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March 14, 2006

Transaction Analysis

March 10-13

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Assigned RHPs Nick Adenhart, Jose Arredondo, and Bob Zimmerman, and C-Rs Brenton Del Chiaro and Brett Martinez to their minor league camp. [3/13]

I have to admit, I'm just not enough of a Bob Dylan fan to say something really humorous about the decision to demote Zimmerman. My taste for Dylan is like my taste for Johnny Cash, extremely limited at best. Okay, let's try this: now that he's been sent back down to play in some flyover state ballpark, maybe it's a good thing that he loves that country pie. See, that isn't funny, it's just cryptic, unless you really liked Nashville Skyline; Steven Goldman's Zimmerman gag in this year's book is much, much better.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should take a cue from Sam Peckinpaugh, and see if anyone wants to do an extra-gory super slo-mo highlight reel of Zimmerman's exploits in the equally dusty wastes of the minor leagues. I seem to remember that Dylan has a scene where he threw a knife pretty well; maybe that clip would make for a scoreboard distraction whenever Zimmerman pitches. I suppose it beats trying to convince the people of Arkansas to make sock monkeys to wave frenetically as a demonstration of their patriotic enthusiasm for their current affiliation with the Angels.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Reassigned LHP John Parrish and RHPs Orber Moreno and Ryan Keefer to their minor league camp. [3/10]

Reassigned RHP John Stephens to their minor league camp; optioned LHP Adam Loewen, and RHPs Brian Finch, J.J. Johnson, and Marino Salas to Bowie (Double-A). [3/13]

Stephens hasn't impressed anyone this spring, not pitching for the Orioles nor Australia, so his early dismissal can't really be seen as a surprise. Similarly, although I suspect that we'll see Parrish, Keefer, and Moreno in Baltimore at different points of the season, all three are either recovering from a previous injury or trying to overcome something more recent, and all three had to be taken out of the Orioles' considerations for who's actually going to be on the staff come Opening Day.

It isn't a question of whether or not the choices aren't all that great as much as that there simply just aren't that many of them. Aaron Rakers will open the year on the 60-day DL after shoulder surgery, and Todd Williams is hurting, which combine to leave the Orioles with just Chris Ray and LaTroy Hawkins for right-handed relievers on the 40-man with big league experience who haven't broken down. Journeymen like Ricky Bottalico and Jim Brower were supposed to fill in the gaps, but both have pitched badly enough to earn their releases in the coming weeks. Among the lefties, with Parrish out of the running, it would seem that Eric DuBose and Tim Byrdak are locks for lefty bullpen jobs, although Sendy Rleal is having a good camp, and let's face it, the O's could cut both Byrdak and DuBose and not miss them. So opportunities exist for all sorts of NRIs or farmhands. From the 40-man, minor leaguer Chris Britton is getting a long look after striking out 110 in 78.2 IP in the Carolina League (A-ball), and from among the NRI RHPs, Eddy Rodriguez has had a few moments. From the comeback pool, onetime Braves prospect Winston Abreu seems to be doing well with his reunion with Leo Mazzone. Among the lefties, beyond Rleal (who's on the 40-man), Franklyn Gracesqui might stick, and journeyman John Halama hasn't embarrassed himself. So consider this a camp where several people really are working for jobs, and where GM Mike Flanagan might have to both keep an eye on the waiver wire and also seriously shake up his 40-man roster before the season starts.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned LHPs Abe Alvarez and Jon Lester, RHPs Edgar Martinez, Jermaine Van Buren, and David Pauley, and OF-Ls David Murphy and Brandon Moss to Pawtucket (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Tim Bausher and Franklin Nunez, 1B-Ls Josh Pressley and Luis Jimenez, 3B-R Rodney Nye, and OF-R Tyler Minges to their minor league camp. [3/13]

No real surprises here, although naturally everyone's going to watch Lester wherever he goes. I would have liked to have seen Van Buren and Alvarez earn longer looks, but Van Buren didn't, and Alvarez seems destined for rotation work in Pawtucket because of a rotation already crowded with seven plausible options. Okay, six, considering the way Jon Papelbon is pitching. I guess I'm a little more surprised that they didn't give Alvarez more thought as a long reliever, especially when the lefty relief help in camp basically boil down to Lenny DiNardo and ... Mike Holtz? Craig Breslow? A decision to just punt on situational obsessions? I doubt that, but then if they'd kept Alvarez around, I'd hope they wouldn't shove him into that particular player usage cul-de-sac.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Reassigned OF-R Ben Francisco and OF-B Trevor Crowe to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Signed SS-R Jhonny Peralta to a five-year, $13 million contract, with a club option for 2011. [3/10]

The Indians are also trying to lock in Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore, and after locking in Travis Hafner, C.C. Sabathia, and Victor Martinez to long-term extensions last spring, I think it's safe to say that GM Marc Shapiro has thoroughly learned the lesson of former GM John Hart in locking up his team's core talent early, and avoiding the needless sturm und drang of arbitration, let alone the caprices of the arbitrators. It isn't necessarily very sexy, but the Peralta deal is particularly smart in that buying out the $7 million option for 2011 only costs the Tribe $250K. Some fellow GMs and owners might squawk, considering that Peralta wasn't even necessarily arb-eligible after this season, but Peralta's breakdown season by season is pretty cheap: a $1.25 million signing bonus, $500K this year, $750K next, $2.25M in '08, $3.4M in '09, and $4.6M in 2010. That's certainly within Cleveland's budget, and not problematic if Shapiro subsequently feels he has to shop Peralta; say, if the Indians come up with an even better shortstop, or Peralta has to move off of short, or Peralta struggles in 2008, making him available and yet affordable to a potential bidder.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Reassigned C-R Chris Robinson to their minor league camp. [3/12]

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Reassigned RHPs Philip Hughes and Darrell Rasner, C-R Jason Brown, OF-L Chris Prieto, and 2B-R Danny Garcia to their minor league camp. [3/11]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned OF-R Javier Herrera to Sacramento (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Adam Johnson, Alex Santos, and Mac Suzuki, UT-R Hiram Bocachica, OF-L Danny Putnam, and C-B Raul Casanova to their minor league camp. [3/13]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Optioned RHP Carlos Hines and LHP Jon Switzer to Durham (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jeff Niemann to Montgomery (Double-A); reassigned C-R Josh Arhart, RHPs Jack Cressend, Bart Miadich, and Tony Peguero, and LHP Jose Rodriguez to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Assigned RHP Juan Salas and C-R Chairon Isenia to their minor league camp. [3/12]

Even with this many demotions from among the pitchers, the D-Rays still have things to sort out with their staff. The bullpen is especially wide open. There, long-in-the-tooth non-roster invites like Wayne Franklin and Travis Driskill are hoping to vulture roster spots at the expense of equally dubious options like Jesus Colome, Chad Harville, or Shawn Camp. Franklin's bid seems more likely still, since he's one of the few health lefties in camp, but farmhand Chris Seddon is having a good camp, and is already on the 40-man. (And who knows, if Edwin Jackson Pipps Mark Hendrickson out of the rotation, maybe the gentle giant and former Piniella project will go to the pen and become a lefty reliever.) Similarly, Jason Hammel might make the jump from minor league rotation to the big league bullpen. And of course, there's the wait for Shinji Mori, as he overcomes some persistent shoulder stiffness. So, no differently than the Orioles, this is a camp where all sorts of things could happen, and you might find some strange names on the Opening Day roster.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned 2B/3B-R Aarom Baldiris to Frisco (Double-A); reassigned C-R Mike Nickeas and OF-B Ruddy Yan to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Optioned RHPs Wes Littleton and Armando Galarraga to Frisco (Double-A). [3/13]

Littleton and Galarraga both might not rate with the DVD trio of Thomas Diamond, Edison Volquez, and John Danks among the organization's top pitching prospects, but they aren't too far behind. Despite the demotions, both might rate call-ups within this season, especially if Littleton continues to improve as a reliever, and if Galarraga translates his appealing aggressiveness on the mound into results at Double-A. On a more minor note, while I like Baldiris as a potentially handy player who might possibly fill in for a team that might otherwise do something expensive and pointless (like Joe Randa or Mark Grudzielanek), as a Ranger farmhand, keep in mind that he's really only a bargaining chip for the time being. Let's face it, it isn't like he's about to send notice to Hank Blalock or even Ian Kinsler that Ma Baldiris' boy isn't a Met any more.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned RHP Ryan Houston to Syracuse (Triple-A); optioned RHP Vince Perkins to New Hampshire (Double-A). [3/13]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Reassigned OF-B Jarred Ball, OF-R Marland Williams, and SS-R Justin Upton to their minor league camp. [3/12]

Whatever futures they portend, stars don't wax or wane, they just burn out or blaze on. Which sort of illustrates the differing career arcs of Williams and Upton. We all know about Upton, and how he already rates among the top prospects in baseball despite not yet making his pro debut. Spring training simply added to the sense of anticipation, as Upton ripped off a quick six-for-ten with a couple of doubles and a triple. Sure, that can be camp in Arizona, but nothing about seeing big league camp seems to have given Upton anything other than another hint of his potential greatness. In contrast, although not a 1st-round pick, Williams was once thought of as a clever draft-and-follow pick, a promising speedster the Snakes signed almost a year after taking him in the 36th round in the 2001 draft. Williams has yet to really hit at any level, but because he was fast, he got touts, and naturally, some people listened. But he's never been a prospect, and while he'll only be turning 25 in June, does anyone think he's going to finally start hitting at Double-A in his third go-round at that level?

And what about Jarred Ball? Well, he just plays here, although he's already got a better future than Williams, having shown that he could put a few runs on the board at Double-A last season as a 22 year-old (.253/.377/.363, 39 steals against 18 times caught). That's not a prospect, though, just a young guy who hasn't done enough to put a dent in his future, the way Williams already has. Neither Williams nor Ball is on the 40-man, so if an NRI like Terry Mulholland, Kevin Jarvis is going to stick, it won't be at either Ball's or Williams' expense.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Reassigned RHPs Bryan Corey and Bobby Brownlie to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Acquired LHP Clint Brannon from the Rangers to complete the Jon Leicester trade. [3/13]

Brannon's not a bad little return. No need to get worked up, but he's a college lefty who had a nice enough career at Arkansas, he won't have to be added to the Cubs' 40-man until after the year, and as this year's improved and always handy Baseball America Almanac reports, he limited lefties in the Cal League to a .190 average. Getting a possible future situational lefty for a possible big league middle reliever isn't a bad-looking exchange, not for Jim Hendry, nor for his opposite number in Texas, Jon Daniels.

As for Bobby Brownlie, he doesn't get mentioned along with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, but you might consider him the third man among the Cubs' highly-touted 1st round pitcher picks, the one whose disappointments trump theirs if only because he has yet to overcome his perpetual arm problems after three seasons down on the farm. At this point, the Cubs are left hoping that he does better than Orson Welles, and turns up before the last fifteen minutes of a season, any season.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned RHP Elizardo Ramirez and 2B/SS-B Rainer Olmedo to Louisville (Triple-A); optioned RHP Travis Chick, LHP Phil Dumatrait, C-R Miguel Perez, and 1B-L Joey Votto to Chattanooga (Double-A); reassigned RHP Jimmy Journell and LHP Ben Kozlowski to their minor league camp. [3/13]

Since William Bergolla is hurting, he and Olmedo never did get to have that cage match to resolve the question of their interchangeability, which in turn means potentially happy news for Frank Menechino. Meanwhile, in the absence of any other dark horses, the Reds get to be that much more serious about Tony Womack versus Ryan Freel. As much as I'm willing to give new GM Wayne Krivsky plenty of rope in the early days of his reign, if this is anything more than pantomime player management, and if Freel isn't more or less guaranteed his job, you have to ask what sort of diagnostic skills the new brains of the operation will have brought to the table. If you cannot quickly recognize that Womack's worthless, and certainly if you take longer than Joe Torre to notice, then the Reds' load of problems won't be getting any lighter any time soon.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Reassigned LHP Jimmy Anderson, RHP Nic Ungs, and C-Rs Brad Davis and C Brett Hayes to their minor league camp. [3/10]

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Assigned OF-L Brad Nelson to Nashville (Triple-A); reassigned C-B Carlos Corporan, C-R Lou Palmisano, and LHP Mitch Stetter to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Optioned LHP Manny Parra to Huntsville (Double-A). [3/13]

The Brewers organization gets appropriate props for the top shelf talent they've developed in recent years, but you do need to remember that when they aren't cranking out blue chippers, they do also have all those other guys, and there, the news isn't quite so consistently excellent. Nelson and Parra are two of the organization's second-tier prospects trying to avoid becoming third-tier prospects, a level Palmisano has already sunk to. Like D-list celebrity, it's not a place you want to be.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned 1B/OF-L Paul McAnulty and CF-B Freddy Guzman to Portland (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jared Wells, LHP Sean Thompson, and C-L George Kottaras to Mobile (Double-A); reassigned RHPs Kenny Baugh, Cesar Carrillo, and Mike Thompson, LHP Erick Burke, and SS-R Matt Bush to their minor league camp. [3/13]

It seems like a bit of a surprise that McAnulty and Guzman both got shipped out this soon, but I'm guessing that Bruce Bochy is focusing on other issues, like getting Ryan Klesko reps at first, and sorting out whether or not he wants to keep both Ben Johnson and Terrmel Sledge as outfield reserves beyond Eric Young. Johnson isn't having a good spring, and Sledge has barely played, so again, I am perhaps more surprised that Guzman was sent out this quickly than I am that McAnulty was. Both remain prospects, but with so many other things requiring Bochy's attention, I suppose it was almost a matter of just getting a few things out of his hair. Bochy pointed out that McAnulty and Guzman both need reps they won't get in big league camp, and both will have all sorts of opportunities to earn call-ups within the season, after Johnson or Sledge falter, or should the Pads stumble out of the gate and decide to deal Klesko early.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned RHPs Kelyn Acosta, Jon Coutlangus, and Alfredo Simon, LHPs Jesus Reina and Erick Threets, 1B-L Travis Ishikawa, and CF-L Fred Lewis to their minor league camp; reassigned RHPs Jeff Miller, Billy Sadler, and Brian Wilson, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, C-R Todd Jennings, 2B-B Derin McMains, and OF-L Adam Shabala to their minor league camp. [3/13]

There's nothing really shocking here, and most of the names aren't ones you're likely to have followed. Ishikawa and Lewis you should know about, and Ishikawa's probably got a good shot at being fast-tracked, at least for as long as the Giants are pretending that they can get by with Lance Niekro as their everyday first baseman.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned OF-R Reid Gorecki to their minor league camp; reassigned OF-L Prentice Redman and C-Rs Brian Esposito and Iker Franco to their minor league camp. [3/12]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Signed 1B-L Nick Johnson to a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension. [3/11]

Although being one of the world's most vociferous Nick Johnson fans is an experience that has had more lowlights than high, I cannot claim to feel his pain. Any of them, for that matter. Nevertheless, it pains me to see the Nats make this sort of commitment to him. Don't get me wrong, I like having Johnson around, and I certainly hope that he can remain healthy enough to put up three more years with performance akin to last season's. I do like that Johnson's got some not-insignificant bonuses for games played and plate appearances, but the $5.5 million he'll get in each of the next three years isn't chump change for a ward of the 29-man junta that owns the ballclub. However the battle between Jose Vidro ($23 million owed over the next three years) versus Alfonso Soriano ($10 million this year, arb-eligible and free agency-bound after the season) plays out, this is a club that also has significant financial commitments already made to Brian Schneider ($16 million over the next four years) and Cristian Guzman ($13.35 over the next three), all of which adds up. Not that all of the non-Guzmans I've mentioned don't have their uses, but does that sound like the core of a contending ballclub? Vidro's already 31, Soriano is 30, Johnson turns 28 this year, Schneider 30 after it. These aren't the future stars of an up-and-coming team, they're the guys as good as they're going to be right now, and last year's 81-81 high water mark should tell you what you need to know about this core. How well is Washington going to cope with a teardown? Is GM Jim Bowden going to do that himself, or keep his mind on skedaddling ASAP? At least we'll get to see a lot of Ryan Zimmerman, and that's beginning to seem like the sort of thing worth the price of admission, on this or any ballclub.

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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