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March 27, 2007

Transaction Analysis

March 19-26, 2007

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics
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Optioned RHP Greg Jones to Salt Lake (Triple-A). [3/26]

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics
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Claimed RHP Sean Tracey off of waivers from the White Sox; placed RHP Kris Benson on the 60-day DL; released OF-B Roger Cedeno. [3/23]
Optioned RHPs Hayden Penn and Sendy Rleal, LHP Kurt Birkins, and UT-L Brandon Fahey to Norfolk (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Rob Bell and Jon Leicester to their minor league camp. [3/25]
Returned Rule 5 pick C-R Adam Donachie to the Royals. [3/26]

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics
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Optioned LHP Kason Gabbard to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/20]
Optioned OF-L David Murphy to Pawtucket; reassigned 1B/OF-L Jeff Bailey to their minor league camp. [3/23]
Optioned RHP Devern Hansack to Pawtucket; reassigned RHP Mike Burns to their minor league camp. [3/25]

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Optioned 3B-R Josh Fields, OF-Ls Jerry Owens and Ryan Sweeney, and RHP Sean Tracey to Charlotte (Triple-A, and subsequently lost Tracey on waivers); reassigned LHP Gio Gonzalez, C-R Gustavo Molina, and SS-R Robert Valido to their minor league camp. [3/21]
Optioned RHP Charlie Haeger to Charlotte; reassigned RHP Adam Russell to their minor league camp. [3/26]

This simply confirms some of the big rolls of the dice the Sox are taking this spring-Darin Erstad gets not just a job, but serious playing time, John Danks is johnny-on-the-spot in the fifth slot, and the experiment with making Josh Fields an outfielder goes back onto the back burner. To their credit, none of this reflects an automatic favoritism for veterans or prospects, just a commitment to seeing if a couple of Kenny Williams' winter gambles will pay off. Still, the commitment to Erstad is a major miscalculation, one that if the Sox are lucky will be taken out of their hands by yet another Erstad injury, or if they have to be smart, a mistake they'll correct with a summary judgment made in the face of demonstrable incapacity before they get too deep into May.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Optioned RHP Brian Slocum to Buffalo (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Jeff Harris and Adam Miller, LHP Tony Sipp, OF-B Trevor Crowe, and C-R Wyatt Toregas to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Optioned INF-R Hector Luna to Buffalo (Triple-A); reassigned INF-R Keith Ginter to their minor league camp. [3/24]

It's okay if you need to take a double-take seeing Luna's name on this list. While you could see it as a case of his losing his job to Mike Rouse or Luis Rivas (yes, that Luis Rivas, the ex-Twin; he's back, and he did play short coming up through their system), Luna really didn't lose to either of them as much as he did to his own glove. You might consider this a bit of overreaction, but eight errors in limited playing time is ugly, and if this ends up being something of a double-edged message demotion, hey, they do those things in The Show. If it gets Luna to shape up and get back to being a plus utilityman, that's good for the Indians, and if it reminds the fringe guys on the club that there are expectations, that's also good for the Indians. What's less good is the proposition that they won't really have a guy who can play short on the roster behind the eminently defense-sub-able Jhonny Peralta, but if Peralta's performance afield improves as much as the organizations hopes it will with Josh Barfield and Andy Marte flanking him, that won't be a problem. If it becomes a problem, ideally Luna will have earned his way back into the club's good graces by then.

The other potential cause for lamentation is the demotion of Adam Miller, but again, it's up to Miller to push his way into the picture, and there is an expectation that he will. If, in the meantime, Fausto Carmona pancakes during his brief trial during Cliff Lee's equally brief stay on the DL, that'll be important for the Indians to find out in April, rather than having to see it become a problem in June after some other starter breaks down. By that time, Miller should have a pretty viable candidacy for stepping up, and the Indians will have some worthwhile choices in case somebody in the rotation's struggling.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Optioned C-B Mike Rabelo and OF-R Brent Clevlen to Toledo; reassigned RHPs Craig Dingman and Dennis Tankersley, LHP Joey Eischen, SS-R Brent Dlugach, 1B-R Mike Hessman, 2B/SS-R Kevin Hooper, OF-R Cameron Maybin, and OF-L Brandon Watson to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Optioned RHP Zach Miner, INF-B Ramon Santiago, and 1B-R Chris Shelton to Toledo (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Preston Larrison, LHPs Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay, C-Rs Dane Sardinha and Steve Torrealba, OF-L Timo Perez, and OF/2B-R Ryan Raburn to their minor league camp; announced that LHP Felix Heredia has been unconditionally released. [3/26]

The winners for the last two roster spots were Chad Durbin and Neifi Perez, which is probably a pretty bitter pill if you're someone like Santiago. Still, reflect on the good news implicit in that news-they won't be carrying both Santiago and St. Neifi of the Wounded Wood. Shelton had a solid camp, but the team's already made its commitment to Sean Casey to live down, and if Shelton keeps mashing in Toledo, the in-season drama should really only revolve on when he gets brought back up, not if. As for Durbin, while it's a feel-good story in a minor key, he didn't really fool anybody this spring, and he's only sticking because Jim Leyland wants twelve pitchers, and somebody had to be number twelve. I wouldn't place any odds on his sticking around; the club looks likely to use the 25th roster spot as something of an as-needed position, with even more than the usual turnover.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Acquired SS-R Tony Pena Jr. from the Braves for RHP Erik Cordier; placed RHP Joe Nelson on the 60-day DL; reassigned C-L Matt Tupman to their minor league camp. [3/23]
Optioned SS-R Angel Berroa to Omaha (Triple-A); reassigned DH-R Billy Butler to their minor league camp. [3/24]
Optioned SS-B Andres Blanco and 1B-R Justin Huber to Omaha; received Rule 5 pick C-R Adam Donachie back from the Orioles. [3/26]

No word on whether or not Berroa's demotion as accompanied by tarring, feathering, and being run out of camp on a rail, but if any of that happened on the initiative of alienated Royals fans, you can understand why. Pena comes to camp with the shortstop job his for the taking, and getting him from the Braves was your basic bit of doing an old friend (and former employee) a favor. Of sorts-let's face it, this is Tony Pena we're talking about, not Ozzie Smith. Dayton Moore's intimately familiar with him, perhaps appropriately intolerant of what this team has had to live with from Berroa in recent years, and wants to provide his pitching staff with somebody slick with leather in a non-Rodman sense of the term. While we can all wonder why Blanco wasn't that guy, there's an argument to be made that Blanco's only 23 and might actually have a Jose Oquendo-like upside to him (and interestingly enough, Oquendo shows up among Blanco's PECOTA comps). The Royals needed a major league shortstop now, and that's not Berroa, and it's probably not Blanco, not yet. Pena's not really much of one either, but he's a placeholder that lets Moore send another message that this is his team, and that he doesn't have to live with any of the legacies left over from the age of Allard Baird.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Reassigned LHP Randy Choate to their minor league camp. [3/21]
Optioned RHP Scott Baker, SS/2B-B Alexi Casilla, and 1B-L Garrett Jones to Rochester (Triple-A). [3/23]
Placed LHP Francisco Liriano on the 60-day DL (Tommy John surgery); placed OF-R Lew Ford on the 15-day DL (knee); placed INF-R Alejandro Machado on the 15-day DL (shoulder); announced that LHP Randy Choate chose to become a free agent; optioned LHP Glen Perkins to Rochester (Triple-A). [3/24]

Talk about the roads not taken-no Liriano, that we knew. But no Baker either? He didn't help himself any, but how confident should anybody be about a rotation whose Plan A involves Carlos Silva and Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson? I don't think resurrections on demand can even be bought with a few Papal indulgences to be named later, but that's a rotation that transcends any exercise in hope and faith, and really involves wishcasting big squiggly numbers from your offense on a daily basis to be able to endure. I was really very impressed with Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire and how they swapped out last year's problems in the course of last season, but it seems like they're making that same exercise a necessity this season as well. As the Scottish proverb goes, he who won't be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rocks, but I had no idea there were helmsmen who so delighted in charting craggy courses.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned RHP T.J. Beam to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [3/23]
Reassigned LHP Ben Kozlowski, C-R Raul Chavez, SS-Rs Andy Cannizaro and Angel Chavez, and OF-L Bronson Sardinha to Minor League camp. [3/24]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Reassigned RHP Mike Mitchell, LHP Erasmo Ramirez, 2B-L Kevin Melillo, OF-L Charles Thomas, and C-R Landon Powell to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Optioned RHP Scott Dunn to Sacramento (Triple-A); signed RHP Colby Lewis to a minor league contract. [3/23]
Released OF-L Ricky Ledee; optioned LHP Ron Flores and C-R Jeremy Brown to Sacramento (Triple-A). [3/25]
Optioned RHP Jason Windsor to Sacramento. [3/26]

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Optioned RHP Cha Seung Baek and LHP Ryan Feierabend to Tacoma (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Renee Cortez to their minor league camp. [3/20]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Optioned 4C-R Joel Guzman to Durham (Triple-A). [3/19
Optioned LHP Jeff Ridgway to Durham. [3/21]
Reassigned 1B-L Hee Seop Choi and C-R Yamid Haad to their minor league camp. [3/22] Placed LHP Jon Switzer on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis). [3/23]

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned OF-R Victor Diaz and CF-B Freddy Guzman to Oklahoma (Triple-A); reassigned INF-L Drew Meyer and INF-B Desi Relaford to their minor league camp. [3/23]
Claimed RHP Ezequiel Astacio off of waivers from the Astros; designated RHP Rick Bauer for assignment; purchased the contract of INF-R Adam Fox. [3/26]

While I'm disappointed to see Guzman go down, he had a bad camp, and he's not exactly a good enough prospect to afford that, especially while Sammy Sosa's doing his Lazarus act, and not while Jerry Hairston Jr. and even Marlon Byrd are having good camps. Although both Frank Catalanotto and Brad Wilkerson haven't looked good this spring, it looks like Ron Washington has plenty of outfielders to choose from, and Guzman's going to be better off showing something in Oklahoma should the Rangers decide that Kenny Lofton's defense in center isn't survivable at some later date.

Leaning on Jamey Newberg for this particular insight, adding Fox is really about deleting Bauer; you have to be at 40 on your 40-man to designate somebody for assignment. Since it's expected that the Rangers will be adding Sammy Sosa to the 40-man and active rosters before Opening Day (and perhaps more players beyond), Fox will be outrighted back off of the roster at that point.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Reassigned RHP Pete Walker, 2B/SS-B Ray Olmedo, and OF-R Mike Vento to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Announced the retirement of RHP Ben Weber. [3/21]
Outrighted RHP Matt Roney to Syracuse (Triple-A); released RHP Pete Walker. [3/22]
Reassigned RHPs Blaine Neal and Brian Wolfe to their minor league camp. [3/24]
Optioned RHP Brandon League to Syracuse. [3/25]

What can I say, I'm going to miss ol' Goggle Eyes, even if he was mostly a setup star for the Angels, and those are the bad guys if you're rooting for Oakland, but if Weber's done, he's done. In a lot of ways, Weber was symbolic about what's been admirable about the Angels during the Stoneman-Scioscia years: a 20th-round pick by the Blue Jays out of the University of Houston in 1991, he washed out by 1996, when he turned up in the indie Western League, then scooted over to pitch in Taiwan for a couple of years before the Giants brought him back. A good season at Fresno was enough to get him his debut with the Giants in 2000, but a couple of ugly spins got him shipped back down, and he got snagged by the Angels off of waivers at the end of August. Already past 30, he gave the Angels three outstanding seasons, earned a ring with their 2002 championship, and then started breaking down. The herky-jerk delivery, a hard-boring sinker, and an ability to work effectively from the stretch, he was easy to admire, and a testament to a smart bit of scouting.

Elsewhere, in the abstract I'm disappointed to see Olmedo get shipped out, but an o-fer-spring camp has a way of killing off any optimism that he could sneak in his bid for the shortstop job. So, with that deletion made, who's left? Royce Clayton's camp only looks good compared to Olmedo's, while John McDonald has reminded people that if he really loads up, he'll smite singles almost often enough to make you see a latter-day Mike Benjamin if you squint really hard. Journeyman and Rule 5 pick Jason Smith is crushing the ball, slugging .651, he's a general infielder and not really gifted with the range for shortstop; he might end up soaking up some shortstop at-bats in some offense/defense switches, especially if John Gibbons decides to take a page from the playbook of his former manager, Davey Johnson, and go for some offense on days when flyball starters like Gustavo Chacin or Josh Towers take the mound. We'll see if he remembers seeing guys like Howard Johnson and Kevin Mitchell playing short, but if you're a Jays fan blanching at the prospect of paying to see a lot of Clayton and McDonald at-bats, you could always start a letter-writing campaign or something.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Acquired RHP Yusmeiro Petit from the Marlins for RHP Jorge Julio and cash. [3/26]

Interesting, but also a move that reflects no small amount of guts on the part of GM Josh Byrnes, dealing away his most-experienced reliever for a prospect before a season in which his club's got a shot at contention. But it's also an expression of confidence that Jose Valverde's ready to become the guy, and that with Tony Pena, Brandon Medders, Brandon Lyon, and Juan Cruz all lined up behind him, this is a pen built around youngsters with real talent and some element of exposure to the majors. Julio appeared to be a luxury the club no longer needed to afford, and having nabbed Julio for Orlando Hernandez and then converted him into Petit, this represents a nice bit of restocking for an organization that should be in the business of envisioning the eventual replacement of their current crew of veteran mercs in the rotation.

Petit had a pretty decent shot (and only one notable rival) for the Marlins' fifth slot, so this might seem like an especially cruel twist of fate, since he now goes into an even more churned-up pool of fifths fighting for the right to break camp with the team-between Dustin Nippert, Enrique Gonzalez, Edgar Gonzalez, Micah Owings, and Dana Eveland, the organization has no end of interesting choices. However, Petit's still very young, and he's joining an organization with a better shot, so I expect he's not too busted up.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed C-L Brian McCann to a six-year, $26.8 million contract with a $12 million club option for 2013; optioned RHP Phil Stockman to Richmond (Triple-A). [3/22]
Acquired RHP Erik Cordier from the Royals for SS-R Tony Pena, Jr. [3/23]
Outrighted RHP Jonathan Johnson to Richmond. [3/24]
Optioned OF-R T.J. Bohn to Richmond; reassigned RHP Blaine Boyer to their minor league camp. [3/25]
Purchased the contract of LHP Mark Redman from Richmond. [3/26]

The McCann deal is just the rewards that go with having already made a claim as-arguably-the game's best catcher. I know, it's early yet, but the questions about Mauer's ability to remain at the position make this a debate worth having, and even then, only for as long as Mauer isn't moved, which might be a lot sooner than later. Redman's stepping into the rotation isn't really a surprise-he really just had to demonstrate that he wasn't cooked, and he's done that in three spring starts. Kyle Davies has had a good camp, so consider this a case of Lance Cormier being doubly cursed, since he also just went down with a strained shoulder. While I'm disappointed that Stockman's been sent down without really getting a look, that was because of visa issues for the big Aussie, as well as back woes. He remains a great bet to be the guy who comes back and represents an improvement should retreads like Tyler Yates or Chad Paronto revert to being untreaded.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Reassigned LHPs Ryan O'Malley and Carmen Pignatiello, C-R Jake Fox, 1B-L Micah Hoffpauir, and 3B-R Casey McGehee to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Optioned LHP Sean Marshall, RHP Carlos Marmol, and C-R Geovany Soto to Iowa (Triple-A). [3/21]
Optioned RHP Roberto Novoa to Iowa. [3/22]
Optioned CF-L Felix Pie to Iowa; outrighted LHP Les Walrond to Iowa; reassigned C-B Koyie Hill and INF-B Tomas Perez to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Yes, Pie goes down, but he pretty much had to, and the good news is that there's a sense that he isn't really that far away. So, should Alfonso Soriano's play in center continue to conjure up unhappy memories of Jerome Walton's uglier outfield mishaps, they'll have the initial benefit of letting Pie get regular at-bats in Iowa, none of the drama associated with an Opening Day assignment, and the possibility of making the switch after a (perhaps inevitable) Cliff Floyd injury providing cover. That said, Pie didn't hit the ball with an awful lot of authority in the Cactus League, and he's still a relatively raw talent, but love him or hate him, Lou Piniella has a good reputation for working well with young hitters that he takes a shine to, and he seems smitten by Pie. Given that Piniella left the Rays with a sense of having been burned out by the experience, that's sort of a two-way warm fuzzy-Piniella might take some delight in instruction, and Pie might get some tangible benefits from it.

I know, you might be asking, "what happened to her?", but it's March, and we're all allowed to feel good about a few things, okay? Even the Cubs.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned RHP Brad Salmon and LHP Brian Shackelford to Louisville (Triple-A). [3/19]
Reassigned INF-R Paul Janish to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Released RHP Paul Wilson. [3/21]
Outrighted OF-L Bubba Crosby to Louisville. [3/24]
Reassigned INF-B Mark Bellhorn, C-R Ryan Jorgensen, SS-B Anderson Machado, and OF-L Dewayne Wise to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Shackelford was effectively doomed by Wayne Krivsky's latest bullpen shopping spree-there's no room for a fourth lefty, even in the modern bullpen, and with Mike Stanton, Bill Bray, and Rheal Cormier all drawing checks, it wasn't like they even had to bring up Shackelford's past issues with John Law. However, I don't think he's in danger of being outrighted or dealt-the only NRI with a lock on an Opening Day job is Dustin Hermanson, and the Reds are only at 39 on their 40-man, and that's without allowing for the possibilities of someone going onto the 60-day DL.

Credit the Reds for sorting out in a single camp what it took the Yankees several years to notice, which is that the Legend of Bubba is a story not worth listening to hear the end of anywhere but on a long busride to some International League destination to be named later. Send a memo to Andy Phillips' future employer dated, say, March 2009: pinstripes hold no magic power, nor were they tattoed onto the guy even if they did. The other move here that's a bit of Big Apple conceit is the maudlin "whatever happened to Paul Wilson?" angle, but to their credit, the Reds have simply moved on. You can dig up a grave only so many times before you have to realize you don't even have a roster zombie worth floating on the 60-day DL one more time.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned 2B/SS-R Clint Barmes, OF-L Cory Sullivan, and RHP Ubaldo Jimenez to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); reassigned INF-R Erick Almonte, LHP Mike Gallo, and RHP Matt Herges to their minor league camp; released RHP Danny Graves. [3/23]

There's no real surprise here-Barmes' demotion reflects the fact that the Rockies really think Kaz Matsui has something left, and they're going to prove it to themselves by playing him. Should experience prove a hard mistress, they'll ideally learn something from it, but it isn't like they haven't had plenty of warning. Should they prove right, they'll have... well, not achieved anything much, because it isn't like Matsui's a flippable commodity any more valuable than Barmes, which is to say not much. As for Sullivan, once the club brought in both Willy Taveras and Steve Finley, somebody was going to lose. Now is probably not the time for some career advice for Sullivan, but I have to wonder why Dan O'Dowd isn't pestering Larry Beinfest on a daily basis. With Finley and John Mabry both likely add-ons to the 40-man by Opening Day, roster space is at something of a premium for the Rockies. If Sullivan can't fend off the likes of Finley at the age of 27, he's not a great use of a spot in this organization.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Reassigned RHP Wes Obermueller to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Reassigned 1B-R Joe Dillon to their minor league camp. [3/22]
Optioned SS-R Robert Andino to Albuquerque (Triple-A); reassigned C-R Nick Trzesniak to their minor league camp. [3/23]
Acquired RHP Jorge Julio and cash from the Diamondbacks for RHP Yusmeiro Petit. [3/26]

Getting Julio for Petit might seem expensive, but while I dislike the exchange of talent and the expense of giving up some pretty tangible talent for Julio's "Big C on the cape" rep, I understand the reasoning. If, for the sake of argument, nobody in the NL East is a 95-win team, then the Fish have every reason to take their present seriously, and giving their bullpen some element of structure by providing an obvious "closer" gives them a better chance at breaking in guys like Taylor Tankersley or Randy Messenger or Henry Owens or Matt Lindstrom, hey, that's okay too. The question is whether or not Petit had some greater measure of upside than just being the guy who could have beaten out Sergio Mitre for the fifth slot this season. But if you want to get into discussions of the long-term, then Josh Johnson comes back into the picture, and Mitre becomes an expediency made affordable through some modest ability and a good camp. If Julio can thrive in Miami's heavy air and Johnson can contribute down the stretch, you've got a potentially dominating staff from top to bottom. If not, well, at least they're fielding a competitive product. If Petit thrives in Arizona, this will look bad in retrospect, but Petit's not Anibal Sanchez, he's not Josh Johnson, he's not even Ricky Nolasco, so as risks go, it looks like GM Larry Beinfest has taken a sensible one.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Optioned 2B/3B-B Brooks Conrad and RHPs Paul Estrada and Miguel Asencio to Round Rock (Triple-A); reassigned C-R Lou Santangelo and LHP Scott Sauerbeck to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Reassigned OF-R Hunter Pence to their minor league camp. [3/21]
Released OF-R Richard Hidalgo. [3/24] Outrighted OF-R Charlton Jimerson to Corpus Christi (Double-A); lost RHP Ezequiel Astacion on a waiver claim to the Rangers; acquired C-R Danny Ardoin from the Nationals for 2B/SS-L Wade Robinson. [3/26]

I'm one of the noisiest Brooks Conrad fans around, but let's face it, the Astros are in the business of playing record ball, and that means Craig Biggio über alles. So, no Conrad, and no Pence, and no likely improvement for that matter. If there's a club I think is prepped to take a tumble in the NL Central, I think it's the Astros, and it's considerations such as these that contribute to that pessimism. If you were Roger Clemens, would you come back to this? Will that even be a question if the Astros are playing below .500 by mid-May? That's sadly how contingent this team's season is, but I suspect a slow start is going to mean an even larger lost opportunity. A second-half surge, say, after Biggio's got his record and the club can get back to focusing on their own, should only underscore the penalty that goes with sacrificing a club's place in the present for one player's place in history.

If there's a glum note, it's the likely end of the line for Hidalgo, and while I'm still perplexed over how you can put Viggo Mortensen on horseback for 90 minutes and still wind up disappointed...oh, well, let's skip movie mistakes, and instead talk about the sad fact that Hidalgo's our first identifiable cover guy whose career has come to an end, and the first one to see his career end since we've been in business. Somebody had to be first, of course, and it's not a thing to be happy about. It wasn't until we got to Adam Dunn for the 2002 edition that we started hearing reservations from teams about having one of their own on the cover, including polite suggestions that we might prefer to pick someone from, say, a division rival, but the "BP cover curse" wasn't quite as epic as that of Sports Illustrated. At least that's what I like to tell myself-Adrian Beltre, Hidalgo, Adam Dunn, Josh Phelps...there's some real heartbreak there. Still, we've got plenty of career left to enjoy in Beltre and Dunn, and Phelps remains the best choice for first base on a contender, so we can hope that Hidalgo's disappearance from the stage is just a sad note for a group of guys we were justifiably high on at the time.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Reassigned RHPs Matt White, Jonathan Meloan and D.J. Houlton, LHP Eric Stults, OF-B Delwyn Young, OF-R Choo Freeman, and 2B-R Tony Abreu to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Acquired OF-R Brady Clark and cash from the Brewers for RHP Elmer Dessens. [3/26]

Hey, I love getting Brady Clark. The Dodgers need a starting center fielder, and if they don't think that Matt Kemp is ready right now this instant, he makes a nifty fill-in until they're absolutely sure. What's that? Juan Pierre, you say? With a name like that, what is that, a freedom fielder? What? There's a $44 million bill? Well, is he at least organic? Do I get fries with that? Man, this is the hangover that really keeps on giving.

As moves go, this of course has nothing to do with Ned's winter Waterloo, and is instead a response to losing Jason Repko (probably for the year), but it does have the added benefit of providing the Dodgers with a player who's not substantively better or worse than Repko, and one they won't have to worry about paying beyond this season. To patch this particular hole, Ned Colletti didn't trade something with any lasting value, just a veteran middleman increasingly squeezed out of a crowded, talented pen. There's not much to get worked up about, just a solid move at an affordable price. If the Brewers subsequently make Dessens a Red for, oh, I don't know, Chris Denorfia or something, that's just an opportunity cost the Dodgers will have lost out on.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Optioned RHP Dennis Sarfate and OF-L Drew Anderson to Nashville (Triple-A); optioned 2B-L Hernan Iribarren to Huntsville (Double-A); reassigned RHPs Yovani Gallardo and Luther Hackman, 3B-R Ryan Braun, and C-R Nestor Corredor to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Outrighted C-B J.D. Closser to Nashville. [3/22]
Optioned LHP Zach Jackson to Nashville; reassigned RHPs Mike Meyers and Corey Thurman to their minor league camp. [3/24]
Acquired RHP Elmer Dessens from the Dodgers for OF-R Brady Clark and cash; outrighted RHP Marino Salas to Huntsville (Double-A). [3/26]

Getting Dessens isn't an especially sexy move, and nobody gets named Executive of the Year by acquiring a moderately useful middle reliever, but there's a potentially unhealthy number of unrealiable commodities in the Brewers' pen, and with the near-complete turnover of the starting outfield, Clark was a supernumerary without a worthwhile role. I like the deal for both teams, but more for the Brewers because of the contact high with the decisions to start both Bill Hall and Corey Hart, and turn Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench from flawed regulars into a potentially productive platoon. If Hall's glovework becomes an area of concern, Greg Gross can handle spot chores in center, and if it really becomes a problem, someone like Tony Gwynn Jr. or Laynce Nix might have a reason to get kept around. Absent Clark, this team has plenty of outfield depth. Now, in the pen, if someone like Greg Aquino or Derrick Turnbow or Jose Capellan implodes, there's some slightly better depth, and I guess a necessary element of veteran caché.

NEW YORK METS
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Released DH-B Ruben Sierra. [3/20]
Signed 4C-R Fernando Tatis to a minor league contract. [3/23]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Optioned SS-B Danny Sandoval and RHP Brian Sanches and reassigned RHPs Ryan Cameron and Kane Davis and PH-L Randall Simon to their minor league camp; lost RHP Justin Germano on waivers to the Padres. [3/19]
Optioned LHPs Eude Brito and LHP Fabio Castro to their minor league camp; reassigned 3B-R Brennan King and C-R Dusty Wathan to their minor league camp. [3/26]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Optioned RHP Brian Rogers to Indianapolis (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Jesse Chavez, 4C-R Mike Edwards, INF-R Nick Green, and OF-R Chris Aguila to their minor league camp. [3/19]
Reassigned SS-R Brian Bixler and 3B-B Neil Walker to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Optioned LHPs Sean Burnett and Shane Youman to Indianapolis; reassigned RHP Kevin Gryboski to their minor league camp. [3/24]
Reassigned RHP Jim Brower, INF-R Yurendell DeCaster, and OF-R Andrew McCutchen to their minor league camp. [3/25]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Claimed RHP Justin Germano off of waivers from the Phillies. [3/19]
Optioned LHP Royce Ring to Portland (Triple-A). [3/22]
Reassigned INF-R Manny Alexander, 1B-R Royce Huffman, and C-B Luke Carlin to their minor league camp. [3/25]

Getting Germano back was a nice little snag, and considering that he's something of a finesse guy, I'd be interested in seeing if he picks up any tricks of the trade from Greg Maddux should he stick. Maddux has made a big difference to some of his teammates' careers (Frank Castillo comes to mind as perhaps the most notable example), although it doesn't get broadly advertised because the publicly soft-spoken Maddux doesn't spend a lot of time talking about it. Between Maddux's age, Jumbo Wells' various infirmities, and the concerns about keeping the enormous joints of Chris Young fully operable over a full season, snagging someone like Germano was both sensible and convenient. If they're not sold on Mike Thompson as their sixth man and all-around emergency plug-in, now they don't have to be.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned RHPs Osiris Matos and Billy Sadler, LHP Pat Misch, and OF-L Fred Lewis to Fresno; reassigned INF-R Luis Figueroa and Justin Leone to minor league camp. [3/19]
Reassigned C-R Justin Knoedler to their minor league camp. [3/22]
Signed RHP Jesse Foppert to a minor league contract. [3/23]
Reassigned RHP Tim Lincecum to their minor league camp. [3/25]
Reassigned RHPs David Cortes and Tyler Walker to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Prospects coming and going... I don't harbor any great hopes that Foppert's going to get things turned around just because he's no longer a Mariner; a year and a half since he was the headliner in the deal that brought Randy Winn to China Basin, he's still a guy with durability issues, mechanical issues, a lingering legend of velocity, and another player who has to make you say "hmmm" when it comes to Bill Bavasi's latest incarnation. That, and a reminder that Tommy John surgeries don't turn out happily ever after for everybody.

As for the demotion of Tim Lincecum, he didn't really struggle in his first taste of spring training, but the team has its fascination with the Russ Ortiz renaissance to play out. Sporting a newly girlish figger, Ortiz has had a fine camp, and has also made mechanical adjustments that have pepped up his fastball. I know it's probably anathema for some, given that Ortiz has been a frequently-flogged source of derision and disdain in performance analysis circles, but aren't these the elements of a successful retreading? The guy had a weight issue, and he addressed it; the guy was doing something wrong on the mound, and he fixed it. And while Ortiz was never a dominant starter, he did have a good six-year run, and we're talking about the fifth slot of a big league rotation. If Ortiz provides some solid innings-munching, he's an improvement over the Jamey Wright types, and if he falters, it isn't like the Giants will leave him in the rotation all season. That's because Lincecum's going straight to Fresno, so he's that literal phonecall away-if anyone in the rotation falters or breaks down, the Giants are in a relatively admirable position to plug in a starter who, while he may not get the hosannas tossed at Homer Bailey or Philip Hughes, is going to be a solid major league starter this season.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned LHP Randy Keisler to Memphis (Triple-A). [3/19]
Outrighted LHP Chris Narveson to Memphis. [3/24]
Reassigned 1B-R Tagg Bozied, INF-R Edgar Gonzalez, UT-R Eli Marrero, and C-R Brian Esposito to their minor league camp. [3/25]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Signed RHP Pedro Astacio to a minor league contract. [3/20]
Purchased the contracts of 2B-R Ronnie Belliard and C/1B-L Robert Fick from Columbus (Triple-A); outrighted OF-R Michael Restovich and 2B/OF-B Bernie Castro to Columbus; reassigned RHP Josh Hall to their minor league camp. [3/22]
Released 1B-L Travis Lee; optioned RHP Joel Hanrahan to Columbus; outrighted RHPs Tim Redding and Jermaine Van Buren and LHP Billy Traber to Columbus; reassigned 2B-B D'Angelo Jimenez, 2B/OF-L Joe Thurston, LHP Mike Bacsik, and C-R Juan Brito to their minor league camp. [3/25]
Traded C-R Danny Ardoin to the Astros for 2B/SS-L Wade Robinson. [3/26]

I know, it's hard to really refer to "excitement" and Nationals in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence, but I really like how things are playing out in camp. Although Pedro Astacio is never a sign of things going well, I like that the rotation has shaken down to Shawn Hill, Jerome Williams, Matt Chico, and a spellcheck menace to be named later (either Jason Bergmann or Levale Speigner) behind Opening Day starter John Patterson. Hill and Chico both have talent, and Williams is a guy with more notional upside than the Hanrahans or the Reddings. Rather than field a rotation that might have been a joke, Manny Acta's picking guys with potential to be something more like Al Jackson '62 than Jay Hook. At first base, ditching the still-lifeless bat of Travis Lee to take a chance on Dmitri Young at least has some plausible element of hope for a few good at-bats, maybe even a hot week or two somewhere in there. If Dmitri flops, they can turn to Fick, or remind themselves that Larry Broadway's horizons are somewhat limited, but in Nick Johnson's absence, these aren't the worst problems to have for a last-place club, not compared to the automatic depression that accompanies any decision to employ Lee.

The more interesting problem is how the middle infield is going to shake out. Is Belliard going to push Felipe Lopez back to short? Is Cristian Guzman's hot hitting this spring a reflection that the semi-worthwhile player of 2004 is back, or just a bunch of Potemkin PAs produced through heavily structured, favorable situations? A Belliard-Lopez combo at the keystone would be a pretty cruel thing to put behind a rotation that needs every break it can get, so if there's still a depressing note to be struck, it's that there's a rationale behind playing Guzman unless and until he shows that he can't.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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