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September 1, 2005

Transaction Analysis

August 26-31

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Acquired LHP Jason Christiansen from the Giants for LHP Dusty Bergman and RHP Ronnie Ray. [8/30]

Optioned RHP Joel Peralta to Salt Lake. [8/31]

As orthodox as it might be for the Angels to have finally gone out and gotten themselves a lefty reliever, I see this as a pretty reasonable move. And as much as Christiansen may not be a primo situational godling in the world of lefty specialists, he has kept lefties to a clip of .250/.308/.313 this year, and he's only allowed them to slug .317 over the last four seasons ('05 inclusive) and hit .234. It might not be completely dominating, but it's still somebody you won't mind using to go after Eric Chavez or Hank Blalock, let alone whatever matchups the Angels may want in October, should they get there. As much as I do believe you can get by without a situational lefty over the full season, in the postseason, when every little advantage is the difference between getting to play tomorrow or not, it's worth having one from here on out. The price might seem steep, since it's two bodies for a rental (although one with an '06 option), but neither Bergman nor Ray were close to the top of the organization's shelf of live-armed young pitchers.

You might be a little surprised that it's Peralta who loses out, and not Kevin Gregg. However, Peralta did seem to have become the last man in the pen. Before pitching horribly in his last two outings, Gregg hadn't allowed a run in his previous 13 innings pitched in August, with a dozen strikeouts against a single walk. It doesn't seem too unlikely that Gregg might be back to being a useful long reliever, if still short of being the asset he was last year. And considering that the Angels just added a situational lefty, balancing that out on your postseason roster with a reliever you know can throw multiple innings in an outing makes all sorts of sense.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Acquired OF-L Todd Hollandsworth from the Cubs for RHPs Angelo Burrows and Todd Blackford. [8/29]

Optioned RHP Joey Devine to Richmond; transferred C-R Eddie Perez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/30]

Not that I have a lot of use for Hollandsworth, nor would I wish to see him starting instead of either Jeff Francoeur or Kelly Johnson, but he does have experience in a pinch-hitting role, and he hasn't spent the summer pining away on the dugout rails. Assuming Brian Jordan is back up in September, the question may be less one of the roles of Francoeur or Johnson in the posteason, and more one of whether or not Ryan Langerhans makes the cut if everyone else is healthy.

I guess if you're a Braves fan, you can take hope that this might be another year in which Bobby Cox doesn't go the Joe Ayrault route in selecting his bench for October, and dig up a third catcher. Perez is done for the year, and Brian McCann has done plenty to earn Cox's confidence. I guess there's still a possibility that Brayan Pena might squeak on somehow, but it would have to come at the expense of someone like Macay McBride than a fifth outfielder. They can always add Pena later on in the Perez slot, should Johnny Estrada break down.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Recalled 1B-R Alejandro Freire from Bowie (Double-A); placed OF-R Sammy Sosa on the 15-day DL (lesioned toe), retroactive to 8/26. [8/28]

So Sammy's hurt and Rafael Palmeiro is wallowing in his self-imposed silent self-pity. Normally, this is where a ballclub summons up people with promising futures, but this is the Orioles, and they don't have too many of those ready for big league auditions. I suppose they could always go the Jeff Fiorentino route, and rush up Nick Markakis with less than a month of Double-A under his belt, but that wouldn't be wise. Walter Young is getting overmuch consideration, but he is on the 40-man roster, and best to probably peek at him before cutting bait. At least Freire should make a nice enough platoon mate for Palmeiro or B.J. Surhoff or Jay Gibbons in the 1B/DH/RF roundabout. It's the role Sosa should have been relegated to after hitting only .196/.263/.341 against right-handed pitching this year. Now that he's gone, with roster expansion, I suppose they could also invest some outfield playing time in Ramon Nivar before deciding to get him off of the 40-man. But that's what this season is down to in Bal'mer.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Designated LHP Mike Remlinger for assignment; recalled LHP Abe Alvarez from Pawtucket. [8/28]

Claimed RHP Chad Harville off of waivers from the Astros. [8/29]

Optioned LHP Abe Alvarez to Pawtucket; recalled RHP Manny Delcarmen from Pawtucket. [8/30]

Recalled 3B-R Kevin Youkilis from Pawtucket; optioned RHP Manny Delcarmen to Pawtucket. [8/31]

Note that they claimed Harville, and put him in Pawtucket, not Fenway. Meanwhile, they're still just hoping that Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling will go back to superstardom sometime very soon. Given that those are both chancy propositions, it isn't like Jon Papelbon has rewarded their similarly appropriate faith in him and his heat, not now that he's given up runs in all three relief appearances he's made. But then there's the problem in a nutshell: as the Yankees start breathing ever more heavily down Boston's collar, they're going to have less and less opportunity to be patient with anybody. Take Alvarez's quick callup and discard: he's been starting all year, but having already made the mistake of picking up Remlinger, they may have been dickering with the notion of finding a second lefty, only to discard it after two appearances. If you don't think Boston's afraid, guess again.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Optioned OF-R Brian Anderson to Charlotte. [8/28]

Optioned RHP Jon Adkins to Charlotte; placed 3B-R Joe Crede on the 15-day DL (broken finger), retroactive to 8/26; recalled RHP Jeff Bajenaru and UT-L Willie Harris from Charlotte; activated OF-L Scott Podsednik from the 15-day DL. [8/29]

Recalled RHP Brandon McCarthy from Charlotte; optioned RHP Jeff Bajenaru to Charlotte. [8/30]

Sox fans shouldn't be paticularly happy that Anderson got sent down, not when it almost certainly reflects that Timo Perez is a lock for the postseason roster, no matter how badly he plays. The question of who to have on the postseason roster is the name of the game at the moment, and I'm wondering what Kenny Williams is thinking. I think we can all be a little more certain about the decision to keep McCarthy around. Although the schedule put the Sox in a situation where they had to have McCarthy up to pitch half of Tuesday's double-header, you might ask if he's someone they have to have for October. Since the Sox don't really have a true long reliever amongst their other relievers, McCarthy might be worth keeping around for that in itself. But there's more to it than that. El Duque's health is always a problematic issue, and if you're forced to give Jose Contreras a postseason start, you're almost certainly going to also want to have a long reliever on your roster. And it isn't like Jon Garland's mix of bad and good starts in August has put anybody's mind at ease about the front three in the rotation.

There is the misfortune that Bajenaru didn't get to stick around. As that rare active ballplayer who also happens to be a member of SABR, it's hard not to root for the guy. He's got a nifty sinker-splitter combo that he's been dominant with the last couple of seasons, and he's a Tommy John survivor. As Charlotte's closer this season, he's been particularly sharp, striking out 81 in 69 IP, while allowing only 43 hits and 27 walks, and posting a 1.30 ERA. He'll be back once rosters expand, and will no doubt help Bobby Jenks give Dustin Hermanson and Cliff Politte some rest down the stretch. Not that Ozzie Guillen is helping: what was the manager thinking using Hermanson in three straight games this weekend, only to have to hear that his bad back wasn't feeling so hot after that?

At least I'm also comfortable with the decision to bring Harris back. In addition to giving them someone as an alternative to playing Perez (or even the sainted Podzilla) in the outfield, Harris makes for a useful spare part in other little ways: a lefty hitter who can draw a walk in situations you have to have a baserunner, a pinch-runner fast enough to use, even an alternative to Geoff Blum at third base now and again. Definitely someone handy to have around in a short series and, if Crede's finger takes a while to heal, someone the Sox will need in the interim.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Recalled SS-R Ronny Cedeno from Iowa; placed 3B-R Aramis Ramirez on the 15-day DL (strained quadriceps), retroactive to 8/25. [8/26]

Acquired RHP Justin Berg from the Yankees for OF-L Matt Lawton; purchased the contract of 1B/3B-R Scott McClain from Iowa. [8/27]

Traded OF-L Todd Hollandsworth to the Braves for RHPs Angelo Burrows and Todd Blackford. [8/29]

Placed RHP Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL (shoulder surgery); recalled OF-R Matt Murton and purchased the contract of RHP Jermaine Van Buren from Iowa. [8/30]

What sort of season is it for Cubs fans? The sort where they can get appropriately snuggly and hug themselves over news that Kerry Wood just had a very nice day on the table instead of out on the mound. So it's time to tear down, and that means flipping veterans before their contracts are up, and in exchange getting live arms, Rice-A-Roni, and whatever else you get for having been a delightful and charming competitor.

I guess there are positives: the market gets to see if Nomar Garciaparra plays third well enough to make him a wealthy man this winter, given the relative scarcity of third basemen. The Cubs get to see if Cedeno is ready to challenge Neifi Perez, which isn't quite the midget wrestling contest it sounds like, since Cedeno might actually win the job next year, especially if Dusty Baker has finally become somebody else's problem. Murton should finally get the at-bats he's earned, although the way the season has worked out, I suppose doofing around with Jerry Hairston Jr. in left field is an unavoidable danger. I can understand the absence of a plan for what to do about Corey Patterson, assuming anything can be done to avoid making him the new Jerome Walton, doomed to disappear into the Cubs' Bermuda Triangle for their own prospects. I'd make Patterson earn his at-bats at this point, and leave Hairston in center while putting Murton in left. However, the current team mission seems to be to field as bad a team as possible coming into the home stretch; with a lineup that has Perez and Patterson in it, and even Henry Blanco with an unhappy frequency, they're doing a great job at it.

Credit where credit's due, the Cubs do pay attention to what's going on over on the other side of the Pacific, and hauling McClain back after four seasons spent with Seibu was a nifty little bit of contingency planning in case anything happened to Ramirez. Now something has, and it's too late in the year to really matter, but at least McClain will finally get to play a bit more than his unfortunate association with the Devil Rays in '99. Of course, that's a case of getting to play on two shipwrecks, but at least he'll get into a game or two in Wrigley Field, and nobody's career should be without that.

The other ray of sunshine is the arrival of Van Buren, a Rockie reject and indy league retread. It seems sort of remarkable that he was discarded by the Rockies, given their state of constant desperation, but they're the Rockies, and Van Buren was a second-round pick with control problems after five years as a pro, one who hadn't made the jump to Double-A. But that's why, with pitching, you should always keep Joaquin Andujar's wisdom in mind: youneverknow. Van Buren was great in the independent Central League in '03, signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent in '04, and clambered up through Double-A into Iowa that same season. Presumably, he's not a distant relation of the Little Magician, and Jermaine's assortment is all power where Martin's was all craftiness. Still, there is the one root of the family tree that goes back to the New York Dutch, so I can't help but be prematurely fond of the guy. Of course, it also helps that he totally smoked the PCL, striking out 65 in 54.2 IP while allowing only 55 baserunners. As a fan, we all make snap judgments about who to root for, and sometimes, there are reasons. You know mine, so let's see how he does.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Recalled RHP Kyle Denney from Buffalo, and placed him on the 60-day DL (post-concussion symptoms - skull fracture). [8/29]

Optioned LHP Brian Tallet to Buffalo; recalled CF-R Franklin Gutierrez from Buffalo. [8/31]

And just like that, the Indians have a handy-dandy postseason roster spot open, because they can place Mr. Denney on the postseason roster, elaborately give themselves a collective slap to the head, declaim that they had no idea that Mr. Denney wouldn't be available to pitch in October, and that they'll just have to put this other guy on their postseason roster. Theoretically, whoever they slip in is supposed to be on the 40-man roster by September 1, but as the Angels did with Francisco Rodriguez, sometimes, it's all just a matter of MLB just not noticing when you break the rules.

Less cagily, they put Gutierrez onto the active roster. This wasn't a reward for his playing well, because he didn't build on the injury-prone '04 season he had in his first year in the organization after coming over as the principal in the Milton Bradley swap. Instead, having muddled around in Akron (.258/.320/.420), and then doing much the same at Buffalo (.254/.320/.403), he's really up to give the club a defensive replacement for Casey Blake or whoever else gets to start in right field. He's also someone you can use as a pinch-runner, and he has the arm that would spare the Indians the indignity of playing Coco Crisp popgun in center if anything happened to Grady Sizemore. As relatively glum as all that sounds, keep in mind that Gutierrez is only 22, and is far ahead of most players his age, as well as having enjoyed considerably more upper level experience. I wouldn't rule out a breakout in Buffalo next spring, but he'll get a taste of the big time and possibly playoff baseball beforehand.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned C-R Ryan Jorgensen to Albuquerque; recalled RHP John Riedling from Albuquerque. [8/27]

Placed RHP John Riedling on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis); recalled RHP Chris Resop from Carolina (Double-A). [8/29]

Optioned RHP Chris Resop to Carolina (Double-A). [8/30]

Recalled OF-L Jeremy Hermida from Carolina (Double-A). [8/31]

Nothing against flippers, but Hermida's the shape of Fish to come. Having bopped to the tune of .290/.455/.513 in his Double-A debut, the Marlins are following up on a recent trend to avoid the mistake that Don Baylor made in 1995, and make sure you carry enough hitters on your postseason roster. At 21 and with three full seasons in the minors under his belt, Hermida's future isn't dimmed by his recent problems with his right wrist. Since Juan Encarnacion is a free agent after the season, Hermida has a double opportunity, both to help the team win the NL East or claim the wildcard, and also to stake a claim on the job in whichever outfield corner Miguel Cabrera isn't.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Designated RHP Chad Harville for assignment; recalled OF-L Luke Scott from Round Rock. [8/29]

Optioned C-R Humberto Quintero and RHP Mike Burns to Round Rock; purchased the contracts of C-R Raul Chavez and UT-R Charles Gipson from Round Rock. [8/31]

There is perhaps no better desciption of their quandary behind the plate that the Astros had to ponder whether they preferred Quintero or Chavez as Brad Ausmus' backup. The problem with the question isn't asking it, it's that it has no proper answer, just a strangled cry of self-pity for a self-inflicted circumstance. Now, take that problem, and ponder a bench that doesn't just have Gipson or Mike Lamb or Eric Bruntlett or Jose Vizcaino, it has all four.

At least the call-back of Scott makes sense, after he hit .284/.361/.601 for the Express after this season's unfortunate season-opening audition. Pounding 31 homeruns in 103 games there should be enough to get him into the lineup over the sadly miscast Chris Burke or Lamb. It's a funny sort of team with a funny sort of lineup: every day is basically an exercise of keeping the front four of Taveras in center, Biggio at second, Ensberg at third, and Lance Berkman cleaning up, with the drama from there depending on where Berkman plays, and how do you fill out the fifth and sixth slots based on that. (Adam Everett and Ausmus own the last two slots in front of the pitcher.)

As for the pen, I wouldn't worry about how it will fare with Harville and Burns both gone. Although dumping Harville to keep Russ Springer around seems like an odd choice and a too-casual discard of a good arm, Springer has had a good August, and the pen is basically a three-man unit, relying heavily on Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, and Dan Wheeler. Harville had never really gained the team's trust, and beyond the pen's big three, Springer, token lefty Mike Gallo, and whoever isn't in the rotation once Brandon Backe comes off of the DL won't matter much in the grand scheme of things.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed RHP Runelvys Hernandez on the 15-day DL (stiff back), retroactive to 8/22; recalled LHP J.P. Howell from Omaha. [8/26]

Optioned RHP Jonah Bayliss to Wichita (Double-A); recalled OF-R Matt Diaz from Omaha. [8/30]

So it's back to patching up the rotation with Howell, the former ace of the University of Texas, on the strength of his standing as the Royals' top pick in the '04 draft. I guess I hope it works out better for him than it did for Mike Loynd, but I just don't see this as a move that's going to help his development. He has struck out a hundred hitters across three minor league levels in 101.2 IP, and he has allowed only 3.5 runs per nine, but this really seems more of a case of desperation than giving thought to how best to manage Howell's career. Glutton for punishment that I am, I guess I'd like to see Dennis Tankersley, but the rotations at both Omaha and Wichita aren't in good shape, and at this point, the Royals need bodies to help them finish playing out the schedule as much as anything. However unready he is, Howell is at least healthy.

As for Bayliss' demotion, as unhappy as it makes an obviously enthused Jonah to see the major's lone Jonah go down, let's face it, it isn't like I've got that many Christinas to root for on a big league diamond. I think we'd all settle for Jennie Finch, though. And really, could she do any worse than some of the people the Royals are relying upon? I know that's a weak-sister argument, but my stance on this has never really changed over time: men, women, puppy-eating space squids, I don't care, if it can help put a better team on the field, get it out there, and leave the mawkish mopes guys on the beat to titter over locker room logistics and how to talk to a grumpy squid in a towel.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Placed SS-B Cesar Izturis on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 8/23; recalled 2B/3B-B Willy Aybar from Las Vegas. [8/28]

Much as I like him as a prospect, I don't really see Aybar getting that much of an opportunity at the moment. Oscar Robles will get to play short now instead of third, while this might also create playing time for a possibly regruntled Jose Valentin, or perhaps Antonio Perez now that the experiment with moving him to the outfield seems to have failed. Meanwhile, although overshadowed by playing in Joel Guzman's farm system, Aybar has climbed up the next rung after having had a nifty initial season in Triple-A, hitting .297/.356/.419. Good numbers, but not great, not for the PCL, and not for Las Vegas, but considering he's only 22, that's still very promising. He's no longer playing second every day, having gotten in a lot of time at third base. That's sort of a pity, because his defensive performances at second before this year were consistently outstanding. Regardless, he'll have to hit to fit in, especially with Guzman coming up behind (and hitting .280/.343/.467 at Double-A Jacksonville), and with the club's long-term commitment to Izturis up above. However, since Jeff Kent is only under contract for one more season, it isn't like the Dodgers should be in a rush to deal him.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Optioned RHP Justin Lehr to Nashville; activated OF-R Brady Clark from the 15-day DL. [8/26]

Recalled RHP Justin Lehr from Nashville; placed RHP Ben Sheets on the 15-day DL (torn muscle - back). [8/27]

So the Brewers get cautious, and shut down Sheets for the year. Why not? The season tickets are sold, and the name of the game if you're a new owner isn't to try to expend energy in finishing in third place in the division this year, it's about being able to safely claim that next year's team has that much more promise, and be sure to mail in your deposit. I haven't really spun out how much further along we should expect the Brewers to progress in the season to come, but I think this year clearly represented a clear switch over from the '03-'04 focus on achieving a certain professional respectability to this year's slowly segue into showing off the goodies that people will really want to pay to see. Rick Helling might be in the rotation for the meantime, and that's nice for him, but it's not really a hint at what's to come. And no, I don't mean another helping of Wes Obermueller, more like some future competition between Jose Capellan and Dennis Sarfate.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned INF-B Luis Rodriguez to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Scott Baker from Rochester. [8/28]

As much of a trainwreck as the infield has become (by design), at least the Twins haven't entirely punted their responsibilities towards self-improvement, however much they may over-Punto the lineup. (Following Punto's fortunes are like following Peruvian currency: "Decade Four, and things still haven't turned around. Soon, though, soon.") Although Rodriguez deserved better, he's been shunted aside for a more worthy goal, which is getting Joe Mays out of the rotation so that Baker could slip into it. Baker's had a superb season at Rochester, posting a 3.01 ERA across 134.2 IP, and allowing 123 hits with a 107-26 strikeout-walk ratio. As a second round pick in '03 out of a top program (Oklahoma State), capped by two years of success in the minor leagues, it isn't unreasonable to believe that Baker's ready to stick and give the Twins a fourth starter worth sticking with. This might even be good for Mays: if he shines in relief over the last month of the season, free agency might not be so inhospitable as it otherwise promises to be.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Acquired OF-L Matt Lawton from the Cubs for RHP Justin Berg; optioned RHP Scott Proctor to Columbus. [8/27]

Signed INF-B Mark Bellhorn; optioned INF-R Felix Escalona to Columbus; transferred RHP Carl Pavano from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/30]

It's easy to get jazzed up about the OBP possibilities in the offing now that Lawton and Bellhorn are in the fold, but I'd temper that enthusiasm for the moment. Yes, Lawton's an easy choice, since he goes straight into an outfield corner, cementing Hideki Matsui in center, and condemning Bernie Williams to DH on the days that it isn't Tino Martinez's turn to play, or Ruben Sierra's when he comes off of the DL. It's an upgrade, and it also helps in that Lawton can actually run around well enough that Matsui can instead wonder about the gap over on his other flank, whether it's Gary Sheffield or Sierra or perhaps even Williams, should Joe Torre work up the nerve and let Bernie play in a corner.

What I wouldn't be quite so cocksure about is Bellhorn's taking over at second base for Robinson Cano. Cano's been a solid defender on a team that's caught a lot of flak for its glovework, where Bellhorn's reputation is execrable. However, Cano's slugging percentage has dropped almost a hundred points in a month, and his OBP's finally and predictably slipped under .300. I guess I look at Bellhorn as something akin to the decision to pick up Roy Smalley Jr. in 1982. It fits in with my overdone comparison of this year's team to the ill-fated Go Go Yankees of that year: like Smalley, Bellhorn doesn't really have a defensive position you're happy to have him at. Like Smalley, he's a good on-base threat. Like Smalley, he's a switch-hitter. Both became Yankees on the downslope of their careers, although you could say that about a few hundred people.

But I still like the move, even if the Yankees don't boldly plug Bellhorn into the lineup, for two basic reasons. First, there's the drama of the former Red Sock, and I can think of a few Yankees fans who'd get a kick out of this working out better for New York than, say, David Cone's defection to Red Sox Nation did. But the most fundamental consideration is the one that matters most, which is that having Bellhorn gives the Yankees someone who can play second, third or short in a pinch, and who happens to be a lot better choice than either Tony Womack or Escalona. Not that Torre remembers to use his bench in the postseason, but say Derek Jeter sat on somebody's antler collection, this is a lot better than the alternatives.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned 2B/3B-R Keith Ginter to Sacramento; recalled LHP Ron Flores from Sacramento. [8/27]

Recalled UT-L Freddie Bynum from Sacramento; optioned LHP Ron Flores to Sacramento. [8/29]

Placed SS-R Bobby Crosby on the 15-day DL (broken ankle), retroactive to 8/28; recalled 2B/3B-R Keith Ginter from Sacramento. [8/31]

So now we're back to that other Oakland team, the one that has Rich Harden in less than full operating order, and that also has Crosby on the DL. The news is particularly grim with Crosby, since he's out until October. Nor does the team have a surfeit of alternatives. At least they have Joe Kennedy to replace Harden for the time being.

Barring something really creative, like moving Eric Chavez to short to play Ginter at third on the off chance that Ginter finally heats up, the next-most-implausible-but-hopeful scenario would probably have to involve calling up Mike Rouse from Sacramento. In his second season there, Rouse has hit .279/.368/.401, and since he hits lefty, you might hope that he'd become the larger half of a platoon where Marco Scutaro perhaps inevitably escapes the bench. An unhappy part-time solution might be to have Ginter play some second, with Mark Ellis going back to short; he played a lot of shortstop in the minors, coming up in the Royals chain, after all. But Ginter isn't a great second baseman, and Scutaro's popularity seems likely to short-circuit this suggestion for anything more than a very rare, sometime sort of thing. I guess there's the danger that Bynum might sneak into a few Sunday lineups and the like, since he hits lefty and he's pretty speedy, but he also only hit .279/.347/.389, not that much worse than Rouse, but worse enough for me to grouse. Bynum's more a nifty sort of last man for your postseason bench, the pinch-runner who can play anywhere, but now he might be pressed into action.

So that's what A's fans are left with: hoping that Ginter gets hot, or Scutaro covers for Crosby adequately enough, or that Bynum finally works out after spending six years knocking around in the organization. To be fair to Scutaro, he's had a great season playing shortstop. The real question is how to replace Crosby's bat in the middle of the order. Can the A's really count on Dan Johnson and Jay Payton to remain red-hot? (You already know who batted 4-5 in the order.) Or is it Nick Swisher's turn again? Will Jason Kendall ever have a turn?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired OF-L Michael Tucker from the Giants for RHP Kelvin Pichardo. [8/27]

Transferred 1B-L Jim Thome from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed RHP Cory Lidle on the 15-day DL (strained oblique). [8/28]

At long last, they've replaced Ricky Ledee, at least in the sense of having a lefty-hitting outfielder on the bench worth using as a pinch-hitter, instead of just Endy Chavez. Combined with Jason Michaels, it certainly gives Charlie Manuel some choices, instead of simply trying to save Michaels for the high-leverage moment on the days he isn't starting for Kenny Lofton in center.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed LHP Zach Duke on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 8/23; transferred 2B-R Jose Castillo from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of LHP Paul Maholm from Indianapolis. [8/27]

Activated 1B/OF-R Craig Wilson from the 15-day DL; placed OF-L Chris Duffy on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 8/26. [8/28]

Duffy might be out for the season, so I guess this means more time in center for Rob Mackowiak. It's just as well, since Wilson does need some at-bats to either zotz up his trade value or reclaim an outfield corner for himself, and the Bucs may as well leave the hot corner to Ty Wigginton to similarly recover some sort of reputation going into the Hot Stove League. I know, this leaves Nate McLouth on the bench, but he's earned it. It should also keep Ryan Doumit behind the plate for the time being, and that's for the best too, to see if he's who they want handling most of the games next year. If there's one thing that's certain, it's that Duffy will get every opportunity to be the Opening Day center fielder next year.

The much more disappointing development was losing Duke, for me as well as for Pirates fans, since he's someone I gave a big shout-out in last year's book. His rookie status is already used up, so there's no reason to shelve him for the season. Instead, the Bucs can leave him on the DL for a couple of turns, and then see if he's able to make his last three starts. In the meantime, they can take a peek at another one of their gaggle of quality lefties. Maholm has had a nifty comeback season from an '04 that was derailed by a line drive off of his noggin, dominating at Double-A before having a little more trouble at Indianapolis. I still prefer Duke and Tom Gorzelanny, but that's the nature of having an embarassment of riches. I haven't even brought up Brian Bullington, and he's looking ready as well, although he is one of those righthanded people. Dave Littlefield should have plenty of opportunity to clear out guys like Mark Redman, Josh Fogg, and perhaps even Oliver Perez before all is said and done this winter.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned C-R David Ross to Portland; activated RHP Adam Eaton from the 15-day DL. [8/26]

Placed RHP Pedro Astacio on the 15-day DL (strained quadriceps); recalled OF-R Ben Johnson from Portland. [8/29]

Activated SS-R Khalil Greene from the 15-day DL; designated SS-R Wilson Valdez for assignment. [8/30]

Designated RHP Paul Quantrill for assignment; recalled 3B-L Sean Burroughs from Portland. [8/31]

So Greene is back, ideally for the duration. Along with Dave Pease, a fellow charter member of the long-forgotten (and perhaps forgettable) Rob Deer Fan Club, I delight in the news that roving hitting instructor Rob Deer might be in some way responsible for helping Burroughs rediscover an ability to hit for power. And voila!, Burroughs hit for power, and he's back up saying all of the bubbly things about how much fun it is to hammer the ball. Keep in mind, he did only slug .427 in his month in the PCL, but that's what he's been reduced to. He did hit .290 and get on base at a .362 clip, but at this stage, he's still a bit short of becoming the new Denny Walling. That's not to say that Joe Randa couldn't use a Walling to share third with, but expectations for Burroughs were so much higher than this. Still, I see the cup as half full: if the Padres manage to resurrect Burroughs and return him to usefulness, that's something of value.

What I'm less excited about is the Pads' pitching predicament. Let's get this straight: Astacio breaks down, so you're giving another trial to Eaton, in the hope that maybe now he's healthy? There is the somewhat reassuring news that Eaton can finally throw breaking stuff again, and I guess there is the knowledge that nobody else in the division's likely to be better than .500 for consecutive weeks, thereby putting a scare into the Pads, so they can take their time with the experiment. There is the postseason to consider, after all, and Chan Ho Park has yet to make a quality start. Somebody has to start a fourth game in a seven-game series, and it almost certainly shouldn't be Park.

I'm also a little troubled by the decision to cut loose Quantrill. I'm always troubled whenever a team decides that they now know that this is the point from which Rudy Seanez will be healthy for the duration. Such scenarios are as predictable as an episode of " Toonces: The Cat Who Could Drive a Car," right down to the consistently unhappy ending. (Eerie, how they both debuted in 1989, isn't it?) Whether it's the cat or Seanez, you can't count on either of them to master cruise control, you can only count on them to find a way over the cliff, with the suspense of 'when' being the lone variable.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Claimed RHP Francisco Cruceta off of waivers from the Indians. [8/26]

Placed UT-R Willie Bloomquist on the 15-day DL; recalled 2B-R Jose Lopez from Tacoma. [8/30]

This year's Bloomquist comment wasn't made by me, but I'm comfortable saying that there's no safe way to play him. Now that he's out of the way, the Mariners can devote more time to sorting out who they may want to have around in next year's infield. Now that he's gotten his injuries behind him and some at-bats under his belt, Lopez seems prepped to step back into the lineup and take a better shot at winning the job at second base. He was certainly hitting with much more authority in Tacoma, posting overall rates of .316/.350/.506. No, he's still not walking, but he will outhit Yuniesky Betancourt. The question is whether that, balanced against the offensive virtues of the third leg of the middle infield menage a trois, Mike Morse, gives Mike Hargrove a interesting situation. Unfortunately, given that his previous solutions have involved playing Bloomquist or seeing if Morse can play left, I suspect the Mariners will still be stuck making their choices even more interesting than they should. Spotting Betancourt for Lopez and Morse would make more sense, but then so would playing Jamal Strong. Apparently, the Mariners would rather play the people that baseball fans in the area haven't already been paying to see play in Tacoma. Sadly, it doesn't make them a noticeably better team than the Rainiers.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Outrighted RHP Brian Cooper to Fresno; designated LHP Jason Christiansen for assignment; recalled LHP Jack Taschner from Fresno; purchased the contract RHP Matt Cain from Fresno. [8/26]

Acquired RHP Kelvin Pichardo from the Giants for OF-L Michael Tucker. [8/27]

Recalled OF-R Jason Ellison from Fresno. [8/29]

Traded INF-R Deivi Cruz to the Nationals for RHP Ben Cox; traded LHP Jason Christiansen to the Angels for LHP Dusty Bergman and RHP Ronnie Ray; purchased the contract of SS-R Angel Chavez from Fresno. [8/30]

I know, we're all supposed to be charged up about Cain because he's the Giants entry into a field of late-season phenoms, along with King Felix and Zack Duke. But one of these things is not like the others, and for my money, it's Cain. Although he did log an impressive 176 strikeouts in 145.2 IP at Fresno, he also walked 73. Pitching in Fresno didn't give him a lot of breaks, as he allowed 22 homeruns, so I wouldn't hold that against him, and he also gave up only 118 hits. Between his youth, pitching in a nice pitcher's park, and his mid-90s heat and plus curve, I suppose I should be much more bullish about him, but between the control issues and his having to launch his career under the increasingly jaundiced eye of Felipe Alou, I guess I don't see him exploding onto the scene the way Duke or King Felix have. The Giants sensibly spotted him at home against the feeble Rockies for his debut, and he pitched adequately. I'd expect more of that, and less celebrity. That's not such a bad thing, especially if it helps keep the Giants from overworking him.

Otherwise, a pretty standard series of dumps and pickups. Bergman will probably be up sooner rather than later, to get a shot at situational specialism of a non-short bus kind. Forgive me the left-handed compliment. Otherwise, a standard assortment of live arms who might be so much organizational popcorn shrimp, plus another opportunity for Ellison to work his way into the outfield picture. He's basically fighting Todd Linden for a job on next year's Giants avec Bonds roster. Randy Winn will be in center, flanked by Bonds and Moises Alou. I suppose there's room for both, although Linden would be the reserve bat, and Ellison the backup center fielder. It's a formula for hoping for a very healthy Bonds, or a quick return to this season's sense of hopelessness.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned LHP Randy Flores to Memphis; recalled C-R Mike Mahoney from Memphis. [8/31]

As frustrating as this might be for Flores, let's face it, when your catchers are Yadier Molina and Einar Diaz, you can't blame Tony LaRussa for being tempted to go the Dick Williams route, and treat his catchers the way Williams did his second basemen some seasons, using his extra outfielders to keep the light sticks from having to swing all that often. I guess if I'm surprised by anything, it's the decisions to not move Scott Rolen or Mike Lincoln to the 60-day DL, so that they could perhaps add either John Nelson or even Tim Hummel to the 40-man roster. With Mark Grudzielanek having knee problems and the infield already shorthanded, it seems strange to have only Bo Hart to turn to if there's another injury amongst the infielders.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned LHP Justin Thompson to Oklahoma; recalled LHP Erasmo Ramirez from Oklahoma. [8/27]

Purchased the contract of RHP Edison Volquez from Frisco (Double-A); optioned LHP C.J. Wilson to Frisco; transferred 1B-R Greg Colbrunn from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/30]

Recalled RHP Scott Feldman from Frisco (Double-A); optioned INF-R Marshall McDougall to Frisco. [8/31]

I know, Orel Hershiser commands respect as a pitching coach, because he's Orel Hershiser, and that used to mean something. It helps that he's articulate and intelligent, a man who's given more thought to pitching than I could ever hope to. I'm impressed that the decisions to first put Joaquin Benoit, Juan Dominguez, and Kameron Loe in the big league bullpen seems to have prepared them to step into starting roles and give the Rangers the first thing to resemble a top-to-bottom rotation in years.

But I'm little less sanguine about the point of having two pitchers barely out of A-ball up. Volquez has given up 4.5 runs per nine in a season split evenly between the high-A California League and Double-A Frisco. While the strikeout per inning he's logged is nice, and a 126-29 strikout to walk ratio over 125.1 IP is great, is he really someone you bring up now, to pitch in Texas in a hot summer? Feldman at least has more excuse, being a big reliever with sixty good innings at Frisco to boast of. I'm simply concerned that this could be like the Rangers of the mid-80s, forcing young talent onto their staff because they got tired of looking at used-up old men. (Which does sound awfully familiar, come to think of it.) Obviously, Benoit and Dominguez are reason for hope going forward, but so was Kid Correa once upon a time. Of course, that approach did give the Rangers the success stories of Jose Guzman and eventually Bobby Witt, so maybe throwing enough stuff at the wall might just be the answer after all.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Designated C-R Ken Huckaby for assignment; recalled C-R Guillermo Quiroz from Syracuse. [8/26]

Now that the Blue Jays have decided that Roy Halladay is out for the season, they can spend the rest of the year evaluating the people they've got to see who might call dibs on a larger role next year. So while that means looking at people like Dustin McGowan or Scott Downs or Quiroz, players who have lost some of their prospect-y sheen because of injuries, and who might all now have opportunities to stick, it's also the end of the road for timeservers like Huckaby, who won't be able to make claims on a spot on anybody's 40-man roster over the winter. Quiroz has only gotten about a month's worth of play in Syracuse this season, having lost time to another collapsed lung (yes, another, as in, it did happen again), as well as a shoulder injury. However, in that month of at-bats, Quiroz did remind people why he's a prospect, hammering a half-dozen homeruns and drawing a walk every ten plate appearances. And little else besides, but after losing four months to injury, we can cut him some slack. He won't turn 24 until after Thanksgiving, so there's still plenty of time for him to have a career, assuming he doesn't have a trick respiratory system or knees made of balsa or something. He'll probably play in the Arizona Fall League, and perhaps winter ball besides, to get his at-bats, and if he does well in this audition as well as those kinds of gigs, he may be in a position to force a job-sharing arrangement behind the plate with Gregg Zaun.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Recalled OF-R Marlon Byrd from New Orleans; optioned RHP Travis Hughes to New Orleans; purchased the contract of LHP Matt White from New Orleans. [8/26]

Optioned LHP Matt White to New Orleans. [8/27]

Recalled RHP Jason Bergmann from New Orleans. [8/2]

Acquired INF-R Deivi Cruz from the Giants for RHP Ben Cox; outrighted RHP Danny Rueckel to Harrisburg (Double-A). [8/30]

Outrighted LHP Matt White to New Orleans. [8/31]

So sure enough, the Nats get desperate, haul up White, he gets pasted, and this is just a case of "O woe, it's so hard to be us, the handicapped orphan franchise," right? Complete nonsense, as the pity that Tomo Ohka and even Sunny Kim are making good starts for other people these days illustrates. Happily, this is the sort of organization that fixes its problems by going out and getting... well, Deivi Cruz, your brand new starting shortstop. Whoever ends up buying the team can consider that sufficient incentive to ask their newly acquired General Manager about whose bright idea it was to make Cristian Guzman one of the most regretted middle infield free agent signings since Julio Cruz in 1984. At least Cruz played a pretty good short in '04, so despite playing a lot of short this year, the Nats may not even have to resort to using Guzman as a defensive replacement. Since he isn't even running well this season, it's sort of an open question what Guzman is for, if anything, but I guess he can be designated listener to Jim Bowden's rants about his victimhood.

If there's sunshine to be found, it's in the call-up of Bergmann. A lanky strikethrower picked up in the '02 draft--you know, back in that long-ago age before Omar Minaya was GM, and before the franchise become a caretaker team--Bergmann works off of a good fastball, but changes speeds effectively, setting up a decent repertoire of supporting junk. Splitting his season between Double- and Triple-A, he tossed 74 IP, all in relief, striking out 76 while allowing only 52 hits and 29 walks. If there's danger, it's in his allowing eight homeruns, and the rap that he might end up struggling against big league lefties at the plate, but playing in muggy bog in RFK, he'll have the space to make a few mistakes.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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