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May 19, 2006

Transaction Analysis

May 15-18

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Recalled SS-B Erick Aybar from Salt Lake (Triple-A); optioned 2B-R Howie Kendrick to Salt Lake. [5/15]

Consider this an exchange of the equally young and generally talented. Back in Utah, Aybar was hitting .286/.340/.435 while swiping 13 bases in 20 attempts. Since neither of them are going to get to play, the choice might seem relatively moot, although it is sort of considerate to let Kendrick get back to playing every day. Meanwhile, Aybar provides the team with a backup shortstop, something they sort of don't have while Maicer Izturis is on the DL and the team's keeping Chone Figgins busy enough while they continue to play short-handed. That's because Garret Anderson's shelved if not DL'd, which has forced Mike Scioscia to make a choice between playing Robb Quinlan and Tommy Murphy day to day. The guy who isn't getting consideration is Edgardo Alfonzo, and if it wasn't for Steve Finley's recent good work in San Francisco, I wonder if he wouldn't be cut outright already.

The problem is this: With nine lineup slots to fill, plus one reserve catcher, can a team really afford to carry one inactive hitter, another they sensibly enough prefer to avoid playing, and a kid they will not play? Figgins can play a lot of positions, and Quinlan and Dallas McPherson can play at either corner, but the Angels are playing short-handed.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed RHP Daniel Cabrera on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Chris Britton from Bowie (Double-A). [5/15]

This is as good a time as any to point out that whatever else might be going on in the Catholic Church, the beatification of Leo Mazzone may well require a few more miracles to be worthy of consideration. Not that the man isn't one of the best, but the scramble to get Cabrera among some fantheads because of the assumption that Mazzone would part the Chesapeake, smite former Braves whipping boy Bruce Chen, and make Cabrera a king among men was, in a word, premature. Well, except for the smiting Chen part. Maybe Chen's bridling under the tutelage of his former pitching coach--who found the Panamanian uncoachable back in the day--or else he's just going through a rough patch, or maybe it's just that nothing goes right in Baltimore.

As for Cabrera, he was walking a man per inning, and it's going to take something more than a revelation to fix that sort of thing, whenever he comes back off of the DL. Who might replace him? Barring a call-up, John Halama wouldn't be the worst choice around. It won't be Britton, who was blowing hitters to flinders in Bowie, with 18 Ks in 11.1 IP, and might not be too far from being able to stick in the big league pen.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Activated RHP Rafael Betancourt from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo (Triple-A). [5/16]

Purchased the contract of INF-R Lou Merloni from Buffalo; optioned INF-L Ramon Vazquez to Buffalo. [5/17]

Interesting to see the flip from Vazquez to Merloni, but keep in mind, Merloni did do some good platoon work for the team in 2004, so you might think that re-establishing a Bou Brouloni setup at first base isn't out of the question. However, Eduardo Perez is already here to do exactly that, and Travis Hafner doesn't need a platoon partner. So the reason why seems more a question of personal taste than anything else. This does create a roster where you've got Merloni as your token backup at short, and there's no guarantee that he can play the position for any length of time, but you could say the same thing of Vazquez. The point's effectively irrelevant as long as Jhonny Peralta plays almost every inning of every day at the position.

As for Betancourt's return, Jason Davis was ahead of Guthrie in the org chart, and nothing Guthrie had done in his time with the club had changed that. He's still a little unfortunately wild, and a team only needs so many long relievers. The surprise is that Fausto Carmona didn't get sent down to take regular turns in the Bisons' rotation. At any rate, with Betancourt back in the setup role, the pen's a little more solidly itself.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed RHP Chris Booker on the 15-day DL (groin); recalled RHP Joe Nelson from Omaha (Triple-A). [5/15]

Released RHP Joe Mays. [5/17]

There's something sort of wrong about having a Nelson on the wrong side of the Royals' nightly performance-art rendition of the Battle of Trafalgar. Okay, that probably doesn't work as well as it might, not if Allard Baird isn't making bad deals to provide the people who beat his club with the baseball equivalent of prize money. That would be pretty cool: beat the Royals, and you get a Royal to carry off with you as your booty. Well, okay, maybe not so much, although having a Royal around the house to do the vacuuming or whatnot might bring its own brand of benefits. ("E-6, Berroa, put the groceries in the wrong place... we'll call that a ... throwing error? No, you're right, fielder's choice.")

At this point, the Royals have been reduced to baseball's answer to Craig Ehlo: always in the picture, but as the victim of somebody else's thundering feat of majesty on the field of play.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned RHP Kyle Lohse to Rochester (Triple-A); recalled RHP Boof Bonser from Rochester. [5/17]

There's no real satisfaction in stating that I've been down on Lohse for a while, or that like Carlos Silva, I expected him to get knocked around. That isn't reason to celebrate--my frustrations with the Twins always boil down to a frustration over opportunities lost. Happily, Ron Gardenhire seems willing to forego any extended comparisons to Earl Weaver and just fix his problem by putting Francisco Liriano in the rotation and be done with it. People might point to Lohse's or Silva's VORP last season, and that's fine. It's a fact that Silva was 35th among all pitchers and Lohse was 54th in VORP among all pitchers last season. The problem is that that's plain VORP, and as much as VORP is cool, and an expression of cumulative value, that means it's also an expression that can be defined by playing time. VORP is a statement of fact, not a guarantee. Both pitchers were far from dominating, and that's the more basic issue--they were hittable, even at their best.

Optimist that I am, I like the decisions to switch out Lohse and Silva to start Liriano and Bonser. Liriano's merely baseball's best pitching prospect, and yes, I know, TINSTAAPP, but let's face it, how many prospects of any position would you keep if you were being offered Liriano? Bonser's not of that caliber, but he isn't too shabby, either. At Rochester, he built on his successful 2005 season by striking out 47 in 49.1 IP across eight starts, allowing only 33 hits. He's got low 90s velocity and a quality curveball, and the basic expectation for him is that he can be like Lohse, a solid fourth starter in a big league rotation. You might wonder why the Twins weren't all over trying to start him, but they had a crowd in the rotation until the last month or so, and if there's one thing the Twins don't do until they have to, it's make a change. Admittedly, Bonser would stand out more in organizations that didn't have as much young pitching talent as the Twins, but the misfortune is that Terry Ryan didn't look at that depth and take a risk, like dealing Lohse this spring, while he had value. That's the problem in a nutshell: a tendency to react instead of act, respond instead of plan. That's a formula for letting the White Sox happen to you, or wondering how the Tigers got ahead of you.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Karsay from Sacramento (Triple-A); recalled RHP Matt Roney from Sacramento; optioned C-R Jeremy Brown to Sacramento; placed LHP Randy Keisler on the Bereavement List, retroactive to 5/15. [5/16]

Sold OF-L Matt Watson to Chiba Lotte of the Japanese Leagues. [5/17]

Reinstated LHP Randy Keisler from the BL; optioned RHP Matt Roney to Sacramento. [5/18]

Karsay's assignment to Sacramento was effectively a paper transaction, because he never did contribute towards the RiverCats' pursuit of another PCL title. At Buffalo, the oft-injured hurler had tossed 18 innings, allowing only a dozen hits, a walk, and striking out 14 batters. If you think that really conveys how useful he'll be to the A's, you're more optimistic than I am. Maybe he'll be able to pitch three nights a week. Maybe. Maybe he'll be good those nights, too.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Placed LHP Gustavo Chacin on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 5/11. [5/16]

Recalled RHP Shaun Marcum from Syracuse (Triple-A). [5/17]

The Jays expect to replace Chacin in the rotation with Ty Taubenheim this weekend. Taubenheim's doing well in Syracuse, but the Jays seem comfortable in their faith that Chacin won't be on the DL much longer than the two weeks, so this might not add up to more than a single missed start. The question is more one of what the Jays will do if Taubenheim does as well as Casey Janssen, and whether or not any amount of suckitude will get Josh Towers out of the rotation once Chacin and A.J. Burnett are both back.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Extended the contract of 3B-L Chad Tracy through 2009, with a club option for 2010. [5/15]

A couple of years ago, I was referring to Tracy as a Scott Cooper-type, in that he was seemed like a guy with park-inflated power, a platoon split, and ready to do some good glovework at the hot corner. PECOTA thinks he's worth the money, and I'm a little surprised to see the projection monster comparing him to a bunch of right-handed hitting first base types, many of whom started off at third base before heading elsewhere on the diamond. This is particularly strange because Tracy's generally considered to be a good third baseman, by scouts and by our own fielding tools, and last season's Glaus-inspired peregrinations to right, left, and first be damned. Graig Nettles had a similar "slow" start to his career, and similarly had to waste time at other positions early on, so perhaps my comparison to Cooper was a notch too low, because those same descriptors--power, glove, platoon needs--could be said about Nettles, only more so. Since Tracy will have the benefit of bopping in the BOB for the next five years, he certainly stands a good chance of more closely resembling Nettles than Cooper.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed RHP Kyle Davies on the 15-day DL (groin); recalled RHP Anthony Lerew from Richmond (Triple-A). [5/17]

Activated RHP Lance Cormier from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Anthony Lerew to Richmond. [5/18]

For Davies and the Braves, this is a particularly bad break. Davies might be out until rosters expand in September, which takes him out of his clean shot at holding down a rotation slot for keeps, and puts Atlanta on the spot in terms of their needing to find a replacement. Although they should be able to handle it eventually, the timing is terrible. Horacio Ramirez is on the DL for another week or so, and the Braves do need to worry right now about how they'll fill Davies' slot in the rotation. Chuck James would probably be everyone's first choice in Ramirez's absence, but he's also on the DL and just gearing up for rehab work. So what to do? Unless the Braves want to bring up [cringe]Wes Obermueller[/cringe], they might want to skip making a move and let Cormier lead off a pen start this weekend. That means letting Cormier toss 60-70 pitches, see if that gets them through the third or well into fourth inning, and then seeing if someone like Chad Paronto can give them a couple of innings. However, considering that Peter Moylan is on the roster and not pitching, maybe it is Obermueller time, and doesn't that just sound better than just plain old Mueller time?

CHICAGO CUBS
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Activated RHP Kerry Wood from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Jae Kuk Ryu to Iowa (Triple-A); signed UT-L Tony Womack to a minor league contract. [5/18]

What does one of these things have to do with the other? After the mismanagement of other people's injuries (Mark Prior, anyone?), after this franchise's past mismanagement of Wood, and while we're being told that Derrek Lee will be back really soon, Wood just looked bad against a bad Nationals lineup. Does anyone really think that Wood's return isn't related to the team's poor fortunes of late? Would you trust somebody who, with a straight face, claims that getting Tony Womack is a good thing?

At any rate, with Woody back, that gives the Cubs a rotation beyond him featuring Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Hill, and Sean Marshall. That's not as good as it sounds, not if Hill doesn't get a handle on his control issues, not if Wood isn't really ready after only two rehab starts, and not if the league catches up to Marshall. However, in Marshall's defense, the kid has four quality starts in his last five, he'll draw Florida next, and his numbers at that point might keep him from being considered at all for a demotion once Mark Prior is ready to come off of the DL. Assuming Wood's still standing by that point, of course.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned OF-L Eric Reed to Albuquerque (Triple-A); recalled SS-R Robert Andino from Albuquerque. [5/17]

That tiny whine you hear in the background is from the fantasy-minded folks who wanted Reed to be some sort of minor starlet in their Sweeney plan--stolen base eye candy, if you will. However, this was a sensible exchange motivated by a need to get another shortstop on the roster while Hanley Ramirez works through some shoulder trouble, and now that Joe Borchard is getting the at-bats in right field, Reed wasn't only useless, he wasn't playing. Andino's supposed to be the guy to go back down once Jeremy Hermida comes off of the DL, but that depends on Ramirez.

In the meantime, this represents a good opportunity for Andino to continue rehabbing his reputation. After copping an attitude in the AFL, he'd fallen out of favor, but Andino managed to help himself by hitting in Albuquerque, .279/.327/.434, which I know doesn't sound like much, seeing as that's in Albuquerque, city that made Dave Anderson a star, but in Andino's defense, that's improved power, and he is only 22. If his glovework pans out, he might end up being a pretty attractive bargaining chip for the Fish to shop around.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Claimed RHP Chris Mabeus off of waivers from the Athletics, and optioned him to Nashville (Triple-A); designated RHP Jared Fernandez for assignment. [5/16]

Placed SS-R J.J. Hardy on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); recalled OF/1B/3B-R Corey Hart from Nashville (Triple-A). [5/17]

Hardy's in danger of getting that never-wanted Molitor rap for fragility, something that can stick to you for so long that it becomes its own punchline. Happily, the Brewers are fine as far as having Bill Hall to replace Hardy for the interim, which might last as long as six weeks. There's the minor irritating concern that they don't have a true backup shortstop, and the equally problematic question of what to do with Hart since he won't get to play at any of the four corners.

As for snagging Mabeus on waivers, it's a nice little pick. He can overpower people at the plate with a good fastball, and he can throw breaking stuff for strikes. When you've got the space on the 40-man, you should put it to work, and to Doug Melvin's credit, the Brewers do.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed CF-L Chris Duffy on the suspended list for failing to report to Indianapolis (Triple-A) within 72 hours. [5/18]

Bad prospect, bad bad! There's nothing like bureaucracy when you don't have these things paper trained. Duffy's apparently chuffed over his demotion after first agreeing to monkey with his approach at the plate at the behest of manager Jim Tracy and the coaching staff, but he was never exactly the most patient hitter, nor does he boast much power at the best of times. This seems more like a way of trying to funk his way out of the organization, and like Operation Shutdown of old, these sorts of things tend to sound better on your second six-pack than upon reflection.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHP Cla Meredith to Portland (Triple-A); recalled RHP Mike Thompson from Portland. [5/16]

With Shawn Estes apparently out for another month, the Padres have to turn to Thompson to replace Woody Williams in the rotation. That's not the end of the world, because Thompson was pitching well at Portland: 35 hits allowed in 41.1 IP, with a 31-9 K-BB ratio. That's an improvement on last season's late promotion to the PCL from the Southern League, although even then, Thompson was effective, posting a 3.10 ERA, but with poorer peripherals. Considering that this is the eighth year that Thompson's been in the Padres' organization, you might not be too pumped about his prospects, but he was a high school pitcher picked in the 5th round of the '99 draft, and these things can and do take time when you're talking about the non-blue chippers. That said, he's not a power pitcher, although he does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground. Maybe PETCO will help, but this is the skippable fifth slot we're talking about, so let's see what happens.


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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