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September 19, 2006

Transaction Analysis

September 15-18, 2006

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

DETROIT TIGERS
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Claimed 1B/OF-L Matt Stairs off of waivers from the Rangers; transferred RHP Roman Colon from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/15]

Purchased the contracts of RHP Chad Durbin and C-B Mike Rabelo from Toledo (Triple-A); designated RHP Colby Lewis for assignment. [9/17]

As much as I like seeing the Wonder Hamster get a shot at playing in some meaningful games down the stretch, I'm still disappointed that the Tigers didn't make a point of getting him when they would have been able to add him to their postseason roster. Stairs seems to be coping, speculating that Dayton Moore wanted too much from the Tigers, and if Jose Diaz does something for the Royals as a reliever, Moore observed his responsibility in doing the best for his franchise, instead of simply sending Stairs to the place most likely to put him in the playoffs. I would have liked it if the Tigers had made a pitch to get Stairs from the Rangers before September 1, because the Rangers' hopes were already flagging by then, but at that point Dmitri Young was doing good stuff for the Kitties, and at least notionally wasn't in danger of being ditched. Still, it would have made sense to add Stairs, since he could at least play the outfield, whereas Young... not so much, and it isn't like Sean Casey has done much of value since becoming a Tiger. Stairs isn't the hitting star he was seven years ago or even as good as he was last year, and at 38, he's almost done. Still, he's solid for doing what he does, mashing righty junk once in a while, filling in at first or the outfield corners as needed, and he's someone with some experience pinch-hitting. It's frustrating that he wasn't already here, but it isn't like Dave Dombrowski could put a gun to either Dayton Moore's or Jon Daniels' head and make them fork Stairs over.

Adding Durbin and Rabelo are essentially depth moves, since neither is a prospect. They might fill in during any blowouts, and start a game or two in the final week if the Tigers clinch a playoff spot. Rabelo's a 26-year-old career Tiger farmhand getting a reward after six seasons in the organization. Although generally seen as less of a prospect than Maxim St. Pierre, he outplayed St. Pierre this season by hitting .275/.350/.431 between Double-A Erie and Toledo. Neither one of them is anything more than a potential big-league backup, but Rabelo's season is good enough to earn him a shot at the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers, and get a longer look in spring training with somebody. I wouldn't bet on his sticking on the Tigers' 40-man, because both Ivan Rodriguez and Vance Wilson are under contract through 2007 at the very least. He's eligible for minor league free agency, so if he chooses wisely, he might log some real service time.

Durbin's also someone who might get a little bit of attention as a minor-league free agent this winter, but it'll be more a matter of his giving his team a rotation anchor for their Triple-A affiliate, reprising what he gave the International League champs in Toledo this season. He gave the Mudhens 28 starts, providing at least one rotation regular after Toledo lost Wilfredo Ledezma to their parent, and also Jordan Tata and Lewis for stretches. (The Mudhens were so short of starters they ended up having to use Brian Boehringer to start two playoff games--both of which he won.) Consistent with his career rates in the minors, Durbin struck out seven per nine innings, and he's basically your typical crafty journeyman, relying on locating his fastball and curve, and throwing inside when he must. Like most of his ilk, his upside is following in the footsteps of Pete Walker or even Woody Williams, and perhaps coming into his own as a major-league utility pitcher and enjoy a big-league career after 30 they way those two have. The greater likelihood is that he winds up like Kevin Jarvis or worse, and never recovering from the mishap of getting his best shot with the Royals. Happily for him, he'll get his share of nibbles this winter.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Recalled 1B/3B-B Terry Tiffee and LHP Glen Perkins from Rochester (Triple-A). [9/16]

While pitchers like Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano were diamonds in the rough nabbed from other organizations, the Twins have a deserved rep for being able to grow their own, and Perkins is the latest product of the Twins' pitching assembly line. Before the season, PECOTA compared Perkins to pitchers like Noah Lowry and Ted Lilly (among others), a comparison that's particularly apt in that, like them, he throws in the low 90s and spins a pretty nasty curve. None of them are especially big guys, all of them pitched some college ball--Lowry at Pepperdine, Lilly at Fresno City College, and Perkins at the University of Minnesota. There are less favorable comps on that list, of course (Andy Pratt in particular), and I think we'll all be interested to see how Perkins' success this summer will reshuffle his projections as well as his list of comparables. Striking out 134 batters in 121 2/3 innings between Double-A New Britain and Rochester is impressive enough, although the 50 walks aren't quite as nifty, but he had to overcome a bout of shoulder tendonitis that cost him a good chunk of time in July, and he was much sharper after he came back. It's not expected that he'll pitch in anything other than long relief or mop-up situations in the next week or so, but he'll be in a position to challenge Scott Baker, Matt Garza and Boof Bonser for a job at the back end of the Twins' rotation next spring.

In contrast, Tiffee's shot with the Twins is nearly spent--he can't really play third, and hitting only .277/.314/.377 down at Rochester isn't going to make him attractive to anybody in almost any role. Although the organization has developed some outstanding hitting talent, not everybody grows up to be a useful part. If Tiffee manages to survive on the 40-man roster this winter, I'd be genuinely surprised, especially considering how ready teams will be to ponder picking genuine Twins talent in the Rule 5 draft in December.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Acquired RHP Dale Thayer from the Padres as the PTBNL in their 8/24 trade of 4C-L Russell Branyan. [9/15]

Thayer's that ultimate example of a statistic's irrelevance, in that he's a minor-league closer, having logged 102 saves in his four full seasons as a pro. A Chico State product--ah, I remember well the days when Chico State was considered the nation's top party school, a fact that encouraged so many high school classmates to make it their undergrad institution of choice back in the '80s--Thayer's managed to achieve his success with a slider that's sharper than most minor leaguers are used to seeing. The problem is that he lacks the fastball to set up the slider, which he'll need against more experienced or talented competion. There's nothing in his splits to suggest that he might have his situational uses, so beyond racking up saves as a Bull or a Biscuit, and maybe a career as a pitching coach with a background in power-chugging, he's not really a significant addition to the organization.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Announced that 1B/OF-L Matt Stairs has been claimed off of waivers by the Tigers. [9/15]

How very sweet of them. Jose Diaz is sufficiently wild that he might not add up to much (57 walks, eight hit batsmen, ten wild pitches, but 91 Ks in 82 IP), so getting Stairs was certainly worthwhile at the July trade deadline. It didn't work out, but subsequently being agreeable enough to give the Tigers an assist and give Stairs a shot at doing something for somebody who matters was generous, and if it helps Jon Daniels pull off a deal with Dave Dombrowski someday when he needs something, so much the better for the Rangers.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Recalled INF-B Alberto Callaspo from Tucson (Triple-A). [9/16]

It might seem late in the day, but Callaspo belongs in The Show--he's only up this late because Tucson won the PCL championship. Callaspo wasn't the star of the series sweep of Round Rock--if anyone deserves to take a bow, it would be both Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings for throwing allowing one run apiece while throwing seven or more frames in the first and second games. Callaspo didn't have to star, however, because the season he had at Tucson made it clear that he's ready. At the plate, he got more than the usual Tucson boost, hitting .337/.404/.478, and showing particular promise from the left side by pasting righties at a .354/.422/.524 clip. Drawing 39 unintentional walks in 400 plate appearances against righties is a nice kicker to his improved power. Although he spent most of the year at second base, he started 21 games apiece at short and third, and as a former everyday shortstop, he's not just your standard second baseman-turned-utilityman.

The question is whether GM Josh Byrnes sees Callaspo as the guy who simply runs off Craig Counsell and perhaps Damion Easley as free agents this winter, or if he gives the organization the freedom to field offers for arb-eligible Orlando Hudson. Callaspo will be 24 next season, while Hudson will be 29, and as long as they're already taking the PR hit of letting Luis Gonzalez shuffle off to somebody else, they may as well mull offers for Hudson. They don't have to deal Hudson for it's own sake, but Callaspo seems prepped to step in as the regular second baseman, or at the very least someone who can split time with the likes of Easley or even Andy Green on the short end of a platoon. If a contender makes the Snakes an offer they can't resist, they're in a position to say "yes" without handicapping their ability to contend in 2007.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Recalled RHP Matt Albers and C-B Hector Gimenez from Round Rock (Triple-A); re-purchased contract of C/1B-L Eric Munson from Round Rock. [9/16]

Some odds and ends come up now that Round Rock's been routed in the PCL finals. Albers took a tough loss against Tucson after pitching a particularly good game against Nashville, but I guess I find that lone strikeout against the Sidewinders as a reminder that Albers has pitched a career-high 164 1/3 innings (counting his postseason work), and hope that the Astros are treating this as nothing more than a deserved reward for a successful jump up from A-ball this year.

As our own Kevin Goldstein has already noted, Gimenez has done some good stuff as far as refreshing his prospect rep, and slick-fielding backstops who switch-hit have value. He's still shy of his 24th birthday, and if this season's platoon split reflects an improving ability to hit right-handed pitchers with authority, he might be ready to claim a meaningful amount of playing time from the ever-slack plate work of Brad Ausmus. That would afford the Astros the ability to forego relying on the likes of Munson and his ilk--as much as I like the fact that guys like Munson and Robert Fick are getting shots as offense-minded backups, having somebody who can play the position well while also having some offensive upside sounds pretty tasty to me.

NEW YORK METS
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Activated RHP Pedro Martinez from the 15-day DL. [9/15]

Hold the presses, Pedro's a guy who gets upset now and again. Consider me amused over his getting emotional over his being pulled out of his three-and-out rocking by the Pirates, but his subsequent grousing for more regular work could become more than an emotional outburst. Manager Willie Randolph would be wise to take note that Martinez is the sort who bears grudges; as Josh Lewin found in his interview with Pedro to talk about his major-league debut, he still hasn't let go of how he was treated by Tommy Lasorda upon his callup by the Dodgers back in 1992.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Sent RHP Dale Thayer to the Devil Rays as the PTBNL in their 8/24 acquisition of 4C-L Russell Branyan. [9/15]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Activated SS-R David Eckstein from the 15-day DL. [9/15]

Eckstein isn't all the way back from his strained oblique, but Ronnie Belliard hasn't done much to keep his spot in the lineup during the intervening month, and the Reds conveniently decided to go away, eliminating any real cause for concern or potential pressure to get Eckstein back in action any earlier. To Belliard's credit, he has been converting an awful lot of double-play opportunities, so I doubt he'll lose his job to Aaron Miles once Eckstein is ready to start games again, but the fact that it's a matter of conjecture reflects on how very little value Walt Jocketty managed to add to the club this year. Belliard has struggled at the plate, Preston Wilson looks like he was on waivers for good cause, Jose Vizcaino remains himself, and the only thing that recommends Jeff Weaver is that he's not Jason Marquis or, worse yet, Mark Mulder. To make matters worse, after a stupendous August (.361/.438/.747), the league seems to have caught up to Chris Duncan with a vengeance (.191/.283/.426). So while the Cards don't have to panic, they also will be headed into the postseason with an awful lot of unhappy questions.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  A's,  Chad Durbin,  Stairs,  The Who,  Dale Thayer,  Triple-A,  Matt Albers,  Glen Perkins,  Team

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