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August 26, 2005

Transaction Analysis

August 19-25

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned RHP Greg Jones to Salt Lake. [8/21]

Activated 1B/3B-R Robb Quinlan from the 15-day DL. [8/23]

Since Dallas McPherson is done for the year, Quinlan's return represents some sort of certainty, in that at least the Angels now have an alternative to playing Chone Figgins at the hot corner. The problem is that the Angels keep finding ways to fidget, because they don't know whether they want to let Darin Erstad play center, so Figgins is still getting time in the outfield while the club ponders what to do about Steve Finley. Moving Erstad would make space for Casey Kotchman at first, but the problem is that the Angels are working with a few silly "rules," like the one that says playing Erstad is a must.

Ponder the differences between the Angels recent lineup choices over the better alternative:

As Is


Hitter Position Equivalent Average

Erstad 1B .264
Quinlan 3B .188
or Izturis 3B .241
Figgins CF .274

Coulda Shoulda


Kotchman 1B .308
Figgins 3B .274
Erstad CF .264
Now, I concede fully that Quinlan's numbers should improve if he gets to play; they could hardly go down. But enough to keep Kotchman on the bench? Admittedly, if Erstad can't really play center, then you might open things up to have him fight for playing time with Finley (.230 EqA) or Jeff DaVanon or Devon White. But c'mon, the scouts were right, and Kotchman looks like he's turned a corner. Why not punt on Erstand, and let the kid play? The only thing at stake is the division title, after all, and you might add a win's worth of runs (ten or so, to put it simply) out of the difference between leaning towards Coulda Shoulda over As Is.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Brian Bruney to Tucson; recalled RHP Brandon Medders from Tucson. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Greg Aquino to Tucson; recalled RHP Jason Bulger from Tucson. [8/25]

I guess I've labored too long under this misconception that shuffleboard was a Florida game, because here in Arizona, there seems to be a fascination with the Tucson two-step. Maybe they don't know the rules, which explains the constant reshuffling, but let's face it, *I* don't know the rules of shuffleboard. Old people with sticks, and the mayhem that comes of it... hmmm, perhaps it actually does sort of resemble the Snakes after all, although neither Bruney nor Aquino are all that old, but both have generated far too much mayhem. Sadly, it isn't that fun sort that you delight in when it's your team that gets to do it to everyone else, like the Nasty Boys, more like the Society for Creative Mitch Williams Impersonation for people who just can't get enough of the drip, drip, drip of quiet desperation as you watch hope die in another half-inning.

In each case, though, I really do wonder what it was that the Snakes were thinking. Aquino isn't quite the wunderkind they've tried to make him out to be, but it's sort of hard to get a relatively inexperienced reliever sharp with an inning here and there, depending on how Bob Melvin's karma is shaking that particular day as he ponders his Wheaties. In his previous 9.1 IP over three weeks before melting down his last two times out, he'd allowed a single run and pitched through an injury to his right forearm. (His other peripherals were five hits, two walks, and 11 strikeouts.) Then he made a one-run deficit into a three-run deficit against the Mets on the 21st, and then he contributed to the staff-wide grease fire on Wednesday. Obviously, banishing Bruney for a season's worth of suckitude wasn't enough, the queeglings running this ship decided another example had to be set, and never mind that these are the same people pretending that Brandon Lyon and Buddy Groom are solutions to the club's pen problems, the same people who worked Lance Cormier into the ground.

Now, I know, I'm ranting about who didn't get moved as opposed to mentioning who got brought up. But based on how he's pitched this season, in Tucson and in the minors, the Snakes should already be comfortable with having Medders around, but they've jerked him around. Bulger's a young arm of note as well, owning a fastball he can consistently dial into the mid-90s, but so does Aquino, and so does Bruney. The goal here shouldn't be about pretending that the Snakes will somehow play better than .500 ball to catch the Padres, it should be about sorting out who can help this team win ballgames, in the future as well as now. It shouldn't be about choosing between these four, it should be about finding ways to use all of them. That they've instead decided that Lyon and Groom and Tim Worrell are the guarantors of their immediate future should tell you exactly what that future holds for them. It only delays the more positive possibilities that the Snakes' collection of young power arms should promise, but I guess there is the advantage of associating this year's "failure to win" with the gray-haired dreck instead of the kids.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Designated RHP Jim Brower for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Joey Devine from Mississippi (Double-A). [8/20]

Outrighted RHP Jim Brower to Richmond. [8/21]

Activated C-R Johnny Estrada from the 15-day DL; optioned C-B Brayan Pena to Richmond. [8/22]

Returned LHP Mike Hampton to the 15-day DL (back). [8/23]

Recalled LHP Macay McBride from Richmond. [8/24]

So now it's a herniated disk, and now it might keep Hampton out for the rest of the year. I would hope that this latest breakdown would finally convince the Braves to think a little more seriously about the probability that Kyle Davies is more than the world's best temp. The rotation has only three reliable starters, so the question needs to be about who would be the guy you'd call upon to start fourth game in a postseason series, if not Hampton. John Thomson hasn't had a good start yet since his reactivation, so he's not the obvious answer. Why not Davies? Jorge Sosa may be better used in a bullpen that can no longer afford the conceit that last winter's Danny Kolb trade is something that can be made good with more wasted faith in Kolb. It might seem expensive in terms of choices, but Sosa's been among the Braves' most effective relievers, and Davies has been a useful starter.

Instead, the Braves are getting cute, but I'd consider Devine's call-up as a reminder that even smart teams make mistakes. Propelling him into the majors is a rush job, but he's their top pick from the '05 draft, and I guess we can understand the motivation when it's a question of keeping Brower around. Devine's call-up unfortunately seems to be the tumbrel that's supposed to fall into place once you assume that Sosa has to be in the rotation, and I'm just not optimistic about it working out as easily as the Braves seem to be. Sidearmers might be even more unusual in college baseball than they are in the major leagues, and sidearmers in college probably see fewer lefty boppers who can can take their diet of low stuff and hammer it.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Claimed RHP James Baldwin off of waivers from the Rangers; transferred UT/C-R Eli Marrero from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/22]

Placed RHP Daniel Cabrera on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 8/17; recalled RHP Chris Ray from Bowie (Double-A). [8/23]

Placed RHP Jason Grimsley on the 15-day DL; optioned 1B-R Alejandro Freire to Bowie (Double-A); activated 1B/OF-L B.J. Surhoff from the 15-day DL; added RHP James Baldwin to the active roster. [8/24]

Despite the fact that this leaves the rotation depending on both John Maine and Eric DuBose, I wouldn't begrudge the young Cabrera any rest, especially since it doesn't appear to be his arm that's the issue. To their credit, the Orioles have been careful with him with his overall pitch counts, but with as many pitches as he's had to throw in the innings he does pitch, many of them from the stretch given that he's walking five guys per nine, let's just say that I'm not surprised that something broke down. Better to be careful, since this isn't "next year" just yet. Instead, I'm still mystified about the more immediate problem, which is the organization's desire to carry around a guy like Baldwin in Grimsley's absence, especially when you really ought to see what Aaron Rakers can do while you have a few weeks to do so.

Then there's the decision to bump Freire down an extra level instead of returning him to Ottawa, supposedly because it's Walter Young whose star is riding high, and it's Young whose virtues the Orioles want to ponder. That's on the "strength" of his having hit .285/.333/.438 at Ottawa, just good enough to make people forget... well, okay, the Lynx themselves are utterly forgettable. Let's just say that if that's what an overweight lefty-hitting first baseman with questionable defensive skills can do at Triple-A, I guess this means that Ken Harvey's platoon partner has finally been found. No, Jim Traber was not available, but then again, he was better than this. Meanwhile, the roster is once again cluttered with lefty bats without anyone beyond Chris Gomez to spot-start against a lefty for any of them.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Designated 2B-B Mark Bellhorn for assignment. [8/19]

Placed OF-L Adam Stern on the 15-day DL (sprained thumb); recalled LHP Lenny DiNardo from Pawtucket. [8/20]

Activated OF-L Trot Nixon from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Lenny DiNardo to Pawtucket. [8/23]

Stern's quest to make people forget Bob Zupcic seems to have found every possible pothole along the way so far, but I suspect people are more interested in the larger point, which is that you do have Nixon to kick around some more. That in turn reduces Kevin Millar to a reserve role, sometimes spotting for Nixon in right, taking a start from Papi at DH now and again, and otherwise wrestling with the other two hydra's heads in the first base mix, the deathless legend of Roberto Petagine, and the lingering languor of John Olerud. Olerud's the current most-frequent winner of the moment, aided by Millar's slump and Petagine's being so mysterious that Terry Francona seems to have discarded him like a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. But they are all still here, and that's what matters, both for them, and in terms of Boston's roster design for the postseason as we near the deadline to set who's available and who isn't.

Which brings me to the other significant aspect that carrying three first baseman create: Bellhorn's designation for assignment, presumably to posterity. Although Bellhorn was the second baseman on a world championship ballclub, getting hurt while not smacking 50 extra-base hits makes you a lot more expendable in a lot of people's minds than, say, if he were David Eckstein. So Bellhorn's dangling, possibly to become a Cardinal, or perhaps an Angel, or maybe even a Marlin. In the meantime, the more interesting proposition is whether or not anyone really expected the sabermetrically-minded Red Sox to decide to go with Tony Graffanino and Alex Cora as their combination of second baseman and utility infielder. It's economical, certainly, and Graffy hits well enough to justify some measure of the team's reputation for cleverness, but trusting to Cora this much? It resembles creeping conventionalism.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Outrighted RHP Matt Smith to Charlotte. [8/24]

CHICAGO CUBS
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Activated CF/2B-R Jerry Hairston Jr. from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Matt Murton to Iowa. [8/19]

Because finding a way to play Murton when you have four lefty outfielders, with just Hairston as an alternative, why, that would have been too easy, and whatever would this team do without Jose Macias? I mean, by my count they've won eight games with Macias in the starting lineup, and even if that was out of 18 starts, and that has to mean something, because there are numbers in that assertion and everything. Jeepers. Besides, that damned Murton was hitting, and there's nothing worse than a young player who plays well without paying his dues to somebody somewhere

Let's face it, Dusty Baker is just going to make everyone regret they've ever doubted he knew what he was doing. And if it just so happens that Dusty might actually have no clue, and is instead the Rick Cerone of managers, kept around because, gee willikers, he was so smart in 1993, when he was a first-year manager and the Giants ... well, they had this new guy over in left field, but we all know, that Bonds was the character actually responsible for the Giants' blowing their lead so that they'd lose out to the Braves that year. It had to be, because as we all know, Barry Bonds is evil, while Dusty's not just a prince among men, he's the impossible, a living saint, unquestioning and unquestionable. And sure, in Dusty's case the wages of faith may be failure, while faithlessness gets you tuning in to watch the White Sox. Wait a minute... why was it good to have faith in Dusty again? Because he says so? What is this, the Mother Church of Dustydom?

I don't envy Jim Hendry's having to eventually do what needs to be done, or the unfair characterizations that might get made about him for doing it. But that firestorm needs little by way of flint and tinder, and the time to move past the Dusty Era has long since come.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Optioned OF-R Jason Dubois to Buffalo; recalled RHP Andrew Brown from Buffalo. [8/20]

Recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Buffalo; optioned RHP Andrew Brown to Buffalo. [8/23]

It's an interesting minuet, as the Indians have essentially expanded their roster to 26 or so, and trying to squeeze value out of every option and never have a spot wasted on someone who might need rest in their pen. In ten days, through that last roster slot, they've cycled from Tallet to Arthur Rhodes to Jeremy Guthrie when Rhodes had to go onto the DL to Dubois once the pen had rested up to Brown to Tallet again. It may be a serious pain in the keister to have to write up, since none of the moves represent anything more than a commitment to the needs of today or the next series, but it's a demonstration of what a team can do with its optionable players to basically keep a taxi squad handy, something that much more easily achieved because Buffalo's a stone's throw away from Cleveland. So a semi-grumpy tip o'the cap to Mark Shapiro, Eric Wedge, and the rest of the organization, because if there's one thing that isn't going to cost the Tribe a playoff spot, it's inattention to their big league roster.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed OF-L Larry Bigbie on the 15-day DL (strained Achilles tendon), retroactive to 8/21; recalled OF-R Choo Freeman from Colorado Springs. [8/22]

Bigbie's still here, and he's not even going to play? Is there any justice? Pity LoDo's unluckiest denizens. Freeman's hit .281/.334/.426, numbers that sound respectable, until you notice that it's in altitude-inflated Colorado Springs, in the PCL, in his third year there. It doesn't matter, since he won't play all that much, any more than Jorge Piedra, not when the organization seems intent on playing Cory Sullivan and Dustan Mohr. If there was any danger of the Rockies threatening to move to Bozeman or something, I guess couldn't come up with a better way than that if your goal was to keep people from coming to the games.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed 2B-R Donnie Murphy on the 15-day DL (broken finger); purchased the contract of OF-L Aaron Guiel from Omaha; transferred RHP Steve Stemle from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/25]

Ruben Gotay, no soup for you. Murphy's out, you say? It doesn't matter, Denny Hocking has all of his fingers and toes, he knows where to sit after he makes an out, and that's good enough for this team. Besides, having made the self-spiting choice of having picked first one, then the other, and now neither of their second basemen of the future, at least there's the happy-story hook of Guiel's comeback from vision problems. He's been a monster at Omaha this year, hitting .278/.373/.541, which also involved thwacking thirty bombs. Sure, he's 32, and that was in the PCL, but given a choice between seeing if Guiel can hit again or wasting another plate appearance on the still done T-Dog, is there really any choice?

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Returned LHP Odalis Perez to the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 8/18; recalled RHP Edwin Jackson from Jacksonville (Double-A); optioned RHP Jonathan Broxton to Jacksonville. [8/22]

Recalled RHP Franquelis Osoria from Las Vegas. [8/23]

Placed CF-B Milton Bradley on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled 3B/OF-R Mike Edwards from Las Vegas. [8/25]

Mark the calendar, ladies and gents: August 25th. The Day The Pony Died. The day I guess I get to acknowledge that no, the Dodgers did not win the World Series this year, or win their division, or wind up with the best of all records in the National League this season. At this point, I can't entirely discount rumors that I picked the Dodgers to fly, cure cancer, or make Saturday Night Live funny. Can you blame me? Memory's selective as a coping mechanism. Now, you might expect that I'd offer a mea culpa right around now, and as much as I'd love to, I'm afraid I have to admit that it's on the DL. It's too late in the year to think that physical therapy and a few weeks rehabbing in Vegas will do anything for it. Heck, given that there's no advantage to it being here at the podium with me as I try to explain why I was so very, very, very injured... I mean, wrong, very, very wrong... that I expect it will instead empty the bank account and do something unfortunate, like betting on men named "Lucky," or the Cardinals. The Arizona Cardinals. So let's just say the pony's dead, and laugh if you must, but this was nothing if not an interesting team. My colleague Joe Sheehan has already long since pointed out, with much healthier prescience, that Bradley is the player this team can't replace, and if Jeff Kent doesn't know the difference between the straw that stirs the drink and stirring up... poopadoodle... then I don't really know if there's much to add to my offering up this, my final DePology for the 2005 season. I sure hope I don't hurt myself trying.

Okay, if that much self-indulgent verbiage isn't enough to scare off the critics, let's see what's left in the wreckage: Edwin Jackson in the rotation, despite posting an ERA over eight in Vegas, or badly enough to get himself back down to Double-A. He is only 21, so I suspect that like the Dodgers themselves, he'll be able to live down this season of setbacks, but it wouldn't hurt to give people reason to look forward to '06 in the meantime. And in center field? Jayson Werth seems to have dibs on thundering around on what had been Milton Bradley's board. But there's also Jose Cruz, at least until Paul DePodesta gives into the obviously attractive temptation to give Cruz an opportunity to brag of something Kingmanesque: play for four teams in a season. Okay, I know, Dave Martinez did it more recently than Kong, but he was cooked by then, while Kingman was still a going concern in the summer of '77. Any guesses on which one Cruz Jr. more closely resembles?

NEW YORK METS
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Placed C-R Mike Piazza on the 15-day DL (hand), retroactive to 8/17; purchased the contract of C-R Mike DiFelice from Norfolk; optioned LHP Dae-Sung Koo to Norfolk. [8/21]

Recalled RHP Heath Bell from Norfolk; designated OF-L Ron Calloway for assignment. [8/22]

Activated RHP Steve Trachsel from the 60-day DL; designated RHP Danny Graves for assignment. [8/23]

Can you blame Piazza for deciding he feels much, much better? Skip his pending free agency and how well-off the team might be next year just going with a job-sharing arrangement between Ramon Castro and Mike Jacobs, they might be fine doing that right now to help keep their wildcard hopes alive, and perhaps resurrecting the hated Piazza-at-first experiment. And no, there's no reason to bring up DiFelice in this potential blend. Depending on your point of view, he's either done, or ready to be the Yankees' backup catcher.

Okay, so we can now add Graves to the list of people that weren't fixed by Rick Peterson in New York. I wouldn't suggest he was all that fixable, but at some point, the formerly famous pitching coach is going to actually turn somebody around, right? Perhaps it will be Trachsel, altough then everyone's favorite slow day starter would box out someone like Jae Seo, and all he's done is earn his keep. Hopefully there won't be any silliness involving a six-man rotation, but at this stage of the season, the staff is crowded. It's also pretty good in spots, the starting spots at the very least. It's that overflow from the rotation which has given the team Aaron Heilman in the pen, where he's been one of their best relievers.

But the Mets may finally have a pretty solid pen too, now that most of the famous or ex-famous people are out of the way, leaving Heilman and Bell as the organization's boast-worthy products, and with journeymen of both the major league and minor league varieties (Roberto Hernandez and Juan Padilla, respectively). It's turned into a nice assortment, even if it was thrown together after the failure of their laid plans for how Mike DeJean or Tyler Yates or Felix Heredia or Koo or Denny Stark, and ... wait, Koo? Stark? My god, where is Denny Stark these days? Ah, Colorado Springs, nowhere near New York, nor Norfolk neither. If you ever wonder what it is that people who work for the New York Post pray for, it's this sort of thing.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Activated OF-B Nick Swisher from the bereavement list; optioned OF-L Matt Watson to Sacramento. [8/19]

Signed C-R Alberto Castillo to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Sacramento. [8/23]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Recalled RHP Aquilino Lopez from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned RHP Geoff Geary to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/20]

Gosh, not only does Bigbie hit the DL, but in the same period, the Phillies recall their ill-gotten gain from the Rockies' misfortune through Red Sox shysterism? It must suck to wear purple. Well, of course it does. There's a reason nobody from Ms. Manners on down makes any Labor Day-type rules about purple: it's purple, for gods' sakes. Among the many indignities of attending Winston Churchill Junior High was that we wore purple in gym class. With yellow lettering. Like we were all Fran Tarkenton, right down to the dorky knee sox with purple and yellow stripes. No wonder everyone was itching to get back into their slightly less dorky Members Only jackets.

Anyway, where the Phillies are concerned, they could no longer afford to carry a tired arm in the pen. Now, to be fair to Geary, it wasn't him that got his arm so tired, but Charlie Manuel's heavy reliance on him as soon as he came off of the DL. But it isn't like the Phillies are going to kibbitz at the moment, not when they're in a position to win the wild card and perhaps more. Geary's long relief role might have been filled by Robinson Tejeda after Eude Brito was handed Tejeda's starting job, but Cory Lidle chose this particular moment to start breaking down, pushing Tejeda back into the rotation after all. So an extra arm to pitch long relief would be handy. It's Lopez's opportunity to lose after allowing only six baserunners and striking out eleven during his brief sojourn in Scranton.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed 2B-R Jose Castillo on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled 3B-R Ty Wigginton from Indianapolis. [8/23]

Castillo's out for the season, and Jody Gerut may be. As ever, this creates all sorts of choice about what to do with Rob Mackowiak: third, second, an outfield corner? Or stick with all of the above, and let everyone else get playing time wherever he isn't? The answer appears to be play Mackowiak at second. although right field might be a weak spot: Nate McLouth doesn't seem that ready, Mike Restovich may never be what you want in a corner outfielder, and Ryan Doumit is catching more often these days. This also involves a new dose of Wigginton at the hot corner. Since his demotion, Wiggy hit .293/.390/.507 at Indy, or just well enough for David Littlefield to squint and see the guy he thought was the high profile pickup in last year's unfortunate Benson deal. Sadly, the Pirates are talking about how he's 'confident' now that he's back, without noting that he's still Ty Wigginton, but so be it.

Whether it's Wigginton or Freddy Sanchez getting the at-bats, neither of them seem that likely to be next year's answer at third or second, respectively. To their credit, the Pirates have correctly identified that it's Castillo who has the upside to invest in as their future at second, where a lot of us were all worked up about Bobby Hill or Sanchez. While Castillo's out, there's enough room to look at Wiggy, and once Castillo's back, Wigginton will lose time to Mackowiak. As 'the way it has to be' scenarios go, it's not so bad, particularly since the real news here isn't Wiggy's call-up, it's that Jose Bautista was bumped up to Indy after hitting .283/.367/.509. In doing so, Bautista looks every bit as necessary to reacquire as Dave Littlefield recognized so very belatedly last season. Now sure, it's a pity that Littlefield didn't recognize Bautista's ability when he blew picking his 40-man roster in November of 2003, and thus costing himself Bautista in the Rule 5 draft. That lamentable mistake created the necessity of the Pirates having to reacquire their own player (instead of some other potentially useful additional guy) once they recognized another bit of obviousness: the need to cash out Benson before his departure as a free agent. So-called small market teams can't afford that brand of "genius." However, by the end of '06, the Pirates should have Castillo at second, Bautista at third, Mackowiak roving, plus whatever goodies they may get from dealing Wigginton. It might have meant taking the long way 'round to get there, but all's well that ends well.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Released INF-B Scott Spiezio; outrighted C-R Wiki Gonzalez to Tacoma. [8/19]

Recalled 3B-L Greg Dobbs from Tacoma; placed RHP Gil Meche on the 15-day DL (tendonitis - knee). [8/20]

Activated 1B-R Bucky Jacobsen from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Tacoma; recalled RHP Clint Nageotte from Tacoma. [8/21]

Recalled RHP Jeff Harris from Tacoma; optioned RHP Clint Nageotte to Tacoma. [8/25]

For all of that, you've got three things to consider in the wake of this particular collection of moves. First, swapping in Dobbs for Spiezio is overdue, and while Dobbs isn't going to do that much, he is on the 40-man, and better to look at him to see if he has any value as a reserve at the infield corners than reminding yourself that Spiezio had nothing left to offer. Dobbs is the sort of line-drive lefty bat that managers sometimes take a shine to in a reserve role. It's a role for which he's suited, and which might even have a little bit extra value on a team where both starters at the infield corners bat right-handed. It probably doesn't hurt that the organization loves him for the way he survived an Achilles tendon injury that cost him his '03 season. Just don't be fooled by their plugging him: he's not a prospect.

Second, Buckybackers of the world, rejoice! (The preceding was not a cryptic message to Buckminster Fuller groupies.)

Third, Nageotte doesn't seem like he can buy a break, but between his fragility, command issues, and the absence of a decision about what they want him to be when he grows up--starter, or reliever?--he's probably better off just getting out of King Felix's mushroom kingdom. There are few top prospects whose careers have gone more AWOL than Nageotte's has in the last year, not without suffering a career-altering injury. To top all of that off, he was burned mopping up for Ryan Franklin, one of the guys he should be replacing, and thus unavailable to assume Meche's slot in the rotation. Now, perhaps after missing a chunk of the season to forearm and back trouble, and otherwise spending the year in a relief role in Tacoma, it would be a bit much to expect Nageotte to make Meche's starts, but the fact that the Mariners, so often touted for their farm talent, are instead relying on guys like Franklin or a minor league journeyman like Harris speaks volumes about how exceptional King Felix may well wind up being, at least until they break him. It's what happened with Meche, and what happened to Joel Pineiro, so you can consider me understandably skeptical about the nature of King Felix's royal birthright.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Activated OF-R Moises Alou from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Jason Ellison to Fresno; released LHP Kirk Rueter. [8/19]

Placed RHP Tyler Walker on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 8/20; repurchased of RHP Brian Cooper from Fresno. [8/21]

I guess for the fant-heads the news is that saves opportunities will go to LaTroy Hawkins and perhaps Armando Benitez, and what the hell, that might even make the team better somehow, not that you'd really notice. It's one of those elements of this team, like the decision to try to finish up with an outfield of Alou, Randy Winn, and Michael Tucker. It doesn't really matter in terms of helping the Giants go anywhere now or in the future, but it's awfully swell if you're one of those guys and still feel like playing. Well, okay, there is also Pedro Feliz, popping into the outfield whenever Edgardo Alfonzo gets remembered and stuck into the lineup. Is it just me, or does 2000, the last year in which Alfonzo was great and healthy, seem like a very long time ago? It's become that kind of team, where instead of comparing scars, the geezers can try to top each other with bragging how long ago their last really good season was. Or laugh politely to be a pal, if you happen to be Deivi Cruz.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Activated OF-L Larry Walker from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Mike Mahoney to Memphis. [8/20]

This is actually starting to work out very nicely for the Cards. Walker will get live play in which to rehab, while being rested frequently to keep him from reinjuring himself before October. In a lineup now definitely short one Scott Rolen, having Walker in working order is definitely a priority. But equally handy is that between Walker's absence and Reggie Sanders still being on the DL, playing time is being spread around between So Taguchi, John Rodriguez, and John Mabry, and that's a great way to have them all geared up for the roles they're to play in the postseason. Don't laugh, but since Taguchi's finally done something (it only took four years), and with Rodriguez looking like one of the best free talent pickups of last winter, all three are going to have their uses as key bit players. Taguchi might make a nice spot starter for Walker against a hard-throwing lefty, Rodriguez for Sanders against a dominant righthander with platoon issues. All three make nice pinch-hitting choices to use on a team that will need to pinch-hit for its third basemen and catchers, even allowing for some double-switchery to potentially keep an Einar Diaz at-bat from costing them. This stuff may matter less over 162 games, but a bench used with brio in October can make a lot of difference, especially for a lineup that will not be at its best when that time comes.

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Placed RHP Ryan Drese on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 8/19; recalled RHP Travis Hughes from New Orleans [8/23]

Placed OF-L Ryan Church on the 15-day DL (broken toe). [8/25]

The Nats are encouraging Drese to look at rehab as opposed to surgery, and why not? He's not useful, and he's a free agent after the season, so why not weasel around when you might find someone else to pay for the surgery. The only person who loses out if Drese is healthy enough to pitch as badly as anyone should expect is Jim Bowden, since he's the kiddo who felt that he'd answered his rotation's problems with waiver manna. As much as I'm a believer that you can find help on the waiver wire, Drese is not the sort to inspire that faith.

The problem is that losing Drese coincides with Tony Armas's latest breakdown, at a time when there's really only John Halama in the pen to plug into one of the open slots. Without any further dumpster diving, the Nats will have to turn to the farm system, Of course, there is always the possibility that the Nats could avoid sending Armas to the DL because he might only miss one start, and instead go with a 'pen start' to cover the team in Armas's slot this Sunday, before roster expansion gives them more options should Armas not be ready to pitch by September 2nd. In that scenario they could ask former starter Gary Majewski to pitch three innings or less to lead off Sunday's game, and then see where they are in the game at that point. The alternative is hauling up Rockie rejects like lefty Matt White or Kip Bouknight, or perhaps rushing Darrell Rasner up from Double-A, with Rasner holding a major advantage by already being on the 40-man. No, those are not the worst-case scenarios, those are the best choices in an obviously thin organization. If you instead wanted to take your lumps with an "experienced" choice, the Nats would have to turn to Chad Durbin or Brian Powell, but the paying customers might finally grouse.

As for Church breaking his pinky toe, I sympathize. I broke one on my first full day as a resident of the metropolitan D.C. area, and it was only slightly more fun than being in a sack of cats. Naturally, I had to break the other one a couple of months later, to acquired a matched pair. I wouldn't recommend that Church make that particular mistake; he should be back in September, and he's obviously hit well enough to stake a claim on the outfield slot that should become available after Preston Wilson becomes a free agent in November.

Having hammered Bowden repeatedly over the full duration of his regime, it is sort of a relief to note what I'd consider one of his best moves, which was claiming Hughes off of waivers from the Rangers right after spring training. A gi-normous sinker-slider guy with good velocity, Hughes was pitching as a reliever for New Orleans, and having a nifty little season: 43 hits, three homeruns, and 22 walks allowed in 56.1 IP, while striking out 66, and posting a 2.88 ERA. He's a former prospect whose command issues caused the Rangers to wonder what they had for a couple of seasons before 40-man roster pressures encouraged them to give up on him despite a good '04 season spent at Double-A. That was when Hughes became a full-time reliever, and he showed he'd made a successful move to the pen, but the Rangers were busy futzing around with this year's collection of big league tape jobs to patch up the pitching staff (not to mention Ryan Drese), and it cost them.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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