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April 6, 2006

Transaction Analysis

American League, March 30-April 4

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Purchased the contract of DH-R Tim Salmon; optioned 3B-L Dallas McPherson, 1B-B Kendry Morales, INF-B Brian Specht, RHPs Kevin Gregg and Jered Weaver, C-R Mike Napoli, and OF-L Curtis Pride to their minor league camp; designated RHP Scott Dunn for assignment. [4/1]

Agreed to terms with RHP John Lackey on a three-year, $17 million contract with a club option for 2009. [4/3]

There are only a couple of things that need noting here. First, much as the Angels might be the enemy for those of us who root for the A's, I'm glad to see Salmon back. No, the sentiment isn't schadenfreude, just some old-fashioned fannery, in that Salmon's one of those guys you can immediately identify as an Angel since always. Besides, it isn't like Garret Anderson is going to be all that, and if this creates a playing time situation where Juan Rivera gets a lot of time in the outfield, and Salmon filches some of Anderson's at-bats because he earns it, there's nothing wrong with fielding a lineup where the old-time Angels, Anderson and Salmon and Darin Erstad, too.

The move I find a bit frustrating is the decision to demote McPherson, because it means that Chone Figgins is going to have to play a lot of third base, and that keeps the concept of moving Figgins out to center and benching Erstad a little more often off of Mike Scioscia's tactical menu. McPherson didn't help his case by having a lousy camp, though, and it wasn't like he was much of a success story last season either. In contrast, I'm not so busted about Gregg's demotion: he was very wild this spring, and between the pickups of Hector Carrasco and J.C. Romero, and Scioscia's apparent willingness to use Romero as something more than situational lefty, Gregg really had to make Esteban Yan look bad, and Yan was basically perfect.

Finally, there's the Lackey deal, which was entirely sensible if you believe, as I do, or more importantly, as metrics like PECOTA suggest, that he's an ace starter in his prime, and last season's breakthrough is simply the herald of what's to come. This is the sort of guy you keep happy, because more than Bartolo Colon or any other pitcher you've got, his is the arm that you can beat almost anybody with. So arbitration won't be an issue, Lackey's set, and maybe this buys the Angels a hometown discount in 2010.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Claimed C-R Raul Chavez off of waivers from the Astros. [3/31]

Optioned C-R Eli Whiteside to Ottawa (Triple-A); reassigned INF-R Ed Rogers, C-B Brandon Marsters, LHP John Halama, and RHPs Cory Morris, Eddy Rodriguez, and Tyler Yates to their minor league camp; placed RHP Todd Williams and LHP John Parrish on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/24. [4/1]

So, Nick Markakis makes the team, all so that he can watch... what, the Jeff Conine Farewell Again Tour? Kevin Millar demonstrate what you don't want to do in the outfield, or first base, or on the bases? I guess we shouldn't be surprised that, just because somebody has finally achieved the same status as Syd Thrift once had in working for Clan Angelos and having the patriarch's ear, he wouldn't end up being any less changed for the worse for it. As Kevin Goldstein notes, this doesn't resemble a baseball decision in any way, shape, or form.

The horrifying suggestion that the Orioles might have gone with a fourth catcher (if you count Javy Lopez as one still), or that they would choose Chavez over Eli Whiteside or even Geronimo Gil as their third, could boggle the most boggle-proof jaded commentator. And that's really saying something; happily, my boggler's still not worn out from overuse, but clearly, some franchises can generate more Boggle Abuse Points than others. After years of being flat-out useless for the Astros, Chavez should have convincingly demonstrated to everyone's benefit that he can't outhit your bullpen catcher, let alone anybody outside of the Ken Huckaby/Alberto Castillo class of backup catchers. And if you're already stuck with Whiteside on your 40-man roster, why then also commit a spot to Chavez? At 26, Whiteside isn't a prospect with a future, he's a guy prepped to be a backup catcher right now.

The happier news was the decision to keep Sendy Rleal, as he beat out John Halama. What's going to be interesting is watching to see what the Orioles do once they learn whether or not Rleal can handle situational duties. If Rleal can, they can move past their unfortunate crush on Tim Byrdak, and start think about booting him for Williams in a couple of weeks (when he's ready to come off of the DL). As is, the pen could use another right-hander, because they're already depending on Jim Brower.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned OF-R Dustan Mohr to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/30]

Placed LHP David Wells and 1B-L Hee-Seop Choi on the 15-day DL. [4/1]

The only thing really worth noting here is that I'm pleased that the Sox picked Adam Stern over Mohr for the last job in the outfield. Admittedly, the Rule 5 consideration might have played a part, but there's very little that Mohr can offer that all sorts of minor league journeymen can't do just as well. In contrast, as a fifth outfielder, Stern's well-suited for the sort of stuff you'd want a fifth man to do on this team: spot for your center fielder, and provide Terry Francona with a pinch-runner in late and close situations. Considering that he's more than a year removed from getting a lot of real game playing time, it's understandable that he Sox might want to let Stern get some everyday play at Pawtucket at some stretch of the season, but by August, I'd hope they've got him up to stay.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Agreed to terms with RHP Jose Contreras on a three-year, $29 million contract extension through 2009; purchased the contract of LHP Boone Logan; placed RHP Dustin Hermanson on the 15-day DL (back). [4/1]

I've been singing Kenny Williams' praises throughout the winter and into the spring, but the decision to give Contreras this sort of money transcends self-confident or bold and moves right into the foolhardy spectrum. Giving Contreras staff ace money is something that means two things. First, that you are absolutely confident that pitching coach Don Cooper will keep Contreras from regressing back to being the Three True Outcomes (with a bit too many of the two outcomes pitchers don't enjoy so much) hurler that so exasperated the Yankees. And two, that he's not going to get old despite already being 34. Having earned full credit for fixing Contreras, the organization should be rightly proud, but this sort of expense is a huge risk no matter what Cooper can do with him. Will Contreras' deal make it harder for the Sox to afford Mark Buehrle, either in terms of picking up his 2007 option, or signing Buehrle beyond that season? Does it mean Freddy Garcia is the guy who might leave as a free agent after 2007? Javier Vazquez is also a free agent at that point. Williams will certainly have both freedom of action to pick and choose from among those three, perhaps creating an opportunity for Brandon McCarthy, but focusing on that can mean that you're losing sight of the question as to why, among the guys they have in this rotation, you pay Contreras staff ace money, and why Contreras is under contract further into the future than anybody else in the rotation, when his performance record is the most spotty, and when he's the oldest man in the group.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Optioned RHP Jason Davis and 1B/OF-R Jason Dubois to Buffalo (Triple-A); designated 2B/SS-R Brandon Phillips and RHP Kazuhito Tadano for assignment; purchased the contracts of RHP Danny Graves and OF-L Todd Hollandsworth; reassigned RHP Steve Karsay and C-Rs Einar Diaz and Tim Laker to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Placed LHP C.C. Sabathia on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 4/3; recalled RHP Jason Davis from Buffalo; traded RHP Kazuhito Tadano to the Athletics for OF-R Ramon Alvarado. [4/4]

Tackling the big, or some might say hefty, news, losing Sabathia isn't exactly the note the Indians wanted to strike on Opening Day, but happily, it isn't an arm injury, and if he's going to have to miss the rest of the month and perhaps the first week of May, that's something you can minimize the effect of early on, courtesy of four off-days in the season's first four weeks. So while Davis is notionally the fifth starter, he's also likely to do some long relief work and get only two starts in April. If anyone's supposed to be the Johnny on the spot, it's both Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson. Both are solid enough #3 and 4 guys, so this isn't really a major season-altering sort of move on paper, but if the Indians fall back in the early going, you already know what the storyline is going to be, even if it's something really simple, like a slow start by the lineup or something.

As for the rest, if camp wunderkind Ryan Mulhern wasn't going to get all that much consideration, you could understand that Dubois is similarly the sort of guy who's liable to be squeezed off of a roster already crowded with talent. What I'm frustrated by is that Dubois hasn't been squeezed out by the club's loyalty to Ben Broussard or Casey Blake. I can understand their interest in seeing how well the Broussard-Eduardo Perez platoon works out first, and Blake's probably the club's first alternate at third in case something goes very wrong with Aaron Boone. (Later this summer, it'll be Andy Marte, so no scenario is set in stone.) No, what I dislike is that Dubois is essentially out because the team wants to screw around with the Graves project and commit the last spot on the roster to that.

Now, maybe they'll get Graves enough playing time despite being the twelfth pitcher. Maybe. But he really wasn't all that good in camp, and if you think you can retread him, why not let him try in Buffalo? I'd much rather have Dubois around snagging at-bats against lefties or pushing Blake and Jason Michaels in the outfield corners, because I wouldn't bet against his putting more runs on the board than either of them. By contrast, I'm not bent out of shape about Hollandsworth being kept ahead of him: Hollandsworth can play center and hits lefty, and those things are worth having around on your bench in some capacity. Happily, Buffalo's only a bike ride away, but Dubois is already 27, and his future is now.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Designated RHP Franklyn German for assignment. [3/31]

Purchased the contracts of LHP Bobby Seay and INF-B Ramon Santiago; designated C-B Rob Bowen for assignment; placed RHP Craig Dingman on the 15-day DL; placed RHP Troy Percival on the 60-day DL. [4/1]

Placed RHP Todd Jones on the 15-day DL (pulled hamstring); recalled RHP Jordan Tata from Erie (Double-A). [4/2]

Other than the indignity of having something like $16 million of "closer" on the DL, nothing really earth-shattering here. I'm glad to see Seay catch a break, probably just because anybody who gets his opportunities in Colorado and Tampa Bay deserves another chance. Although we've been talking about him since 1996 and the imbroglio over the White Sox's failure to tender the first round pick a contract, he is only just shy of his 28th birthday, so he has plenty of time left to become somebody's pen lefty. But then I'm a little mortified to see Santiago here, although it isn't like he's anything more than the last man on the bench. And while fantheads will no doubt get worked up over how many saves Fernando Rodney will log before Jones comes back, I don't think the Tigers will notice any difference, begging the question of why they spent all that money on moxie in the first place. Besides, this confluence of events has given us "Bodacious" Tata on a big league roster. A 16th rounder out of Sam Houston State in 2003, and the organization's Pitcher of the Year, his lack of experience above A-ball should get him back down to Erie before too long.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Optioned RHP Leo Nunez to Omaha (Triple-A). [3/30]

Traded SS-R Wilson Valdez to the Dodgers for RHP Jarod Plummer, who was assigned to Wichita (Double-A). [3/31]

Designated RHPs Steve Andrade and Joel Peralta for assignment; optioned RHP Runelvys Hernandez to Omaha (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Luke Hudson; placed RHP Mike MacDougal (shoulder) and LHP Mark Redman (knee) on the 15-day DL, and placed RHP Zack Greinke (psychological issues) on the 60-day DL; announced that OF-R Chip Ambres cleared waivers and was assigned to Omaha. [4/1]

Well, okay, so Ambres made it through waivers and took his assignment to the one state in the union that's had the good sense to operate a downsized state legislature. We might credit Allard Baird with picking the right time to make the move, with almost everyone struggling with space issues on their 25- and 40-man rosters, but that still doesn't make it right. I'd much rather have Shane Costa getting everyday at-bats in Omaha, and Ambres hanging around to take at-bats away from any of the several bad ideas that are on the roster.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned SS-R Jason Bartlett to Rochester (Triple-A). [3/31]

Optioned 3B-B Terry Tiffee to Rochester (Triple-A); reassigned OF-L Jason Tyner to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Reassigned DH-B Ruben Sierra to their minor league camp. [4/2]

It's hard to know how worked up about this we should get, since Bartlett needs to rehab a hamstring injury, and after talking to him about it, Terry Ryan decided that the best course of action was to let Bartlett work his way up to full strength while playing at Rochester, instead of going to the major league DL. Now, perhaps as a result of this decision, the Twins ended up picking Luis Rodriguez over Tiffee for an infield reserve role. It makes sense regardless: Rodriguez can play second, short, or third, whereas Tiffee offers line-drive power and sketchy glovework at the corners. As long as the Twins are willing to believe that Tony Batista is the guy they can rely upon at third base, Tiffee didn't figure to get that many at-bats. Meanwhile, Ron Gardenhire will get to rely upon one of the worst left sides of an infield in baseball, with Batista at the corner, and Juan Castro once again getting to start too many games at short. That leaves them having to hope and pray that much more fervently that Justin Morneau and their outfielders actually get their collective acts together and start putting runs on the board.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Reassigned RHP Scott Erickson to their minor league camp. [3/30]

Released 1B-R Luis Garcia; reassigned LHP Matt Smith, RHPs Matt Childers, Jose Veras, and Ramiro Mendoza, C-R Omir Santos, INF-Rs Russ Johnson, Damian Rolls,and Felix Escalona to their minor league camp; placed RHPs Aaron Small and Octavio Dotel on the 15-day DL retroactive to 3/24, and placed RHP Carl Pavano on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to 3/28. [4/1]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Acquired RHP Juan Dominguez from the Rangers for UT-L Freddie Bynum and LHP John Rheinecker. [3/31]

Optioned RHP Santiago Casilla (the pitcher formerly known as Jairo Garcia), LHP Ron Flores, and OF-B Bobby Kielty to Sacramento (Triple-A). [4/1]

Acquired RHP Kazuhito Tadano from the Indians for OF-R Ramon Alvarado. [4/4]

As an exchange of values in terms of 40-man roster space, getting Dominguez and Tadano for Rheinecker and Bynum is a pretty straightforward upgrade, but Alvarado's the wild card. Others may disagree, but I'm more excited about picking up Dominguez than I am Tadano, despite Tadano being the pickup costing something of potentially greater value; Alvarado's no slouch after hitting .296/.412/.497 in the Arizona League--the complex league, not the winter circuit--last summer. But both Tadano and Dominguez probably have no other fate than to wind up in the A's bullpen. For Dominguez, that's a matter of accepting the inevitable, but with Tadano, that was always expected. Each of them can bring it well enough, but both have had their share of problems with allowing the long ball. But freed from the unpleasantries of pitching in Texas or trying to find a breaking pitch that works, Dominguez might thrive as a reliever, using his good heater and a nice changeup to be... well, what Juan Cruz was, sort of.

Tadano's got to get a grip on the number of mistake pitches he makes, but that's what Sacramento is for. Together, they give the A's some happy alternatives for a bullpen that, among its right-handers, might be relying too heavily on Kirk Saarloos or Jay Witasick for anyone's comfort, something that will get worse if or when Kiko Calero breaks down again.

If there's a surprise, it was the decision to dispatch Kielty to the PCL. He seemed unlikely to get much playing time as the club's fifth outfielder, at least until Mark Kotsay or Milton Bradley get hurt. But with Jay Payton able to play center as well as platoon with Nick Swisher, and with Frank Thomas currently in operating order, something had to give. Would Kielty be more handy than forcing a choice between Antonio Perez and Marco Scutaro would have been? No, not when Bobby Crosby managed to get hurt on Opening Night, but that's in hindsight. Even so, won't the team still have to make a decision about what to do with Saarloos at some point? And is keeping Brad Halsey around as the pen's second lefty really necessary? Kielty, Casilla, and now both Tadano and Dominguez have reasons to hope the answers are 'no,' but it'll be up to them to do something about it.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Claimed C-R Guillermo Quiroz off of waivers from the Blue Jays; returned Rule 5 pick LHP Luis E. Gonzalez to the Dodgers. [3/31]

Optioned RHP Emiliano Fruto and C-R Rene Rivera to Tacoma (Triple-A); purchased the contract of 1B-L Roberto Petagine; placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 15-day DL (knee surgery - recovery); designated RHP Marcos Carvajal for assignment. [4/1]

Selected the contract of RHP Jeff Harris from Tacoma (Triple-A); acknowledged that OF-L Matt Lawton has been placed on the restricted list by MLB. [4/2]

I've already touched on the Petagine thing, so let's stick to the couple of new things that are pretty cool. Well, make that one thing, because it wasn't the Mariner's call to pick Carvajal in the Rule 5 draft last year, and he has to show something in the minors above A-ball before he's going to deserve to stick on anyone's 40-man. So the one cool thing was snagging Quiroz on waivers.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Optioned RHP Chad Orvella to Durham (Triple-A); released LHP Mark Malaska; reassigned RHPs Justin Miller and Al Reyes, C-B Mike Rose, and 2B-R Luis Rivas to their minor league camp; outrighted RHP Chad Harville to Durham. [3/31]

Placed CF-R Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/24; placed 3B-L Sean Burroughs on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/30; placed RHP Shinji Mori on the 60-day DL; reassigned 1B/3B-L Russell Branyan and PH-B Greg Norton to their minor league camp; purchased the contracts of RHP Ruddy Lugo and INF-R Luis Ordaz; optioned RHP Edwin Jackson and C-R Kevin Cash to Durham (Triple-A); designated RHP Tim Corcoran for assignment. [4/1]

Placed INF-R Luis Ordaz on the 15-day DL (bruised knee); purchased the contract of 1B/3B-L Russell Branyan from Durham. [4/4]

The injuries to Baldelli and Burroughs aren't really surprises, just disappointments, but in their places, the Rays will get to turn to some combination of Branyan and Ty Wigginton at third, and Joey Gathright in center, neither of which is all bad. The more odious aspect of the present is the Rays continuing to play Damon Hollins with anything approaching regularity. Baldelli's return will scotch that, eventually, but this particular choice seems to be all about when in the year we're at; if we were in July already, I'm sure we'd see Delmon Young instead.

Instead, the area of real surprise is the bullpen, and who some of the people who wound up in it are, and whatever it could be that Joe Maddon is thinking. But I think it's worth giving the man some benefit of the doubt. What's odd is that both Ruddy Lugo and Jason Childers are the brothers of more highly-regarded players, and both former Brewers farmhands. Lugo I remember from his days as an honest-to-goodness Brewers prospect at a time when there weren't that many people worthy of the name. Julio Lugo's younger brother, he'd been picked in the 3rd round of the '99 draft. He was thrown in on the Marquis Grissom-Devon White deal during 2001, a kid with mid-90s heat and a good curve. After only a season in the Dodgers' system, he bounced over to ugly stints with the Astros in Double-A and then with the Marlins before landing with the D-Rays' system last year. He had a nifty season pitching as a Biscuit, allowing only 25 hits and 23 walks in 40.1 IP, and striking out 48. (Less happily, he also threw eight wild pitches.) Considering that he's still shy of his 26th birthday, Lugo makes for a pretty interesting retread project.

Less exciting is the decision to keep Jason Childers, not to be mistaken for his better-known younger brother, Matt Childers, the one of the two occasionally mistaken for a prospect. Jason was signed as a free agent with some college ball at Kenesaw Mountain State under his belt, and was brought in by the Brewers in 1997, the same year that they signed Matt after picking him in the 9th round. The best you can say for him is that he's got a good reputation for solid citizenship and throwing strikes, not that there's anything wrong with that, or the other thing.

So, two interesting longshots, guys you can pull for, right? Probably not if you're one of the fantheads crushed by this particular contretemps because you were too clever by half, and thought that Orvella was going to rack up saves for the Devil Fishy franchise. No doubt some people are worked up about this, but again, I'm willing to give Maddon a long rein on this. Orvella didn't earn anything in camp, and the Devil Rays aren't going to win anything whether they have Orvella saving games in Florida or North Carolina or Alabama or any other state they care to send him to. When Orvella's ready, he'll get a chance, certainly, but expecting to be anointed a stat-generating saviour because the alternative is the execrable Dan Miceli is a bit much to expect from a franchise that has already demonstrated its willingness to keep Young and B.J. Upton waiting. Still, I don't expect Orvella to be gone for long, not unless he takes his demotion really badly, because his performance track record for getting people out is outstanding, and his future is with the big league club. As much as I don't seriously think spring performance should be weighted all that heavily, I'm willing to give the organization the benefit of the doubt when it comes to sending the message that people have to earn their opportunities, even in Tampa Bay.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Outrighted RHP Jon Leicester to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [3/30]

Traded RHP Juan Dominguez to the A's for UT-L Freddie Bynum and LHP John Rheinecker; assigned Rheinecker to Oklahoma; acquired LHP John Koronka and a PTBNL from the Cubs for UT-L Freddie Bynum; safely re-signed RHP John Wasdin to a minor league contract, restoring the natural order of things. [3/31]

Placed LHP C.J. Wilson, RHPs Frank Francisco and Josh Rupe, and UT-R Marshall McDougall on the 15-day DL; acquired RHP Robinson Tejeda and OF-R Jake Blalock from the Phillies for OF-L David Dellucci. [4/1]

Purchased the contracts of RHP Antonio Alfonseca, OF-B Adrian Brown, and 2B-B D'Angelo Jimenez; designated LHP Erasmo Ramirez for assignment; placed OF-B Gary Matthews Jr. on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

If you're perplexed over what all this means, the answer is that Koronka will be the fifth starter to start off with, but you can probably count on Tejeda to come up sometime soon, with Edison Volquez waiting in the wings for either to fail, while they all look forward to the inevitable R.A. Dickey meltdown. Plus, the Rangers get the other Blalock, completing the set. But with Tejeda, Volquez, Thomas Diamond and John Danks all nearing readiness, the Rangers are already primed for an in-house tear-down and re-tooling with their own young pitching. Considering that they're relying on guys like Dickey and Koronka in the meantime, it's nice to see that the Rangers have such an interesting strategic withdrawal already in place, once they fall short of the expectations that came with having Adam Eaton anchoring the staff.

The outfield's a little bit more of a surprise, in that the Rangers have decided that Brad Wilkerson isn't a center fielder after all, and that they'd rather keep Kevin Mench standing around in right. Who then is in center, especially with Matthews on the DL? Laynce Nix is getting another shot at the brass ring. I may not be a fan, but I think the choice makes sense, and not just because Matthews is on the DL. Better to see if Nix is ever going to turn things around--drawing walks, hitting lefties, even just avoiding the crippling slumps that seem to have defined his brief major league career. Consider that with Matthews missing, you get a team that has Adrian Brown and Mark DeRosa as its primary outfield reserves. How long will Nix work out? Color me skeptical, and wondering when or if the Rangers are going to give Jason Botts an opportunity. Bringing Botts up would involve pushing Wilkerson back into center, but if Nix doesn't finally turn his career around, that's a choice made easier if you're already cognizant of how little good going back to Matthews does you.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Reassigned 1B-L Kevin Barker, IF Luis Figueroa, RHP Lee Gronkiewicz, and C-R Mike Mahoney to their minor league camp. [3/30]

Placed C-B Gregg Zaun on the 15-day DL; lost C-R Guillermo Quiroz on waivers to the Mariners. [3/31]

Purchased the contracts of C/1B-R Jason Phillips and LHP Brian Tallet; designated RHP Vince Perkins for assignment. [4/1]

As much as Quiroz was supposed to be doomed by his lack of any remaining options, his trick lung and other repeated injury woes, you're telling me that sticking with Phillips as your alternative to Zaun while the latter is on the DL makes sense? I think not. Losing Quiroz is forever, and however frustrated the Jays had reason to be, we're talking about Jason Phillips here, and in a temp assignment at that. If Phillips won't accept an assignment back down to Syracuse when Zaun comes back, how does that help? Given his past history, at least Quiroz might have hurt himself, earning a lengthy rehab stint, and buying the Jays time. Taking a spin with Phillips is actually worse than the date who stands you up, because you might make a mistake and do something tragic, like keep him.

As for happy news? Well, it's sort of cool to have both a right-handed and lefty long reliever, as the Jays boast in Pete Walker and Tallet. Of course, they might also need that more than most teams, considering their rotation after Roy Halladay while A.J. Burnett is on the DL. And Zaun shouldn't be gone for too long.

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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