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August 10, 2009

Transaction Action

Brew'd-up Reunion

by Christina Kahrl

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CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded RHP David Weathers to the Brewers for a PTBNL. [8/9]
Activated RHP Jared Burton from the 15-day DL. [8/10]


COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted RHP Ryan Speier to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [7/28]
Signed RHP Mike Timlin. [7/29]
Acquired LHP Joe Beimel from the Nationals for RHPs Ryan Mattheus and Robinson Fabian. [7/31]
Placed RHP Juan Rincon on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 7/31; activated LHP Joe Beimel. [8/1]

It's a bit hard to really get worked up about Beimel. Acquired for nothing but a pair organizational dogsbodies, it can't really be seen as sneaky or clever as much as an obvious positive good. If you're an adherent to the Tuco Ramirez School of Philosophical Reductionism, you believe there are two kinds of trades, the kind that help you, and the kind that don't. Given that the Rock pen has Huston Street doing good things, and then a bunch of other guys who really haven't, it's something of an exercise in obviousness to state that "getting Joe Beimel for a plate or shrimp or a plate of shrimp." You knew that, so did I, and so did the dance partners in this particular tangled tango. The problem is that Beimel hasn't been all that special as a National, having posted a -0.032 WXRL that would fit right in to the Rox current relief corps which, WXRL-wise, sort of mimics the Denver landscape-with a 2.986 WXRL, Street's the shadow-casting peak on one side, and on the other side you get the non-descript flatitude from the rest of the crew.

However, WXRL's a counting stat, not a rate stat, so a better way to look at the Rockies' relief corps and what's on tap for the second half is to switch over to FRA; do that, and you get a sense that the made-over unit's going to be an asset down the stretch. Expressed in those terms, Beimel's suddenly useful again, having put up a 3.65 FRA for the Nats, and joining a unit that has the benefit of not just Street (2.92 FRA) but also Rafael Betancourt (1.19 since his acquisition) and Josh Fogg doing well in middle-innings work (2.58), and then Franklin Morales (2.75), Matt Daley (3.07), and Jhoulys Chacin (1.80) from among the home-grown goodies. That's the unit the Rockies will be making a run with, not the one that involved Jason Grilli and Manny Corpas and Alan Embree pouring gas on early-season fires. Thinking of it in less mathematically expressed terms, Betancourt and Beimel have been among the better set-up men of recent seasons, while Chacin and Morales both have excellent stuff that can dominate in short stretches. If that sounds like a pen you can win with, make no mistake, the Rockies will.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Assigned RHP Chad Paronto to Round Rock (Triple-A). [7/27]
Placed RHP LaTroy Hawkins on the 15-day DL (shingles). [7/28]
Activated RHP Doug Brocail from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Bud Norris from Round Rock; optioned INF-R Edwin Maysonet to Round Rock. [7/29] Released RHP Russ Ortiz; recalled RHP Sam Gervacio from Round Rock. [7/30]
Optioned RHP Sam Gervacio to Round Rock; recalled RHP Felipe Paulino from Round Rock. [8/4]
Placed RHP Doug Brocail on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/5; activated 1B/OF-L Darin Erstad from the 15-day DL. [8/7]
Optioned RHP Felipe Paulino to Round Rock; purchased the contract of RHP Yorman Bazardo from Round Rock. [8/8]

I don't see a ton of cause for regret in light of Mike Hampton's latest injury (to his knee) where releasing Ortiz is concerned. Beyond being a bit tetchy about his role-and when you're not all that good, making additional noise beyond the too-frequent raps of the bat is something of a unique form of wisdom-he'd posted a rotation regular-worst .408 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, behind the marks of both Hampton and Paulino. While it's inconvenient that they didn't immediately demote Paulino after his start on the 4th so that, barring a DL move, he's not available to come back until next week, and with the additional inconvenience of this week's not having an offday for the Astros, I would suspect we'll see Bazardo start on Thursday in Hampton's place if the vet can't go. As is, Paulino couldn't be back to start for Hampton on the 13th without a DL move since it would have been within 10 days, but he hasn't pitched for the Express since his demotion, so we'll see what comes of this. As for Bazardo, while it seems as if he's been around forever, having bounced through several organizations without ever earning a clean shot, he is only 25, he does throw reasonably hard, and he does arrive having done good work in Triple-A. It can't hurt to take a look, especially if it spares them a spin with the next cranky Ortiz type.

If there's a cause for satisfaction, however, it's that with the arrival of Bud Norris, the rotation situation isn't quite as desperate as it was when it was just the "Oswalt and Wandy and then offer candy" combo. Norris isn't going to be to every scout's taste, as he's a short right-hander who has to rely on movement on his low to mid-90s heat, getting little by way of a good plane on his pitches. Nevertheless, he's obviously looked good in his initial pair of turns, flashing the plus breaker, but also making more of an effort to work in the changeup that was last year's work-in-progress. As Kevin Goldstein noted earlier this season, there's still a healthy suspicion within industry that Norris' future is in the pen, but given the Astros' lack of alternatives, his splashy debut, and a solid campaign in Triple-A-with 3.2 runs allowed per nine while striking out 112 against 49 unintentional walks in 120 IP-should have him up from here on out, although after elbow woes last season, it'll be interesting to see whether or not they 'Stros let him go for too long down the stretch. As further proof that even the worst systems have something going for them, they also took a peek at Gervacio, and while the hard-throwing Dominican reliever didn't get an chance after failing to shine all that brightly at Triple-A, guys who throw in the mid-90s don't grow on trees, and a 56/17 K/BB ratio in 51 1/3 Express innings while not getting hit for much power suggests that he's doing something right.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Designated LHP R.J. Swindle for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Jesus Colome from Nashville (Triple-A). [8/7]
Acquired RHP David Weathers from the Reds for a PTBNL. [8/9]
Optioned RHP Chris Smith to Nashville. [8/10]
Activated RHP David Weathers. [8/11]

Well, bless the Brewers for still caring, because I love that they made at least this much effort to help themselves. Their pen has been pretty much restricted to faith properly placed in closer Trevor Hoffman-and I know, I'm one of the pre-season doubters who doesn't look so hot on that score-plus top set-up man Todd Coffey and home-grown situational southpaw Mitch Stetter, after which we get into the fungibles. Stormy might be pushing 40, but he hasn't lost much to Father Time in terms of his effectiveness, and take him out of the Gap's tiny spaces, and he's been nothing short of brilliant this season, allowing barely a baserunner per frame while posting a 2.08 ERA. It'll be interesting to see if Doug Melvin decides that Weathers' club option for 2010 is affordable at $3.7 million, but given the man's extended track record for usefulness, it would also be entirely defensible. This probably doesn't mean the situation for Seth McClung's coming back any time soon is all that good, but four good relievers is better than three good relievers, and Chris Smith and Mark DiFelice have both been handy middle men.

It might not be enough to make that nagging rotation problem go away, but at least it's a unit that can contribute to the Brewers' sputtering bid for a return to the playoffs. Colome might also contribute as a situational right-hander, but there the benefits are relatively modest, and he's somewhat redundant considering they already added Claudio Vargas; he may well wind up the man moved aside for Weathers' benefit, but given how little slack the rotation's picking up, going with an eight-man pen and bumping someone like Hernan Iribarren from the bench wouldn't surprise me much. With Ken Macha settling on F-Lop as his everyday second baseman while employing platoons at third (Craig Counsell and Casey McGehee) and in right (the Catalanotto/Hall platoon of dubious value), while Jason Kendall's complete all but four of his starts behind the plate-meaning his skipper doesn't pinch-hit for him, no matter how badly he's hitting-it isn't like they're using their bench to much effect. Jody Gerut's a forgotten man as is, so keeping track of Iribarren's almost one body too many as is for a team that's instead struggling to figure out who to pitch on a night-to-night basis.


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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