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July 25, 2008

Transaction Analysis

Jiggering

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed CF-R Torii Hunter on the bereavement list; recalled INF-R Sean Rodriguez from Salt Lake (Triple-A). [7/22]
Optioned INF-R Sean Rodriguez to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Jason Bulger from Salt Lake. [7/23]

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned OF-L Brandon Moss to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [7/24]

Should you be from Lower Slobbovia and have missed it, this is in anticipation of Big Papi's big fat reactivation in time for today's game. No doubt they're giving Moss a head start on the hike down to Pawtucket.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed LHP Jimmy Gobble on the 15-day DL (stiff lower back); recalled RHP Joel Peralta from Omaha (Triple-A). [7/22]
Placed OF-L Joey Gathright on the 15-day DL (bone bruise-shoulder); recalled OF-L Mitch Maier from Omaha. [7/24]

It might be difficult to find two outfielders with two such different yet equally unuseful virtues-Gathright's a speed/on-base guy who isn't doing one of those two things, while Maier's a notional power source of sorts, having hit .316/.366/.470 for Omaha. That sounds nice, but it renders to a .248 EqA, a reflection of the fact that he's already 26, not especially patient (walking in only 7.6 percent of his PA), and not really all that powerful in terms of thunder in his stick. If there's a virtue, it's that Maier's a better center fielder than Gathright, scoring a 14.1 to Gathright's -11.8 in combined SFR and Throwing value, while Clay Davenport's translations see Gathright as being somewhat adequate, but Maier as a worthwhile asset afield. So, there is at least some hope for defensive improvement if the team starts Maier regularly, but at the plate the Royals remain where they were-playing with one productive outfielder, David DeJesus, regardless of who's healthy or playing. At least Billy Butler has had a good week at DH, but at this rate, that's what Royals fans are reduced to, panning for hope-worthy nuggets amid so much mud.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned SS-S Ben Zobrist to Durham (Triple-A). [7/23]
Activated SS-R Jason Bartlett from the 15-day DL. [7/24]

Spotting for Bartlett, Zobrist hit only .200/.245/.420, which is a pretty bizarre spread in that he came up as a more OBP-oriented hitter, and seems to have become a lot more hacky in his (professionally speaking) middle age. Nothing's wrong with getting a trio of homers out of a backup shortstop in the 14 starts he drew in the 16 games that Bartlett's missed, but overall, it wasn't that much of a contribution. Although his glove work in his limited amount of playing time doesn't grade out so badly in RZR, his mark in FRAA or FRAR are appalling, and his scouting reports have never been good, so on almost every level, you can see getting Bartlett back as a very good thing.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Jesse Litsch to Syracuse (Triple-A); recalled LHP David Purcey from Syracuse. [7/23]

With concerns over Litsch's command of his fastball-not the most blazing of offerings-and his change, there isn't a whole lot that couldn't use improvement after two months of getting cuffed around with alarming regularity, so a banishment to upstate New York is a pretty reasonable proposition as these things go, especially after three consecutive disasterpieces.

In his place, the Jays are plugging Purcey back in for another spin after two earlier spot starts, a wild debut in April (with seven walks in 4 1/3 IP) and a May shellacking by the Phillies in their bandbox. While he's been a late bloomer (at best), as Kevin pointed out in January, he's big, he's left-handed, and he throws in the 90s, so you know he's going to get opportunities. In his comeback season from an injury-marred 2007, he's done pretty well down at Syracuse, allowing 3.2 runs per nine, with 9.3 strikeouts against 2.6 walks per. Perhaps even more impressive is that in his 19 starts for the Chiefs, really only two could be called bad days at the office, and they were in consecutive starts. First, there was a blown quality start on June 16 against the Mudhens, where he'd allowed only three runs through seven, but allowed two more in the eighth without retiring a batter, which he followed with a seven-inning, seven-run start against Richmond where he gave up all seven runs in the second before saving the pen with five subsequent scoreless frames. Outside of those two games, there isn't a start in which he gave up more than three runs. Generally speaking, that adds up to somebody who doesn't have a lot left to prove in the International League, and with Litsch struggling while Shaun Marcum's come back and John Parrish has earned his keep, you can definitely consider this a case of the Jays reviewing their options.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Connor Robertson to Tucson (Triple-A); purchased the contract of 4C-R Jamie D'Antona from Tucson; transferred OF-R Eric Byrnes from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/22]

Translating D'Antona's performance as a Snakeling gives you a guy hitting .297/.336/.496, good for a .281 EqA, and since it hasn't come all in Tucson or only at the expense of left- or right-handers, he becomes that much more useful, and more than handy enough for part-time use at any corner. The options of where to employ him gets that much more interesting. Between the club's lack of production in the outfield-even with Conor Jackson planted in left-and with third baseman Mark Reynolds mired in yet another one of his extended slumps, there's the question of whether or not you could put D'Antona in the outfield in right, or at first (with Chad Tracy conceivably moving across the diamond to the hot corner), or just straight into third to spot Reynolds for a length of time to be determined. That last is perhaps more of an abstract option, even though that's where D'Antona's played most of the year, since he's not an asset afield, aside from a strong arm.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned MI-R Brent Lillibridge to Richmond (Triple-A); activated UT-R Omar Infante from the 15-day DL. [7/23]

The inconvenience of losing Infante when they did is that he wasn't available to cover for Yunel Escobar after his injury. Happily, it also happened during a lighter part of the schedule, and Lillibridge did some bopping against the Padres and Nats by hitting .259/.310/.481 during his week with the job. That won't hurt his prospect status any, should the Braves want to shop him as part of a gamble to make a last throw of the dice with this season's outfit.

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated LF-R Alfonso Soriano and LHP Scott Eyre from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B/OF-L Micah Hoffpauir and RHP Kevin Hart to Iowa (Triple-A). [7/23]
Placed RHP Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL (blistered finger), retroactive to 7/14. [7/24]
Recalled RHP Jeff Samardzija from Iowa. [7/25]

If you're a box score junkie, you might be understandably disappointed by Soriano's return to everyday play in left field, if only for its soporific effect on Lou Piniella's lineup cards. Instead of all of the fun of weaving in Mike Fontenot and Reed Johnson and Ronny Cedeno, and flipping Mark DeRosa from one position to the next, the Cubs will revert to a plain-old stable setup, dull and perhaps every bit as effective as the scorecard gymnastics. I suppose Cubs fans can perk up for what this means in terms of the team having a still-deadly and still-deep bench, but they had that with Hoffpauir around as well. A friend-a Yankee-fan friend, the kind who stuck with them through every incarnation of Dave LaPoint, so a lifer-and I were chuckling a few days back about how it seems as if the managers given to platooning all have a Yankees connection somehow, whether it's Piniella or Bobby Cox or Bob Geren. Naturally, that only goes so far-Manny Acta's career as a player was spent in the Astros system save for a single year at the end with the Braves, for instance. It doesn't mean anything beyond there being some anecdotal curiosity to it, but it would be interesting to see if more of the people who played for Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog, Cox, or Davey Johnson would build platoons if they had the roster space for it. Until the game weans itself from its addiction to seven- or eight-man bullpens, however, that's just wishful thinking.

As for the pen's problems in Wood's absence, they won't last for long, in that he should be back at the beginning of next week in time to contribute to their conveniently nearby road trip to Milwaukee for an important series between the Cubs and Brewers. Calling up Samardzija makes a certain kind of sense, and on multiple levels-as a reward for his recent good work in Iowa's rotation, as a brief trial by fire so that he's already been blooded the next time around when somebody's gone for a longer stretch of time than this, and as something of a one-for-one swap in terms of getting a power right-hander in the Cubs' pen. While his cumulative numbers in Double-A Tennessee might make you wonder what the Cubs are thinking (fives across the board in runs, walks, and Ks per nine), that's the fog of gross totals. Dig into his game logs, and it seems as if he tightened up his command by the end of May, which got him to Triple-A for six starts over the past month, where he produced five quality starts while striking out 40 in 37 1/3 IP. That's the sort of thing that regilds the lily of his prospectdom, but it will be up to him to expand this opportunity beyond this weekend. Despite reliable mid-90s heat, that might be a bit much to expect, though. If you're wondering where in the name of Sam Hill his boy Rich is, it's all the way down in the Florida State League, trying (and failing, so far) to master his control for High-A Daytona.

FLORIDA MARLINS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Ryan Tucker to Carolina (Double-A). [7/23]
Activated RHP Justin Miller from the 15-day DL. [7/24]

Every time the name of the tatt'd one comes across my desk, I'm reminded that at some point I really ought to get the tattoo I've always meant to. I know, everybody's doing it or had it done, and I know everybody's joking about how this is going to be really horrific for people in the geriatric care industry in 30-40 years, but what can I say, picking the right artist takes time, and it figures that Kim Saigh would go and get famous and close up shop just before I got here.

Oh, yeah, baseball... yes, I expect this is a good thing for the Marlins, and not simply because Miller's the game's great illustrated man. As a situational right-hander, he's employable, and the Fish need all the help they can get.

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated C-R Humberto Quintero from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R J.R. Towles to Round Rock (Triple-A); designated RHP Dave Borkowski for assignment. [7/22]
Optioned RHP Jack Cassel to Round Rock; added LHP Randy Wolf to the 25-man roster. [7/23]

Towles didn't exactly grab his opportunity at redemption in Quintero's absence, delivering three hits, a walk, and an extra-base hit in 26 PA across seven starts in almost three weeks with the team. It's easy to bang on the Astros for not playing Towles more often as long as he was up, but unfair, in that his early struggles didn't inspire confidence, and however delusional they may be about it, they do see themselves in contention, even if they are looking up from the basement. As for Cassel, he may have had an opportunity to help himself had he done something in his last start, but getting knocked around a bit leaves him suffering in any comparison to Runelvys Hernandez, who for better or worse has delivered three non-disasters in four tries, if nothing really all that good. At this point, as the Astros try to keep their ramshackle bid on relevance rolling, they'll take it.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned LHP Eric Stults to Las Vegas (Triple-A); recalled LHP Clayton Kershaw from Jacksonville (Double-A). [7/22]

Well there's a fun kink-call up Kershaw to take his first crack at Coors Field and demote Stults despite seemingly solid work? However, whether you want to dig down in terms of scouting-Kershaw's a prospect, Stults ain't-or in terms of Stults' struggles in his four starts subsequent to shutting out the White Sox, it makes a decent amount of sense, even if Kershaw took a Denver beating upon his promotion, and even if monitoring Kershaw's workload is going to be a component of any stretch run by the Dodgers. With Brad Penny apparently due back shortly after the deadline, the Dodgers will have the freedom to pair Kershaw up with Jason Johnson to minimize the risk of over-extending the kid while perhaps also exploiting Johnson's experience in the role at Vegas when he was paired off with Jason Schmidt. Even if that doesn't work, it isn't like the summarily executed Stults, so you can expect him to be in the mix if workload problems or breakdowns bog down the Dodgers in August and September.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of LHP Wil Ledezma from Portland (Triple-A). [7/23]
Activated C-S Josh Bard from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Justin Hampson from Portland; optioned C-S Luke Carlin and LHP Joe Thatcher to Portland. [7/24]

Three weeks with Carlin and Nick Hundley helped make a bad lineup worse, as the concept of replacement level again bumps up rudely enough against its own limitations. Having lost Bard and Michael Barrett, both of their starting catchers, and having to rely upon Carlin, Hundley, and Colt Morton for 39 starts has handicapped the Pads lineup with a trio of rookie catchers who have been a combined 13.5 runs below replacement level. That doesn't excuse the fact that Bard and Barrett have posted a combined VORP of -9.7, so even the guys you'd expect to be better than filler have been worse. This doesn't say replacement level doesn't have its uses conceptually, just that it can be beaten around the head with the reality stick now and again, perhaps the only thing that Pads catchers are connecting with this year. Even so, I would think that Bard will be able to give them what they would have expected before the season, assuming they elect to keep him instead of exploiting any deadline opportunities.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated OF-L Dave Roberts from the 60-day DL. [7/22]
Optioned C Eliezer Alfonzo to Fresno (Triple-A); recalled C-R Steve Holm from Fresno; activated 1B/OF-S Daniel Ortmeier from the 15-day DL, and outrighted him to Fresno. [7/23]

The pity of having Roberts back is that while it's worthwhile to get him straight back into the lineup to showcase him as much as possible before the deadline, and while it's equally sensible to keep Randy Winn in the lineup for the same reason, the problem is that starting both and playing the club's best corner outfielder at the same time is a mutually exclusive proposition, because Fred Lewis has done nothing that merits his getting taken out of the lineup. Still, this should pass, since the odds that both Roberts and Winn are still on the roster on August 1 have to be less than 50-50, because failing that, one of the vets will have to sit, and that's going to lead to complaints, and that isn't going to help Brian Sabean get anything close to value.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated OF-R Lastings Milledge from the 15-day DL; designated C-S Johnny Estrada for assignment. [7/24]

Milledge's return leads to a reshuffling of the outfield alignment, as he'll resume duties in center, with Willie Harris moving to left, where he'll have to fend off such immortals as Ryan Langerhans, Kory Casto, and Paul Lo Duca. Since Lo Duca and Casto are also the team's primary non-Ronnie Belliard options at first base, you begin to get a sense of how desperate the situation is-you might think that this is a collection of talent bad enough to burrow through the NL East's basement and right past Triple-A Columbus on its way to hoped-for contention in the Eastern League. The problem is that despite the assorted absences, the Nats now have six of their possible eight best regulars available as regulars, with first base and left representing the problem positions. While those are supposed to be a lineup's joy spots, they aren't on this team: among their best options in left, Wily Mo Pena's already out for the year, while Elijah Dukes won't be back from knee surgery until late August, while Nick Johnson's already done at first, and Dmitri Young's problems with diabetes don't inspire much confidence he'll return soon. So you're left with a scenario where you hope Aaron Boone's back soon, and that's as depressing as it sounds. The more basic problem for the time being is that Milledge, Austin Kearns, and Ryan Zimmerman all need to deliver for this to resemble a major league lineup.

There's little that Estrada hasn't struggled with this year, whether hitting or staying healthy, but the fact that he's been released when there are catcher-needy teams in the running either speaks to another Nationals misstep this week, or to how far Estrada's standing has fallen within the industry. Even so, I would think that the Yankees or Marlins will pick up the phone. Since the catching job is Jesus Flores' to keep from here on out, it's really just a matter of deciding where to ship Paul Lo Duca, because Wil Nieves will do as backup backstops working for their journeymen's card in the IBBC. (That's the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers, and this would have to be Local 30.)


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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