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Transaction Analysis: April 7-10, 2003 | Baseball Prospectus - Baseball Prospectus keyboard_arrow_uptop

IN THIS ISSUE


American League


National League


ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Placed 2B-L Adam Kennedy on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring),
retroactive to 4/7; recalled 2B/PR-B Chone Figgins from Salt
Lake.
[4/9]

Kennedy won’t be back until the end of the month, as his initially mild
strain turned out to be a near-tear. Since Benji Gil is nursing hurts
of his
own, this means that Figgins is going to get a start or two. You might
wonder why Scioscia might not take advantage of Scott Spiezio’s bat at
second, now and again, but playing Figgins over Gil makes sense on a
couple
of levels. Figgins can run and will take a walk, and has made himself
into a
solid glove at second. If you bump Spiezio one position over to play
the DH
platoon at first, all you add to the lineup is Eric Owens, just to let
Salmon DH for a few games. I guess the question is whether putting
Fullmer’s
glove at first is enough of a deterrent to getting Owens’ glove in
right.
All in all, letting Figgins get two or three starts per week now that
Kennedy is
gone makes sense, both in terms of talent and a future investment of
time in
case Kennedy is ever gone for months at a time.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Placed C-R Rod Barajas on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring);
recalled C/OF-R Rob Hammock from Tucson. [4/7]

Hammock kept going up and down because the Snakes weren’t certain what
to do
with the roster spot. They initially wanted to keep Brandon Webb, but
he was
ineligible for 10 days because of the rules for transactions and the
point
at which they’d optioned him out. Eventually, however, Hammock was
going to
be up for his own virtues, and not merely because one of the Snakes’
pair of
weak-hitting backstops broke down. Unfortunately, although he can play
other
positions, he’s not really a prospect. He only hit .290/.358/.447 in El
Paso
last year, and he’ll be 26 next month. He won’t be a long-term answer,
but
the organization is essentially answerless. Brad Cresse went into a
ditch
last season, and Craig Ansman’s old to be a prospect. If there’s a team
that
should be aggressive in looking for catching help, it’s the
Diamondbacks.
That said, it was still worth dealing Damian Miller, who is the sort of
player you can and should get and play on the cheap, and flip before
salary
inflation engines like arbitration make him overpriced.


ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed RHP Shane Reynolds to one-year contract, with a mutual
option
for 2004. [4/10]

It’s turning into a hard, lonely world for the Braves, as they may have
lost
Paul Byrd for the season, and they have to give a broken-down Shane
Reynolds
a shot just to preserve the fiction that they’re a contender. Several
people
who took a look consider Reynolds done, so while it’s nice to wishcast
what
Leo Mazzone might do, it’s worth giving Mazzone some slack if the raw
material he’s being handed is only so much used-up horseflesh. The
least
likely outcome is that Reynolds will still be in the rotation in three
months. It’s more likely that he’ll be waived, either because the
Braves
have managed to stay close and traded for something better, or whether
they’re close or dead, because they decided to hand the rotation slot
to one
of the several young pitchers in the organization. As a right-here,
right-now move, this just smacks of desperation. They would have been
better
off convincing Czar Bud to lay off the caprice and let Reynolds be a
Met.


BOSTON RED SOX
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Exercised their 2004 option on RHP Pedro Martinez. [4/7]

Signed C-R Bill Haselman to a minor league contract. [4/8]

Stars and celebrities, by their nature, are exceptions as well as
exceptional. Nevertheless, it’s sort of amusing to see Pedro apologists
rush
to his defense on this expense, turning the Nelsonian blind eye to his
numerous tantrums and occasional desertions, all because he happens to
be
talented enough to tolerate. The silliest exercise is the attempt to
foment
comparisons to Randy Johnson, because of how the Big Unit was
supposedly
giving less than his best to get himself out of Seattle and/or far away
from
Woody Woodward in 1998. That comparison doesn’t really work, since
Johnson
was inconsistent, not tanking a la Denny McLain. A more appropriate
comparisons might be to Tony Fernandez for his elaborate tanking in the
first half of 1993 to get away from the Mets, with the extra karmic
injustice being that he got a World Series ring for his troubles.
Either
that, or perhaps it’s akin to Pavarotti’s requirement that ‘no distinct
smells’ be anywhere near the artist. It isn’t about the precedent or
the
indignity or the catering or the expense, because you’re in an
entertainment
business, and in the business of giving the people what they want. If
that
happens to be a talented prima donna who whines, wheedles, and can
legitimately threaten to take your season–baseball, opera, or a
much-desired Spice Girls reunion tour–hostage, I guess you just have
to pay
attention and pay up. It’s just worth keeping in mind that there’s a
double
standard in play.

On a baseball note, nabbing Bill Haselman was a nice touch, as well as
another indicator that the Brewers are asleep at the wheel. Of course,
Haselman had his choice of employers, and better to choose the
possibility
of being on a potential playoff team than to have to spend time trying
to
convince people that you really are better than Keith Osik.


CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed CF-L Ken Griffey Jr. on the 15-day DL (dislocated
shoulder),
retroactive to 4/6. [4/7]

Purchased the contract of OF-R Jose Guillen from Louisville.
[4/8]

First, the lesser bad news, which is that the Reds are initially
serious
about letting Reggie Taylor get equal time with Ruben Mateo in center
in
Griffey’s absence. Bob Boone might be the only man in baseball who
takes
Taylor seriously, and this is on a roster which is already wasting a
spot on
Wily Mo Pena. The Reds’ shot at contention is effectively at stake
here, and
Taylor’s ability to contribute to that as anything more than a
defensive
replacement would seem straightforward enough. Instead, they’re playing
a
guy who will only add that much more pressure on the team’s need to get
good
things out of people already under a lot of pressure to finally put up
a
good year, like Sean Casey or Barry Larkin. It’s sort of jarring to
consider
their alternative, which is that they’re considering playing Felipe
Lopez,
which is fine, by putting Larkin in center, which is about as wise as
the
Astros’ attempt to make Craig Biggio useful in his golden years.
Larkin’s
ability to do anything helpful in terms of his own on-field
productivity is
dubious enough, but asking to do something he’s never done to cover for
a
debilitating loss to the lineup is just the crazy money talking. If
Larkin
can pick up Center Field 101 quickly enough, at least that would make a
case
for releasing Taylor or trading Mateo, but if Boone got to have his way
and
hold onto Taylor for all of last season and keep him on the 40-man
throughout the winter, it seems unlikely that anything as annoying as
cold,
hard reality over the rest of this summer is going to encourage a
change.

As for Griffey, there isn’t much to say. While he’s sort of
superficially
careening into a Larry Hisle-style “what in God’s name
happened”
career path, unlike Hisle (or Albert Belle, for that matter), it’s been
all
sorts of injuries and not one debilitating injury tearing him down.
Hisle
was effectively done shortly after turning 30, and Griffey hasn’t
created a
lot of confidence that he’s going to be healthy in his 30s. You can kid
that
Belle to date has held up the longest at the tail end of
his
career, but the laughter has to be tinged with a bit of concern, and
none of
them are aging or did age as well as Freddy Lynn. While the optimistic
might
wish to see Griffey back by June, there’s a real chance that he’s gone
for
longer than that.


COLORADO ROCKIES
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Signed OF-R Greg Vaughn to a minor league contract. [4/9]

OK, it’s goofy, considering the Rockies have outfielders coming out
of
their ears, but now that they’re making Ben Petrick play first and
letting
him still catch, there are at-bats to go around on the SkySox. Why not
take a
low-cost flyer on Vaughn, just in case he has something left freed from
the
fetid organizational morass of Tampa Bay? If he shows something, and
it
makes it that much easier for Dan O’Dowd to deal Jay Payton or Gabe
Kapler
from a stronger negotiating position, why not? And if Vaughn flops,
it’s on
somebody else’s dime, give or take a few million dimes.


FLORIDA MARLINS
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Activated RHP A.J. Burnett from the DL; optioned LHP Tommy
Phelps
to Albuquerque. [4/9]

As expected, Burnett comes back to his slot in the Marlins rotation.
It’s a
good thing, too, since Josh Beckett is getting hit around when he isn’t
wild, and Brad Penny has done nothing to dispel the fears that he’s
damaged
goods. Now, Mike Tejera can head back to the pen, where he’s got his
work
cut out for him with Beckett, Penny, and Carl Pavano all struggling in
the
early going.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Purchased the contract of LHP Troy Brohawn from Las Vegas;
optioned
2B/OF-R Jason Romano to Las Vegas. [4/8]

Normally, when you come up with an excuse or two to make space for a
second
lefty, it’s because you either have a crummy first lefty and you want
an
alternative, or because you’ve got a weak overall pen, or because the
second
guy’s good at getting lefties out. Tom Martin’s reliability certainly
needs
to be taken into consideration, given the number of times he’s broken
down
and because he’s 32, but the Dodgers already have six pretty good
relievers
on staff, and Brohawn’s been awful against lefties over his career.
Maybe consecutive weekend series against the Giants are a
factor, but
if they’re going to let Brohawn pitch to Bonds, the Giants will be
popping a
thank you note into the mail after the second set. In short, they’re
better
off with Romano around to play second or the outfield or even just to
pinch-run, because a lineup counting on Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis at
the
same time is asking for trouble.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Activated OF-L Geoff Jenkins from the 15-day DL; outrighted OF-L
Jason Conti to Indianapolis. [4/9]

Any team that would first trade for Jason Conti, and then
prefer
Scott Podsednik to him, must play baseball in Milwaukee. Podsednik is a
weak
choice for a spot on the 40-man, and is almost totally devoid of
upside in
an organization getting by with Alex Sanchez until they can find a real
center fielder. Conti’s shown small measures of power and he cost
something
(Javier Valentin) to acquire, so why then outright him, and why acquire
him
at all? Why carry both on the Opening Day roster, when Conti and
Podsednik
are almost identically qualified to be second-rate fourth outfielders?

More happily, at least Geoff Jenkins is back in the lineup, giving the
Brewers an outfielder who might be an offensive asset as opposed to a
mere
placeholder. The problem in that sentence is that word
“might.”
It’s been a couple of seasons since his last healthy year, and
expecting him
to be the next Paul Molitor, and get durable by the time he reaches 30,
would be a bit much.


NEW YORK YANKEES
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Released C-R Chris Widger outright. [4/7]

From the Yankees’ point of view, if Widger wasn’t going to be given the
job
behind Jorge Posada, a job he deserved, it didn’t make that much sense
to
keep him. In Columbus, they’ve got a modest prospect in Michael
Hernandez,
backed up by Marcus Jensen, who’s still a pretty slick-fielding
backstop.
Trenton has former top draft choice Dave Parrish, still clinging to
prospect
status. It might have been nice if they could have stashed Widger away
so
that Flaherty’s debilitating inability never becomes a problem should
anything happen to Posada, but consider this another risk the Yankees
are
willing to run.

The appropriate question about Widger now is: Will he be a Brewer? Will
the
Brewers identify that he might make a good Brewer? Is that an oxymoron?
Or
is somebody like Eddie Perez an ideal Brewer? May as well pop Miller
Park’s
moon roof; without fresh air and fresh fannies, Miller Park will fill
up
with toadstools in no time.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Signed RHP Frank Castillo to a minor league contract. [4/9]

The doughty burghers of Sacramento are used to this, the journeyman
starter
who once was a semi-prospect, knows what he’s doing, and might make an
adequate emergency starter or spot fifth man. It’s sort of interesting
that
he picked Oakland’s organization and a minor league assignment,
considering
other teams are casting about for fifth starters. The Athletics’
rotation,
and their existing alternatives should any starter get injured, will
almost
certainly keep him stranded in Sacramento all summer.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Purchased the contract of LHP Kevin Ohme from Memphis; placed
LHP
Lance Painter on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [4/10]

It’s nice to see Ohme get a brief stint in the bigs, but he’ll almost
certainly be down and out once Jason Isringhausen is ready to come off
of
the DL in another couple of weeks. He was an organizational soldier in
the
Twins organization for seven years, then spent two years as a Ham
Fighter in
the Japanese Leagues (or a Fighter for Nippon Ham, but it’s easier to
envision combative opponents of pork products for some of us) before
coming
back and pitching for the Cardinals’ organization last season. But
after a
summer in Memphis and a re-up, he’s finally here. Being a lefty helped,
sure,
but it’s nice to see a guy just about to turn 32 make his debut.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Recalled RHP Dennis Tankersley from Portland; optioned LHP
Mike
Bynum
to Portland. [4/8]

Optioned Dennis Tankersley to Portland. [4/10]

Talk about overlapping snafus. First, they keep Mike Bynum for Opening
Day,
without wanting to really commit one way or another to what they want
to do
with him. They could have let him take the start that went to Dennis
Tankersley, which looks particularly good in retrospect since
Tankersley had
another one of his spectacular meltdowns that make everyone
wonder if
he’s ever going to make the leap to the majors. Apparently they were
already
convinced of the need to go to Matt Herges, so why not give the spot
start
to Bynum before shipping him out? If his arm wasn’t stretched out
enough to
go more than three or four innings, why not make it a staff start, the
way
teams can and have to do at short notice once in awhile? Why jerk
Tankersley
around, since he wasn’t going to be kept, when you already know he’s
got
problems settling down and getting his big league career underway?


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed RHP Ryan Jensen on the 15-day DL (strained back); recalled
RHP
Jesse Foppert from Fresno. [4/10]

Sometimes you start hot, and even then, you get rewarded with even
better
fortune. Ryan Jensen makes an adequate fifth starter for any
Bonds-loaded
lineup, but he’s just that. Without the benefit of Pac Bell, he’d have
a
hard time keeping his ERA under 5.00, which isn’t that bad, but also
isn’t Kurt Ainsworth or Jesse Foppert or Jerome Williams. The question
was
never if Jensen was going to lose his job, but when, and he knew it,
hiding
his injury to try to hold on even this long. A Giants
rotation armed with Ainsworth and Foppert and eventually Williams
behind
Jason Schmidt and Kirk Rueter could definitely give Barry several more
Octobers to remember. This year can be a transitional season, where
they
work them in, but as a group, with health and time, the Giants’ young
guns
will rival Oakland’s or the mid-’80s Royals in pretty short order.

In an entirely unrelated point to the Giants other than on the most
bizarre
of coincidences and tangents, I was bemused to see an old acquaintance
from
the Oriental Institute, Pete Piccione, pop up over on ESPN.com, talking
about ancient Egypt, stick games, and the provenance of baseball. All I
can
add is that I’m glad to see somebody with the background pipe up and take on all those silly stories the Russians make up about inventing
baseball. I was never quite sure which was the greater historical
atrocity,
claims of that nature to prickle our Cold War embrace, Serbian
delusions
that they invented everything, starting with nouns, or the former
Stokely
Carmichael’s lectures on how sun people receive manna from the heavens
through hyper-developed pineal glands that ice peoples lack, which, if
true,
ends forever the notion that I’ll ever get my groove back. I figure
they’re
all wrong, and live more happily as a result.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Placed LHP Jim Parque on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis);
purchased the contract of RHP Alan Levine from Durham. [4/9]

Signed LHP John Rocker to a minor league contract. [4/10]

It’s just as well that Jorge Sosa is moving into the rotation. Whether
he’s
going on the DL because he hurts, or because he’s just never going to
get
back to being the amusing blend of cocky bantamweight and effective
mid-rotation starter that he used to be, Jim Parque is nobody’s asset.
Given
his struggles, a trip to the Atlantic or Northern Leagues would
probably be
his best bet, so that he can get innings and show he’s healthy or worth
a
big league team’s time.

In the meantime, they can move on to seeing if Sosa’s going to be that
rare
Rule 5 pitcher worth the investment of time and roster space. The Twins
certainly are reaping the benefit of having picked Johan Santana, but
Santana was more of a finished product, while Sosa is really rough
around
the edges and still learning his craft. But this is the D-Rays, and a
little
OJT goes with the franchise’s territory. Parque wasn’t a full-time
solution
or even much of a temp, so it’s just as well. The real question is whether
Lou
Piniella has the patience to go through Sosa’s inevitable beatings.

John Rocker, Devil Ray…it sort of rolls off the tongue right,
doesn’t it?
Traitor state location, overdrawn redneck posterboy for America at its
caricatured close-minded worst, the patented bulging Worrell neck, oozy
with
talent, and worth a look-see. Why not? If they wind up with a
fireballing
lefty reliever, they got something for nothing. If they get a closer,
they
got him without paying Roberto Hernandez prices. It makes for an
interesting
gaggle of lefty relief help, certainly, if they’ve got Rocker blazing
away,
Mike Venafro flipping those side-arm frisbees, and Bobby Seay’s moving
heat
and nice curve. It’s nice to think about, which isn’t something that
comes
up a lot in conjunction with the Devil Rays.


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