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September 27, 2010

Transaction Action

Dodgers, Padres, Giants

by Christina Kahrl

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Vicente Padilla on the 15-day DL (bulging disk - neck), retroactive to 8/16; recalled RHP Travis Schlichting from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [8/20]
Activated LF-R Manny Ramirez from the 15-day DL; designated INF-R Juan Castro for assignment. [8/21]
Placed RHP Travis Schlichting on the 15-day DL (shoulder); activated RHP Jeff Weaver from the 15-day DL; claimed C-R Rod Barajas from the Mets off waivers. [8/22]
Activated C-R Rod Barajas; optioned C-R A.J. Ellis to Albuquerque. [8/24]
Noted the loss of LF-R Manny Ramirez on a waiver claim by the White Sox; recalled RHP Ramon Troncoso from Albuquerque. [8/30]
Activated RHP Vicente Padilla and SS-S Rafael Furcal from the 15-day DL; recalled C-R A.J. Ellis from Albuquerque. [9/3]
Recalled RHPs John Ely and Jon Link and MI-R Chin-lung Hu from Albuquerque; purchased the contracts of 1B-R John Lindsey and UT-R Russ Mitchell from Albuquerque; transferred C-R Russell Martin from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/6]
Purchased the contract of OF-L Trent Oeltjen from Albuquerque; designated INF-R Ronnie Belliard for assignment. [9/7]
Released INF-R Ronnie Belliard. [9/9]
Traded RHP Octavio Dotel to the Rockies for a PTBNL. [9/18]
Traded OF-R Preston Mattingly to the Indians for OF-L Roman Pena. [9/26]

Non-Obvious Good Move: It's hard to refer to things like letting Manny Ramirez leave, however belatedly, just for the benefit of the bottom line, as a "good thing." I already made the point that picking up Rod Barajas was pretty weak if you were really trying to contend, but then he went out and bopped a couple of homers in the parks he's liable to, making another good first impression, and perhaps earning a shot at getting consideration for 2011. That's not obviously a good move, unless you're Rod Barajas, in which case it's potentially a great move.

Meh: Part of the reason why it was hard to take the Dodgers' bid for contention seriously was their reaction to losing Padilla: another four-start spin with Carlos Monasterios, and none of the four went all that well. Is that really what a "contender" is supposed to be reduced to, a Rule 5 pick? Aren't the Dodgers supposed to be chock-a-block with talent? Well, sure, but to be fair, the 40-man was already full, guys like Jeff Weaver were hurt, Scott Elbert flat-out flaked this season, and the problem with using Albuquerque as an affiliate is that is has a way of making everyone look craptastic. Still, relative to Monasterios, turning to John Ely would have made some sense, and so would going after some veteran filler on waivers.

Absent Manny, there's also the question of who's getting to play in the outfield: Reed Johnson? Jay Gibbons? And Scott Podsednik? Did somebody have to ask, "Scrappy-Doo, where are you?"

What About the Children? Which brings us to the other quandary, that the kids aren't really the fresh-faced types, but they're getting added or looked at in the final weeks just the same. Trent Oeltjen is a minor-league vet with 10 years of experience. Lindsey was a 33-year-old rookie with 16 years and more than 6,300 plate appearances to his credit; the guy might be a great feel-good story (or at least he was, before he broke his hand this weekend), especially after having to put four consecutive full seasons in High-A leagues and a couple of tours in the independent leagues, but he's not a prospect. Mitchell may have eight years in the organization, so he's paid his dues entirely in-house, but he's not really a prospect either, because Albuquerque's propped up his production: .272/.330/.440 everywhere else in the PCL, against .355/.395/.622 at home.

These aren't noteworthy prospects, or even prospects, but you can't help but wonder if this isn't an echo of the old complaints about some of the Dodgers' young players. Did Jeff Kent possibly have something right? Showing off a few no-name free radicals shed by the Isotopes isn't exactly a formula to inspire hope, not to mention paying customers, for 2011, not when almost all of these guys should get shed from the 40-man roster and depart via minor-league free agency come November.

Gotta Go Your Own Way: Whether Don Mattingly's son can turn his career around or not (and with his turning 23 after losing most of 2010 to a hamstring injury, you can hope or doubt, as is your inclination), you have to respect a decision to trade the kid to a place where he can be just another ballplayer, and rise or fall without being in his father's first camp as the club's skipper. Here's hoping it works out for everyone involved.

Also, with Belliard's release, here's a tip of the cap to a former stathead fave who may or may not be done. He was among BP's earliest touts after a big 1995 season in the Midwest League, but he managed to survive the hiccups attached to a bad patch with the Brewers and a relatively disappointing spin in Denver. He has a ring already, of course, and I'm sure he can knock around the winter leagues for as long as he likes, but here's hoping he shows up in somebody's camp as a non-roster invite next spring.

Takeaways: It was a fairly squalid way to end Joe Torre's latest and perhaps last spin as a skipper, but since the organization has been accused of being distracted by questions over ownership and freedom of action for most of the last year, it's hard to sort out who to blame. Questions of collective guilt and collective responsibility might be unavoidable, not that it makes it any easier to have sat through.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated 2B-R David Eckstein from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Ryan Webb and SS-S Everth Cabrera to Portland (Triple-A); recalled OF-S Luis Durango from Portland. [8/21]
Placed UT-R Jerry Hairston Jr. on the 15-day DL (sprained elbow); optioned OF-S Luis Durango to Portland; recalled RHP Luis Perdomo and SS-S Everth Cabrera from Portland. [8/28]
Optioned RHP Luis Perdomo to Portland; recalled OF-R Aaron Cunningham from Portland. [8/30]
Outrighted C-R Dusty Ryan to Portland. [8/31]
Activated PH-R Oscar Salazar from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Ryan Webb from Portland; purchased the contracts of LHP Cory Luebke and C-R Chris Stewart from Portland; designated RHP Cesar Carrillo for assignment. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Adam Russell from Portland. [9/3]
Recalled LHP Cesar Ramos from Portland. [9/5]
Purchased the contract of 1B/OF-L Mike Baxter from Portland; designated LHP Steve Garrison for assignment. [9/6]
Recalled OF-S Luis Durango from Portland. [9/7]
Noted the loss of RHP Cesar Carrillo to the Phillies on a waiver claim; noted the loss of LHP Steve Garrison to the Yankees on a waiver claim. [9/9]
Activated UT-R Jerry Hairston Jr. from the 15-day DL. [9/12]
Activated OF-L Tony Gwynn Jr. from the 15-day DL. [9/13]
Re-claimed RHP Cesar Carrillo off waivers from the Phillies; designated RHP Craig Italiano for assignment. [9/15]
Released RHP Craig Italiano. [9/16]
Activated RHP Chris Young from the 60-day DL; designated RHP Cesar Carrillo for assignment. [9/18]
Noted the loss of RHP Cesar Carrillo off waivers again, this time on a waiver claim by the Astros. [9/22]

Obvious Good Move: Benching Cabrera and making Miguel Tejada the everyday shortstop seems like the best tout here, since the Pads needed offensive help, and they didn't just bring him in to spot, they've made him an everyday player and gotten benefits in both halves of their innings as a result. On offense, the change netted them roughly a third of a run per game (using MLVr), or almost two wins' worth of value in his two months with the Pads.

But having Tejada at short in his age-36 season, was that really going to be a good thing as well? For reasons that were apparent back in July, he was a playable proposition at shortstop for this team in particular, starting the Padres' home park and the assist it provides to the team's pitching staff, but also the extent to which their pitchers help themselves, with an MLB-leading 21.4 percent strikeout rate.

Even setting aside those advantages and getting into the murkier proposition of how well he's actually played, there's a general statistical consensus that he's been an asset at short, per Clay's Fielding Runs as well as the alternatives at B-Ref. Fielding Runs were generally more positive about his recent work at short with the Astros, but even Total Zone and BIS metrics had him making a positive contribution at short in 2008.

Non-Obvious Good Move: How they've managed to cobble together their rotation for the final month, given how many things had started to go wrong coming into September. Kevin Correia had long since descended from his brief bit of park-assisted fame back to the fifth starter's pool from which he'd emerged, while Wade LeBlanc's slow-velo brand of high-flying southpaw antics had worn fairly thin after 14 homers allowed in his last 10 starts. They had to press Ohio State's Cory Luebke, the pre-season pick for their 12th-best prospect, into action; he got mauled by the Rockies twice, but managed to shut down a particularly feeble September lineup for the Dodgers.

Rather than settle, for the last push, they've turned to veterans for assists, first pressing Tim Stauffer back into the rotation to stay after he led off a victorious seven-pitcher pen start when Mat Latos had to be scratched. Stauffer has given them two quality starts in his three spins since, and he's generating more ground-ball outs. Finally, they've gotten Young back in action, and although he may not yet be able to handle three full trips through an opposing lineup, that's where they will have to count on the game's best bullpen to pick him up once he runs out of steam 20 batters into his turn. As in that multi-man pen, they've come to rely on a tag-team rotation that extends well beyond a classic five, since it really only boasts a pair of former Sox as reliable innings-eaters (Jon Garland and Clayton Richard).

Meh: While the have Eckstein and the various legacies, the Hairstons and Li'l Gwynn, all back in action, none of them are contributing a whole lot. The Hairstons are riding pine, while Eckstein is being mostly harmless while absorbing playing time at the keystone. While they've seemingly gotten comfortable with using Will Venable in center field and starting Admiral Cunningham against most lefties, they still haven't really settled on a left fielder, alternating Chris Denorfia, Matt Stairs, Cunningham, Salazar, Venable, and even a Hairston (on one occasion) in the season's last month.

It's a bit strange to see a contender's lineup cards with a left fielder batting eighth, because this certainly isn't a club jam-packed with offensive talent. Bill James once suggested that having an outfielder batting eighth can be a tactical advantage, but that was about Whitey Herzog, a young Andy Van Slyke, and the Cardinals in the '80s; it was most certainly not about this lot. Which is not to say Bud Black hasn't been doing his damnedest to exploit this bunch in a similar way, mixing and matching and having no compunction of pinch-hitting or pulling any of his outfielders, even Ludwick.

What About the Children? The pitchers are fairly familiar, with guys like Webb spending significant portions of the season on the active roster already. You should remember Russell as one of the four hurlers received in the Peavy trade last summer; he got knocked around in Portland, and remains just an arm. Seeing Italiano get discarded might surprise some, especially if you were watching Texas League boxes and saw that he'd saved 16 games in the first half, but he was walking almost one out of ever five lefties he faced, managed to hit 13 batters in 52 1/3 IP, and gave up 18 runs in his last 15 IP.

For young-ish hitting help, Durango has gotten an occasional turn as the latter-day Miguel Dilone type that he is, pinch-hitting and buzzing around the bases, but it takes a pretty steal-hungry fanthead to get worked up about him. Baxter is an organizational soldier getting his just desserts in his sixth season in the system since being picked out of Vanderbilt in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He stole a career-high 22 bases (against 10 times caught) and hit a career-high 18 homers and 58 extra-base hits; if you were the sort of person who was worked up over Paul McAnulty, you should be equally enthusiastic about Baxter.

Frying Up a Three-Claim Hamlet, No Cheese: Alas, poor Yorick, the Pads knew Carrillo well, but just as in Shakespeare's tragedy, despite plenty of give and take, neither of the original claimants, whether the Pads and Phillies or the Prince of the Danes and Claudius, wind up winning the actual prize, leaving Ed Wade to play the role of Fortinbras, the guy with the good sense to show up at the end after all of the initial effort has been expended.

Takeaways: They haven't quite made it all the way to having the last laugh for all those who doubted they'd still be in the picture even this late in the year, but with a final weekend matchup against the Giants while the Braves have to take their chances with the Phillies, they could still achieve a nifty upset. Naturally, you can expect folks to pick them for a speedy LDS elimination, perhaps to avenge their wounded dignity, but I say we watch and enjoy the full ride.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Guillermo Mota on the 15-day DL (leg); claimed OF-R Cody Ross off waivers from the Marlins; designated INF-R Matt Downs for assignment. [8/23]
Noted the loss of INF-R Matt Downs on a waiver claim by the Astros. [8/25]
Activated LHP Dan Runzler and SS-R Edgar Renteria from the 15-day DL; recalled CF-R Darren Ford from Richmond (Double-A). [9/1]
Activated RHP Chris Ray from the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Activated RHP Guillermo Mota from the 15-day DL; recalled UT-S Eugenio Velez and MI-S Emmanuel Burriss from Fresno. [9/7]
Recalled INF-R Ryan Rohlinger from Fresno. [9/10]

Obvious Good Move: There wasn't one. As noted earlier in the month, grabbing Ross was a move of the sort you could probably expect from Brian Sabean; the man's palate for talent is nothing if not consistent. In my more casual, cruel moments among friends, I've kidded around in the past about how someone should write down a "Sabean Acquisition Strategy for Life," which would involve decisions like buying a Taurus for list price and other generally snobby observations of that sort. However, the guy does have a roster a few steps form the playoffs, so who am I to judge? Of course, if he'd only gotten around to adding somebody genuinely good, instead of paying list price for Freddy Sanchez (to cite just one example), perhaps all those Padres doubters would have been long since vindicated, right?

Non-Obvious Good Move: Hauling up Ford might have to do, since it's a nice case of adding the speed guy to handle pinch-running chores. When any run could be the difference between October glory and October golf, why not make the silliness of the full-40 month work for you? Getting Dan Runzler back is nice, but since Javier Lopez has been murderously effective in a lefty situational role since his addition at the July deadline, it's fairly minor in terms of impact, since Jeremy Affeldt has also regained his effectiveness, and whoever gets crowded out of the rotation for the post-season roster, he's going to be left-handed.

Meh: Depending on how you look at it, Pablo Sandoval has lost his job to Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, and now Mike Fontenot. Give it another week or two, and he'll have lost it to Joel Youngblood, the other Steve Ontiveros, and maybe even Jack Black himself. But to be fair, between a hangover from the Kung-Fu Panda phenomenon, a demanding off-season training and diet regimen, an in-season divorce... it's been a year I'm sure he'd rather forget. He does seem to have made some sort of marginal improvement at third base, so it isn't entirely bleak. Given his decent platoon split (.277/.333/.436 vs. RHPs), he's still worth taking seriously, even now, just not as a star.

What About the Children? We'll go with a fairly broad definition here, since twentysomethings hanging around without much direction is consistent with the zeitgeist of the present. On that note, Burriss and Velez are back, but then they're of the lot that made getting Renteria or Sanchez or even Ross such a good idea. Take that as a reminder that progress is relative.

Takeaways: If the Giants do make it to October action, the choices they'll have to make for who to carry on the post-season roster should be fascinating to sort out. Sabean has acquired so many plausibly useful veteran spare parts that, beyond the rotation question, there are tough choices to make for the bench and bullpen as well.



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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