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July 31, 2007

Transaction Analysis

Monday's Official Moves

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned SS/3B-R Brandon Wood to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled 3B-R Matthew Brown from Arkansas (Double-A). [7/30]

Wood got all of three starts, so it isn't really fair to say he did or didn't get it done. Instead, it's worth pondering what he's achieved of late in Utah, as he hit .303/.358/.615 in June, and thwacking eight taters to help put some sparkle back in his season line. Once the Angels decided they were happier with Chone Figgins at the hot corner, with Maicer Izturis at second, and Robb Quinlan platooning with Casey Kotchman at first, there wasn't really any playing time for Wood to be able to keep fresh and productive, perhaps especially given his long swing. So, while Brown may be up, there's no reason to read anything into this as far as the relative estimation of Wood and Brown in-house. Instead, Wood's getting playing time in the PCL that should keep him ready in case the Angels lose Izturis or Figgins for any length of time, while Brown's getting service time after swinging a nice bat for the Buzz (.276/.358/.504). Brown might make the better spare part-he's a workmanlike defender at the hot corner, and has a better track record with the kind of situational hitting the organization smiles on. Considering that he's also been pretty hard on lefties this year, while Izturis has had problems with southpaws over the course of his career, this would create another opportunity to exploit Figgins' positional flexibility, with Izturis and Brown platooning across two different positions, with Figgy flipping back and forth between second and third. As another potentially sweet fixer-upper infield solution in Howie Kendrick's latest absence, it looks pretty good to me.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Claimed C-R Gustavo Molina off of waivers from the White Sox, and optioned him to Bowie (Double-A). [7/30]

... because any amount of Alberto Castillo is too much, and even if the alternatives aren't any better, they do at least have the virtue of not being Alberto Castillo.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Placed LHP Kenny Rogers on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation), retroactive to 7/26; recalled RHP Jordan Tata from Toledo (Triple-A). [7/30]

There's no initial word on how long Rogers might be out, but he clearly wasn't himself, taking beatings from the Mariners, Royals, and White Sox his three times out since the All-Star break; I'll leave it to Tigers fans to decide whether that means he was instead Steve Searcy or Scott Aldred. Normally, you need the guy to be dead to channel him, but maybe it's just the guy's career that has to have shuffled off this mortal coil. Regardless, this is obviously a matter of great concern for the Tigers, although they did a very good start out of Bodacious last night in his place, and also got one decent outing out of two from Virgil Vasquez when he had to move into the rotation. They could also turn back to Chad Durbin if need be, but that obviously entails the risk that they've gotten all the good work out of Durbin in a big league rotation that they're going to get.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Acquired C-R Drew Butera and OF-L Dustin Martin from the Mets for 2B-S Luis Castillo; recalled 2B/SS-S Alexi Casilla from Rochester (Triple-A). [7/30]

With all the propriety of a noisily hypocritical sexpot at the prom, Terry Ryan apparently couldn't wait to actually give it up where Castillo was concerned, selling his virtue for the low, low price of a non-hitting catch-and-throw legacy behind the plate and a 23-year-old college outfielder knocking around the Florida State League. If you wince, Butera's got modest secondary offensive skills, which make him moderately interesting if you're really worried about life after Mike Redmond's deal runs out before the 2010 season. However, as a player picked out of a Division I school, you'd basically have to decide to get worked up (or just cut straight to the chase and just fool yourself) over his taking pitches in the Sally League against younger competition trying to find the strike zone. That seems like a bit of wishcasting to me. Martin might have the glove for center, but he probably doesn't really have the bat to make it as a regular in a corner, but hitting .287/.358/.421 in his full-season debut in the Florida State League isn't too shabby for a 26th-rounder from last season's draft. He's good organizational material at the very least, but if he could play center, he'd... probably still be behind Ben Revere in Ryan's more fevered fantasies. That should still leave Martin as an upgrade n Jason Tyner in three years. We won't really have to worry about by then, will we? Will we?

So, a weak haul, although it isn't like they had to give up all that much to get him, but the silver lining is that they're getting a head start on seeing whether or not Casilla's ready to settle in as the club's second baseman for the forseeable future. Casilla hasn't had a stellar year at Rochester, hitting only .269/.345/.344 while getting caught stealing a third of the time in 36 attempts-if you need help with that, you may find Jim Baker's advice handy-but if there was some frustration with being stuck in upstate New York involved, we can't really blame him. He should give the Twins a straight-up exactly-as-valuable replacement for Castillo in the lineup, and he will be even more certainly an improvement afield.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Placed RHP Chris Reitsma on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith from Tacoma (Triple-A). [7/30]

This might seem like a problem at first glance, since it gives the Mariners pen a third lefty, but George Sherrill's just being a situational demigod, while Eric O'Flaherty's simply good and being used in a more traditional middle relief role. I'm not sure if Rowland-Smith is really ready for a situational job-lefty hitters in the PCL have hit .311 off of him, but he's also overpowering them, striking out 23 of the 63 he's faced while walking only five, and not allowing them to hit for any power. Obviously, he's catching a bit too much of the plate, but the question is whether he can learn to stop that while still putting guys away with low-90s heat and a nice slider. Whether that's something he can figure out in the secondary second situational lefty job in the big leagues beats me, but it beats watching Reitsma get beaten.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Voided the option of LHP Gustavo Chacin to Syracuse, and placed him back on the 15-day DL. [7/30]

CINCINNATI REDS
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Acquired LHP Matt Maloney from the Phillies for RHP Kyle Lohse. [7/30]

I suppose it depends on how you look at this, but my take is that for a year's worth of Kyle Lohse, the Reds traded down from having Zach Ward (the pitcher they dealt to the Twins for him last year) to Maloney. Ward's got good sinker/slider stuff and probably better upside than Maloney, but the year of Lohse-and his worthwhile contribution to last season's wasted ambitions-seems like a pretty even exchange for the Reds in the grand scheme of things. Lohse is a solid enough fourth starter type, and Ward and Maloney are both potentially solid fourth starter types.

Maloney's a lefty without velocity or an especially good breaking pitch, but solid command of a sinker and changeup, and he's a dutiful strikethrower. That hasn't been enough to keep him from allowing five runs per nine in Double-A, which initially takes the starch out of any suggestion that he's got fourth-starter projectability as a pitchability guy. However, with 115 strikeouts in 125 2/3 IP, he's fooling a good number of people, and he's improving after a rough first couple of months, allowing 3.9 runs per nine in June and July after initially coughing up 6.2 per nine in April and May. Since he was also jumped up from the Low-A Sally League by the Phillies for his Double-A debut this season-a jump he should be able to handle, given that he pitched in the SEC-I think we can give Maloney (and Krivsky) some benefit of the doubt here. He gave up something with value to get Lohse, got value from Lohse, and got back value dealing Lohse. Considering Lohse was going to be a free agent going into a market that's no less likely to go crazy for him than it did for Jason Marquis last winter, this seems like a pretty sensible choice.

In Lohse's absence, who goes into the Reds' rotation? Because of yesterday's off day, they can take their time making that call, instead just flipping over the rotation and leading with Bobby Livingston-sort of the more advanced version of Maloney-tonight. Homer Bailey's still a few weeks from coming back from a strained groin, so this might be an opportunity for someone on the active roster, like Mike Gosling (currently in long relief after a good run at Louisville), or dipping into the 40-man to evaluate someone like Phil Dumatrait (acquired from the Red Sox for Scott Williamson so very many moons ago) or a recuperated Easy-E, Elizardo Ramirez, both also throwing well for the Bats (see below). Dumatrait only has eight quality starts in 21, but has been effective getting both lefty and right batters out; Gosling had seven in 13, while Ramirez has five in nine.


Louisville Performance
Pitcher    GS   IP    H/9  BB/9  K/9  HR/9  R/9
Dumatrait  21  118.2  8.3  3.6   5.3  0.7   4.1
Gosling    13   78    8.2  2.7   7.5  0.3   3.6
Ramirez     9   50    8.6  3.2   5.2  0.5   3.1

NEW YORK METS
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Acquired 2B-S Luis Castillo for C-R Drew Butera and OF-L Dustin Martin. [7/30]

For the Mets, this should be a double win. Not only did Omar Minaya give up nothing of serious value to bring in Castillo, they've provided themselves with a good hitter to drop into the number two slot behind Jose Reyes, as opposed to the stereotypical #2 hitter, or Paul Lo Duca. Lest we forget, Castillo dealt effectively with the potential distractions of batting behind Juan Pierre back in the Marlins' better days, and given the last work I saw on the subject suggests that the runner can be a bigger distraction to the batter than the defense, that's not a skill to underrate. This also means that they can pat themselves on the back for getting good value out of Ruben Gotay, and can continue to keep him in mind and give him spot starts, while also allowing them to avoid wearing down Damion Easley as they head into the stretch run. I know that Gotay's shown little or no sign of faltering, but I guess I just wouldn't expect them to commit to him, not with the Braves and Phillies getting busy at the deadline, and not when the Twins suddenly rolled over and decided to just give up Castillo.

As for the second win, the Mets should also end up reaping draft picks from letting Castillo walk away as a free agent after the season, since they should be able to safely offer him arbitration without worrying about his accepting it. That might put them in a position to let Gotay challenge Jose Valentin should they pick up Valentin's option, or simply expect him to win the job in competition with some other less-expensive veteran. I wouldn't want to see the Mets re-sign Castillo-his glovework isn't solid, and he's not going to be a real asset for very long if he's going to command something around $5-6 million or more per annum for two or more seasons into the future.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired RHP Kyle Lohse from the Reds for LHP Matt Maloney. [7/30]

Another nice stretch move by Pat Gillick, and if he had to give up more for Lohse than he did for Tadahito Iguchi, he still didn't have to give up that much. Maloney's a pretty nondescript aspiring fourth starter type in the grand scheme of things, so a two-month rental didn't come at a steep price. Considering the lot of the Phillies' rotation, where Lohse's 2.0 SNLVAR rates as their third-best starter after Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, and assuming they stick with Kyle Kendrick, that leaves them with the potentially more fractious choice between free agent faux pas Adam Eaton or big league hot potato J.D. Durbin. I'm willing to guess that we've seen Durbin's last complete game shutout of the season, but Eaton's given them one quality start in his last seven (although in his defense, his second could have come last time out against the Nats, if not for Charlie Manuel's slow hook). Whichever one they choose, Durbin or Eaton, that's not a great quintet to have to count on, but the Phillies aren't going to win anyways if they don't provide the league's best offense with something to work with. Lohse's good for that much, so the Mets and Braves still should have a three-legged race on their hands.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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