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July 16, 2009

Transaction Action

AL Odds and Ends

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated SS-S Cesar Izturis from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP David Hernandez to Norfolk (Triple-A). [7/10]

For Hernandez this demotion, coming as it does after back-to-back quality starts, is just a temporary kick back down the seaboard to keep him on turn, not simply to celebrate Bastille Day closer to the site of France's war-winning victory at the Battle of the Chesapeake. However, with Izturis back and with several bench players out of options, the Orioles have something of a crowd of position players to sort through, giving rise to mini-pot rumors bubbling about the availability of such worthies as Felix Pie or Oscar Salazar. Ty Wigginton might have had some value, although he's under contract through 2010, and his struggles in the AL have undermined what interest he might generate. Given that Pie or Robert Andino were available not simply because they were option-less but also because they hadn't done all that well, it will be interesting to see if Andy MacPhail and company work up the nerve to just designate one of them for assignment, or take the equally "bold" step of cutting back from carrying three middle relievers (right-handers Brian Bass and Matt Albers as well as Mark Hendrickson, the annually disposable veteran southpaw).


CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated LHP Aaron Laffey from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Rafael Perez to Columbus (Triple-A). [7/8]
Activated RHP Rafael Betancourt from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Jeremy Sowers to Columbus. [7/9]

Well, it's certainly good news to have Betancourt back; he's the first and only Mohican you'll find among big-league relievers with 20 or more innings pitched among the top 100 in Adjusted Runs Prevented (I was trying to give them a break by moving away from the more win-oriented WXRL to try and say something nice). Laffey ranked second on the team (and 104th overall, but he came back to go into the rotation, replacing Sowers as one of their pair of prospects (joining David Huff) to run opposite their less appetizing pair of veterans (the lingering Carl Pavano and a resurrected Tomo Ohka) behind Cliff Lee.

To highlight how ghastly the pen's been, guess who's third in APR? Sowers; he might only have one relief appearance to Laffey's six, but it was an adequate evening. Who's fourth among men who have relieved in Cleveland Indians ballgames? Why, Tomo Ohka; he made three relief appearances, two of them five-inning mop-up assignments in causes already well lost by the lamented Fausto Carmona. You have to slip below zero in ARP to find an actual Indians reliever not named Betancourt, and the best of that lot was the since-released Matt Herges. Kerry Wood, Jensen Lewis, and Rafael Perez rank among the very special indeed, further down. It's interesting to note that Lewis has struck 15 and not seen a single runner score off of him in nine innings in Columbus since his demotion; now on his second stint in middle Ohio, Perez has 10 Ks in 11 IP, and also hasn't seen a runner of his score.

Now, it's easy to suggest what isn't in the International League: Eric Wedge, of course, but in his defense, there also aren't m/any major league hitters. But it's interesting to note, and for as frustrating as the performances of two relievers pegged in the pre-season to rank among Wood's chief set-up men have been in the bigs, doesn't that International League domination suggest that they share a bit of that frustration?


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Designated INF-L Don Kelly for assignment; recalled OF-L Clete Thomas from Toledo (Triple-A). [7/8]

As much as they might want to platoon Magglio Ordonez, doing so needs a better beard than the scraggly something they're trotting out there at present. Thomas simply isn't the bat for it; they may as well bring back Pat Sheridan and call that a platoon for all the good it's going to do them achieve anything in the standings. They're more pointedly reducing the threat of Ordonez' $18 million option for 2010 activating to 'noisome nuisance,' and while that's their prerogative, if they have any interest in doing something more along the lines of winning the division, they'll see about adding somebody more obviously play-worthy than Jim Leyland's latest favored scrappy white guy.


LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Sean O'Sullivan to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled OF-S Reggie Willits from Salt Lake. [7/5]
Placed CF-R Torii Hunter (adductor strain) and DH-R Vladimir Guerrero (knee strain) on the 15-day DL, both retroactive to 7/8; recalled INF-R Brandon Wood and C-R Bobby Wilson from Salt Lake. [7/10]
Activated RHP Shane Loux off of the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Rich Thompson to Salt Lake. [7/11]

Since the hope is that Hunter will be back before the month's out and Vladi's return to action might be sometime around a month, there's really only one lineup slot that needs re-stocking. To some extent, which slot that is can be left open for discussion, because upon a time, Chone Figgins was a multi-positional super-sub who could move from second to third to center with aplomb. With one lineup slot open, the Angels ought to configure their lineup to make sure the freed-up playing time goes to Brandon Wood, their best-available bat; since Wood plays third (or short, badly), why not have Figgins move where needed and see if Wood's a big part of their future or not? It spares them dignifying any further the delusion that Jeff Mathis is a starting-caliber catcher by getting Mike Napoli back behind the plate, puts Bobby Abreu at DH in Vladi's absence (and where his duck-and-cover defense can't hurt his team's moundsmen), and let Juan Rivera show people in Anaheim what an accurate arm in right field instead of one devoted to the odd feat of strength can do for you. They've given Howie Kendrick yet another opportunity-as well they should-and they've given Erick Aybar enough rope to lasso the odd turkey vulture, tardy space shuttle, or Vogon constructor fleet.

As long as they're willing to be indulgent, why not take the next month's worth of playing time and let Wood make a case for why he should be this team's Matt Williams Lite? He may not be the sort of player that Mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher congratulate themselves on, but out-and-out power plates runs too, and with the Angels fighting tooth and nail to stay ahead of the Rangers in the standings, why not do something to retain their lead on the offensive side of the ledger? A month from now, once Guerrero's ready to go again, they'll have a better idea of whether Wood's capable of earning his keep, and if he's done well, they can open up the snaggy-nasty question of who sits when. Even "healthy," Vladi's going to need routine rest days and might be better off avoiding outfield play altogether, which should add up to opportunities to move Figgins around, keep Wood in rotation for playing time, hide Abreu from a fly ball-generating teammate, or rest Juan Rivera. The Angels have been beating people with this kind of flexibility for years, so here's hoping they make something of this latest possible permutation.


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned INF-S Matt Tolbert to Rochester (Triple-A); recalled 2B-S Alexi Casilla from Rochester. [7/13]
Optioned C-S Jose Morales to Rochester. [7/15]
Purchased the contract of RHP Kevin Mulvey from Rochester. [7/16]

The shuffling and reshuffling at the keystone has gone beyond tedium at this point, but when the team's producing a .262 Equivalent Average, and the average second baseman in the majors produces a .263 EqA, and all Twinkie second basemen are producing a .196 EqA, then and perhaps only then does PECOTA's tepid pre-season enthusiasm for Casilla (.247 EqA) resemble salvation. It's probably little or no consolation that their shortstops have been slightly better collectively (.237). However fashionable defense might be, it couldn't preserve Tolbert, and it doesn't seem likely to spare Nick Punto either, although it'll be interesting to see if Punto's hitting stroke, once again gone turtle once overexposed by everyday play, comes peeping back out again now that he's being bucked back down to the reserve role he seems to have been born for. It's a strange turn of events that elevates Brendan Harris to a regular at shortstop, but in point of fairness a couple of defensive metrics have him doing moderately better than Punto, although still something short of well. It makes for a strange sort of contention, but in this division, it flies, like a bumblebee, only more inoffensive to scientific principles.


NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jonathan Albaladejo to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); recalled RHP Mark Melancon from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/10]
"Lost" INF-R Angel Berroa on a waiver claim by the Mets. [7/11]


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Recalled RHP Jeff Gray from Sacramento (Triple-A); designated LHP Dana Eveland for assignment. [7/8]
Outrighted LHP Dana Eveland to Sacramento. [7/10]
Traded 3B-L Jack Hannahan to the Mariners for RHP Justin Souza; activated LHP Dallas Braden from the Bereavement Leave List; optioned RHP Jeff Gray to Sacramento. [7/11]

An interesting move to help out a division rival, but Souza's not a prospect that they've added any more than Hannahan was an important asset to retain. Souza is something of a local kid, if you consider the Central Valley local to the East Bay, which I do, having grown up there; he played some JuCo ball at American River College and then moved on to Sacramento City College, getting drafted in the ninth round of 2006, perhaps in part due to the occasional report that he'd touch the mid-90s with his heat. Nowadays he's a slight, short-ish (6'1") right-hander throwing a sinker/slider mix for strikes while starting in Double-A, but I wouldn't rush to start calling him the next Justin Duchscherer; it's more likely he winds up an organizational arm.

I'm a little amazed and amused to see Eveland pass through waivers unmolested, what with the number of rotations feeling needy these days, but it says something about his unhappy place in the game as someone nobody banks on, even when he might prove useful. On the other hand, beyond his terrible performance in the big leagues this year, he hasn't done all that much at Sacramento either, giving up a run and walking somebody every other inning while striking out fewer than six batters per nine.


TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Grant Balfour on the Bereavement Leave List; recalled C-L John Jaso from Durham (Triple-A). [7/12]

Jaso's been touted as prospect-y in some circles, but 25 and failing to slug in Durham's no way to keep that sort of thing in the suggestion box; triple-slash stats of .247/.344/.359 is just flat-out bad, translating to .232/.328/.353. Which is my long way of saying that, as bad as Dioner Navarro-almost a half-year younger than Jaso, mind you-has been, I'd rather take my chances that it's last year's starting catcher who will give you something in the second half. He's popping up a lot more often this year, but he's also been a bit hit-unlucky, and since when would I not favor the younger player with the better track record against better competition while providing better defense? As exasperating as it has been to ride out Navarro's struggles so far, it isn't like he's cooked.


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:  Matt Tolbert,  Back,  The Who,  Triple-A,  The Call-up

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