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April 28, 2006

Transaction Analysis

April 26-27

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Claimed RHP Edwardo Sierra off of waivers from the Rockies, and optioned him to Birmingham (Double-A). [4/26]

Golly, I'm shocked. Someone who throws in the 90s gets claimed on waivers? After their happy experiences with "too wild" pitchers like Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks, the White Sox snap guys like this up, and certainly don't seem to be frightened off by a little bit of wildness. Which, to be fair to the Rockies in their haste to add the immortal Ryan Spilborghs to their roster for perhaps two or even three weeks, Sierra is. Quite. Consider his performances the past two seasons (2005 is combined from Double-A Tulsa and Double-A Trenton, 2006 is from Tulsa only):

Pitcher     IP    H   BB  K   HR   R/9
Sierra '05  72.2  60  51  57   7   5.3
Sierra '06  14.0  22  12   7   3  10.3

Also, keep in mind that Sierra's now on his fourth organization: signed by the A's out of the Dominican in 1999 at 17, then a Yankee, then a Rockie since last July, and now a Sock. (Or a Footie, or whatever else it is that we want to call Sox farmhands.) He just turned 24, so you can understand if people are beginning to wonder if he's a talent or an afterthought. Happily, the White Sox have the roster space and the track record, so he's in the right place to get his career back on track. I liked it when the Sox similarly snagged wild lefty Rusty Tucker off of waivers from the Padres this winter, and he's currently giving up fewer than a baserunner and more than a strikeout per inning at Birmingham, and see their grabbing of Sierra in a similar light.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Recalled RHP Runelvys Hernandez from Omaha (Triple-A); designated RHP Joe Nelson for assignment. [4/26]

There are so very few things left to root for when it comes to the Royals that I have to say I'm happy that Hernandez is up. Consider it the fatalism of knowing that you may as well see what happens. Like Jeremy Affeldt, I guess I'd rather the Royals just find out what--if anything, and however little--they might get from Hernandez. The most they can hope for from their "big two" of Scott Elarton or Mark Redman is an A-ball prospect or two in July, and Joe Mays looks to be a Lima-like lost cause. Whatever the future of the people running the organization, and whatever the answer to the question as to how many games these guys will lose, they do owe it to themselves to see if Hernandez and Affeldt have any place in the organization's future. Affeldt's two adequate starts in a row and Hernandez's good first effort are silver linings in what's brewing up as a pretty big black cloud.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Placed INF-R Jorge Cantu on the 15-day DL (broken bone - foot). [4/26]

Purchased the contract of 1B-B Greg Norton from Durham (Triple-A); designated RHP Jason Childers for assignment. [4/27]

As grim as it might be to finally have to acknowledge that Cantu's going to be gone for two or three weeks, I admire the way the team has responded to the setback. They're going to keep using Tomas Perez as their everyday shortstop, and they're going to continue to play Ty Wigginton every day, but Wigginton will play second versus RHPs and third versus lefties, so that Sean Burroughs and Russ Branyan can soak up some at-bats at third against righties; Nick Green will play second against lefties. Can Wiggington play second? He wasn't all bad at it in New York with the Mets, and besides, Perez can't really play short, but in desperate times, you do desperate things. If Wigginton at least resembles an acceptable second baseman, it might make him that much more useful to a contender as a stretch-drive pickup, and the team should make a determination as to whether or not Burroughs in particular has any future with the organization, and the only way to do that is play him. As a last man on the bench, Norton's done a bit of everything, from pinch-hitting to playing almost every position on the diamond. It's a bit of a shame that his best position is first base, when he's on a team with Travis Lee, but the thing about someone like Norton, or Perez, or even Branyan is that designating any or all of them for assignment once Aubrey Huff, Jorge Cantu, and Julio Lugo come off of the DL in May won't kill you.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Recalled RHP Casey Janssen from Syracuse (Triple-A); optioned RHP Shaun Marcum to Syracuse. [4/26]

Plugging Janssen into the rotation might seem hasty, considering that he's a 2004 draft pick, but he was a draft pick out of the Pac-10, having starred at UCLA. So he's understandably a bit more polished than you might think when you hear "2004 4th-round draft choice." In his first full season last year, the Jays aggressively promoted him from six weeks in the Midwest to a couple of months in High-A Dunedin before letting him finish the year at Double-A. He never struggled at any level, and he was strong in the early going at Triple-A this season, striking out 18 and walking one in 20 innings. He can throw four pitches for strikes, and he's relatively polished at the little things, so basically, as far as his learning curve was concerned, he might not have had that much to gain from another year in the minors, save confidence through repetition. That sort of thing does matter, but as far as plugging one particular prospect into the rotation during A.J. Burnett's absence, they've probably picked the right one.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Optioned RHP Mike Adams to Nashville (Triple-A). [4/26]

Recalled RHP Ben Hendrickson from Nashville. [4/27]

Interesting, because it means that the Brewers are continuing to go with a short bench, and eight, count 'em, eight relievers. This gives Hendrickson the same sort of opportunity that they gave Adams, a "show me something, right now" gig. That can be pretty harsh for someone as wild as Adams or someone who seems to treat every big league call-up like he's Ed Whitson in New York City, la Hendrickson. While I don't mind the idea that the Brewers should start making some tough decisions about whether or not Adams or Hendrickson or Panzer Lehr or Chris Demaria or Dan Kolb have a future, I just don't care for their looking at most of them simultaneously in cameos better-suited for an extra, while forgoing the opportunity to carry a disposable pinch-hitter. Admittedly, it's nice to have a rotation where everyone's pretty reliable and a lineup where you don't really have to pinch-hit for anybody; that combination makes it easier to use your last two roster spots pretty much any way you please. But I guess I'd rather have somebody of an almost Bloomquistian skillset, somebody who can run a little and play everywhere, instead of carrying another reliever you'll either ignore or not give a complete inning to. Where have you gone, Trent Durrington?

(I know, he's in Pawtucket.)

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Placed RHP Julio Santana on the 15-day DL (stomach flu); recalled RHP Clay Condrey from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [4/26]

Phillies fans shouldn't get too bent out of shape about this latest minor bit of unhappiness. Santana's a retread, nothing more, and Condrey's an aspiring retread whose only real recommendation is that he was willing to give his all to Scranton the last two years after washing out of San Diego. If there's an arm that you should be holding out hope for to provide some assistance in the pen, it's probably the still-rehabbing Chris Booker. Booker was dominating in ten A-ball innings (20 Ks), but since Santana won't be gone for more than two weeks, you can understand if the Phillies are loathe to shake things up in the big league bullpen, because once Booker's up, he should be allowed to stick. It's probably too soon to start talking about Booker replacing Santana or Geoff Geary.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Claimed RHP Zach Day off of waivers from the Rockies; designated C-R Wiki Gonzalez for assignment; optioned LHP Billy Traber to New Orleans (Triple-A); recalled RHP Jason Bergmann from New Orleans. [4/26]

Purchased the contract of LHP Mike O'Connor from New Orleans; optioned 2B/3B-R Brendan Harris to New Orleans; designated OF-L Tyrell Godwin for assignment. [4/27]

Superficially, grabbing Day might seem like last summer's decision to go get Ryan Drese and declare their rotation problem solved: grab some sort of available roadkill off of the waiver wire, and declare it a masterful bit of canny talent appreciation. It even has that always-humiliating prodigal son angle, in that I suppose it would really chap the Rockies' hides if Day pitches well for the team that traded him to them last summer, now that he's been discarded. Wouldn't that smart? The Rockies would really rue the day. Gee willikers, being a boy genius is thirsty work.

However, Day really can be an adequate fifth starter, and if John Patterson is out for any length of time, the Nats need every warm body capable of starting baseball games that they can get. Hopefully, Day's shoulder woes aren't too serious, because if they are, he's a waste of time on a team that needs answers. But that desperation explains not only the aggressive claim on Day, it also explains the brief audition for Traber, and (hopefully) the equally brief appearance of Michael O'Connor, who's less than a month removed from only having A-ball experience. At least bringing in Bergmann should be worthwhile--whether he earns his keep or not, it's a positive thing to see whether or not they have a homegrown reliever with a nice power assortment, or just somebody else they might end up cycling off of the 40-man.

There might be some continued caterwauling about the "lack" of a backup catcher, and wail over a Wiki-less roster. This is from the people that are worrying whether or not it's the absence of a "true" backup that's wearing out Brian Schneider, or whether it was the WBC, or Colonel Mustard with a candlestick. I think it's safe to say that if Schneider's playing too often, that can only be Frank Robinson's fault. Matt LeCroy has always gotten good marks as a gamecaller, and if he's relatively pathetic at suppressing the running game, that's why he'd only be a backup catcher, starting once or twice per week. If you're such a nervous Nelly that you're freaking out over a possible stolen base, you're probably also given to fidgeting over the napkin rings instead of sorting out what's for dinner. Playing LeCroy's bat against lefties is red meat in a lineup, so people should stop asking for rice cakes.

Godwin was picked up in the Rule 5 draft... in December... in 2004. He's about to turn 27. True, he might be a PCL All-Star in his better years. But that's almost a year and a half of 40-man roster time spent on a passing fancy who, when you picked him up in December of 2004, you knew was a passing fancy. He's below Brandon Watson in the Nationals Great Chain of Being, and in major league baseball terms, might best be described as a roster hamster: mammalian and good at it, perhaps charming even, and you shouldn't forget to feed him, and if you put money in his bank account, his agent won't complain. Deliberately bricking up one spot out of 40 because... well, there was no 'because,' beyond 'because of the wonderful things he does.' And yet the Nationals, one of the most talent-depleted franchises in baseball, managed to lose talent on waivers in the past 17 months because they were wasting roster space on this sort of player. Jim Bowden traded for Alex Escobar, even traded a player for him--Jerry Owens, someone you'd rather have than Escobar or Godwin or Watson. That Bowden doesn't know this, didn't know it then, and probably still can't recognize it now, is a reflection on his peculiar brand of genius.


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

Related Content:  Jorge Cantu,  The Who,  Triple-A,  The Call-up,  Team

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