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March 27, 2009

Transaction Analysis

Big-League Cuts and NRI Mutts

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHPs Bob McCrory and Kam Mickolio and LHP Chris Waters to Norfolk (Triple-A). [3/25]

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHPs Jon Link and Kelvin Jimenez, C-L Cole Armstrong, and 3B-R Dayan Viciedo to Charlotte (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Jhonny Nunez and Clevelan Santeliz and 1B-L Brandon Allen to Birmingham (Double-A). [3/18]
Signed RHP Gavin Floyd to a four-year, $15.5 million contract, with a $9.5 million club option for 2013; dealt C-R Chris Stewart to the Yankees to receive some future considerations. [3/22]
Optioned RHPs Adam Russell and Ehren Wassermann to Charlotte. [3/25]

While it's easy to make light of the things that the Sox don't have, that's not a bad group to have in your system. Even allowing for the fact that the Cactus League involves easy souvenirs and dry air, Viciedo didn't do too badly for himself as far as making an impression, belting a pair of bombs, while Allen didn't look at all intimidated getting a few early at-bats. Add in impressive camps for Josh Fields, Gordon Beckham, and Chris Getz, and it's easy to forget that the Sox aren't supposed to be one of the more talent-laden organizations in the game, instead ranking in the bottom third in Kevin Goldstein's organizational rankings. To be fair to Kevin, Fields has long since shed his rookie status while trying to re-establish his bid to start at third, while Beckham and Viciedo are two different kinds of recently minted Sox prospects. Beckham is last year's first-rounder whose camp has altered the timetable for when he'll be in the majors, while Viciedo is the Cuban merc brought in with the same sort of aggressiveness with emigres that already has Alexei Ramirez in the infield.

As for Floyd's extension, while it's hard to be wildly enthusiastic about it, given his reputation for unpredictability on the mound (not to mention a well-honed rep as the least-interested hurler when it comes to paying attention to the men he's put on base, forever denting A.J. Pierzynski's reputation for throwing out baserunners), it's not the worst investment. Consider what MORP has to say about his future performance: despite identifying him as a pitcher with a good amount of wiggle in his range of possibilities but generally tending towards "mediocre," his projected value over the next four years still comes out to $13.85 million. Add in the fact that he was more than a little hit-lucky last year, and that this year's infield might be, shall we say, a little more exciting, and you could get more than a little worried about the expense. Still, PECOTA's no big fan of Floyd, and it still doesn't see this as entirely out of line. So, instead of saying that the Sox have "wasted" almost $2 million, given their positive past with him and his development on pitching coach Don Cooper's watch, they might understandably be willing to bet on the high side, and maybe even harbor the hope that he'll spin that plus curveball into some healthier platoon splits. He got the benefit of a lot of defensive support last season, and keep in mind he's a fly-ball pitcher who won't have to live with the adventure of counting on Nick Swisher in center field. That $1.65 million spread over four years doesn't amount to all that much on almost any ballclub's budget, and it's not a bad investment. We might call it a calculated risk with a particularly unpredictable pitcher, but here again, that's where the value of direct association with a player helps a club make a call. Which is not to say I'm very optimistic that they'll be picking up that option in 2013, but we can probably consider that as something very like an NFL contract, where it will take a really good four years to seriously put that option on the table.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHPs Adam Miller, Jon Meloan, and Juan Salas, LHP Tony Sipp, and 2B-L Luis Valbuena to Columbus (Triple-A); optioned RHP Hector Rondon and C-S Carlos Santana to Akron (Double-A). [3/19]
Optioned LHP Jeremy Sowers and C-R Wyatt Toregas to Columbus. [3/24]
Optioned LHP Aaron Laffey to Columbus. [3/25]
Claimed RHP Jae Kuk Ryu off of waivers from the Padres; placed RHP Jake Westbrook on the 60-day DL. [3/27]

With that, we now know two things: that Scott Lewis is joining Anthony Reyes at the tail end of the rotation, while the bullpen will only carry a second lefty if Zach Jackson earns that slot (instead of Sipp). There's still the interesting question of whether or not they'll keep Josh Barfield as a multi-positional utility scrub, but he's been awful at the plate in camp, so there's not much to suggest he's turning things around after a couple of disappointing seasons in the organization. Among the non-roster bodies, Tony Graffanino's bid for a job as an infield reserve looks good, and though the Indians are at 40 on the 40-man after claiming the now oft-claimed Ryu (what is Korea's answer to the hot potato, anyway? Overripe kim chi?) if Barfield doesn't stick, he's out of options and would have to be outrighted anyway, opening up the spot for Graffy, but it isn't quite that simple, since Vinny Chulk is making a solid bit to stick in the pen as another non-roster invite. Chulk's chances probably get even better if Adam Miller winds up on the 60-day DL because of his career-threatening finger injury. If not Miller, things get a bit tight, with reserve catcher Chris Gimenez perhaps representing the next most-likely outrightable player currently on the 40-man.

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Outrighted LHP Macay McBride to Toledo (Triple-A). [3/19]
Optioned RHP Alfredo Figaro to Erie (Double-A); optioned C-R Dusty Ryan to Toledo. [3/20]
Optioned RHP Freddy Dolsi to Toledo. [3/22]
Optioned OF-R Wilkin Ramirez to Toledo [3/26]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Released LHP Jimmy Gobble; signed RHP Anthony Lerew to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [3/18]
Optioned RHP Devon Lowery and 1B-L Kila Ka'aihue to Omaha. [3/20]

Yes, I know, all us statheads feel Ka'aihue's pain, but with Mike Jacobs clomping around at first base and Billy Butler already ensconced at DH, this really doesn't represent that much of a surprise. That said, with the Royals within 10 games of the projected leaders in the AL Central, it's not a bad situation (unless you're Ka'aihue). If either gets hurt, they can call up Ka'aihue; if Butler falls on his face (again), they can bump Jacobs to DH and call up Ka'aihue. All depending, of course, on Ka'aihue repeating last year's seeming breakout season, which if he does will breed opportunity as is. The guy you should instead truly pity is Ryan Shealy, because he's out of options, and he can't stake a claim to much more than a job as Jacobs' platoon partner and notional defensive replacement; while that's a role that's probably within Shealy's wheelhouse, the holes in such a swing for a spot are obvious, operating as we are in the era of 12-man pitching staffs. As is, the Royals have a stack of guys out of options, so if a Shealy or one of the Penas (Brayan or Little Tony), or maybe even Shane Costa or Ross Gload get outrighted or cut, it wouldn't be all that surprising.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Anthony Ortega to Salt Lake (Triple-A). [3/20]

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned C-R Wilson Ramos to New Britain (Double-A). [3/20]
Optioned INF-Rs Luke Hughes and Matt Macri to Rochester (Triple-A). [3/23]

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned 1B-L Juan Miranda to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [3/24]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Released C-S Rob Bowen. [3/17]

While Bowen has always been a very poor man's Gregg Zaun as serviceable switch-hitting backup backstops go, this represents an interesting development insofar as it at least notionally means that Landon Powell is set as Kurt Suzuki's caddy, but I'm not so sure about that. Mexican League import Joel Galarraga was an interesting addition over the winter, he's having a good camp, and it doesn't hurt to have a Spanish-speaking catcher on a ballclub. Then there are the standard concerns about Powell's durability with two knee surgeries in three years plus a personal definition of plate coverage that involves keeping it clean and asking for more, and Galarraga's shot at some big-league time seems to be getting better and better. As interesting as Powell's upside once was as a top pick in 2004, and whatever shred of that value is left, it's clear that there's no time like the present for him, and failing that, the A's have an option worth turning to.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned OF-R Greg Halman to West Tenn (Double-A). [3/19]
Optioned RHP Gaby Hernandez and 1B-Ls Bryan LaHair and Mike Carp to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/20]
Optioned LHP Jason Vargas to Tacoma. [3/21]
Optioned 3B-R Matt Tuiasosopo to Tacoma. [3/26]

If you're a LaHair fan wondering why Jack Z. won't give you more, give you more, long as you can grow it, LaHair, let's face it, the guy's not exactly young as unproven players go, he's not a premium power source despite being effectively limited to first base, and with new management on site, some middling prospects quickly revert to suspectdom. Since Zduriencik brought in Russell Branyan to play first base and since he also invited Chris Shelton and Mike Sweeney to camp as probable platoon partners-a fight Sweeney seems to have won, for as long as he's healthy enough to play-a fellow former player of interest like Mike Morse doesn't have much chance of sticking around. This might not really sound like progress, but it's an indictment of some of the former commitments made and the ready replaceability of some of the talents already within the organization. A Branyan/Sweeney platoon at first base should bop a bit, butcher a few bunts, and possibly help the Mariners score enough runs to make their fragile-but extant-bid for contention a going concern.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned LHP David Price, C-L John Jaso, SS-L Reid Brignac, 2B/OF-S Elliot Johnson, and OF-R Justin Ruggiano to Durham (Triple-A). [3/25]

I'll be chiming in later on tonight about these particular moves. Rest assured, I'm not really wild about David Price's being delivered a dose of Bulls... z.-CK

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned INF-R German Duran, CF-L Julio Borbon, and CF-R Greg Golson to Oklahoma City (Triple-A); optioned RHP John Bannister to Tulsa (Double-A). [3/19]
Signed LHP Jimmy Gobble to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [3/21]
Optioned RHP Luis Mendoza to Oklahoma City. [3/24]
Optioned C-R Max Ramirez to Oklahoma City. [3/25]
Released RHP Brendan Donnelly. [3/26]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned LHP Jon Coutlangus and RHP Esmerling Vasquez to Reno (Triple-A). [3/18]
Optioned RHP Cesar Valdez to Reno; optioned LHP Clay Zavada and RHP Kyler Newby to Mobile (Double-A). [3/19]
Released NRI RHP Jailen Peguero. [3/20]
Outrighted OF-L Alex Romero to Reno. [3/25]

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Optioned LHP Jo-Jo Reyes, C-R Clint Sammons, and 2B-R Diory Hernandez to Gwinnett (Triple-A). [3/26]

Reyes and Sammons were both effectively damned and doomed by this winter's decision tree that put graybeards like Tom Glavine and David Ross in Brave doubleknits, but that near-term joyless trek to Atlanta's suburbs is also perhaps their cause for subsequent hope. In Sammons' case, all it takes is one banged-up Ross (or Brian McCann) at the position where getting banged up goes with the territory, while in Reyes' case, a potential rival for the fifth slot like Jorge Campillo may have made himself indispensable in the bullpen by the time Glavine implodes or some other mishap strikes the rotation. I am, of course, being overly simplistic. Lose McCann and you may well lose the season; lose any starter higher up the depth chart than four or five (Glavine or Kenshin Kawakami), and you either lose the season or turn to Tommy Hanson on the double-quick.

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Jose Ascanio, 1B/OF-R Jake Fox, and OF-L Sam Fuld to Iowa (Triple-A); outrighted OF-L Richie Robnett to Iowa. [3/24]

Bumping Robnett gets the Cubs down to 38 on the 40-man, so I think it's beginning to look like Chad Fox is a lock from among the non-roster guys-barring of course yet another sproingy sensation in that trick elbow of his. There are a couple of active campaigns for keepery among the non-roster position players; Esteban German's doing his OBP thing, while "Me" So Taguchi is doing his best to make things interesting to stick as an outfield reserve. Of the pair, German's utility may give him the best shot, while Taguchi could be stuck in the cornfields because Joey Gathright's out of options, and any club willing to give Joey Gathright $800,000 must have done so either with the active intention of playing him, or after a particularly perverse buck bet. ("Betcha you can win the division even with Joey Gathright." "Bah, that's easy." "Gathright and Bako?" "Piece of cake." "Bako, Gathright, and you leave Mark DeRosa on somebody's collection plate." "Uh... OK. You've got this round, right?") The odds of a second NRI making the roster aside, this would also put GM Jim Hendry in a position to make a claim should anyone outright any optionable players because of crunches on their 40-man rosters in the next 10 days or so.

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Carlos Fisher and C-R Craig Tatum to Louisville. [3/20]
Released OF/1B-L Daryle Ward and LHP Aaron Fultz; optioned RHP Ramon Ramirez and 2B-L Danny Richar to Louisville. [3/23]

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Greg Reynolds and 1B-L Joe Koshanksy to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [3/23]

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned RHP Ryan Tucker to New Orleans (Triple-A); optioned RHP Tim Wood to Jacksonville (Double-A). [3/24]
Traded RHP Eulogio De La Cruz to the Padres for a PTBNL or $$- Stacks O'Cash. [3/25]

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Signed C-R Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year, $1.5 million contract; optioned SS-R Tommy Manzella and OF-L Brian Bogusevic to Round Rock (Triple-A). [3/20]
Granted RHP Danny Graves his release from his minor league contract, making him a free agent. [3/25]
Option RHP Bud Norris and C-R J.R. Towles to Round Rock. [3/27]

Given the money and the stakes and the Astros' "die in the last ditch" philosophy with what's left of the Oswalt/Berkman era, signing Pudge for a single season for this kind of cash is reasonable enough. The question is whether this is seen as a temporary bridge to Towles' eventual resuscitation as a prospect, or if Rodriguez is instead a symbol of the Astros' increasingly understandable lack of faith in him. While it would be easy to decry the decision to retain Humberto Quintero on the big-league roster as the backup, Towles needs at-bats to regain favor, and Round Rock's going to be the best bet for getting them in the early going. Where things get interesting will be in a month or two, when Quintero's doing his usual punchless nothing, while Towles has provided either cause for optimism or not. Pudge should be fine in the weaker league; a .300 OBP while slugging .400 in Houston doesn't seem like all that much of a stretch, which makes him a man among Ausmuses in recent Astros receiving history.

The other fun/odd thing about how things are playing out in the Astros' camp is that as many as five non-roster guys have good shots: Russ Ortiz, Jose Capellan, and Chad Paronto among the pitchers, Jason Smith among the infielders now that Aaron Boone's out for the year, and Reggie Abercrombie in the outfield. Since they're at 38 on the 40-man (counting Boone), that might take some doing, but the same overall lack of talent within the organization that makes such a thing possible for the quintet similarly reflects the potential space to be made when we're talking about pushing aside guys like Tyler Lumsden. Since everyone but Abercrombie is new to the organization, that sounds like a group of agents who deserve a wee bit of extra credit from their clients for wise placement.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned OF-R Jamie Hoffmann to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [3/20]

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned C-R Angel Salome and 3B-L Mat Gamel to Nashville (Triple-A); outrighted RHP Wes Littleton to Nashville; released OF-L Trot Nixon. [3/25]

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Released LHP Valerio De Los Santos. [3/25]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned LHP Dave Davidson and 3B-S Neil Walker to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [3/18]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Signed RHP Shawn Hill to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI; acquired RHP Luke Gregerson from the Cardinals to complete their trade from 12/4, and invited him to spring training; optioned RHPs Josh Geer and Scott Patterson, LHP Joe Thatcher, 2B-R Matt Antonelli, OF-L Will Venable, and C-S Jose Lobaton to Portland (Triple-A). [3/23]
Acquired RHP Eulogio De La Cruz from the Marlins for cash or a PTBN. [3/25]

Canadian Brittle might be a maple treat involving the ubiquitous flavor of the Great White North and something that breaks noisily at the first bite, but it could also describe Hill adequately enough for our purposes. Even so, he's a worthwhile pickup for the Pad People, since we're talking about the club that's locked in on waiver bait like Cha Seung Baek as a key component of their rotation, so there's no harm in signing him up and taking a look. In the best-case scenario, the breaks a pitcher catches pitching in Petco help him moderate his pitch load in any individual inning and start, and he stays healthy enough to contribute. Worst-case, the Pads lose a little money on a broken bit. Speaking as someone who had the fun of watching Hill spin his shortened no-hit bid on May 11, 2007, he's certainly somebody you can sit down and enjoy if he's healthy, but in the six full seasons he's been a pro, his start totals, majors and minors combined, are 25, 25, 20, 17, 19, and 14. Does that sound like someone you can count on? Sadly, no, but it never hurts to look.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart
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Released RHP Keiichi Yabu. [3/19]
Optioned RHPs Billy Sadler and Waldis Joaquin, SS-R Brian Bocock, and 3B-R Ryan Rohlinger to Fresno (Triple-A). [3/23]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Recalled 3B-R David Freese from their minor league camp; optioned RHP Blake Hawksworth and SS-L Tyler Greene to Memphis. [3/22]

The interesting development here is the choice to bring back Freese to renew his shot at the job as the team's temporary starting third baseman in Troy Glaus' ongoing absence. That also entails throwing Joe Mather back into the camp clash for one of the team's reserve slots. The choice there is whether his lean towards being more of a corner outfielder than a four corners player makes him useful enough over options like Brian Barden (mostly a third baseman who moves around the infield when ordered), Sloppy Joe Thurston (more a speed guy and token lefty bat, but someone who can scoot between second base and the outfield easily enough, a skill that matters with the grand Skip Schumaker Experiment getting played all the way out in the interests of science), true utility infielder Brendan Ryan, and... well, Colby Rasmus. There are four spots to go to these six (including Freese), and Rasmus is the only one we might properly call a prospect, so he's the only one they need to be sure is getting playing time -either as a Cards reserve or as the starter in center in Memphis. It seems reasonable to run with Freese for now at third, and while sending Rasmus down to Memphis would be the sensible thing to do, there's just something about keeping all three of Thurston, Barden, and Ryan that smacks of... well, less than a really good roster. They've already elected to send Brian Barton down, though, so the concern over having a reserve center fielder who can genuinely play center-besides Schumaker, of course, because he's stuck in the petri dish over at the keystone-could get Rasmus kept. On the other hand, considering that they don't want Rasmus to get stale watching other people play, and we already have the precedent of Freese making the trek back to the big-league camp, I wouldn't be surprised if Barton isn't out of consideration, because while he also could stand to get some everyday play, a few weeks at Memphis and some direct in-game experience with the limitations of much of the rest of this crew might be enough to get him back to The Show.


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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