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March 31, 2006

Transaction Analysis

March 29-30

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Reassigned RHP Chris Bootcheck and OF-B Reggie Willits to their minor league camp. [3/29]

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Released C-R Geronimo Gil. [3/29]

Sometimes, clearing space on your roster is like getting rid of something from the attic, a box of junk you've left crumbling because you didn't want to figure out what to do with it, even when it's full of velcro-fly pants and Members Only jackets that you know should never see the light of day. It's taken the Orioles more than four years to get to this point, to boldly recognize that Gil isn't somebody they needed to invest 40-man roster space on. It's a pity they didn't recognize this sooner. We don't have a metric to calculate the opportunity cost of using a 40-man roster spot across four years and (more critically) through four winter shopping seasons, so we have to settle for saying that when your backup catcher is and always was no better than your average minor league vet, you owe it to yourself to not let him gather dust.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Signed OF-L Grady Sizemore to a six-year, $23.45 million contract extension through 2011, with a club option for 2012. [3/29]

It's all part of the program, as Mark Shapiro locks up another one of his homegrown talents. Although some might blanch at the expense, PECOTA seems pretty comfortable with Sizemore's value over the next five years, positing a market value of more than $40 million for him if he were a free agent. (For more on Nate's methodology and homework on this, check out what he had to say last October in Lies, Damned Lies.) Sizemore's years away from being able to capitalize on his ability as a free agent, so the money in the meantime is a nice compromise, providing Sizemore with financial security he might have lacked if he gets seriously injured, while sparing Shapiro and the rest of the Tribe's management crew the eventual headache of arbitration. And beyond the moneyspeak, locking up Sizemore through his Age 29 season is simply good business practice, likely to give the Indians the best years of his career at a price they're happy to pay.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Optioned RHPs Roman Colon and Mark Woodyard, SS/3B-L Don Kelly, and OF-B Nook Logan to Toledo (Triple-A); reassigned LHP Hector Mercado, 1B/3B/OF-R Mike Hessman, and OF-L Alexis Gomez to their minor league camp; claimed C-B Rob Bowen off of waivers from the Twins. [3/29]

Colon and Logan might be modest surprises among the demotions. Colon's spring wasn't quite as impressive as a 3.63 ERA might suggest--we could start with the 28 baserunners allowed in 17.1 IP--and the Tigers would rather he keep trying to be a starting pitcher, despite last season's successes as a reliever and his career-long failures as a starter. We'll have to watch and see if he stays a Mudhen rotation regular and makes progress, or if the Tigers finally do grudgingly return him to the pen. If they do, I think they'll find themselves happy with the results, and able to call on him to help, but in the meantime, I wouldn't suggest we got all melodramatic and consider this a repudiation of last summer's Farnsworth deal.

As for Logan, perhaps manager Jim Leyland talked him up to make Curtis Granderson earn the job in camp. "Organizational Catspaw" might not look great on a resume, though, and Logan's useful enough that he might crop up someplace else as a fifth outfielder. Finally, although I've never been as big a booster of Bowen as some of the prospect mavens who thought he'd be something, he makes a potentially adequate backup catcher. The Tigers already have a better option behind Ivan Rodriguez in Vance Wilson, but if something happened to either Pudge or Wilson, better to have a warm body like Bowen around than have to rush Danilo Sanchez up when he still has to adapt to making the jump to Double-A.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Optioned OF-L Aaron Guiel to Omaha (Triple-A) and RHP Leo Nunez to Wichita (Double-A). [3/29]

So the Royals pick their fourth outfielder, and it's Shane Costa, with Guiel's triumph over his own vision problems going down to play to the home crowds in Nebraska, and with Chip Ambres dangling on waivers. Of all of these guys, I'd agree with the suggestion that Costa might be the one with a future, but is he really the one you want up right now, watching Reggie Sanders and Emil Brown, considering that he barely has 100 games of experience above A-ball? When Allard Baird mechanically states "we've got to push some of our younger guys," I'm left boggled as to why the Royals re-signed Matt Stairs, or why they don't deal him now. I mean, if this is the new new priority to getting the team back on track, how about a little consistency? Right now, I'd rather have Ambres and Guiel, pocket the million bucks' difference between Guiel and Stairs, and let Costa get his at-bats in Omaha so that he's really prepped to replace Sanders when he gets hurt or Brown if his glovework gets to be too much. Instead, it looks like the Royals can't even do this poor-mouthing and rebuilding thing right.

Also, courtesy of reader Bruce Rothsrein, I've been reminded that the Royals actually don't have to offer Esteban German back to the Rangers, having instead acquired him through a Rule 5-derived trade, where the Royals picked and sent Fabio Castro to the Rangers to add German. So now, the Royals really only have to decide whether or not they actually want German, and this being the Royals, who knows? He's fast, after all, and that... really just matters in fantasy leagues. Unless Baird is operating the Royals as a Hacking Mass entry, it's unfortunate that they might keep guys like German, who makes a nice bit player on a good PCL team. Regardless, my thanks to Bruce for setting me straight.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Reassigned INF-Rs Luis Maza and Glenn Williams, and C/1B-R Shawn Wooten to their minor league camp; released LHP Dennis Reyes; returned Rule 5 pick OF-L Jason Pridie to the Devil Rays; placed LHP Dave Gassner on the 15-day DL. [3/29]

Willie Eyre stuck, and Francisco Liriano is headed for the pen, and I credit them for doing the right thing in both cases. Eyre might not be the best pitching prospect in baseball like his comrade in mitts, but they're both ready. Given that the Twins carefully managed the beginning of Johan Santana's career in the bullpen (some, myself included, grumbling "too carefully"), this could be a great way of taking the edge off of the anticipation of having Liriano on the staff while giving him a solid workload and the prep work to be ready to step into the rotation when someone from the front five breaks down or falters. I'm also pleased because it's a matter of picking talent over experience, and not making the "safe" choice of keeping Reyes as the token veteran lefty. Liriano's stuff is golden, while Eyre was actually pretty tough on left-handed hitters last season in Rochester. The challenge for manager Ron Gardenhire will be to use pitchers to pitch innings, and worry less about situations, with this pair sharing the middle innings with Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain, setting up Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan. But as general manager Terry Ryan put it, "We're going to go with our eleven best." This is the sort of crew that won't lose many leads. Now, if only they could field a decent lineup...

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Reassigned C Keith McDonald to their minor league camp. [3/29]

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Optioned RHP Clint Nageotte and INF/OF-R Mike Morse to Tacoma (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Kevin Appier, Scott Atchison, Francisco Cruceta, and Sean Green, 1B/OF-L Greg Dobbs, INF-Rs Jose Morban and Cody Ransom, CF-R Adam Jones, and C-R Corky Miller to their minor league camp; placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 60-day DL. [3/29]

Wow! So Roberto Petagine and Joe Borchard win the last two slots on the bench, with Jeremy Reed set in center field now that his wrist isn't quite so broken after all. Although this leaves Morse out in the cold, I do like this setup. Morse keeps showing you bits of a complete player, but never all at once, never showing consistency afield to make himself a reliable option at short, and outside of 2004, never showing the power you want if you're going to move him to the outfield. He might make a nice enough supersub, able to play any outfield or infield position, but that's notionally what Willie Bloomquist is for, and Morse is short the requisite 'q' in his name to make himself the team's warm fuzzy. (Besides, 'Morqse' sounds like an Inuit insult, 'Morseq' is probably some nasty liqueur from the Pyrenees, and 'Q'Morse' sounds like an arcade game about regret.) Morse can use the plate appearances he'll need if he's to avoid a disappointing utility destiny, while Borchard makes a nice put-up-or-shut-up fourth outfielder for the time being.

And Petagine? Every stathead's heart is probably going pitter-pat as you're reading this. It's certainly sort of cool that he's back with the organization that gave Ken Phelps his eventual opportunity, and similarly, Petagine makes for a good bet to cadge a few at-bats away from Carl Everett in the DH role, when he isn't pinch-hitting for the middle infielders or spot-starting for Richie Sexson. It isn't often that I'm happy about something the Mariners have done, but this is pretty good, considering the alternatives.

Among the pitchers, after these demotions the pen's last two jobs are down to lefties Jake Woods and Luis Gonzalez and two righthanders, Jeff Harris and Emiliano Fruto. If anything, this was an even tougher set of choices, because there are reasons to like all of the pitchers sent down. Still, every demoted pitcher can be safely placed in the "Show Me in Tacoma" category, whereas Gonzalez is an interesting Rule 5 pick, Harris and Woods both belong in the majors, and Fruto... well, he just seems to have tickled Mike Hargrove's fancy somehow--I wouldn't take him that seriously, given how terribly he's pitched. The tough call is Gonzalez over either Woods or Harris, because he's clearly out of his depth.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Signed RHP Brian Meadows to a one-year contract. [3/30]

An unfortunate move, to say the least, because Meadows is thereby locked onto the roster (he's out of options), and there's no reason for the team to commit a roster spot to someone who's nothing more than a junk-time pitcher. I suppose there is the possibility that, if they got hard up for starters and they didn't want to rush somebody, they could always plug in Meadows, but that seems overly cruel to an already brutalized local fan base.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned RHPs Juan Dominguez and Edison Volquez to Oklahoma (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Jose Silva to their minor league camp; released RHP John Wasdin. [3/30]

Each lost out to the immortal R.A. Dickey in the fight for the fifth slot, but either might be redeemed by Adam Eaton's injury. I'm just struggling with the concept of a world in which Wasdin isn't a Ranger, but moving past that, Dickey apparently won out by breaking out a knuckleball, and that's sure to get every flutterball-fancier worked up. There are some niches of fandom that simply are and probably always will be: fans of backup catchers as a group, fans of utility infielders, and the fans of knuckleballers. If you're like me, you like them all, they're the odd ducks that you like not just despite but sometimes because of their shortcomings. Dickey has less than a year's practical experience with the pitch, though, so I'm a little leery about getting worked up about this latest plot development in the always-interesting Dickey story. In the end, he may not ever really help the Rangers win all that many games, but he does always add some sort of entertainment value.

But now, with the Eaton thing hanging over the Ranger's heads, Dickey's not a cute experiment and designated team Bildungsroman, he's the fourth starter behind Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, and Kameron Loe, and that seriously alters the prospects of what might happen this season. If Eaton is lost for a considerable length of time, hopefully no one will get too bent out of shape over a year in which finishing behind the Mariners suddenly seems very possible. In the meantime, although one of Dominguez or Volquez will likely replace Eaton, both were basically awful this spring. Dickey didn't win the job on the strength of his allowing 25 baserunners in 14 innings. Anyway, I shouldn't get too worked up about these things: Wasdin's expected to sign a minor league deal, returning to his assigned spot in Oklahoma, and ready for the callup that will come after the rotation mayhem that will happen. To quote Ian McDiarmid at his least creepy, I have forseen it.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Jeff Bajenaru to their minor league camp; placed CF-R Luis Terrero on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. [3/29]

Who do you think feels greater regret right now, Bajenaru because he didn't stick (again), even after a change of teams, or the White Sox, now that they're short-handed in the big league bullpen, particularly in right-handers? This might be seen as particularly galling for Bajenaru, since he's been boxed out by Greg Aquino and Casey Daigle for the last spot in the pen. That's not a bad thing, in that Daigle's improved his prospectus as a reliever: last season at Double-A Tennessee, he posted a 50:18 K:BB ratio in 64 IP, and he's struck out eight and walked one in eight spring innings. Aquino, on the other hand, is probably pitching for his professional life, because if he flounders as badly as he did last year, he could wind up in Tucson or, worse yet, a Royal or Rockie, and most people don't survive that sort of ordeal easily.

What might seem shocking is the outright discarding of Terrero, but in a world where Chris Young is the future and Eric Byrnes the present, Terrero's best role as a Snake was as a defensive replacement, and Bob Melvin and Josh Byrnes decided that wasn't what they wanted on the bench, especially now that it looks like they won't be carrying a fifth outfielder. If I were Terrero's agent, I'd be ringing the Marlins, and if the Fish have the sense to sign him, he'd be an upgrade on Reggie Abercrombie or Eric Reed.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Reassigned OF-R Michael Restovich to their minor league camp; optioned LHP Rich Hill to Iowa (Triple-A). [3/29]

Optioned RHP Roberto Novoa to Iowa (Triple-A). [3/30]

Restovich lost out to the wonderfully-named Angel Pagan, but in terms of spring results, it wasn't especially close: Restovich hit only .184/.231/.327, while Pagan hit .405/.442/.919 (that's what five bombs in 37 Cactus League at-bats will do for you). Not that Pagan's really a slugger, but he is more useful than Restovich as a reserve: he can run, bunt, play a solid center, and he's a switch-hitter without massive platoon issues. As offseason pickups go, he was actually a pretty sweet minor snag by general manager Jim Hendry. You might feel that with John Mabry and Jerry Hairston Jr. around as the other primary outfield reserves that the Cubs really could have spared a slot for some right-handed power, but Restovich's career hasn't been of the sort of quality that he can get a free pass on spring performance. Besides, sadly enough, it doesn't look like the Cubs have any intention of platooning Jacque Jones. What was good enough to help the Twins come up short is apparently good enough to do likewise in Wrigleyville.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned LHP Brian Shackelford, 2B/SS-R William Bergolla, and INF-B Matt Kata to Louisville (Triple-A). [3/29]

Sending down Bergolla and Kata, sure, that makes sense, the team's not going to move past the Womack Experience until the standard symptoms of nausea and regret get to them. (Pity Louisville, though, because an infield with those two and Ray Olmedo is the start of a lineup that International League pitchers will be begging to face.) But Shackelford, after a pretty good partial season in the majors last year? I suppose this is the natural product of the decision to add Chris Hammond, since they already had Kent Mercker. I suppose the positive spin to put on this is that general manager Wayne Krivsky can afford to deal one of his veteran lefties later on this season.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed RHPs Scott Dohmann (infection) and Byung-Hyun Kim (hamstring) on the 15-day DL; optioned SS/2B-L Omar Quintanilla and OF-R Ryan Spilborghs to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [3/29]

Placed SS-R Josh Wilson on the 60-day DL (broken toe). [3/30]

The Rockies have an interesting problem, as all sorts of options for the Opening Day roster seem to be about to get to the DL, if they didn't already just get placed there. Beyond Spilborghs' demotion, Jorge Piedra and Ryan Shealy both seem bound for the DL. All of which means that Choo Freeman is going to stick as an outfield reserve, and also Eli Marrero as Brad Hawpe's defensive replacement and probable platoon partner. What's ugly is the proposed crew of infield reserves: Jamey Carroll and Jason Smith? This on top of the execrable Luis Gonzalez adds up to a completely unpromising collection of possible second basemen, or reason to ponder Quintanilla's virtues before Troy Tulowitzki pushes Clint Barmes to second and makes the whole debate academic. If there's something for Rockies fans to look forward to, it's that infield, with Ian Stewart flanking them at third. Besides, Quintanilla didn't help himself any, posting a pretty poor camp performance.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned LHP Scott Olsen to Albuquerque (Triple-A); released RHP Kerry Ligtenberg and PH-L Lenny Harris outright; reassigned OF-L Matt Cepicky and UT-R Mike Kinkade to their minor league camp. [3/29]

Steven Goldman's appropriate concerns aside, I keep finding reasons to actually get more and more interested in the Marlins this spring. Maybe it's my natural sympathies for the underdog, or that I was the kind of kid who brought home strays. My interest in seeing what sort of manager Joe Girardi will be is part of it, too. And then the Fish, Girardi and general manager Larry Beinfest both, go and make some pretty hard choices, the kinds of cuts that might generate criticism from people already worried about asking "who are these guys?", and I simply find myself that much more impressed.

First, the decisions to cut loose Harris and Ligtenberg, "name" players, but also guys with no chance of helping this team do any better on the field, save through some sort of mentoring role in the clubhouse. It's pretty bold for a rookie manager to have made this choice, when it would have been defensible to keep both or either for veteran presence or whatever. Instead, it looks like they'll feature a bullpen with only Joe Borowski around to provide the age thing, although none of the kids should get too comfortable. Olsen will apparently be back around Tax Day, once the Marlins need a fifth starter, so for pitchers like Chris Resop or Randy Messenger, there's more at stake than whether or not a bad two weeks would mean they've had a bad two weeks.

If there's an area of concern, it's not that they've cut loose Harris, it's the people they still have on the big league bench. Thirteen position players isn't too much of a handicap in the National League, but it becomes one if you carry people like Matt Treanor for infrequent third catcher duties, plus three no-hit outfielders like Reggie Abercrombie, Chris Aguila, and Eric Reed. (Carrying Alfredo Amezaga and Wes Helms as your infield reserves isn't all bad, though.) Keeping Kinkade might have made sense, in that he can play the four corners and catch. Hopefully, Beinfest is keeping an eye on the waiver wire, not just for outfielders, but also for a second baseman.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Released RHP Steve Sparks. [3/29]

Acquired UT-R Joe McEwing from the Royals for cash or a PTBNL; acquired SS-R Cody Ransom from the Mariners for cash or a PTBNL. [3/30]

Neither McEwing nor Ransom is headed for the major league roster, but you can't really blame Tim Purpura for adding them both. Would you want to be that dependent on Eric Bruntlett if something happened to Adam Everett? Not that Ransom or McEwing are guys you want to rely on, but if you have to have somebody rotting on a big league bench, you could do worse than either of these two.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Signed 2B-R Jeff Kent to a $11.5 million contract extension through 2007, with a club option for 2008; announced that RHP Brian Meadows rejected an assignment to Las Vegas (Triple-A), and instead elected to become a free agent; placed SS-B Cesar Izturis on the 15-day DL (elbow). [3/29]

What better posterboy for a ballclub in America's most attention deficit-driven city than the man who doesn't even follow his own profession? Cattiness aside, Kent's aging well, so I can see why they'd want to keep him. However, saying this is an $11.5 million deal undersells how much it might cost the team: it's two years at $9 million apiece ($500K buyout of the second season), a $2 million signing bonus, plus another $2.35 million in incentives. So, it's potentially a $22.35 million deal, and not for this next season, but for Kent's Age 39 and 40 seasons. That gets a bit steep at the stage of a player's career where certainty becomes wishcasting.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Released RHP Kane Davis. [3/29]

Optioned RHP Mike Adams to Nashville (Triple-A); placed RHP Ben Sheets on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/24. [3/30]

The suggestion is that Sheets will be back to start on April 16th, but the back-dating of his assignment to the DL leaves the club's options open to bring him back sooner if he's ready. So that isn't really a source of heartbreak, whereas the decision to demote Adams is a little frustrating. His cause wasn't helped by back problems early on, but he did pitch well in his limited work. Even so, the pen was fairly well stuffed now that both Jose Capellan and Justin Lehr have pitched their way onto the club. There is explaining away Dan Kolb, who's been predictably awful, and there's still the question of whether, how, and for how long Jared Fernandez might stick as a twelfth pitcher. Certainly, once Sheets comes back off, somebody's got to go, and as much as it might make sense to keep Fernandez over Kolb, I doubt that it'll play out that way.

NEW YORK METS
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Released OF-L Tike Redman. [3/29]

If you're Tike Redman, this might be a low point of sorts, having to hear Endy Chavez do his best Gubernator impression, and talk about the best things in life: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of der vimmen. I guess the other way to look at it is that it isn't often that Chavez gets to exult so, but as the club's fifth outfielder, he might have better job security than the notional fourth outfielder, who would be whichever guy loses the fight for the job in right. Xavier Nady has gone stone cold, and not in that happy anti-hero pro wrestling sort of way, but more along the lines of the godawful laugh-out-loud bad Brian Bosworth vehicle, Stone Cold. It would actually be a pretty happy result if Victor Diaz won the job away from Xavier Nady anyway: Diaz would get 400-500 plate appearances, Nady could be freed up for spot duty in the infield corners, spot starts against lefties, and pinch-hitting, and Chavez could stick to pinch-running and defensive substitution work. I don't mean to put Nady down, but Diaz could end up being the sort of hitter who helps the Mets as a regular for the next five years, and that should be cultivated. If Willie Randolph is flexible enough to do all of that this year, we should all be impressed.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Optioned RHP Robinson Tejeda and LHP Eude Brito to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); optioned SS-B Danny Sandoval to their minor league camp; placed RHP Chris Booker on the 15-day DL (knee inflammation); released RHP Ricardo Rodriguez outright. [3/29]

We touched on most of this last time around, because these demotions were in the cards. The one thing I didn't cover was Rodriguez, but then I didn't anticipate that general manager Pat Gillick would simply cut bait like this. He has been rather frank about how much he's happy not to have Vicente Padilla around, if you look at this winter's exchange as one of Padilla at $4.41 million (his pre-arbitration settlement with the Rangers) for Ryan Franklin at $2.6 million, which adds up to a savings of nearly $2 million, plus a Rodriguez flyer on your windshield for your troubles. There's still the snaggy-nasty question of how ugly Franklin's performance will be this year, not to mention the fact that he's been beaten out for the fifth spot in the rotation by Gavin Floyd, making this exchange perhaps $2.6 million more expensive than it needed to be. In the meantime, I don't know if $1.8 million dollars and the familiarity of having an ancient Mariner around are compensation enough. Was it worth that much to make sure you didn't have to worry about Padilla's charm? Statistical analysis is always going to be mum, and while I don't have much use for Franklin, the way the Phillies feel about Padilla seems to border on Rolen-esque. We'll see if their antipathy was similarly ill-placed.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Reassigned RHPs Scott Strickland and Britt Reames and 3B/OF-R Mike Edwards to minor league camp; optioned C-R Ronny Paulino and 3B-R Jose Bautista to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [3/29]

It appears that Bautista is being groomed for the Mackowiak role, moving around from third to second, short, and the outfield. Nevertheless, Dave Littlefield has his priorities in the right place, preferring to put Bautista someplace where he can get everyday playing time. Paulino's been squeezed out as the third man behind Humberto Cota and Ryan Doumit, but having Cota and two promising young catchers will give Littlefield freedom of action if a prospective trading partner wants Cota as a throw-in. Or, if the Pirates are angling to get somebody with a serious future--a potentially great center fielder, for instance--they can add Paulino to the pot. As long as Littlefield is willing to explore these alternatives while remaining focused on improving the ballclub over the long-term, it all works. No, if there's a surprise demotion, it's probably Edwards. Dodger fans might be asking why manager Jim Tracy was willing to demote Edwards now, but not last summer, but Dodger fans are probably still burdened with all sorts of questions about what happened last summer.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Released RHP Andy Ashby. [3/30]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jamey Wright from Fresno (Triple-A); designated LHP Jon Coutlangus for assignment. [3/29]

Wright's winning the fifth slot in the rotation wasn't really that much of a matter of suspense, but you might find it indicative of the Giants' fortunes that a man whose career has mostly been spent toiling for consistently hopeless Rockie and Brewer squads is now one of their front five. You can get away with that sort of thing when your starters are the beneficiaries of the kind of run support that a Barry Bonds-driven lineup has generated in past seasons, but this year's outfit might not be so lucky. If nothing else, Wright should like pitching in Telecommunications MegaCorp Park much more than in either Miller or Coors... hmmm, while I'm thinking of it, as long as the Giants seem to shop around for stadium names, why not Anchor Steam?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned 1B/OF-R John Gall and 1B/OF-L Chris Duncan to Memphis (Triple-A); released INF-R Deivi Cruz outright. [3/30]

If there's a man here who should be depressed, it's Cruz, because what one might infer from his release is that he couldn't beat out Aaron Miles or an undead Scott Spiezio, which is pretty damning if you're a reserve infielder. Miles or Spiezio might not both make it, since Skip Schumaker is still being taken seriously, but I think that sort of sums things up, that Miles, Spiezio, and Schumaker are in such high regard. To be fair, Miles has had a solid camp, but Spiezio hasn't been any better than Cruz, and Hector Luna hasn't helped things by also having a bad camp. You'd think that Luna should be set because he's the one guy left in the infield reserve picture who can play short now that Cruz has been cut, but he also has the misfortune of having an option, which could make him the easy choice to send down to Memphis. All in all, it's just not a tasty series of combinations. If you gave me a choice between Spiezio or Schumaker or Cruz for one spot, I'd pick Brian Daubach, just to have the spare left-handed bat on the bench, especially while Larry Bigbie is on the DL at the start of the season. Between Bigbie's health and the question about whether or not Junior Spivey has anything left in the tank, the Cardinals really have bigger fish to fry than worrying about Luna's option or whether or not Spiezio would accept starting off at Triple-A.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Released OF-L Michael Tucker; reassigned C-R Alberto Castillo and RHP Kevin Gryboski to their minor league camp; purchased the contract of C-R Wiki Gonzalez from New Orleans (Triple-A); outrighted Travis Hughes to New Orleans. [3/30]

There isn't much to say about choosing between crummy backup catchers; with Matt LeCroy around, either Castillo or Gonzalez may only get garbage innings behind the plate, while ideally not logging a lot of starts or plate appearances. Neither got Gary Bennett's build-up, which is fine; like Bennett, neither is really all that useful. The interesting choice was that the Nats have gone with six relievers, and that Hughes, Gryboski, and Jason Bergmann weren't among them. Instead, the club has chosen Jon Rauch for the last righty relief spot. I'd be a little more upset about the Hughes move if the Nats had lost him on waivers, but the other 29 took a pass, allowing Jim Bowden to dodge another bullet. Gryboski actually pitched well enough to stick, so I wonder if he won't be the first man up once Rauch hurts himself again, or if Felix Rodriguez or Mike Stanton implode.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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