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August 10, 2006

Transaction Analysis

August 7-9

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Optioned RHP Winston Abreu to Ottawa (Triple-A); recalled RHP Daniel Cabrera from Ottawa. [8/7]

Cabrera was on in his first start back, but the game also saw Shawn Marcum throw his first quality start ever. That immediately made me wonder if the home plate ump wasn't a factor, but Tim Tschida ranks 50th out of 82 umps in runs scored per nine on his watch, and 58th in strikeout rate, so while he's not a high-offense ump, he also isn't Doug Eddings or John Hirschbeck or Phil Cuzzi either. At first glance, this really just seems to be a happy first instant in Cabrera's road back to full-fledged prospectdom, and more power to him. It looks like Rodrigo Lopez is getting bumped out of the rotation with Kris Benson's anticipated return from the DL, but it doesn't have to be Lopez, not when Russ Ortiz has been so overwhelmingly awful. Even Bruce Chen is a better option than Ortiz, however badly he's done. However, this might be a way of trying to get Lopez back to some potential value, either as a reliever for the Orioles, or as waiver-deal fodder, because nobody should want Lopez in their rotation if they're trying to contend. If he shows he's useful in relief in the next couple of weeks, a trade wouldn't be inconceivable.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Signed LHP Cliff Lee to a three-year contract extenstion through 2009, with a club option for 2010; placed 1B/3B/OF-R Casey Blake on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 8/6; recalled 1B-R Ryan Garko from Buffalo (Triple-A). [8/8]

Traded OF-L Todd Hollandsworth to the Reds for a PTBNL; recalled CF-R Franklin Gutierrez from Buffalo. [8/9]

Some old business and new. Ditching a guy like Hollandsworth is a nice enough feel-good exercise, making the scrubs feel valued by placing them on contender's benches, and probably encouraging future scrubs about what might get done for them if they sign for a stint on the Tribe bench, and the team doesn't contend. Losing Blake now sadly takes him out of that pool, because now that he'll miss as much as a month, he's useless to most teams who will need to have set their playoff rosters in the meantime. Meanwhile, now is exactly the time to spend seven or eight weeks giving guys like Gutierrez and Garko early shots at jobs they might leave camp with next spring. While Gutierrez is probably still the club's center fielder of the future-with Grady Sizemore moving to a corner-Garko's in danger of being purposeless if the experiment with playing Victor Martinez at first takes hold. An AFL and/or winter ball assignment to refresh his catching skills might be in order, since he's played only one game behind the plate as a Bison, and started none. If he could catch and play first, Garko would back up both Martinez and Kelly Shoppach, while also potentially soaking up at-bats against lefties for Travis Hafner. There, Garko's record still has something to it, since he's hitting Internatioinal League lefties at a .277/.377/.545 clip.

The big item was extending Lee, and that seems like a bit of a surprise, given that it isn't cheap, and he hasn't really pitched all that well, posting a SNLVA of -0.9, only slightly better than the disastrous Jason Johnson, and worse than the disappointing Paul Byrd. He'll make something like $14.6 million over the next three seasons if they don't pick up the option, $21.6 million over four if they do. It does mean that next year's rotation is set, assuming Jeremy Sowers keeps on keeping on, and assuming they pick up their option on Jake Westbrook. I suppose the possibility is there that the Indians could trade Westbrook or Byrd, but that depends on how much Adam Miller accelerates his own timetable. But basically, it's a strange decision, rewarding Lee for a pretty crummy season, and it has the potential to blow up in their faces, considering that Lee's now moving into that rare breed of major league pitcher: relatively young, expensive, and already overrated.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Outrighted 1B/3B-L Jack Hannahan to Toledo (Triple-A), and RHP Mark Woodyard to Erie (Double-A). [8/8]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Activated 1B-R Mike Sweeney from the 60-day DL; recalled LHP Andrew Sisco from Omaha (Triple-A); optioned SS-B Andres Blanco and RHP Leo Nunez to Omaha; transferred RHP Scott Elarton from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/8]

Oh, look, Mike Sweeney actually plays baseball. Let me tell you, this is up there with Bruce Bochte's comeback or Steve Kemp's escape from New York as far as suspense is concerned. Will the Royals extract value for him in the last year of his deal? Will they hold a desultory goodbye party at the end of 2007 when they don't, complete with bad-frosting'd blandcake and beverages in the conference room? If there's something to get worked up about, it's that Sisquatch punched out six in his 4.2 inning banishment to Nebraska, and how that might represent something about his ability to get back to being a quality lefty relief pitcher. As long as Buddy Bell's managing and trying to make Sisco into a situational lefty, though, I wouldn't hold my breath.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Matt Garza from Rochester (Triple-A); optioned RHP Mike Smith to Rochester. [8/8]

Garza really has nothing left to prove, having developed far faster than anyone reasonably anticipated. On the year, he's punched out 154 in 136 innings split between High-A Fort Myers, Double-A New Britain, and Triple-A Rochester, with only 88 hits and 32 walks allowed. Toss in his eight hit batsmen, and you've still got fewer than a baserunner per inning; try to kibbitz about his only inducing four double-plays, and then remember that it isn't easy to get those when you're blowing people away at the plate, even when you do have a 144-107 groundball/flyball ratio. Why's he supposed to get anybody to hit a one-out chopper to short with a man on and an out or less-to appease the art critics? Garza's that rare wonder, the first-round pick (from last season, no less) who moves up fast and knows how to beat you. He's got the power fastball that gets into the high 90s, and both a slider and curve that most people can't hit. That's development beyond what was expected when he was drafted, perhaps beyond whatever credit we should give the Twins as opposed to Fresno State, where he starred. Still, he's nearly ready, and since he was the 25th overall pick, it isn't like other people didn't have their shot at him, so credit the Twins for making a point of it. Other choices from last year's draft have already made it-Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Pelfrey-but Garza's the guy who can make an impact on a pennant race now, perhaps replacing the otherwise irreplaceable Francisco Liriano in the Twins' rotation. If you're a fan of either Sox team thinking that the Twins' loss of their rookie lefty is going to reduce the field of potential AL wildcards to two, guess again.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Activated 2B-L Robinson Cano from the 15-day DL; placed INF-B Miguel Cairo on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 8/6. [8/8]

That big sigh of relief is coming from the two guys still hoping they get their Clay Bellinger-style shot at postseason attendance, Nick Green and Andy Phillips. Picking one between those two and Cairo should seem obvious, but consider this the Curse of Enrique Wilson. Once Hideki Matsui comes back, though, at least the Yanks will be back to their more normal way of doing things, where Cano might be the worst hitter in the lineup, and that ain't bad.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Activated RHP Jay Witasick from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Shane Komine to Sacramento (Triple-A). [8/9]

Komine didn't look so good in his second start, and this being the stretch drive and all, Ken Macha has slowly come to accept that keeping Kirk Saarloos under glass in case of emergencies that simply haven't arisen was sort of a waste of roster space. A two-start audition isn't especially fair to Komine, but that's what roster expansion in September is for, not to mention a matter of accepting what Saarloos has always been for, something Macha has only belatedly recognized after carting around seven relievers without using them. He also finds ways to ignore the last couple of guys on the bench. The A's will have a similar conundrum once Joe Kennedy is ready to come off of the DL-if he's fine, what is Brad Halsey for? Do you keep Halsey as your second lefty, or a more situational-only guy like Scott Sauerbeck or Ron Flores? It seems doubtful that Witasick will pitch well enough to justify a postseason roster spot, while it also seems clear that Chad Gaudin has, but how many middlemen does one pen need, anyway?

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Activated LHP Scott Kazmir from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP J.P. Howell to Durham (Triple-A); transferred RHP Tyler Walker from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/8]

Although nine strikeouts in 8.1 innings (across two starts) is a nice beginning to a guy's D-Rays career, Kazmir was ready to come back, and with Kazmir back plus Jamie Shields and Tim Corcoran each enjoying their own moments, Howell's clearly behind some of the in-house options, not to mention Jae Seo. This is pretty much as it should be-Howell was rushed by the Royals, and in a real organization, would have to be working his way up around now. He's not too far off, but who knew that he'd have to wait until he got to Tampa before his career would be managed sensibly?

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned LHP John Koronka to Oklahoma (Triple-A); recalled RHP Edison Volquez from Oklahoma. [8/7]

Pretty much a straight switch-and-bait, where the Rangers finally decide that they've had enough of adequacy (or some semblance of the same) in the fifth slot, and give Volquez the shot he wasn't ready for last year. The problem is that Volquez may not be any more ready now than if he was another kid in the 1986 edition of the Rangers after walking 72 in 120.2 Oklahoma innings. Sure, 130 strikeouts in that same time makes it clear that he doesn't have too much more to do when it comes to overpowering people, but it's going to help a lot (obviously) if he could actually fool right-handed hitters with an offspeed pitch now and again, and failing that, at least start showing more consistent command of the changeup that occasionally impresses people. He's 23 now, young to be sure, but not Doc Gooden, and there's still concern that he isn't doing anything more than gassing when he can while still trying to figure everything else out. It's good stuff, and he has promise, but considering that, as fifth starters go, Koronka was thoroughly adequate, this might seem to be more a move to herald your 2007 Rangers than a stretch-drive upgrade.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Placed RHP Justin Speier on 15-day DL (forearm tightness); recalled RHP Jason Frasor from Syracuse (Triple-A). [8/9]

As much as the Jays matter in the meantime, this isn't really a major change in terms of quality. Frasor's already shown that he can pitch in this league, and with 22 strikeouts in 14.1 IP since his assignment to Syracuse in July, it isn't like his stuff doesn't already play in the orbital circuits when it comes to overpowering people. The problem is that he's walked nine in that same stretch, and allowed sixteen hits. That just ain't good, but the same capacity to overpower people is there. We'll just have to see if he gets his act together now, not that it will impact the playoff picture all that much.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Jeff Bajenaru to Tucson (Triple-A); added RHP Livan Hernandez to the active roster. [8/9]

CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed RHPs Gary Majewski (shoulder inflammation) and Jason Standridge (back spasms) on the 15-day DL; acquired RHP Ryan Franklin and cash from the Phillies for a PTBNL; activated LHP Kent Mercker from the 15-day DL. [8/7]

Acquired OF-L Todd Hollandsworth from the Indians for a PTBNL; transferred LHP Brandon Claussen from the 15- to the 60-day DL; sent RHP Zac Stott to the Phillies as the PTBNL in the Ryan Franklin trade. [8/9]

For all the rah-rah "He must know what he's doing," there's now the question over who's in the wrong, if anybody, regarding Majewski's shoulder. The prim statements out of the Rhineland, that trainers talk to trainers, GMs to GMs, that the Reds did their due diligence and that the Nats may have committed a sin of omission, seems like a lot of CYA griping to me. If Wayne Krivsky didn't know to really worry about this aspect of the deal, given that Majewski had thrown a heavy workload in the first half, given that Majewski pitched in the WBC, and given that Majewski came back from the WBC complaining about shoulder woes, then shame on him. If he asked specifically about the shoulder, and the Nats provided full disclosure or industry-standard disclosure as far as the cortisone shot in July, then this is just empty posturing by somebody who was in a hurry to make a big "golly, winning would be keen" trade without enough attention to the details.

The closest precedent was the Red Sox/Pirates exchange involving Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez to the Pirates for Scott Sauerbeck and Mike Gonzalez in July 2003 (July 22, to be exact). There, after having first been fleeced, the Pirates subsequently determined that Lyon was injured after consummating the deal. The Red Sox claimed they had no knowledge beforehand, but rather than spar over a grivance, the two parties agreeably did a do-over sort of deal on July 31, in which the Sox returned Gonzalez, bundled him with Freddy Sanchez, and added Jeff Suppan to the returning of the folded and spindled Lyon. For Dave Littlefield, it was a near-disaster happily avoided, because the original deal was idiotic; the evener deal spared him the loss of Gonzalez, added Sanchez, and closed the question of why you'd go out of your way to give up good stuff for Brandon Lyon in the first place. But the Sox also weren't giving up any ground on Lyon's injury, not publicly at any rate, so buyer beware may well be the industry standard.

For now, the practical upshot is that Reds team medical director Tim Kremcheck will probably stop serving as a consultant to the Nationals, although if the Reds file a grievance, you never know how Czar Bud will rule, given his ever-morphing grasp on precedent, history, and his more political focus on keeping his 30 charges playing nicely together. Given the diagnostic issues with anything involving swollen joints, it was Krivsky's responsibility to be extra careful here, and if he wasn't, then he wasn't as aware of the risks as those of us who noted them at the time, making the Reds-Nats swap not merely ill-conceived, but ill-considered.

In the meantime, I think it speaks volumes for where the Reds really are, that they're the contender that's trying to get by with pickups like Joe Mays, Kyle Lohse, and now Ryan Franklin. Paging Jeff Juden, at long last, your time has come.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Placed RHP Logan Kensing on the 15-day DL (strained wrist flexor), retroactive to 8/7; activated RHP Sergio Mitre from the 15-day DL; designated RHP Jeff Fulchino for assignment. [8/9]

For Mitre, this is a change of circumstances: the rotation is already full of more talented individuals, so he's shunted to the pen along with Scuffy Moehler. Things having worked out as well as we expect with so many of the young guns that the Fish added this past season (not to mention the homegrown fry), Mitre's into Victor Santos/Victor Zambrano territory, hoping that he somehow becomes insanely popular with the right team at the right time when it's especially itchy in its search for an adequate fifth starter.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Activated 1B/2B-R Jeff Kent from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Elmer Dessens on the 15-day DL. [8/7]

Lost OF-L OF Ricky Ledee on a waiver claim by the Mets. [8/8]

Kent's return wasn't to second but instead first base, pretty much the way we expected. What happens once Nomar Garciaparra returns? Even though it's supposed to happen sometime this week, and perhaps cost the Dodgers the services of Ledee, let's not worry about that too much-teams have been asking that down the stretch for, what, the last three years now? I'd expect that between the combination of inevitable little hurts, and Wilson Betemit's utility-playing past, and Julio Lugo's low-man on the totem/former Devil Ray status, nobody will have to get overly aggrieved over playing or not playing-they'll all see time.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Activated RHP Jose Capellan from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-L Tony Gwynn Jr. to Nashville (Triple-A). [8/9]

Not a bad combination of events-Capellan has been among the team's best relievers, and they ain't dead yet, while Kid Gwynn pasted singles like he was the second coming. Nothing wrong with adding another log to the outfield jam, but Kevin Mench, Gabe Gross, and Corey Hart all have to play somewhere, and there's the misfortune of having Geoff Jenkins under contract for at least another season to work around. Gwynn's not too far from being ready to be a fine outfield reserve and spot-starter in center, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if we see Doug Melvin shopping that last year of Brady Clark's contract ($3.8 million) for whatever he can get going.

NEW YORK METS
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Signed 3B-R David Wright to a six-year, $55 million contract extension. [8/6]

Claimed OF-L Ricky Ledee off of waivers from the Dodgers. [8/8]

Designated 1B/OF/C-R Eli Marrero and RHP Anderson Garcia for assignment. [8/9]

There isn't much I can add to what MORP makes plain, as far as inking Wright to a multi-year deal being your special-variety Very Good Thing [tm]. Going hand in hand with the decision to long-term Jose Reyes, and you've got the building blocks for your contending New York Mets for the next five years or more. Sort of strange, seeing as we really haven't been here since the '80s, but the worm turns for everybody, and kudos to Omar Minaya for simply seeking to embroider what was already a very good core.

As waiver claims go, I very much like the idea that the Mets grabbed Ledee. Let's face it, you can only go so far playing make-believe with Endy Chavez, and surprising nobody, the steam goes out of that phenomenon faster than you can say "Timo!" Adding Ledee gives the bench a lefty bat with some experience (whether it's Ledee or Chavez remains to be seen), coupling with Julio Franco to give manager Willie Randolph a nice tandem of contact-hitting pinch-hitters. But that's the rosy scenario, and the more basic problem is that the Mets are nearing the middle of August without a reliable offensive outfielder named something other than Carlos Beltran. If being the team with the best record in the league is supposed to amount to anything in October, that's the sort of thing you can't afford. Ideally, Cliff Floyd will finally warm up, and Lastings Milledge will show that he's ready starting...now. If neither happens, I wouldn't bet much that the Mets really enjoy any particular advantage over anybody in any postseason series.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Traded RHP Ryan Franklin and cash to the Reds for a PTBNL. [8/7]

Received RHP Zac Stott from the Reds as the PTBNL. [8/9]

Now all that remains to be seen is whether or not the Reds get something beyond a four-month exercise in cronyism and money spent, with Stott being the deciding factor. A 27th round draft-and-follow pick in 2003 out of juco, and now in his third full season as a pro, he's big, he's from Utah, and he hasn't been all that effective as minor league relievers go. If he winds up on the Phillies' 40-man this winter, it'll be an upset.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Chris Schroder from New Orleans (Triple-A). [8/8]


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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