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July 28, 2007

Transaction Analysis

Swaps and Moves

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Optioned OF-R Jon Knott to Norfolk (Triple-A); activated SS-R Miguel Tejada from the 15-day DL. [7/27]

BOSTON RED SOX
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Signed OF-R Brady Clark to a minor league contract. [7/26]

Not a bad little pickup, in that a veteran right-handed outfield reserve might come in handy, especially if Theo Epstein really does end up pulling the trigger on a deal that puts Wily Mo Pena in somebody else's uniform.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Acquired RHP Michael Dubee from the Phillies for 2B-R Tadahito Iguchi. [7/27]

An 18th-round pick from the 2006 draft, Dubee's basically non-roster filler, a Sally League reliever doing some things well (54 strikeouts in 55 2/3 IP, and more than twice as many groundball outs as flyballs), and some things less so (a 3.88 ERA for a reliever in Low-A can be meaningless, but it also isn't good). If this was all Kenny Williams could deliver, it's a pretty sorry indication of what Iguchi was worth in a market where there's quite a bit of interest in getting middle infield help.

So, now that Iguchi's gone, who plays second? Perhaps it might be Andy Gonzalez's first and last real opportunity, but my expectation is that we'll see Danny Richar up at some point, perhaps before rosters expand in September. Another infielder who had to move off of short, Gonzalez isn't a great prospect, but he's 25 and worth a look as a ready-now organizational soldier with decent abilities to get on base, run, and show slightly more sock than your average utility infielder. I don't expect him to hold off Richar for any length of time, but the interesting possibility for Gonzalez is to see if he can encourage the Sox to start making decisions on whether or not they should be paying extra to keep guys like Alex Cintron or Pablo Ozuna.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Acquired OF-L Kenny Lofton from the Rangers for C-R Max Ramirez; optioned LHP Cliff Lee to Buffalo (Triple-A); recalled RHP Edward Mujica from Buffalo; designated MI-R Hector Luna for assignment; optioned OF-R Ben Francisco to Buffalo. [7/27]

A nifty pickup at a tough but affordable price. While Ramirez is one of the better-hitting catching prospects around, and while the Tribe did swap out Bob Wickman last summer to bring him in, this makes for a nice daisy chain, where they swap out the veteran once they weren't contending for the prospect for the veteran they need now that they are contending again. The expense might seem needless-weren't the decisions to sign Trot Nixon and David Dellucci and trade for Shin-Soo Choo supposed to leave them amply covered for left-handed hitters in the outfield? However, moving past the spoiled master plan, adding Lofton has all sorts of benefits. Not only does it give the current team some sort of contact high with one of the few functioning and functional remnants of the great Indians teams of the '90s, a lot of the problems Lofton has represented to his most recent employers are relatively small beer here. The Indians have the advantage of a center fielder of sufficient repute to kill off the lazily-considered exceptionalism that Lofton is a career center fielder who shouldn't be asked to move to a corner, and by pairing Lofton's .325/.401/.486 production vs. right-handers with Jason Michaels' usual thumping against lefties, Mark Shapiro's built an outstanding offensive platoon in left field that can also cover some ground. I expect a good amount of the power to come out of Lofton's numbers now that he's back in the Jake, but he'll still provide all of the things he's been doing for the last sixteen seasons as a major league regular, albeit in a part-time role.

The other interesting development is the decision to punitively place Lee back in Buffalo. This past winter, Lee was identified as one of three players the Indians had to turn around, along with Jhonny Peralta in all phases of the game, and the catching portion of Victor Martinez's game. Peralta's having a fine year, Martinez is throwing out 30 percent of opposing basenappers, and Lee... punched his own ticket out of town. He had seemed to turn things around with a nice stretch capped by his season-best game against the Devil Rays on the First of July, but he's torn that down with a run of four ugly outings. Only three regular starters rate lower than Lee by SNLVAR-the Rangers' Rob Tejeda, the Rays' Edwin Jackson, and the Cardinals' Kip Wells. Tejeda and Wells have both lost their jobs at different points of the season, while Jackson is one of those experiments that seems to have taken on a life of its own, revealing secrets man was not meant to know and bringing forth unspeakable gibbering terror to a mostly-empty indoor venue; call it the Shadow Over St. Pete.

Ideally, the Indians have no nameless horrifying fish god to placate, and can settle for just trying to win ballgames, so putting Lee someplace where if nothing else he might refamiliarize himself with success and through repetition become a productive member of society, or at least a rotation. In his absence, I guess a start or two by Jason Stanford might have to do, although he hasn't looked all that hot since his quality start in a splashy season debut against the Marlins.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jason Shiell from Omaha (Triple-A). [7/26]

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Transferred OF-R Josh Rabe from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of 3B-L Brian Buscher from Rochester (Triple-A). [7/26]

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Announced that C-R Wil Nieves cleared waivers and was outrighted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/26]
Optioned LHP Kei Igawa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; recalled MI-R Chris Basak from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/27]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Designated C-S Raul Casanova for assignment; activated C-R Josh Paul from the 60-day DL. [7/27]

I don't know what's wackier, the fact that the Devil Rays found a veteran backup catcher who slugged .600-no laughing matter when Dioner Navarro is hitting a sickly .178/.245/.261-or that they would cut him for Josh frickin' Paul. If this is like the winter's near disaster in trying (and happily failing) to bring in Darin Erstad, and just a blind spot where Angel washouts are concerned, it needs to be corrected with extreme prejudice.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Traded OF-L Kenny Lofton to the Indians for C-R Max Ramirez; recalled OF-R Nelson Cruz from Oklahoma (Triple-A). [7/27]

A nifty pickup, so at least there's something that Jon Daniels can feel good about. This is a good old-fashioned bit of flipping, where a brief rental on Lofton may not have helped propel the Rangers to the front of the class, but it does bring them a nifty catching prospect. As Kevin Goldstein noted ten days ago, Ramirez isn't much behind the plate, but he is nevertheless one of the best prospects behind the plate around the minor leagues. Since the 22-year-old Venezuelan's also hitting .303/.418/.505 in the High-A Carolina League, I think a wart like this is more than acceptable. Maybe I'm overly optimistic about the possibility, but having seen catchers as initially bad, brutal, or indifferent as Mike Stanley, Don Slaught, or even Jorge Posada improve with coaching, it's important to note that while catching is a pretty unique skill, it is not one where there's an easily-predicted career arc for guys behind the plate as they get older. Some can be fixed and become perfectly acceptable big league catchers, and some guys are Matt Nokes. With Ramirez, I'd take a wait and see approach, and not be in any hurry to move out from backstopping.

What I find really interesting about the Rangers' picking up Ramirez and their simultaneous flirtations with the Braves involving Jarrod Saltalamacchia is that they also do still have Taylor Teagarden, and while he's mostly just DH'ing in the Cal League and an early issue created concern about the soundness of his surgically-repaired elbow, there's a real possibility that the Rangers could wind up with three of the best catching prospects in baseball within a few days, giving them credit for Teagarden, and should they pick up Salty. I bring this up because there's already talk about some teams scouting Gerald Laird should he become available after a Rangers-Braves trade, but what if Jon Daniels actually used Teagarden or Ramirez after adding Salty to address some other organizational problem? It would be a pretty interesting possibility, and might add flavor to another Rangers deadline deal where they'd have the ability to package a young catcher with whatever veteran scraps a contender's picking over, and might be able to bring in a prospect with more of a blue-chip and nearly-ready flavor.

Meanwhile, back at the Rangers' ranch, there's the question of who's playing in the outfield now that they've flipped the merc in center field. The immediate choice was to push Marlon Byrd over from right, and give the corners to Frank Catalanotto and Brad Wilkerson, but Cruz will take over right field from here on out. In his 45-game stint back in the PCL, Cruz mauled the league with his usual indelicacy, slugging .698 by belting 15 homers while hitting .352. The organization seems confident that by opening up his stance, he'll be much more consistent this time around, but more generally, considering the competition, they really should afford themselves any other choice but to find out. Catalanotto and Wilkerson are both unhappy reminders of things that have gone wrong on Daniels' watch, and while the latter's forgivable-nobody expected Wilkerson to pitch into a career-swallowing chasm leaving RFK behind-the former just really wasn't a good idea from the outset. If Cruz can do something in the next two months, it might serve as a modest reminder that not everything has gone spectacularly wrong.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Activated LHP Gustavo Chacin from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Syracuse (Triple-A). [7/27]

This is an interesting reflection of the changing of the guard in the rotation, but I wouldn't make that much of it. Chacin was originally something of an organizational soldier, and since the Jays are getting good work out of a trio homegrown prospects of better (and slightly younger) vintages, plus adequacy out of a re-retreaded Josh Towers, the Jays' decision to make Chacin's assignment a more straightforward assignment instead of a rehabbing gig perfectly understandable. It might make things interesting this winter, because even setting aside a tough choice over whether or not to tender Towers a contract, they might have as many as seven starting pitchers on the roster to choose from without really getting into their farm system. There are teams that would trade for Chacin, although the stakes might vary from suitor to suitor.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned OF-L Jeff Salazar to Tucson (Triple-A); activated OF-S Jeff DaVanon from the 60-day DL. [7/17]
Traded LF-R Scott Hairston to the Padres for RHP Leo Rosales; recalled RF-R Carlos Quentin from Tuscon. [7/27]

The Salazar experiment came to a quick, ugly end, and had been followed by the Snakes' bouncing back and forth between DaVanon and Scott Hairston, and neither one hit. So, as if Josh Byrnes didn't already have a tough enough choice as far as making calls to keep or shed skin with Livan Hernandez and Eric Byrnes, he's still essentially short an outfielder. Your first instinct is probably no different than mine, figuring that this really shouldn't be that hard to fix-give Carlos Quentin a second chance, or if Mark Reynolds is the club's third baseman of the present and future, then Chad Tracy should head back out to right field, a position he played pretty regularly in 2005. But that's if Tracy's knee cooperates, as it has kept him out of the lineup time and again in the past ten days. Getting Tracy back could add impetus to talk of dealing Eric Byrnes, but if Bob Melvin has to deal with Tracy's unavailability on top of losing Byrnes, you can understand why giving Quentin another shot comes to the fore. They're still in this thing, but just as they did last year, they're proving willing to try to contend with kids, not despite them.

In the meantime, Hairston's latest failure informed a decision to cut bait on him, and I think there's something almost delightfully contemptuous in their depositing him with a team they're trying to fend off for a playoff spot. I can imagine this is really all about wanting to hit balls at Hairston to at least give flyballs a better chance of dropping in safely in Petco in those key head-to-head matchups. Rosales is no great shakes, an organizational soldier who made a wee bit of a good impression while closing in the Arizona Fall League last winter, and who has similarly been closing games for Portland. He's not going to impress speed guns or scouts, but he's got that moxie thing going for him, and that's been good enough to get some guys jobs at the back end of big league bullpens.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed PH-R Julio Franco to a contract for the remainder of the 2007 season; optioned RHP Joey Devine to Richmond (Triple-A); activated RHP John Smoltz from the 15-day DL. [7/18]
Optioned RHP Kyle Davies to Richmond and optioned Jose Ascanio to Mississippi (Double-A); activated LHP Wil Ledezma from the Restricted List; added PH-R Julio Franco on the active roster. [7/19]

I suppose there's nothing wrong with Franco going to Atlanta to wind up his career, but the Braves can't afford him at first base, and making space for him as a pinch-hitter on a postseason roster would be as outlandishly generous to a former Braves hero as paying the freight on Terry Pendleton was in 1996.

As for the Davies demotion, his pattern of disaster starts and quality outings had started to tilt a little too heavily in the wrong direction, and even good starts were getting less so. Since Jo-Jo Reyes has delivered winnable games his last two times out after an ugly debut, and since Buddy Carlyle's rising to the challenge of taking the ball every fifth day, as much as the Braves might still prefer to bring in an additional veteran starter, this is actually a better setup than where they were a month back, when they couldn't be sure whether Carlyle would stick, and when they had to wonder whether they could count on Chuck James after he got slapped around by the American League. There's still the concern (that Will Carroll has admirably addressed) over whether or not John Smoltz can hold up taking regular turns, so there's still plenty of incentive to see if the right deal can be struck, but I do like the idea that at least one new talent from among the organization's bevy of pitching talent gets a shot to contribute down the stretch.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Activated RHP Rocky Cherry from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Iowa (Triple-A). [7/18]
Purchased the contract of UT/C-R Jake Fox from Tennessee (Double-A). [7/19]
Placed 1B/OF-L Daryle Ward on the 15-day DL (strained calf); optioned RHP Sean Gallagher to Iowa; activated RHP Ryan Dempster from the 15-day DL; recalled 3B-L Scott Moore from Iowa. [7/20]
Optioned 3B-L Scott Moore to Iowa. [7/22]
Recalled SS-R Ronny Cedeno from Iowa. [7/24]
Optioned RHP Billy Petrick and UT/C-R Jake Fox to Iowa; recalled OF-R Matt Murton and RHP Rocky Cherry from Iowa. [7/27]

It's easy to get frustrated (to the point of getting worked up over whether or not Josh Kroeger has left the building, for pete's sake), but in the face of a genuine setback-losing Ward, this still looks like a pretty major series of gain for the Cubs in terms of improving their roster. Bringing up Cedeno gives the Cubs somebody who might more reliably be able to handle shortstop than Ryan Theriot, plus Cedeno seems to be yet another farmhand who's having a tremendous year in Iowa, hitting .360/.424/.543 overall, with an improving mix of power and patience that, at age 24, suggests he might actually turn into something. The weird thing for him-as with Geovany Soto-is his amazing hitting in Iowa itself (.404/.435/.556). He's hitting on the road as well (.292/.409/.521), and the sample sizes aren't especially huge, but it's interesting, to say the least. The one thing about the I-Cubs' bust-outs that might help explain matters is that they managed some pretty ugly slugfests in June, against some pretty picked-over pitching staffs-Omaha (Royals), New Orleans (Nationals), and Albuquerque (Marlins). That might make Cedeno and Soto both look particularly tasty, but without really digging in and seeing who they were facing (and ripping), it's too much a left-handed compliment to neglect how very well they've both done. Since Cedeno's glovework is still seen as a plus, this might be the in-house infield answer the club needs to shore up the middle infield and give them a solid bat. If Lou Piniella still wants to mix and match Cedeno and Theriot that would be find, except he really just seems intent on relying on Theriot.

Which is where, having called Murton back up, I have to really wonder if he's here to play, or sit on the pine with Cedeno and watch Jacque Jones' career fade to nothing. At the very least, Cliff Floyd isn't doing much damage against lefties (no surprise), but this latest hop in the outfield shuffle, however much Murton might belong, just doesn't resolve the absence of a center fielder, and doesn't fix the Jones problem. At this point, even just electing to play Angel Pagan in center would represent an improvement, and we have to be at the point where Jones' debilitating uselessness can no longer be tolerated.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed RHP Aaron Harang on the Bereavement List; purchased the contract of RHP Ricky Stone from Louisville (Triple-A); transfered LHP Eric Milton from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/19]
Activated LHP Bill Bray from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Louisville. [7/20]
Transferred SS-R Alex Gonzalez from the Bereavement List to the Restricted List. [7/21]
Outrighted RHP Ricky Stone to Louisville; activated RHP Aaron Harang from the Bereavement list. [7/23]
Placed MI-R Pedro Lopez on the 15-day DL; activated MI-R Juan Castro from the 15-day DL. [7/26]

As if the Reds couldn't endure another ill turn, between the domestic tragedy that's pulled Alex Gonzalez away from the team to be with his hospitalized son, the on-field mishap that left Lopez with a broken cheekbone on a Matt Wise fastball, they're having to resort to an essentially paper transaction of keeping Castro from his season-ending surgery until they can get Gonzalez back, and using Jeff Keppinger at short in the meantime. Keppinger can't really play short any better than, say, Brendan Harris can, so this isn't doing the Reds' pitchers any favors, but it does give Keppinger playing time and potentially solidify a claim to become the Rhineland's scrubby hero in a Bloomquistian vein. If Gonzalez is back in action for this weekend's games, it'll mark the end of another difficult stretch in what has a season's worth of setbacks for the organization.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned MI-L Omar Quintanilla to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); recalled RHP Ubaldo Jimenez from Colorado Springs. [7/17]
Designated LHP Tom Martin for assignment; recalled RHP Ramon Ramirez from Colorado Springs. [7/20]
Claimed LHP Sean Thompson off of waivers from the Royals; transferred RHP Zack McClellan from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/21]

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Designated RHP Wes Obermueller for assignment; recalled RHP Rick Vanden Hurk from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [7/16]
Outrighted LHP Erasmo Ramirez to Albuquerque (Triple-A), and RHP Scott Tyler to Carolina (Double-A). [7/18]
Optioned CF-L Eric Reed to Albuquerque; activated OF-R Cody Ross from the 60-day DL. [7/19]
Outrighted RHP Wes Obermueller to Albuquerque. [7/20]

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Placed OF-R Hunter Pence on the 15-day DL; recalled OF-R Jason Lane from Round Rock (Triple-A). [7/23]

Losing Pence is probably the mortal blow to this season's games representing anything more than an elaborate death march for Craig Biggio, but since they'd already made that commitment in the first place, I don't think we need to get worked up about this on any other level than the sense of loss that goes with our not getting to see more of Pence for a month or more. In his absence, the Astros will get to indulge in a perhaps unpleasant yet necessary exercise in making a decision about Jason Lane. He's already 30, and comes back having hit .308/.374/.535 in the PCL. He's going to be in his second arbitration year, and given how little the Astros have gotten out of him after their first go-round, you can understand that his future in the organization should be at stake. If he can't do something at the plate in the next few weeks, there's not going to be a lot of reason to tender him a contract this winter.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned INF-R Tony Abreu to Las Vegas (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Roberto Hernandez from Las Vegas. [7/18]

The nicest thing you can say about this is that at least the Dodgers are now safe-for the time being-from their unsuitable interest in Abreu as a third baseman. There aren't a lot of occasions for me to cheer getting to twelve pitchers, but this was one of them, and if the Dodgers find that Hernandez is really done, that's a small price to pay. As is, I would think that a pen that has Hernandez and Rudy Seanez in it would be a pretty cool place to bring up a young Latin hurler into it, but that's probably more a spring training thing that a practical consideration before roster expansion.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Placed RHP Ben Sheets on the 15-day DL (sprained finger), retroactive to 7/15; placed RHP Chris Spurling on the Bereavement List; purchased the contract of RHP Grant Balfour from Nashville (Triple-A); recalled LHP Manny Parra from Nashville. [7/16]
Optioned OF-L Gabe Gross to Nashville; activated RHP Chris Spurling from the Bereavement List. [7/21]
Designated RHP Grant Balfour for assignment. [7/27]

Since Sheets hit the DL, although Jeff Suppan hasn't delivered a quality start, the rest of the staff has, putting up eight in 10. As a rate, that's not going to be sustainable over the month-plus that Sheets is gone, but it's certainly a good sign, and a reflection of the fact that guys like Chris Capuano or David Bush still have value, that Yovani Gallardo's still something special, and that Claudio Vargas might still be able to lay claim to the title as one of the better fifth starters around the league. Losing Sheets isn't good news, but when you've got Gallardo at the ready and a generally solid crew besides, it's survivable. My previous points and concerns about the prospective playoff rotation still stand-I'm not sure who I'd pick between Bush, Suppan, and Vargas, but I'd be happier leading off with Sheets, Capuano, and Gallardo, and not having to worry quite so often about by only having to pick one of the three others.

As for the Gross demotion, it makes sense on a couple of levels. First, if he's going to be any use to the Brewers down the stretch, he needs to be fresh, and waiting nearly four months of baseball hasn't really helped him any. A month of regular at-bats will have him ready to be brought back at the end of August, in plenty of time for a postseason roster spot that doesn't involve any chicanery. I still really like the possibilities of their being able to carry both Gross and Tony Gwynn Jr.; if nothing else, it's the sort of weapon an aggressive manager could use to get his situationally obsessed peers to run through their overstock on specialist mediocrities early on.

NEW YORK METS
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Activated RHP Jorge Sosa from the 15-day DL. [7/16]
Placed INF-R Damion Easley on the Bereavement List; purchased the contract of OF-R Chip Ambres from New Orleans (Triple-A). [7/17]
Optioned OF-L David Newhan to New Orleans; purchased the contract of UT-L Marlon Anderson from New Orleans. [7/18]
Placed 2B-S Jose Valentin on the 15-day DL (broken tibia); recalled MI-S Anderson Hernandez from New Orleans. [7/21]
Designated OF-R Chip Ambres for assignment; activated INF-R Damion Easley from the Bereavement List. [7/24]
Optioned RHP Joe Smith to New Orleans; purchased the contract of RHP Jon Adkins from New Orleans. [7/26]

This really works out into four notable changes-Sosa stepping back into the rotation, probably losing Jose Valentin for the year, exchanging Newhan for Anderson for the primary lefty pinch-hitter, and the cranky exchange of Smith for Adkins. The Newhan/Anderson thing is somewhat cosmetic, but there's also the added benefit that Anderson can actually play second base well enough to use there in something less than an emergency, and that matters in a post-Valentin environment. Although Ruben Gotay's doing lovely work for the time being, it would be hard to expect the Mets to invest unflagging faith in his ability to slug better than .450 for the next two months, and once he stops, what do you think is going to happen? As much as snagging Gotay was a smart little move by Omar Minaya that's generating major dividends now, the challenge for the Mets is going to be whether or not they have courage to accept him when he's hitting .260/.320/.400-or very much like Marlon Anderson in his prime. That's still a thoroughly acceptable rate of production for a team that's done one starting second baseman, but it remains to be seen if Willie Randolph can accept that from a relative unknown, given a relatively easy preference for veterans, and I suspect that we'll instead see an awful lot of Damion Easley down the stretch. That's not a bad thing either, since Easley's probably still the better defender, but I do wonder about his durability; a job-share at the keystone might make the best sense, especially if it's designed to exploit Easley's ability to still whip the bat around on power pitchers on his better days.

Over on the pitching side of the ledger, Sosa's fifth-ish aspirations to stick in a rotation, any rotation, have hit the usual snags-a nice start in Petco gets followed by a pair of brainings, and the Mets get to enjoy some additional unease over whether or not their rotation is really as good as they sort of expect it to be. Assuming that Pedro arrives with appropriate pomp, circumstance, and usability for short stretches, a tandem-starter setup where Sosa picks the middle innings on Pedro's more brief appearances might work out well enough.

The dispatch of Smith is a minor, spoiling sort of disappointment. I'm no gung-ho fan of Adkins-he's an acceptable enough eleventh pitcher, but nothing more than that-Smith winds up somewhere between the boneyard of college sidearmers who have been rushed up in recent years, and a guy who's simply been demoted because he isn't doing well. It's definitely strange to see a sidearmer not do especially well against right-handed batters, but to be fair to Smith, he's barely a year removed from pitching in college, but there's no reason to give up on Smith, just a necessary decision to put the drafting genius storyline on the backburner, and see what he can do in longer gigs that aren't quite so situationally deterministic. I guess I'm surprised that the Mets didn't look at the ROOGY role they were trying to squeeze Smith into, and dip into their farm system to call up somebody perhaps better-suited to fulfill it than Adkins. And this is where I'm going to suggest the Mets go back to the aforementioned boneyard, and resurrect one of the notable failures in baseball's extended "I want my own Bradford" post-Moneyball draft day surprises, and bring up Steve Schmoll. Schmoll's doing good work for the Zephyrs scything down his fellow right-handers, and sure enough, he's a sidearmer. Admittedly, the Mets simply need right-handed help of any kind in the pen, but I'd rather they had tried to find the tool more suitable to a situational purpose than just haul up the guy with more service time and no real out pitch.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Placed 2B-L Chase Utley on the 15-day DL. [7/26]
Acquired 2B-R Tadahito Iguchi from the White Sox for RHP Michael Dubee; optioned LHP Mike Agurski to Ottawa; purchased the contract of UT-L Joe Thurston from Ottawa; activated RHP Brett Myers from the 15-day DL; designated INF-S Danny Sandoval for assignment. [7/27]

A pretty straightforward and remarkably light-footed set of steps to discover and then patch a hole, especially for the infamously ponderous Pat Gillick. To the credit of the organization, there's some ready recognition of how slim their chances are, but that like summer, there is that chance, and now's not the time to roll over and play happy third-place ballclub ("We also played!"). Losing Utley for any stretch is devastating, but Iguchi's a right-handed hitter with some amount of pop, and that plays well in Philly, it essentially cost them nothing to get him, and they don't have to worry about keeping him beyond this year, since he's free agency-bound.

While he'll man the keystone in Utley's absence, I suspect the need to make up for the loss of offensive firepower will lock in that much more securely the platoon of Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms at third base (Weg Dobbelms?), with Abraham Nunez continuing to fill the role of the slick-fielding alternative to give them a three-headed monster at the hot corner (Wegham Nubbselms?). It's interesting to speculate whether or not Iguchi would get pitched into that particular melting pot after Utley returns, to make it a foursome at third (Tadwegham Nubbselmuchi?), but then we're getting into numbers and usage patterns that perhaps only Bob Guccione might really get into.

The other side of the coin as far as the offensive hit they're taking by Utley's absence is that this should push them that much more towards trying to swap an outfielder for some of the pitching help they'll need to help keep scores in reach. Given the alacrity with which Gillick added Iguchi, I think the possibilities are actually pretty good that this will-at long last-happen, especially while the Mets seem catchable and the Braves haven't added either that top-shelf starter or the premium offensive first baseman they've been seeking for months.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Designated UT-L Don Kelly for assignment; outrighted RHP John Wasdin to Indianapolis. [7/20]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Designated OF-R Hiram Bocachica for assignment; activated OF-L Terrmel Sledge from the 15-day DL. [7/18]
Optioned LHP Royce Ring to Portland. [7/22]
Recalled LHP Justin Hampson from Portland. [7/23]
Acquired OF-R Scott Hairston from the Diamondbacks for RHP Leo Rosales. [7/27]

While I can understand the team's desire to add a right-handed bat to their outfield mix, and while Rosales is nothing special, I just don't hold out any great expectations for what's going to happen with Hairston coming into Petco. He's never really shown a consistent ability to hit right-handed pitching, and seems to be just another Snakeling hopped up on the helium that goes with playing in a series of bandboxes affiliated with Arizona. Add in that he's an aspiring DH, and I don't quite get what it is that he offers that the Pads really just had to have. I can understand the virtue of deciding to give Brian Giles a prospective platoon partner, but I don't know why you'd make a point of getting Hairston when there are guys like Bobby Kielty floating around who should come even more cheaply.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned LHP Pat Misch to Fresno (Triple-A); activated LHP Jonathan Sanchez from the 15-day DL. [7/20]

For most people, Sanchez doesn't rank with Barry Bonds or Tim Lincecum as a reason why where watching Giants games is concerned, but he's one player to make sure you see, and one of the few people on the roster they can plausibly point to as far as pitching this year and next as rebuilding seasons that will at least be entertaining. Who knows, if his return now makes it any easier for Brian Sabean to peddle Steve Kline at the deadline-admittedly, not an easy feat considering Kline's moping his way out of Baltimore-you could even tab Sanchez as a player who might help the franchise's future as a matter of addition by subtraction...of somebody else.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned RHP Andy Cavazos to Memphis (Triple-A); activated CF-L Jim Edmonds from the 15-day DL. [7/19]
Optioned LHP Troy Cate to Memphis; recalled RHP Kelvin Jimenez from Memphis. [7/22]
Optioned SS-R Brendan Ryan to Memphis; recalled LHP Randy Keisler from Memphis. [7/27]

It's looking like Edmonds probably wasn't ready to come back, because he's been execrable since reactivation, but you can't blame the Cardinals for trying. They're just within tasting playoff picture relevance, and they've been able to ask Edmonds to make seemingly miraculous just-in-time recoveries before. But let's face it, the guy's 37 (as of today, so happy birthday, Jim Edmonds), has more than a usual amount of wear and tear despite a concerted effort to be able to play, and this might be the one trip to the well too many. So Taguchi and Skip Schumaker might merely be placeholders, but they're adequate enough to answer the demands of the present, at least until Edmonds actually has his stroke and some better semblance of health back.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Signed RHP Hector Carrasco to a minor league contract. [7/18]
Placed RHP Jason Simontacchi on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis), retroactive to 7/16. [7/20]
Recalled RHP Chris Booker from Columbus (Triple-A). [7/21]
Optioned RHP Chris Booker to Columbus; purchased the contract of LHP John Lannan from Columbus. [7/26]
Placed RHP Jason Bergmann on the 15-day DL (hamstring), retroactive to 7/25; recalled RHP Joel Hanrahan from Columbus. [7/27]

Hanrahan and Lannan are two very different animals, but they end up being the latest additions to a rotational cast that's starting to resemble the barricade scenes in Les Miserables. However, as developments go, this isn't really depressing, nor will it wind up being about heroic self-sacrifice.

About to be starting pitcher number thirteen on the season, Hanrahan was one of the likely candidates from the cast of maybes for the rotation coming into this spring, but he lost out and then got hurt after a good start to his gig in Columbus. However, he's been taking his turn for the last two months, and doing reasonably well, striking out 71 in 75 1/3 IP, and if he's walking more people than you'd like (about one every other inning), he also isn't getting hit hard, and he might be survivable in RFK. That might sound like damnation through faint praise, but let's face it, whatever riders there were on the Ten Commandments, one of them wasn't "Thou shalt have more than a dozen starting pitchers, or be seen as unworthy and unclean, and will be cast down among the bed mites." Hear something that unreasonable, and you bet I'd ask the golden calf if it can make me a better offer. The fact that the Nats are at their thirteenth starter and aren't significantly worse off is a tribute to a nifty bit of scrambling and worthwhile experimentation, but as I've cautioned before, it's a hallmark of Bowden-run rotations, and as impressive as their ability to get through this season has been, the Nats can't afford to let it become habit-forming.

Which is where Lannan comes in, to jog back to starter number twelve. Another product of Dana Brown's canny drafting, Lannan came to the organization in the 11th round of the 2005 draft. A storky 6'5" lefty with velocity that's developed since his being picked-score one for Brown's crew right there-he's still not regularly in the low 90s, but he's got some useful off-speed stuff. Before this season, he'd only risen as high as the Sally League, so his promotion might seem as aggressive as Michael O'Connor's last year, but Lannan tore through the High-A Carolina League to earn a promotion to Double-A, didn't lose much to that challenge, earning another promotion to Columbus. In 19 starts across three levels, he's not overpowering people as much as getting them to pound it into the dirt, with a very solid groundball rate but only a little more than five strikeouts per nine. Having him is premature, no doubt about it, but the options are relatively slim. Bringing up Collin Balester would be premature, Emiliano Fruto's still sort of getting geared up for life as a starter, and Garrett Mock's only just gotten back into action coming back from a knee injury. So choices weren't legion, and the Nats are taking a chance, and Lannan got a little cranky his first time out, pelting a couple of guys at the plate. I wouldn't get upset with him about it, given that they're putting him in a tough spot. Since both Micah Bowie and Shawn Hill are throwing off mounds, and Hill's headed out for a rehab stint, I don't expect Lannan's being up to last all that long, but you shouldn't take his ugly debut as anything that takes away from what has been an minor breakout of a season.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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