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August 8, 2008

Transaction Analysis

First-Look Mistakes

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Sent RHP Chad Bradford to the Rays via a waiver claim for a PTBNL. [8/7]
Recalled RHP Rocky Cherry from Norfolk (Triple-A). [8/8]

Cherry got a late start to his season because of some spring shoulder trouble, but in 2 months with Norfolk, he's been as dominant as ever as a MLB-quality righty specialist, mowing down the International League's starboard-siders by limiting them to just .224/.240/.324. As ever, he's also still having problems with lefties, who have touched him for .282/.354/.479. That speaks to the limits of his slider and change as off-speed mysteries, but with a good, heavy, low-90s fastball and considering he's not really losing anything pitching with men on base, as possible situational assets go, he's got his uses. As a one-for-one replacement on the roster for Bradford, this could be a right-now upgrade, and whoever Mr. TBNL turns out to be will make it better still, since that's basically a free body for buying back the roster time to look at Cherry instead of employing the Moneyball celeb.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHP Chris Smith to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [8/6]

"But I won."
"No, no you didn't. Now, there's the bus to Pawtucket. Please get on it before I ask stadium security to put you on it."

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Optioned RHP Tom Mastny to Buffalo (Triple-A); placed RHP Matt Ginter on the 15-day DL (strained forearm). [8/6]
Transferred 2B-R Josh Barfield from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Brendan Donnelly from Buffalo; recalled RHP Anthony Reyes from Buffalo. [8/8]

This may not be a perfect makeover, but the Indians are well aware of Mastny's limitations, and Ginter's Byrd Lite act wasn't really a long-term solution in the rotation, whatever the circumstances of his removal from it. Subsequent to his coming over from the Cardinals in a deal consummated two weeks ago, Reyes gave the Bisons two starts to make a good first impression on his new organization, although three homers in 13 innings is probably more troubling than any one other result from those games. Donnelly's on his way back from last year's Tommy John surgery, having had to endure a bit of Mitchell Report sliming in the meantime, and arrives with only 11 games and 10 2/3 pitched across three different levels. However, with nothing at stake and so many poor performers in the pen, it can't hurt too badly to see if he's got any of his former life and movement on his offerings. If he really shines, who knows, maybe he becomes a tantalizing bit of waiver-deal bait in the next three weeks; we are talking about a playoffs-tested reliever, after all.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Placed RHP Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff tendonitis); recalled RHP Chris Britton from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [8/6]

There's no doubt going to be plenty of recriminations and hysteria to go around, as everyone tries to fashion a smoking gun that fits their particular holster-"It was Joltless Joe, slagging another kid!" or "It was that ballpark, dammit! Tuck Fexas!"-especially in light of how unhelpful the organization is at times like this, but I guess I'm just focused on the fact that it has come to pass, and I really don't know if there's much point to the blame-gaming of this particular disaster in a season that's already coming apart at the seams. As I wrote in today's edition of the New York Sun, the odds that the Yankees make it to October glory was already pretty remote, and for factors that transcend the status of Joba the Hurt, and whether he misses two starts, or three, or all of them. His recent comments seem to indicate an absence not much longer than the two-week minimum, and whether they turn to Philip Hughes, Dan Giese, Ian Kennedy, Dave Eiland reactivated, Dave LaPoint reanimated, or-gods above and below help them-Carl Pavano for a final spin, none of them can radically alter the math that increasingly suggests that the Yankees just don't matter. Perhaps as the airwaves already get cluttered with recriminations about celebrity status, the most damning thing to be said about the Yankees is that they're in danger of becoming baseball's Paris Hilton. Whether it's the Captain's dance card or Jason Giambi's mustache or A-Rod's marriage, whether it's a wall of non-comments about non-events concerning people not playing or not about to play, in the end they're achieving nothing. As with Paris Hilton, there's a frisson of the pornographic when it comes to the level of interest, and appropriately enough, it winds up being definitively unproductive.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned INF-R Gregorio Petit to Sacramento (Triple-A); purchased the contract of LHP Gio Gonzalez from Sacramento; transferred 3B-L Eric Chavez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/6]

Well, that's cringe-worthy. Thirteen pitchers, no utility infielder, and a bench of Rob Bowen, Emil Brown, and Rajai Davis? At this point, I guess the most you can say about the hitters on the roster is that they give once and future A's like Daric Barton, Carlos Gonzalez, and Kurt Suzuki enough teammates to fill out a lineup without auctioning off playing time to the season ticket-holders. At least there's some good news on the pitching staff, in that Gonzalez's debut went reasonably well, and Sean Gallagher's not going to have to hit the DL, leaving the A's with an eventual yet transitory choice between Gio, Gallagher, Dan Meyer, and Dallas Braden to see who mans the last three slots in the rotation. It won't be that cut and dried, though, because with roster expansion and the PCL playoffs around the corner (hey, remember, Sacramento's making its bid for a third title), you can count on the A's to spread the work around to avoid pushing anybody too hard.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Acquired RHP Chad Bradford from the Orioles for a PTBNL. [8/7]

This looks more impressive if you get hooked on Bradford's 2.45 ERA, but when scorer's decisions contribute to "disappearing" more than a third of your actual RA/9, you're bound to be disappointed. Bradford has his uses, as a situational beasty to get designated right-handers, to generate the odd double-play grounder, but he's also a bit of risky, because the submariner's always going to allow a few more hard-hit balls by lefties than you'd really like to really rely on him in really high-leverage situations. That blend of handicaps and strengths contribute to his much more moderate mark in WXRL (0.699), which would only rate him fifth among Rays relievers. Beyond a general understanding within the industry of what Bradford brings to the table, the fact that he's also under contract for $3.5 million in 2009 goes a long way towards explaining why he fell all the way to the Rays on waivers, but it's nevertheless a decent little pickup for them, in that they're quite aware of how to use him to good effect, and if it only costs money they can afford and someone not in the first few ranks of their cadres of prospects, it's a very good pickup indeed.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Activated RHP Joaquin Benoit from the 15-day DL; placed LHP C.J. Wilson on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); outrighted INF-R Ryan Roberts to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [8/6]
Placed OF-L David Murphy on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); purchased the contract of OF-R Jason Ellison from Oklahoma; transferred LHP A.J. Murray from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/7]

Losing Murphy for two weeks to a month definitely puts a pretty big dent in the Rangers' chances to mount a serious bid on the AL Wild Card, let alone put a scare into the Angels. Added to the already-extended absence of Milton Bradley, it leaves you with a lineup that has to count on Mitchell Boggs and Frank Catalanotto; Murphy's value to the lineup has been entirely against right-handed pitching (.282/.333/.502), rates that Boggs and Catalanotto can't match and won't.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Signed RHP Dan Haren to a four-year, $41.25 million contract extension covering 2009-12 that replaces his previous contract, with a $15.5 million club option (or $3.5 million buyout) for 2013. [8/5]

Back in December when the Snakes initially acquired Haren, we knew they were getting a pitcher under control through 2010, and the way this deal runs, he gets a $2 million raise for 2009 and a $1.5 million raise for 2010, all nice for him, and he got that by pre-agreeing to two subsequent premium seasons (and perhaps a third) at market rates. His pre-season projection for his MORP on his PECOTA card suggests that the deal isn't really outlandish-typically enough, the team's saving money on the front of the deal, and is more-evenly matched up in the later years when free-agency eligibility would have been in the picture (and also when inflation's going to depreciate some of the value of that money).

Keep in mind, though, that was before he turned in the sort of season he's having. As much as signing any pitcher through the next five years seems like a roll of the dice, Haren's done quite a bit to erase those automatic reservations. I noted in his player comment in BP2K8 that the changes of home park should be balanced out by his changing to the DH-less, weaker league, and that has turned out to have been far too cautious, as he's thrived, on pace to top his 2007 SNLVAR of 6.3 by 1.5, certainly the kind of work that puts him on the short list for the NL Cy Young Award. Concerns over how he'd pitch in homer-happy Big Bank Ballpark (West) went too far-he's given up six bombs in 12 home starts, and six in 11 road starts (interestingly, he's yet to make a Coors start). Worries about another second-half fade? He's won all four games since the break. Getting a grip on having to hit? He's belted six doubles.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Traded LHP Scott Eyre to the Phillies for RHP Brian Schlitter. [8/7]

Tasty, but in an amuse bouche sort of way, in that the Cubs got a pair of worthwhile somethings for moving Eyre out of the way: realizing some small amount of cost savings for placing the veteran on somebody else's roster, plus adding a Chicago-native hurler who's doing a good job of blowing batters away in the Florida State League. Schlitter's not a great prospect, but definitely a pitcher worth getting for a discard, a 22-year-old who throws hard, a massive guy on the mound (6'5" and ≈240 pounds) with consistent low-90s heat with good sink (although no good secondary offering; his slider's graded as poor). In his first full season since being picked by the Phillies in the 16th round of the 2007 draft, he's been thriving in High-A, striking out 58 and walking only 17 (unintentionals only) in 48 2/3 IP, and getting 1.8 ground-ball outs for every caught fly. We'll see if he can make the leap to Double-A, but again, we're talking about something for nothing. Nicely done, Mr. Hendry, without even causing any real concern over whether or not you've helped a potential playoff opponent in the process.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Activated LHP Jeff Francis from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Steven Register to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); claimed RHP Livan Hernandez off of waivers from the Twins. [8/5]

The Fish have gotten plenty of attention-and due credit-for their substantive overhaul of their rotation and how that might keep their bid for contention alive. The Rockies, their expansion twin, are sort of turning the trick as well, in that getting Francis back and snagging Livan sounds semi/sorta contender-y. It certainly rounds out a rotation, as that pair joins Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Glendon Rusch. I know, Livan Hernandez and Rusch as your four-five starters isn't something to get worked up over, but in point of fact, Rusch has given the team four consecutive winnable ballgames, and Clint Hurdle seems sensitive to the fact that he has to have a relatively quick hook and get Rusch out after five or six innings. Hernandez would be the antithesis of that, the seemingly-indestructible innings sponge who might give most of the pen the day off, but the interest issue involved is whether or not Livan's distance running will work out nearly as well at altitude.

If I seem strangely sanguine about Livan pitching for the Rockies, I guess it's because you need to look at the horrifying alternatives they've already run through in trying to get a starter out there for every game, consider that he didn't get a lot of breaks pitching in front of the Twins' spotty defense, and turn an eye towards his solid interleague performance (2.86 ERA, three quality starts in four, including one against the Rockies in Coors). Keeping all of that in mind, remember also that he's a waiver claim by a team whose bid for the postseason is already based upon long odds, and Mark Redman actually turned out well for them last season; put this move up against that one, and I like this one's potential to help them a whole lot more. It would be easy to jump up and down and talk about how hittable he is-he is. He's also leaving a bad defense and the DH league to pitch for a better defensive team.

Also keep in mind the Rockies' slate to round out the season: six three-game sets against the Padres and Giants, plus a trip to DC to face the Nats and a home set against the Reds; even the "good" opponents on the schedule are offensively-challenged lineups like the Dodgers and their self-inflicted problems in the outfield, or the Snakes and their struggle to get more than adequacy at so many lineups slots. While a finish anything like last season's would be pretty unlikely, it isn't like the Rockies don't have something in their favor as they try. Beyond perhaps a September road trip to Atlanta, there's almost no chance that Livan will face anything but the league's second-division lineups during his seven weeks or so in purple and black. Is it a brilliant move? No, it's a matter of exploiting free talent and desperate need, and on that level, it's a good move, because there's a chance it'll turn out considerably better than an easy first-blush response would have you believe.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Activated C-R Matt Treanor from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Paul Hoover to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [8/5]

Treanor's return is decent enough news, because as good as John Baker's been in his absence, there isn't any reason to expect Baker to slug .478 the rest of the season. Not that Treanor will either, but Hoover simply can't contribute at the plate, and as a eighth-slot tandem holding down the catching duties, the combination of Baker and Treanor should at least be able to give the Fish a measure of adequacy that keeps opposing pitchers from having a "coast" inning in the frames the pitcher's due up.

NEW YORK METS
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Placed LHP Billy Wagner on the 15-day DL (strained forearm), retroactive to8/3; recalled RHP Ruddy Lugo from New Orleans (Triple-A). [8/5]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired LHP Scott Eyre from the Cubs for RHP Brian Schlitter. [8/7]

Not that they should get all that bent out of shape over dealing away Schlitter, but this is a pretty pointless addition. If Eyre's supposed to provide them with a decent second lefty, well... he isn't one. Since earning his $11 million deal with the Cubs following a great 2005 season with the Giants, he's struggled in situational work, getting belted around by the people he's supposed to retire at a .263/.333/.489 clip in two-plus seasons as a Cub. That's already unacceptably dangerous for a contender, and that's supposed to get better in the tight spaces of Big Bank Ballpark (East)? I think not. There's no reason to favor an old, struggling Eyre over a hot-handed retread like Les Walrond or a promising prospect like J.A. Happ. Add in the expense of picking up the balance of Eyre's salary, and how that might deter the Phillies from making other, more worthwhile moves, and it's really a time-waster, in terms of roster space and playing time.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Recalled RHP Romulo Sanchez from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [8/5]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned RHP Osiris Matos to Fresno (Triple-A); designated RHP Sergio Romo for assignment; recalled RHP Billy Sadler from Fresno; activated RHP Keiichi Yabu from the 15-day DL. [8/6]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Signed MI-S Felipe Lopez; optioned INF-R Brendan Ryan to Memphis (Triple-A). [8/5]
Optioned OF-R Nick Stavinoha to Memphis; recalled RHP Chris Perez from Memphis. [8/6]

First responses are dangerous, because they can lead to flawed conclusions. Upon hearing the news that the Birds had snagged F-Lop, I figured it couldn't be the end of the world. After all, the Cardinals have gotten execrable production from their middle infielders:


Hitter           AVG/ OBP/ SLG   EqA   WARP2
A. Kennedy, 2B  .278/.313/.338  .239    2.2
C. Izturis, SS  .243/.312/.296  .226    1.9
A. Miles, MI    .317/.357/.395  .267    3.1
B. Ryan, MI     .242/.299/.286  .214    0.5
F. Lopez, MI    .234/.305/.314  .218    1.0

That's the kind of "productivity" that ought to drive people to punt on the debate over whether or not the pitcher should bat behind or in front of the immortal Izturis, and instead send them in search of finding people good enough to start in a major league lineup, obviating the need for the debate in the first place. Questions that end up with the answer "You just need a lot more Aaron Miles" tend to be the ones you're better off not asking.

Nevertheless, that's the Cards' lot, and if Lopez seems to fit right into the herd, it's worth remembering that there was, upon a time, years, months, annuals, and even transactions in which getting Felipe Lopez seemed like a good idea. Considering it cost them nothing, maybe this would be a chance to bring in somebody they might alternate with Izturis who might hit better than he. Add in Kennedy's need to take the bench against southpaws, and it seems like there are reasonable opportunities for some mixing and matching, and maybe getting better overall work from all of them.

Well, that makes sense on paper, but then the Cardinals started F-Lop in left, and if that isn't a reflection of desperation, I'm not sure what is. What did Joe Mather do to Tony La Russa to deserve that sort of indignity, considering that there's a brie's chance in France that Lopez will outhit him? Did he eat all of the veggie noshes in the post-game spread some night? Run over a cat? Insult the St. Louis ballet? Madness, I say. Ideally, Rick Ankiel's return to action this weekend will end this particular bit of nonsense, but it's reasonably exasperating to witness, even from afar.

At least on the pitching staff things are making a wee bit more sense, as the decision to promote Perez gives them-like the earlier call to bring up Jaime Garcia-some homegrown goodness for some stretch-drive experience. In part, this was a move no less desperate than bringing in F-Lop, because the parts in place-Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Franklin-obviously weren't getting the job done, but the possibility here is that Perez will put his marker down to be the club's closer in 2009, with Franklin sticking around as the veteran set-up man, and Izzy departing via free agency to his future opportunity to become somebody else's problem.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Returned OF-S Elijah Dukes to the 15-day DL (strained calf), retroactive to 8/3; recalled RHP Garrett Mock from Columbus (Triple-A). [8/6]

There's something increasingly sad about Dukes' career, in that for a number of reasons, not all of them savory, he's now three years removed from his last full season, when he played 120 games for the Biscuits in Double-A in 2005. This latest hurt may keep him out until the last couple of weeks of the season, bringing us pretty close to a closed book on a disappointing campaign. Between the Three True Outcomes potential with the added tastiness of his speed and his fielding, he remains a rare sort of talent, clearly somebody who ought to be a very good ballplayer, somebody the Nats have invested the right amount of care into to help him get there, yet still coming up short. I think that he's shown enough this season to keep us all tantalized and hopeful, and perhaps next year he won't have to worry quite so much over whether or not he has to wait for Wily Mo Pena to break a few of the same hearts all over again to get a shot at a regular role, but clearly there's reason to get off the bandwagon.


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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