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September 8, 2009

Transaction Action

Assorted East Moves

by Christina Kahrl

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Dennis Sarfate from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of OF-L Jeff Fiorentino from Norfolk (Triple-A); transferred LHP Rich Hill from the 15- to the 60-day DL; recalled RHP Matt Albers and LHP Alberto Castillo from Norfolk. [9/1]

Fiorentino had a decent little season for the Tides, with a translated performance of .289/.365/.501 (and a .292 EqA) while manning all three outfield slots. Skip just suggesting that, heading into his age-27 season next year, he'd make a fine fourth outfielder; there are teams doing worse in the regular lineup. While, saying that, I don't really anticipate that Fiorentino would slug .500 in the majors, I guess I'm overly afflicted with too much Ryan Sweeney in my morning boxscores, so it's easy to see greener grass in other outfields. Certainly, if he helps make Felix Pie available in the right trade this winter, the Orioles could afford taking their chances with Fiorentino as their primary backup and sometime spotter for Nolan Reimold in left field.


BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Recalled OF-L Josh Reddick from Pawtucket (Triple-A). [9/2]
Outrighted RHP Marcus McBeth to Pawtucket. [9/4]
Recalled RHP Michael Bowden from Pawtucket. [9/5]
Recalled C-R Dusty Brown from Pawtucket; activated SS-S Jed Lowrie from the 60-day DL. [9/7]

Well, did I put my foot in it, or not? Yesterday, during my chat I poor-mouthed Josh Reddick, and naturally somebody chimed in on his behalf. I respect that, and realize that I try to operate under what I refer to as "the Andy Yount rule," or the suggestion that, if this guy was in any other organization but Boston's, would he be seen as anything like the same caliber of prospect? In Reddick's case, I might be accused of being overly harsh, since he did hit .277/.352/.520 in Double-A in his age-22 season, after all, numbers that suggest a start-worthy peak translation for a .288 EqA. However, my absence of enthusiasm isn't without some virtue; that's not that special, and if he doesn't stick in center, we're talking about a guy who's as much at risk of being on the Fiorentino career track as Trot Nixon's. Since July, he hasn't look ready for the majors or the PawSox, even allowing for his possibly pressing after getting a taste of The Show, but basically, he's not about to push Jacoby Ellsbury aside, and he's more likely a bargaining chip than someone who might end up starting in either corner. So yes, my enthusiasm's a bit muted, but I don't think it's unjustified. He's interesting.

As for the rest, Bowden seems to be still something of the forgotten man in the rotation mix, but that ugly August reintroduction to the majors aside, he's had a fine season in Triple-A, getting 88 strikeouts in 126 1/3 IP across 24 starts, walking 47, and holding hitters to a .227 average. What's interesting is his extreme fly-ball tendencies and their persistence; getting almost twice as many flies as grounders is a rare quality in a starter, and since he wasn't getting that high a percentage of his outs at home plate, it makes for an odd blend. Consider the symptoms: he's induced just five double plays. He's got a solid move to first base and good command, so it isn't like he's Chris Young and just letting everyone get into scoring position, but it makes for an interesting in-game issue. In the abstract, it's easy to say "I'd take my chances with that in Petco," but Bowden's instead booked for Fenway, baseball's most oddly-shaped outfield, and pitching in baseball's best division. If the Red Sox are a bit unwilling to propel him ahead of prospects like Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa, you can understand why, but he's also worth having. As with Reddick, I really wonder if he won't be better served and do the Red Sox sooner service by inclusion in a deal.


NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Recalled RHPs Edwar Ramirez and RHP Mark Melancon, LHP Michael Dunn, C-R Francisco Cervelli, and MI-S Ramiro Peņa from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [9/1]
Recalled RHP Jonathan Albaladejo from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/3]
Purchased the contract of RHP Josh Towers from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; released C-R Kevin Cash. [9/5]
Activated OF-L Brett Gardner from the 15-day DL; recalled OF-R Shelley Duncan from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/7]


TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Recalled RHP Wade Davis from Durham (Triple-A). [9/2]
Recalled SS-L Reid Brignac from Durham; outrighted RHP Joe Nelson to Durham. [9/3]

Well, I suppose that puts an exclamation point on the negative as far as the proposition about how Joe Nelson was a winter steal whose availability was proof positive the Marlins weren't a real ballclub.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Recalled RHPs Dirk Hayhurst and Brian Wolfe and UT-L Joe Inglett from Las Vegas (Triple-A). [9/1]
Activated 3B-R Edwin Encarnacion from the 15-day DL. [9/5]


ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Designated OF-R Brian Barton for assignment. [8/31]
Activated RHP Tim Hudson from the 60-day DL; recalled RHP Luis Valdez, C-R Clint Sammons, and INF-S Brooks Conrad from Gwinnett (Triple-A). [9/1]
Activated OF-L Nate McLouth from the 15-day DL. [9/4]
Recalled CF-L Jordan Schafer from Gwinnett, and placed him on the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Vladimir Nuņez from Gwinnett. [9/5]
Optioned RHP Luis Valdez to Gwinnett; recalled RHP Manny Acosta from Gwinnett. [9/6]

With Hudson crowding into the rotation, it seems as if Kenshin Kawakami was the easy favorite as far as getting elected "Most Bumpworthy" from among the other front five. But should he have been? Consider the performances of the regular quintet:


Dude            GS   QS+BQS   SNWP
Derek Lowe      29     19     .491
Jair Jurrjens   29     19     .576
Javier Vazquez  27     19     .584
Ken Kawakami    25     12     .500
Tommy Hanson    15     10     .578

Generally speaking, I'm not going to suggest the Braves didn't arrive at the right answer; Kawakami's been decidedly mediocre, after all. But Lowe's season isn't without its warts, and while he isn't quite among the luckiest pitchers where LUCK is concerned, and he's delivered as the workhorse he's paid to be in terms of turns and innings, if he's seem as the staff ace, he might have feet of clay. The Marlins have cut him down to size three times, the Yankees obliterated him, and his work against other top lineups lately (the Dodgers, Phillies) has been more of the bend-not-break variety. Should the Braves live up to Joe Sheehan's canny appreciation of their rotational virtue and make a run, I can't help but wonder if they'd recognize that Lowe might be the in-season workhorse they don't want to lead off a post-season series with. It gets even more interesting when you start mulling which two guys get skipped in a post-season series. Kawakami's obvious, but then who gets bumped to the pen if Hudson's going as strong as he has his first two times out?

In the meantime, it's interesting to note what's going on with their lineup now that rosters have expanded and most everyone's healthy enough (beyond the usual day-to-day Chipper drama). With Omar Infante off of the DL, Martin Prado healthy enough to run out there (but struggling), and space for Conrad, Kelly Johnson's been re-buried, if he'd ever been resurrected in the first place. Even with Prado's injury-related absences, Johnson's gotten just five starts and 40 PA since the end of July, while the immortal Infante's gotten 16 starts and 82 PA since his return from the DL on August 11. It is interesting that the Braves won all five times Johnson started, although they didn't face scrubs (or stars): Chad Billingsley, Eric Stults, Max Scherzer, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad. It's hard to make a case for Johnson's return to the lineup given the year he's had, but Prado's ongoing issues and improbable power surge, combined with Chipper Jones' usual unscheduled absences would make you think there'd be more opportunity for Johnson.

Contributing to the oddity of the situation is that Infante's had to play a good bit in the outfield during McLouth's absence on the DL. Now that the center-field starter's back in action, they're placing their faith in Matt Diaz as their everyday right fielder, which isn't bad news, except that they're benching Ryan Church. That's bad news because Garret Anderson's late-season campaign has gone from his standard second-half surge to lifeless triptych in a three-part play where the Braves ought to wish they'd missed the first two months (.266/.294/.358 in April and May) as well as the last two (.244/.286/.345 since 8/1). Church hasn't been special, but he has been better than that. Sadly, Schafer isn't part of any solution, as his surgery at the end of August to remove a bone spur from his wrist will keep him out of action until spring training.

Finally, three cheers for Nuņez making it back up, at 34 perhaps one of the better examples of the fungible/employable middle-relief no-name guy. In his last real shots at full seasons in the majors with the Marlins in 2001 and 2002, he was a worthwhile guy to have around, and after contributing to the Braves a bit last season and then shining with Gwinnett this year (2.16 ERA in 83 1/3 IP, 79 Ks, and excellent peripheral stats with men on base), he's an outstanding example of the sort of pitcher who probably deserves higher regard for a back-end bullpen slot somewhere, not to mention somebody who shouldn't have to have his active service time or union membership defined by the vagaries of who else his organization happens to have crowding the 40-man. He's already proven he's as qualified (or more) to be a big-leaguer as dozens of other guys, so here's hoping he gets some additional service time and hooks up with a better opportunity this winter.


NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contract of C-L John Thole from Binghamton (Double-A); activated 3B-R David Wright from the 15-day DL. [9/1]

A Thole-ian proposition might be the solution to the Minaya-woven web with employing such luminaries as Brian Schneider and Omir Santos; certainly, why pick a platoon when Thole might represent a more universal solution. The question is whether he can stand the heat, but I'm optimistic he has the skills to endure, since he'll also have the advantge of operating in the shade of a star-laden lineup. A projected .277 peak EqA doesn't sound too shabby for an initial set of expectations, and he managed to throw out 30 percent of opposing basestealers for Binghamton. If he can continue to hit for average and walk at something close to 10 percent of his plate appearances, he'll be an asset. The same could have been said of Schneider upon a time, of course, but that was before exaggerated expectations-many generated by Minaya himself, before and after trading for him-set in.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired LHP Victor Garate from the Dodgers to complete the Ronnie Belliard trade. [9/2]
Activated C-R Jesus Flores from the 15-day DL. [9/4]

Flores' return will have to do as a teaser of sorts, because while Josh Bard and Wil Nieves did bad work during his absence, he's not yet ready to take up again the tools of ignorance. It's hoped that he'll be able to catch before the end of the season, and you can expect he'll play some in winter ball, but until next season, the Nationals will have to work with worthwhile anticipation of what they'll be able to get from what was instead an empty slot in the lineup in 2009.


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,  The Who,  Jeff Fiorentino,  Triple-A,  Josh Reddick

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