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August 19, 2009

Transaction Action

Redemption?

by Christina Kahrl

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CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed OF-L DeWayne Wise on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/15; purchased the contract of RHP Freddy Garcia from Charlotte (Triple-A). [8/18]

The return of Chief Garcia was a bit hurried, as he made all of four minor league starts, predictably torching the Appy and Sally Leagues in three, and then losing to a weak PawSox lineup in his one upper-level game, but he'd thrown strikes at every level, and after seeing Carlos Torres get lit up on August 8 the last time the fifth slot had rolled around, they took a chance on a blast from their own happy past. It wasn't cause for celebration his first time out, as he got rocked by a weak Royals lineup that nevertheless had his measure by the second time through the order. Given he was getting loud outs from the get-go, I can't say this bodes well for his lasting, but you can't blame the Sox for trying, as it's a temporary fix-up for a rotation slot they expect to fill with Jake Peavy soon enough.

The question I have is whether or not the Sox have more than one open slot in their rotation, or need to think in those terms if they're going to stop voicing disappointments and instead start benching some of them. Consider their rotation's individual performances:


Pitcher         SNWP
Mark Buehrle    .570
Gavin Floyd     .553
John Danks      .529
Jose Contreras  .439
Bartolo Colon   .466

Limited just to that information, describing the odds of a pitcher's start being won by his team, suggests that the problem goes further than just finding a replacement for Colon during his time on the DL. In this latest instance of Jose Contreras' on/off career pattern, Contreras is off again. His lone quality start in his last six turns, on July 24 against the Tigers, was blown in the seventh. I don't think there's all that much that is odd about the deafening silence emanating from those quick to suggest Contreras was back once he'd been recalled; indeed, he launched that most recent comeback with six consecutive quality starts (with the one against the Cubs on June 26th blown to provide a nice mirroring effect), so it was worth getting worked up. The problem is that I think Contreras, always something of a high-maintenance project, has graduated from a quick and easy tuneup to VW auto mechanic-level problematic. If the the team that made him a success in the major leagues can't fix him, we may be at the point of accepting that he can't be fixed, or can't be waited on when a club's got a playoff spot at stake.

All of which means things should get very interesting come roster expansion at the very least, because even if there are two rotation spots in play, there are more than enough veteran candidates to fill them with. Jake Peavy's debut for the Sox is tentatively being targeted for August 28th; that'll bump one of Contreras or Garcia. But what happens in September, when Bartolo Colon might be ready to add back into the mix? Contreras' inconsistency makes this a quandary, and if Peavy struggles at all and if they're still in the hunt, the Sox may be inclined to shut him down quickly and wait for him to be ready to front the 2010 rotation. That would still leave Colon, Contreras, and Garcia to fill the last two slots with, but as we saw last season, not picking Colon seems to inspire the big man to go home early.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Kyle Farnsworth from the 15-day DL; optioned 3B-L Alex Gordon to Omaha (Triple-A). [8/18]

Since his reactivation on July 17, Gordon's hit a lackluster .227/.310/.333. The English language has a wonderful spread of adjectives at its disposal to say precise things about a thing; we might in this case use 'lackluster' or 'uninspired,' but I'll settle for 'bad.' I'll lean on the assertion Will Carroll made earlier today about how Gordon's adaptation to his surgically repaired hip is a factor, because at this rate, Gordon's performance was so bad that the best-case scenario is that it involves something physical and fixable. Failing that, he could rank among the great all-time busts, up there with Brad Komminsk or Andy Marte or, closer to home, Clint Hurdle. Given that the Royals have time to spare to find out, and Mark Teahen to keep in the lineup in the meantime, they can afford to deal with Gordon carefully and patiently, assuming of course that, on Dayton Moore's more recently inaugurated watch, they learn anything from an extensive history of mismanagement of so many other injury-related situations. He'll be headed into his age-26 season next year, and to some extent we're all still waiting for there to be a 'there' in his career, instead of a multi-year pregnant pause.

In the meantime, Royals fans have Kyle Farnsworth to kick around again. As bad as he's been in generally meaningless situations, you might think that makes him the definitive Royal. Even with his absence to help him keep his season tally low in a counting stat like WXRL, he ranks as the seventh-deadliest reliever of the apocalyptic doom working out of any big-league bullpen. Not that the Royals' bullpen has been all that special; other than Joakim Soria, they've gotten very little of quality from the balance of their relief corps, with the only extensively used reliever capable of claiming he's helped the team not lose ballgames being Robinson Tejeda (0.6 WXRL in a low-leverage middle-relief role).


TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Chad Bradford from the 15-day DL; optioned SS-L Reid Brignac to Durham (Triple-A). [8/19]

Since Pat Burrell was able to return to the lineup and managed a home run last night (off of Jason Berken, but hey, it counts), the concerns over the team's infield depth seem to be mollified for the moment, so with Bradford's return from the DL set, they could afford to dump Brignac back on Durham, and re-set their three-man bench with Willy Aybar on it (along with the unused half of the all-Gabe platoon in right, and that day's non-starting catcher). There's certain to be some activity before the end of the month, at least insofar as they won't set their playoff roster with a full five starters plus eight relievers, and with Fernando Perez' rehab tour just swinging through Durham as of last night, you can anticipate he'll be in the mix, as well as Brignac and Matt Joyce.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned UT-L Joe Inglett to Las Vegas (Triple-A); recalled OF-L Travis Snider from Las Vegas. [8/18]

Snider's more than buffed up his prospect-y sheen with a swing through Vegas, having bashed the PCL at a .337/.431/.663 clip that has no little loose end that might get you to worrying: no problems hitting righties or lefties, no problems hitting in Vegas or anywhere else, and just making things embarrassing the last couple of weeks by raking at a .448/.529/.897 clip for the 51s in August. So yes, he's really ready to leave Triple-A behind and give the major leagues another spin, and given that the Jays have made Alex Rios go away and enjoyed the benefits of their belated commitment to Adam Lind, they have the opportunity to hand him. Slotting him into right field for the Jays last night, and with Lind in left, was a welcome sight, and a reminder that the lineup, now and next year, should be somewhat interesting.

Consider what else they've got going on. Beyond Lind and Snider in the corners, Aaron Hill should be set at second, Lyle Overbay's under contract at first, and Vernon Wells owns center field (literally). At DH, they're currently taking a spin with Randy Ruiz, which isn't the worst idea in the world, since translating his Vegas performance (.320/.392/.584) gives you a still-useful .251/.315/.466, and a hot first week on the job, homering off of Josh Beckett, Joba Chamberlain, and A.J. Burnett, should keep him in playing time. Maybe the well-traveled journeyman gets a shot, and/or maybe he winds up as Overbay's platoon partner, now that Kevin Millar's showing that even that filling even that role's now beyond his grasp; I say maybe only because Brian Dopirak's done enough damage in what is, after all, only his age-25 season between Double- and Triple-A this year, to suggest he could slug in the high .400s in the major leagues. Maybe David Cooper gets into the picture as well, either as Overbay's replacement by 2011, or as a platoon piece at DH sooner than that if his recent hot hitting continues.

What's left? Well, three positions, and unfortunately they're ones where the Jays may or may not find joy. At short, they've gotten a tremendous year out of Marco Scutaro (.296 EqA), but he's a free agent at season's end. Moving Rios would certainly make it possible for them to bring him back with a (brief) multi-year deal. Failing that, the free-agent field at short is relatively ugly, but so are the in-house options; their best prospect at short, Justin Jackson, has been eaten alive at High-A, so he's not really a candidate for accelerated promotion, and there's nothing above Jackson that doesn't send you back towards the Everetts and McDonalds and their ilk if you can't keep Scooter at a price you can live with. Admittedly, this won't really matter too much, considering the final resting spot of the 2010 Jays isn't very different from that of 2009 Jays, where the only remaining measure for success is whether they finish fourth or not.

Still, to extend the exercise, there's also catcher and third base. At third, they're embarked upon the challenge of seeing if Edwin Encarnacion was just a Gap-inflated mirage who can't handle third. Here again, any chance of a good internal alternative who might enter the picture before 2011, perhaps best represented by Kevin Ahrens, has similarly gone off the rails in the Florida State League. So, it's going to involve a lot of faith in Ed-E, plus keeping Jose Bautista around for insurance. Behind the plate, Rod Barajas will, like Scutaro, become a free agent at season's end. You'd normally anticipate that somebody who hits .240/.271/.390 in his age-33 season would be easily replaceable, but the Jays never seem to make things easy on themselves, plus J.P. Arencibia's year at Vegas is another development disaster. A bad approach and thirst for power beyond his grasp has Arencibia bopping at a tepid .227/.277/.409 clip, which is to say, he'll do worse than Barajas (his hitting translates to .212/.263/.395).

You may see a minor trend, in that Ruiz, Dopirak, Arencibia, Encarnacion, and Barajas are all guys who offer varying degrees of power, balanced against little shot of reaching base well enough to approach adequacy. Toss in the concerns about the defense they'll get in the outfield corners, and this starts to resemble a softball team where defense isn't really most guys' strong suit, a few people hit solo home runs once in a while, and mostly people get asked to pay to watch a few select players: Hill and Roy Halladay, Snider and Lind, and... and...

I don't want to say it's the Expos-ization of Canada's last franchise, because after losing team owner Ted Rogers before the year, it seems that Rogers Communications' investment in the franchise (and the Rogers Centre) aren't about to evaporate. But it's pretty glum as these things go, and for as much joy as can be derived from seeing Hill bounce back or Snider get started, it's going to be tough sailing for years to come. Whether they elect to hold J.P. Ricciardi responsible for that now or any time soon, or instead let him run the franchise during what figures to be a relevance drought every bit as long as the one they already find themselves in, we'll have to see.


MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Rick VandenHurk to New Orleans (Triple-A); recalled 1B/3B-R Gaby Sanchez from New Orleans. [8/18]

In the somewhat relentless meritocracy the Marlins' rotation represents, Sean West gave the team a quality start his last time out, had just gotten back here, and is being credited with a new changeup that should make the power pitcher that much more effective. He's also already generated a .466 SNWP in his turns, while VandenHurk (.457 SNWP) hadn't managed one in his last three, earning him a chance to chill his cleats in the Big Easy; another factor was that, having started the second game of the Sunday double header, the Marlins didn't want to have a pair of slack slots on the roster during that time, especially with Nick Johnson nursing a hurting hammy, hence Gaby Sanchez' reunion with the roster, something that may stick if Johnson's forced to the DL.

This creates some complications in terms of what comes next for the Marlins rotation, however. Chris Volstad (.469) and Ricky Nolasco (.460) seem safe in their slots behind Josh Johnson (.618), but the expectation is that Anibal Sanchez will be coming off of the DL shortly. That's something of a necessity, because according to Andrew Miller on the minor league DL and only just gearing up for some rehab work, and with Burke Badenhop on the major league DL and not likely to make his own rehab appearance in the minors until this weekend. Beyond finding a way to get VandenHurk back or starting Sanchez on short rest, the best option they may have left who has enjoyed success above A-ball would be Cristhian Martinez after his nice run in the Jacksonville rotation this season (3.4 R/9, 62 Ks and 22 walks in 104 IP, 1.5 GB/FB ratio). Any other team, and I'd suggest they look at what's available among the recently discarded veterans, but somehow it doesn't seem very Fishy for the Marlins to bring in sulky vets like Russ Ortiz or Vicente Padilla, let alone make the case to John Smoltz about why Miami's the place to be.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

placed LHP Mike Hampton on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/14; recalled RHP Felipe Paulino from Round Rock (Triple-A). [8/19]

And this is news for what reason? A Mike Hampton breakdown is about as perfunctory as these things get, and given that the Astros have turned the page on 2009, they're better off using the available starts to evaluate potential contributors for 2010 anyway. Re-enter Paulino, stage right, and exit Hampton. How much human interest is supposed to be milked out of a guy who's giving up 5.7 runs per nine and giving his team a .432 SNWP? It's a reflection of his character and his desire that he's still giving it his best shot (he's long since set for life, of course), but there comes a point where the Astros need the stage for themselves more than they need to contribute to Hampton's legend by leaving him on it. This latest injury helps them avoid the difficulties of making that plain or coming to terms with it for the moment, but come this winter's decisions about re-upping anybody, they have to realize that this is what you get employing him, nothing more, and however inspirational. Baseball is not a warm-up for a Tony Robbins seminar.


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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