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August 12, 2009

Transaction Action

AL West Roundup

by Christina Kahrl

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BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted RHP Enrique Gonzalez and 1B/OF-L Chris Duncan to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [8/12]

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted 2B/OF-R Josh Barfield and RHP Jose Veras to Columbus (Triple-A). [8/11]
Claim LHP R.J. Swindle off of waivers from the Rays, and optioned him to Columbus. [8/12]

Swindle's a notionally good grab off of waivers as an aspiring LOOGY, but the Tribe's cycled through several, all laden expectoratings the lot of them: Rich Rundles, Craig Breslow, Juan Lara, Scott Sauerbeck, it's like naming the old hands who would up getting cast as dim, doubting colonists eating by giant pizza puffs-however familiar, they're not around long enough before they get melted into slag and you're wondering where you find a bricklayer instead of a doctor. At some point, the Tribe has to show some ability to convert talent into results, and while in the abstract I like so much of what they've got, their failure rate when it comes to filling holes should make doubting Thomases of us all.


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Chris Lambert to Toledo (Triple-A); recalled RHP Freddy Dolsi from Toledo. [8/11]

Lambert's stay was shortened by Rick Porcello's early exit last night, as Porcello's ejection put the mop-up man on the spot, and having swabbed long and hard to 22 batters, allowing three of them to go yard, there was no point in letting him rest that effort off on the big-league roster when you can just flip him to the Mudhens for his siesta and get another available arm into the pen. It's this sort of activity which reflects the extent to which the 25-man roster has become a literal joke. It's an active roster for individual games that is mostly but not exclusively drawn from the 40-man, and leaves me thinking (again) that Jim Riggleman was right to argue for September ballgames to be similarly set up in terms of allowing teams "just" 25 active bodies per ballgame.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claim RHP John Bannister off of waivers from the Rangers, and option him to Northwest Arkansas (Double-A). [8/11]

It's a Ramen noodles sort of move; when you're hungry for anything, everything looks edible; I have it on good authority that the nutritional value of dust bunnies is 'fibrous.' The utility of grabbing one of the guys who looks like he might be a Tommy John casualty instead of a TJ survivor seems similarly desperate, but hey, it's the Royals. When you're a basket case, do you worry about the weave?


LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RF-R Terry Evans to Salt Lake (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Robert Mosebach from Salt Lake; transferred RHP Kelvim Escobar from the 15- to the 60-day DL.[7/24]
Optioned RHP Robert Mosebach to Salt Lake. [7/30]
Optioned 3B-R Brandon Wood to Salt Lake; recalled C-R Bobby Wilson and 2B-R Sean Rodriguez from Salt Lake. [7/31]
Activated DH-R Vladimir Guerrero from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Bobby Wilson to Salt Lake. [8/4]
Optioned 2B-R Sean Rodriguez to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Sean O'Sullivan from Salt Lake. [8/5]
Placed LHP Joe Saunders on the 15-day DL (shoulder); recalled RHP Jose Arredondo from Salt Lake. [8/8]
Released RHP Justin Speier; recalled RHP Trevor Bell from Salt Lake. [8/11]

The big news for the offense, such as it goes, is that Vladi's hit four homers in eight games as the team's DH since coming back from the DL. Perhaps equally significant is who he's hit them off of: John Danks, Kevin Millwood, and two off of Matt Garza. So clearly he's not feeding off of bums like some bottom-feeding stat hound or middle relief murderer, or even just a bum-eating space alien. This has helped elicit a good amount of positive response, but more fundamentally, it suggests that the Angels will be able to keep this up and field one of the best offenses in the league; they're currently third in team EqA behind the Yankees and Rays. Part of the root cause of that is getting good work from Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, and Maicer Izturis all at once, crowding Brandon Wood out of the picture. (Since they do own him, there's always next year for Wood.)

Over in the rotation, losing Saunders is a setback, but that expression sort of captures the spirit of his season. He delivered seven quality starts in his first 10, and just two in his 13 since the calendar turned over to June. Since the blush is off of Matt Palmer's rose, and Sean O'Sullivan's managed just two quality starts in seven, the real quandary for the Angels is whether they can field a post-season rotation that doesn't tip into Les Straker territory once you get past the big two. Ervin Santana gave them last night's shutout to provide hope they have a third starter, but it was his second quality start in two months, and the first one that wasn't against the A's.

Saunders is supposed to be back before the end of the month, but it can't come too soon in terms of the club's needs; tomorrow's offday doesn't come at a convenient time in the schedule, since it's their last one in the month, and they won't be able to skip the fifth starter's slot after Bell makes his debut today. Unfortunately, as the last couple of months have reflected, just having Saunders around isn't the same as having the Joe Saunders they need. They do get the benefit of a relatively easy portion of the schedule in the weeks to come, but with starting pitching of this low caliber, they'll need every break to maintain their lead on the Rangers.

In the meantime, they may well be stuck with Bell as one of their few remaining options without resorting to the unappetizing choice between Matt Palmer and Shane Loux from their own middle-relief corps. A former top pick (supplemental first round of 2005), Bell's perhaps best known as Bozo's grandson, but more fundamentally he's an organizational arm these days, a guy who's velocity as a pro dropped from his heyday as a California high school phenom, but who throws three pitches for strikes and can make a reasonable bid for fifth starterdom in the majors. He managed a 89/34 K/UBB ratio in 140 IP between Double- and Triple-A, so he's not the sort who's going to overpower people.

Get past Bell, and you come up against the limits of their 40-man, and the question of whether they'd make space for a modest upside strike-thrower like Tommy Mendoza or rush up power lefty Trevor Reckling. Ideally, they never wind up having to ponder such choices, Santana gives them a good third man for a few weeks, and they survive with O'Sullivan and Bell. But given the difficulty of the proposition, I wouldn't be surprised at all if this means that the Angels wind up claiming somebody off of waivers or adding some sort of veteran arm in the season's waning weeks. Whether it's a matter of waiver deals or just getting somebody in September to finish the season with who wouldn't be playoff roster-eligible, to some extent they simply need bodies, and any setback for Saunders exacerbates the issue.


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed LHP Glen Perkins on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 8/9; purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Manship from Rochester (Triple-A); transferred RHP Kevin Slowey from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/12]

I've sort of plowed this particular ground so many times of late that it's reached the point that it might be time to let the field go fallow, but to recap, I've pointed out Manship's limited virtues and the decision to add Carl Pavano already, and losing Perkins for an undetermined period of time doesn't really help or hurt so much as constrain their options, especially if Francisco Liriano's Jekyll/Hyde act continues to veer between effectiveness and disasterpieces.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned LHP Jason Vargas to Tacoma (Triple-A); noted the loss of INF-R Chris Woodward on a waiver claim by the Red Sox; purchased the contract of RHP Doug Fister from Tacoma. [8/7]

Fister seems an odd add-on to the Mariners' rotation, but with Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva no closer to coming back, Jarrod Washburn dealt, and Ian Snell hurting, the M's are down to King Felix and Arm Du Jour (don't ask if he's right- or left-handed-he's still in the Gulf Coast League). Fister's a 2006 seventh-rounder out of Fresno State, and he's gigantic, standing 6'8", but he's not much for overpowering people, instead coming from that breed of gentle giant which throws strikes and gets by with a merely OK fastball/slider combo. Lefties can hit him for power (.204 ISO), but he was doing a good job of limiting right-handers (.080 ISO), and add in the difficulties with fielding an adequate defense in Tacoma, and he might not quite as hittable as the 132 knocks in 106 1/3 frames sounds. His 79/11 K/UBB ratio is representative of how fine his command can be. Given how committed the Mariners are to fielding a quality defensive unit, this might go all that badly, although last night's run of effectiveness against the White Sox isn't what's going to be on tap as people actually start getting film and more comprehensive scouting reports on him.


TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted C-R Michel Hernandez and UT-R Joe Dillon to Durham (Triple-A); noted the losses of LHP R.J. Swindle (Indians) and RHP Jon Meloan (Pirates) on separate waiver claims. [8/12]

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Frank Francisco on the 15-day DL (pneumonia), retroactive to 7/11; recalled RHP Willie Eyre from Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [7/20]
Optioned RHP Willie Eyre to Oklahoma City; recalled RHP Guillermo Moscoso from Oklahoma City. [7/28]
Optioned RHP Doug Mathis to Oklahoma City; recalled MI-R Joaquin Arias from Oklahoma City. [7/29]
Optioned RHP Guillermo Moscoso to Oklahoma City; recalled RHP Warner Madrigal from Oklahoma City. [7/30]
Placed 2B-R Ian Kinsler on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/29; placed RHP Jason Grilli on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); optioned RHP Warner Madrigal to Oklahoma City; activated RHP Frank Francisco from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Doug Mathis from Oklahoma City; purchased the contract of RHP Neftali Feliz from Oklahoma City; transferred LHP Matt Harrison from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/2]
Optioned MI-R Joaquin Arias to Oklahoma City; purchased the contract of UT-R Esteban German from Oklahoma City; designated RHP John Bannister for assignment. [8/5]
Designated RHP Vicente Padilla for assignment; recalled CF-L Julio Borbon from Oklahoma City. [8/7]

Because the Rangers have pushed themselves not simply into the running for the AL West-although keeping pace with the Angels has been tough-but also the AL Wild Card, everything's important for them at this point. Having made the important decision to forgo cashing in any number of prospects to add an arm to the rotation looks even more bold in light of the decision to cut short their association with Padilla, especially when he hadn't been that bad-his .490 SNWP ranked fifth on the team, but perhaps that sums the matter up right there. Getting better work from Tommy Hunter in his eight turns (.590, with five quality starts) and Dustin Nippert in his five (.527 SNWP) suggested how very replaceable Padilla was, and getting occasional brilliance from Derek Holland simply drove the point home: the Rangers will succeed or fail on the merits of how ready pieces for the future are right now, and win or lose, they can expect to learn something either way. It's safe to suggest that they'll be paying off that 2010 option and be done with Padilla, although wouldn't it be somewhat interesting if the starter-hungry Angels brought him over? Where the Rangers were worried about the example he set to younger players, I wonder if the Angels aren't well enough set for veterans and the tone set from Mike Scioscia on down to take their chance on the veteran. And besides, it would make for a great plot point in the movie.

If the Rangers have a problem at present, it's that it's the offense that is coming up short. They're ninth in the league in team EqA, but with a .255 mark, that's more about how terrible the attacks of the Orioles, Tigers, Athletics, Mariners, and Royals are, not a reflection of any basic strength. Losing Kinsler and Nelson Cruz simultaneously has only made matters worse, not to mention Jarrod Saltalamacchia's nagging hurts, leaving them with their lineup flexibility shot, not to mention the difficulty of having to try and score runs with both Omar Vizquel and Taylor Teagarden getting too-regular playing time. Add a dash of Hank Blalock's Ranger days ending with a whimper instead of a roar and David Murphy's swinging out of his shoes to try and help compensate for the power outage, and it's a frustrating situation. If there's a thin thread of a silver lining, it's given them additional cause to push Josh Hamilton back to a corner and plop Marlon Byrd back into center, but that'll probably come to an end once Cruz is ready to return to action. It certainly goes a ways to explain why they might be so willing to get Kinsler back without a rehab assignment, but given their needs, I wonder if it won't be soon before they start giving thought to Chris Davis's next opportunity, because as varied as their options are when it comes to manning the outfield and DH, Blalock's killing them at first, and they're basically out of alternatives there.


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:  Depth,  The Who,  Triple-A,  Doug Fister,  Depth Chart,  Joe Saunders

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