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July 9, 2009

Transaction Action

Easty Beasties

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Chris Ray on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Kam Mickolio from Norfolk (Triple-A). [7/6]

Ray's latest breakdown is unfortunate, but it also isn't expected to last all that long, since he's expected to return to action before the end of the month. The salient question under the circumstance is instead whether or not Mickolio will have made a case to stick around between now and then. This year's O's budget already involves almost $17 million getting paid to people who aren't Orioles, and with Danys Baez not exactly doing much for his $5.5 million and with the club's willingness to cut Jamie Walker earlier in the year, the oppportunity for Mickolio should be there. While I don't think we'll see a mass of dumps and deletions after Andy MacPhail finishes any fact-finding missions on how little guys like Baez or Mark Hendrickson or Melvin Mora would bring in trade, you can at least hope for the sake of Orioles fans that they've seen the last of that lot.

As for Mickolio, the gigantic right-hander arrived in time to debut against the Mariners, the same team that packaged him in the now-infamous Bedard deal. He'd been pitching in a set-up role for Norfolk after recovering from some initial groin trouble this spring, and was murder on everybody waving lumber in self-defense, striking out 37 in 33 2/3 IP and holding both right- and left-handers to sub-600 OPS marks. He's still pumping high-octane gas, but he still has issues with his command, and there are reasons to wonder if he's really a fireman you bring in with men on base as much as a guy you hand clean innings; he's a pretty extreme fly-ball pitcher, and he's still an unfinished product when it comes to things like holding baserunners (they were six-for-six in their attempts against him). Especially with the flurry of rumors on George Sherrill's availability in trade, that might also suggest their eventual employment of Mickolio as a ginormous closer with equally frightening mechanics, someone who's successful until he breaks. Not that the Mariners need any extra salt in that wound, but a star-caliber center fielder, a top starting pitcher, and two closers? Bill Bavasi's place in history as Santa Claus seems secure.


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated SS-S Jed Lowrie from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Pawtucket (Triple-A); designated OF-L Jonathan Van Every for assignment. [7/8]

With Lowrie's rehab clock all run out and a decision having to be made to activate him, this was sort of an interesting choice. Last night, I suggested they could always ditch one of the empty unis on the bottom end of their 40-man, but instead they've decided to risk losing someone when they might not have had to risk losing anybody. That's because they could have placed Van Every on the 60-day DL in light of the season-ending knee injury he suffered in June, but instead they're letting him dangle. It's not really the end of the world as such things go; Van Every's going to be 30 shortly after the season, so it isn't like he's a primo prospect. It's also unlikely that anyone will grab him for the privilege of rehabbing him and then carrying him across a winter when they might see about getting him as a minor league free agent. In the meantime, with Lowrie due back on the roster soon, they'll still have the question of who to option out of his way, but that should be equally painless on an organizational level.


NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Chien-Ming Wang on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Jonathan Albaladejo from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [7/5]
Activated C-R Jose Molina from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Francisco Cervelli to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/8]

It's become increasingly clear that Wang's 2009 is going to be a failure-to-launch sort of season, because he wasn't doing that well in the rotaiton upon his June reinsertion coming back from his first injury: 28 IP in six turns, 46 baserunners and 21 runs allowed, a .509 slugging average against, too many fly balls, not enough grounders, opposing runners even went 4-for-4 on steal attempts, and basically everything was so very wrong that if there was a Wrong Squad charged with rounding up miscreants for habitual incorrigible incorrectitude, they'd drop the 'r' in his honor. While the Bombers will have to fly in the shadow of the threat that he'll be throwing after the break next week, you can probably expect a full-length rehab assignment with extra caution inspired by demonstrable suckitude, which, if they slow-walk it slowly enough, might take them into the early weeks of August. By then, they might have a read on their fall-back options, not to mention mull the market and perhaps make an offer sort of worthwhile swing guy.

My reason for suggesting their making a shopping run is perhaps inspired by the knowledge of their alternatives. They've elected to forgo turning to Phil Hughes out of some sort of elaborate proposition that he's now a reliever who relieves, and that can't possibly be changed because he might have to return to some sort of earlier stage of starterdom or something, and now that his chitinous reliever's exoskeleton has hardened in the glazing glare of effective work in tight spots, they're worried he wouldn't pupate properly. It's all apparently very complicated, but as Will noted earlier this week, it's also somewhat silly and implausible. That said, if they just flat-out like him in the relief role, they could just come out and say that, and the fret about stage-managing his return to rotational work in 2010, when they can skip Andy Pettitte's latest bit of retirement-related offseason diffidence, or perhaps even non-tender Wang.

So, that brings the Yankees down to a different rung of options, and while you might think that it's hard to find people already in their employment who can do just about what Wang has, they have their aspirants. By strange happenstance, the pitching staff's game of musical chairs that has Hughes in the pen has initially propelled Alfredo Aceves into the Wang spot, and his first time out, the Mexican import who had been so effective in the pen (delivering the unit's second-best WXRL, behind only Mo somebody) turned the Joakim Soria proposition on its head today and got Mexicuted by Minnesota. That, or hoisted by Joltless Joe at the double-quick, the difference being slightly academic when you've given up more runs than innings pitched. I like the suggestion that Aceves might be able to handle a fifth starter's job well enough; he has a broad assortment, and he managed three quality starts out of four last September in The Show, on top of six out of seven in Double-A. He wouldn't be that dominant, but it's a better idea than the alternative, as long as the Yankees' pen can stand his deletion.

The other option would be to haul up Sergio Mitre, who has rehabbed completely and is starring for Scranton, having clearly outclassed such rotation mates as Kei Igawa or Josh Towers. Mitre's a strike-thrower, and he's been able to fulfill the fifth starter's role in the weaker league on worse teams, at least before he blew out his elbow last summer. He's also had problems getting left-handed hitters out, the sinker that got him to the majors isn't generating many ground-ball outs in Triple-A. I wouldn't say he couldn't do the job, but do the Yankees want to settle for more of the Wang stuff in their fifth slot.

Any other farm types worth hauling up? George Kontos, but he just blew out his elbow is done for the year. We could talk about Zach McAllister or Ivan Nova, both promising, both above A-ball, and both not yet on the 40-man, but if they're elaborately concerned for Hughes' sense of well-being, it seems unlikely they'd rush either youngster. So it's the Mexican Leaguer or Mitre. What could possibly go Wang with that?


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Scott Richmond on the 15-day DL (sore arm), retroactive to 7/1. [7/4]
Outrighted C-R Michael Barrett to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [7/6]
Purchased the contract of LHP Marc Rzepczynski from Las Vegas. [7/7]
Activated LHP Scott Downs from the 15-day DL; released LHP B.J. Ryan outright. [7/8]

It's easy to bang on the Blue Jays because now Richmond's down as well, but we'll see how bad the damage is now that he's had his MRI and cortisone shot. Assuming that Rzepczynski gets the start on Sunday before the break and they don't go off an trade Roy Halladay all of a sudden, they won't need to use a fifth starter again until July 25th, by which time Richmond will have had time to even take a minor league mound if he's going to be geared up for an early return. Even so, we'll have to wait and see, and between Casey Janssen re-entering the picture at some point and Rzepczynski's promising debut, it isn't like they need to get ahead of themselves with a frenzied cry of "On to Richmond!"

Rzepczynski's arrival might seem accelerated, given that he was in the Midwest League last year after getting picked out of UC Riverside in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, but the lanky lefty had earned an assignment to Double-A in the spring, managed 88 strikeouts with his power sinker/slider mix in 76 2/3 IP, but also a less-impressive 4.5 RA/9 thanks to a stack of unearned scores. However, three straight quality starts for the Fisher Cats got him to Vegas, where he threw another pair of good games, and voila, he arrived in time to surprise the Rays almost as much as he has perhaps surprised his own organization. He might make a better adjustment than you might initially expect; supported with a quality infield, he might manage in the interim, and certainly do well enough to earn consideration for next spring.

As for the sad ending to the B.J. Ryan story, let's not even begin to cast it in that light. He's a pro, he survived his time in Baltimore, and symptomatically where this organization's concerned, he was over-rewarded for good work by the ever-eager Jays. So now they'll eat a huge amount of cash. It was a bad idea when they inked the deal, and I guess this is as dramatic a distinction as one can make between merely sinking a cost and putting it in cement overshoes and then catapulting it into Lake Ontario, but really, who loses? Well, the people paying the bills, certainly, but they long since seem to have abdicated any responsibility for judging the decisions that brought them to this point in time; J.P. Ricciardi's signed through 2010, after all, and it isn't like this is an organization about to get into the habit of sinking costs; it's expensive.

Besides, they seem to have a reasonable understanding that their lot isn't going to get better without doing something perhaps even more dramatic, and as Jay and Joe have both argued, there are possibilities as well as dancing partners. So Ryan gets to leave early, and the Jays get to be done with a mistake they made three years ago. Move along, people, nothing to see here, it's over already.


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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