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May 2, 2006

Transaction Analysis

April 28-May 1

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned OF-B Reggie Willits to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled RHP Chris Bootcheck from Salt Lake. [5/1]

There doesn't seem to be a good reason for this exchange. Not that Willits was anything more than the bench's last man, a handy pinch-runner, defensive replacement, and spot starter, but Bootcheck is an unnecessary twelfth man on a pitching staff that already has Kevin Gregg doing quite nicely in long relief. Bootcheck isn't really even a viable alternative to Esteban Yan if the Angels are tiring of Yan's wildness. My WAG is that perhaps they're taking a last look at Bootcheck, or even Bootcheck versus Yan, to see if they might want to outright one or the other off of the 40-man roster. Jeff Mathis isn't doing anything to earn his keep, and hasn't really merited his prospect status for a couple of years--could the Angels be pondering making a change behind the plate? Mike Napoli is on the 40-man, but it might be a bit soon to bring him up. On the other hand, the Angels would have to make room if they made a deal for a backup catcher, because they're fully at 40, with nobody on the 60-day DL. Like I said, it's all speculative, but the Angels do need a catcher, same as they did in January.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Activated RHP Todd Williams from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Chris Britton to Bowie (Double-A). [4/29]

Placed 2B-B Brian Roberts on the 15-day DL (pulled groin); recalled 2B/SS-L Brandon Fahey from Ottawa (Triple-A). [4/30]

With Tejada off of the field and DHing, this puts the Orioles in the odd situation of not only losing both middle infielders, but also effectively switching in Tejada's bat for Javy Lopez's. Lopez has been inactive while coping with back trouble, so it hasn't been a huge issue, but it is an interesting cascade of lineup problems, as well as the removal of one of baseball's best-hitting middle infields from the Orioles' offense. Chris Gomez at second and Fahey at short aren't the worst possible replacements, but this remains a setback. If you're feeling generous, you might see Fahey as a Duane Kuiper type, good enough at getting on base and left-handed enough at the plate that you can keep him around as a middle infield reserve. I guess I have visions of Jeff Huson instead, since he lacks anything approaching Tom Foley's power.

As for getting Williams off of the DL, it couldn't come a moment too soon if you're tired of watching Jim Brower, bomb-thrower, light up another scoreboard. Now, with LaTroy Hawkins and Williams in front of Chris Ray, they might wean themselves from the irreparably useless Brower.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Acquired C-R Doug Mirabelli from the Padres for RHP Cla Meredith, C-B Josh Bard, and cash. [5/1]

I suppose that it was only a matter of time before Bard's struggles with catching the knuckler got to them, but it seems like Boston got off pretty lightly, considering their highly specialized need, and Mirabelli's perhaps-unique skillset when it comes to handling Tim Wakefield. The cost of getting Mark Loretta now becomes Bard, Meredith, cash, and ten passed balls, less a month of Mirabelli's time. That's not a bad exchange, because Mirabelli and Loretta are useful to a team trying to win now, while Bard's already 28 and has already achieved his ceiling--basic adequacy as a backup backstop. Meredith's intriguing as a side-armer and all that, but again, this is the organization that has better relievers, guys like Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen prepped and in the pipeline. That's a worthwhile price to pay for peace of mind every fifth day, instead of fretting about losing a spot or two in the standings in the division with the Yankees in it because of a passed ball too many.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Activated RHP Fernando Cabrera from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Fausto Carmona to Buffalo (Triple-A). [4/30]

Carmona's demotion prefigures the return of C.C. Sabathia from the DL, with Cabrera getting the slot in the pen that was temporarily manned by either Brian Slocum or Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie won that particular battle, joining Jason Davis in a long relief role. Guthrie and Davis aren't looking all that good, but both have the opportunity and might make something of it, even with Danny Graves' recent stretch of moderate effectiveness. Nobody's pitching well enough that the Tribe shouldn't want Rafael Betancourt back but quick, but Graves aside, they have the talent to contribute, and this still represents an opportunity for the team to learn if they won't need to make a deal if injuries continue to thin the ranks of their frontline relievers.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed OF-L Shane Costa on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of OF-L Kerry Robinson from Omaha (Triple-A); transferred RHP Steve Stemle from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/29]

Designated RHP Luke Hudson for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Steve Andrade from Omaha. [5/1]

Losing Costa is the sort of thing that might make you think that Kansas City, and not New Orleans, was downhill from everywhere else, because there's no other way to describe a season that's already well into the dumper. The indignity is that the Royals have to settle for having Robinson up in Cota's place. What's that about? Finding the new Tom Goodwin? Are things so far gone that finding a new Goodwin is an objective? Chip Ambres is off to a deathly cold start at Omaha, so Robinson gets the call and the opportunity to play every day. I'd rather the team recognize who their better talents are, whatever the results from the short side of a month, but that's just not part of the program here.

At least there's the happy development of the club's getting to bring up Andrade. It's overdue, considering the man has nothing left to prove in the minors after 326 Ks in 222.1 career innings, with only 134 hits allowed. Despite that performance, he's not a power pitcher, instead relying heavily on a good slider to finish hitters otherwise unimpressed by his otherwise modest arsenal. That's the sort of thing that gets you cycled through four organizations within a single winter (from the Blue Jays to the D-Rays to the Padres to the Royals), and you might consider him something like Aquilino Lopez, in that he might rule the roost for a year or so before the league catches up with him. But this is exactly the sort of team that should be sorting out whether or not he could be something more than that, and shame on the Royals for taking even this long to take a look, and instead futzing around with Stemle and the like.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Returned DH-B Ruben Sierra to the 15-day DL (strained biceps); purchased the contract of LHP Dennis Reyes from Rochester (Triple-A). [4/30]

Losing Sierra isn't really a loss as much as a reason to potentially re-evaluate what he's here for in the first place. Start with a Socratic exercise: What does a Ruben Sierra do? Hit. Does he? No. Does he field? No. Does he like being on the bench? No. Is he good to eat? Better to ask Jonathan Swift. Does he take up roster space? Sadly, yes.

Regardless of whether or not Sierra elects to have season-ending surgery on his elbow or not, they should simply outright him now. The Twins are in the same position they were last winter: they need a quality bat in this lineup. If they decided to see if Jason Kubel was that hitter, that would be admirable, but that's not what they're doing. They're going to wait for Rondell White to climb out of his self-created crater. The problem is one of relative analysis. Lew Ford is not the answer. Shannon Stewart is not a star. Tony Batista wasn't the answer. Juan Castro is not an everyday major league shortstop. If the Twins wait around to busily acquire yet more supporting data to make absolutely sure that all of those things are still true, they'll have flushed away another season.

We can always hope that calling up Reyes gives the team the extra lefty in the pen, and from that get the idea that they'd be better off shopping Kyle Lohse or Carlos Silva to get that while somebody still remembers when they were mistaken for premium starters. That would generate the opportunity to put Francisco Liriano in the rotation, and while it isn't fair to put that much pressure on him (or Scott Baker), if the Twins are ever going to get relevant, it's going to be on the combined strength of their homegrown talent and better acquisitions of supporting veterans. Terry Ryan's been stuck on this spot for three years--here's hoping he moves past it.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Activated RHP Aaron Small from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Matt Smith to Columbus (Triple-A). [5/1]

Yippee. The Yankees being the Yankees, Small will get every opportunity to prove that last year's run was the blip on the radar before he splashes back into the drink again. More promisingly, Smith did good work during his brief call-up, and while anyone under 30 has to worry that the mention of his name doesn't just inspire a string of expletives, it's better still when you might have actually made a good impression. Small will do his song and dance in middle relief, and if the Yankees are fortunate, they won't do anything more with him than expect him to fulfill the Grimsley role, munching innnings in blowouts.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Placed RHP Rich Harden on the 15-day DL (strained back); recalled LHP Ron Flores from Sacramento (Triple-A). [4/28]

Placed RHP Esteban Loaiza on the 15-day DL (strained trapezius), retroactive to 4/24; recalled OF-B Bobby Kielty from Sacramento. [5/1]

Assigning Loaiza's DL deposit date all the way back to the 24th might seem like dirty pool, since the man pitched on Saturday, but that game was conveniently rained out, making its events non-existent for official baseball purposes. If MLB had someone like Don Shula on its rules committee, you could count on this little bit of roster management to be illegal in future seasons, but it's SOP since we're in the much more laissez faire sport run by thirty feudal barons and their families, friends, dependents, and partners. (Hey, that's 29 more than NASCAR or pro wrestling, which makes baseball roughly that many times cooler, right? It's 30 times cooler than the fine art of turning left or play-acting once the Nationals get their own action-packed set of fief-minded petulants.)

In the absence of not just one but now two rotation regulars, the A's have to be worried. Harden's arguably their best, and Loaiza was the big-ticket winter pickup, and in their place, the A's might have to rely upon Brad Halsey and Kirk Saarloos. That doesn't sound so bad if you're comparing either to Loaiza's performance with Oakland so far, but that isn't the criterion you should consider. Loaiza was supposed to be much better, the sort of guy who pushed Dan Haren and Joe Blanton all the way down to the fourth and fifth spots on the totem pole. Fortunately, both Blanton and Haren are quality starters, but in their pasts, Halsey and Saarloos have been, at best, survivable fifth starters. Delete one starting pitcher, and you're only talking about something that might affect, at most, 20% of your games in his absence--lose two, and you're trying to get by with a replacement close to every other night, and you don't have the benefit of skipping two starting slots to avoid your weakest rotation regulars.

Loaiza's expected to be gone for at least three weeks, even with the backdating stunt, but I think all A's fans are probably more concerned about what Harden's deal is. If it takes a month and he's back in action at full strength, that'd be a fair cop.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Placed RHP Julio Mateo on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 4/21; purchased the contract of RHP Sean Green from Tacoma (Triple-A). [4/30]

It might be frustrating not to have a PECOTA for Green, but I'm glad to see that our anticipation that he'd be up and was worth sticking in as a one-line player was rewarded, even if it's at the expense of the Mariners, not to mention Mateo. That might sound cold, but any sympathy for Mateo is wasted on a guy who neglected to mention that his shoulder was hurting a month ago. Green has decent velocity, the sort of frame scouts love (he's 6'6"), and he gets a ton of groundball outs. He's not considered a prospect, but many successful big league relievers never got that consideration. One of the reasons TINSTAAPP is a functional mantra is because relievers are as likely to be the products of random discovery as active development. Here's hoping this organizational soldier pans out.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Acquired RHP Tyler Walker from the Giants in exchange for RHP Carlos Hines; designated RHP Scott Dunn for assignment. [4/28]

Dunn got most of a month, and looked awful. The Rays can afford to treat their big league pen as an open casting call all season, and should be more than willing to keep sifting through whatever driftwood they find bobbing across the waiver wire. Not that Walker is a great catch, but he does have some modicum of success to his credit. What I'm a little surprised by was the team's willingness to throw Hines at the Giants to get him, considering that Hines throws relatively hard and isn't especially ancient or beyond the point that you might harbor hopes over his making it. However, his lack of a consistently effective pitch has helped keep him hittable, and his not being on the 40-man roster was probably a primary consideration for the Giants.

For that slender price, they'll get to see if Walker can unseat Dan Miceli as the team's closer. Even considering Walker's struggles last season, let alone this one, he does have a decent assortment, he does have a live arm, and the D-Rays do need the help. Nevertheless, it's a contest that has all the dignity of midget wrestling, considering that neither pitcher can give the club much more than the temporarily soothing sensation of having some veteran flesh in the pen. Sooner rather than later, both will wash out, and it's unlikely that the club will get an A-ball guppy in return for either. Casual fans might think that Walker's up-and-coming, because it might seem like he only just got here, but the man's less than two weeks away from his 30th birthday.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Activated INF-R Mark DeRosa from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Adam Hyzdu to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [4/30]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned RHP Jason Frasor to Syracuse (Triple-A); recalled RHP Dustin McGowan from Syracuse. [4/28]

Placed LHP Scott Downs on the bereavement list; recalled RHP Shaun Marcum from Syracuse. [4/29]

Optioned RHP Shaun Marcum to Syracuse; recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Syracuse. [4/30]

If you're surprised to see Marcum back up within ten days of his demotion, you're not alone, but apparently the bereavement list works like the DL, and the Jays were free to replace Downs with someone as if he'd gone onto the DL. What I think sort of warps the process is the freedom to also rotate people through the slot this easily, because Downs to Marcum to Tallet to ... well, if it's Tuesday, maybe it'll be Frasor for a night, and then Downs once he gets back? This is not to belittle Downs' loss, but if a team gets the chance to effectively run a 27-man roster (or more) within a week because of a death in the family, that sort of circumvents the spirit of the thing and becomes a flagrant exploitation of the rule.

I'm more surprised by the short leash that Frasor was on. Admittedly, the Jays do have the talent in-system to make this sort of snap decision, but I wonder to what extent this is about the heightened expectations that come with their much-anticipated ascent above third place.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Activated LHP Macay McBride from the 15-day DL; optioned SS-R Tony Pena Jr. to Richmond (Triple-A). [4/30]

The infield is back at full strength, so Pena joins Prado in being returned to the minors. McBride's return does give the Braves an interesting trio of lefties in the pen: a resurrected Mike Remlinger, perhaps better suited for late inning work and not strict situational uses, McBride, teetering between typecasting as a situational lefty or a plain-old good pitcher, and Chuck James cutting his teeth in a long relief role. That's a nice grouping of talent and experience, where Remlinger might also be fulfilling a semi-coaching sort of role as an assistant to pitching coach Roger McDowell.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Recalled LHP Rich Hill from Iowa (Triple-A); optioned RHP David Aardsma to Iowa. [5/1]

Hill is replacing Glendon Rusch in the rotation. On first glance, you can look at this as a combination of the Cubs' good fortune as far as having young pitching talent galore, and how that feeds manager Dusty Baker's caprices when it comes to playing the Queen of Hearts with his pitching staff. Hill's doing what you might expect in his repeat engagement in the PCL--16 baserunners and 23 Ks in 19 IP, and I am glad that the team hasn't moved with cat-like swiftness when it comes to swapping him over to relief work. And to be fair to Baker, Rusch's allowing eleven bombs in 22.1 IP is pretty intolerable, however short your fuse.

It's all about gap-pitching until Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are ready to contribute, and beyond Greg Maddux and Carlos Zambrano, nobody should feel he has any guarantees. No, not even Sean Marshall after beating two bad teams in a row. Whether the fifth slot goes to Hill or Marshall or Angel Guzman or Wade Miller or Jerome Williams is really up to the pitchers themselves, and as the team's relatively quick trigger with Williams demonstrated, perhaps not even that. Naturally, that much depth should encourage thoughts about patching up the lineup, but beyond finding something temporary to replace Derrek Lee, the Cubs don't seem to recognize that they aren't really a good offensive ballclub.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Activated RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Miguel Asencio to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [4/29]

Finally, Kim's apparently up to speed, and that's to the good, since that probably only leaves the Josh Fogg question in the rotation--why? I'm nevertheless disappointed to see Asencio go back down. It's not a terrible thing, because the pen has been a souce of strength, but eventually, I'm looking forward to Asencio replacing Fogg in the rotation.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned LHP Hong-Chih Kuo to Las Vegas (Triple-A); recalled LHP Joe Beimel from Las Vegas. [4/30]

Optioned RHP Lance Carter to Las Vegas; recalled RHP Jonathan Broxton from Las Vegas. [5/1]

This seems more a case of Kuo's being punished for the unreliability of some of the Dodgers' other, more famous relievers. Admittedly, Kuo's been very wild (15 walks in 13 IP), but Joe Beimel? If, between them, Grady Little and Ned Colletti really think that Beimel's career-long track record of failure isn't enough to make them reconsider their formulaic need for two lefties in the pen, you need to ask whether or not their noodles are a wee bit too al dente. Perhaps he's only the pen's second lefty, but I'd be discouraged that the Dodgers got worked up about Kuo's predictable wildness and took Beimel's good couple of weeks in Vegas as a sign that he's a better option.

At least swapping in Broxton for Carter is more encouraging, but Carter was never supposed to be a major part of the program. Once both Eric Gagne and Yhency Brazoban broke down, though, los Dodgers needed all the quality relief help they could get. Guys like Takashi Saito or Franquelis Osoria have their uses, but they lack Broxton's upside, and the Dodgers need quality now that they're starting to run short on quantity. Which sort of folds back around to why I'm disappointed about the Kuo-for-Beimel exchange, because at best, Beimel's a guy the Astros wish they had, while Kuo looks like he might be hard on everybody if you stuck with him.

NEW YORK METS
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Placed RHP Brian Bannister on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled OF-R Victor Diaz from Norfolk (Triple-A). [4/28]

Diaz almost isn't really back, since it's expected that somebody will go down for John Maine or whoever else might be called up to replace Bannister in the rotation. (Besides, they're all worked up about Endy Chavez.) This is for the best, especially considering that Bannister's performance wasn't really all that impressive--shutting down the Nationals isn't an Olympic sport, and operating in a self-generated baserunner-rich environment on the mound is not a quality you actively seek in a starting pitcher.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired C-B Josh Bard, RHP Cla Meredith, and cash from the Red Sox for C-R Doug Mirabelli. [5/1]

This seems like another weak return on dealing ready-now veteran help. Mirabelli might have become unnecessary once Mike Piazza fell into their laps, but if a month of his services, plus a filler backup catcher, plus a mildly interesting reliever, is all that you get for Mark Loretta in terms of blood, the money had better be meaningful. Meredith is something of a poor man's Chad Bradford, although more of a 3/4-delivery hurler than Bradford's true submarining, and ROOGYs just never seem to be that much in demand. Heck, PETCO is probably one of the few places where you shouldn't get all that worked up about a guy with a great groundball ratio. That quality never seemed to help Bradford all that much with runners on base, but Meredith might not wind up having that same problem. Perhaps the Pads can help him add something for lefties to chase, but basically, you can find people like this on waivers. Similarly, Bard might be an improvement on Rob Bowen, but even that's a dodgy proposition. I'm not saying that the Padres should have gotten a blue chipper for either Loretta or Mirabelli, but basically, they got very little for their trouble.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed 2B-B Ray Durham on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of 2B-R Kevin Frandsen from Fresno (Triple-A); transferred RHP Kelyn Acosta from the 15- to the 60-day DL; traded RHP Tyler Walker to the Devil Rays for RHP Carlos Hines. [4/28]

Having to replace Durham with Fransden really speaks to the organization's continuing troubles with generating even replacement-level talent in their farm system. The Giants see Fransden as a guy with a future, and if you remember somebody like Joe Strain fondly, you'll no doubt agree. Fransden's fundamentally sound, but without any particular virtue after you get past his ability to hit singles in hitter's leagues. He runs in ways you wish he wouldn't, fields his position well enough, and he makes contact. In the Giants' system, that gets a nice organizational solider mistaken for a prospect. Consider this another hit on a lineup that's already limping around without much production from any of the non-Vizquel infielders, and you can properly expect another anemic Giants offense.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Placed LHP Ricardo Rincon on the 15-day DL (shoulder soreness); recalled OF/1B-R John Gall from Memphis (Triple-A). [4/28]

Although having to make due with only one lefty in the pen might make manager Tony La Russa sweat bullets now and again, this isn't all bad. If Rincon's shoulder is going to be sound for October, let alone the stretch run, it's best if the Cardinals move conservatively. However, a single stuational lefty is a pretty minor part within a roster's time and space, especially since team does have Randy Flores as well. In the meantime, Gall makes a good choice for that time and space, considering he does give the team a right-handed bat with some sock off of the bench. He did build on a strong offseason by hitting .383/.433/.543 at Memphis. Gall's worth having for the rest of the year, because he becomes the "disposable" pinch-hitter, the one you can use while keeping So Taguchi set aside for sharing time in right with John Rodriguez. The more difficult question is who moves aside for Larry Bigbie once he comes off of the DL, but Bigbie isn't hitting well enough to inspire confidence, forestalling that issue for the time being.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed RHP John Patterson on the 15-day DL (strained forearm), retroactive to 4/22; activated RHP Zach Day. [4/28]

The Nationals being the Nationals, placing Patterson on the DL came only shortly after their "Line of Death"-style pronouncement about how he wasn't going to go on the DL. Assertions of unsustainable certainty generally aren't considered a great way to get taken seriously, but if you're Jim Bowden, there's always life in the studio to look forward to. If the Nats are lucky, they'll get Patterson back shortly, but they've been denying that this was even this much of a problem.

In the meantime, having been hit in the face with a nagging bit of reality, the rotation swaps in Day for Patterson. Despite some rust, he gave the club four good innings against the Cardinals before getting slapped around, and for a team that counted claiming Ryan Drese a success story, that probably seems close enough to a good thing. It's sort of the baseball equivalent to calling catsup a vegetable. The Nationals' willingness to spin makes it clear that they're definitely in the right place, right down to their not being very good at it.


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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