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July 17, 2012

Transaction Analysis

The Orioles Lose Their Ace

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Recalled RHP Chris Tillman from Triple-A Norfolk. [7/16]
Placed RHP Jason Hammel on the 15-day disabled list. [7/16]
Recalled and optioned RHP Steve Johnson from/to Triple-A Norfolk. [7/16]

Buck Showalter doesn’t think he’ll see Hammel again until September. If true, it’s a tough break for a team that can ill-afford to lose a quality starter. Hammel is tied for the Orioles lead in quality start percentage, leads the team in starter ERA, and ranks 14th league-wide in FIP*.  It’s tough to envision the Orioles sustaining their playoff positioning if he doesn’t return until the season’s final weeks.

Unless, that is, Tillman hits the ground running. His only other big-league start this season came on July 4, when he tossed 8 1/3 strong innings against the Mariners. (At least, it was his only other big-league start. He allowed seven—one earned—without making it out of the first inning Monday.) Stuff has never been the question Tillman couldn’t answer. Rather, consistency—in command and in results—has stumped him. If Tillman’s time in Triple-A prepared him better for examination, then perhaps he can finally establish a foothold on a rotation spot, and keep the Orioles afloat until Hammel returns.

*Amongst pitchers with 50-plus innings.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Ben Sheets from Triple-A Gwinnett. [7/14]
Optioned RHP Randall Delgado to Triple-A Gwinnett. [7/14]
Acquired SS-R Paul Janish from the Reds for RHP Todd Redmond. [7/14]
Placed SS-R Jack Wilson on the 15-day disabled list. [7/14]
Recalled SS-R Tyler Pastornicky from Triple-A Gwinnett. [7/14]
Optioned C-R J.C. Boscan to Triple-A Gwinnett. [7/14]

We all have people we turn to during our toughest times. When Frank Wren needs a little sunshine in his life, he picks up the phone and dials Walt Jocketty’s number—or so it seems. Earlier in the season, Wren and Jocketty swapped spare parts by exchanging Juan Francisco and J.J. Hoover. Now, with Wren losing two of his shortstops to injury, he again turns to Jocketty, who has just the player for him.

Janish is one of the game’s better shortstop defenders. But there’s a slight problem. You see, Janish is such a putrid hitter that even Dusty Baker wouldn’t put him in the lineup. Baker used to plug Neifi Perez into the lineup whenever he could. As bad of a hitter as Perez was, his career True Average is still six points superior to Janish’s career mark. The key to milking value from Janish is to minimize his plate appearances.

One way the Braves can keep Janish away from the plate is by starting Pastornicky. They did just to begin the season, before Simmons usurped Pastornicky on the heels of a rough May. His greatest strength is the lack of a real weakness. If Pastornicky remains with the Braves long-term, he could wind up as a utility player. For now, Atlanta wouldn’t mind Pastornicky creating a shortstop controversy.

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Todd Redmond from the Braves for SS-R Paul Janish. [7/14]

The answer to the trivia question: Whom did the Pirates trade for Tyler Yates?  Redmond is the owner of solid Triple-A stats and 199 minor-league appearances. Despite it all, he remains a right-hander with more mass than stuff. The pitching-rich Braves never found a use for Redmond since he projects as a no. 5 starter or a long reliever in the majors. He survives average velocity by changing speeds and locations, working quickly, and throwing strikes. It’s an underwhelming package given his stature.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed C-R Wil Nieves and 1B-L Todd Helton on the 15-day disabled list. [7/13]
Activated C-R Ramon Hernandez from the 15-day disabled list. [7/13]
Optioned RHP Tyler Chatwood to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [7/13]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Mike Ekstrom and INF-R Josh Rutledge from Triple-A Colorado Springs and Double-A Tulsa. [7/13]

Taken alone, none of these moves tilts the needle.  All together, there could be some ramifications for the Rockies’ deadline plans.

Getting Hernandez back in time to create a market is a plus. However, it remains unclear how seriously the Rockies will entertain offers. Colorado owns a club option on Hernandez for next season worth $3.2 million. If the Rockies value Hernandez’s mentorship of Wilin Rosario—and they do, by all appearances—then they might just hold onto him. Besides, it’s not like having a quality backup catcher is a bad thing.

Seemingly, a Marco Scutaro trade is more likely, in no small part because of Rutledge. Rutledge has more skills than tools and comes with a short swing. For now, Rutledge will man shortstop, though his future home is at second base. Here’s the dilemma for the Rockies. If they trade Scutaro before the deadline, then they will have to roll with a makeshift middle infield between the trade and Troy Tulowitzki’s return. The late-June prognosis on Tulowitzki had him missing at least six weeks.

It’s not an ideal situation, but it would allow the Rockies to reap a return on Scutaro, and observe whether a Tulowitzki-Rutledge middle infield is worth their time. 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Trevor Rosenthal from Double-A Springfield. [7/16]
Optioned RHP Maikel Cleto to Triple-A Memphis. [7/16]
Signed LHP Brian Fuentes. [7/15]

Rosenthal entered the season ranked as the Cardinals’ no. 8 prospect. At the time, Kevin Goldstein praised Rosenthal’s plus fastball and control, while dinging his delivery, secondary pitches, and command. St. Louis’ plan is to use Rosenthal out of the bullpen. You wonder if he isn’t just a placeholder for Fuentes, who, as we discussed before, makes sense for a team in need of a left-handed specialist. If so, Rosenthal could be in for a short-lived stay.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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