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May 12, 2006

Transaction Analysis

May 10-11

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Optioned RHP Charles Haeger to Charlotte (Triple-A). [5/10]

Well, Zink me, unser Charles didn't exactly set the world afire, just the scoreboard. Serves me right for letting my knuckleball fancies get the better of me, especially given my noisy carping on this very subject where Boston's young knuckleballer was concerned. Happily, I guess I did keep my enthusiasm in relative check, but in the meantime, the White Sox will definitely now let Brandon McCarthy take Jose Contreras's turn the next time around. McCarthy hasn't been lights-out this season, but he has been significantly less jacktastic, and also while also doing a much better job of keeping the ball on the ground. For the Sox, now that we've moved past this Haegerian interlude, this should work out just fine, however long Contreras is out.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Optioned RHP Jordan Tata to Toledo (Triple-A); recalled RHP Roman Colon from Toledo. [5/10]

Although walking a hitter every other inning was far from bodacious, Tata was proving to be moderately effective in a mop-up and long relief role. However, the Tigers made a sensible choice in deciding to let him resume the prospect portion of his career, instead sticking Colon in the back end of their bullpen on the strength of his seat-rattling 95 mph deliveries. If he's used regularly, Colon should be an asset. Setting aside the tongue in cheek references for a moment, beyond Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya, nobody's pitching all that well. This bullpen could probably use some shaking up.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Claimed RHP Chris Booker off of waivers from the Phillies. [5/10]

A nifty little claim, because Booker cooks with gas, and it would be nice to see something involving Kansas City and flames that doesn't involve the state of the franchise. If you're keeping score at home, since last season, Booker is now in his fourth organization without actually appearing in a major league game, having gone from the Reds to the Nationals to the Phillies to the Royals. During his rehab work at Scranton, Booker had allowed a baserunner and a strikeout per inning, two things that should be more than enough to make him one of the team's best relievers. The move will probably come at Steve Andrade's expense, since Joel Peralta has been fine since his call-up, but optioning Andy Sisco down to get some innings in Omaha and help him get back on track wouldn't be such a bad idea.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired CF-B Freddy Guzman and RHP Cesar Rojas from the Padres for RHP John Hudgins and OF-L Vince Sinisi. [5/11]

Kudos to the Rangers for making a move that reveals how far Laynce Nix's stock has fallen. Beyond that, this might also be the sort of move where they not only fix their center field problem, they do so without spending blood (in terms of prospect flesh) or money (on the open market). Guzman's star as a prospect may have dimmed in San Diego after losing all of 2005 to elbow surgery, but he's nevertheless got more than 200 games of experience above A-ball to show that he's a legitimate on-base and speed threat, as well as an ovewhelming consensus that he's a plus defender in center.

Guzman's not very different from successful and similarly low-wattage center field speed guys like Scott Podsednik or Ryan Freel in what's becoming the roster affectation of the day--call it Podzilla's Reign of Terror (or Error, as you prefer). Snide comments aside, the Rangers need the glove and can take whatever they might get at the plate--whatever Guzman might do, it would be an improvement on Nix. At Portland, Guzman was hitting .274/.348/.411, so if that's what rusty looks like after a season spent on the DL, the Rangers might be forgiven some optimism about how much Guzman might add at the plate. Getting him for two stalled major-college picks who both seem to be teetering into washout status is a steal in terms of the talent exchanged, and something that gives the Rangers reasonable hope that they might have fixed their center field problems on the cheap.

Rojas is an arm, not even yet out of the Arizona complex league, and probably likely to repeat the experience if the Rangers don't assign him to their Northwest League affiliarte. Wherever they send him, if he turns into anything, it's a bonus.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned RHP Dustin McGowan to Syracuse (Triple-A); recalled RHP Jason Frasor from Syracuse. [5/11]

If you've ever played poker with somebody who likes shuffling more than dealing, you might begin to appreciate what's going on in Toronto. When roster rejiggering gets this routine, you know people are getting frustrated. Frasor got himself back into good grace with 11 Ks in six minor-league innings, altough McGowan's failure in his equally brief big league trial seems to have fed the constant need to assess and reassess the need to reshuffle the relief corps.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Transferred LHP John Foster from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/9]

Just a paper move to make sure that the big league world was big enough to have Chad Paronto in it.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Activated CF-L Ken Griffey Jr. from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Chris Denorfia to Louisville (Triple-A). [5/11]

For the Reds, this pretty much is as it should be, although Tuesday morning GMs might no doubt continue to kvetch over why Denorfia might not get to play left field and Adam Dunn first base. Yes, it's probably what every Strat manager would do, but the Reds are in first place, and Hatteberg is getting on base at an almost .400 clip, so the most you might have hoped for was that Denorfia might at least soak up Rich Aurilia's platoon at-bats against lefties. In that scenario, Denorfia might have played left, with Dunn moving between the outfield and first base, but apparently there will be no duplicating the Nick Esasky role. So the Reds are left with Quinton McCracken as their solitary outfield reserve, which is almost the same thing as doing without one altogether. Although Dunn and Austin Kearns seem set for everyday play, if Griffey goes down with another one of his one-but-maybe-two-week owies, the impracticality of carrying three catchers might require reconsideration.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Placed RHP Franklyn German on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Logan Kensing from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [5/10]

The Marlins are demonstrating that good relievers are as much a matter of happenstance and changing circumstances than design, which can work for the bottom-feeders and the Braves alike if you're not burdened with being Ed Wade. The only guy really struggling is ex-famous person Matt Herges, and despite his wildness, German was a nifty waiver claim. The good news is that his MRI only revealed inflammation, and not a tear, so the Fish should be able to figure out within this season whether he's a keeper or needs to be a catch-and-release reliever.

With Kensing's call-up, people should probably be reminded that not all that glitters came from somebody else's organization this past winter. A second-round pick out of Texas A&M in the 2003 draft, last season saw his prospect status get derailed by elbow and later shoulder troubles. Although these are the sorts of things that set off klaxons in Will Carroll's head, the Fish seem to have responded by moving the youngster to the bullpen. For the Isotopes, he'd tossed eighteen relief innings, striking out a man per inning while allowing only 16 baserunners. He'll be 24 soon, and slowly moving out of the injury nexus, so his performance might take him anywhere. For right now, he's a good fastball-slider guy who can give the fish multi-inning relief work.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Placed OF-R Jason Repko on the 15-day DL (high ankle sprain); called 2B/3B-B Willy Aybar from Las Vegas (Triple-A). [5/10]

In itself, losing Repko isn't a tremendous setback, even if he will be gone for a month, perhaps two. However, there's no idea as far as when Jayson Werth should be back, and it turns out that Ricky Ledee won't be back until June. However, with Jose Cruz Jr. semi/sort of reduced to a reserve role, it isn't like they don't have an alternative to Kenny Lofton in center against a tough lefty. I say 'sort of' because the Dodgers are already waffling on how much playing time they're giving to Andre Ethier, at which point it doesn't make all that much sense to have the prospect up if he isn't going to play.

What I don't get is the decision to bring up Aybar instead of Oscar Robles. Because there's an injury involved, Robles can be brought back within the usual minimum of ten days for a minor league assignment, and unlike Aybar, he's somebody you can use in more of a utility role. Don't get me wrong, I like Aybar much more as a possible starting player, but that isn't the opportunity he'll get. He was hitting well in Vegas (.358/.409/.585), so on the question of seasoning it looks like he's the real tabasco, but unless the Dodgers decide to give him some work in the outfield, it's hard to see where he'll fit in for any length of time.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Placed RHP Ben Sheets on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 5/3; recalled LHP Dana Eveland from Nashville (Triple-A). [5/10]

That galloping sound you hear come from the hoofs of the horses meant to pull the Brewers' bandwagon, because there's nothing like losing their ace again to put a damper on the expectations that the Brewers would be a surprise team. Eveland to replace Ohka, sure, that all seemed well and good, but losing Sheets is something else altogether, and now you have a putative contender with both Ben Hendrickson and Eveland in the rotation. Hendrickson's given the team two unreassuring starts, so if there's hope to be had, it's with Eveland on the strength of his six starts in Music City, as he punched out 33 in 36 IP while allowing only 22 hits, seven walks, and a lone home run. The big, beefy lefty usually gets brought up as a future reliever, sort of like Dan Plesac back in the day, but with two good breaking pitches and better velocity than you usually find in a lefty, Eveland still looks like an attractive choice for the rotation.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Recalled LHP Cole Hamels from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); optioned RHP Geoff Geary to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/11]

Long anticipated, the ascension of Hamels probably reached ridiculous obviousness after striking out 36 in 23 Scranton innings, balanced against a single walk and ten hits. That said, tonight's start will be only his 36th as a pro, and after being picked out of high school in 2003, that's barely more work than Sidd Finch got before he "debuted." Although still well short of Joe Charboneau in his off-field mayhem, he's been a wee bit on the immature side, first by trying to hide an injury in 2004, and then by breaking his hand in a bar fight before the 2005 season. His stuff seems beyond question, with commad of a live fastball, plus curve, and his know-how in employing an effective changeup. I'm looking forward to his debut tonight as much as most of you, to see if this is the sort of thing worthwhile legends are made of, and not just Super Joe antics or mere fairytale greatness. After all, the only thing at stake is whether or not the Phillies are left scrabbling after the wild card, or whether they might actually push past the Mets and make things really interesting.

Hamels' arrival makes for a couple of interesting ripples. First, it ends the experiment with Ryan Madson in the rotation, and that's probably just as well. The Phillies' pen could use the help, and if Madson posts anything like last season's performance as a reliever, they'll get a worthwhile secondary benefit. Although Madson hadn't pitched that much worse than either Jon Lieber or Cory Lidle, he wasn't somebody signed to start the way those two were, and he has his productive past to help get him punted back to the pen. The not-so-happy result was the bumping of Geary, who hadn't pitched all badly, but he hadn't really shined either in mop-up work, while Gillick favorite Ryan Franklin has done adequately in more of a set-up role, and they still have to sort out why getting Arthur Rhodes and Julio Santana seemed like such good ideas at the time.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired RHP John Hudgins and OF-L Vince Sinisi from the Rangers for CF-B Freddy Guzman and RHP Cesar Rojas; signed RHP Jim Brower to a minor league contract. [5/11]

There are two nice things you can say about this deal from the Padres' perspective. First, maybe Padres scouts have seen something in Hudgins or Sinisi that the stats aren't saying, and second, maybe this helps their organizational karma. Otherwise, there's not a lot here. Nobody involved was on the 40-man roster, so the Pads haven't freed up a spot to do something else clever. Both players picked up from the Rangers were picked in the 2003 draft, and by the look of it, that's a day that Texas would rather forget. Hudgins was the third-rounder out of Stanford, and he throws strikes, but slow ones, and he's trying to recover from surgery on a chipped-up elbow. Maybe he'll thrive in a bullpen role, but you could say that about a lot of guys, and he hasn't enjoyed a lot of success since bullying the Texas League for a dozen games in 2004.

Sinisi was picked in the 2nd round out of Rice, and like Hudgins, the object of high expectations. However, he's had more than his share of health woes, especially after a broken forearm in 2004, and the subsequent life-threatening (and perhaps nosocomial) infection that came after he had a plate inserted to help his recovery. Because he has yet to play a full season, it's hard to know if he has a future or not. He's already 24, and he's hit in the Cal League, but that's where you'd expect a top college player to hit, because everyone hits in the Cal League. He didn't hit in Double-A last season, and he hasn't really hit much there this spring: .309/.373/.368, ie, a lot of singles for a guy who can only play left.

That's not much of a swag to get for Guzman, let alone Guzman and a live arm, but this is perhaps the only constellation of events that could get me to say the good news is signing Brower. Maybe it's a dare, to see if PETCO's big enough to contain his souvenir-generating talents, but it isn't like no-name relievers Brian Sweeney or Scott Cassidy are the source of any disappointment in the pen so far.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned 2B-R Kevin Frandsen to Fresno (Triple-A). [5/11]

This is in anticipation of reactivating Ray Durham. Perhaps predictably, Frandsen didn't hit and he didn't walk, but the one legitimately Knoblauchian element of his game did show, as he ducked into a quick five HBPs. Last season, Frandsen allowed himself to be beaned 23 times across three different levels, so this is an element of his skill set. However, it's one that might obviously be taken out of his hands should the umps start noticing that he's not one of those people who makes much effort to get out of the way.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Placed RHP Sidney Ponson on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled LHP Tyler Johnson from Memphis (Triple-A). [5/10]

This actually works out relatively neatly, in that Johnson will get to take his shot at replacing Ricardo Rincon--thereby providing Tony LaRussa with his must-have second lefty in the pen--while there's no hurry on making a decision as to who might replace Ponson in the rotation. Josh Hancock seems to be LaRussa's first choice from among his middle men, but both Brad Thompson and Adam Wainwright have starting experience. As a result, the Cardinals really don't have to decide who starts in Ponson's place for a week, and the fractious fifth man might only miss two starts. The only guy potentially put out by all this is Anthony Reyes, but he's been merely very good at Memphis, allowing 34 hits in 37.1 IP, with five home runs and a 35-5 strikeout-walk ratio. The long ball hasn't been a significant problem in the past for him, and he's still clearly the organization's best pitching prospect, but until he gets a clean shot at a rotation slot, he still has something to work on in the meantime.


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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