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September 29, 2006

Transaction Analysis

September 22-28, 2006

by Christina Kahrl


IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

DETROIT TIGERS
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Activated 2B-R Placido Polanco from the 15-day DL. [9/22]

Polanco's comment--"I feel good enough to help the team"--betrays a becoming modesty, but let's face it, a gouty koala would probably be an improvement over Neifi Perez. The Tigers will still almost certainly wind up with Perez on their playoff roster, but at least it'll only be to box out the likes of Ramon Santiago and/or a 12th pitcher.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jorge Campillo from Tacoma (Triple-A) placed RHP Cha Seung Baek on the 60-day DL (triceps tendinitis). [9/25]

Campillo's return from last fall's Tommy John surgery is a nice enough feel-good story-the guy's elbow went "sproing" one inning into his first major league start in August '05. Like Baek, there wasn't a lot to get worked up about as far as the Mexican League vet: Campillo wasn't going to overpower people, just throw strikes and do better than some. When you're that guy and you're damaged goods, you move well into the deeper shadows of iffy-ness, even for an organization with a rotation as messed-up as the Mariners has been. Let's face it, we all expected a lot better from Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro on their careers than what we've gotten, and instead they're fleshy reminders of what nobody wants to see happen to King Felix. Campillo and Baek will no doubt take their places in the organizational queue next spring, as they first sift through who gets plugged into the rotation behind Hernandez, Jake Woods, and Jarrod Washburn.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Activated RHP John Thomson from the 15-day DL. [9/26]

The Braves obviously have reason to regret picking up Thomson's option for 2006. after spending $8.5 million for junk after getting one solidly mediocre season from him in 2004, it's worth asking if Thomson isn't a symptom of hubris that the Braves would always have pitching, and could just conjure up a league-average starter on demand. Thomson was a nice enough retread project, but between last year's finger injury and subsequent ineffectiveness, and now this season's problems, first with his elbow and then with a fraying labrum, he was also a good example of the risk when you get overly invested in aging marginal guys. For what it's worth, he's torn the labrum before (1999). Nevertheless, he was effectively (or ineffectively) the team's third starter after first Horacio Ramirez and then Kyle Davies broke down.

As weak as this season's NL playoff field promises to be, it says something about how badly off the Braves rotation wound up that they essentially died, not simply because Tim Hudson was flat, but because they couldn't cobble together solutions that relied on the other veterans they'd banked on. Those mishaps did at least open up an opportunity for Chuck James, but they had to sift through Thomson and Ramirez and Davies and Jorge Sosa. In retrospect, none of them were especially great bets for 2006. The Braves won't finish that far behind the Mets or Cardinals in starting pitcher performance, but where the Phillies helped themselves in the end by adding Jamie Moyer and getting both Randy Wolf and Jon Lieber back from the DL at the right time, the Braves stand as testimony of the perils of waiting around a little bit too much, and not even stooping to make that last deal that might have helped put them over.

I think it's clear that some pieces of clay turn into works of beauty, and others are just so much expensive mud. Thomson sans-p is that one key letter short of being the real tommy gun, but remember, lose that one letter and you've got an itcher instead of a pitcher, highlighting exactly what it was about the national pastime that Roseanne Barr was trying to lampoon back in the day. Is there anyone who forgets to remind Tom Werner about that? If so, shame on you--you should adopt that the way I've made that note to myself to greet Eric Clapton with "Hey, it's the Michelob Guy!" should the opportunity ever arise. I think there's no better way to reject celebrity culture than to remember people for the worst thing they did with their fame.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed SS-R Juan Castro to a two-year contract extension through 2008, with a club option for 2009. [9/25]

I guess this answers the question some Twins fans might have wondered about, as far as who was responsible for the madness of signing up Mr. Castro to his first, equally implausible multi-year contract. Now, there's going to be a goodly amount of uncertainty about who's going to be a Red in 2007, without even allowing for Wayne Krivsky's preferences; a lot of the veteran help in the rotation could leave through free agency, (or more appropriately, be invited to explore their options), and in the rotation, Kyle Lohse and Aaron Harang are both arbitration eligible. However, an awful lot of what was good enough to not go .500 in a "big year" is going to be back: Scott Hatteberg, Rich Aurilia, Castro, Jason LaRue, Eric Milton, Ken Griffey Jr.. Does anyone expect the Reds to get as much out of Griffey as they did this year? Does anyone expect Aurilia or Hatteberg or Milton to have years this good again?

A lot of that isn't Krivsky's fault. If the Reds were keeping with the times, we might see a winter press release reassuring season-ticket holders that you go into the season with the team you have, and skip worrying about the unknown unknowns. For that matter, I don't think that an offense/defense platoon at short of Aurilia and Castro is a bad idea in the abstract. But that's the sort of thing you fall into--during the winter, you want to find a better solution, not the one you wind up with. They didn't have to sign Castro to help them build that kind of arrangement at short, and in the same way that they don't need to give much thought to re-signing Royce Clayton, in Castro's place they could just as easily have turned to Rainer Olmedo to do the slick-fielding glove guy part of that plan, with the added benefit of learning if Olmedo's going to ever grow into being a solid big leaguer. I think it's pretty unlikely that he couldn't hit better than Castro's career rates (.232/.271/.339); forecasts from before this season suggest he'd do significantly better. Castro's already 34--do you really need to lock him up through his 36th or 37th birthday? We know he won't get better, and he's effectively a player of the quality where you ought to be able to sign him (or his like) for a minor league contract with a spring training NRI, and save yourself the 40-man roster spot to help you do some of the things this organization needs to consider if it's going to shore up its talent base, like active participation in the Rule 5 draft, and a vigilant watch on the waiver wire.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Recalled RHP Juan Morillo from Tulsa (Double-A). [9/24]

As you might expect from a guy with 132 Ks in 140 1/3 innings, Morillo can pump gas, pushing his heat all the way into triple digit territory. Unfortunately, that's about the full extent of his prospect status-however hard, it's a straight-as-string fastball, and his secondary stuff is ineffective when it isn't simply lost in his general lack of command. That helps explain the 80 walks allowed or the 5.3 runs per nine he surrendered in the Texas League. He was only 22 this season, so there's reason to expect improvement, and this was his Double-A debut. But his lack of command--especially against lefties, who walked better than once every seven PAs against him--is daunting enough to encourage the Rockies to simply make lemonade before spending too much time sucking on a lemon, and just see if the kid will get any sharper pitching in relief.

It isn't like the Rockies need him in the rotation, even if they cut bait on Josh Fogg. Between Jason Jennings, Byung-Hyun Kim, Aaron Cook, and Jeff Francis, they're pretty well set on their front four, and they can afford to take the time to look at Denny Bautista in the fifth slot next spring. If they convert Morillo to relief work this winter, or send him back to Tulsa to work on it next spring, I wouldn't be surprised.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Outrighted SS-R Chris Barnwell and RHP Chris Demaria to Nashville (Triple-A). [9/26]

NEW YORK METS
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Activated C-R Ramon Castro from the 60-day DL; designated C-R Kelly Stinnett for assignment. [9/27]

Okay, Castro's presumably okay, and the Mets have themselves a worthwhile backup catcher again, and everything's ducky, right? I guess I'd still fidget over whether they really should have DFA'd Stinnett, because if Castro or Paul Lo Duca got wiped out in a collision this weekend, do you really want to have Mike DiFelice? DiFelice's bat is deader than Elvis, and his reputation as a catch-and-throw doesn't look so hot when seven of eight thieves have safely snagged bases against him in his brief action. I know, it's small beer, and I'm not arguing that you want Stinnett either--I'd just rather have a choice in the scenario where either Lo Duca or Castro are unavailable, and I don't see why the team couldn't have instead DFA'd Ruben Gotay or Ricky Ledee. But again, getting Castro back is good news, and adding that to the fact that Lo Duca didn't go into another one of his stretch-drive fades, even slugging .448 since August 1, and the Mets have every reason to feel pretty comfortable about their postseason catching setup.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Outrighted C-R Tim Gradoville to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [9/23]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Activated RHPs Chan Ho Park and Scott Williamson from the 15-day DL. [9/22]

In each case, it's nice to see them both able to get back into uniform, but like Ryan Klesko, there really shouldn't be any question of their making the postseason roster. There's no way to invest much faith that any of them are close to 100%--Williamson is probably going to have to have surgery this winter, Park is going to have demonstrate that he's healthy to continue his career in something a lot less important than a playoff game, and Klesko's shoulder injury should pre-empt any question of his getting the Viking Funeral package (Tony Curtis and wild dogs not included) on his way out of the organization.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Picked up the club's 2008 option on general manager Walt Jocketty; named Jeff Luhnow vice president of scouting and player development. [9/22]

I'm surprised it took this long, because however disappointing the stretch has been for the Cards, things are much the same as they've always been, and actually seem to be getting better in terms of player development. As much as I think everyone should be reasonably disappointed that Jocketty wasn't able to pull his usual rabbits out of his hat at either of the last two trading deadlines, that should in no way undermine the good works he's done now and in the past. Although I was skeptical about picking up either Ron Belliard and Preston Wilson, getting Jeff Weaver seemed like a godsend at the time. If I'd levy a complaint, it would be about last winter's additions-it shouldn't have surprised anyone that Gary Bennett's not very useful to a team that needed a more potent alternative to Yadier Molina, or that Juan Encarnacion isn't a significant source of offense for a right fielder. Giving Encarnacion a three-year deal for $15 million certainly doesn't seem like the best possible exploitation of the organization's appropriately well-regarded reputation for attracting free agents with its four-point package of "great team, great organization, great city, great fans."

A lot of this year's problem has been coping with the uncertainty of who from among their starting pitchers they could rely upon, and while their patience with Jason Marquis has been maddening--is there a squiggly number the man can't generate?--that same patience has served them well with Jeff Suppan. Assuming the Cardinals survive this weekend and luck out by clinching before Sunday, the Division Series schedule would allow them to line up Chris Carpenter, Suppan, Weaver, and Anthony Reyes, and escape having to use Marquis at all. Considering how everyone's pitched as Cardinals, skipping Marquis makes all sorts of sense. Even if Carpenter has to pitch on Sunday, they'd still be able to get him on the mound by Game Three, and that could actually be a boon if the Cards won either of the first two games without him.


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:  The Who,  Statistics,  Ramon Castro,  Year Of The Injury,  Team

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