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July 31, 2006

Transaction Analysis

July 29-30

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Returned RHP Bartolo Colon on 15-day DL (triceps tendinitis), retroactive to 7/27; recalled RHP Greg Jones from Salt Lake (Triple-A). [7/30]

Although this might seem doom and gloom for the Angels, between Kevin Gregg and Hector Carrasco they're covered in an emergency as far as a spot start, but it looks like they're going with their best move, bringing up Joe Saunders to start tomorrow night's game. It probably makes sense to stick with Saunders if he has a second good start, not simply because he's ready, but also because it would enable the Halos to give Colon all the rest he needs for him to be able to do better than his sporadically effective initial return from the DL. There's a playoff race and all that, after all, and the last thing the Angels should be indulging in is letting the big guy "help" the team before he's 100%.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Activated OF-L Jay Gibbons from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Jim Johnson from Bowie (Double-A); optioned RHP Eddy Rodriguez to Ottawa (Triple-A); designated CF-R Luis Terrero for assignment. [7/29]

Activated LHP Tim Byrdak from the 60-day DL; placed RHP LaTroy Hawkins on the Bereavement List; optioned RHP Jim Johnson back to Bowie. [7/30]

For all of the activity, what matters here is that Gibbons is back. Johnson was yet another over-soon promotion from an organization that's beginning to make a habit of it, and Terrero was a flyer as easily discarded as picked up, your standard-issue roster flotsam looking forward to the six-year minor-league free agent experience. What having Gibbons around particularly permits is an easier time of offering Javy Lopez during the deadline's waning hours.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Acquired RHP Bryan Corey from the Rangers for RHP Luis Mendoza; transferred RHP Matt Clement from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/30]

Corey might end up being useful, but right now, he's really sort of redundant on a team that can't quite figure out whether it wants to use Jermaine Van Buren or not. Mendoza was that relatively rare Mexican import who briefly enjoyed prospect status a couple of years ago--probably just the novelty aspect, that--and he's still struggling to earn his keep at Double-A after consistently failing to develop a consistent strikeout pitch, so no harm there.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Traded 2B-R Ron Belliard to the Cardinals for UT-R Hector Luna. [7/30]

I've already expressed some dissatisfaction with the Cardinals for their half of the deal, but I should also express some displeasure with Mark Shapiro as well. Luna was a player the Indians developed in the first place, and lost to the Rule 5 draft not once but twice, in consecutive years (2003 and 2004). That Chuck LaMar didn't have the sense to keep him on the D-Rays the first time around is no defense, and Shapiro needs to be taken to task for protecting guys like Corey Smith and Ivan Ochoa on the 40-man in his place, and then finally making a deal to undo a past mistake, instead of dealing Belliard for somebody he shouldn't have let go in the first place. It's sort of like the 2004 deal in which Dave Littlefield patted himself on the back for getting Jose Bautista, instead of expressing sufficient regret for blowing it by exposing him to the Rule 5 draft the previous winter. Shapiro made the same mistake, and now, instead of having Luna and something for Belliard, he's got just one of those things.

Now that he's back with the Tribe, Luna should make the club's middle-infield picture all the more interesting. If Jhonny Peralta has to move off of short and if Asdrubal Cabrera isn't ready for the call, Luna can play short. If Peralta remains at short, Luna can alternate with Joe Inglett at second while backing up Peralta. Add in that Luna may well outhit Belliard for the next couple of years while costing significantly less, and you can credit Shapiro for making a worthwhile exchange, if one created by a past mistake.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Recalled OF-R Brent Clevlen from Erie (Double-A); optioned RHP Colby Lewis to Toledo (Triple-A). [7/29]

Clevlen hasn't really earned his prospect status this year, hitting only .224/.307/.350 while striking out in 31% of his plate appearances. But he is on the 40-man, and Curtis Granderson can use a day off against leties now and again, and it isn't like Craig Monroe or Marcus Thames are guys you want in center field. That's not to say that Clevlen hit lefties in Erie (he didn't), but at least he'll only be 23 next year, young enough to have a shot at finally mastering the level the same way that it took him two years to master the Florida State League. His prospect status isn't dead, merely dubious. Lewis only got to hang around as an unused long reliever, and Clevlen won't be around for much longer than that, because while it's clear that the Tigers don't know what to do with their 25th roster spot in the meantime, I expect Dave Dombrowski will make a deal for somebody who can actually help them to fill it.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Placed RHP Rafael Soriano on the 15-day DL (shoulder fatigue), retroactive to 7/20; activated RHP Sean Green from the 15-day DL. [7/29]

Ouch. The Mariners' bid for the AL West is hard enough already, so losing their second-best reliever for any stretch is bad news. Happily, recent call-up Mark Lowe has been extremely impressive, so some of what's been lost can be replaced, and while Green might not blow people away as readily as Lowe has, he's a solid enough groundball pitcher. More happily still, Soriano's shoulder trouble isn't seen as serious, just something that needed a two-week vacation.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Placed LHP Scott Kazmir on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 7/24; recalled LHP J.P. Howell from Durham (Triple-A); placed 3B/1B-R Ty Wigginton on the 15-day DL (broken hand). [7/30]

Pity Wigginton. The man might have been an adequate filler at third for the Padres, for the right price. Now he's out four to six weeks, or effectively forever where either trading deadline is concerned. As for Kazmir, this seems to be a proactive move to give him a break more than anything serious. In his place, Howell will get to show if he's as reformed as a prospect as his Durham stint appears to make him out to be: seven starts, 38 1/3 innings, a 35/9 K/BB, just 2.3 runs allowed per nine. Those who wonder about his attitude might enjoy knowing he hit three batters as a Bull. At any rate, it might be a case of rescuing a talent from the still-hopeless Royals, and with the team looking at all sorts of guys, it isn't inconceivable that Howell could stick with a good outing or two.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired RHP Luis Mendoza from the Red Sox for RHP Bryan Corey, and assigned Mendoza to Bakersfield (High-A); purchased C-R Miguel Ojeda from the Rockies, and assigned Ojeda to Triple-A Oklahoma (Triple-A). [7/30]

Why go out and get Ojeda when they already have Gerald Laird on the bench, ready to step into a major-league job? You might consider it a bit of insurance in case either Laird or starter Rod Barajas get injured; the alternative would be Jamie Burke, who's already down in Oklahoma. However, there are also rumbles that the Rangers have tried to package Barajas in a deadline deal, which would open up the starting job to Laird while creating a big-league job for Ojeda.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned 2B/SS-L Russ Adams to Syracuse (Triple-A); recalled RHP Dustin McGowan from Syracuse. [7/29]

Optioned RHP Casey Janssen to Syracuse; purchased the contract of 2B-R Ryan Roberts from Syracuse; activated RHP Ty Taubenheim from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Syracuse. [7/30}

Okay, I'm a little sad for Janssen, but it looks like Gustavo Chacin might not be as almost-ready to be reactivated as the Jays would have liked, so he'll be back. McGowan flopped in his start, and it isn't like Shaun Marcum has been anything more than barely adequate, so the Jays still need to fix up the bottom of their rotation if they're going to stay in this thing.

The power move I like is the decision to bring up Roberts, and be done with the increasingly pointless exercise in "what is a Russ Adams for?" That also means they're sticking with Aaron Hill as their only alternative to John McDonald's convincing impression of Mike Benjamin at short, however rough his glovework there is. It also almost certainly sends the message that they'll forego the Julio Lugo auction. Roberts has the defensive skills to give Hill a reliable partner on the deuce, but he also gives the lineup some of the pop that Adams wasn't. Down at Syracuse, he was hitting .279/.339/.445, not exceptional, but solid enough to represent an upgrade on Adams. Coming up on 26, he's not a youngster, but he might fit into the Jays' infield picture now that Adams clearly does not.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Activated LF-R Scott Hairston from 15-day DL, and optioned him to Tucson (Triple-A). [7/29]

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Recalled SS-R Tony Pena from Richmond (Triple-A). [7/29]

Placed 3B-B Chipper Jones on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); transferred OF-R Brian Jordan from the 15- to the 60-day DL; designated RHP Jorge Sosa for assignment. [7/30]

Losing Jones makes immediate space for Willy Aybar to strut his stuff at third base, and show if he's able to improve on his struggles when he was a Dodger third baseman. If he can actually play a good third, he might help save the decision to trade Wilson Betemit away. But it's also going to have to take Aybar stepping up at the plate to replace Betemit the way Betemit had done such a stellar job of replacing Jones in times past. I'm not buying on that just yet, and I expect losing Jones will wound the Braves' wild-card bid. As for bringing Pena back, that's a compensation move, because Betemit could play shortstop and Aybar can't. That's two light-hitting backup infielders (Pena and Pete Orr) holding twice as much roster space, where having Betemit afforded them the ability to carry only one and use that other roster spot for something else.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Designated OF-L Dewayne Wise for assignment; recalled RHP Justin Germano from Louisville (Triple-A); optioned Germano to Louisville. [7/29]

Recalled OF-L Brandon Watson from Louisville. [7/30]

As anticipated, Germano was making a spot appearance in the rotation's fifth slot. He had his head handed to him by the Brewers on Saturday, earning a return to Louisville that was already a certainty, because the slot will go to Brandon Claussen once he's ready to come off of the DL. In the meantime, the Reds made a sensible exchange of Watson for Wise. Watson is the better center fielder, and has considerably more utility as a pinch-runner and low-leverage pinch-hitter. If we get to the end of the month and making out a playoff roster is something the Reds will have the pleasure of drawing up, keeping Watson instead of a third catcher or a seventh reliever will make good tactical sense. It wouldn't even have to involve having Watson on the active roster--GM Wayne Krivsky can just make sure to put Paul Wilson on the playoff roster, knowing full well that Wilson's out for the year, but reserving that spot for use on somebody else on the 40-man.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Activated C-R Danny Ardoin from the 15-day DL; optioned C-B J.D. Closser to Colorado Springs; traded C-R Miguel Ojeda to the Rangers for cash. [7/30]

All of this boils down to the club's commitment to Yorvit Torrealba as the catcher of the present, with solid catch-and-throw veteran Ardoin around as the stereotypical glovely reserve. Neither should get too comfortable, because the present won't last all that long, not with Chris Iannetta already in Colorado Springs and bopping there every bit as much as he was in Tulsa. A September callup for Iannetta seems a foregone conclusion; even if he isn't on the 40-man, he was going to have to be added after this season anyway, so this just means that somebody will be designated for assignment and/or outrighted a month early. Perhaps a likely target for that ignominy is the ill-starred J.D. Closser. He didn't really get a clean shot at showing that he'd learned something about hitting in his first couple of months down at Colorado Springs, and since his glovework isn't the better half of his skill set, it should be no surprise that he doesn't get to stick around. After flopping in 2005 and not showing much this season, it seems clear that Closser's future is probably no more than to be somebody else's Triple-A catcher.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned LHP Jason Vargas to Albuquerque (Triple-A); recalled LHP Renyel Pinto from Albuquerque. [7/29]

Activated RHP Brian Moehler from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Chris Resop to Albuquerque. [7/30]

I suppose they're going through the motions of letting Scuffy die with his boots on, instead of doing the obvious and simply throwing him into the nearest ditch. It might take the reactivation of Sergio Mitre from the DL, but I think we can expect Moehler to be readily available in a waiver deal in August for whatever team is so hard up for a fifth starter that it'll try anybody. Wait, could that be Boston on the phone?

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Recalled RHP Chris Sampson from Round Rock (Triple-A); optioned RHP Taylor Buchholz to Round Rock. [7/29]

That's not barbecue you're smelling, it's desperation. Three straight bad starts was enough to finally cost Buchholz his rotation spot. Sampson might get the call to step in for him, but they might also bring back Fernando Nieve or plug in Scott Albers. With the wheels coming off of the season, Tim Purpura's going to wind up taking a longer look at the non-Buchholz, non-Wandy starters to see what sort of 2007 rotation he might be able to cobble together in-house. From there, he'll know how much winter shopping he'll have to do.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Recalled 1B-L James Loney from Las Vegas. [7/29]

Placed 1B-R Nomar Garciaparra on the 15-day DL (sprained knee), retroactive to 7/25; added INF-B Wilson Betemit to the active roster. [7/30]

Although Nomar's expected back after "only" a two-week absence, it's reflective of the Dodgers' roster that however many outfielders they're carrying, none of them can really be pencilled in at first base to help cover for him. So Loney comes back up, and while there are an awful lot of scouts sweet on the guy because he's a smooth fielder with an even smoother swing, I guess I'm a little more chary of what might not be a 22-year-old coming into his own as much as it might also a case of having fun in the PCL, especially Vegas. Sure, his numbers are strong (.372/.419/.539), but that's a lot of batting average: his isolated power on the road in the PCL is only .139, pretty weak for a first baseman. That's not really a lot of power for a first baseman, and with only 22 unintentional walks in 358 PA, it should be clear he has room for improvement. I'm not ready to sign off on the notion that he'll be a fix if Nomar's back to his old and broken ways. But to reiterate, Loney is only 22, the power should continue to improve, and as long the only other first baseman on the roster is the always-fragile Olmedo Saenz, they do need the alternative. A Jamedo Saenzey platoon should be a more-than-adequate 10-day patch, although if the Dodgers fall further out of the NL West race, that may turn into an audition for 2007.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Placed 2B-R Rickie Weeks on the 15-day DL (wrist); transferred SS-R J.J. Hardy from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/29]

Hence the need to have both Tony Graffanino and David Bell, as the Brewers do whatever it takes to plausibly call themselves contenders in the wake of the Carlos Lee deal.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Recalled SS-B Danny Sandoval from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [7/29]

Activated LHP Randy Wolf from the 60-day DL; designated RHP Ryan Franklin for assignment. [7/30]

I guess this gives them the opportunity to look at minor-league journeyman Sandoval as a potential infield reserve alternative to their semi-big-money mistake with Abraham Nunez. Not that it matters; the club needs a third baseman, so sifting between Nunez and Sandoval is basically a way to pass the time when you've already come to the conclusion that you're dead. That, and spending time letting Wolf do rehab work in a big-league uniform. It won't yield pretty stats for Wolf, but then I think we all knew that his Hall of Fame case was already a bit of a reach.

If there's news here, it's Pat Gillick's decision to throw Franklin onto the bonfire after overbidding for the fellow former Mariner this past winter. So much for being one of the GM's guys, but both Franklin and Nunez serve as reminders of how Gillick used the money he saved in dumping Jim Thome over the winter. Does anyone else think that's a happy thing to remember when pondering how the man will spend his sloppily-gotten Abreu dividend?

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Placed RHP Chan Ho Park on the 15-day DL (abdominal pain), retroactive to 7/26; recalled RHP Mike Thompson from Portland (Triple-A). [7/30]

Not a major deal, in that Park was already the Pads' fifth-best starter, and Thompson promptly delivered his third quality start in three for the month of July, providing Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers with a relatively comfortable situation whenever the have to turn to their sixth starter.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned LHP Jonathan Sanchez to Fresno (Triple-A); designated RHP Alfredo Simon for assignment. [7/29]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Acquired 2B-R Ron Belliard from the Indians for UT-R Hector Luna. [7/30]

I don't get it, because this was a lot to give up for a two-month rental of Ron Belliard. As deals go, it's an improvement on Miles, but it was also unnecessary. Although Luna's "only" a utility man, and while the Cardinals did need an upgrade on Aaron Miles at the keystone, why Belliard instead of Luna himself? Unlike Abraham Nunez, there's some reason to believe that Luna can hit, while Belliard's well down the rails of the Carlos Baerga career track, getting a little heavy for the position while losing little bits of his game, first whatever speed he had, then his power and patience, his range, and now perhaps also his ability to hang in on the deuce. In contrast, Luna's a younger, cheaper player, and one who, because he came up as a shortstop, might settle in pretty nicely as a second baseman if you leave him there instead of employing him as a rover. Like the challenge-trade aspect of the Wilson Betemit/Willy Aybar exchange, like John Schuerholz, I don't think Walt Jocketty did as well as he thinks he did. If there's good news for the Cardinals, it's that Belliard will be a free agent this winter.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Optioned LHP Michael O'Connor to New Orleans (Triple-A). [7/30]

Scheduling quirks will spare the Nats the need to rely on a fifth starter until the second week of August, so this was an opportunity to let O'Connor stay on turn, but after four consecutive drubbings, it's beginning to look like O'Connor's another pitcher who was promoted far too rapidly, considering that he was pitching in the High-A Carolina League last year. Sadly, there aren't a lot of internal alternatives, although maybe Shawn Hill will be ready, giving the Nats a Plan B.


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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