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April 21, 2006

Transaction Analysis

April 18-20

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Placed RHP Bartolo Colon on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 4/16; recalled RHP Kevin Gregg from Salt Lake (Triple-A). [4/19]

Colon is notionally going to only miss the requisite two weeks, but we'll see how that works out. WBC critic that I am, I can't help but be amused by the spin-doctoring that accompanied the announcement, in that Colon's injury is supposedly something that lingered from last fall, and thus has nothing whatsoever to do with his pitching for the Dominican Republic. Maybe that's so, and maybe it isn't; to be fair, I certainly can't say one way or another. I merely note how quickly the Angels made a point of saying that this is an old problem, without bothering to note whether or not this makes the decision to let him go pitch in the WBC at all defensible.

In the meantime, in his absence the ridiculously fortunate Hector Carrasco will step into the rotation for two or three turns. Gregg steps back into his role as the club's long reliever and emergency starter--the job Carrasco got pushed into once the Angels made their late winning bid on Jeff Weaver, after he'd been originally inked to be the club's fifth starter. It's all good, in that this just reflects the depth the Angels can boast as a result of that final tweak to the rotation. Gregg outpitched Carrasco last night, which while it won't create a controversy over whether the Angels have the right guy ahead of the other in that sixth starter/long reliever role--Carrasco's contract squelches that--does at least give Gregg a renewed case for his being kept. Considering K-Rod's struggles and Esteban Yan's continuing ability to be Esteban Yan, there's probably room for Gregg in this pen, even after Colon comes back.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed UT-L David Newhan on the 15-day DL (fractured fibula); recalled OF-L Val Majewski from Ottawa (Triple-A). [4/18]

Placed LHP Tim Byrdak on the 60-day DL (elbow), and CF-R Luis Matos on the 15-day DL (shoulder); transferred UT-L David Newhan from the 15- to the 60-day DL; optioned OF-L Val Majewski back to Ottawa; purchased the contracts of RHP Eddy Rodriguez, C-R Raul Chavez, and OF-R Luis Terrero from Ottawa. [4/19]

Not that you wanted to see Newhan break down in such gruesome fashion to make it so, but now is the opportunity for this team to simply plug Corey Patterson into the lineup and let him play. An outfield of Patterson, Nick Markakis, and Jay Gibbons is actually pretty tasty; balance that against the righty-powered offense they get out of their infield, catcher, and Javy Lopez, and that might actually make for the best Orioles lineup in several years. Assuming Patterson hits, of course, but with Matos broken down yet again, and Terrero not a real challenger for the job, he'll get every opportunity to show that he can finally shake off his Cub rust. The last two days against an admittedly banged-up Indians staff represent progress.

As for losing Byrdak after discarding Eric DuBose, the pen still does have John Halama for its lefty relief needs, and it wasn't like Byrdak was ever going to be as special as they seemed to pretend down the stretch last season or over this past winter. Elsewhere in the pen, since Todd Williams seems to be taking forever to come off of the DL, I'm glad to see them take a look at Rodriguez to see if he might finally throw enough strikes to stick. Finally, while it remains goofy that they want to have Chavez around in any capacity (since he might not just be one of the worst backups in our era, but historically) with Lopez doing everything but catch, I can see how having a third catcher makes sense--I just don't think they should have to settle for Chavez.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned OF-L Adam Stern to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [4/19]

Purchased the contract of UT-L Willie Harris from Pawtucket. [4/20]

Pretty much as expected, Stern went down after fulfilling his Rule 5 major league service time requirement, and will now take over in center on an everyday basis for the PawSox. There, if he has a couple of good months in his first real everyday play since 2004, he could end up pushing his way back up into the fifth outfield job before playoff rosters are set. In the meantime, I like the decision to bring up Harris. Admittedly, he's probably not more than an adequate center fielder, and Sox fans who remember (and resent) the memory of Cesar Crespo might note that Harris is a player with similar skills: he gets on base, runs a bit, and is really a second baseman stretched out into a utility role. But since he shouldn't embarrass himself in center, if he's allowed to play in the platoon role that the Sox are saying he'll get, he'll give Terry Francona a nice alternative to Dustan Mohr. That also makes it that much easier to keep Wily Mo Pena in right field when he's in the lineup, since there's always the possibility that Trot Nixon will take some time in center. The other nice thing about having Harris around, especially after Coco Crisp comes back off of the DL, is that he could always be the club's primary reserve at second if they get tired of Alex Gonzalez and start usingAlex Cora at short with any regularity. If they get really bold, and if Dustin Pedroia isn't ready that soon, they could also start Harris at second against RHPs, and play Mark Loretta at short, but that's probably only going to happen if they get really disgusted with Gonzalez--I mean Jackie Gutierrez-level disgusted, which doesn't seem too far off, when you think about it.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Placed RHP Matt Miller on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled LHP Rafael Perez from Akron (Double-A). [4/20]

Between Miller's being deposited onto the DL, and the possibility that Rafael Betancourt might have to follow, the Indians are suddenly beyond the happy opportunity to get rid of Danny Graves someday soon, and into territory where they have to find out if Jason Davis might be ready to handle a seventh-inning lead. That isn't the end of the world, but it's certainly a more fluid and uncertain situation than it was last week. Perez is here more to provide a second lefty than to give the team a direct replacement for Miller. If they decide that their problems with right-handed relief help are as bad as they seem, they could turn to Brian Slocum, who's on the 40-man and doing well at Buffalo, but there is the danger that they'll instead double their pleasure where Graves is concerned, and try to simultaneously resurrect Steve Karsay from extended spring training. Between the two of them, this sort of demand for instant manpower seems like a case of sowing dragon's teeth, and not even getting the Tooth Fairy for their troubles.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed RHP Steve Stemle on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Joel Peralta from Omaha (Triple-A). [4/17]

The question that really needs to be asked is what Stemle was doing on the big league roster in the first place. Seriously. He's a washout from the Cardinals system, an organizational soldier for them from a time when nobody in their right minds should want him for themselves. After meandering all the way up to Triple-A as an adequate rotation regular, he was converted to the pen, where he was an adequate, and mostly non-dominant, reliever. In either role, you're talking about a guy who strikes out five per nine. There is next to nothing about his career to recommend him, other than that he must have drifted into this particular one-horse franchise wearing the original Billy the Marlin's unused fish head, and convinced the team that he was an amphibious seahorse. Allard Baird and Buddy Bell were no doubt impressed.

By contrast, Peralta's not a bad guy to have around. Instead of occasionally getting people out in Omaha and Memphis well enough to stick in Omaha or Memphis, Peralta did good work at the tail end of the Angels' pen last season, and if he's yet another apprehended AgeGater--he's 30, not 26--from the Dominican Republic, he still has some decent velocity and an improving splitter. If he really improves with the splitfingered fastball, he might actually avoid ROOGY situational typecasting, and be a plain-old good reliever, the sort of the thing the Royals don't have so much of these days. That should all be more to recommend a guy than a drifter to be named later.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Outrighted C-R Guillermo Quiroz to Tacoma (Triple-A); released C-R Corky Miller. [4/17]

Quiroz made it through, so chalk one up to Bill Bavasi's credit. If I was the Nats or Orioles, I'd sort of like to have the guy, let alone the Cardinals or the Rockies, but he's Mariners property for keeps now, safely ensconced where he'll get some regular playing time, and hopefully resurrect his prospect status.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Placed INF-R Mark DeRosa on the 15-day DL (ankle); purchased the contract of 2B/SS-L Drew Meyer from Oklahoma (Triple-A); transferred RHP Adam Eaton from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/18]

Even with Meyer up, his star's still fallen far enough on the horizon that he won't poach more than a spot start or two at D'Angelo Jimenez's expense. Maybe this is a case of Buck Showalter giving some slack to a former Yankees farmhand from his own days in pinstripes, but let's face it, Jimenez is still under 30, and he can still get on base. This team's already stuck with getting little or no offense from its starting catcher or its center field situation, and with both Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench off to slow starts, this is already a dangerously short-stack sort of offense. So much the better to have Jimenez on base, and while I'm happy to see him get this latest opportunity, I'd still expect the Rangers to return to their commitment to Ian Kinsler once he's ready to come off of the DL.

All of this said, I'm not that down on Meyer, because as utility infielders go, he has his uses. He can handle second or short, he hits lefty, can run, makes decent contact, and if he doesn't have much power, as long as you don't expect him to live up to his former first-round billing for what seems like another overhyped ballplayer out of the University of South Carolina, he's handy enough as a big league reserve. DeRosa's the better option when healthy, but this isn't such a terrible fallback position to be in.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Activated RHP Brandon Medders from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Casey Daigle to Tucson (Triple-A). [4/19]

This is as it should be. Medders proved his mettle in the majors last fall, so he deserved to join Juan Cruz and Luis Vizcaino in what is becoming a particularly charming Snake pen. Daigle continued to work his way back into the organization's good graces as a relief prospect, striking out four in 4.2 IP. All of this talent being here and pitching well, combined with Jason Grimsley's predictably awful work, might actually convince the Diamondbacks' brass to do what's necessary and dump the veteran once Terry Mulholland comes back off of the DL. Mulholland would resume his role as the token lefty, while everyone else beyond Grimsley in the pen is just as right-handed, not to mention younger and more effective.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed CF-L Ken Griffey Jr. on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/13. [4/17]

Activated C-R Jason LaRue from the 15-day DL. [4/18]

Recalled LHP Mike Gosling from Louisville (Triple-A); optioned RHP Mike Burns to Louisville. [4/19]

Recalled LHP Brian Shackelford from Louisville; optioned LHP Mike Gosling to Louisville. [4/20]

The Griffey meltdown was another super slo-mo bit of misery for the Reds, but as long as they're comfortable playing Ryan Freel in center--and devil take those balls hit to the left-center gap between Freel and Adam Dunn--they shouldn't be totally killed by Griffey's absence. As I've complained about already, they don't have an adequate reserve on the big-league roster, but Chris Denorfia probably should be getting at-bats every day, and this team has yet to get Scott Hatteberg out of its system. Putting Denorfia in center, and bumping Freel to left would mean that the "Adam Dunn at first" scenario would come back into operation, not a bad idea at all, but if Griffey really does come back in another week or so, it isn't unreasonable to leave Denorfia where he is. That leaves us with kibbitzing over the relative merits of Quinton McCracken, Terrence Long, or Alex Sanchez as your fourth outfielder of last resort, but choices like that really do bring new meaning to the phrase "pick your poison."

The Burns-to-Gosling-to-Shackelford exchange is only missing one name to paint a complete picture of what the Reds have been able to do to manage their pen's needs over the last several days: Kent Mercker. Mercker's been suffering from a strained back, and it has kept him off of the mound for the last six days. Considering that the Reds' rotation isn't built around a group of iron men, this created a bit of a roster crunch, so after having to use three middle relievers--including Burns--in Tuesday's loss, they took advantage of geography, swapped Gosling for Burns just in case they needed someone else for middle inning work on Wednesday (which they did), and then swapped Gosling out to bring in the lefty relief specialist they've been lacking since Mercker went MIA. That's roster micro-management at its finest, no injuries involved, just basically expanding the 25-man roster to a nightly exercise in who they want available for a game, with the only in-season penalty being that they can't bring Gosling or Burns back within ten days unless they put someone on the DL--which, if Mercker isn't back soon, they could do while back-dating the injury. Not that there's anything wrong with this, but the logistics of having a nearby upper-level affiliate seem pretty clear.

The whole rigmarole just makes me ponder again Jim Riggleman's suggestion about how teams should name their 25-man rosters on a day-of-game basis in September, no matter how many people they've called up with the end of the minor league season. It still makes sense: teams should be asked to compete with the same number of players within single games, and even if that creates the game-y oddity of "deactivating" the rest of the rotation for a single night, it would at least force teams to play with the same absolute number of players within that game. Riggs was always a smarter guy than he got credit for during his days of managing the Cubs, and this is sort of thoughtful suggestion from someone on the inside that should be taken seriously someday.

At any rate, Shackelford really never deserved to go down in the first place, unless you really are the sort of person who rates a brief bit of spring wildness as something more significant than his performance in real game action last summer. It does give the Reds the nice problem of having too many lefties in the pen: beyond Mercker and Shackelford, there's also middleman Chris Hammond. Carrying all three isn't really a good idea, but it's a bit early in the season to hope that they might get something for Mercker or Hammond if they shopped either. Between this sort of depth and the fact that the Reds have a now-supernumerary but serviceable backup catcher in Dave Ross, if GM Wayne Krivsky wants to work the phones, he does have the sort of reserve goodies to spice up a deal or help an aspiring contender shore up these areas. Heck, throw in Rich Aurilia, and maybe the Reds could even get something they could use beyond this season.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed RHP Sun-Woo Kim on the 15-day DL (shin contusion); activated RHP Scott Dohmann from the 15-day DL. [4/18]

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Placed LHP Trever Miller on the 15-day DL (sprained elbow). [4/19]

Purchased the contract of RHP Dave Borkowski from Round Rock (Triple-A). [4/20]

Although it might seem like he's been around forever, Borkowski is still under thirty, and was doing pretty well closing for Round Rock. More than eight years in the Tigers' system was probably more than enough to prematurely age a guy, but he did have a nice bit of work to his credit with the Orioles in 2004, and he was subsequently thoroughly adequate pitching for Ottawa for the entire 2005 season. Expect no great deeds, but as a sinker-slider guy who can still throw strikes, maybe he finally sticks as a middle reliever; stranger things have happened. Meanwhile, losing Miller hurts, because even if he wasn't pitching all that effectively, losing him leaves the 'Stros pen with only Mike Gallo for lefty relief help, which, as the Astros know from bitter experience, is the same thing as not having a lefty reliever at all.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Optioned RHP Jared Fernandez and 4C-R Corey Hart to Nashville (Triple-A); recalled RHPs Mike Adams and Chris Demaria from Nashville. [4/18]

Although I'm bummed for Hart, let's face it, this is the team that already doesn't have room for Nelson Cruz, and Gabe Gross has clearly settled in as a quality fourth outfielder. Hart doesn't do the organization any good sitting on the bench and not playing, not when he can tantalize other organization's scouts playing every day somewhere, and at least keeping his stroke fresh for shoppers who could be contending or rebuilding, and who simply need power.

As for getting an extra pitcher on the roster, dialing things all the way up to 13 in April (!), keep in mind that Dan Kolb hasn't been able to pitch through a sore elbow, and that made Fernandez's predictable marginality a knuckle-minded luxury they could no longer afford. So they brought the hard-throwing Adams back to take another shot at sticking (he'd struck out five in five Nashville innings), and decided to take a look at Royal refugee Demaria as well. I wouldn't expect Demaria to survive Kolb's return to full function, since being at thirteen is always silly, and particularly silly now that Ben Sheets is off of the DL. I suppose there's always the chance that Demaria does a Doug Jones on us as a slow-developing changeup fiend. If that happens and he outpitches Adams, he might get the shot to last until Helling comes back from the DL in May.

The problem is that if they're going to get back down to a dozen pitchers, they're going to have to either call up an outfielder from among the group of Hart, Cruz, Tony Gwynn Jr., Dave Krynzel, or Brad Nelson, or designate Demaria or Fernandez or one of the minor league pitchers on the 40-man for assignment, so that they can then add a warm body like Brent Abernathy. My money's on Fernandez, but this is penny-bet territory.

NEW YORK METS
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Activated 2B-R Kazuo Matsui from the 15-day DL; placed 2B-B Anderson Hernandez on the 15-day DL (bulging disk - lower back); designated RHP Yusaku Iriki for assignment. [4/19]

Matsui's back? As Doc Leary (the wild radical, not the wild Dodger) might have noted, swap in, swap out, and turn off. Not that Hernandez did all that much to stake a claim on the keystone once the games began to count, but you can pretty much take it for granted that Matsui is baseball's answer to the Suzuki Samurai: sure, using him might get you from here to there, but it might also leave you belly-up in a ditch before the summer's out.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned OF-L Terrmel Sledge to Portland (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Jon Adkins from Portland. [4/18]

Adkins is replacing Clay Hensley in the bullpen, because Hensley's moving on into a rotation that's now Brazelton-free. That's something you can be even more impressed with the more you look it. Hensley's particularly good at keeping the ball in the infield, and with the Pads' current alignment of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Barfield, Khalil Greene, and Vinny Castilla around the horn, he should be in hog heaven where infield defense is concerned, without even bringing up his getting to pitch in PETCO. It's also pretty cool to note that the Pads have yet again thumbed their collective noses at scouting bias against short pitchers by taking the 5'11" Hensley seriously.

If you feel for Sledge (as I do), that's understandable, but if he couldn't push past Eric Young and Ben Johnson in Mike Cameron's absence, he's probably better off mounting a later challenge to either on the strength of whatever he does in the PCL. As for Adkins, he's really only filler, qualified to work as a long reliever, which is fine if that's all you need, but not really any better than Brazelton when it comes to replacing Hensley in the pen. Happily, if the rotation is now stabilized, they won't need either all that often for extended work.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed 1B-R Lance Niekro on the bereavement list; recalled 1B-L Travis Ishikawa from Connecticut (Double-A). [4/17]

Optioned LHP Jack Taschner to Fresno (Triple-A); optioned 1B-L Travis Ishikawa back to Connecticut in anticipation of 1B-R Lance Niekro's return from the bereavement list; activated RHP Armando Benitez from the 15-day DL. [4/19]

The Giants seem to be happy to let Benitez work his way up to speed as far as eventually resuming his closing duties, all the more understandable with Tim Worrell looking perfectly serviceable in the role in the early going. Nevertheless, if the Giants' pen is going to be of much use at all, it's going to need Benitez at some fraction of his former self, because Worrell's a dodgy proposition, the blush is so off Tyler Walker's rose that the dried petals are glued into the diary of some old lady in Haight-Ashbury, and Jeff Fassero is reminding people that some reclamation projects get repossessed. If the Giants can't at least get by with Worrell, Benitez, and Steve Kline, it's going to be a summer well-stocked with late leads lost.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Purchased the contract of LHP Billy Traber from New Orleans (Triple-A); optioned RHP Saul Rivera to New Orleans. [4/19]

This should be another in-season change for the better, in that Traber was once a top-shelf pitching prospect, and will hopefully join the ranks of post-TJ pitchers who didn't leave something on the surgeon's table. If nothing else, Traber should be an upgrade on Drese: he's always been able to get people to swing and miss a low-mph fastball that has good movement, plus some solid breaking stuff. If he throws strikes and fools some of the people some of the time, and you put that sort of pitcher in RFK, he could wind up being a nice little surprise success story, and the sort of dumpster-dive find that might do something as far as giving GM Jim Bowden something to crow about. After a cold start, things are actually shaping up pretty nicely. If the Nats still have to live with the misfortune of employing Ramon Ortiz, they can at least take some satisfaction in Tony Armas Jr. doing some good work in the early going. The pen might lack a reliable lefty, but Jon Rauch has joined Gary Majewski to provide the team with a pair of quality right-handed relievers in front of closer Chad Cordero. Between "losing" Drese and already fixing the Opening Day mistake in center, it's beginning to look like the doubters who thought this team might not finish ahead of the Fish were far too pessimistic.


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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