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October 20, 2005

Transaction Analysis

October 8-19

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
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Released OF-R Adam Hyzdu; outrighted LHP Mike Stanton and RHPs Chad Harville and Jeremi Gonzalez to Pawtucket; purchased the contract of RHP Edgar Martinez from Portland (Double-A). [10/17]

Ideally, the Red Sox will dig up better than this lot. Generally speaking, it would be fair to label Gonzalez as a symptom of the problems the Sox had in finding second-rank talent with the ability to adequately fill in for the injuries to Curt Schilling, Wade Miller, and Keith Foulke. You can add Stanton and Harville, John Halama and Mike Remlinger, Matt Mantei and Blaine Neal. All together, you can take them as examples of the failure to fix the pitching staff during the course of the season. They failed to adequately break in or commit to solid in-house talent like Lenny Dinardo, Manny Delcarmen, or Abe Alvarez, goofed around with Cla Meredith long before he was ready, and basically made a hash of finding any adequate temporary help until they grudgingly gave Jon Papelbon a second chance. Now, to be fair, the pressures to contend in-season were tremendous, and they worried too much about today in the face of an all-attentive and all-consuming media and fanbase. And as Moltke the Elder stressed, no plan survives contact with the enemy. That doesn't obviate the need for better contingency planning, however, or excuse poor crisis management. Sometimes, it pays to pay attention to the little stuff, and not in a way that puts a Remlinger on your roster for a couple of weeks.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Outrighted LHP Ryan Wing to Winston-Salem (A-ball), and LHP David Sanders to Charlotte. [10/8]

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Claimed RHP Sean Douglass off of waivers from the Tigers. [10/9]

An interesting claim, and one I'm a little skeptical about as far as whether or not it will stick. Douglass has never had a problem striking people out, mixing decent velocity and a good change well enough. The problem is where, and Douglass seems to be trapped in that Quadruple-A zone, a guy who pitches well enough to succeed in the International League over the last five years, but faltered in the majors:


Level  IP  R/9  BB/9 K/9
AAA  542.2 4.4  3.6  8.2
MLB  207.2 6.5  4.9  6.7

Now, he does have decent velocity, and major league experience in those sorts of dribs and drabs, mostly pitching for some bad ballclubs, probably isn't a fair read. He's no doubt a toolsy sort to some people's way of thinking, in that he's six and a half feet tall, and that's enough to make most scouts swoon on the spot. He's a nifty addition for Buffalo, and he's the sort of guy you do try to take a flyer on. Maybe the Indians saw something they think they can correct, and maybe they just felt good about his strikeout rates. I'm just not sure he'll make it on the 40-man roster before the Indians have to set it for the Rule 5 draft, at which point he may be doomed and damned to be a Royal or something.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Outrighted 2B/SS-R Kevin Hooper, LHPs Vic Darensbourg and Doug Creek, and RHPs Jason Karnuth and Matt Ginter to Toledo; released RHP Gary Knotts. [10/9]

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Willie Eyre from Rochester. [10/11]

Re-signed OF-L Jason Tyner to a minor league contract; activated RHP Grant Balfour and OF-L Jason Kubel from the 60-day DL. [10/14]

If you're a Twins fan and worry about the impending apocalypse, the rising star of Tyner is the ultimate bad sign. Happily, there is the reminder of the hope that Kubel will be fully healed and ready to take on DH duties and perhaps eventually an outfield corner. Along with Eyre and Balfour, the Twins have plenty of reasons to hope that they'll get it right, work in a few more kids, and remain competitive, which will get them to... what, 85 wins? Sadly, that seems more and more like the formula that will also condemn them to also-ran status. Until the organization gets serious about fixing baseball's worst offense by addressing the mediocrity of some of its core players, the Twins are going to continue to contribute to the glory days of the White Sox, the renascent Indians, and perhaps even the Tigers.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Outrighted 2B/3B-B Mark Bellhorn to Columbus; announced that Bellhorn rejected the assignment and opted for free agency. [10/19]

As noted above with the consideration of former Yankee D'Angelo Jimenez's lot in life, Bellhorn's similarly burdened with a scattered appreciation of his virtues (he'll take a walk, and hit for some power), and more generally-held opinion about his glovework. Considering that this winter's freedom holds with his pattern of having a nifty even-numbered year, followed by a year which sees him moved to an employer to be named later, you might be getting fired up for how Bellhorn might be the Saberhagen of second base. But I'd quickly curb that enthusiasm: Bellhorn turned 31 in August, and if there's a question as to whether or not he'll hit enough to win a job at second base, he's basically screwed, because not many managers want or know how to employ a reserve who's good for a pinch-hit walk. I think we're better off taking his '02 and '04 campaigns of proof that he was worth relying upon for a while, but not counting on him to give us more of the same in '06.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Re-signed manager Ken Macha to a three-year contract. [10/14]

Declined their $1.5 million option on Keiichi Yabu for 2006; exercised their $4 million option on OF-R Jay Payton for 2006. [10/17]

I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the happy ending to the courtship of Ken Macha, but let's face it, as courtships go, this was never Elizabeth and Darcy, it was the far more pragmatic alliance between Charles Bingley and Jane, satisfactory as these things go, in no small part because of an easy familiarity. I'm sure that, after Moneyball and obvious mutual disappointments between the front office and Art Howe, we all expect Billy Beane to wind up with a field manager in his own image, a dynamic partner in the strategic kaffeeklatsch we all like to believe exists in Oakland. But to be fair to Macha, although he won't be mistaken for Whitey Herzog or Casey Stengel or Earl Weaver, he has been a relatively effective manager of the pitching staff, he has been more than happy to avoid little ball, and as frustrating as it might be to have Jason Kendall batting second, it wasn't his decision to go out and get Kendall in the first place. (Indeed, there are some who seem to feel Kendall did what they wanted this year, which I'd suggest is an unfortunate bit of post hoc rationalized, lowered expectations.)

Anyway, my point is this: the front office seems comfortable, and Macha didn't lose some segment of his career to an unfortunate misread of the market by an agent who might have gone down in history alongside names like Jody Reed or Mickey Morandini. And some people are probably just happier when they're unhappy.

Which brings me to a source of my unhappiness: Jay Payton, at that price? Hayzoos Maria, that's an insane bit of overpayment for a fourth outfielder. Maybe there's a hope that somebody else, like whoever doesn't get Johnny Damon will deal for Payton, but without that other shoe dropping, this is an absurd expense for a guy who, yes, bopped a dozen homeruns in his first forty games in green and gold, but who seems very unlikely to do that ever again.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Outrighted OF-L Jaime Bubela to Tacoma. [10/9]

Outrighted 3B-R Justin Leone to Tacoma. [10/11]

Outrighted RHP Jorge Campillo to Tacoma. [10/13]

Campillo's going to spend the year on the DL, recovering from surgery, so his move was a no-brainer. Initially, I was a little more surprised by the decision to cut Leone loose, but when you consider that he'll be 29 before Opening Day, and has never adequately dismissed questions about his defense, all it takes is one little Adrian Beltre, and the already limited horizons of an organizational soldier just moved several time zones beyond his grasp. He'll need to shop wisely for his NRI deal this winter to be able to get back to the major leagues in any capacity.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Outrighted 1B/3B-L Eric Munson to Durham. [10/8]

Claimed C-B Mike Rose off of waivers from the Dodgers. [10/14]

I'm probably alone in caring where Munson winds up, but I'm still stubborn on that particular subject. He isn't as bad a third baseman as he's been made out to be, and in a platoon role, I don't see why he shouldn't be something better than the new Mike Lamb. Or maybe he's the old, alternative universe Mike Lamb. These things get a bit sneaky, which is why I should warn parents everywhere to keep their children from watching too much Star Trek at an impressionable age. If the worst thing happens, and they get hooked, you're going to have to achieve that impossible parenting task of trying to reconcile Star Trek: Enterprise with the rest of the Trekkie universe, and in that way lies madness.

As for nifty little snags, I like the Rays claiming Rose. Beyond the odd similarity (both rays and roses are prickly, donchaknow), perhaps this time the Rays will have a backup catcher worth keeping around for the year he shows that he's worth having around. Like Javier Valentin before him, Rose is a switch-hitting catcher who can field his position and help you score a few runs, and that ought to make for a nice alternative to Toby Hall. They do already sort of have that in Pete Laforest, but as long as the D-Rays pick between those two instead of digging up the next John Flaherty or Brook Fordyce, they'll be better off.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Outrighted LHP Justin Thompson to Oklahoma; announced that Thompson rejected his assignment and opted for free agency. [10/10]

Outrighted RHPs Carlos Almanzar and Ryan Bukvich to Oklahoma. [10/14]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Outrighted RHP Jason Arnold, INF-R Raul Tablado, and C-R Ken Huckaby to Syracuse; announced that Huckaby refused his assignment and opted for free agency; declined their $775,000 club option for INF-R Frank Menechino for 2006, and outrighted him to Syracuse; purchased the contracts of RHP Ryan Houston and 3B-R Rob Cosby from New Hampshire (Double-A). [10/13]

Disappointments abound in this group. Arnold might be a handy enough poster boy for TINSTAAPP after he fell well short of what was expected of him by scouts and statheads alike, although to be fair, I think it was always more the latter than the former who were all that worked up about Arnold. After a tremendous 2004 season that got him onto the 40-man roster, Tablado did just about everything you could do to get himself back off of it, getting suspended for banned substance transgressions at the start of a season where he hit .201/.253/.284. As for Frankie Menechino, the Jays want him back at their price, and ideally as a non-roster invitee, and he is a paesan', so that's all understandable Moneythink in the ol' hot stove league.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Outrighted C-R Kelly Stinnett and OF-B Quinton McCracken to Tucson; announced that McCracken refused his assignment and opted for free agency. [10/14]

Because you never know who might want another dose of QMcC. What's he going to do, go back to Seattle? Reserve outfielders with no offensive skills and even less ability to handle center really should be at the end of their tethers, but Arizona's been happy to do things differently than most. Hopefully, this means there's to be a changing of the guard in more ways than one. Which sort of brings me to my curiosity about what Stinnett's situation means for the Snakes' backstop plans. Will they be players in the Piazza sweepstakes, or have they concocted a plan with Stinnett that he'll get a chance to claim a goodly chunk of the playing time from either Koyie Hill or Chris Snyder? If the Snakes sign a veteran catcher, I guess I could see Hill and Stinnett duking it out for the backup slot, with Snyder returning to Tucson to be a Sidesnakeling. If Hill doesn't stick as a backup, he's better off being flipped at first opportunity, because he's already an ex-prospect.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Announced that RHPs Chris Booker and Ben Weber rejected their outright assignments to Louisville and elected for free agency; announced that 2B-B D'Angelo Jimenez had also elected for free agency. [10/9]

You'll see Booker and Weber in somebody's camp next spring, if only because both have had velocity in the past. Weber lost most of the season to a neck injury, but with his experience in-season and from the playoffs, he probably won't have to settle for a NRI deal. Booker spent most of the year closing for Louisville, but spandex superperson suit aside, guys who strike out 91 hitters in 65 IP are going to get looks.

The interesting guy is Jimenez. Several teams need help at second, but Jimenez has been tarred by veteran "leaders" in a relatively juvenile Reds clubhouse, and given that he's skedaddled out of several cities in the course of his relatively brief career, it will be something to watch, to see whether anyone in particular feels that they can rehabilitate his reputation and get a useful player for their troubles. Given that he's on the market at the same time as the fellow keystone hobo Mark Bellhorn, it should be a buyer's market for any team that wants a quick source of OBP instead of overpaying for Ron Belliard.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Claimed C-R Miguel Ojeda off of waivers from the Mariners. [10/11]

Obviously, this is a great thing for Ojeda, but keep in mind that although he only recently arrived in the majors, he's a Mexican League veteran who will turn 31 in January. He's not really the answer to the Rockies' perennial catching problems, but he does make an interesting challenger for Danny Ardoin's job after bopping 13 homeruns in ~450 career big league plate appearances.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Named Joe Girardi manager, and signed him to a three-year contract. [10/19]

Creeping Yankee imperialism takes a friendlier form, as a former minority-stake Yankees owner hires a former Yankee player and coach to be his current plaything's field manager. That all isn't Girardi's fault, since he's always been given credit for being personable and fan-friendly. Indeed, both as management representative in the clubhouse as well as the man who will get the most camera time in Miami, the Lorians probably couldn't help wanting someone less scaly than themselves. But will Joltless Joe be any good as a manager? That's the question we don't really know the answer to. He was never as good a catcher as some people liked to pretend, and he was burdened with a little man's offensive gifts. If like likes like, that could mean bad things for the Fish, but I think it's better to wait and watch. A more interesting tell will be who he selects as his bench coach.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Outrighted RHPs Travis Driskill, Brandon Duckworth, and Scott Strickland to Round Rock. [10/9]

Outrighted LHP Carlos Hernandez to Round Rock; Hernandez rejected his assignment and opted for free agency. [10/16]

It'll be interesting to see if there's much interest in Duckworth. He'll be 30 next year, so he's well beyond the age at which you could still consider him a prospect. But he still has pretty good velocity, and while he has his problems keeping balls in play in the park, venues like L.A., D.C., San Diego, Seattle, or San Francicso might provide the sorts of stadia within which even a Duckworth special might stay in play. Hernandez is coming off of an awful season at Round Rock, and with the concerns about his velocity since the shoulder injury that cost him 2003 and derailed his career, he might have to be resurrected as a reliever at the relatively tender age of 26 next year.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Designated LHPs Ryan Ketchner and Derek Thompson for assignment. [10/15]

Announced that LHP Kelly Wunsch and RHP Giovanni Carrara declined their outright assignments and opted for free agency. [10/17]

As unceremonious as it might seem to have let Carrara go after a summer's hard work, he's sort of used to it by now, having been similarly dumped by both leagues (and Japan) and several teams (including the Dodgers and Reds twice apiece) since he first came up as a nondescript organizational soldier in the Jays' chain ten years ago. For all that, however rubber-armed he's proven to be, he's a 37 year old junkballer, and the most he can expect these days is a spring training NRI. Who knows, maybe he'll even have one with the Dodgers.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Outrighted LHP Luis Pena, UT-R Trent Durrington, OF-B Chris Magruder, and RHPs Victor Santos and Julio Santana to Nashville. [10/8]

Announced that RHPs Victor Santos and Julio Santana, UT-R Trent Durrington, and OF-B Chris Magruder have all opted for free agency. [10/14]

Not much to say about this lot, although I am impressed that the Brewers had the gumption to discard Santos after almost two years of near-adequacy at the tail end of their rotation. I suppose the danger is that he'll be snapped up by Jim Bowden, since he's a better pitcher than Ryan Drese, and what other standard matters? Wherever he winds up, he's just a place-holder for your rotation, and ideally no higher than in the fifth slot. Anyway, Magruder might make it as someone's fifth or sixth outfielder, Santana's convincingly proven he's back amongst the living after logging 49 strikeouts in 41 IP, and Durrington has to be everyone's favorite 25th man/backup backup catcher/pinch-runner now that Josh Paul is a name that will live in infamy.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Fired General Manger Ed Wade. [10/9]

Outrighted C-R A.J. Hinch and RHPs Keith Bucktrot, Francisco Butto and Edwin Moreno to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [10/12]

Well, if you had Chuck LaMar in your baseball fantasy dead pool instead of Ed Wade, you won, but only just barely. I guess I'm a little skeptical about this move, not because Wade hadn't long since earned his walking papers, but because the Phillies are perhaps the game's greatest tribute to cronyism in a game that celebrates cronyism. I can't say I'm optimistic when his firing of Larry Bowa is held against him, instead of being appreciated as one of the few moments of clarity in an otherwise muddled, needy, and expensive reliever-ridden tenure. Although the two assistant GMs, Mike Arbuckle and Ruben Amaro Jr. both have their virtues, I think a craven surrender to sports radio is in the cards. While I doubt it would take the shape of a Dallas Green comeback, I wouldn't hold out much hope that it will be significantly better than the worst choice available.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Hired Jim Tracy as their manager. [10/10]

I sort of touched on this in my chat, but in brief, I like this move. I'll like it even better if Tracy's comfortable working with the hand he's going to be dealt, instead of clamoring for veteran help, but perhaps retaining former interim manager Pete Mackanin in a coaching capacity would be helpful, given his extensive experience with the organization's farmhands. But I am comfortable with the idea that Tracy can handle a group of young pitchers, and given his experiences with the Dodgers, I'm reasonably confident he'll construct usage patterns that keep Craig Wilson (if he isn't dealt), Ryan Doumit, and Rob Mackowiak in the lineup often enough to remain sharp. Add in the potential virtues of a lineup that gets full seasons of Brad Eldred, Jose Castillo, and Chris Duffy, and the Pirates should score plenty of runs for one of the game's most promising young staffs. I'd consider this a credit to Tracy's intelligence that he had the good taste to gun for this assignment. When the Pirates rise in the seasons to come, it'll help burnish Tracy's reputation, and perhaps bury the reasons for which he earned his release from the Dodgers.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Released INF-R Manny Alexander; outrighted UT-R Damian Jackson to Portland. [10/14]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Designated OF-R Julio Ramirez, OF-L Doug Clark, C-R Yamid Haad, and RHPs Brian Cooper and Matt Kinney for assignment; announced that Cooper rejected his assignment and opted for free agency. [10/17]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Released RHP Evan Rust; purchased the contract of OF-L Rick Ankiel from Springfield (Double-A). [10/14]

As interesting as it is to see Ankiel make it back onto a 40-man roster as an outfielder, keep in mind, it doesn't hurt that he did it as a seedling in a Cardinals' farm system that's always a bit short when it comes to cranking out crops. Nevertheless, a .255 Isolated Power rate between low A-ball and Double-A is interesting, and there is the question about whether or not he has future growth potential given that this was his first full season as a professional hitter. Naturally, if he makes it, everyone will be calling him the new Roy Hobbs, and I guess that's true on some level, although the notion does make me wonder if that makes Tony LaRussa Barbara Hershey?

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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