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March 17, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Senior Circuit Shuffling

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

National League

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Juan Jaime to South Bend (Low-A). [3/10]
Optioned RHP Yonata Ortega to Visalia (High-A); optioned LHP Leyson Septimo to Mobile (Double-A); optioned RHPs Kevin Mulvey and Josh Collmenter, LHP Zach Kroenke, C-R John Hester, and OF-R Cole Gillespie to Reno (Triple-A). [3/13]

Steven Wright opines: I went to a general store but they wouldn't let me buy anything specific.

While dispatching most of these guys should come as no surprise, it also won't surprise if everyone but Ortega returns at some point during the season—even Jaime, whose recovery from Tommy John surgery seems to have come along, and whose velocity will propel him back into the big-league picture. Kroenke, Hester, and Mulvey all got service time last year, after all, while Collmenter's close to the top of the list of strike-throwing organizational soldiers sure to be hauled back up once there's a disappointment or two in the rotation (inevitably, especially with this crew). Septimo's brand of wildness as a hard-throwing former outfielder might not disqualify him from the Snakes' bullpen given their complete lack of a reliable lefty reliever, but let's see if Rule 5 pick Joe Paterson wins out over Mike Hampton and Clay Zavada.

It's more interesting to see Gillespie go down so quickly, but much of that is related to the still-raging melee for playing time at first base and left field. Juan Miranda, Brandon Allen, and Russell Branyan are all bopping from among the first-base options, while Gerardo Parra seems to be taking the lead over Allen and a still-struggling Xavier Nady in left field. Nady's bid to even make the team is already suffering from his problems in the field, and with manager Kirk Gibson stuck deciding where to get at-bats for utilityman Willie Bloomquist and how much he should pay attention to NRI Wily Mo Pena's feats of strength in camp, even the cash-starved Snakes might choose to just cut someone who, because of injury, hasn't performed effectively in the majors since 2008. All of which isn't very specific, but Arizona's slowly moving thataways from their more general, initial propositions.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Optioned LHPs Lee Hyde and Jose Ortegano and RHP Erik Cordier to Gwinnett (Triple-A); optioned RHP Randall Delgado to Mississippi (Double-A). [3/13]

CHICAGO CUBS
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Optioned LHP John Gaub and RHP Esmailin Caridad to Iowa (Triple-A). [3/11]
Optioned RHPs Robert Coello and Thomas Diamond to Iowa; optioned RHPs Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, and Kyle Smit to Tennessee (Double-A). [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Coello and Caridad both seem likely in-season callbacks to the bullpen mix, but absent any major injuries, they were going to have a hard time sticking in March. Diamond's initial situation was even worse, because the spillover from the fight for the last rotation job or two is automatically in line for the middle relief/swing role he might have been expected to fill. Making final calls on non-roster guys like Braden Looper or Todd Wellemeyer might wait until the very end, and manager Mike Quade has already expressed an unwillingness to cut people he might lose altogether. That last is worth noting, because there's still the challenge of determining whether or not the organization can bring itself to put Jeff Samardzija on waivers, knowing that talent-starved organizations like the Astros would probably snap him up in a heartbeat.

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned C-S Yasmani Grandal to Dayton (Low-A); optioned LHP Philippe Valiquette and RHP Daryl Thompson to Louisville (Triple-A). [3/14]

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned RHP Bruce Billings and OF-R Cole Garner to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); optioned RHP Casey Weathers and MI-R Hector Gomez to Tulsa (Double-A). [3/13]
Optioned RHPs Edgmer Escalona and Cory Riordan to Colorado Springs; optioned RHP Juan Nicasio to Tulsa. [3/14]
Optioned RHP Clayton Mortensen, C-R Michael McKenry, and INF-R Chris Nelson to Colorado Springs. [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: When I was a little kid we had a sandbox. It was a quicksand box. I was an only child... eventually.

Wright's wit and wisdom perhaps perfectly encapsulates Esmil Rogers' lot—where once he had numerous rivals for a rotation job, they've been dropping away one by one, as first Cook and then Mortensen have had to be excused. After Tuesday's outing, Rogers' lead over Greg Reynolds seems substantial.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned RHPs Jose Ceda and Adalberto Mendez to New Orleans (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Evan Reed and Omar Poveda and C-S Chris Hatcher to Jacksonville; optioned RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Jupiter (High-A). [3/11]
Outrighted Adalberto Mendez to New Orleans. [3/12]
Optioned LHPs Sean West and Dustin Richardson, RHPs Alex Sanabia and Steve Cishek, and OF-L Bryan Petersen to New Orleans; optioned RHP Sandy Rosario to Jacksonville (Double-A); released OF-L Chris Lubanski. [3/16]

Steven Wright opines: Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn't happen.

When you consider how many of these demotions contributed in the major leagues last season, you can't help but conclude that there are many more Fish in the sea. The dispatched pitching talent couldn't even provide much source for complaint with their spring performances, although West's elbow trouble represents the latest setback in an injury-plagued career, while Ceda came to camp overweight—hardly the best sign from a guy trying to come back from his own tale of injury-related woe. But Cishek and Sanabia, Richardson and Reed, and even the TJS-comebacking Poveda all have good stuff on tap, and have varying degrees of likelihood for pre-September returns.

In the meantime, the major news in Marlins camp concerns the association between their third base and center field options. At the hot corner, one eventuality is getting imminentized—Matt Dominguez looks to have the third base job sewn up. That's great news for him, but it might present an interesting problem for the Fish, because Chris Coghlan's bid to become a center fielder is still barely out of the wrapper, as he's missed much game action while dealing with recovering from last year's knee injury and his more recent shoulder problem in his throwing arm. His questionable wheels aside, you might already wonder about the former second baseman's ability to cover ground in center field; if he plays the position no better than, say, a latter-day Keith Miller, and he throws like Rudy Law, that leaves you with a center fielder assembled from the body parts Marty Feldman fetched in Young Frankenstein. That doesn't mean the end of Coghlan's productive career, of course, but where is Coghlan supposed to move to if he can't play center? Not third base, with Dominguez beating him there. Having him swap positions with Omar Infante is easy enough to do on paper, but could Coghlan take the pounding at the keystone?

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Optioned RHPs David Carpenter, Jorge De Leon, Arcenio Leon, and Cesar Carrillo and 2B-S Jimmy Paredes to Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [3/14]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned RHP Luis Vasquez to Chattanooga (Double-A). [3/11]
Optioined RHPs Javy Guerra and Carlos Monasterios, 1B-R John Lindsey, CF-S Trayvon Robinson, and OF-R Jamie Hoffman to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [3/14]
Optioned RHP Jon Link and 3B-R Russ Mitchell to Albuquerque. [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, "Did you sleep good?" I said "No, I made a few mistakes."

It might represent minor-key disappointment that Robinson didn't get stick around any longer than this, but maybe Tony Gwynn Jr.'s performance in camp is going to change the possibilities for the Dodgers' outfield, to the point that concerns about Matt Kemp's usefulness in center might become a moot point. Jay Gibbons' vision problem has kept him shelved when he hasn't been simply struggling, so why not punt on the Gibbons/Marcus Thames platoon, put Li'l Gwynn in center, and pair Thames with Andre Ethier? By getting Gwynn in a fairly low-key move, Ned Colletti may well have landed on a happy temporary solution pending Robinson's arrival—and one that does not involve starting a pair of DHs in left.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Optioned RHP Cody Scarpetta and LHP Dan Merklinger to Huntsville (Double-A); optioned RHP Amaury Rivas to Nashville (Triple-A). [3/13]
Optioned RHP Mark Rogers to Nashville. [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: Why don't they make the whole plane out of that black box stuff?

While you can want the Brewers to have better insurance policies lined up during Zack Greinke's absence, Rogers' slow-healing shoulder had already put him behind the pace needed to win a rotation job. Chris Narveson's still entirely beatable, and the Brewers won't need a fifth starter until mid-April, so while it's frustrating that Rogers' latest setback has added one more delay to a career mostly spent on hold or working through years of physical rehab, a few more weeks shouldn't kill anybody.

NEW YORK METS
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Optioned RHPs Josh Stinson and Manuel Alvarez, MI-R Ruben Tejada, and OF-L Fernando Martinez to Buffalo (Triple-A); optioned 2B-L Jordany Valdespin and 3B-R Zach Lutz to Binghamton (Double-A); optioned Armando Rodriguez to St. Lucie (High-A). [3/11]
Optioned RHP Jenrry Mejia to Buffalo. [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: I busted a mirror and got seven years' bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five.

The interesting development from Mets camp isn't the tedium of waiting for a decision on Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez so much as the possibility that the Mets will play Terry-come-lately with their skipper's apparent desire to hand the starting second base job to Luis Hernandez. This is a great decision insofar as Hernandez is reputed to play second base well. It's a terrible decision in light of the existence of several hundred ballplayers whose various virtues add up to a significantly better everyday option, Castillo among them, as well as many others who might wind up on waivers or be available for outright purchase in the next two weeks. You can hope this is nothing more than a motivational gambit, because who wants to be the guy who couldn't beat Luis Hernandez in a fight for a job in spring training? That's supposed to be mathematically impossible, right?

Which is another way of saying that human agency has a supreme capacity to surprise. In this case, with Terry Collins making the call on who to play, maybe there's nothing wrong with a case of new-guy crazy to put some fear in the ranks—this is the first and last manager to give Justin Baughman a break, after all, and if that's Collins' standard, no wonder Hernandez is being taken seriously. You can hope that the Hernandez rumor is just scary talk to see who it motivates, because Hernandez won't hit well enough to hold his job any more than Mike Jacobs was going to last year. If that seems cynical, better that than, you know, taking Luis Hernandez seriously.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Released 4C-R Robb Quinlan outright. [3/11]
Optioned RHP Drew Naylor to Lehigh Valley (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Justin De Fratus and J.C. Ramirez, 1B-L Matt Rizzotti, 2B-S Harold Garcia, SS-R Carlos Rivero to Reading (Double-A); optioned 2B-S Cesar Hernandez to Clearwater (High-A). [3/13]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Optioned RHP Bryan Morris to Indianapolis (Triple-A); optioned RHP Kyle McPherson to Bradenton (High-A). [3/12]
Optioned LHPs Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson, OF-L Alex Presley, and OF-R Gorkys Hernandez to Indianapolis; optioned RHP Ramon Aguero and LHPs Jeff Locke and Aaron Thompson to Altoona (Double-A). [3/14]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned LHP Aaron Poreda, RHPs Evan Scribner, Jeremy, Hefner, and Simon Castro, and C-R Luis Martinez to Tucson (Triple-A); optioned 2B-R Jeudy Valdez to Lake Elsinore (High-A). [3/11]
Returned Rule 5 pick RHP George Kontos to the Yankees. [3/14]
Optioned OF-L Cedric Hunter to Tucson. [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: How young can you die of old age?

Remember when Aaron Poreda was all that? Good times, good times... now it's Clayton Richard and salary relief that represent the real prizes from the Jake Peavy deal—with Richard's value surprising at least one writer not so very much despite generally negative forecasts. But even I felt at the time that Poreda had to be the key to the deal for the Padres, and after he managed to walk 64 batters in 54 IP last year, that sort of enthusiasm is hard to sustain, even allowing for the fact that he'll only be 24 years old this season. At this rate, Richard's 2.8 WARP for the Pads last season might be more than Poreda contributes in his entire career, a sad reflection of how imprecise even the best scouting and the best forecasting can be. Hopefully, there's still a chance to work out Poreda's kinks, but if he's doomed to be the new Andy Sisco, that serves as a reminder that big and left-handed and hard-throwing is not the same thing as "good."

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned LHP Alex Hinshaw, RHP Henry Sosa, 3B-L Conor Gillaspie, and OF-R Thomas Neal to Fresno (Triple-A); optioned SS-S Ehire Adrianza and OF-R Francisco Peguero to Richmond (Double-A); optioned RHP Jose Casilla to San Jose (High-A). [3/14]

Steven Wright opines: You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

It might seem a bit of a surprise to see a pair of live arms like Hinshaw and Sosa go down so soon, but not even Guillermo Mota is guaranteed a roster spot, and he was on the World Series roster. There are also talents like Dan Runzler to review, as well as NRI curiosities Marc Kroon, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jeff Suppan.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned 3B-L Zack Cox to Quad Cities (Low-A). [3/7] Optioned RHPs P.J. Walters, Adam Reifer, David Kopp, and Francisco Samuel, and SS-R Peter Kozma to Memphis (Triple-A). [3/11]
Announced the release and retirement of RHP Ian Snell. [3/15]

Steven Wright opines: I live on a one-way street that's also a dead end. I'm not sure how I got there.

Ah, the end, or as Jim Morrison put it:

My only friend, the end.
Of our elaborate plans—the end.

Snell's career, such as it was, hardly rises to the level of spectacular disappointment, as he was merely one of Neal Huntington's first expensive mistakes as Pirates GM. So he'll always have a small space in Pittsburgh sports history, like the Maulers, only slightly less embarrassing. Once reputed to be a first-order Alibi Ike, Snell now joins Jody Gerut in the walk-away gang—that's not a matter of making excuses, but of owning up. Don't resent him the money—what would you do if you were offered at least $8 million to do your job? Say, "Nah, I'm not as good as a few other people, please keep it," or "Yes, please, thank you"?

Instead, I wonder if frustration with Snell wasn't really all about the money. Sure, he wasn't great, or even good, but he had his moments of serviceability. But where so much analysis gets reduced to squawking over expense (that we ourselves aren't paying) in the face of payroll-inflating mechanisms like salary arbitration, too much attention gets placed on "ZOMG!!! Ian Snell is so totally not worth that!!!" When, of course, the Pirates could so thoroughly afford to pay it, precedents suggested the price, and there isn't a general manager in the game who wouldn't rather avoid arbitration cases early and often.

If there's a takeaway from Snell's career, it's the hope that Huntington learned something from the exercise, about whom to offer arbitration-avoiding deals to and why, and when, and for how long. Because failing that, the Pirates really are stuck in a cul-de-sac, a dead end of the mind, even as they finally get turned around on the draft at the very least.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Released RHP Cla Meredith; optioned RHPs Garrett Mock and Adam Carr to Syracuse (Triple-A). [3/11]
Optioned LHP Atahualpa Severino to Syracuse; optioned RF-L Bryce Harper to Hagerstown (Low-A). [3/12]

Steven Wright opines: Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.

You can't really blame the Nats for looking at Harper as long as they did, can you? He's already under a big-league deal, and even dispatching him to the lowest full-season rung in the system seems like a temporary thing, given the expectation that he'll be climbing the ladder as fast as any teen in history. In some ways, this was not unlike Jason Heyward's long spring look with the Braves in 2009—the time spent was the baseball equivalent of eye candy, and people couldn't help but want to look. Having indulged themselves a lascivious leer at their best prospect, the Nats can afford to wait as his bat sets the pace for his progress.

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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