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March 13, 2007

Transaction Analysis

March 1-12, 2007

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Reassigned LHP Garrett Olson, RHPs Radhames Liz and Fredy Deza, and OF-L Cory Keylor to their minor league camp. [3/5]

Reassigned LHP Chris Waters, 1B-R Brandon Sing, and OF-R Luis Montanez to their minor league camp; optioned OF-L Val Majewski, 2B/SS-B Eider Torres, and RHP Jim Johnson to Norfolk (Triple-A); released RHP Jose Acevedo. [3/12]

It might be a little bit of a surprise to see Olson and Liz get sent down so soon, but both are on the radar for late-season call-ups if they continue to clamber up the system's rungs with alacrity. Olson did better than Liz in last year's partial season at Bowie, which puts him that much closer behind Hayden Penn for the shot at being the guy who gets the call-up once one of the front five flame out. If Liz's problems with his stamina persist, that might hasten his move to the pen, but that would be a bad thing in terms of his prospect status, given the Orioles' accumulation of multi-yeared graybeards and mercs in the pen. There's no better place for Liz to beat that rap than in minor league camp. That done, he can join Penn and Olson in a group of guys who might press the club to let Jaret Wright, Steve Trachsel, and Kris Benson pack their bags after 2007.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHPs Edgar Martinez and David Pauley to Pawtucket (Triple-A); reassigned 1B-L Luis Jimenez, 3B-R Chad Spann, and OF-L Jacoby Ellsbury to their minor league camp. [3/9]
Returned Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Nick Debarr to the Devil Rays; optioned RHP Kyle Jackson to Portland (Double-A); reassigned LHP Abe Alvarez, C-R Dusty Brown, and OF-L Kerry Robinson to Minor League camp. [3/12]

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Reassigned RHP Eduardo Sierra, UT-B Kenny Perez and OF-R Kenny Kelly to their minor league camp; agreed to terms with RHP Javier Vazquez on a three-year, $34.5 million contract extension for the 2008-10 seasons. [3/6]

I know, given how much Monopoly money's being thrown at pitchers these days, something like $10 million per for an extension doesn't seem like such a big risk. I guess my reservations boil down to two problems: pitch number 76, and the effervescent charm of the Ozzeroo. Ozzie Guillen's a fine manager, as well as one of the few happy to challenge some contemporary conventions in his player usage patterns. He also gets cranky about some things with some guys, and Vazquez seemed to be one of the players who wasn't always on Ozzie's good side last year. That's somewhat related to the real problem, which was Vazquez's struggles past his 75th pitch last season-right after that milestone, opponents slugged .560 against him from there on out. Not just anybody, but everybody. Some of Ozzie's frustrations seemed to be directly tied to his wanting Vazquez to pitch more like a workhorse, and that seems to have led to some "challenge" innings, where Vazquez was put on the spot and took some beatings in the sixth inning or later to suit Ozzie's expectations for what a starting pitcher should be able to do.

If that exercise truly served some didactic purpose, and there's no lingering ill will, then I can understand Kenny Williams making the investment. Pitching coach Don Cooper seems sanguine about how things will pan out this season, and to Cooper's credit, last year's in-season tweaking of Vazquez's delivery helped him notch 86 strikeouts in his 78 innings after August 1. After Jose Contreras' development after coming to Bridgeport, it's easy to accept the argument that the Sox see things and fix them better than almost anybody, and that the pitcher they're going to get in Vazquez from here on out will be the guy that Cooper fixed up, and not the guy who turns the league into "every man a Vlad Guerrero" right around the fifth inning.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Optioned OF-L Brad Snyder to Buffalo (Triple-A); re-assigned C-R Javier Herrera and LHPs Scott Lewis, Chuck Lofgren, and Aaron Laffey to their minor league camp. [3/11]

DETROIT TIGERS
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Optioned RHPs Jordan Tata and Virgil Vasquez to Toledo (Triple-A), RHPs Eulogio De La Cruz and Kyle Sleeth to Erie (Double-A), and LHP Andrew Miller to Lakeland (High-A); reassigned RHP Jair Jurrjens and C-Rs Gabe Johnson and Dusty Ryan to their minor league camp. [3/12]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Brought 2B-R Richie Lewis up to their major league camp. [3/5]

Now that Mark Grudzielanek's out of action for the next several weeks with a bum knee, it's interesting to see who's playing second base for the team in America's heartland. In one corner, we have Esteben German, product of the farm system of those green-evil Moneyball statheaded California wingydingies out in Oakland, and in the other corner, we have Lewis, someone who originally came up with Dayton Moore's true-blue, traditional-values Braves' organization, fighting through injuries (including a broken leg) to keep his career going. I guess the statheads vs. old-school debate can generate all sorts of equally phony antagonisms, if you want it to.

Overdrawn caricatures of journalist-generated divisions aside, Grudz might end up missing a month, which means a nice opportunity for German to show people that his 2006 was for real, possibly improving his value as a deal-worthy commodity to a team that should have everyone with any significant service time available for barter. Lewis was a guy the Braves drafted out of Georgia Tech in the supplemental first round back when Moore worked in the organization, and who briefly looked like a prospect when he had a hot streak in West Tenn in 2004 in his first season as a Cub after being dealt in the Juan Cruz deal. That one blip in '04 was really his only productive season at the plate, and it was a repeater season in the Southern League. Any opportunity to build on that year was derailed by the broken leg that stalled him in 2005, and his 2006 season was spent marooned in a utility role back down in West Tenn. He'll be 27 in June, so there's no real upside here, and PECOTA forecasts a weak .233/.279/.317 line in the majors. What he's got is the benefit of a past association with the Royals' new GM, which was enough to get him snagged from the Cubs by the Royals in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Last year's play at all four infield spots as well as the outfield might be enough to give him a temporary hold on a utility role and get him onto the Opening Day roster, especially since it looks like the Royals will carry a dozen pitchers.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned LHP Ricky Barrett to Rochester (Triple-A), RHP Oswaldo Sosa to New Britain (Double-A), and LHP Alexander Smit to Ft. Myers (High-A); reassigned RHP Brad Voyles, C-Rs Jeff Christy and Korey Feiner, C-B Jose Morales, and INF-R Gil Velazquez to their minor league camp. [3/12]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned LHP Dan Meyer and RHPs Santiago Casilla and David Shafer to Sacramento (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Kazuhito Tadano and Connor Robertson, LHP Dallas Braden, and OF-L Vince Faison to their minor league camp. [3/11]

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed SS-R Michael Young to a seven-year contract extension. [3/1]

Young's pickup was somewhat complicated, in that the Rangers essentially credited him with playing time for his 2008 option year from his old deal, so that they're compensating him $5 million for that season, plus a further $80 million over the life of his contract, which now runs through 2013. PECOTA's valuation calculations alone suggest that the Rangers are making a killing. While some question his play at short, it does appear he's adequate at the very least, with David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range and Clay Davenport's Fielding Translations certainly suggesting he's a solid enough fielder. In contrast, John Dewan's Fielding Bible comments that Young has problems going to his left, something that has handicapped him both at second and short. You might expect it would prove particularly problematic turning the deuce around the bag if a shortstop doesn't move well to his left, but Rangers shortstops tied for the second-most 4-6-3 double plays turned (44, tied with the Astros; the Rockies led with 48), and they also finished tied for tenth in 6-4-3 double plays started. Now, admittedly, that's rough and dirty, and Rangers shortstops probably had more opportunities than most, but even if you dock them for that, it would seem that Young's fulfilling a lot of the responsibilities of the job. Will he falter before the end of his contract? Almost certainly, but offensively, he's among the best at the position, and if he can handle it defensively, I think we can see why PECOTA's got warm fuzzies over Young's valuation for the next several years. There's not a particular brand of genius here, just a relatively sensible contract being signed with a good ballplayer. Give credit where credit's due.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Reassigned LHP Jo Matumoto to their minor league camp. [3/7]
Reassigned RHP Beau Kemp to their minor league camp; optioned RHPs Josh Banks and Ismael Ramirez, and SS-R Sergio Santos to Syracuse (Triple-A). [3/11]
Optioned RHPs Tracy Thorpe, Jean Machi, and Ryan Houston to Triple-A Syracuse (Triple-A). [3/12]

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Agreed to terms with LHP Mark Redman on a minor league contract. [3/9]

If you're Steve Trachsel (or the Braves), you're kicking yourself for jumping on the first offer, but for Atlanta, this isn't entirely the end of the world. Although Redman managed just twelve quality starts (counting two blown after the sixth) in 29, if he can keep his PERA in the 4.90 range, he's not someone who will actively hurt the Braves' chances. PECOTA suggests that he's on a pretty narrow margin between usefulness and millstonery, but if getting away from teams like Kansas City and Pittsburgh can mean he'll be closer to just that 60th percentile projection than his weighted mean base projection, the Braves will have a solid patch to cover up Mike Hampton's latest mishap. While he won't have the air-tight defense as a Brave that we suggested would have to be a must for him to retain much value, Redman also won't have to play with an empty uniform at shortstop as a Brave, as he did with the Royals. Add in a pretty good outfield defense, and some good run support, and I guess I can see it all working out relatively well.

What I don't envision is Redman falling into a three-way fight with Lance Cormier and Kyle Davies for the last two slots in the rotation. Davies came into camp with too many questions surrounding his command and his control, but he's showing improved touch on his curve and generally better stuff overall. Cormier's limitations probably only make him the fallback if Davies loses his twin battles with his stuff or Redman looks totally cooked, but at least making space for Redman on the 40-man shouldn't be too much trouble, since they'll be able to put Hampton and Tanyon Sturtze on the 60-day DL.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed RHP Dustin Hermanson to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [3/1]
Optioned LHP Phil Dumatrait to Louisville (Triple-A); optioned OF-L Chris Dickerson and RHP Calvin Medlock to Chattanooga (Double-A); reassigned LHP Jason Kershner and RHP Tom Shearn to their minor league camp. [3/12]

Talk about hidden benefits-Wayne Krivsky didn't even have to trade anybody to get him. There are going to be concerns about Hermanson's back for the rest of his career, but he seems to be okay, and he's thrown in the upper 80s in camp so far. Since entrusting the full responsibilities of the closer's role to either Stormy Weathers or Mike Stanton seems ill-advised, bringing in Hermanson to be part of a closer-by-shifts set-up might work to the Reds' advantage. ("Closer by committee" is probably considered a slur these days, so let's steer clear of that pejorative.) No, I'm not entirely optimistic, but Todd Coffey and Bill Bray have a lot going for them, and if they hold enough leads for the old-timers, which old-timer warms which fantasy leaguer's heart is relatively small beer. Even if Gary Majewski's non-shocking shoulder issues weren't another Red pen leitmotif, snagging Hermanson's a good flyer to have taken. It's certainly not of a kind with a last spin on the Danny Graves merry-go-round.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned RHP Juan Morillo to the minors; reassigned RHPs Alberto Arias and Greg Reynolds, and LHPs Eric DuBose, Franklin Morales, and Josh Newman to their minor league camp. [3/11]
Released C-R Javy Lopez. [3/12]

To fantasy leaguers frothing over the opportunity to have Lopez hitting for them in Coors Field, and shoring up a weak field of catchers in draft pools, you have my condolences. The guy just really can't catch any more, and you can understand why the Rockies were more interested in pairing up a more all-around utile backstop like Yorvit Torrealba with Chris Iannetta.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Released RHP Travis Bowyer, and re-signed him to a minor league contract. [3/1]
Reassigned C-R Chris Ashby, RHPs Jacob Marceaux, Ryan Tucker, and Travis Bowyer, and LHPs Sean West and LHP Aaron Thompson to their minor league camp. [3/9]
Reassigned RHP Christopher Volstad, C-R Brad Davis, and OF-R Brett Carroll to their minor league camp. [3/11]
Optioned LHP Paul Mildren to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [3/12]

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Announced that Rule 5 pick RHP Lincoln Holdzkom cleared waivers as a preliminary to offering him back to the Cubs or reassigning him within their own farm system. [3/11]
Optioned RHPs James Barthmaier and Felipe Paulino to Round Rock (Triple-A); reassigned LHPs Stephen Randolph and Kevin Walker to their minor league camp. [3/12]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Released UT-R Damian Jackson; optioned RHPs Eric Hull and Zach Hammes and LHP Mike Megrew to the minors; reassigned RHPs Travis Smith and Dario Veras, LHP Scott Elbert, C-R A.J. Ellis, SS-R Chin Lung Hu, C-R Ken Huckaby, 4C-R Fernando Tatis to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Well, rats, Jackson's gotten released. What's more surprising, that we made the decision to make space for him in this year's book, or his outrage and Sammy Khalifa-like "I'm gone, I hate baseball, good bye!" exit from the stage? I've probably said more kind things about DJ than almost anyone else in the analysis community, but I guess I always saw him as a semi-useful roster space-saver-he could run, he could play seven positions, and he'd draw a walk now and again. In that family of Bloomquistian bottom-feeders scudding around looking for an open 25th spot and some service time, Jackson represents one of the more successful adaptations. We're a good five years removed from his last shot at regular play, so he had to be doing something right, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him show up on some team short on utility infield help.

As for the rest, Hu's fielding is going to get him up to The Show at some point, while Tatis probably made a mistake in signing with the team that already employs Olmedo Saenz to provide right-handed sock off of the bench. Hull, Hammes, and Elbert will all be back, although not necessarily as Dodgers, but one of these things is not like the others. Elbert's tremendous up-side probably makes him nearly untouchable once Ned Colletti starts making his perhaps-inevitable shopping trips, but Hull and Hammes might fetch the next Marlon Anderson.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Returned RHPs Luis Pena and Vince Perkins to their minor league camp; optioned RHP Marino Salas to Nashville (Triple-A); optioned RHP Mike Jones to Huntsville (Double-A). [3/8]

NEW YORK METS
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Signed INF-R Wil Cordero to a minor league contract. [3/7]

... because in case of Franco failure, you want a less-pleasant dinosaur around as an alternative. I'm not sure why he's getting resurrected yet again, since he has no defensive value and just one productive season in his last six, but say this for Omar Minaya: you know he'll never let an old soldado fade away (or go to the Atlantic League) when there's a chance to inflict a genuinely awful ballclub on New Orleans. Cordero? Ruben Sierra playing in an outfield corner? Hasn't the Big Easy seen enough in the way of disasters?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Reassigned LHPs Jim Crowell and Brian Mazone, RHPs John Ennis and Jeff Farnsworth, C-Rs Tim Gradoville, Jason Hill, and Lou Marson, C-B Jason Jaramillo, OF-B Andrew Beattie, and OF-Rs Lou Collier and Gregory Golson to their minor league camp; optioned OF-B Chris Roberson and RHP Anderson Garcia to their minor league camp. [3/12]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Optioned RHPs Bryan Bullington and John Van Benschoten to Indianapolis (Triple-A); optioned RHP Yoslan Herrera to Altoona (Double-A); reassigned RHP Brad Lincoln to their minor league camp. [3/6]
Released OF-L Jody Gerut unconditionally. [3/8]
Optioned OF-R Rajai Davis to Indianapolis (Triple-A); optioned LHPs Dave Davidson and Josh Shortslef, RHP Romulo Sanchez, 2B/SS-B Javier Guzman, and OF-L Nyjer Morgan to Altoona (Double-A); reassigned RHPs Franquelis Osoria and Allan Simpson, C-R Carlos Maldonado, INF-B Eddy Garabito, and OF-L Vic Buttler to their minor league camp. [3/15]

Gerut's release was perhaps more a generous gesture than anything else. Assuming centerfield belongs to Chris Duffy, and assuming Nate McLouth's one of the outfield reserves, carrying a veteran with a bum knee who also bats lefty and can't play center tots up to quite the list of reasons why the Pirates didn't really need him. Add that to Davis' demotion, and this probably means that Luis Matos will stick as the club's fifth outfielder-he's right-handed and can play center-but his ability to stay healthy is always going to be in doubt. We'll see how long that pans out, but with the club looking at Brad Eldred to see if he can make the jump to an outfield corner, I wouldn't get too worked up about McLouth or Matos.

As for the pitchers, Herrera's the Cuban import who wasn't really all that likely to stick, while both Bullington and Van Benschoten both have a lot to prove about the health of their respective arms. What's important is that both men's shoulders appear to be fine, and both should be able to pitch regularly in Indy. If they can do that, they'll be back in the mix for major league rotation work should Ian Snell really become a problem, or if, perhaps more predictably, Tony Armas Jr. breaks down.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHPs Leo Rosales and Jared Wells to Portland (Triple-A); reassigned LHPs Frank Brooks and Adrian Burnside to their minor league camp. [3/12]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Signed RHP Matt Cain to a four-year contract with a club option for 2011. [3/1]
Optioned RHP Kelyn Acosta to Connecticut (Double-A) and RHP Merkin Valdez to Fresno (Triple-A). [3/3]
Optioned 1B-L Travis Ishikawa to Fresno; reassigned C-L Steve Lerud, C-R David Parrish, RHP Kip Bouknight, and LHP Michael Tejera to their minor league camp. [3/6]

Terms of Cain's contract weren't disclosed, so beyond tipping your caps to Brian Sabean for dodging any arbitration possibilities for the rest of Cain's pre-free agent eligibility career, there isn't much to say. Whether you want to credit the White Sox or Indians or whoever with originally having the idea-and while John Hart made a name for himself with this tack, he didn't invent it-clearly what matters is that it's a good idea. Cain and fellow arb-erasure case Noah Lowry stand pretty good chances at being more important parts of this club's future over the life of their multi-year contract than Matt Morris will be for the last two years of his deal, or Barry Zito over the seven seasons to come.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Released UT-L Tony Womack; reassigned 1B-Rs Jorge Toca and Tony Blanco, INF-R Melvin Dorta, OF-Ls Wayne Lydon and George Lombard, RHPs Felix Diaz, Anastacio Martinez, and Eduardo Valdez, and LHPs Luis Martinez and Bill White to their minor league camp. [3/8]
Optioned RHPs Jermaine Van Buren and Brett Campbell to Columbus (Triple-A); reassigned OF-R Darnell McDonald and LHP Chris Michalak to their minor league camp. [3/12]


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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