The rumor that the Mets might have gotten Soriano and Adrian Gonzalez from the Rangers in a deal for Cameron was one of the trading deadline's most tantalizing, except when you get to the part about the Mets having to throw in Yusmeiro Petit and Lastings Milledge, at which point it's completely nuts, even before you bring up that Soriano is an awful second baseman and is prepped to make a killing in arbitration this winter. In this particularly bright scenario, you wind up sabotaging your future, spending extra to do it, and creating a defensive problem. I like Adrian Gonzalez a lot, but not that much.

So instead Omar let it ride, and I don't exactly blame him. I'm far more frustrated with the little moves and the little-mindedness they represent, like the failure to move Diaz to first base earlier in the season, or assembling a seriously godawful bench. It's in these sorts of margins that the Mets have managed to help themselves keep the postseason so barely just out of their reach.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Placed OF-B Nick Swisher on the bereavement list; recalled OF-L Matt Watson from Sacramento. [8/14]

If Watson is going to make a case for himself to be on a postseason roster beyond his nifty season at Sacramento (.313/.403/.524), now would be a good time. Now that it's known that Erubiel Durazo is out for the season, it's Watson's opportunity to make himself the obvious candidate if the A's are going to carry an extra bat in October. Although Charles Thomas hasn't gotten better since his demotion to the PCL, there are other potential rivals for Watson to worry about. Jack Cust is having a useful enough season (.255/.402/.443) in his increasingly Laga-like career (although to be fair, perhaps Phil Stephenson is a better comp), and Freddie Bynum might be in the picture as a utilityman and pinch-runner. I suppose that there's also the specter of Daric Barton getting an audition a la Jason Kubel last year, although that would start his service time clock a little early.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed OF-L Jody Gerut on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled OF-L Nate McLouth from Indianapolis. [8/11]

Well, here it is in a nutshell: the dilemma as well as the possibilities of the Pirates outfield for the rest of this year, and no doubt the next one as well. In addition to Chris Duffy and Ryan Doumit, McLouth is very nearly done with showing what he can do in the minor leagues, and the question for the Pirates will be how to play all of them. I'm a little less excited about McLouth than some people. His glove might not cut it in center where Duffy's clearly seems to, which means that what you've got is a corner outfielder without a lot of power (.297/.364/.401 at Indianapolis), and not a tremendous amount of patience (one walk for every 11 plate appearances of so this year, an improvement on '04). But he does have speed (32 steals in 40 attempts), he is only 23, and he's already garnered a "gamer" tag that might help him stick as a sort of faster edition of Darren Bragg. That might make him only a prospective fourth-outfielder/tweener type, and that would no doubt disappoint a lot of people, but it does make him an asset in a mix that might have Doumit or Craig Wilson lumbering around in the corners. If he doesn't make it, I guess hope springs anew for the likes of Tike Redman, although against that sort of failure, Gerut can be the veteran insurance policy. Ideally, his knees will be up for it.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Activated LHP Chris Hammond from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Adam Eaton on the 15-day DL (strained tendon - finger). [8/9]

Activated RHP Rudy Seanez from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Craig Breslow to Portland. [8/12]

Placed SS-R Khalil Greene on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of SS-R Wilson Valdez from Portland. [8/15]

Desperation comes in all sorts of flavors, but it takes on a particularly sad taste when it's combined with limited goals and narrow margins. No, activating Eaton didn't work, and he lost potential rehab time waiting around for the right circumstances for his being used in games to transpire. No, losing Greene and having to rely on Damian Jackson at short for the rest of the month shouldn't kill you. No, having to count on Seanez and Hammond to help stock your bullpen so that you might instead use Clay Hensley to get Chan Ho Park shouldn't be that big a deal. But at this point of the season, whatever the indignity of often looking up at .500 while leading baseball's weakest division, it's there to be won, and every incremental improvement and setback looms that much larger. Will Jackson or Valdez commit an error that some Fourth Estate angryman calls the "turning point of the year"? Sure, it's possible. Will Seanez give up a mighty clout in the BOB that puts the Snakes implausibly in first place? It might happen. But at this point, as handicapped as the Padres are, they're the still the tallest midget in this particular circus, and their in-house solutions should not be so enfeebling or dubious as to change that. Seanez and Hammond should prove useful, and Valdez can play an adequate shortstop if Jackson isn't up to it.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); reinstated RHP Ryan Franklin from the suspended list. [8/12]

Optioned RHP Jeff Harris to Tacoma. [8/14]

Optioned C-R Wiki Gonzalez to Tacoma; recalled OF-R Jamal Strong and C-R Miguel Ojeda from Tacoma. [8/15]

In the realm of mythical creatures, somewhere between sahuagins and sylphs, I suspect we may someday find the Snelling, a beastie of unlimited potential, rarely spotted, often missing, and totally pervious to anything more dangerous than a ladybug. That may not sound too fabulous, but let's face it, it's more exotic than a pill-fed slugless slugger like Strong. At least Strong's going to get an opportunity, though, one he's due, and one he should use to demonstrate that he's a useful outfield reserve in the making, offering OBP, outfield defense, and the odd stolen base now and again. It's certainly better than summoning up a Spiezio, a vortex of suck with the special power of making wood lifeless. Leave it to the Mariners to want to see the Spiezio in action, and making absolutely sure of that, but keep in mind, they're busy playing with their interchangeably mediocre catchers now that they don't have Pat Borders to kick around any more.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Gave OF-R Marquis Grissom his outright release. [8/10]

Placed OF-R Moises Alou on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 8/3; placed RHP Scott Munter on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled OF-B Todd Linden and RHP Jeremy Accardo from Fresno. [8/12]

Activated LHP Kirk Rueter from the 15-day DL, and designated him for assignment. [8/14]

Activated RHP Armando Benitez from the 60-day DL; outrighted RHP Brian Cooper to Fresno. [8/15]

There's no time like the present for Linden, so if he's going to play at any point, it may as well be now, when the alternatives are Jason Ellison, Randy Winn and Michael Tucker, or Pedro Feliz on the days he isn't playing third. But however defensive or sniffly they want to get about its being mentioned, this remains a lousy team, gifted with what might be the worst lineup in the league. It's better that they spend what's left of their year without Barry Bonds looking at who has some reason to be here once he's back. I may not be a Linden believer, but with him having slugged .682 in his third full season at Fresno, there's not a lot of point to leaving him on a Grizzlies team that is no more likely to play postseason games than the parent Giants are.

Gosh, Tyler Walker has 20 saves, so now that Benitez is back, this must mean the Giants' bullpen is going to be really, really good. Well, perhaps, but not so much for that reason. Right-handed relief help has been the pen's particularly sore spot all season, and losing Benitez isn't the only reason why. Acquiring LaTroy Hawkins didn't improve things, Walker's just another demonstration that saving 20 games isn't an indication of skill, just usage pattern, and now losing Munter doesn't help. Still, with Benitez able to pitch much sooner than originally expected, Hawkins getting further removed from his Wrigley nightmare, Walker easing back into middle relief, and with Accardo looking like a comer after blowing through Double- and Triple-A this season, maybe Giants fans can at least enjoy some strong bullpen work over the last seven weeks. And now that Rueter's a memory and Kevin Correia has taken his place in the rotation, it isn't inconceivable that the Giants might have good pitching from top to bottom from here on out.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned RHP Anthony Reyes to Memphis; recalled OF-L Skip Schumaker from Memphis. [8/10]

Reyes made his spot start, did quite nicely, and left his card. He'll be back, and it's nice to think that his debut has him nicely prepped should any of the rotation regulars need to take time off in September.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned LHP Erasmo Ramirez to Oklahoma; recalled RHP Juan Dominguez for assignment. [8/13]

Dominguez has been pasted into the rotation to replace Ricardo Rodriguez, but it's hard to know what to expect from him. He spotted the Yankees a quick four runs before cruising to a seven-inning, 10-strikeout start, allowing five before his day was done. Promising, yes, but his pitching in the pen earlier this year was promising, allowing one run in 8 2/3 innings. Then he allowed five runs without retiring a batter in the ninth inning blowout he was brought into on July 9, "helping" make a 12-3 laugher into a more traditionally uncomfortable Rangers 12-10 win. He was demoted immediately afterwards, his previous good deeds apparently forgotten. Dominguez sulked and skulked on his way back to Oklahoma, earned a suspension for his troubles, and then had to talk his way into reactivation. It may not be a double helping of Pascual Perez-brand daffy taffy, but it isn't just general cluelessness either.

So now, is he going to stick? The Rangers claim they want solid citizenship, and not something ugly like recidivism if he's going to get to stick around in the big-league rotation, however much they may need the help. I guess there's comfort in being noisily principled while seeing the season slip into free-fall, but it's just as well. Dominguez may or may not be part of fixing what seem to be the annual problems with the rotation, but you have to think that it's going to be better to find out than take another ride with John Wasdin, or take an even larger leap of faith with James Baldwin. Dominguez may not have a third pitch yet, but between his plus fastball and an occasionally excellent change, that's two more good pitches than some of the people the Rangers have had to rely on in recent years.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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