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April 19, 2007

Transaction Analysis

April 15-18

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Activated RHP Jered Weaver from the 15-day DL; designated RHP Greg Jones for assignment. [4/17]
Placed 2B-R Howie Kendrick on the 15-day DL (broken finger). [4/18]

Weaver's back, and Bartolo Colon should be reactivated to start in this weekend's series against the Mariners, so the rotation's back at something like full strength, even with Kelvim Escobar on the DL. Punted back to the pen was Dustin Moseley after two quality starts; the real question about tomorrow's roster move involving Colon is whether they push Moseley back down to Salt Lake to continue starting, or if they kick Chris Bootcheck back down. As is, having finally pushed Greg Jones off of the 40-man after nearly six years on it (and getting only 42 major league innings from him in that time), they've got talent to burn. While Jones struggled, he's still potentially good enough to stick with somebody-we'll have to see if Bill Stoneman can flip him for cash or a non-40-man warm body.

I've made no bones about the fact that I'm an A's fan, but I'm bummed to see Kendrick break down. Not just because I'm a baseball fan in general, but because Kendrick is such a superb talent, the sort of guy I'm going to enjoy watching. It's a matter of respect-the Angels are a worthy and frightening foe, and it's the guys like Kendrick, or Brandon Wood, or Jered Weaver that are the among the many reasons why. That other team in the area, the one that isn't in Anaheim, they may get all the props for their farm system, and guys like Tony Reagins and Eddie Bane may not have the same Q factor as Logan White, but the Angels just keep bringing up people who aren't just good, they're short-list best-at-their-position candidates for a decade to come. Kendrick had been the Angels' best non-Vladi hitter in the early going, but the Angels being the Angels, they have some pretty sweet contingencies. For starters, they can paste Erick Aybar into the job at second base, and once Chone Figgins comes back in another couple of weeks, they can alternate between Aybar, Figgins, and Maicer Izturis at second or third.

That's the merely neat plan. There's also the go-for-throat alternative, which is to bring up Brandon Wood right now, put him at third, and use Aybar and Izturis at second. After a cold start, Wood's bat has heated up enough to get his numbers to .293/.373/.534-good, but still Salt Lake inflated and merely solid. Perhaps because Figgins isn't so far from coming off of the DL, and because the Angels might like to bring up Wood once, and then write his name as their third baseman of the present in concrete, they might just wing it and bring someone else up to shake up their need for offensive production at first base of the outfield corners. Kendry Morales isn't hitting (.314/.340/.412 is really weak for Utah), but Terry Evans is, 375/.404/.708, and if they brought him up, it might be an opportunity to give DH at-bats to Vladi once he can get back into the lineup. While that might seem to leave the Angels shallow at second and third, remember that DH Shea Hillenbrand can play third in moments of need, and Robb Quinlan makes a solid spot starter against lefties at either infield corner, so they're not that shallow if they don't call up Wood.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed CF-L Corey Patterson on the Bereavement List; optioned LHP Kurt Birkins to Norfolk (Triple-A); recalled OF-L Adam Stern from Norfolk; purchased the contract of OF-R Jon Knott from Norfolk. [4/16]
Reactivated CF-L Corey Patterson from the Bereavement List; optioned OF-L Adam Stern back to Norfolk. [4/18]

Okay, this is progress of a sort. Admittedly, getting to 13 position players is just preparatory to the return of Jay Payton from the DL, and that this probably won't be a long stay for Knott. However, Knott has his uses, as a power righty bat for the outfield to spot in for Jay Gibbons or Nick Markakis, maybe even as a prospective platoon partner with Aubrey Huff at first base. He popped a pinch homer in his first game as an Oriole, and then reached base three times in last night's start against Scott Kazmir, and if he's going to stick, it's exactly this sort of start that he needs to do so. He's already 28, so there's no real upside, but after four straight seasons with 25 or more homers at Double-A or above, you could do a lot worse than having him around. About the only way he could stick is if the Orioles somehow tired of Chris Gomez (unlikely, that), or someone got hurt-someone like, say, the fragile Chris Gomez. We'll have to see, but in the meantime, the bullpen's back down to "only" seven relievers; it's a sign of the madness of our times if I have to endorse a seven-man pen as progress.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Placed OF-L Scott Podsednik on the 15-day DL (pulled adductor), retroactive to 4/16; recalled LHP Boone Logan from Charlotte (Triple-A). [4/17]

Losing Podzilla is sort of good news, after a fashion, if only because it might generate playing time for Brian Anderson, or Rob Mackowiak, or somebody, and any or all of them would be hard-pressed to hit worse than Darin Erstad. Thataways, once Podsednik comes off of the DL, maybe they'll have finally come to grips with the fact that Erstad's put up one good season in the last six. Consider the projected EqAs for the guys in the outfield not named Jermaine Dye:

Player        Projected EqA
Erstad        .219
Anderson      .267
Podsednik     .256
Mackowiak     .259
Ozuna         .234

Now, PECOTA isn't just being mean here, it's spitting out a projection based on the fact that Erstad's got all of the fragility of Freddy Lynn or Jim Edmonds, without the ability to hit like Lynn or Edmonds. Drawing from his list of most comparable players, we're instead left with the more easily-broken version of Chris Singleton, White Sox center field castoff. Is this really who you want to hitch your wagon to? The nice thing, as I've mentioned, is that this is a fixable problem. It just takes the willpower to make it so, and all the bold talk and colorful language in the meantime represents nothing more than smoke screen of defensive bloviation.

Meanwhile, by bringing back last season's A-ball to the majors pet project Boone Logan, the Sox are up to a dozen hurlers, including that always-important third lefty. However, to be fair, keep in mind that Bobby Jenks is pitching through some issues of his own, which in turn might push Ozzie Guillen to reserve Matt Thornton and Mike MacDougal for later in-game on particular evenings. Logan basically gives them a portsider to employ earlier or in situations where they're down, and might have used Andy Sisco were they not dealing with Jenks' problems.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Activated UT-L Joe Inglett from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Buffalo (Triple-A). [4/18]

Well, I guess it just sucks to be him, but Inglett chose a lousy time to get hurt, and with Jhonny Peralta off to a hot start and Andy Marte and Josh Barfield playing every day, it isn't like there was going to be all that much playing time for him. A few weeks' worth of at-bats with the Bisons will make him a better potential call-up if any of the starting infielders break down, and that'll probably be his opportunity to take back his job from Mike Rouse.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Placed RHPs Carl Pavano (stiffness... forearm stiffness) and Mike Mussina (strained hamstring) on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Chris Britton from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [4/15]
Recalled LHP Chase Wright from Trenton (Double-A). [4/16]

There isn't a lot I can add to Joe Sheehan's take from yesterday-yes, it's very inconvenient to have so many of the 'name' guys down at this particular moment, but Jeff Karstens will be back this weekend, Chien-ming Wang will start next Tuesday, and that gives the Yankees a pair of threesomes-the guys they'll definitely start (Wang, Andy Pettitte, and Kei Igawa), and the ones they can be fickle with (Karstens, Darrell Rasner, and Wright).

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Signed 2B-R Jose Lopez to a four-year contract with a club option for 2011. [4/18]

The terms haven't been disclosed yet, but the sensibility seems to be akin to that which guided Bill Bavasi's decision to amply reward Yuniesky Betancourt last week, and that's entirely defensible.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Placed LHP B.J. Ryan on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Jamie Vermilyea from Syracuse (Triple-A); transferred LHP Davis Romero from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/15]
Placed 3B-R Troy Glaus on the 15-day DL; recalled 2B-R Ryan Roberts from Syracuse. [4/16]

Unlike losing Reed Johnson, where the club has a talented and ready alternative in Adam Lind, it's losses like these that might expose how hollow the Jays' bid at contention is. However, while losing Ryan isn't good news, the Jays have enough talent in their pen that they might do just fine-Jason Frasor can be as overpowering as the contemporary concept of what a closer is supposed to be, and even Ryan's ability to pitch multiple innings can be soaked up by the presence in the pen of former starters like Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen. The greater danger is that the Jays use somebody like Victor Zambrano in an important situation, but even that isn't necessary, not when they still have Jeremy Accardo and lefty Scott Downs. Calling up Vermilyea is sort of interesting-he's another one of the organization's college strike-throwers who didn't quite grow up to be what they originally thought, but he's a sinkerballer who generates a ton of groundball outs, and who can also mix in slider, splitter, and changeup. He's never been dominant, and he's not going to be dominating, but he remains semi-interesting. Regardless, the real matter of import is whether or not Will Carroll's right-if he is, and Ryan's back in June, then this isn't the sort of thing that kills the Jays off.

Losing Glaus is by the more significant blow, but that's more because they really don't have adequate alternatives, and because Glaus' ability to come quickly is something of an unknown. In his absence, the Jays will try to use two of their three shortstop options at third-lefty-swinging Jason Smith and the always-punchless John McDonald. Now, if you want to be wildly optimistic, maybe you put lemon juice in your eyes and decide Smith's the second coming of Rance Mulliniks. Mulliniks hit lefty, and Mulliniks came up as a middle infielder with a little more sock than you normally find in that lot... see where I'm going? The problem is that Smith's already a couple of years older than Mulliniks was when he had his first good season ('83); I just don't see it. Then there's the other problem, which is that this probably means less freedom to pinch-hit for Royce Clayton, although to John Gibbons' credit, he used Smith for Clayton in yesterday's game. We'll see, but I'm not optimistic, and bringing up Roberts doesn't help-he's basically a second base-only infielder with little offensive value. Maybe this makes Aaron Hill available to play short in a pinch, and maybe that's helpful. Again, I'm not optimistic.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Activated RF-R Carlos Quentin from the 15-day DL; optioned 3B-R Brian Barden to Tucson (Triple-A). [4/16]

Getting Quentin back is good news, although with Chris B. Young already back in action, the need was less dire than it might have seemed a week ago. Eric Byrnes slides over to left, and Scott Hairston's latest window of opportunity seems to have come down on his fingers, just like all the previous ones. Hitting .250/.348/.375 for DH-quality play in left just isn't going to cut it for an outfield regular. He's not going to help his career any sitting on the bench, but if he can adapt to part-time play, he can be an asset for the Snakes for now. At this point, he's got to be hoping for a break la Emil Brown, and wind up with a good gig someplace where the need is dire and the expectations are low.

As for Young, can we get him a nickname already? Jumpy? It would be a rehab the nickname, if not the memory of Eric Fox-okay, that probably doesn't help, since Jumpy Fox was best known for a postseason baserunning blunder. Speedy? Nah, probably get taken as an obscure Drew Carey reference, which probably also rules out Buzz. He's from Bellaire, Texas... how about the Texas Tornado? The Bellaire Epoque? Okay, I'm sorry, forgive me, I did the chapter on the 1934 NL pennant race in our forthcoming book on the best pennant races ever, so I read a bit more overly precious period sports journalism than is probably good for me. At any rate, anyone got any great ideas? It's hard enough having two Chris Youngs-do they have to be in the same division?

As far as the end of the Barden Era, his brief stay in The Show probably warmed the heart of our own John Erhardt (John E.'s a line-drive guys groupie), and Barden did get his first hit. However, a third base-only infield reserve isn't an enormously useful asset on a team that has to find any and every way to get Alberto Callaspo off the bench and into the lineup. You could argue that Robby Hammock would make a better demotee, but I can see the virtue to keeping a third catcher who can also play the infield and outfield corners on a club with a real platoon behind the plate.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Transferred LHP Mike Hampton from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/16]

CHICAGO CUBS
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Optioned RHP Angel Guzman to Iowa (Triple-A); recalled CF-L Felix Pie from Iowa. [4/17]

While made to cover for Alfonso Soriano's barking hamstring, getting Pie up obviously makes an already interesting outfield situation even more so. Nate Silver ran through a number of possible solutions on Unfiltered should Pie prove ready (and hitting .444/.543/.583 in 46 PA at Iowa does nothing to discourage anyone on that score) and the Cubs elect to go with a natural center fielder instead of sticking with the decision to have Soriano go one position shift too far. While some of the variants are interesting, I think the only plausibly movable parts are either Jacque Jones or Cliff Floyd.

Jones' contract might make him especially attractive-he's due to make $4 million this year, and $5 million next-while Floyd's more of a low-end rental the acquirer can let slip away after this season. The problem for Jim Hendry is that Jones hit much better last year than anyone should expect of him this year or next, and there are enough GMs familiar with his track record to discount last season, and perhaps put Jim Hendry in a bit of a bind as far as his expected return. That's why I think it's more likely that the Cubs will wind up flipping Floyd in a minor deal, assuming he doesn't hurt himself first. Hendry looks at Jones and sees a guy who slugged .499 last season; trade-mates might remember the guy who was among the worst-hitting left fielders in baseball in 2004 and 2005.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed UT-R Ryan Freel to a two-year, $7 million contract extension through 2009. [4/16]
Reinstated SS-R Alex Gonzalez from the Bereavement List, designated INF-R Enrique Cruz for assignment; sent RHP Jared Burton on a rehabilitation assignment at Louisville (Triple-A). [4/17]
Activated OF-R Norris Hopper from the 15-day DL; designated C-R Chad Moeller for assignment. [4/18]

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed 2B-R Kazuo Matsui on the 15-day DL (lower back spasms); recalled MI-R Clint Barmes from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [4/15]
Placed RHP Byung-Hyun Kim on the 15-day DL (thumb contusion); purchased the contract of RHP Zach McClellan from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [4/16]

For future reference, I'm going to start calling guys who can play both second and short 'MI,' in the same way that I refer to four-corner players as '4C' guys. Why not? It's shorter than calling them '2B/SS,' and I dislike using 'INF' when that can mean almost anything, from "plays all four infield positions," "plays an infield position," to "bipedal hominid in clothes." At any rate, calling Barmes a MI is the nicest thing to say about him-it describes his virtues, and leaves his limitations to the imagination, the accounts of witnesses, or those of us who still scarf up box scores on a daily basis. He'll be riding pine, with Jamey Carroll doing the actual starting at second base. I suppose it's a shame, since Matsui was plinking enough singles to perhaps win a few converts to the suggestion that Dan O'Dowd saw something in him that was worth dealing for, but I guess I'm still a hard-core unbeliever.

Similarly, losing Kim might actually represent a minor source of relief, because he can't really actively gripe about not being in the rotation if he's on the DL and preoccupied with getting healthy. (Presumably the thumb really was hurt in batting practice, and not trying to hitch a ride out of Denver.) McClellan's a 28-year-old minor league veteran that the Rockies picked up in minor deal with the Royals in 2004, and he's remained the organizational soldier I referred to him then: a relatively nondescript, tall fastball/slider guy. It's nice to see him up in his eighth year as a pro, and if he does better for the Rockies than Justin Huisman did for the Royals, this will change the entire complexion of that trade, meaning that Dan O'Dowd's got bragging rights on... well, Allard Baird. He could send him a postcard with some appropriate sentiment. "In your face! Zach McClellan! Ha! See you at the Winter Meetings, hugs, Dan." Okay, maybe not-if some matters are small beer, this is in the thimble class.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Placed RHP Jorge Julio (strained calf) and CF-L Alejandro De Aza (sprained ankle) on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Lee Gardner and CF-L Eric Reed from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [4/18]

Strained? Credulity, maybe, but call me a cynic on Julio's injury, as opposed to his injuriousness to the Marlins in the early going. It's nice to see a long-toothed journeyman like Gardner get another bite at the apple after making the club out of spring training, and other than the struggles of Julio and designated lefty situational guy Renyel Pinto, most of the pen has been doing good work. Losing De Aza is a more a source for genuine disappointment, as he'd shown excellent ability to cover the gaps, and at the plate, he's the sort of pest I think makes for a very fun little tactical threat out of the eight-hole in a National League lineup-a contact hitter with a line-drive stroke who can punish the especially sabermetrically orthodox managers who avoid the intentional pass like the plague. Eric Reed is nothing like that-he can fly on the bases, but he's a lot more slappy at the plate, and not especially patient. I wouldn't look to Fredi Gonzalez to just paste Reed into De Aza's spot, instead plugging him into a bit of a rotation with Alfredo Amezaga and Cody Ross until or unless somebody gets a hot hand.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Placed RHP Jason Jennings on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis); recalled RHP Matt Albers from Round Rock (Triple-A). [4/17]

In the words of the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson, "grab your butts." What do you say about a rotation where the argument over whether Chris Sampson or Wandy Rodriguez should be here instead becomes an argument over who their second-best starter behind Roy Oswalt might be? They're spinning Jennings' stint on the DL as positively as possible, and Matt Albers is as promising as ever, but this just looks ugly. The two series with the Brewers, this weekend and next, should be particularly interesting.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 4/15; recalled RHP Chin-hui Tsao from Las Vegas (Triple-A). [4/17]

So, Schmidt's down, and it doesn't sound good: shoulder, wishcasting, declining velocity. While the Dodgers hope it gets better with rest, in the meantime, they're now down two starters, and they're still not talking about inserting Chad Billingsley into the rotation. That's because the horror doesn't end there-losing Schmidt means that today's starter against the righty-heavy Rockies lineup in Coors Field is going to be first-season vintage Ned Colletti mistake Mark Hendrickson. The giant lefty has done good work in three low-leverage blowout assignments, which is about what he's good for-put into a starting assignment, I'd be far from confident about what the Dodgers will get out of him beyond a continuation of last season's disappointments. Add in Derek Lowe's early struggles, Brad Penny's command problems, and Brett Tomko's being Brett Tomko, and this begins to look like a bad situation with a lot of potential to get much worse.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Designated RHP J.D. Durbin for assignment. [4/16]
Announced that RHPs Clay Condrey and J.D. Durbin cleared waivers and were outrighted to Ottawa (Triple-A). [4/18]

You know, I used to be impressed by Dave Kingman's playing for four teams in 1977, and then signing with a fifth after that year. Starting the season with the Mets, he was traded to the Padres on June 15 for an almost-done Bobby Valentine and a nondescript lefty named Paul Siebert as part of the "Midnight Massacre," as he and an equally disgruntled Tom Seaver were shipped out rather than be dealt with by subsequently infamous Mets exec H. Donald Grant. Kong's migrations were only just beginning-he was claimed off of waivers by the Angels on September 6, and then dealt to the Yankees for a washout first-rounder named Randy Stein (not to mention the always-charming Sack O'Cash) on September 15, in a move GM Gabe Paul made with the intention of securing the Yankees' slender 2.5-game lead on the Orioles and Red Sox. Sadly, Kingman was ineligible for postseason play, or perhaps the Yankees just weren't as sneaky/clever as Bill Stoneman was with K-Rod in 2002. Regardless, before November was out, Kong had joined his fifth organization in a calendar year, signing with the Cubs.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's two trades (for assorted junk and the aforementioned money), one waiver claim, and one new contract. I'm not sure if the infamously cranky Kingman would be much use as a career counselor for Durbin, but I'm guessing that there aren't that many people Durbin can talk to about his lot. Is it a source of solace or a perceived indignity that it's been only a trio of waiver claims that he's been involved in? Now that he's in Ottawa, he's on his fifth team and his second country-is that some sort of record? On the transactions beat, there are few questions more deeply, deeply important.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned 1B/OF-L Paul McAnulty to Portland (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Rakers from Portland. [4/18]

This was more a matter of adapting to the fact that only Jake Peavy's managing six innings per start in the early going, leading Bud Black to lean a lot more heavily on the back end of his bullpen than anyone would have expected. It's sort of amusing that through Tuesday, the least-used relievers in terms of innings pitched were Trevor Hoffman and Scott Linebrink. Of course, making this move brings the Padres up to eight relievers, evening things out now that the Orioles have dispensed with their octo-pen madness. Sort of calls into question the obsession with role-play, donchathink? Sometimes, nothing beats nice, straight, simple relief. Fortunately for the Pads, Geoff Blum can play all four infield positions, Russell Branyan can play the four corners, and Jose Cruz Jr.'s capable of playing all three outfield slots, so they're actually covered in case of injury in-game-the real problem is that Black's basically without a pinch-hitter without severely limiting his capacity to respond to an in-game injury.

As far as the good news, it's always nice to see Rakers up, but that's in part because I'm always predisposed to favoring anyone who throws a pretty good forkball, and in part because I'm always going to hope that Oriole refugees get a chance to set their careers aright once they escape Clan Angelos' playpen. I could really only see him getting a chance to stick if he shined while Mike Thompson continues to struggle, but even then, Thompson's the only guy amongst the eight with recent starting experience, and thus the only guys who might represent a serious innings soaker if a starter has to come out of a game in the first inning or two.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Optioned LF-L Kory Casto to Columbus (Triple-A); purchased the contract of OF-R Michael Restovich from Columbus. [4/18]

In the early going, it's been sort of cool to see that Manny Acta's made a point of spreading playing time around; every position player not named D'Angelo Jimenez has gotten a start, even journeyman infielder Josh Wilson and catcher Jesus Flores, last winter's Rule 5 pick from the Mets. In the pen, he's also spreading the work around, with the arguable and increasingly understandable exception of Levale Speigner, the Rule 5 pick from the Twins (picked in the second round, after Flores). Speigner seemed a bit of a reach in the first place-a college hurler at Auburn who the Twins nabbed in the 14th round in 2003, he wasn't especially successful at Double-A the last two years, and while you never say never with pitching, the guy's 26 and lacks an out pitch. The organization can use all the talent it can get, but I'm not sure Speigner's ever going to be good enough to really belong on the roster ahead of Saul Rivera.

I bring this up because while some prospect mavens might be grumpy over Casto's demotion, I think this setup will be for the best. Chris Snelling's done nothing but earn more playing time with every start, and while 31 plate appearances can't tell anybody anything conclusive, Casto's only got a single season above A-ball to his credit-sending him down to see what he can do against the jaded rogues and thieves you find peopling International League rotations seems appropriate. In his place, bringing up Restovich makes sense, because while he's no Kevin Mench, he does have an exploitable platoon split, hitting .278/.329/.458 against southpaws in his admittedly fitful big league career. That's not intimidating, but it is useful, but it provides Acta with a nice set of options, having Restovich available as a spot starter for Snelling in left against the tougher lefties, and as a pinch-hitter against lefty pitching off of the bench.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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