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July 20, 2009

Transaction Action

The Weekend Shuffle

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded UT-R Oscar Salazar to the Padres for RHP Cla Meredith. [7/19]
Recaled RHP David Hernandez from Norfolk (Triple-A). [7/20]

Moving Salazar might have made some sense if it had been for something or somebody who might help, but it's reflective of how far Meredith's star has fallen that he's what they got for the hitting machine. There are feel-good elements, of course-Meredith's from Virginia, so he's relatively local, and on the face of it, the Orioles' pen could use shoring up given their number of early-exit starters in the rotation. As things stand now, they're really only getting good work from Jim Johnson and Matt Albers before games get to George Sherrill, and while Kam Mickolio's worthy of placing some faith in, that's still not much in the way of an actual body count. Moreover, Meredith's good at generating ground-ball outs, and that's generally understood to be a good thing. The problem is that it isn't as if the Orioles' defense is a source of strength, rating 24th to the Pads' 26th, so the problems with his extreme hittability aren't going to disappear in a flash of leather and lightning. Meredith's Fair Runs Allowed mark of 5.45 would place him down around Mark Hendrickson in terms of general utility, which is to say, "not very." Perhaps predictably for a pitcher who keeps the ball in the infield, he's been more effective this season with the bases empty (.294/.342/.294) than with ducks on the pond (.351/.418/.429), but he's also been remarkably effective against his first batter (.206/.229/.294). Perhaps strangely for a side-armer, his situational utility isn't quite what you'd expect, in that he hasn't been notably more effective against right-handers (.318/.366/.376), but last year he held them to .258/.304/.376. Of course, all of that's with a guy who got to call Petco home; moving to the hammer-and-tongs anvil action of the AL East, you can probably expect the hammerings to commence.


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Joel Zumaya on the 15-day DL (shoulder soreness); recalled RHP Ryan Perry from Toledo (Triple-A). [7/18]

As Zumaya degenerates into some sort of boojum beast of fabulosity, relating the like of which you can enthrall credulous masses with, I guess it's important to go through the now-predictable set-piece of griefs if you're a Tigers fan or his fantasy owner: the denial ("But he just got here!"), rage ("Argh! He really is gone again! I will vent my rage by squeezing this wireless mouse within an inch of its battery-powered life!"), bargaining ("Please, Will, please tell me he'll be OK really soon"), depression ("I remember 2006, a fine year indeed; I could still find Zima at discount liquor stores to toast my good fortune"), and acceptance ("I'm an idiot to have ever counted on the Z-Man-again"). In point of fact, Perry had done good work in his three weeks with the Mudhens, showing better control by striking out a dozen batters in 13 2/3 IP while walking four, and however uneven Perry's performances, he wasn't all that different from Zumaya in terms of FRA, with a 5.51 to the veteran's 5.35. If you're busted up about Zumaya's latest case of the unhappily-ever-afters, just get used to the idea that he is to bullpens what parenting is to trailer parks: often MIA, by turns violent and a rare source of joy, and the sort of thing that can inevitably drive you to drink.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Gil Meche on the 15-day DL (lower back), retroactive to 7/12; activated RHP Sidney Ponson from the 15-day DL. [7/18]

This latest Royal disaster has been much-belabored by some of my colleagues already, so I'll simply note that with Sir Sidney reunited with Bruce Chen, they might only have to expend a minimum of effort to add Daniel Cabrera and Rodrigo Lopez and have the bulk of the Orioles' rotation of 2005 reunited. Who's missing, you ask? Well, Erik Bedard of course, but like Dennis DeYoung and current incarnations of Styx, it would probably take far too much to bring the famous guy back and make that equally epic fivesome whole again. Even if you did make it so, you'd be left wondering what the point was, but at this point, it would be hard to identify what plan in Kansas City exists, if any. Kyle Davies didn't follow up his pair of great outings upon demotion with equally excellent work down at Omaha, leaving Lenny DiNardo as the only O-Royal meriting an ex-O's blocker to try and spin KC masterpieces, and the rotation at Double-A has no aspirants worthy of calling up. At this point, getting Davies back in working order is the most folks can hope for beyond those that Meche isn't badly damaged from this latest bit of injury mismanagement.


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed 2B-R Mark Grudzielanek to a minor league contract. [7/19]

It's interesting that this is how far Grudz' stock had fallen, and that he's had to wait around this long to get a deal, but the Twins' need for a fall-back from Alexi Casilla should the prospect blow yet another opportunity-one that's better than playing Nick Punto daily or bringing back Matt Tolbert-was desperately needed for a team that should take its post-season chances seriously. As limited as Grudz's uses might be these days-don't forget, he's in his age-39 season, and has shown little more than reliable contact ability any more as an offensive contributor-he should still be worthwhile around the keystone as a man who positions himself well and fearlessness on the deuce. Modest though those remaining skills may be, it beats banking on wishcasts for Casilla with the season racing towards the stretch. If, in three or four weeks, Casilla still isn't doing something and the Twins are still in this thing, you can beat you'll see the grognard knocking around on the carpet in the Twin Cities.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired 3B-L Jack Hannahan from the Athletics for RHP Justin Souza; optioned RHP Brandon Morrow to Tacoma (Triple-A). [7/11]

Adding clarity to their lot, Hannahan was acquired to apparently create a platoon out of crash-test dummies at the hot corner, while the Mariners forgo the miseries they inflicted upon Tacoma by having Chris Shelton play third base for the Rainiers. (Shelton has instead moved into the platoon DH/cheerleader roster spot lavished upon Mike Sweeney.) It won't do their lineup any favors, but in the interests of doing something to appear to have done something, you can call this a mission-accomplished moment of no moment.

As for the truly surprising denouement with their pitching staff, Morrow's demotion, however much it might reflect his faltering fortunes-the man ranks behind Garett Olson, for reals?-isn't the end of the world once you get past the hypotheticals of what Morrow's supposed to be and take a deep breath. Because of the All-Star break and an offday today, the Mariners don't need a fifth starter until next weekend, at which point they'll get to choose between Morrow and Jason Vargas. Given their performance in-season, that's not really a close call: by Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, the Mariners have been better off with Vargas (.525) as well as Olson (.453) than with Morrow (.441), and perhaps making matters worse, Morrow got clobbered in his first start back down in Tacoma, putting 10 of 24 batters faced on base in less than five full frames, and allowing five of them to score. It's hard to get too angry about this-the current regime didn't pick him, and while it's frustrating that they may not have a great idea of what to do with him, even in the midst of their present-day run at relevance, they can afford to take their time and sort it out.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Released 1B-S Tony Clark. [7/13]
Recalled 1B-L Josh Whitesell from Reno (Triple-A). [7/16]
Acquired RHP Roque Mercedes and OF-R Cole Gillespie from the Brewers for UT-S Felipe Lopez. [7/19]
Recalled INF-R Ryan Roberts from Reno. [7/20]

There's not a lot to say about the belated realization that filler players like Clark or Lopez weren't going to move the franchise in any direction whatsoever; they weren't really major assets for any thwarted hopes as far as contention goes. It isn't really as if they need to exult overmuch as to how Lopez was an above-replacement placeholder at the keystone; they didn't get Lopez at replacement-level pricing, but at least turning to Ryan Roberts (or Ruben Gotay, who's also at Reno) will do just about as nicely. Similarly, at first base Whitesell's not really much of a keeper any more than Roberts is; he's a discarded former prospect for a reason, and an adequate temp until they organization figures out what it really wants to do.

Where you can credit Josh Byrnes is his flipping F-Lop for two players who might help out. Mercedes in particular could really be something, a stringy 22-year-old Dominican reliever who throws consistently in the low 90s with his heat (and touches 95), but whose slider according to Kevin Goldstein has become "outstanding, a true plus-plus pitch." Down in the Florida State League, he'd struck out 45 in 41 2/3 IP, giving up just 42 baserunners (15 on walks) and seven runs. Byrnes cited him as a reliever who could help out down the line; that could be said about lots of people, but Mercedes might develop into a true asset. Gillespie's more of a generic body, an outfielder who's already in his age-25 season in Triple-A, and who got off to a slow start after missing the beginning of the year with an elbow injury. His season line so far (.242/.332/.424) understates his abilities, but he's a left field-inclined corner man with modest power. That's the profile of a guy who had zero chance of getting consideration in Milwaukee, but his upside isn't that much better in Phoenix; at best, he's organizational filler to use during Eric Byrnes' absences and to help put a scare into Chris Young or Gerardo Parra, but it's hard to expect that he'll ever really reach beyond a fourth outfielder's role.

Still, a fourth outfielder and a reliever with upside, for F-Lop? Sounds like the sort of deal the Snakes should take a modest bit of pride in having made.


CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned OF-L Sam Fuld to Iowa (Triple-A); recalled RHP Kevin Hart from Iowa. [7/20]

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Sean West to Jacksonville (Double-A); purchased the contract of RHP Luis Ayala from New Orleans (Triple-A); transferred RHP Anibal Sanchez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/12]
Optioned INF-R Andy Gonzalez to New Orleans; recalled RHP Rick VandenHurk from New Orleans. [7/20]

It's going to be interesting to see if whatever fairy dust the Fish seem to keep in reserve to sprinkle over improbable-seeming relief retreads and suddenly discover a functional contributor will work with Ayala as well after he managed to disappoint the Nats, Mets, and Twins in relatively short order. In the meantime, the actual upshot of all this is that VandenHurk is back in the rotation in West's place, as the Marlins mull their options from among their second-tier minions for fifth starterdom. VandenHurk's working his way back from elbow woes that seem to have come upon him in the wake of his services on behalf of the House of Orange-Nassau in the World Baseball Classic (they're mad for baseball, really), and then during his deliberately paced rehab work logged six quality starts in eight games before being hooked early in the ninth to prevent any mishaps prior to his recall.

As for the man he replaces, West didn't disgrace himself in his 10 turns, looking occasionally dominant (against weaker big-league lineups like the Giants, admittedly), but noting that he's posted the third-highest Support-Neutral Winning Percentage among regular Fish in the rotation overstates his performance. He managed just three quality starts, and where Ricky Nolasco and Andrew Miller have had their bumps this season (and Miller may yet hand his job back to someone else), they're well worth leaving alone among the front five for the time being.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Felipe Paulino to Round Rock (Triple-A). [7/13]
Recalled LHP Wesley Wright from Round Rock. [7/16]
Placed 1B/OF-L Darin Erstad on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/19; recalled INF-S Matt Kata from Round Rock. [7/20]


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired UT-S Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks for RHP Roque Mercedes and OF-R Cole Gillespie. [7/19]
Optioned 3B-L Mat Gamel to Nashville (Triple-A). [7/20]

It's a bit strange to suggest that getting F-Lop does the Brewers much good, if any. Away from Banky-Bank Ballpark (West Campus), he's hitting all of .267/.320/.327, or exactly the way you would expect Felipe Lopez to hit. Defensively, he's also still Felipe Lopez, a bad add to any defense at shortstop, a filler at second, and somebody you only start at third on a starter's offday. He shouldn't start ahead of Craig Counsell at second or Mat Gamel at third or J.J. Hardy at short. While he might have been a runner back in the day, these days he's not a valuable contributor on the bases. With Casey McGehee around as Gamel's spotter on defense, F-Lop doesn't do that for them either, not that he has notable platoon value either. About the most you can say for Lopez is that he's probably a better infield reserve at this point than Bill Hall, and we can only say probably because you don't know how much his production will flop with a reduction to part-time play. He adds depth, to be sure, in case any of the worthwhile starters break down, and that might also come into play should Doug Melvin climb down off of his high horse and put Hardy or Alcides Escobar or Gamel into any deals that bring his club Roy Halladay, but that's about the extent of the exchange's virtues. They didn't give up any premium prospects, instead dealing from depth, but unless there's some other shoe to drop in terms of swapping out an infielder to get the starting pitcher who might keep their bid for contention going, this was also more than a little pointless.

Addendum @ 4:30 pm ET: Having demoted Gamel to make room for Lopez, we can now also chalk this up as a case of subtraction by addition. Whether the choice is to win now or evaluate the talent on hand with an eye towards the future, there's nothing that Lopez does to help on either score that Gamel doesn't more fully fulfill. If this is about being squeamish about the huge chunk of change owed to Bill Hall ($8.4 million in 2010, plus another $500,000 to buy out his option for 2011) than a reflection of fundamentally bad taste in veteran add-ons, it still isn't really to their credit.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Ryan Webb to Portland (Triple-A); recalled OF-L Drew Macias from Portland. [7/17]
Purchased the contract of RHP Mat Latos from San Antonio (Double-A); designated RHP Josh Banks for assignment. [7/18]
Traded RHP Cla Meredith to the Orioles for UT-R Oscar Salazar. [7/19]
Placed INF-R Edgar Martinez on the 15-day DL (concussion), retroactive to 7/19; recalled LHP Joe Thatcher from Portland (Triple-A). [7/20]

Nice things doing for the Pad people. Hauling up Latos might seem like a rush job considering that he's only 21 years old and had yet to spend a season at any one rung, but injuries were part of the reason why last year, and this season, he shredded the Midwest League (13 baserunners and 27 Ks in 25 1/3 IP, with one run allowed on a solo shot hit by Dodgers prospect Alfredo Silverio), which got him skipped past the pitching-unfriendly Cal League and straight up to Double-A. There, he settled for spindling and mutilation of the opposition, allowing 42 baserunners in 47 frames, with 46 more strikeouts and 11 runs allowed; nobody in the Southern League matched Silverio's feat as far as going yard against him. Run out to face major leaguers yesterday, that changed with Ian Stewart's solo shot in the fourth and final frame in his debut against the Rockies. The Pads obviously will be watching his workload relatively carefully, and there's still something to the grumbles that Latos does things his own way, but given that it's the Padres and they need help as well as hope, you can understand how that might not be as big a consideration now as it might be in camp.

As for their minor exchange with the O's, dispensing with the former curiosity of Cla Merdith-sidearmer, onetime hot commodity, and now perhaps one of the more reliable source of knocks you can find anywhere-and adding something they can use was a nice little add-on for a ballclub that can use help in any form. Salazar can play almost anywhere that isn't pitcher or catcher-not especially well, mind you-and he can hit for better pop than most utility aspirants. Admittedly, I'm more hopeful for him than PECOTA generally allowed for before this season started, but he could be a pinch-hitting asset on a National League club if he can deliver around his 75th-percentile projection (.254/.308/.429) as a part-time player.

That flexibility is especially a factor for the Pads with David Eckstein shelved, as the opportunity exists for Salazar to be worked in at second with Luis Rodriguez struggling as much as ever, althoughthe defensive hit that they'd take with Salazar at the keystone might make that hard to stomach for any extended period of time. They could also work him into their mix of outfielders, especially with the team willing to keep Chase Headley in play as a third baseman (with an eye towards shipping off Kevin Kouzmanoff, no doubt). As a result, at-bats in right or left might not be as hard to find as you might otherwise think. Although Kid Gwynn seems to be settling in nicely enough in center, picking from among Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, and even Macias doesn't seem to have generated an immediate favorites. Admittedly, this goes from two spots in play should Brian Giles be reactivated any time soon, but what's the rush?


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Kyle Lohse from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Blake Hawksworth to Memphis (Triple-A). [7/12]
Activated INF-R Mark DeRosa from the 15-day DL; optioned 2B-R Jarrett Hoffpauir to Memphis. [7/18]


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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