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July 23, 2009

Transaction Action

Duncan for Donuts?

by Christina Kahrl

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BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired LF-L Chris Duncan and a PTBNL or cash from the Cardinals for SS-R Julio Lugo and cash, and optioned him to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [7/22]

If you mix a flea market with a swap meet, do you get a flea swap? Stare long enough, and I'm sure you'll see reasons why this works for the Red Sox, but it's more about scratching two itches with one move. On the one hand, Duncan is more than notionally a lefty power source of some merit, however pronounced his present difficulties are, and however open the question remains of whether or not he has much of a career left trying to come back from his neck injury. We could prattle on about regression and how he has to get better from his hitting just .227/.329/.358, or hit for more power-after all, he's hitting fewer liners than an average hitter, and popping up more-but it would be a bit silly, because we don't know if that's just normal booting about and something he can work on with the PawSox, or a reflection of his new limitations. On the other hand, though, he's a lefty power source who can play first base or left field, and old-player skills or no, he's just 28 years old. From the position of their organizational depth, with Chris Carter and Paul McAnulty flailing with the PawSox, Lars Anderson struggling at Double-A Portland, and Jonathan Van Every already out for the year, even after acquiring Adam LaRoche, it made sense to take a flier on Duncan. To pick him up and something to be determined-cash or cattle on the hoof-for Lugo while still having to pay almost all of their obligation to Lugo may not sound all that special, but getting somebody else's nothing for your nothing could nevertheless wind up being something for both teams.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated DH-R Mike Sweeney from the 15-day DL; designated INF-R Josh Wilson for assignment. [7/21]

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Chad Bradford on the 15-day DL (lower back); recalled RHP Dale Thayer from Durham (Triple-A). [7/23]

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Andrew Miller to New Orleans (Triple-A); recalled 1B/3B-R Gaby Sanchez from New Orleans. [7/21]

Miller went kablooey in consecutive starts, and with the decision to bring Rick VandenHurk up, they're sort of flip-flopping between who their fourth and fifth starter is in terms of pecking order, taking advantage of offdays today and next Monday to wisely ditch their presently ranked fifth (Miller) and use the roster spot on something else, as they won't need their fifth starter again until August 1 against the Cubs. Ideally, Miller will take to his Big Easy cure, and be able to come back squared away, but if he isn't ready, they can just as easily go back to using Sean West and seeing if he's ready to improve upon his initial spin in the rotation.

Sanchez arrives hitting .281/.351/.440 for New Orleans; although he missed most of May with a knee injury, he's been doing a good job of challenging the assumption that he's a platoon player in the making by raking for better pop against right-handers (with eight of his nine homers and a .456 SLG). Bouncing between first and third, he's still giving reason to believe that third base isn't a position he'll handle for any great length of time, however; not that fielding percentage is a metric to peg a guy with all by its lonseome, but seven errors and a .908 fielding percentage isn't anything to generate any endorsements that this is the man who will be the antidote to Emilio Bonifacio. Jorge Cantu, on the other hand, would be, but would the Marlins choose a job-share at first involving Sanchez, Wes Helms, and Ross Gload over playing Bonifacio? It seems as if no amount of bad ballgames from Bonifacio has altered their amazing faith in the speedster's utility, and add in the frustratingly weak performances from Chris Coghlan (.258 EqA) and Jeremy Hermida (.264) in the outfield, and the Fish have been willing to settle for weak hitting at three of the four corners, and that's without getting into how Cantu's not an asset at first base, not when he's cranking out a .272 EqA at a position where that's inadequate (all MLB first basemen are producing at a .292 clip) while at third base it'd be OK (MLB third basemen are at .268 collectively).


NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Fernando Nieve on the 15-day DL; recalled OF-L Cory Sullivan from Buffalo (Triple-A). [7/20]

Losing Nieve isn't good news, because the likely replacement for him in the rotation will be Jon Niese, leaving us with the question of what a difference one consonant makes. Even with Niese tearing off eight quality starts in a row for the Bisons, he's not a high-upside prospect about to electrify the league as much as somebody who might help flesh out a rotation-not too much unlike Nieve. That's not a bad thing, but with Livan Hernandez being pulled back well downslope by the tentacles of his mere utility and down to a sub-.500 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, John Maine still only working towards a rehab stint, Mike Pelfrey alternating disasterpieces and winnable ballgames with a dull reliability, and Oliver Perez walking 20 percent of all batters faced since his reactivation, this isn't really a unit that can afford to take any hits. Functionality is fine, but Maine, Pelfrey, and Perez were supposed to deliver more than that, and instead the Mets are down to Johan Santana fending off concerns about his health (three straight quality starts muting that source of worry only somewhat) and hoping they luck into the odd good day from their starter du jour or a bunch of runs from a lineup no less unreliable.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Recalled 1B/OF-R Steven Pearce from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [7/23]

Sure enough, here's Pearce, called up in the wake of yesterday's LaRoche trade. It makes for an interesting blend in the outfield corners and first base-at least until they decide to bring up Lastings Milledge-in that they can play Pearce and Garrett Jones at first as well as the corners, with Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young getting long looks in the outfield. Moss is increasingly taking a back seat, which is just as well (history has its losers, after all), while Young's doing almost all of his damage against right-handers. Pearce comes back up having gone on a modest tear for Indy, ripping out nine extra-base hits in 12 games while hitting .333/.429/.643 in 49 PA. It's still not cause for overstated enthusiasm-he is already 26, so his future is now-but he's as ready to contribute as he ever will be, and one hopes that one of the distinctions between the present and the past is that, even if he does somewhat improbably make like Kevin Young and break out however briefly-say, he surprises us all and hits something like his 90th-percentile projection for 2009 next year-they don't subsequently over-reward him and find themselves sinking under the weight of a latter-day unsinkable cost.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted RHP Josh Banks to Portland (Triple-A). [7/22]

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

Traded LF-L Chris Duncan to the Red Sox for SS-R Julio Lugo after optioning him to Memphis (Triple-A); recalled INF-R Brian Barden from Memphis. [7/22]

Discarding Duncan to add Lugo-and with the Sox paying Lugo-was a nifty little pickup for the Cardinals in light of their balance of the expansive outfield depth that had already crowded Duncan out of the picture and their equally apparent need for an infielder of any stripe. In the outfield, Duncan couldn't and shouldn't deserve any consideration ahead of Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel, or Ryan Ludwick, and Brendan Ryan's predictable slump since being handed the starting job at short about a month ago (.244/.267/.337 since June 20) meant that, even with Mark DeRosa reactivated from the DL, they had a lineup slot that had gone slack. Lugo's no prize defensively, and pairing him up with Skip Schumaker in the middle infield makes the Cards something a force of unreformed evil now that defense is the only acceptable fashion accessory for aspiring contenders in some circles. Suggesting that Lugo will blossom away from the pressure of Boston strikes me as a bit specious-anybody really think they take their baseball less seriously in St. Louis?-but heck, Felipe Lopez got his career going again there last season, and given the Cards' absolute need, this was a perfect pickup. Add in that Lugo's under contract through 2010 on Boston's dime, and if he delivers they can look forward to a winter where they won't have to give achieveing a happy ending to the Khalil Greene story all that much thought, however nice that might be. If, however, Greene does bounce back, wherever he starts in the infield (probably third), that might also give the Cardinals the depth to move Mark DeRosa to the outfield now and again to spot for Ankiel (if he's slumping) or for Rasmus against the odd lefty (with Ankiel returning to center), or do likewise with Schumaker in the outfield a little more frequently (with DeRosa moving to second).


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  Depth,  The Who,  Triple-A,  Depth Chart

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BillJohnson

Can Lugo handle second base? If so, another option that his acquisition opens up for St. Louis is to move Schumaker and his egregious defense back to the outfield, and have Lugo slide into the infield beside Ryan, rather than replacing him. Ryan may not be hitting much, but oh my, does the man have range, particularly going to his right.

Jul 23, 2009 11:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan W.

The difference between that one Mets consonant is, at a minimum, two whole syllables. Minaya is believed to have secret data showing that each syllable is worth roughly 5 games in the standings.

Jul 23, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I have my doubts, given that one of Lugo's most fundamental problems afield is his repeat offenses when it comes to muffing the deuce; as John Dewan and his team note in the indispensable Fielding Bible: Volume II, he "is inconsistent with the timing and accuracy of his feeds, and doesn't take contact well from aggressive slides on the pivot." Add to that he just seems to have heavy footwork around the bag, and it sounds like a situation where it wouldn't go very well. Having invested the time in making Schumaker a second baseman, Lugo's not the sort of talent who readily encourages you to undo the experiment, and given their need for a shortstop, I'd rather go with the double-leaded middle infield of Lugo and Schumaker up the middle, with Ryan around as a defensive replacement. Although even just typing that, it does make me think about how Earl Weaver would so frequently invert that balance, with the slick fielders up the middle getting the starts and then working in the better hitters when his club needed offense. We'll see which way La Russa jumps, but regardless of his choice(s), it'll make for some fun boxes.

Jul 23, 2009 12:01 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

DeRosa played a bit of shortstop too in the past. I don't know if he's better than Lugo, though. Also, Lugo played third base a bit as a Ray and Astro as I remember.

Jul 23, 2009 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

Let's not rush to credit the Sox too much here. The trade can only be viewed in tandem with their decision to DFA Lugo, which you could argue, was a mistake, since it basically means they're paying $13 million for Chris Duncan.

Jul 23, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: 0
 
acmcdowell

I don't think that is a fair way to look at it at all. The money committed to Lugo was a sunk cost. They felt the team was better going forward with Lowrie and Green, despite Lugo's bloated salary.

Don't get me wrong, the contract to Julio Lugo was a massive mistake, but as a Red Sox fan I'm impressed they got a player who might be useful. I've said for months that if someone offered the Red Sox a turd sandwich and a quarter for Lugo, you quietly throw out the sandwich and thank them profusely for the quarter.

Jul 23, 2009 12:49 PM
rating: 0
 
cbirkemeier

They made the money mistake when they signed Lugo. You can't penalize them for that when evaluating this trade.

Jul 23, 2009 12:52 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

My point was they didn't HAVE to DFA him, they could have shopped him for some other sucker (and I'm looking at....you, Omar) and either gotten some payroll relief or a player that's better than Chris Duncan. By DFA'ing him, they forced their hand, and I wonder if it was premature.

Jul 23, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
James Martin Cole

You think they haven't been shopping Lugo? Someone called Theo up and said "Lowrie's ready" and Theo said "oh my! we now have too many shortstops! I'll have to DFA Lugo immediately!"

No one is going to pay for Lugo or give anything of real value up. They got something, that something might one day be a decent player, or he might not. Lugo didn't merit a spot on the roster, and the 13 million was a sunk cost.

Jul 23, 2009 13:45 PM
rating: 1
 
dianagram

I may need to name a future roto team "Muffing the Deuce"

Jul 23, 2009 12:44 PM
rating: 6
 
dianagram
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I may need to name a future roto team "Muffing the Deuce"

Jul 23, 2009 12:44 PM
rating: -8
 
cbirkemeier

Just noticed that the DT Cards links all go to the 2008 pages.

Jul 23, 2009 12:56 PM
rating: -1
 
buffum
(458)

By the way, these puns are atrocious.

Naturally, I'm envious.

Jul 23, 2009 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
George Dreckmann

Duncan is more than acceptable first baseman and will get better with more chances. However, I think that the rest of this year is pretty much wasted for the big guy. Perhaps the best thing he can do is shut it down and let his neck rest.

WOW Burhle just tossed a perfecto! Great stuff

Jul 23, 2009 13:31 PM
rating: 1
 
BillJohnson

He is indeed an acceptable defensive first baseman according to the statistics. Watching him circle under a pop up, however, was possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen in person on a professional baseball field.

The real question is: will he ever hit again? Watching him this year, and also watching pitch locations, etc., on Game Day when he wasn't directly available to be watched, has suggested that he has been having a terrible time with pitch recognition. One would think that should be reparable -- he had the skill when he first came up, after all -- but this year's evidence is to the contrary.

Incidentally, if there's a practitioner out there who specializes in curing the pitch-recognition disease, Dunc's erstwhile counterpart in the St. Louis outfield, Rick Ankiel, should be his next client.

Jul 23, 2009 13:54 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

I have another difference from one consonant.

New York Mess

Jul 23, 2009 15:07 PM
rating: 0
 
nghunter

Achieving a happy ending for Khalil Greene sounds a little dirty for a family website, Christina.

Jul 23, 2009 15:14 PM
rating: 2
 
Brian Cartwright

Neil Huntington came on the air during Wednesday afternoon's Pirate game to discuss the LaRoche trade and it's aftermath. He spent a lot of time talking up Steve Pearce, and despite obvious SSS issues, highlighted how Pearce had listened to coaching and become a more patient and productive hitter since his demotion.

I have projected Pearce to be virtually identical to LaRoche in offensive production. Sadly, this makes him one of the best hitters on the Pirates, but in my opinion has never been given a fair shot at playing time in ordet to establish himself. Garret Jones was given the opportunity after Nyjer Morgan was traded, and has performed over any expectations. I would hope that Pearce would be given the first base job, put Jones in one of the outfield corners, and let Moss and Young split the other corner. At the end of the season, it will be clearer which of these four should continue with the team in 2010, and how Lastings Milledge fits into the mix.

Jul 23, 2009 16:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

If Pearce and LaRoche are projected as similar offensive players, that's all the more reason to flip LaRoche. Is it better to let Pearce stagnate and lose value while paying a few million a year to LaRoche? At worst, the Pirates trim payroll and open up a spot for a comparable player. At best, the players received for LaRoche might end up being trading chits and they still get the cash savings (with less complaining to the local media).

Jul 23, 2009 18:40 PM
rating: 0
 
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