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September 15, 2006

Transaction Analysis

September 11-14, 2006

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Recalled RHPs Greg Jones and Dustin Moseley, 1B-B Kendry Morales, 1B/3B-L Dallas McPherson, and OF-B Tommy Murphy from Salt Lake (Triple-A). [9/14]

Seeing so much of the Buzz come up at once gives notice that Salt Lake was victimized by a Tucson team that seems to be having everything go its way in the PCL playoffs. McPherson hit a couple of homers, and Jones saved Salt Lake's lone win, but Murphy and Morales didn't have good series, and Moseley had to settle for a complete-game loss in a 4-2 decision. You know pretty much what you need to already about this crew--Jones could be a useful arm at the bottom of a bullpen, and Murphy's a fully functional fourth outfielder.

The guys to wonder about are Morales and McPherson, because the Angels have to hope both can challenge for the first-base job next spring. Morales didn't finish with much of a flourish after his return to the minors, and he's still very impatient at the plate, but he was only in his second season as a pro, and he'll turn just 24 next year. Concerns about McPherson's glovework at third might make him a better candidate for first, but if the club instead makes Chone Figgins its everyday center fielder next year, he might also be part of a temporary patch at third, pending the arrival of Brandon Wood. And both of them will still have to contend with the off-again, on-again, off-again career of Casey Kotchman. The guys who are actually keys to the franchise's future are Wood, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, but only Kendrick is ready, and how they're managing these other guys in the interim was part of the reason why the Angels are looking up at Oakland now. They might wind up doing so again next year if Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia don't correctly sort out the keepers and the roles, and given that they're generally very good at it, what they choose to do this winter should be something to watch during the hot stove league.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Activated RHP Tim Wakefield from the 15-day DL. [9/13]

Although I've banged on how the Sox handled the extended absences of David Wells, and seemed to freeze up instead of deciding when or if to trade for a starting pitcher, the more crippling blow was losing Wakefield in his first start after the All-Star break. Waiting around for Wells to drop in and finally help them replace Wakefield only exacerbated matters. Counting too heavily on Wells was going to be a mistake no matter what happened, but losing Wakefield turned a quasi-luxury with the hefty lefty into an immobilizing bit of doubt over what to do, and when. It might not qualify as a pennant-losing decision--Jon Lester's cancer was going to happen no matter what Theo Epstein did or didn't do--but the club's non-response to its suddenly thinned-out corps of starters was crippling. This after a spring spent regaling everyone about how great it was that they had seven good starting pitchers (eight, if you subsequently counted Lester). Anyway, here's hoping Wakefield is fine for next season, because I rather like the Sox winning or losing on the merits of what they've got, and not through their failure to adapt once the master plan blew a few gaskets.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Claimed INF-L Mike Rouse off of waivers from the Athletics. [9/13]

Not that there's anything wrong with being acquisitive around this time of year, because you never know what might fall to you courtesy of waivers and not all that many teams have 40-man roster spots open this late in the year, but I wouldn't get all that worked up about this bit of waivers snaggery. Rouse became something of an honorary Sacramentan after three summers spent in the Big Tomato, and his performance sagged pretty poorly after some initial good stuff. If they don't keep him on the roster, he'll be eligible for minor-league free agency, and it's far from clear that he's worth keeping on the roster. Do the Bisons really need a replacement for Joe Inglett that badly? Maybe, insofar as it doesn't look like Ivan Ochoa is going to add up to much, leaving the question of who's manning the keystone in Buffalo as something to sort out this winter.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Activated LHP Francisco Liriano from the 15-day DL. [9/11]

The risk's been taken and didn't turn out so well, so we're left to wonder about the butcher's bill. I don't think second guessing how things worked out is really worth second guessing--the Twins don't have any confidence in Scott Baker, they're in a very strong position to win either their division or the wild card, and there didn't seem to be any warning signs that cropped up during Liriano's rehab work. As our own Will Carroll notes, the problem is now one of diagnosis and subsequent courses of action, but there was no particular risk that the Twins ran, and nothing that rises to the level of irresponsibility. They tried to win with one of their best, and they didn't do so by risking Liriano's career.

The real question is how they manage without him, and it's clear that Baker isn't among the answers. Instead, the Twins are hoping that Matt Guerrier will fill in well enough. Theoretically, the fifth slot only has to come up two more times if Matt Garza can pitch on Sunday, but after Garza pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief of Liriano on Wednesday, it seems unlikely that he'll be able to make Sunday's start. That could create a third start for Guerrier: Sunday's matchup against the Indians, next weekend against the Orioles on Saturday and the last game against the Royals, leaving the Twins with Boof Bonser, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva queued up for the White Sox on the season's final weekend.

They might have alternatives after this weekend, because Rochester's playoff series for the International League title will have wrapped up one way or another, either with a Game Four win tonight, or after a final fifth on Saturday. They might elect to bring Mike Smith back up for Sunday instead of pitching him in Game Five against Toledo--he started Game One--but Smith's the only plausible alternative to Guerrier not named Baker from among Rochester's starters, because he'd be rested. After Rochester's done, it's always possible that they could call up Glen Perkins--he did just strike out ten Mudhens last night, and that might be worth something more than just making Jamie Farr go home angry. Smith also has the virtue of already being on the already-full 40-man roster, but since Perkins will have to be added this winter anyway, it isn't like Terry Ryan couldn't outright Garrett Jones or Dave Gassner, or put J.D. Durbin on the 60-day DL.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Activated INF-B Miguel Cairo from the 15-day DL. [9/11]

Not that I think there's really any doubt that Cairo will be on the postseason roster and Nick Green won't, but it shouldn't be an automatic decision. Although they're both utility infielders, they're also both utility infielders who can't really play anywhere besides second all that well. That's generally not a factor on a team that has A-Rod and Jeet likely to play every postseason inning at third and short, but if somebody got hurt, who would you rather have? Green's modest pop, or Cairo's postseason experience, bunting and baserunning? I don't think it's the wrong idea to favor Cairo's little-ball skills. Perhaps the only way Green makes it is if they set up their postseason roster to carry just 11 pitchers, and Gary Sheffield isn't really ready to play, and Joe Torre doesn't do something goofy, like reward Andy Phillips with a roster spot.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed 3B-B Chipper Jones on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 9/4. [9/14]

Not really news, unless you're the sort who gets worked up over whether it's the team or the insurance company paying the bills. From my perspective, it's really nothing more than a reminder of how badly John Schuerholz miscalculated in dealing Wilson Betemit for Willy Aybar and Danys Baez, neither of whom they needed as badly as they needed Betemit to cover assorted emergencies.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Activated SS-B Cesar Izturis from the 15-day DL. [9/11]

Izturis has started only two of four games since coming back, so Dusty Baker is being relatively flexible about playing people like Ryan Theriot. Either that, or he's doing what he thinks is helpful to the Dodgers, since Izturis started only one of the three games against them. However, like so many conspiracy theories, this one wouldn't stand up to much examination. Theriot, Freddie Bynum and Ronny Cedeno all helped beat the Dodgers in two out of three, while the Cubs were shut out in Izturis' start by Brad Penny and friends. (Wags might note that Dusty can't even lay down properly.) At any rate, it's a reflection of the club's quandary to come, in that Izturis isn't automatically that much better than Cedeno for your 2007 Cubs shortstop, and a Cedeno/Izturis double-play combo, however acrobatically neato afield, would suck a lineup dry on the scoreboard.

NEW YORK METS
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Recalled RHP Mike Pelfrey from Norfolk (Triple-A). [9/13]

The Mets' last three series are against the Nationals and the Braves, so after they take another shot at putting the hurt on the Marlins' playoff chances at the start of next week, they're into that exciting part of the program where they decide who to rest and how much, leading to sprinkling a few innings among Pelfrey, Philip Humber, Oliver Perez, and Dave Williams. The questions of who and how much really don't matter all that much, any more than the question of whether or not they get voted whatever fractions of a playoff share matters. Perez remains the interesting project for next season, while Humber and Pelfrey both have excellent shots at being part of the rotation of the future. Orlando Hernandez and Steve Trachsel are both free agents after this season, so even if you switch John Maine's name from pencil to ink in one slot behind Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, there are at least two slots theoretically up for grabs. However the playoffs play out, Omar Minaya's winter decision tree already has all sorts of tantalizing presents under it.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed RHP Armando Benitez on the 60-day DL (knee inflammation); purchased the contract of RHP Billy Sadler from Fresno. [9/14]

With time short, this might seem like a crippling loss for the Giants, but a quick glance at how well everyone's performed in the pen this season reflects that Benitez has been far from reliable. The question is really one of how many leaks Felipe Alou can patch from within with what he has on hand. Mike Stanton has been surprisingly effective, and Kevin Correia the crucial middle relief bridge from the shaky rotation to the "name" relievers (like Steve Kline and Benitez), while Vinny Chulk has been decent since coming over from the Jays. Sadler might surprise people--he cooks with gas, and overpowered the Eastern League and (more briefly) the PCL, striking out 79 in 55 2/3 combined innings, and allowing 28 hits and 29 unintentional walks. The question is whether he gets thrown in with Brian Wilson, Jack Taschner and Scott Munter--the guys Alou would rather avoid--or if he does something to quickly put himself among the manager's weapons of choice.


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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<< Previous Article
Future Shock: Short Te... (09/15)
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Transaction Analysis: ... (09/13)
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Prospectus Game of the... (09/18)

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