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November 23, 2009

Transaction Action

Fill'er Up!

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Brandon Erbe and Luis Lebron, 1B-R Brandon Snyder, 1B-L Rhyne Hughes, 3B-S Josh Bell, and SS-S Pedro Florimon Jr. [11/18]
Claimed C-R Craig Tatum on waivers from the Reds; designated LHP Chris Waters for assignment. [11/20]

What little profile Tatum possesses as a viable backup backstop relies upon his reputation as a decent receiver and a strong arm behind the plate, as he can gun down 30 percent of stolen-base attempts. His hitting is mostly notional, with some memories of his beating up kids in High-A as a 24-year-old for a couple of months in 2007, inventing the suggestion that he'd be more than a catch-and-throw type. As a league-minimum add-on for the team that has Matt Wieters, he's potentially useful enough in the absence of an in-house alternative, but I'm not sold on the need to carry someone as limited as Tatum over the winter on the 40-man, when you could use that spot for a Rule 5 addition (or protect someone), and then count on the inevitable injuries to let you find a way to squeeze your backup catcher onto the Opening Day roster.


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed RHP Robert Manuel from the Mariners on waivers. [11/20]

One of the reliable bits of off-season punctuation to any Theo Epstein off-season is his willingness to grab other people's live-armed relief types (and usually discard them later on). Not that Manuel's much of a prospect, since he's not overpowering and works up in the zone a lot, but he's got an arm and maybe he's worth a spot on the 40-man until you find some other use for it. In some ways, this is like being the world's greatest trafficker in counter coins, taking but also freely putting loose change in the little dish by the counter, taking modest bits of goodness, and then spreading it someplace else. Usually, this is meaningless churn and about as exciting as following a penny from one pocket to another, but in other instances, it winds up being Theo's contribution to industry-wide bullpen panspermia, as today's meaningless placeholder at the bottom of the roster becomes tomorrow's closer someplace else (see Aardsma, David).


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Brandon Hynick, Santo Luis, Brian Omogrosso, and Sergio Santos and OF-R Stefan Gartrell. [11/20]
Signed INF-S Omar Vizquel to a one-year, $1.375 million contract. [11/23]

The goal here is to have Little-O do the elder statesman thing for next year's middle-infield combo of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, and perhaps also free up Jayson Nix for platoon duties with Mark Teahen at third base. Given that the money's barely above meaningless at this end of the big-league pay scale, it's an entirely reasonable expense, and if it helps Ramirez with his footwork around the bag while giving both right-handed batters up the middle a switch-hitting substitute who lets Ozzie Guillen play mix-and-match now and again, that's not the worst idea, even if Vizquel's value at the plate is at best graded "willing." Even as a baserunner, Vizquel's lost his once-feared ability to contribute, having scored in the negative in EqBRR in both of the last two seasons. So it's basically a case of adding an expensive coach who can hit at least as well as Brent Lillibridge, not much of a standard, but Little-O's got a career that might get him into the Hall of Fame and a recent bit of mentoring success to his credit. What this means for the roster seems relatively straightforward to me; why some people are throwing Brent Lillibridge into the mix is beyond me, because Nix can hit for power in a park that rewards it, whereas Lillibridge can't. It's a pretty simple bit of roster calculus, and having found a role in which Nix can help, it seems strange to suggest that they'd undiscover it.


CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHPs Anthony Reyes and Jake Westbrook from the 60-day DL. [11/18]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Jeanmar Gomez, LHP Kelvin De La Cruz, 1B/OF-Ls Nick Weglarz and Jordan Brown, 3B-R Wes Hodges, and SS-Rs Jason Donald and Carlos Rivero. [11/20]


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of 1B/OF-R Ryan Strieby, 2B-R Scott Sizemore, SS-R Audy Ciriaco, and RF-L Brennan Boesch. [11/20]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Brad Thompson to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Blake Wood, C-R Manuel Pina, SS-R Jeff Bianchi, OF-L Jarrod Dyson, and OF-R Jordan Parraz; waived RHP Julio Pimentel; designated INF-L Tug Hulett for assignment; outrighted RHPs Doug Waechter and Devon Lowery to Omaha (Triple-A); signed C-R Vance Wilson to a minor-league contract. [11/20]


LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contract of CF-L Peter Bourjos. [11/19]

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Alex Burnett, Deolis Guerra, Loek Van Mil, and Rob Delaney, MI-S Estarlin De Los Santos, and 3B-R Danny Valencia; outrighted 3B-R Deibinson Romero to Rochester (Triple-A). [11/20]

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted OF-R Shelley Duncan to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); purchased the contracts of RHPs Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, and Romulo Sanchez, 2B-R Kevin Russo, MI-S Reegie Corona, SS-R Eduardo Nunez, and OF-R Austin Jackson. [11/20]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Fautino De Los Santos and Justin Souza, LHP Pedro Figueroa, and 1B-R Chris Carter. [11/20]
Signed 1B/3B-L Dallas McPherson to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [11/22]

McPherson's going to turn 30 next season, and he's coming off of missing two of the last three years to back problems. But because this is the A's, and because the A's have enjoyed some modest benefits from digging up and employing Jack Cust, and because it can't get any worse than a gaggle of Crosbys and Hannahans (well, OK, maybe a Rob Picciolo comeback), why not? He hit 42 homers for the Isotopes in 2008! Because something has more value than nothing, and nothing's what the A's have at third, I guess I'm modestly entertained as a fan by the suggestion that McPherson's in the mix. He can't really play third well, but when you're this hard-up, you'll take what you can get.

I guess what I'm struggling with is the suggestion that the Cust comparison is all that meaningful beyond the superficial association of their generating lots of the Three True Outcomes. Yes, they both do, but not all math is good when it comes to producing something worthwhile at the end; indeed, some of it can be damning. In Cust's case, he owes a lot of that to walking, whereas the rarely healthy McPherson gets his TTO number high with his profligate whiffery. In Cust's last full year in the minors, his age-27 season no less, he struck out in 21 percent of his plate appearances, and walked in 24 percent of them. In contrast, in his 42-homer age-27 campaign of 2008 with Albuquerque, McPherson struck out 31 percent of the time, and walked in 14 percent. In those seasons, Cust was hitting in Portland in the PCL, one of the better pitcher's parks; McPherson was in Albuquerque, one of the best hitter's parks. Flip forward a year, and in his age-28 season, Cust was cranking out a .319 EqA in the majors, whereas McPherson was on the shelf (again). In his age-29 season, 2008, Cust put up another fine season, with a .302 EqA; I think it's safe to say that McPherson won't be that good next year, or within 40 points of it if he gets a shot.

Certainly, if he's healthy, McPherson will at least be entertaining, and credit his agent for putting his client in the best possible spot for him. But he's only a placeholder and a sideshow amusement on a team that really could use a dash of fun, in any form, even if the flavor's Kingmanesque. Anything that distracts people from too much hope and faith going towards the latest Eric Chavez can't be all bad. Standards for what'll do really can't go any lower than "Hannahan" on the dial, after all.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Sean White and LHP Ryan Feierabend from the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of RHPs Dan Cortes, Juan Ramirez, Anthony Varvaro, and Ricky Orta, LHP Edward Paredes, and OF-L Ezequiel Carrera; noted the loss of RHP Robert Manuel on a waiver claim by the Red Sox, and RHP Chris Jakubauskas by the Pirates; outrighted INF-R Josh Wilson to Tacoma (Triple-A). [11/20]

Thus abruptly endeth the organizational legacy of Wladimir Balentien, such as it was, as the decision to discard him at the deadline and head in another direction as far as answering "who's in left" yields the Mariners nothing but an eventually freed-up spot on the 40-man, plus or minus some warm relief fuzzies for the Rainiers in August. Similarly, Jakubauskas is another leftover who just didn't inspire any confidence that he was worth a 40-man roster spot, so while he was easy to root for, he was even easier to let go without any painful sensation.


TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated 1B-L Carlos Pena from the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of RHP Jeremy Hellickson, LHP Alexander Torres, and CF-R Desmond Jennings. [11/19]

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchase the contracts of LHPs Michael Kirkman and Zachary Phillips. [11/20]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contract of RHP Reidier Gonzalez. [11/19]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired RHP Aaron Heilman from the Cubs for 1B/OF-L Ryne White and LHP Scott Maine. [11/19]
Activated RHPs Brandon Webb and Chad Qualls and 1B/LF-R Conor Jackson from the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of RHPs Roque Mercedes and Daniel Stange, LHP Jordan Norberto, and OF-R Cole Gillespie. [11/20]

Heilman can thank the arbitration fairy for being taken out from under Jim Hendry's pillow (perhaps no longer equipped with the Fighting Irish sheet set so many critics theorized) and tossed into Financial Bamboozler Banky-Bank Ballpark, or as I prefer to call it, the Snakepit. There are worse places to be ditched if you're a pitcher, I suppose, but after the Great Pit of Carkoon, the Black Hole of Calcutta, and Planet Coors, there are probably few worse places in history for a pitcher to earn a living. In four years as a regular reliever, his ground-ball ratios been heading in the wrong direction, his strikeout rate hasn't gone forth and multiplied, and his walk rate's up, all fancy ways of saying he's been a reliable disappointment of late. His 5.22 FRA was the worst on the staff among regulars in 2009, and his 5.83 FRA on the Mets in 2008 was again a staff-wide worst among regulars. It's hard to be a mop-up guy when you seem predisposed to make a mess worse.

When Hendry added him to the Cubs last winter, there was a lot of talk that Heilman might wind up in the rotation, but he hasn't started a game in the majors or minors since 2005, and next year he'll be in his age-31 season. It's never too late, of course, and the Snakes may need help at the back end of the rotation, but Heilman's probably more a conceptual utility pitcher than an actual one. Throwing a curve more often of late hasn't made him better, so while he has reliable velocity above 90, he's not doing much with it beyond getting battered, then fried.

The real question is why the Snakes would have surrendered anything to add him, since he stood a good chance of being non-tendered. Admittedly, the package was just a possible lefty specialist who's already 25 and a Cal Leaguer who didn't hit in a hitter's league, so it wasn't like they gave up much, it was just an exercise in flinging scraps at the dumper to get to the head of the line to pick up the dumped lest anyone else sneak in ahead of you. It's a low- to no-cost addition, where the more basic question is whether or not the Snakes really think they see something fixable, or value dubious pitching in a thirtysomething wrapper overmuch.


ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of LHPs Jose Ortegano, Lee Hyde, and Johnny Venters and RHPs Jeff Lyman and Kyle Cofield. [11/19]

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded RHP Aaron Heilman to the Diamondbacks for 1B/OF-L Ryne White and LHP Scott Maine. [11/19]
Re-signed free agent LHP John Grabow; purchased the contracts of RHPs Blake Parker and Rafael Dolis, LHP John Gaub, C-R Welington Castillo, and OF-L James Adduci. [11/20]

Since Heilman was arbitration-eligible and not really worth keeping, you can celebrate getting something for nothing given the likelihood that it was this or an exciting spin with non-tendering the man. Still, it's a bit of a tumble to go from being worth Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno last winter to being worth this now. White's an unslugly Cal League first baseman whose best features are his being named Ryne and a Chicago native to boot. After that, you have to work your way down to his batting eye, with a 10 percent walk rate against right-handed pitchers. Given that he slugged .356, that's about as good as it gets for him. Maine's not really a prospect, but like White, he didn't have to be added to the 40-man. That said, he might pan out as an extra arm and second-rank southpaw, as he generated a strikeout per inning and 3:1 K:BB ratio last year, relying on standard lefty velocity (touching 90), a good curve, and a low arm angle to be something more than just a situational guy. The real achievement was getting warm bodies and the use of the roster space back, given that ditching Heilman and living down the mistake of having traded for him in the first place was something of a faît accompli.


CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Noted to loss of C-R Craig Tatum on a waiver claim by the Orioles; purchased the contracts of LHP Philippe-Alexandre Valiquette and Travis Wood, RHPs Logan Ondrusek, Enerio Del Rosario, and Jordan Smith, MI-R Chris Valaika, and OF-R Chris Heisey; outrighted RHP Daryl Thompson to Louisville (Triple-A). [11/20]

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Al Alburquerque, Edgmer Escalona, Juan Nicasio, and Chaz Roe, and C-R Michael McKenry; re-signed C-R Paul Phillips to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [11/20]

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Brett Sinkbeil, Kris Harvey, Jay Buente, and Jose Ceda, and OF-L Scott Cousins. [11/20]

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Henry Villar, Evan Englebrook, and Matt Nevarez. [11/20]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the cotnracts of RHP Kenley Jansen, MI-R Ivan De Jesus Jr., and OF-S Trayvon Robinson. [11/18]
Purchased the contract of RHP Javy Guerra. [11//20]


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed C-L George Kottaras off of waivers from the Red Sox; purchased the contracts of RHP Amaury Rivas and OF-R Lorenzo Cain. [11/18]

Well, I speculated that the Canadians would somehow be involved with Kottaras' eventual landing spot, but instead of becoming a Blue Jay, he wound up getting snagged by a citizen, Doug Melvin, who just happens to be somebody else's general manager. You can toss in assistant GM and fellow Canadian Gord Ash and wonder if Milwaukee hasn't become a landing spot for a colony of Canadian snow birds who decided they weren't so frightened of snow after all. Or maybe it's all part of a creeping takeover by our neighbors to the north, hence the need for the Great Lakes Naval Station. Canadian pirates on the inner seas can't be far behind, can they?

At any rate, Kottaras is a lot more dangerous than that threat, and represents a nice no-cost snag for the organization, especially when this winter's market is overstocked with right-handed catching of dubious value. Melvin's already publicly commented on his belief that Angel Salome won't be ready for The Show come next year, while Jonathan Lucroy's presumably going to be moving up to Triple-A next spring, which would seem to indicate the Brewers will be in the market for one of the various available veteran catchers on a one-year or one-year-plus-option deal. Even if the talk about Salome's just that, and perhaps intended to take pressure off of the kid, it's not hard to envision a scenario next spring where someone like Yorvit Torrealba or Matt Treanor or whoever gets to spar with Kottaras and Salome to see which pairing will do the team the most good come Opening Day.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of LHP Yohan Flande, RHP Jesus Sanchez, and CF-L Quintin Berry. [11/17]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHPs Jose Ascanio and Evan Meek from the 60-day DL. [11/17]
Purchased the contracts of RHPs Brad Lincoln, Bryan Morris, and Ramon Aguero, and CF-R Gorkys Hernandez; claimed RHP Chris Jakubauskas off of waivers from the Mariners; designated C-R Robinzon Diaz, LHP Justin Thomas, and (eventually) RHP Jeff Karstens for assignment. [11/20]

It says a lot about the organization's levée en masse player-acquisition strategy that they're omnivorous enough to snap up a journeyman like Jakubauskas, even when it potentially loses them one of last year's add-ons from the Yankees in the Nady trade, but as I noted then, Karstens was and is somebody you don't especially miss or seek out as much as you wind up with him. Whether they lose Karstens on waivers or get to keep and stow him in the minors won't matter even a little in the grand scheme of things, assuming of course that there is a grand scheme.

Jakubauskas is a utility pitcher in the loosest sense of the word, in that the 30-year-old former college hitter will do anything on a staff, about what you'd expect from a guy who had to work his way through the independent leagues to get here. Still, two quality starts in eight for the Mariners isn't really a potent suggestion of hidden value as a fifth wheel in a rotation, and his 4.90 FRA as a reliever doesn't seem especially promising either. Jakubauskas did do a nice job of shutting down right-handed batters, although his .235/.276/.428 line against them owed more to an unsustainably low BABIP against righties (.231) than any dominance, striking out just 12 percent of them. He's not overpowering, his curve's not that sneaky, and it takes an awful lot of preference in his favor to say he's really a good idea as the 11th or 12th guy on a staff, no different than Karstens, and even in Pittsburgh. General manager Neal Huntington mentioned the fact that Jakubauskas still has options, which contributes to the value of a guy who's likely to bounce back and forth between Triple-A and the majors, but it's a reflection of the present-day value of extending a pitching staff beyond the 11 or 12 guys on it any given day of the week.

It's also interesting in this light to see them discard Diaz, given that he's a thoroughly employable backup. However, in a market flush with right-handed catchers and for an organization that already has Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo in place on the roster, there wasn't much point to retaining Diaz. Because of his lack of options, he has to stick on a roster or pass through waivers, and why risk the potential distraction of losing him in four months anyway, and when you can better use the roster spot some other way? Yes, I know, it's being used on the likes of Chris Jakubauskas, but at this stage, merely being able to move people back and forth has value to a team that, rest assured, is going to wind up moving lots of people back and forth.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHP Craig Italiano, LHP Steve Garrison, and 1B/OF-R Chad Huffman. [11/20]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of RHP Kevin Pucetas, CF-Rs Darren Ford and Francisco Peguero, and 1B-L Brett Pill. [11/20]

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

Purchased the contracts of LHP Tyler Norrick, RHPs Adam Ottavino and Francisco Samuel, C-L Bryan Anderson, 1B-L Mark Hamilton, 4C-R Allen Craig, and OF-Ls Jon Jay and Daryl Jones. [11/18]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contract of RHP Juan Jaime and LHPs Atahualpa Severino and Aaron Thompson. [11/19]

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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