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August 16, 2009

Transaction Action

Weekend Transaction Action

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired 1B-L Rhyne Hughes from the Rays to complete the Zaun trade. [8/15]

Hughes will turn 26 in a couple of weeks, so it isn't like he's much more than a mayfly as prospects go, but however narrow the window for the man from Picayune (Mississippi, to be exact), he's making the most of it. Between time with the Biscuits and the Bulls in Double- and Triple-A respectively, he hit .282/.350/.516, although drawing just 34 unintentional walks in 489 PA against 149 strikeouts sort of suggests that minor league mashing is the extent of his upside. However, he gets very good marks for his defense, he leans pretty heavily towards platoonability in his righty/lefty splits, and which franchise was it that briefly gave us Jim Traber's run-in with fame and success, anyway? Maybe, in a 2010 lineup that doesn't have Aubrey Huff in it, Hughes fits in as a platoon placeholder, sharing time at first base with Ty Wigginton and/or Brandon Snyder. All in all, a worthwhile add-on for a couple of months-with a 2010 club option for more-of Zauntime.


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired SS-R Alex Gonzalez and cash from the Reds for MI-R Kris Negron. [8/14]
Optioned OF-L Josh Reddick to Pawtucket (Triple-A); designated INF-R Chris Woodward for assignment; activated SS-R Alex Gonzalez; recalled OF-R Brian Anderson from Pawtucket. [8/15]

Getting Gonzalez and even $1.1 million to help defray the cost of employing him for an organizational soldier definitely represents a dose of what the doctor might order to help cure the Sox's problem at short. He's not more than a rental; as it turns out, his option for 2010 is not mutual so much as he has the right to reject the club option for next season, but doing so would involve forfeiting his $500,000 buyout. Since the odds of the Sox picking up that $6 million option seem to be somewhere between long and improbable, and the chances that Gonzalez will command anything like that on the open market even less likely, I don't think we have a lot to worry about as far as Gonzalez's being rooted in place for 2010.

Happily, he'll provide some value in the meantime during his brief reunion with the Sox. Although his bat hasn't shown any more life in the three weeks since his return from the DL (.197/.261/.279), a lot of that is an initial 1-for-27 streak right after his activation. As it already stood, this was a comeback season for Gonzalez after missing all of 2008 because of injury, and after missing a chunk of May as well as spending a month on the DL across June and July, it would be hard to suggest he's really had an opportunity to settle into a groove. Now, maybe this is just the death rattle of a career brought up short by injury. And yes, it can be a bit silly to parse too much meaning from limited amounts of playing time. Even so, that was a clearly ugly stretch, and I like the possibility that, deposited in the ninth slot of a contender's lineup, he might hit for something like his former power as well as provide some glovely work afield.

It isn't like the Red Sox couldn't afford to risk the opportunity to find out; Nick Green's days as an inexplicable fad can be found on history's pages with the pet rock or mud shoes, and unless and until Jed Lowrie proves he can come back from his latest setback, the men of the Fens were essentially playing shortstopless the last several months anyway. There is no downside, so the question now is whether or not Gonzo can give the team an assist while punching up his already besmirched resumé for his impending free agency.

As for swapping in Anderson, that makes sense for a Sox squad that could use an outfielder who bats right-handed who might also have use as a caddy for Jacoby Ellsbury in center for the remaining week or so of Rocco Baldelli's stint on the DL. Anderson's ability to cover at any one of the three outfield spots aside, it's the handedness which is really important, as J.D. Drew's power outage against southpaws (slugging .354 against them) isn't easily tolerated as the season's sands run out and the Sox risk post-season participation with any unaddressed weakness.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed 2B-L Chris Getz on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 8/12; recalled UT-R Brent Lillibridge from Charlotte (Triple-A). [8/14]

It doesn't look like anyone expects Getz to miss any more than the minimum, and Lillibridge is no threat to start. You might read into this that it's a bigger blow because of Getz's performance since the All-Star break (.296/.359/.408, versus .258/.314/.354 before), but that's as much a matter of how any one guy's BABIP bounces as a reflection that he's "hitting with authority." Jayson Nix will do his latter-day Tim Teufel act well enough in his absence, mashing lefties and struggling against right-handers apart from the odd extra-base hit, and while this impacts Ozzie Guillen's in-game flexibility and subtracts a lefty bat from a lineup that leans right, Getz wasn't exactly Wally Backman, let alone Tim Flannery just yet.


DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Freddy Dolsi to Toledo (Triple-A); recalled RHP Eddie Bonine from Toledo. [8/14]

The Tigers' rotation is in something of a temporary shambles, as they're trying to work around Rick Porcello's suspension (which at five games boils down to his getting an additional day's rest between turns) plus Armando Galarraga's case of the flu, which pressed Zach Miner into the rotation last week (which didn't go well), and might have Bonine on the spot in long relief in today's game should Galarraga tire out early (not too dissimilarly from Chris Lambert's yeoman work after Porcello's early ejection). It's another reminder that the roster is never truly limited to 25 when it comes to pitching staff management, as the Tigers have never really had to be without a long reliever, having skipped from Miner to Lambert to Bonine to cover themselves in these transient emergencies, and even getting Dolsi into the mix for a day at the home office. If Bonine does have to pitch, they don't even have to get very cute about re-stocking the middle relief crew. Miner should be rested up by the time they come back from Monday's offday, and even with the 40-man roster full up, pushing Nate Robertson or Jeremy Bonderman to the 60-day DL would create space for, say, Ruddy Lugo or Nate Bump.

The only person truly inconvenienced would be the one responsible for sewing names onto the new, temporarily used uni. Given that we're talking about a crowd of generic, interchangeable swing guys who are all, generally speaking, right-handed and all get to start for the Mudhens, why not add to the mystery by having Ryan Raburn give up the number 25 and make the lucky Mudhen of the moment wear that and then go without a name on the back? You could then fire up a "Tiger for a Day" promotion, and see if folks can guess who it might be. Imagine the joy when Tiffani Blatz of Romulus gets her moment of happiness when she's asked between the halves of the sixth inning if she knows who #25 is today, and shrieks out, "Omigod, Josh Rainwater, I haven't seen you since we moved away at the end of fifth grade!" (For her troubles, she of course stands to win an unpersonalized jersey with the number 25 on it.) This stuff matters in the standings, sure, but how else are people going to connect to the cast of a half-dozen or so who get to periodically populate that last spot in the pen?


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Gil Meche from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Doug Waechter on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/12. [8/13]

The dramatically uninteresting upshot as far as most people are concerned is that Bruce Chen's been bumped from the rotation, and Kyle Davies is temporarily set as a rotation regular. That's as it should be in terms of future-mindedness, but we'll see how he does today in his third time out since his promotion; his second was an improvement on his initial post-return disaster start, but was limited to five frames. We're all generally in favor of the future as a general principle, but with Luke Hochevar failing to provide a single quality start in his four since his big-K game, and Meche providing just one in the two months since his complete-game shutout, the question with the Royals is whether the future's not already here, and it's a bland dystopia.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed 3B-R Adrian Beltre on the 15-day DL (contused testicle); purchased the contract of INF-R Josh Wilson from Tacoma (Triple-A). [8/13]

Will's cup runneth over on the topic of players not taking their safety seriously, and some perhaps growing up in an environment where it's not an affordable automatic where taking the field's concerned. I had little to add on the subject, just the hope that Beltre recovers fully, while noting that the Mariners' playoff hopes rank in the more comfortably 'dead' category. Jack Hannahan will absorb the starts at the hot corner in the meantime, although it's worth noting that Matt Tuiasosopo's comeback from injury is going very well at Tacoma; he's hitting .296/.384/.546 in the month since he's been reactivated, and while that may not get the Mariners to bring him back before roster expansion, it certainly helps put him back on the radar for the club's post-Beltre landscape at the hot corner.


TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jeff Bennett to Durham (Triple-A); recalled SS-L Reid Brignac from Durham; traded 1B-L Rhyne Hughes to the Orioles to complete the Zaun trade. [8/15]

While Bennett was more than a bit of a supernumerary in the middle-relief mix for the Rays-they were carrying eight relievers before this move-the motivating factor for this move was the latest instance of Pat Burrell's neck problem shelving him. Starting at DH in his place is Willy Aybar, leaving the bench shy an infielder, so the Rays decided to bring Brignac back up as their up-the-middle reserve. So they still have seven relievers, including two situational lefties (Randy Choate and Brian Shouse) beyond the southpaw'd co-closer J.P. Howell. Since righties Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, and Lance Cormier can all take multi-inning assignments, it isn't like they've been unmanned.

The real concern is whether or not Burrell is ever going to be right, and whether or not the Rays can afford a dozen pitchers if their everyday DH can't earn his keep. Since the break, Burrell's bopped a half-dozen homers, but that almost entirely sums up his contributions. Whether or not the Rays want to bring Matt Joyce back up remains to be seen, but with Burrell's production looking hollow on top of B.J. Upton's ongoing avoidance of the greatness expected of him, it isn't like the lineup can afford so many ciphers.


TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated 2B-R Ian Kinsler from the 15-day DL; placed RF-R Nelson Cruz on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 8/4. [8/14]
Placed C-S Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the 15-day DL (sore arm); purchased the contract of C-R Kevin Richardson from Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [8/15]

Getting Kinsler back is good news for a teams facing questions about where it's going to get firepower, but Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton have both been swinging hot bats of late, so consider this a case where more is more. The situation isn't so much a matter of absences as much as what they have on hand. The worst of their being without Cruz has already been expended, after all, with the expectation that he'll be back next week as a result of their carrying him, inactive, on the active roster for more than a week. With Cruz out of action, they've pushed Josh Hamilton to center, shelved a platoon of David Murphy and Marlon Byrd to play Byrd daily. Once Cruz returns, I wonder if they'll move Hamilton back to center, and resume the platoon, or if Byrd might not just get left alone in center, with Hamilton and Cruz in the corners. It'll be interesting, because Murphy really hasn't justified any expectations that he might take it up a notch in the second half. And can they stomach Hank Blalock's punchlessness at first base indefinitely?

Barring those sorts of big-picture concerns, I'm concerned with their losing Salty as well, in that their fall-back options behind the plate are pretty ugly. Admittedly, Salty hasn't done much to deliver on his former promise as a prospect, but at least the notion of upside seems plausible, where Taylor Teagarden's hitting seems to reliably deliver on the proposition that more is less, with additional doses of nothing and not very much to come. Nice as it is to see an organizational soldier like Richardson make it up in his eighth year in the Rangers' system, he's not really the answer, either. Given that Rangers' catching was only delivering a .220 EqA on the offensive side of the proposition already, it's probably hard to believe that things might get worse still, but such are the rewards of plumbing the depths of a particular weakness.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Jeremy Accardo to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [8/13]
Recalled RHP Casey Janssen from Las Vegas. [8/13]


CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded SS-R Alex Gonzalez and $$-$ Stacks O'Cash to the Red Sox for MI-R Kris Negron, and assigned Negron to Sarasota (High-A); purchased the contract of 1B-L Kevin Barker from Louisville. [8/14]

Negron isn't really even a Grace-C prospect, except in the fig-leafy sense of the word that he does some things that involve baseball. A seventh-rounder from Northern California in the 2006 draft, he was supposed to be part of a good baseball program at UC Davis before academic difficulties washed him out and over to Consumnes River College. He's a 23-year-old at High-A, but a bit error-prone at short, contributing towards his getting looks at second base and in the outfield. As a hitter, if you had to dig for virtues, he makes solid contact, which helped him during his brief stint in the bandbox in Lancaster last season, creating the false impression he has power; the Carolina League sapped that in no time, returning him to his less exciting .264/.338/.347. He's willing to take a few walks, but not that many, as 38 unintentionals in 466 PA means that this isn't exactly Max Bishop we're talking about; he does get plunked more than the average bear, so that helps some. He runs well, swiping 20 bags in 23 attempts. Beyond that, he gets happy marks for being an up-tempo gamer, and that helps when you're an aspiring utilityman of the future. He's a body.

The $1.1 million the Reds paid to the Red Sox is perhaps more closely indicative of what it is that Walt Jocketty's afforded himself here: some payroll relief, an opportunity to give Paul Janish his first (and perhaps last) clear shot at the job at shortstop, and to get switched over to the question of what's going to have to be done to make this notionally "win-now" ballclub in win-now shape over the offseason.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Optioned RHP Chris Sampson to Round Rock (Triple-A); recalled RHP Samuel Gervacio from Round Rock; activated INF-R German Duran from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Corpus Christi (Double-A). [8/14]

Sampson returned from the DL at the end of July shorn of his effectiveness, having since surrendered 16 runs and 26 baserunners in 7 2/3 frames. Given the team's thwartably immodest ambitions in the general direction of 'competitive,' that sort of thing simply wasn't going to do, and since Gervacio came out of his previous big-league debut without combusting, it's just as well to exchange the pair until it's learned if it's something physical that's amiss or what. They have Jeff Fulchino and Yorman Bazardo for long-relief chores in the meantime.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Jose Ascanio on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 8/12; designated OF-L Jeff Salazar for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Denny Bautista from Indianapolis (Triple-A); recalled UT-R Brian Bixler from Indianapolis. [8/15]

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:  A's,  Luke Hughes,  Back,  Depth,  The Who,  Triple-A,  Year Of The Injury,  Depth Chart

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