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January 10, 2010

Transaction Action

Oddments

by Christina Kahrl

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CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded LHP Zach Jackson to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL. [1/9]

Don't you like it when kids learn to share? Let's not quite make this an apples-to-apples comparison to the spirit that animated Johnny Appleseed: the Tribe may get to face Jackson, after all, so there's an element of self-interest involved, not just the desire to spread seeds that might remain sproutless on their own patch. The Indians may be down one sub-mediocre southpaw, but they've still got Aaron Laffey, David Huff, and Jeremy Sowers to sift through for at least one rotation spot, although two might pitch their way past Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot. The front end of the rotation's initially slated to be Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, and Justin Masterson, a trio it takes an awful lot of wishcasting upon to work up a case for their winning the AL Central. Would third place be a moral victory?


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-L Scott Podsednik to a one-year, $1.75 million for 2010 with an option for 2011; designated MI-R Luis Hernandez for assignment. [1/8]

There's an internally consistent madness to the proposition, but putting Podzilla in powder blue makes sense if you crease your bean with the following syllogism:

The Royals do not have a leadoff hitter;
Scott Podsednik has batted leadoff on a world champion in our lifetimes;
To win a world championship, the Royals should bat Scott Podsednik leadoff.

You want this guy in your Strat league, of course. The problem's with a sense of time, not to mention the absence of values. It takes some sort of triple lutz of moral relativism to buy this proposition, because Podsednik obviously wasn't good in 2005, but using him didn't cost the Sox their forever-flying flag. Of course, using this same logic, we could also suggest the Royals re-employ Willie Wilson, assuming you're old enough to remember 1985. What's Tony Womack up to, anyway?

We could use the same exercise from the starting point, "The Royals do not have a starting center fielder," but there's that same rut in the Royals' road to nowhere, because Podzilla has been a center fielder, and even it didn't turn out well, there's got to be something to signing him, right? The tragedy is that it has taken signing Podsednik to lead the Royals to subsequently suggest that maybe, just maybe, they could move David DeJesus back to center. We could consider this the latest sign of the offensive apocalypse, the Endy of it All, as the Royals join the herd of the easily converted towards the notional virtues of some new pop-less left fielder, because if they were willing to discuss moving DeJesus back into center, why sign Podsednik at all? Why not stick Alberto Callaspo in left if his defense at the keystone's that terrible? Why pick Podsednik over any one of a large number of adequate but more interesting outfield types if you're willing to put DeJesus back in center? Assuming you have to stick in the cheaper end of what's left, wouldn't you rather have Rick Ankiel? Or Ryan Church? Hell, open the wallet and spring for the great Xavier Nady; he does a better Jose Guillen impression at the plate than the original you've got gathering dust.

You might look at Podsednik's .353 OBP last season and feel that isn't too shabby for a leadoff man these days. Fair enough, but Podsednik's a great example of the type of player whose value lives and dies with outcomes that aren't really in his control: when his BABIP's up over .330, as it was in 2003 or 2005 or 2009, and you can get away with playing him, sort of. When that drops, his value drops to somewhere between 'negligible' and 'pinch-runner.' The problem is that he can't really play center well, however willing he may be, and his walk rate's dropped below his tepid career mark around eight percent. There's nothing to say about his power; he hasn't got much. His signature contribution, speed, added up to a whopping 1.5 runs of value last season, per EqBRR; those 30 steals are more valuable in fantasy baseball than real life, but 'fantasy' describes a lot when it comes to Kansas City ambition.

I suppose there is the good news that adding Podsednik excised Luis Hernandez from the 40-man, which is one of those overdue excusals, a la Tony Pena Jr., that might make the most optimistic Royals fan pining for the day when Yuniesky Betancourt becomes an ex-Royal. That said, not even Mike Aviles' brief brush with greatness could beat the Curse of Buddy Biancalana (with apologies to Shelley:

Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Which is pretty depressing, maybe even Qattara-level depressing, because the standard in play seems to be reliably below-level production. When such is the bar set for success, you can be certain Podsednik can run around it and qualify as another Royal nuisance.


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed LHP Mike Maroth and 1B-R Brock Peterson to minor-league contracts. [1/8]

Maroth has missed most of the last two years after knee and shoulder problems, but he's pitching in the Mexican winter leagues; not especially well, mind you, but he's still pitching, and since he was a finesse lefty upon a time, perhaps healthy he can be one anon. It's the right sort of organization for him, if nothing else, since the Twins have a sweet tooth for strike-throwers with modest stuff. The question is whether Maroth can be even that, since he's struggling with his command in Mexico, but what they hey, it's a minor-league deal, he's healthy enough to pitch, and there was a time (five years ago) when he was worth having around. There's nothing to be lost by taking a look, although there probably isn't a lot to be gained, either.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed SS-R Brian Bocock on waivers from the Giants. [1/7]
Acquired LHP Zach Jackson from the Indians for a PTBNL. [1/9]

It says quite a bit about the state of the Jays' talent base that they not only have space to claim Bocock on waivers, but that they might want to. He has yet to prove he can hit in the Cal League, having tried and failed in 2007 and 2009, trying and failing in Double-A and Triple-A for good measure, and getting that infamous Opening Day start for the Giants in 2008. If anyone believed he was the new John McDonald, you might understand the fascination, but nobody does.

Jackson's a little more interesting as an addition, although whether it's a matter of genuine faith that they can turn him around or one of fondness for a former farmhand remains to be seen. The rotation's crowded with candidates, so the expectation is that he's really only here as an organizational arm they know from having drafted him as a supplemental first-rounder in 2004.

As long as we're on the subject, while it's still early yet, the 2004 draft is coming up as a pretty disappointing crop. From the first round, you've got Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Jeff Niemann, and supplemental pick Huston Street as the highlights. Then you get into relative disappointments like Stephen Drew or Billy Butler or J.P. Howell, not to mention Phil Hughes, players who all seem like they'll nevertheless wind up having solid careers. Then things get a bit uglier or speculative. It was the year of Matt Bush as the overall top choice, and even allowing for financially determined decision-making like that, it was a tough year for talent mavens.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Josh Banks to a minor-league contract. [1/5]
Released RHP Ryan Sadowski. [1/8]

Sadowski's headed to the Korean league, hitching his wagon to the Lotte Giants, the diamond expression of the ginormous Lotte chaebol. If there's a Lotte store near you, you can support Sadowski's corporate masters, or the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese leagues. I seem to consistently live in such places, having been near two when I lived in Virginia, and now I find that there's another in Niles here on Chicago's North Side. And yet there is no (Bill) Wegmans here, a first-order grocery injustice for those who'd like to see that particular brand of supermarket imperialism clear the Appalachians and move west with the grim resolve of a James Fenimore Cooper hero.

Which brings us back to Lotte, because corporate megamonster or not, it's named for the decidedly non-Korean non-heroic literary figure: Charlotte, from Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, who pragmatically marries Albert instead of Werther (perhaps giving rise to Albertsons). Whatever this says about corporate leadership and marketing in Korea ("We want a brand name that makes a few well-read people think of unrequited love and suicide." "So we're going to sell a lot of ice-cream pints, right?"), I guess it would be sort of like Drayton McLane sticking some equally odd figure's name into his team's logo, perhaps Holden Caulfield. Depressing? Check. Maddening? Absolutely. The Texas Holdens? Nah, Nolan Ryan would no doubt threaten to beat somebody up over the trademark infringement.

At least they have Josh Banks to inspire confidence, and that's a nice enough one-for-one plug-in for Sadowski, whom ye barely knew, since he never even pitched for the Astros before scramming to the Land of the Turtle Ships. Banks doesn't seem like a great match for Houston, since he's a finesse righty who generates plenty of fly balls, but once the Brett Myers signing becomes official, you're still talking about a rotation with some but not a lot of depth: Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt, and Myers, and then a group of maybes ranging from Scuffy Moehler in the cured meats section to Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino from the produce aisle. Who knows, maybe Banks gets a shot in the Chris Sampson-style utility pitcher role, but the last guy the Astros employed with a Banks-level fly-ball rate was Brandon Backe, and that did not go well.


NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed LHP Jay Marshall on waivers from the Athletics. [1/8]

As things stand at present, Pat Misch is the leading candidate to get the second lefty's slot in the pen, which is another way of saying that you can be absolutely sure that they're going to take a look at ground-pounding submariner who totally subdued southpaws for Sacramento last season, limiting them to .179/.207/.226. He also generated a GB/FB ratio of 2.7, not that he has cause to fear flying things in Investment Banking Bandits Ballpark. For situational fun and some upside, this was a nifty little waivers snag by Omar Minaya, one that might buy back the roster spot at the end of camp if Marshall outduels Misch for the job.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Danys Baez to a two-year, $5.25 million contract. [1/5]
Signed RHPs Ehren Wassermann and Ryan Vogelsong and C-L John Suomi and C-R Dane Sardinha to minor-league contracts. [1/7]

Meh. It might not seem like the worst little move as a bit of random zig-zagging involving bullpen fungibility and hoping to wind up with a slightly better crew. The money isn't a huge deal after all, and consider who else the Phillies are stuck with in their pen among the right-handed options: Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and Chad Durbin. But is it better to have Baez than Chan Ho Park? It depends on what you're willing to put up with, and Park's been able to make himself a distraction with his reliably fantasizing about being beaten anew as a rotation regular. In contrast, it looks like Baez will happily stay in the pen, and he has had some past success in the role, what with 71 saves in his two seasons with the Rays in 2004-05. So there is that. Unfortunately, Baez's career has been an unending litany of failure and injury since.

But Baez came back last year, right? Too true, even pitching more innings (71 2/3 than he had since 2005. The problem is that the underlying performance metrics don't have a lot of kind things to say about the quality of his work. His FRA last season was 4.59 because he was terrible with men on base; Park's relief-only FRA was 3.00. Switch over to WXRL, and he was at 0.569, where Park was a 2.128 in an equally important relief role (their LEV marks were 1.30 for Baez, and 1.28 for Park). If throwing from the stretch isn't for him, that makes him more of a classic middle reliever than a fireman, and maybe you have to use Baez carefully, making sure that he leads off innings, but in this collection of relievers, do you really want another high-maintenance former closer type?

As far as assorted contributions, Baez will generate more ground-ball outs, and last year, while their performances against lefties were close, Park's long-term track record on that score are generally bad, while Baez is coming over from the toughest division in the tougher league. His strikeout rate's dropped as he's aged (and had to recover from assorted injuries), but he throws harder than Park, and his splitter seems to be a more effective pitch than Park's slider as a secondary offering to keep lefties honest. Last year's better results as far as keeping the ball on the ground seems promising enough, but he should also be sharper a year removed from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of action in 2008.

In the end, there's no reason to get really excited, but given who we're talking about, you can feel a modest amount of regret; considering the equally modest amount of money involved, it doesn't preclude their re-signing Park when the realities of the park leave the swing-less swing man underemployed as we get into February.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Mark Worrell to a minor-league contract. [1/7]

After undergoing TJS last April, Worrell's just re-upping with his club to continue his rehabilitation. If he shows that the arm is sound early on, you can expect to see him no later than the second half, perhaps helping to convert the Khalil Greene trade with the Cardinals into something beyond what has so far been a lose/lose deal.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted LHP Victor Garate to Syracuse (Triple-A). [1/8]

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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Premium Article Transaction Action: Im... (01/11)
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