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August 23, 2006

Transaction Analysis

August 18-22

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Placed OF-L Curtis Pride on the 15-day DL (lower back); recalled RHP Greg Jones from Salt Lake (Triple-A). [8/20]

Although an unhappy turn of events for baseball's contemporary echo of the great Dummy Hoy-another solid OBP threat, like Pride, but a man who got to enjoy the big-league career that Pride's been held short of-in some ways, this seems a matter of convenience more than anything else, since the Angels are dealing with last week's suspensions, and wanted to keep their pitching staff fully stocked while Kevin Gregg and Brendan Donnelly deal with their four-game suspensions.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Designated RHP Jason Johnson for assignment; activated RHP Keith Foulke from the 15-day DL. [8/18]

Designated RHP Rudy Seanez for assignment; recalled RHP Jermaine Van Buren from Pawtucket (Triple-A). [8/19]

Optioned RHP Jermaine Van Buren back to Pawtucket; recalled LHP Javier Lopez from Pawtucket. [8/20]

Optioned RHP Craig Hansen to Pawtucket; re-purchased the contract of RHP Bryan Corey from Pawtucket. [8/21]

Placed SS-R Alex Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 8/19; optioned LHP Javier Lopez to Pawtucket; recalled LHP Kason Gabbard from Pawtucket; purchased the contract of INF-R Dustin Pedroia from Pawtucket. [8/22]

I understand Custer hopped around a lot too, for all the good it did him. So the Sox give Seanez and Johnson Viking funerals throwing them on the pyre after first running them through, and while Johnson couldn't have been expected to have been quite as terrible as he was, I guess my concern is that Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox brain trust doesn't seem to have learned anything from what happened in 2003, when the Sox pen imploded after investments in fragile commodities like... well, Rudy Seanez, not to mention the perpetually implosive Chad Fox, and Ramiro Mendoza. This year's choices for the pen-Seanez for a second spin, a multi-year contract for Julian Tavarez, the regrettable rush to discard David Riske (doing well with the world champs so far)-seem a grisly re-enactment of the season before the Red Sox "got smart," begging the question over whether or not lessons about expensive investments in middling middle relievers stick, or if overpaying for relief help is a rite of passage for this generation of front office honchos.

The more interesting problem, to my way of thinking, is Hansen. Like the Braves' foolhardy rush-up of Joey Devine, the Red Sox have had to learn the hard way that Gregg Olsons don't grow on trees. This can be an area for honest disagreement among prospect mavens and statheads-I know that our own Kevin Goldstein likes to see pitchers handled aggressively. While we should all recognize that Kevin's right, or note that managers like Casey Stengel seemed to bird-dog the lowest levels of their own farm systems and find major league-ready pitchers, both Hansen and Devine both seem not to have responded especially well, and in Boston's case, whatever patina of performance analysis grafted onto scouting has only produced abortive results. That's not meant as a slam of all things stathead, of course, and the Braves and their oft-touted old school ways haven't done any better with Devine. It's worth noting that like players or managers, some front offices do some things well, and some things less so, and a difference in approach doesn't necessarily mean a difference in results. Comfortable in my relative irresponsibility as a columnist, I can simply note that it's pragmatic to be cautious about relief help, but I remain relatively confident that Hansen will be a productive major league pitcher.

The last thing to note is on the disabling Alex Gonzalez. To be fair, his Value Over Replacement is positive (8.5), not good, of course, but adequate, and that's about all the Sox really could have expected after losing out on the free agent shortstop market in the last couple of years. They've already got an adequate alternative in Alex Cora, but it's a sign of how much the past weekend's rout has changed matters, that the Sox are now already skipping ahead and taking a look at Pedroia. The highly-touted prospect has mostly started at second this season, but has also started at short and third, and the plan seems to be to give him every opportunity to make it as a shortstop. He was hitting well enough at Pawtucket, .308/.387/.427, the stuff of goodness not greatness, and if he can handle short, I guess you could consider him very similar to Mark Loretta without the 2003-2004 surprise power spike. Nothing wrong with finding a good supporting cast type, since that would be an upgrade on Gonzalez.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Traded RHP Guillermo Mota to the Mets for a PTBNL or cash. [8/20]

DETROIT TIGERS
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Acquired 2B/SS-B Neifi Perez from the Cubs for C-R Chris Robinson. [8/20]

Optioned 2B/SS-B Ramon Santiago to Toledo (Triple-A); placed RHP Roman Colon on the 15-day DL (neck spasms); recalled RHP Colby Lewis from Toledo. [8/21]

Oh, the humanity, etc. There's something fundamentally ugly about letting Perez glom on to a good ballclub and get handed the ninth slot in the lineup with a post-it asking that he not be any worse than usual, but that's what happens when you're born under the right stars, I suppose. I can accept some sort of argument that there's virtue in leaving Omar Infante in a utility role, and I think we can all accept that Santiago is one of the few utility infielders who might be worse than Perez. (We'll get to the return of Manny Alexander in the Pads section.) I just don't really buy into it all in concert: the Tigers would be best off with Infante in the lineup, and if you stick Perez in a reserve role as an infrequently-used reserve, that's not the end of the world. The decision to make Perez the team's everyday second baseman, however, might actually cost the team just enough runs and outs that a hot streak by the White Sox or Twins starts making things interesting. I know, it's a stretch, but Neifi's one of the game's all-time execrables.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed RHP Adam Bernero on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled SS/2B-B Andres Blanco from Omaha (Triple-A). [8/18]

Not really major news, since Blanco's probably needed to help fill in for Angel Berroa. Although Berroa's performance has flattened to the point that it's worth wondering if he'd actually beat out Blanco in a straight fight for the job, there's still two more guaranteed years left on Berroa's contract. As criminal as that may be, that's the old warden's mistake. It will be interesting to see which tack Dayton Moore takes here-rehabilitation, or punishment? Berroa's 2003 held all sorts of promise that the Royals had found their best shortstop since... well, yuck. Freddie Patek? Greg Gagne? Talk about punitive assignments. I'd think asking Royals fans to pick their all-time shortstop would be only slightly less pleasant than asking A's fans to pick their all-time second baseman.

Meanwhile, sort of a pity that Bernero broke down after giving the Royals a pair of winnable games. Sifting through guys like Bernero, Brandon Duckworth, Luke Hudson, Odalis Perez, etc., you only have to find the new Paul Byrd to call the exercise successful. There's nothing wrong with mimicking what both the A's and Expos did in the mid-'80s as far as making themselves a haven for any borderline guys looking to get turned around.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Placed 1B-R Andy Phillips on the 15-day DL (strained rib muscle); recalled RHP T.J. Beam from Columbus (Triple-A). [8/18]

Designated RHP Sidney Ponson for assignment; optioned RHP Brian Bruney to Columbus; recalled OF-L Aaron Guiel and RHP Jeff Karstens from Columbus. [8/19]

There isn't much to say here beyond that the Yankees handled their in-series roster juggling almost as neatly as they did the action on the field. They could afford to cut bait on Ponson, and I've already noted that it makes more sense to have Guiel on their bench (and on their postseason roster) than Phillips. Sweeping the five games from the Sox in four days does afford them the ability to give a spot start to Karstens and give Mike Mussina a day off. A control pitcher with four pitches he can throw for strikes, Karstens might be the second coming of Dave Eiland, which would be most people's idea of a decent fifth starter, but in New York makes for career Clipperdom in Columbus. He's done nifty work between Double- and Triple-A this year, striking out 115 and walking 42 (unintentionally) in 148.1 innings

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Outrighted 2B-R D'Angelo Jimenez to Sacramento (Triple-A); activated SS-R Bobby Crosby from the 15-day DL. [8/18]

Placed RHP Huston Street on the 15-day DL (strained groin), retroactive to 8/19; recalled LHP Ron Flores from Sacramento. [8/20]

Optioned LHP Ron Flores back to Sacramento; recalled LHP Brad Halsey from Sacramento. [8/22]

Losing Street will no doubt cause anguish in fantasy circles, but as Will Carroll has already noted, the injury shouldn't be debilitating or seriously affect Street's availability in September or the postseason. The pen still has a lot of good stuff in it, especially now that Joe Kennedy is back and Justin Duchscherer seems fully healed up. Ken Macha's increasing willingness to rely on Chad Gaudin has also made it easier for the team to pick its spots with Kiko Calero, so even without Street logging the glory stat, the pen's full.

As for Crosby, it doesn't look like there's much need to get worked up about whether or not he'll make a difference any time soon, because he's already managed to re-injure himself, pushing Oakland back into the question of whether or not they can keep getting by with Marco Scutaro as an everyday shortstop. He and Crosby each haven't been especially effective afield, but what are the alternatives? Antonio Perez isn't much of a second baseman or a shortstop, and using him (or Jimenez) at second and then playing Mark Ellis at short might not be all that much of an offensive or defensive improvement. Mike Rouse's hitting has been relatively flat since a hot start. Mark Kiger, for defense and some patience? He'd have to be added to the 40-man, but there's room, and he's not really a prospect, just another one of the 2002 draft crop that serves as a lightning rod in some circles. Bringing up Kevin Melillo? Again, he'd have to be added to the 40-man, but he isn't hitting all that well in Double-A, .283/.370/.437, although he has hit .313 and slugged .497 since July 1. Again, we're talking about the slender offensive contributions of Scooter and Ellis, so there is the possibility that Melillo would be better right now. However, Ellis has managed to sock three homers in the last week, and there's always the hope that he'll be the 2005 edition of Mark Ellis from here on out.

Forgive me the wheel-spinning, if you can. The A's could bring somebody up now that they've used Halsey as a sixth starter to adjust to last week's double-header and keep everyone in the front five on four days' rest, but they may instead elect to keep Halsey up and alternate him with Kirk Saarloos in the fifth slot.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Traded LHP Jamie Moyer to the Phillies for RHPs Andy Baldwin and Andrew Barb. [8/19]

Placed RHP Mark Lowe on the 15-day DL (elbow tendinitis); recalled RHP Sean Green from Tacoma (Triple-A). [8/20]

Optioned CF-R Adam Jones to Tacoma; purchased the contract of RHP Cha Seung Baek from Tacoma; recalled OF-R T.J. Bohn from Tacoma. [8/22]

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but I like the gesture. Moyer's still effective enough to ponder pitching next season, but a shot at the postseason on former Rain City exec Pat Gillick's watch in Philly would't be the worst way to go before heading into whatever post-career Valhalla awaits the sweet soft-tosser. There's a lot of maybe about the two arms acquired in return-Barb's a 21-year-old Pacific Northwest native throwing well as a reliever down in the Sally League and who boasts 198 career strikeouts in 169.2 professional innings, while Baldwin's an Oregon State product with low 90s heat doing a moderately good job throwing strikes in the Florida State League. That may sound cavalier, but live arms and A-ball go together like pets and dander-there's no coincidence in their incidence.

Jones' demotion was a necessary move, if one grudgingly made. Having already been promoted aggressively to Triple-A this year, he was clearly out of his depth, and now that the team has coaxed Ichiro Suzuki into center, the Mariners will now instead get the benefit of taking an extended look at Chris Snelling in right field, with Bohn as his right-handed hitting caddy. (Hitting .277/.334/.407 in Triple-A at the age of 26 should reconfirm that Bohn is not a prospect, but adequate enough as a spare guy, and a positive example to his fellow organizational soldiers in the Mariners' system.) Similarly, now that their notions as a team of destiny have been squashed, they're taking a look at Baek as well as Jake Woods in the rotation, rather than give Joel Pineiro a reprieve. That's all to the good, because Baek's had a nifty season in Tacoma, winning twelve games while throwing 147 frames, striking out 103, walking 37, and allowing 3.5 runs per nine. He's not a power pitcher, and his 17 homers allowed is reason enough to be cautious about him, but he's had an outstanding comeback from Baek after a disastrous 2005 spent in Triple-A, and it can't hurt to take a look at him over the remainder of the season.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Released RHP Chad Harville outright. [8/21]

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned CF-B Freddy Guzman to Oklahoma (Triple-A); recalled RHP Robinson Tejeda from Oklahoma. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Scott Feldman to Oklahoma; recalled LHP John Koronka from Oklahoma. [8/20]

Optioned LHP John Koronka to Oklahoma; recalled RHP Nick Masset from Oklahoma. [8/21]

Although Tonka Koronka flopped in another shot at the fifth slot, there's good news here, in that Tejeda had a particularly nifty start against los Tigres. He'd also appeared to have turned a corner down in Oklahoma, striking out 26 in 17 August innings while walking six. It's too early to give up on the Rangers, but I wouldn't interpret their trusting a slot to Tejeda as a resigned turn towards 2007. They're hard-up for starting pitching, as ever, but Tejeda's not the next Ryan Drese. Trusting in Tejeda gives him a shot at contributing during a stretch run and prepping him for his bid for next season's quintet.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Recalled C/1B-R Jason Phillips from Syracuse (Triple-A). [8/18]

Optioned RHP Dustin McGowan to Syracuse. [8/22]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Recalled CF-R Chris Young from Tucson (Triple-A); optioned LF-R Scott Hairston to Tucson. [8/18]

Traded OF/1B-L Shawn Green and cash to the Mets for LHP Evan MacLane; activated 2B/SS-L Craig Counsell from the 15-day DL. [8/22]

Dumping Green came a few weeks later than it should have, but at least they've finally gotten it done, and finally making it clear that the right field job is Carlos Quentin's to lose. This isn't a surrender, although some might see it as such, because Green will never again be as useful a hitter as Quentin is right now. The way to look at the deal is that the Snakes saved themselves $6.5 million dollars over this season and next (and counting the $2 million it would have taken to buy out Green's 2008 option), because they were stuck with paying Green at least $12.75 million regardless. Since Quentin will only be making around or slightly above the minimum over that same period, Arizona basically bought back $5.5 million or more from their payroll commitments to dump a declining player. That they got a pitching prospect too is all well and good, but the money and the addition by subtraction element are the two things that matter most here.

As for MacLane, he's very much a token. Despite his being only 23 and splitting the season between Norfolk and Double-A Binghamton, his assortment is your basic collection of lefty junk: slow fastballs, tumbling curves, and the occassional "gotcha" change. Everybody likes to bring up Jamie Moyer as the upside of a guy like this, but Moyer was more the exception than the rule. More often, these guys wind up like Ray Fontenot if they're lucky, and Blaise Ilsley if they don't get moved to the pen. MacLane's platoon splits this year are significant, enough to encourage making him a situational lefty despite his being a starter over his entire career so far: lefties have hit .195/.261/.268, while righthanders have hit .311/.352/.453. Remember, that's all righthanders, Double- and Triple-A both, and most of those guys will never see The Show without a ticket. It seems clear where his future lies, especially since the team lacks a good lefty situational guy, but it all depends on what Josh Byrnes wants to do with him.

The center field situation has been addressed nicely as well. While Jeff DaVanon spends time on the DL, the D'backs were effectively without a backup in center worthy of the name, and it isn't like Eric Byrnes is ever going to garner much consideration as one of the best when it comes to covering the alleys. So no time like the present when it comes to taking a peek at the center fielder of the future, their burgled bounty from the past winter's Javier Vazquez deal. Young's had a solid enough season at Tucson after a spring start slowed by a wrist injury, hitting .278/.365/.533 in his Triple-A debut. There are a couple of wrinkles in those numbers, though (courtesy of Jeff Sackman's indispensable Minor League Splits site):

Split      AVG /OBP /SLG     PA
--------------------------------
vs. RHPs   .301/.373/.578    335
vs. LHPs   .215/.344/.411    131
Home       .310/.382/.580    228
Road       .246/.349/.488    238

So, he's hit well in Tucson, the way almost anybody does, and he's been merely solid in the rest of the PCL, not that there's any shame in that-the guy won't be 23 for another couple of weeks, after all. I'm intrigued by the problem with lefties, because small sample caveats aside, that always seems to me to be something that could be fixed if it's a mechanical problem with his swing. Assuming his numbers snap back against lefties (he did hit .295 against them last year), we'll still wind up with the future All-Star some of us are expecting. If not, golly, the Snakes will just have to settle for a very good player, perhaps good enough right now to encourage them to non-tender or deal Byrnes this winter.

As for Hairston, he's in a tough spot, because his future hasn't got that sort of promise. He's a second baseman turned left fielder turned likely DH, and to successfully follow the Ron Gant career path, you have to slug well and make a good first impression. There's also the difficult political question of whether or not the Snakes will pick up Luis Gonzalez's option for 2007, although the option's mutual, making it likely that Gonzo sticks around. Doing so not only puts them out $10 million, it blocks Hairston, and now that he's already 26, his career really can't afford a fourth season with the Sidewinders.

Finally, although Counsell's back, he's back to find his job belongs to Stephen Drew. That's sensible enough, but with Orlando Hudson playing at second, there's really no seam for Counsell to work his way into some sort of structured role. All three hit lefty, and Hudson and Drew are the team's keystone combo from now into the distant future, leaving the old man jobbed. Counsell was a major steal on the free agent market two winters ago at $3.1 million for two seasons, but he's already 36, and he shouldn't fetch any more than that this winter. As a sort of Steve DeBerg of the diamond, he can function as a solid placeholder at second or short while an organization's top middle infield prospects nears readiness, as he has for Luis Castillo, J.J. Hardy, and Drew, but at his age, you can't trust him to be anything more than that.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Optioned RHP Lance Cormier to Richmond (Triple-A); recalled 2B-R Martin Prado from Richmond. [8/21]

Between the knowledge that Kyle Davies will be back from his rehab assignment in time to make appearance in the fifth starter's slot, Marcus Giles' nagging hand injury, plus having Willy Aybar on the DL, you've got John Schuerholz in crisis-management mode. So Prado's up and starting at second, while Cormier gets moved aside for Davies' eventual recall. Prado is only 22, and has split the season between Double-A Mississippi, Richmond, and a brief Braves cameo in April. In the minors, he's hit a cumulative .281/.320/.361, which pretty much sums up his offensive game-he's a contact hitter with little speed, and most of that sort don't wind up being Manny Trillo. Prado does hang tough on the deuce, so like Tony Pena Jr., he's slick afield and generally punchless at the plate, not exactly the sort of combination that's likely to get the Braves back into the thick of things.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Traded 2B/SS-B Neifi Perez to the Tigers for C-R Chris Robinson. [8/20]

Placed RHP Carlos Marmol on the 15-day DL (shoulder fatigue), retroactive to 8/19; activated UT-L Freddie Bynum and LHP Glendon Rusch from the 15-day DL. [8/21]

Placed 2B/SS-B Cesar Izturis on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of UT-L Buck Coats from Iowa (Triple-A). [8/22]

Discarding Neifi might be an indication that Dusty Baker's time is coming to an end, or it might just be a matter of giving the Tigers an assist and making life more difficult for those guys on the South Side, or it's an act of generosity, putting Perez on a likely playoff team when he probably wouldn't ever play a significant role on such a squad through his own efforts. Or some combination thereof-given the Cubs' terrible collection of minor league catchers, Robinson's actually sort of attractive, considering he's 22, has a good defensive rep, and has hit .291/.340/.369 in the Florida State League a year after being the Big 10's All-Conference catcher at the University of Illinois. He may not be any better than Geovany Soto, but you just got him for Neifi Perez, so it's a good pickup by Jim Hendry.

Anyway, the team does already have its better version of St. Neifi of the Flaccid Stick in Cesar Izturis, and Bynum's back as yet another speedy/slappy utility something or other who can play everywhere. Meanwhile, Ryan Theriot, baseball player, simply hits. I do think that a bench that had Bynum and Theriot as its primary infield reserves isn't too badly off-Bynum's probably a better shortstop and can pinch-run, you've got a lefty-right tandem, Theriot can hit well enough, and Bynum can also fill in as a center field reserve. Pace Coats, who has more pop than Bynum, albeit less ability to handle an infield position well enough to be anything more than an infrequently-spotted starter. Coats comes up having hit .277/.336/.366, not great, but this is his first year at Triple-A, and if he shows off his line-drive stroke to good effect soon enough, he stands a very good chance of getting a head start on claiming Bynum's roster spot next spring. The problem is that on this team these guys wind up seeming like the heavy-hitting alternatives to starters like Ronny Cedeno or Izturis. That's how you wind up with baseball's worst lineup.

Meanwhile, losing Marmol shouldn't create a rotation slot for Rusch. Juan Mateo hasn't done too shabbily, Ryan O'Malley deserves another start, and now that Rich Hill has a couple of quality starts under his belt, who knows, maybe Angel Guzman can do likewise. Ideally, this is the sort of staff that pitching coach Larry Rothschild will help cultivate, but I'm not so sure. Although you're only as good as the clay you have to work with, it's not like a lot of guys developed on Rothschild's watch as the Marlins' pitching coach from 1995-1997, or during his 1998-2001 stretch as the D-Rays manager. Joe Kennedy really wasn't all his in his last season in Tampa Bay, which leaves you wondering if Jay Powell his finest student. Guys with considerable talent like Mark Hutton and Pat Rapp went to pieces on his watch, and it's hard to know what effect he had, if any, on the development of Livan Hernandez or Tony Saunders. Rothschild may have two World Series rings--the first as a bullpen coach with the Reds in 1990, and the second with the veteran-heavy '97 Marlins--but there's a question that needs asking about whether or not he's really the pitching coach you want working with a young crew of up-and-comers, especially since Rothschild has been the pitching coach on whose watch Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have foundered.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed LHP Eddie Guardado on the 15-day DL (elbow tendinitis); placed LHP Chris Michalak on the Bereavement List; activated RHP Matt Belisle from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of 2B/OF-R Norris Hopper from Louisville (Triple-A); designated RHP Mike Burns for assignment. [8/20]

Guardado? Hurt when acquired. Rheal Cormier? Hurting, and not just because of how he's pitching. If there's a grievance pending against Nats GM Jim Bowden on the Gary Majewski situation, I'd suggest that whatever palaver is getting splattered about on the subject of Wayne Krivsky's integrity, the man sure knows how to pick'em. Hence your third-wave relief help, guys like Ryan Franklin and Scott Schoeneweis, not to mention taking a shot on the treadless Michalak. Maybe Belisle helps fix things, but I wouldn't bet on it. At this point, the Reds are ironically in the position of having to hope that Dan O'Brien pickup Grant Balfour makes it back in time healthy enough to make a difference. Not that Krivsky doesn't like giving ex-Twins a shot, but this is one he won't deserve credit for.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Designated INF-L Jason Smith for assignment; recalled 2B/SS-R Kazuo Matsui from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [8/22]

Before you start thinking that Matsui's rehabilitated, keep in mind that the former big league starter hit only .278/.328/.391 at Colorado Springs, the same place where the essentially punchless Omar Quintanilla has hit .282/.349/.389. Like a shrine to the memory of pop-rocks victims, it isn't just that hoping that there's any truth in Matsui's usefulness is wasted effort, the real questioin should be finding out why you hoped for such a thing in the first place.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Placed RHP Brandon Backe on 15-day DL (sprained elbow); recalled LHP Wandy Rodriguez from Round Rock (Triple-A). [8/19]

Designated C/1B-L Eric Munson for assignment; purchased the contract of C-R J.R. House from Round Rock. [8/20]

Placed RHP Fernando Nieve on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled RHP Chris Sampson from Round Rock. [8/22]

Losing Backe's not really the death knell of an Astros team for whom the bells have already been tolling-they still have an imposing addition in Jason Hirsh, and once Fernando Nieve's elbow gets rested, Nieve could always be moved from the pen back into the rotation. Rodriguez has had his moments as well, of course, but he's been sufficiently flaky to not seaparate himself from guys like Backe or Taylor Buchholz. The problem isn't that these guys aren't all talented or worthwhile, nor is it really that I think Phil Garner or Tim Purpura have struggled to pick between them. The problem is that they're talented enough already to help this team compensate for more basic problems, like trying to overcome the strategic decision to play Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett every day, or getting the bullpen straightened out. It might even be simpler than that, in that this was a season spent waiting around for Hamlet to rocket in, or for the Rocket to stop hamletting about.

Meanwhile, I'm interested in the more brassy tack, which is the comeback of J.R. House, former superprospect and Pirates washout. You don't have to be a history buff willing to note that the guy was born on Armistice Day to know that he's been extremely unlucky as prospects go. He had a tremendous season at 20 in the Sally League, hitting .348/.414/.586 for Hickory in 2000. But from there, he lost most of the 2001 and 2002 seasons enduring the repair of a couple of sports hernias and getting his elbow rebuilt, which contributed to nagging concerns about his defense. Even then, he came back to hit .288/.344/.508 in Triple-A Nashville in 2004, not shabby for a 24-year-old who'd lost so much developent time to injury. Put all of that in the context of trying to get your career ironed out in the Pirates organization, and you can understand if he had something of a malaise overdose contributing to a decision to leave the game last year and give college football a shot. Now he's back in baseball, he's hitting (.345/.393/.514 between Double- and Triple-A), he's catching, and at 26, maybe he's particularly well-suited to force Ausmus back down into an offense-defense platoon from here on out. If that happens, credit everyone from Purpura on down for giving House a shot. If he only turns out to be the latest iteration in a growing collection of retreaded hitters who can sort of catch, and wind up as major league backstops these days, that's not the end of the world. That said, I think House could be a cut above guys like Munson, Mike Rivera, or Rob Fick.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned 1B-L James Loney to Las Vegas (Triple-A); activated RHP Elmer Dessens from the 15-day DL. [8/18]

Loney did good work subbing for Nomar Garciaparra, creating the interesting question over whether or not the Dodgers will make a point of putting him on their first-draft playoff roster. The bench could use a lefty stick now that Ricky Ledee is a Met, but can Grady Little really bring himself to do something like take Ramon Martinez off of that roster?

Although it might seem sort of incongruous to have wound up with a pen numbering former starters Brett Tomko, Aaron Sele, and Dessens among its ranks, there's something to be said for it. All three can function as long relievers, leaving the team protected three-fold against a blown-out starter, and allowing Little that much more latitude to reserve Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton for really critical situations. I'd be more impressed still if Little picked correctly from among the three to find somebody to start instead of Mark Hendrickson, but that particular Colletti mistake has been survivable enough so far, in no small part because of how flat everyone beyond the Phillies and Dodgers have been in the National League over the last three weeks.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Placed RHP Matt Wise on the 15-day DL (ulnar neuritis-elbow), retroactive to 8/14; recalled CF-L Laynce Nix from Nashville (Triple-A). [8/19]

Nix has done what he had to do to make a quick good impression on his new masters since his inclusion in the Carlos Lee deal, hitting a quick .412/.452/.824. That's really good, of course, but it's also Laynce Nix, and his hot streaks have an uncanny ability to wind up drowning in a subsequent, even more epic slump. He is still only 25, so it's not unreasonable to expect that he'll make people forget Dave Krynzel, but count me among the skeptics until we see 400 good at-bats out of the guy who, before the deal, was hitting a pretty pedestrian .272/.324/.435 for Oklahoma.

NEW YORK METS
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Optioned RHP Heath Bell to Norfolk (Triple-A); recalled LHP David Williams from Norfolk. [8/18]

Acquired RHP Guillermo Mota and cash from the Indians for a PTBNL. [8/20]

Acquired OF/1B-L Shawn Green and cash from the Diamondbacks for LHP Evan MacLane; optioned LHP Royce Ring to Norfolk; designated OF-R Victor Diaz and LHP Juan Perez for assignment. [8/22]

Getting Green might represent a big move to some, but I don't see it. It's big in the sense that the Mets now have somebody less likely to go pumpkin than Endy Chavez, but that's a question of degree, because at the plate Green's already well on his way into the squash family. We're talking about a 33-year old player with old player's skills, and a corner outfielder who's slugging .410 when he isn't hitting in Arizona's dry air. Although the Mets are getting him for less than half of what he's owed between this year, next, and buying out his 2008 option, that's still something approaching $7 million spent on a guy who you aren't renting for the remainder of the season-you're stuck having him and paying for part of him next year too. Admittedly, Cliff Floyd's $6.5 million won't be on the books next year, not unless the Mets bring him back as a free agent, but plugging in Green for Floyd for next year's Mets means that they may well end up forgoing winter shopping for a corner outfielder, instead settling on Green while hoping that Lastings Milledge settles in at left. As plans go, that's not so terrible, since Milledge should stick, but the question is whether or not Green's going to be an above-average hitter in right, or even an average one.

Setting aside the long-term questions, I suppose there's the immediate value that Green offers as an upgrade on Michael Tucker and Chavez. Although neither Chavez or Tucker are any great shakes, take a good look at Green's performance: his Value Over Replacement as a right fielder is a weak 7.5, meaning he's not a lot better than people like Tucker or Chavez. The average right fielder produces at a .268 Equivalent Average, and Green's at .259. Although he was projected to do better, what he's done isn't that far from preseason expectations. At best, the Mets have a guy who can throw accurately (if not as well any more) from right, someone who will draw a walk now and again, and someone who might not hurt you all that badly if he's in the bottom of the order. That's not a masterstroke, that's finding adequacy because Endy Chavez secretly frightens you no matter how many times you blow his horn.

Although Williams made a passable start in his first go-through in the rotation, keep in mind it was against the Rockies and it was in Shea Stadium, or facing the third-worst offense in baseball in the fourth-best pitcher's park. Even then, he gave up three runs in less than six innings. However, on the half-full side of the cup, it's probably not what you would have gotten out of Jose Lima. There isn't much danger of the Phillies catching up, but unfortunately, there's also very little chance of Williams being an adequate replacement for Tom Glavine if it comes to that.

The more positive news is getting Mota. Although it's been a couple of years since he was pitching really well, and since he left Chavez Ravine, he should get the benefit many flyball pitchers get from moving to Shea (not to mention having Carlos Beltran patrolling center). Who knows, maybe the whole Rick Peterson coaching method thing will work with this particular guy-as lame as it seems for the Mets to try to claim full credit for fixing Jorge Julio, it's worth noting that Pedro Feliciano and Darren Oliver are both having outstanding seasons. Still doesn't add up to a Victor Zambrano-sized mulligan in my book, but your mileage may vary.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired LHP Jamie Moyer from the Mariners in exchange for RHPs Andrew Baldwin and Andrew Barb. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Scott Mathieson to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [8/20]

Placed RHP Tom Gordon on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/13. [8/21]

Placed CF-R Aaron Rowand on the 15-day DL (fractured ankle); recalled CF-L Michael Bourn from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; purchased the contract of 2B-L Joe Thurston from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; purchased UT-R Jose Hernandez from the Pirates; optioned Bourn back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for Hernandez on the active roster. [8/22]

As far as the trade goes, the arms surrendered are the sort every organization has, so kudos to Pat Gillick for getting Moyer, going for broke within his means, and giving the Phillies their best shot at actually making a run at the wild card. It wasn't all by design, but by running up the white flag on July 30th and dealing both Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, the Phils have subsequently gotten the benefit of an insanely hot streak of hitting from David Dellucci and now replacing Lidle with a slightly better starter. That isn't the product of genius, but it isn't the Phillies' fault that everybody besides the Dodgers decided to knock around aimlessly while their offense went off on a tear, and now they have a chance of undoing in one simple move what it's taken Wayne Krivsky hundred of man-hours to engineer. Losing Gordon isn't good news, of course, but keep in mind that now that Jon Lieber's back in gear and Randy Wolf is taking his turns, they Phillies have the added benefit of having Ryan Madson back in the pen, so they're not quite unmanned by going Flash-less.

Even if Rowand heals quickly, chances are he'll come back cold, and late September is too late in the year for him to get back in stride on a minor league rehab assignment. The implication is that his ability to be an effective contributor, either in the last two weeks of the season or in the postseason, is very much in doubt. The more important question is how badly they'll miss Rowand over the next four to six weeks, and there, I'm less concerned. Shane Victorino is pretty much the same player at the plate, and although his glovework lacks Rowand's rep, it's still solid for center.

If anything, I'm more concerned about what getting Hernandez represents. The lineup's notable hole is third base, before and after they dealt David Bell. Even with Abraham Nunez hitting .274/.361/.349 since the All-Star break, he's a temp, not a solution at third. Sources indicate that both Joe Randa and Aaron Boone have both cleared waivers, yet the Phillies go out and get... Hernandez? He's a fine platoon player and spare part, so you could use him against lefties at third or to sub for David Dellucci against a tough lefty, but you've still got that problem involving carrying Nunez as a regular. If Gillick would just address this issue, he'd help his club's offense, have Nunez around in a more suitable infield utility role, with the added value that the Phillies wouldn't have to carry both Thurston and Danny Sandoval around any more.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Sold UT-R Jose Hernandez to the Phillies. [8/22]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Placed SS-R Khalil Greene on the 15-day DL (strained finger), retroactive to 8/18; recalled RHP Mike Thompson from Portland (Triple-A). [8/19]

Optioned RHP Mike Thompson to Portland (Triple-A); purchased the contract of INF-R Manny Alexander from Portland. [8/20]

Optioned RHP Jon Adkins to Portland; recalled RHP Tim Stauffer from Portland. [8/21]

Returned RHP Chan Ho Park to the 15-day DL (intestinal bleeding), retroactive to 8/21; recalled RHP Mike Thompson from Portland. [8/22]

The Pads' lot only seems to get worse and worse, because between the mayhem involved in sorting out who's starting any given day, and now losing one of their least replaceable regulars, it's beginning to look like the Padres' stretch drive will continue to be a long, drawn-out stumble to the finish. They barely got Thompson into town in time for his spot start, Stauffer got thrown into action but happily reminded them that he used to be a prospect, and there's still no really strong idea of how heavily they can rely on Chris Young's shoulder, Clay Hensley's hip, or Chan Ho Park's vasculature, let alone whether they'll get Doctor Peavy or Mr. Jake from their staff ace in any given start. Given the amount of veteran help on hand, this isn't a situation like Arizona's, where San Diego is just happy to be here, and has all sorts of stuff to look forward to. This team is supposed to win now, and it's doing anything but that over the last three weeks.

Making matters worse, they've lost Greene. Although his .262 Equivalent Average only ranks him only slightly above the MLB-wide rate of .254 and fifteenth overall among regular shortstops, when you add that to his defensive reliability, you've got a solid asset. Delete that and try to get by with Geoff Blum or Alexander, and you're in all sorts of trouble. Now, I don't know why the Padres didn't really go out and get somebody they wouldn't be kicking themselves over if they had to play him at short in Greene's absence, but Manny Alexander is pretty much the definition of the guy you don't want. If you're in a "in case of emergency, get Manny Alexander" moment, you may as well have an anvil instead of a parachute as your fortunes go down in flames. Alexander was a sloppy defender and a non-factor at the plate in the best of times, and that's who you have to back up a utility infielder who can't really handle short on an everyday basis? Recognizing that they were going to get Blum back, they should have made a better effort to find a better minor league free agent, but instead, you've got guys like Dave Matranga (not a shortstop) or Bobby Hill (not a shortstop). Maybe Manny's all they could find, but I suspect it was more a matter of settling, because they made this same mistake last season, going so far as to trade for Manny Alexander on the last day of August last summer.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed INF-R Kevin Frandsen on the 15-day DL (fractured jaw), retroactive to 8/18; purchased the contract of INF-R Tomas De La Rosa from Fresno (Triple-A); designated 1B-L Chad Santos for assignment. [8/19]

Released INF-B Jose Vizcaino outright. [8/18]

Not to be cavalier, but Frandsen's lot is the wage of his style as a hitter, which depending on your point of view, is either hanging over the plate, or protecting the inside corner. What's really sort of impressive is that the guy had his jaw broken the day before he was recalled, down at Fresno, and he subsequently hit his first major league home run. That has to put him on the short list for the Mike Matheny group of the game's toughest tough guys, not that baseball has anyone like John Madden handing out drumsticks or whatever. The irony is that this realization came immediately on the heels of having DFA'd Vizcaino, and now they find themselves in need of a utility infielder. I don't think it's a setback that they have De La Rosa instead of the Vizzer, just noting that De La Rosa's good fortune to be back in the bigs is entirely a matter of convenient circumstance-although he was hitting .293/.352/.457, a lot of that comes from hitting .344/.412/.497 in Fresno's friendly confines. However, he's a serviceable enough utlityman, perhaps better than some of the names showing up in this edition of TA. Manny Alexander? That can't be right.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned RHP Anthony Reyes to Memphis (Triple-A); signed OF-R Preston Wilson. [8/18]

I'm not all that enthusiastic about either half of this proposition. Reyes hasn't been overpowering in his big league work, not yet, but when they're already rushing Mark Mulder back on the basis of his being more important to them and their postseason hopes than Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan, it seems to me that the wrong guy's getting shunted aside. Happily, Jeff Weaver has started doing good work, but a quick look at how everyone's actually pitched indicates that the guy who really needs to be bumped out of the rotation really ought to be Marquis, given that there's almost a win's-breadth difference between him and Reyes. Admittedly, Reyes' optionability is the key consideration, with veteran gravitas getting it's usual due from Tony LaRussa. But now that the team no longer has a safe lead in the Central, and the possibility that even the wild card could elude them being well within probability, I have to think it's performance that should really be the key consideration as to who starts or doesn't start.

While I'm not wild about the decision to sign Wilson, it's a solid stretch-drive pickup by Walt Jocketty, and you can't beat the price. Although some might expect that he'll do a nice Reggie Sanders impression, I'd anticipate something less, and if having him keeps the team from playing more productive hitters like Chris Duncan or (eventually) John Rodriguez, it wouldn't represent a huge help. However, what Wilson does offer is a better alternative to So Taguchi and Juan Encarnacion, and that's important, especially while Jim Edmonds' availability remains a question. If Edmonds finally does break down, you wouldn't want Encarnacion in center, and you don't want Taguchi in your everyday lineup. So Wilson makes a better option, although one you'd rather not have to use because you'd really prefer to have Edmonds back.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Activated 2B-B Jose Vidro from the 15-day DL. [8/18]

Designated RHP Travis Hughes for assignment; purchased the contract of UT-B Henry Mateo from New Orleans (Triple-A). [8/22]

As if Nats fans really needed a reminder that they've got a Minaya-produced turkey legacy to outlast, Vidro's back off of the DL. It's sort of a good thing-the alternative's Marlon Anderson, after all-but the problem is that Vidro's well into that portion of his career where he's a liability in almost every sense of the word. His limited mobility afield is murder on the Nats on double-play opportunities and on balls hit up the middle, his value at the plate is heavily reputation-dependent, back from his normal Age 25-29 spike. These days, he makes good contact, take a walk now and again, but there's not a lot separating him from floaters like Mark Grudzielanek... except that he's owed $16 million over the next two seasons, and his limited no-trade clause is only good through 2007, because he should be an untradeable 10-and-5 white elephant after that season. Add in that he may not have the lateral mobility to play third well, and who else would want him? While Minaya's reputation is riding high at the moment because of his affiliation with the Mets, Vidro's multi-year deal is like the Bartolo Colon deal, a lingering symptom of Minaya's irresponsibility during the waning days of the Expos when he was essentially without someone around to ask "is that really wise?"


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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