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August 15, 2006

Transaction Analysis

August 10-14

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned OF-B Tommy Murphy to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled RHP Chris Bootcheck from Salt Lake. [8/11]

Optioned RHP Chris Bootcheck to Salt Lake; recalled OF-B Reggie Willits from Salt Lake. [8/13]

After the big beating the Angels took last Thursday they were sort of in a bind. Kevin Gregg and Hector Carrasco tossed three innings apiece in the blowout loss, denuding Mike Scioscia's cupboard of long relief help going into a weekend series against the Yankees. Sensibly, the Angels decided to swap out their backup center fielder for an extra arm, and then switch Bootcheck back out to bring back their other, interchangeably semi-useful backup center fielder once Carrasco and Gregg were rested up. The only difference is the relative one between the virtue of Murphy's modest power and Willits' speed, since Murphy can't come back inside of ten days, barring an injury-related roster move. I've sung the Angels praises a lot during the combined watch of GM Bill Stoneman and Scioscia, particularly in the area of roster management, but that's because the Angels are one of the teams that really takes their pen's state and their bench's tactical utility into consideration.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Claimed RHP Anderson Garcia off of waivers from the Mets. [8/11]

Optioned RHP Julio Manon to Ottawa (Triple-A); activated RHP Kris Benson from the 15-day DL. [8/12]

The good news in getting Benson back, as some readers thoughtfully reminded me, isn't that he'll be pitching every fifth day, it's that Russ Ortiz won't be. Of course, that does raise the possibility that he'll be available to wreck your evening at the ballpark any day of the week, but some people might prefer that sort of roll of the dice. Me, I don't like the odds, although at least using Ortiz winds up being a clear signal to those who want to avoid a late jam in the parking lot that the game is effectively over. I'm more the bitter-ender type, because you never know when you might get to see something like Doug Dascenzo pitch or Archi Cianfrocco play short. That's good stuff, that. If you're an O's fan, what do you root for at this point? Seeing if Melvin Mora or even Brandon Fahey could play nine positions in a game? In the same game? That'd be something worth seeing, perhaps the only thing that would matter beyond playing Nick Markakis and Corey Patterson, or finding out whether or not Daniel Cabrera might ever make consecutive good starts.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Designated C-R Corky Miller for assignment; recalled LHP Craig Breslow from Pawtucket (Triple-A). [8/14]

Now that Doug Mirabelli is back on the diamond, the need for a third catcher was gone, allowing the Sox to bring back a token lefty for the pen. Javy Lopez hasn't been a disaster behind the plate so far, not good of course, but not tear-jerker Matt LeCroy "oh, woe is us" bad so far either.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Designated RHP Guillermo Mota for assignment; recalled INF-L Ramon Vazquez from Buffalo (Triple-A). [8/11]

Recalled RHP Jeremy Guthrie from Buffalo; designated INF-L Ramon Vazquez for assignment. [8/12]

Recalled RHP Andrew Brown from Buffalo; optioned RHP Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo. [8/13]

Okay, so this was the long way around as far as replacing Mota with Brown, but shuffling papers in the office is a job, and somebody's got to do it. More essentially, this is an exchange like that of moving out Todd Hollandsworth to get Franklin Gutierrez up-the time's come to look at Buffalo's best now, and no reason to hang on to the veteran filler if it doesn't taste great while also not being filling. Part of the package picked up from the Dodgers for Milton Bradley, Brown's able to throw in the mid-90s. He's regressed a bit this year: after striking out 81 in 70 innings in Buffalo last season (against only 19 walks), his walk rate spiked this season (36), and he's fooling fewer people (53 Ks). There are questions about whether or not he's going to master his craft, but the raw stuff is good, and since he's already on the 40-man, you may as well take a look, especially now that you know there's no reason to keep Mota, and nobody interested in trading for him. That said, somebody should be interested in picking him up off of waivers-the Dodgers, mayhap? Can the Reds ever have enough relief help?

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Optioned OF-L Shane Costa to Omaha (Triple-A); recalled RHP Adam Bernero from Omaha [8/10]

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Placed LHP Francisco Liriano on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation), retroactive to 8/8; recalled RHP Boof Bonser from Rochester (Triple-A). [8/10]

Placed OF-R Rondell White on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 8/10; activated OF-B Lew Ford from the 15-day DL. [8/11]

They're in this thing, so I'd hate to write them off, but it's hard to see how the Twins will stay in the race without Liriano if Bonser merely pokes along, if Scott Baker doesn't snap back, or if Matt Garza needs a more courtly introduction to the major leagues. There really isn't a lot more to say about it. Liriano's one of the best pitchers in the league, and losing him is hard enough. Losing him to endure struggles no different from those of Kyle Lohse or Carlos Silva would undermine any chance the Twins have at keeping up with the White Sox, Red Sox, and Yankees in the wild-card chase. It isn't that the Twins don't have the offense-having purged most of the dreck already, they're now tied for the seventh-best offense in the game. Even making do with platoons of Jason Kubel and Josh Rabe at DH and Jason Tyner and Ford in left hasn't hurt them, but if Garza, Bonser, or Baker can't get games into the sixth inning, this team is dead.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned LHP Brad Halsey to Sacramento (Triple-A); activated LHP Scott Sauerbeck from the 15-day DL. [8/11]

Optioned LHP Ron Flores to Sacramento; activated LHP Joe Kennedy from the 15-day DL. [8/14]

The A's have a semi-nice problem, in that they've got a crowd of relievers who've done good work this season, and they're going to end up having to pick from among them come the playoffs. It's an interesting dilemma, especially among these four lefties. Kennedy's the best long reliever, and Sauerbeck's the obvious situational guy, but Bull Halsey's had his uses, and it seems a shame that there isn't space for him. Here's hoping he doesn't get crowded out by the likes of Jay Witasick on the playoff roster-there might be some value to having Halsey around as a lefty alternative after an early hook for either Esteban Loaiza or Kirk Saarloos, should either have to start a playoff game.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed 2B/LF-R Eric Young to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [8/11]

I guess where the Rangers are concerned, second basemen who are willing to give the outfield a shot are like jello: you've always got room for more. Me, I wouldn't put a horse hoof in my mouth and call it dessert if you paid me, but the Rangers seem to have taken a horseshoe in the teeth and exclaimed they found a gift horse. Whatever Buck Showalter's exclamations, Young's done, and this won't even help Oklahoma catch Round Rock in that American South Division race we've all been following.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Placed OF-B Jeff DaVanon on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); recalled LF-R Scott Hairston from Tucson (Triple-A). [8/11]

Placed RHP Greg Aquino on the 15-day DL (forearm stiffness); recalled RHP Jose Valverde from Tucson. [8/14]

Not that DaVanon's the new Jerry Mumphrey or anything, but losing him hurts the D'backs in a couple of ways. First, without him, they don't really have a backup center fielder behind Eric Byrnes. Hairston's a second baseman turned left fielder destined for DH, leaving Bob Melvin to pick between Shawn Green and Carlos Quentin if Byrnes needs a day off. That's not crippling, but it can be a nuisance. Probably the best thing would be to wait for a Brandon Webb start to give Byrnes a day off, and hope nothing game-breaking happens in the alleys. Second, Byrnes will end up having to do something he's not the best at, starting more games against right-handed pitching. Given his platoon split (.238/.301/.460 vs. RHPs, .360/.412/.648 vs. lefties), that should make for a drop in his rate stats. Again, that's not crippling, more of a nuisance, and in the tight races for the NL West title and the wild card slot, every little cut can bleed you more than you can afford nowadays.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed LHP Horacio Ramirez on the 15-day DL (finger); recalled RHP Kevin Barry from Richmond (Triple-A); outrighted RHP Jason Shiell and 1B/OF-R James Jurries to Richmond. [8/11]

Placed INF-B Willy Aybar on the 15-day DL (broken finger); activated 3B-B Chipper Jones from the 15-day DL. [8/13]

No team that's only 5.5 games out of the wild card race is out of it, but the Braves keep coming up lame whenever you think they're about to line things up and go on a little tear that might elevate them into the pole position. Predictably, Aybar didn't adequately replace Wilson Betemit, but without him, they're down to an ugly choice between Tony Pena Jr. and Pete Orr in the infield. As nice as getting Chipper back may be, as long as Aybar is out, they can't afford to lose any of their starters for that week-long non-DL hurt that seems to go with employing Jones, Marcus Giles, and Edgar Renteria. The news is worse in the rotation, because as flaky as Ramirez's performances have been, the Braves could ill-afford to lose him. Barry will start in his place, and Barry's probably got a future, but the rotation's still a man down, and Kyle Davies' rehab hasn't gone well. Bobby Cox is now forced to give Lance Cormier another shot, and ponder starting Oscar Villarreal. Do these sound like the moves of a playoff team?

CHICAGO CUBS
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Returned RHP Mark Prior to the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Angel Guzman from Iowa (Triple-A). [8/12]

Okay, so Prior's done, Kerry Wood is done, and any suggestion that a master plan involving them as your key rotation starters should be deader than Elvis. That's not the end of the world, because guys like Guzman or Rich Hill or Carlos Marmol have talent, and it's worth spending the next seven weeks sorting out how many of them could be ready to stick in next season's rotation. If, instead, the Cubs waste starts on either Glendon Rusch or Wade Miller, they'll have done themselves a disservice, while not really fielding a credibly "competitive" team to properly act the spoiler down the stretch. This should no longer be a Dusty Baker team, and it should no longer observe Dusty Baker priorities.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned OF-R Chris Denorfia to Louisville (Triple-A). [8/10]

Returned LHP Kent Mercker to the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); purchased the contract of LHP Chris Michalak from Louisville; designated 2B/SS-R William Bergolla for assignment. [8/12]

Optioned RHP Elizardo Ramirez to Louisville; recalled LHP Brian Shackelford from Louisville. [8/13]

Let's get this straight: the team needs three lefties in the pen beyond having a left-handed closer? And it's potentially going to make a journeyman like Michalak its fifth starter down the stretch? And it wants to go to the mat with Todd Hollandsworth (replacing Denorfia) and Juan Castro as key reserves? I guess that combination of events might make you think the Reds were in the International League while being managed by Tony LaRussa, but such is not the case.

Instead, you have a team that has shipped out Ramirez after starting him without any rest-read that again, but I assure you, he pitched in the 14-inning game on the 11th, then got drubbed starting on the 12th. Now, maybe if this was still a team being managed by Bob Boone, you could accept this as some sort of weird experiment, destined for failure like all of Boone's passing fancies. But that isn't the case-this is a team in the thick of the wild-card chase, and it should be minding every roster move and every game carefully. Maybe this is a mistake you put on manager Jerry Narron, but I think this is more basically a screwup by Wayne Krivsky, in what has become a litany of stretch-drive missteps. Ramirez hasn't been outstanding of late, but two quality starts in his five since the All-Star break before that sort of mismanagement indicates to me that he isn't Joe Mays. The fact that, after the game, Narron talked about how well things worked out, when Ramirez got drubbed, should leave any observer boggled. The Reds may lead, but when you get this punch-drunk on roster management, it hardly bodes any better than making the Bray/Majewski deal did.

So what about this latest addition to the rotation? Michalak's had a nice year at Louisville, allowing 3.8 runs per nine. He's also allowed 17 home runs in 132.1 innings, and he can't dent bread with his best cheese. He's not really a groundball pitcher, so put him in the GA(B)P, and it seems to me you've got a formula for big-fly mayhem. It's a reflection on the Reds' relative desperation that they've reached this spot, but between mismanaging Ramirez and winding up with an overstocked pen that still isn't that good, its become pretty obvious that things aren't working out all that well.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Designated OF-L Jorge Piedra for assignment; recalled OF-R Ryan Spilborghs from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [8/11]

Signed 3B-R Vinny Castilla to a minor league contract. [8/14]

I like the prodigal son angle as much as the next person, but is getting Castilla into the Rockies second-ever playoff race really that important? I guess I don't mind it, not really, as long as he only comes up once rosters expand. The last thing the Rockies need is another right-handed bat on the bench, which makes the decision to ditch Piedra particularly odd, since this club doesn't have a lefty bat on the bench that represents much danger to opponents.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Designated OF-R Preston Wilson for assignment; recalled RHP Jason Hirsh from Round Rock (Triple-A). [8/12]

Hirsh has come up to go straight into the rotation, meaning that Fernando Nieve's place will still be the pen for the time being. It's an interesting choice between the two prospects, in that Nieve's basically been shunted into a mop-up role, finishing up blowout wins or eating innings in games the Astros are traililng in. It seems a waste, but keep in mind that Hirsh is the organization's fair-haired boy. He's huge (6'8"), throws a hard slider and a solid sinker, and pumps gas into the mid 90s. A 116-50 K-BB ratio isn't all that hot across 136.2 innings, but the PCL's no easy place to pitch, and the real measure of Hirsh's dominance would be that PCL hitters have only slugged .266 against him. I wouldn't be surprised if it's simply prepped him for life in the Juicy Juice Moundsman Juicer that the Astros call home. They're only four games behind the Reds, so it isn't inconceivable that Hirsh could be one of the heroes in another late push for the wild card. If Hirsh and Nieve and perhaps Matt Albers all get to contribute, that won't hurt their ability to take on larger roles next season, while giving them some exposure to meaningful ballgames around some of the sport's most polished pros.

No, the surprise here is that the Astros ditched Wilson. It really shouldn't be that surprising, not when he had an obviously untantalizing three-year club option at the tail end of this year. Perhaps Wilson felt he wasn't at risk, but you can pretty easily see how the Astros wanted to get this out of the way, especially given Wilson's weak production. The man lost his job to Luke Scott for a reason, and while he wasn't really any more disappointing than Aubrey Huff or Jason Lane, neither of them has that three-year mirage at the end of this year's contract, and Lane has an option while Huff can play the infield corners. Wilson might turn up on some playoff team's bench, or even finish up the season on one of the fading contenders who are entirely without a center fielder (Seattle?), but I wouldn't get worked up about how much he might help anyone at this point. Assuming the mush ball becomes the standard in Coors, Wilson may well be one of the last extreme park effect inventions that Denver delivers.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Purchased the contract of C-R Einar Diaz from the Indians, and assigned him to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [8/12]

A basic insurance move, in that the Dodgers can now count themselves blessed to have a third catcher with major league experience in the organization behind Russ Martin and Toby Hall should anything happen to either. It might seem feeble, but the alternatives to Diaz within the organization were somebodies like the now-retired Pat Borders, and although Brad Cresse was on Jacksonville's roster and hit pretty well early on (/259/.342/.460), he's been out of action for the last two months. So, yes, Einar Diaz may well be a necessity, and yes, let's credit Ned Colletti for getting him. Strange days indeed...

NEW YORK METS
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Returned OF-L Cliff Floyd to the 15-day DL (Achilles tendinitis); purchased the contract of OF-L Michael Tucker from Norfolk (Triple-A). [8/9]

Ugh. Perhaps the only way the Mets could showboat any more than this down the stretch would be to sign Deion Sanders to play every day in Floyd's absence. Tucker was hitting a tepid .261/.377/.407 for the Tides, but now he'll get a shot at a playoff share, and maybe even a roster spot, for his troubles. However, as weak as Floyd's performance has been this season, there's something almost Strawberry-like about what he might be able to do if healthy and rested. If the Mets can get Floyd up to 100% physically by September, and get him enough game action to keep his bat speed back by October, I don't see why he couldn't be ready to enjoy a productive postseason. Naturally, watch Will Carroll's column for details.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed RHP Josh Sharpless on 15-day DL (sprained ankle); purchased contract of RHP Britt Reames from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [8/11]

Placed OF-L Nate McLouth on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); recalled CF-R Rajai Davis from Indianapolis. [8/14]

I suspect that the time's going to come when everyone asks themselves why anybody was so invested in the "great" debate over who the Bucs' center fielder should be. Chris Duffy? McLouth? Davis, better known as the second coming of Jermaine Allensworth? Does the act of picking make anybody involved a winner? Calling up Davis seems to be a clear slight of Duffy, but considering Duffy's earlier funk, I suppose reminding a guy who's already 26 and not exactly a top prospect of his place in the grand scheme of things isn't a surprise. Davis isn't really a prospect either, not considering that he's 25 or that his hitting .283/.335/.348 for Indy is a pretty normal year for him. But he's slappy, he can run (45 steals in 58 attempts), and he can play center well enough, so repeated engagements as somebody's fifth outfielder seem to be a matter of destiny. He might make a nice enough defensive sub for Jose Bautista in center, which in turn makes it that much easier to just plugging in Freddy Sanchez at third. McLouth isn't really a center fielder anyway, so the only guy hurting by how this has played out is Joe Randa, yet another rented vet that GM Dave Littlefield forgot to deal.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHP Mike Thompson to Portland (Triple-A); activated RHP Chan Ho Park from the 15-day DL. [8/11]

It's an inspiring story to get Park back, to be sure, and I'd hate to have the guy lose his job considering his challenge and the question over how much he lost in his performance to his odd case of anemia. But to be fair to Thompson, the guy seems to crank out quality starts the way Mattel stamps plastic, giving you an unexciting yet useful product. Would that all teams were so blessed in their fifth starters. Still, there is the possibility that a refreshed Park will be a stronger pitcher down the stretch, and potentially something more than the Pads' skippable fifth wheel.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned RHP Brian Wilson to Fresno (Triple-A); recalled LHP Jack Taschner from Fresno. [8/12]

Designated INF-B Jose Vizcaino for assignment; recalled 2B-R Kevin Frandsen from Fresno. [8/14]

I suppose the real upside to replacing Vizcaino with Frandsen is that it removes the Vizzer from Felipe Alou's lineup card, but Frandsen's not panning out to be the prospect some think him to be. Hitting .304/.358/.440 in Fresno is no great feat, especially since it's the product of singles and hit-by-pitches, not walks or any lasting power. However, down in Fresno, he had been starting a few games at short and third, so maybe he'll wind up an effective utility infielder with a Ron Hunt sort of vibe-the guy's been hit by 22 pitches between San Jose, Fresno, and San Francisco.

Taschner's return is a little more interesting, in that he's managed to strike out 68 in 49.1 innings, and since he throws relatively hard for a lefty, he stands to make some money. That he's still throwing in the 90s despite having endured a Tommy John and a torn labrum says something. I just wonder if he's cut out for situational work-his platoon splits suggest that he's a little too willing to challenge lefties, and if he can overpower right-handers, why typecast him? It'll be interesting to see how his career develops; if he has the stuff, he might wind up like Mike Remlinger, whose promise was heralded almost a decade before he finally stuck as a 31-year-old utility pitcher with the Reds.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned OF-L John Rodriguez to Memphis (Triple-A); recalled RHP Brad Thompson from Memphis. [8/9]

This is a good opportunity for Rodriguez to get back up to speed, cope with a bum ankle, and get some regular at-bats, because he will wind up on the playoff roster, even if Chris Duncan has sort of taken his platoon role from him. That's sort of what has happened with Thompson, in that he's gotten five starts and some good work in during his month in Memphis, but he's got a harder road, since he'll have to push past both Josh Hancock and Jorge Sosa for a long relief role. There's always the concern that Tony LaRussa might screw up and carry twelve pitchers into the postseason, especially since he seems more comfortable with thirteen these days, but Rodriguez should be a lock, with the question being whether you keep two of those three pitchers, or only one while making room for Larry Bigbie or a third catcher.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Released OF-R Luis Matos; recalled RHP Jason Bergmann from New Orleans (Triple-A). [8/11]

Well, you sort of expected Matos not panning out, but more happily, the Nats are playing both Ryan Church and Alex Escobar, so a fifth outfielder on a roster that has Damian Jackson and Bernie Castro hanging around wasn't really necessary. Instead, this will be a good opportunity for Bergmann to finally stick. Both Travis Hughes and Ryan Wagner have struggled, leaving the pen short of reliable right-handed relief help. Bergmann's done relatively well with his power fastball/slider mix in New Orleans, posting a nifty 62-18 strikeout-unintentional walk ratio in 60.2 innings. His rates are a little bass-ackwards, but let's face it, if he can get anybody out, he'll have a place with the Nats every bit as much as retreaded Micah Bowie or the oft-discarded Saul Rivera.


As ever, the author's grateful to Kevin Goldstein for his thoughts on minor league players.

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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