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May 28, 2010

Transaction Action

Feeling Granderson

by Christina Kahrl

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LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed INF-R Brandon Wood on the 15-day DL (strained hip flexor); activated INF-S Maicer Izturis from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Bobby Cassevah to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled RHP Francisco Rodriguez from Salt Lake. [5/25]

Whatever the severity of the injury to Wood—physically or as a matter of his perhaps understandably banged-up morale after seven weeks of big-league failure—to some extent being able to place him on the DL is a godsend. Since the former top prospect is out of options, this sort of event is the only way he'd be able to go get some “rehab” playing time in the reassuring environment of Salt Lake, where you find safeties and Mormons in near-equal numbers. Maybe that will help him recover his power stroke, and maybe his power stroke's a PCL fiction—certainly comparison to Matt Williams are deader'n Elvis, and hoping for just a Russ Davis or Mike Blowers type of career is starting to sound aggressively optimistic. In his absence, the Halos have gotten the benefit of Izturis reaching base and Kevin Frandsen hitting for his professional survival, but just about anything would be improvement on Wood's horrific, MLB-worst .108 TAv and -12.2 RARP, not to mention his plating just 6.3 percent of runners on base.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHPs Koji Uehara (strained elbow, retroactive to 5/20) and Alfredo Simon (strained hamstring, retroactive to 5/24) on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Alberto Castillo from Norfolk (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Frank Mata from Norfolk; transferred LHP Mike Gonzalez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; noted the loss of 2B-R Justin Turner to the Mets on a waiver claim. [5/25]

We'll see how long Uehara's gone, but given that he was recognized as a fragile import from the moment they brought him over, and this latest breakdown looks like he's another one of the mid-market mediocrities imported because he's exotic and foreign and—like Yasuhiko Yabuta or Keiichi Yabu or Masahide Kobayashi or Masao Kida. In short, imported and successful are no more synonymous for Japanese pros than they are with Cuban emigrés or Chinese dog food. That the Orioles have spent $10 million to get their first Japanese-born ballplayer and gotten all of a dozen starts last season, only to rediscover that he's fragile, then give him a spin in relief this season, and re-rediscover that he's fragile, what's the takeaway from that? For what little good it has done them, it effectively leaves the organization in the position of trying to portray this as a first foray into the Far East: expensive as start-ups tend to be, and mostly symbolic, like a few too many of their free-agent signings. Having paid a premium to show that they're interested in the Far East in a 'me-too' sort of way not unlike Austria-Hungary's a century ago, we'll see if they receive any actual dividends, or if this just represents the same sort of wasted effort a few too many of the imports turn out to be.

In the meantime, with Simon's latest breakdown robbing the nest of its latest preferred closing-type guy dedicated to the protection of their rare save opportunities, no doubt somebody's desperate to know who might get saves. The situational twins comprising Will Ohman and Cla Meredith might be their best choices, but the ghastliness of the situation has been highlighted in recent action by the employment of Mark Hendrickson in what few high-leverage situations the Orioles have arrived at. Given that his chief uses are the consumption of (extra) space and (unimportant) time, and he generally struggles in even those extra unimportant situations with bad ballclubs, you know how well that's going to turn out.

But do they have alternatives? I'd have hoped a gigantic hard thrower like Kam Mickolio might have been the guy to go to in this situation, but he's still struggling with the strike zone for the Tides. I don't see the harm in leaving Ohman and Meredith in the set-up roles they're experienced at—why not leave them in place and try some of the other pieces, just as they recycled Simon? Once upon a time, Mata was a short and string Venezuelan teen with mid-90s heat coming up in the Twins' organization. Now, a few elbow problems and a missed 2005 season later, he's 26 and more than a bit on the bulkier side—nearly 70 pounds heavier than his listed weight before the injuries—and throwing slightly slower, but he's still in the low 90s and mixing in an interesting slider and a show-me changeup. Coming over to the O's this past winter, he'd done good work in Norfolk, eating right-handers up at a .133/.204/.178 clip, but putting lefties aboard at a .406 clip by allowing them to hit .296 with literally no power, all en route to notching eight saves in 10 attempts in the early going.

For the time being, I'd argue that it would be better for Dave Trembley to forgo naming anybody the closer, and just focus on using what he's got to try and win a few ballgames. If that lands him in a de facto bullpen-by-committee—without announcing it, because what else would folks on the beat in Baltimore have to get worked up over this summer?—what's the harm in that?


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated CF-R Mike Cameron from the 15-day DL; designated RHP Scott Atchison for assignment. [5/24]
Outrighted OF-L Jonathan Van Every to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [5/26]
Returned OF-L Jacoby Ellsbury to the 15-day DL (ribs), retroactive to 5/24; recalled RHP Scott Atchison from Pawtucket. [5/28]

I don't know what's more silly, the speed with which people race to re-fire the non-controversy over whether or not Mike Cameron's going to play in a corner—three games back, and it hasn't happened yet—or the fact that this is the second time they've gotten all worked up on this subject. As for Ellsbury, I spoke my piece on that particular subject yesterday, and voila, he's now back among the fully broken within 24 hours of trying to give the Red Sox the benefit of the doubt. In his absence, you can expect plenty more of Jeremy Hermida starting against right-handers, and Bill Hall or Darnell McDonald starting in left against lefties and spotting for Cameron, and Cameron in center field on the days they elect to start him. The fact that they're batting Cameron at the bottom of the order when they do start him seems a pretty clear indication of their desire to not overwork him, so why do something like fling him at the feet of the Monster against the Royals this weekend? Grins and giggles?


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated UT-S Carlos Guillen from the 15-day DL; optioned INF-R Danny Worth to Toledo (Triple-A). [5/28]

So, tonight the experiment begins, and we'll see how much damage it does to the pitching staffs of both teams involved in any Detroit contest—the opposition, as they face what will be a stronger lineup, or the Tigers', as they deal with the inevitable problems created by Guillen's questionable utility at the keystone. As is, this represents an interesting adaptation because one the one hand the Tigers rank among the AL's better offensive ballclubs, knotted at fourth for team-wide True Average with the Blue Jays.

Not unlike the Jays, the Tigers' performance has depended on what we might politely refer to as unusual developments: Brennan Boesch slugging .600, for instance, or Austin Jackson's .466 BABIP, or Ramon Santiago's OBP north of .360. These are facts, and they're in the books. They're also passing fancies, so while they can hope that Magglio Ordonez keeps socking and can count on Miguel Cabrera, this is an offense that's going to lose ground unless it improves upon initial failures—like Scott Sizemore's at second. Adding Guillen back and effectively trading Boesch's bat for Sizemore's is certainly an offensive upgrade, but we'll see how long the Kitties can afford to be nipped by the inevitable defensive hit. If Sizemore pushes his way back into the picture, it's interesting to wonder whether they might revisit playing Guillen at third, another possible offensive upgrade that would properly reduce Brandon Inge to the things he's good at: defensive replacement and lefty masher.


NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed RHP Chad Gaudin to a one-year contract, and activated him; optioned LHP Boone Logan to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); designated RHP Shane Lindsay for assignment. [5/26]
Activated CF-L Curtis Granderson from the 15-day DL; designated OF-S Randy Winn for assignment. [5/28]

Conveniently enough, Granderson's back in good time. The club had gone 13-11 in his absence, but you can't put that on Granderson alone, not with Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada both joining him in the ranks of the disabled as May slowly became history, and with Nick Swisher also fending off his own issues. Yet for all that, it's important to remember this remains the strongest lineup in the AL, with Juan Miranda and Marcus Thames capable of adding runs from the DH slot. For those of you keeping score at home, Granderson played in five rehab games, almost as many by himself as the quartet of the reinjured—Crisp, Renteria, Ellsbury, and Rollins—made combined before their reactivations and reinjuries in the last week or so. If Granderson avoids reinjury, let's score one for conservativism and patience. From the Yankees, while owned by people named Steinbrenner. Truly, the world has changed.

Meanwhile, the decision to release Winn reflects how little harm he was going to be allowed to do. It isn't like the mere $1.1 million spent on seeing if he had anything left as a fourth outfielder was an expense only the preponderant wealth of the Bombers could afford. They spent a modest amount, found he was done, and dispensed with him as soon as they happened upon sufficient reason to do so. You can argue that what their wealth affords them is the opportunity to go shopping, and maybe that's so; me, I'd say that the lesson here is that modest sums spent on declining assets should not be seen as anchors that keep you from casting them off. If they were looking for that Barton Fink feeling, they can just as easily get it from Greg Golson as Randy Winn.

To think on it, Gaudin's been on playoff teams in three of the last four years, and he joined playoff-bound ballclubs in both 2008 and 2009. So naturally, when he gets released—having earned it—what happens? He lands on the Yankees, of course, like some latter-day, poor man's version of Ralph Terry, ping-ponging from the Yankees to the A's to the Yankees in some sort of echo from the hateful days of Arnold Johnson. Johnson's days of owning the A's in Kansas City—and being the sotto voce business partner of the Yankees through a number of syndicalist swindles that made such a mockery of competitive balance in the '50s—made him a remarkable bit of performance art, showing how you could take franchise ownership and reduce it to sock-puppetry. Later, when Czar Bud decided to execute his own perversion of competitive balance by making the Expos/Nats the wards of his 28 co-conspirators, there was the benefit of at least doing so for the benefit of all, instead of one; he also politely dispensed with the actual sock puppet, characteristically leaving naked the nature of the thing, just as he had in taking on the role of owner and Commissioner. Don't knock such things—it beats the fictions of the great game of the '50s, or the so-called independence of the likes of Bowie Kuhn.

Ah, but I digress from a little thing to the greater themes that it reminds me of. The reunion of the le grand Gaudin and the Pinstriped Menace seems like a nice enough reacquaintance as such things go, albeit a bit of redundancy given they're already employing Sergio Mitre to play human innings sponge. Of course, reaching for a handy dose of familiarity might be necessary. This new guy, Park, has given up runs in every single outing since his reactivation, and who does he think he is, George Frazier?


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Returned CF-S Coco Crisp to the 15-day DL (strained intercostal muscle), retroactive to 5/23; recalled C-S Landon Powell from Sacramento (Triple-A). [5/26]

I sort of dealt with Crisp yesterday in my comments on the Giants' speedy re-DL move with Edgar Renteria, because it was one of a group. Absent their temp in center, the A's will go back to using Rajai Davis in the position his bat can be better carried at, so there's that. As far as who will get the resultant at-bats in left field, it's the usual suspects and the usual choices: Gabe Gross, or Adam Rosales, or Eric Patterson, and maybe even a bit of Jake Fox now that they've used this latest injury as cause again to re-add their actual backup backstop to the active roster.


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:  A's,  The Who,  Triple-A,  Scott Atchison

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