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September 28, 2008

Transaction Analysis

Regular-Season Wrap-up

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Acquired RHP Brian Bass from the Twins for a PTBNL or cash; recalled UT-L Brandon Fahey from Norfolk (Triple-A); purchased the contracts of C-R Omir Santos and RHP Alfredo Simon from Norfolk; released RHP Fernando Cabrera; designated MI-S Eider Torres for assignment; transferred RHP Chris Ray from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/5]
Placed RHP Jim Johnson on the 15-day DL (shoulder impingement), retroactive to 9/1, with right shoulder impingement syndrome. [9/8]
Outrighted MI-S Eider Torres to Norfolk. [9/10]
Activated LHP George Sherrill from the 15-day DL. [9/11]
Placed RHP Jeremy Guthrie on the 15-day DL (shoulder impingement), retroactive to 9/6. [9/14]
Placed RHP Dennis Sarfate on the 15-day DL (fractured clavicle), retroactive to 9/10. [9/17]
Placed RHP Daniel Cabrera on the 15-day DL (sprained elbow), retroactive to 9/14. [9/19]
Activated RHP Jeremy Guthrie from the 15-day DL. [9/27]

I'm not sure what bringing Guthrie back for the last start of the season is supposed to achieve. An 11th win? A 30th start? I won't levy an accusation of indifference to the risks; after all, Sherrill didn't embarrass himself in his last couple of outings, although in Sherrill's instance, there may still be some hope of dealing the veteran this winter. However, I think the more fundamental quandary is having people worth plugging into the rotation at all, because with Guthrie, Sarfate, and Cabrera out of action, the Birds have been forced to fall back upon not simply their own struggling prospects like Garrett Olson, Chris Waters, and Radhames Liz, they've been forced to fill in the gaps with journeymen like Simon and now the recently-added Bass. It isn't quite to the level of wondering where Steve Trachsel went, but it's been ugly.

Bass isn't really a prospect as such things go-he came to the Twins a former Royals suspect with a history of shoulder trouble via minor league free agency, after all-but he does have a fastball that sits in the low 90s and a slider that has occasionally impressed people, although he fails to fool many for any length of time, and he's been especially Bass-ackwards, allowing right-handers to cuff him around to the tune of .310/.370/.510. Not bad work if you're facing Manny Ramirez nine out of 10 times, but doing that against all right-handers is a great way to wind up asking about that non-existent International League pension plan. Given the way the O's injuries on the staff added up fast, he's handy now, but unless he discovers something new to add to his particular mix, he's just a warm body.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned OF-L Jonathan Van Every to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [9/3]
Activated RHP Josh Beckett, 3B-R Mike Lowell, and 1B-L Sean Casey from the 15-day DL; outrighted RHP Eric Hull to Pawtucket. [9/5]
Designated RHP Marcus McBeth for assignment; recalled RHP Devern Hansack from Pawtucket; activated RHP Bartolo Colon from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Pawtucket. [9/7]
Activated RF-L J.D. Drew from the 15-day DL; recalled 1B/OF-L Chris Carter and C-L George Kottaras from Pawtucket; outrighted RHP Marcus McBeth to Pawtucket. [9/8]
Recalled RHP Bartolo Colon from Pawtucket. [9/9]
Activated RHP David Aardsma from the 15-day DL. [9/10]
Recalled OF-L Jonathan Van Every from Pawtucket. [9/12]
Placed RHP Bartolo Colon on the suspended list. [9/19]
Purchased the contract of INF-R Gil Velazquez from Pawtucket; placed RHP Bartolo Colon on the restricted list. [9/25]

Now that Colon's funked his way out of his opportunity to pitch for the Red Sox in the postseason-apparently His Undertallness cannot submit His large dignity to relief assignments, and preferred to slink back to the Dominican for some pre-free agency Hamlet-like sulks-I guess it's interesting to wonder whether this is another one of those unhappy extended miscommunications with a high-profile veteran player, or just another overblown bit of drama that goes hand in hand with an organization's ability to afford itself certain risks. To put it another way: when a team decides it can look past certain things in terms of stocking itself, it's more likely that the ones obsessed with cookie-cutter personalities to wind up with "controversy." They didn't need Colon all that much or for very long, and it's just as well, however much over-attention was vented in a hopeless industry-wide quest to match column inches to pitcher poundage.

OK, before this season started, who'dathunkit, that Colon's value (.458 Support-Neutral winning percentage) would rate so close to fellow thunder-foot Sidney Ponson (.444)? That snarking aside, the perceived potential upside to Colon is what will continue to engender big-money offers and heightened expectations, in the same way that the perception provides an adequate defense to the Red Sox's decision to add the big man in the first place. At the time, the Sox didn't have answers to whether or not he would get into good-enough shape, or whether or not he would or could stay healthy, and whether or not, those preconditions met, he would be useful. There's still that happy element of doubt to the answers (happy for Colon, at any rate) that will guarantee that he'll command another seven-figure salary from some suitably desperate team this winter-what, the Rangers sent Valentines five months early?-and that convenient bit of uncertainty is a luxury Sir Sidney can't buy.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Freddy Garcia from Toledo (Triple-A); transferred RHP Joel Zumaya from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/17]
Announced the retirement of RHP Todd Jones. [9/25]

If I'm to believe current events, catering to the aged and infirm are national issues now more than ever, so I'm glad to see the Tigers being so scrupulous in their attentions to both classes of the baseball citizenry. Todd Jones' noisily volunteered declamations on faith and other subjects won't be missed in some quarters, any more than his high-wire act on the mound should be the stuff of as many nightmares as dreams. Having been handed so many opportunities to close for so many ballclubs, and sometimes fulfilling the lucrative temporal faith invested in him, there's not much cause to lament what's being lost with his appropriately-timed exit. He had a career; now here's hoping Joel Zumaya can put as much mileage on his tires, and really show us something that's cause for less fright, on the field or off of it.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
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Activated RHP Shane Loux from the 15-day DL. [9/13]
Activated 2B-R Howie Kendrick from the 15-day DL. [9/20]

While getting Kendrick back is obviously a Good Thing™, his 14 PA since haven't been especially, beyond their being achieved. However, that very fact, added to the news that Erick Aybar and Sean Rodriguez are swinging reasonably hot bats, and that Chone Figgins is getting on base and running (if not effectively), makes for a list of generally All Good Things. It should make for an interesting selection or two at the very end of the bench as well, especially if the Angels elect to go with ten pitchers in light of their extended schedule in the first round. Thirteen position players would seem to be locks, but who would you choose if you got to pick two from these four?

While Budde or Wilson would seem a relatively pointless add-on when the Angels have Mike Napoli to start regularly (in an ideal world) and their full-blown mancrush on the ever-punchless Jeff Mathis to live down, what if there are any nagging concerns over Napoli's health? There would be few worse options than winding up with Mathis playing every day; among playoff roster-probable catchers, only the Dodgers' easily- (and often-) ignored reserve Danny Ardoin has a lower EqA, so it's worth throwing out there as an option. A speed guy might seem like an unnecessary luxury on this team, but Figgy's banged up, and there's really only one entirely healthy regular in double digits in steals (Torii Hunter). One of the more interesting tactical mysteries of this year's Angels team is the decision to nail Aybar to first base; his attempting only nine steals is something of a quiet upset. So, there's an argument to be made to keep Willits. Wood makes a solid keeper given the questions about the health of so many other regulars, even if his play at short makes him a little tough to really see as anything more than a third baseman in the end. And Morales? Well, it isn't like the Angels have any power from the left side on their bench, and that could come in handy when they may well have to mix and match infielders in light of nagging hurts and offensive limitations, not to mention potentially pinch-hitting for their catchers against some righty-killing relief beast.

Admittedly, there's not a lot of point asking myself or all of you. In the abstract, I'd ditch one of the 13 seeming locks (Gary Matthews Jr.) in a second and keep Morales, Willits, and Wood, that's born of the easy confidence that Little Sarge's ability to contribute is about as relevant to the Angels' fortunes as at least one other existentially-challenged non-com of note. I think it's safe to say this isn't in the cards-real teams involve real people, and ditching Matthews from the post-season roster seems about as likely as my replacing Sarah Palin on the Republican slate.

However, it is worth bringing up, in that if the Angels are going to get down to ten pitchers, they already have to deal with some pretty important choices on the pitching staff. Will they really carry both Jon Garland and Jered Weaver as relievers in the first round? While they might yet elect to carry Kevin Jepsen for his fastball, that would almost automatically push the big contract-gifted Justin Speier to inactivity. That's not a bad idea, but if the Angels are already in for a penny when it comes to trimming fat salaries in favor of more useful playoff players, why stop with Speier?

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Recalled CF-S Melky Cabrera from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); outrighted LHP Billy Traber to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/4]
Activated RHP Humberto Sanchez from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Trenton (Double-A); designated RHP Scott Patterson for assignment, only to subsequently lose him on a Padres waiver claim. [9/8]
Recalled RHPs Phil Hughes and David Robertson from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/13]
Recalled RHP Humberto Sanchez and C-R Francisco Cervelli from Trenton. [9/15]
Recalled 1B-L Juan Miranda from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/17]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Recalled OF-L Travis Buck from Sacramento (Triple-A). [9/16]
Recalled OF-L Carlos Gonzalez and OF-R Chris Denorfia from Sacramento. [9/17]
Re-purchased the contract of INF-R Donnie Murphy from Sacrament. [9/21]

Perhaps the nicest thing to say about Buck's season is that it's finally coming to an end. A concussion from running into a fence and an inner ear infection contributed to his never really getting on track in Sacramento, so the best-case scenario for him is going to involve perhaps getting his stroke back in some winter action so that he can take his next, best shot at winning a job as one of the A's corner-outfield regulars.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Activated RHP Troy Percival from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Juan Salas from Double-A Montgomery (Double-A); recalled C-L John Jaso from Durham (Triple-A). [9/2]
Activated 3B-R Evan Longoria from the 15-day DL. [9/6]
Purchased the contracts of 1B/OF-L Dan Johnson and C-R Michel Hernandez from Durham; designated 4C-R Joel Guzman for assignment. [9/9]
Outrighted 4C-R Joel Guzman to Durham. [9/12]
Recalled LHP David Price and DH-R Jonny Gomes from Durham. [9/13]
Recalled RHPs Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot from Durham. [9/14]
Placed C-R Shawn Riggans on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 9/8. [9/18]

With Riggans doomed to miss the postseason, the only real drama here isn't whether or not David Price or Troy Percival will be on the playoff roster-they should be-it's over who the Rays will wind up picking to be their backup backstop. Jaso's the middling prospect for whom this might be too much too soon to some people's tastes, while Hernandez is the Cuban flop with enough experience to draw some consideration. That's nearly the full extent of Hernandez's virtue, so whichever direction they go, you could expect Dioner Navarro to play an awful lot. That sort of likely regularity makes for an interesting contrast to an otherwise fluid lineup where we might get to see Joe Maddon swap in multi-positional reserves like Eric Hinske, Ben Zobrist, or Willy Aybar, something made all the more prominent by Carl Crawford's injury and the absence of any other established everyday corner outfielder or DH on the team. That might be seen as a weakness by some, but I think it represents the same capital opportunity for Maddon to do what he's done all season, and what every good manager does: put his players in a position to succeed. The pity is that Riggans really had done more than earn his keep, as he'd be starting for more than a few ballclubs.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Recalled RHP Wes Littleton, C-S Max Ramirez, and 3B-R Travis Metcalf from Oklahoma (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Brian Gordon from Oklahoma. [9/15]

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Activated OF-R Matt Diaz from the 60-day DL. [9/24]

In the annals of things that looked great on paper but didn't really pan out this season, I'd think that the hoped-for platoon of Brandon Jones and Matt Diaz would rank pretty low, but it still deserves some sort of mention. It'll be interesting to see what the organization does with him this winter, since he's among their stack of arbitration-eligible "young" veterans. I'm not being ironic when I comment on Diaz's youth, because it's simply already spent-the man's going to be 31, and he's just a decent left field-only platoon player. Is that really someone on which to spend something like $1.5 or 2 million, let alone invest a winter roster spot on? Let's keep in mind that the Braves haven't been in the playoffs since '05, and I'd think some wholesale changes were overdue.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Claimed OF-L Brad Snyder off of waivers from the Indians; designated RHP Adam Harben for assignment. [9/22]
Outrighted RHP Adam Harben to Iowa (Triple-A). [9/24]

Well, it's an interesting claim, if also a reflection on the organization's paucity of plausible position-playing prospects. The former Indians prospect had a pretty miserable age-26 season at Buffalo, hitting just .246/.297/.426 (translating to a .220 EqA), drawing just 25 unintentional walks in 446 PAs, though he did show more power in the second half, slugging .507 after the All-Star break. Add in a pretty significant (and persistent) platoon split (he hit .263/.313/.478 against right-handers, and just .205/.258/.303 against lefties), and maybe his breadth of toolsy virtues can play in a part-time role. He's got the arm strength for right, spent the year playing center for the Bisons, and is credited with running well (if infrequently). Who knows, maybe next year's Iowa Cubs will have the new Laynce Nix on their hands. The key elements here are that Snyder was seen as a top prospect not so very long ago, the Cubs didn't hurt themselves any by electing to kick his tires, and they've always been ready to value general toolsiness. These aren't good or bad things, they're simply symptoms of the current system; if a Cubs hitting coach sees something in Snyder the Indians couldn't find, that doesn't necessarily make them smart or dumb, or the Indians their opposite, but given Snyder's failure to turn the corner as a prospect, it's clear he could use the change of scenery.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Activated 2B-R Jeff Kent from the 15-day DL. [9/20]
Activated SS-S Rafael Furcal from the 60-day DL; placed RHP Brad Penny on the 60-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 9/16. [9/24]

With Kent, Furcal, and Nomar Garciaparra doing a few good things in limited playing time to make their cases for their presence in the playoffs, it's beginning to look like Chin-Lung Hu might be out of luck as far as cracking the post-season roster, although it would certainly make more sense to carry their best-available defender at short instead of Angel Berroa. However, with all three veterans looking healthy enough, there's a decent chance that Pablo Ozuna gets the Clay Bellinger roster spot (because he's paid dues somewhere from somebody, and played on diamonds under Torre's eyes perhaps more than Hu ever has). If anything, I think the far more interesting quandary isn't the electively unavoidable presence of guys like Ozuna and Berroa, it's whether or not they'll leave Mike Sweeney and Delwyn Young off of the roster should all three famous people be healthy enough to stick. The Dodgers could cut down to ten pitchers; it would be a choice perhaps made easier by Hong-Chih Kuo's injury, since picking an eleventh worthy of the honor gets tough in his absence. If they did go with "just" ten, they would still have room for Young (or Sweeney), as well as Berroa and Ozuna, and the three vets, and Blake DeWitt-in short, everybody but Hu and Jason Repko and Sweeney (or Young).

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Activated 4C-L Russell Branyan and RHP Yovani Gallardo from the 15-day DL. [9/23]

An interesting contrast is to be found here. Gallardo was expected to be a key component and-should the Brewers' season go beyond today-may still get to be all the way into October. Branyan wasn't expected to be critical, except that then he was, especially in a nine-homer June when he provided a needed antidote to Bill Hall at the hot corner, but now that he's back, he's a forgotten man while Hall continues to flail and Craig Counsell does little better. Not that Branyan should be seen as a key to a team's success, but for a right-leaning lineup like the Brewers', having a second lefty power source in the mix to start against those right-handers who can't get a breaking pitch over for strikes against lefties makes for some ready tactical benefits. Instead, with Branyan injured, ineffective, and now ignored, should the Brewers actually make it to the playoffs, you can almost time the warm-ups of situational lefties on their opponents to whenever Prince Fielder's at-bats are due. One of the nice things about post-season action is the repetitiveness of certain matchups; it's sort of fun to ponder whether or not showdowns between Fielder and, say, J.C. Romero (or, heaven help the Cubs, Neal Cotts) are going to be the stuff of morning-after chatter in the days and weeks to come.

NEW YORK METS
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Activated RHP John Maine from the 15-day DL. [9/24]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Signed 3B-R Pedro Alvarez to a major league contract; placed LHP Tom Gorzelanny on the 60-day DL (finger). [9/24]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Signed 1B-L J.T. Snow to a one-day contract. [9/24]

You may have done a double-take over this, but happily Snow didn't play. Effectively, this was just a ticky-tack move to allow Snow to re-retire-he did announce his retirement in 2006, after all-with the franchise he played most of his career for, although let's also not pretend he was a Giant product-they were the third of four organizations he'd show up in the majors with. So, let's not pretend it's purely "a Giants thing"; it's also a favor to a former Yankee farmhand by the former Yankees scouting director who drafted him-Giants GM Brian Sabean-back in 1989. Hey, whatever, it's cool, whatever floats your boats, right? Just a reflection of how much time the Giants must have on their hands as their first post-Bonds season peters out about as ignominiously as it was expected to.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Activated OF-R Joe Mather from the 15-day DL. [9/21]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed 1B-S Dmitri Young on the 60-day DL (strained hip), retroactive to 9/15; placed INF-R Ronnie Belliard on the 15-day DL (strained groin), retroactive to 9/15; placed C-R Jesus Flores on the 15-day (sprained ankle), retroactive to 9/15. [9/25]

I don't know if it's reassuring or not that the team still has Belliard under contract, given their mass acquisition of other people's crapulous middle-infield suspects. Andy Hernandez hits a bunch of singles, and that salvages a career's worth of disappointments? Emilio Bonifacio plays like he should, and that's seen as a setback? Suffice to say that once they all provide their ill-fated employer ample direct evidence of their worth, Belliard will be available to step right back in and keep doing what he does. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of the veteran, but adequacy is a skill, one the alternatives lack. If there's an indictment to be made, it's of the faith invested so poorly in other people's "prospects." It's almost as bad as self-inflicting a plague of Boones upon oneself. Oh, wait...

As for Flores, the good news is that his ankle doesn't represent a problem for what should be a relatively clean shot at the starting job behind the plate in 2009. While injuries helped clear the path for him this season, the time and money wasted on guys like Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada should provide a lesson as to the downside of over-investing in veteran insurance. Blowing seven figures on replacement-level veteran catching might have provided some of the guys on the beat with players they knew, but it didn't merit the expense in terms of the on-field product.


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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