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ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Acquired LHP Buddy Groom from the Yankees for a PTBNL.
[7/31]

A useful enough snag, I guess, although Groom is far from a dominant
situational lefty when he’s allowed them to hit .265/.294/.449 this
summer,
and .261/.304/.406 in the three years previous. But then that’s why
Groom
was available; a situational lefty who’s hittable and who can give up
the
ocassional bomb is supposed to be free talent. And when you’re the team
that
needs Tim Worrell to help your ‘Snake That Roared’ run at the division title, help
is
help, and you can’t afford to ask who’s giving you a hand — you’re Snakes, after
all
.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Acquired RHP Kyle Farnsworth from the Tigers for RHPs
Roman Colon and Zach Miner. [7/31]

John Schuerholz does it again, nabbing a top-shelf reliever to fix his
pen
coming down the stretch. Now sure, he has the coin of the realm, having
always drafted toolsy arms that everyone will take in trade, so he
always
has something that people want, and pitching being pitching, most of
them
never do come back to haunt him. But if you look at our Reliever Expected Runs report, Farnsworth is the one pitcher in
the
top twenty in Adjusted Runs Prevented who was traded; re-jigger the
chart to
go by Fai
r Runs Allowed
and using a cutoff like 40 IP, and again, there’s
nobody
ahead of him that you saw dealt, and other than Billy
Wagner
, perhaps even rumored to be dealt. If you’re curious,
Chris Reitsma ranks behind him both times. Anyways, my
point is that Schuerholz added not just the best reliever dealt at the
deadline, but an actual really good reliever to boot, and anything that
involves less opportunity for Dan Kolb to be asked to
preserve a lead, that much greater the likelihood that the Braves will
win
the game. Anyone already wondering what will happen if Farnsworth takes
the
mound against the Cubs in October? Here’s hoping he makes them pay.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jon Papelbon; optioned
LHP
Lenny DiNardo to Pawtucket; designated RHP
Luis
Mendoza
for assignment. [7/31]

With Matt Clement and Wade Miller
dealing
with the very different ways in which they’re nicked up, the Red Sox
needed
to haul in someone to fill in. They may not keep Papelbon up since his
spot
won’t be come up again until next Saturday, and if Clement is ready to
go by
Thursday the 4th or even Saturday the 6th, this was really just an
emergency
start that gave Papelbon a quick taste of the bigs, and not a
showcasing for
a deal that never did pan out, the way some seemed to believe before
the
deadline came and went.

Under the circumstances, Papelbon did very well, although it’s worth
noting
that he’s a top product of a top college program (Mississippi State),
so
he’s not supposed to suck. He did show off mid-90s heat, although not
with
the command he’s supposed to have, leaving it up in the zone more than
is
ever going to be a good idea. But this was a nifty capper to a season
that
has seen him already effortlessly make the leap into Double-A before
rising
to Pawtucket. Between those two levels, he’s thrown 109.2 IP, allowing only 80
hits
and logging a 104:25 strikeout to walk ratio. If push came to shove,
the Sox
could do a lot worse than pasting him into the rotation should one of
the
starters break down, and the opportunity should be there for him to
replace
Miller in next year’s rotation.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Acquired INF-B Geoff Blum from the Padres for LHP
Ryan Meaux; recalled RHP Jon Adkins
from
Charlotte; optioned UT-L Willie Harris and 1B/OF-L
Ross Gload to Charlotte. [7/31]

It would be easy to dismiss the trade as a disappointment, since it
isn’t
even a Chicago-appropriate trade: they got a Blum, like Leon, instead
of a
Bloom, like Allan.
Now, there’s no accounting for taste: some people may prefer the
President
of the
ill-fated Third Republic
, and others might prefer a cranky old man
blaming those kids and their rock’n roll for the decline
of
Western Civilization
.

Perhaps it won’t surprise people that I’m preferential to Blums over
Blooms,
but that isn’t the reason I actually like this move. More basically,
Geoff’s
hit .248/.347/.376 against right-handed pitching. That’s a higher OBP
than
normal for him, but as switch-hitters go, hitting lefty is Blum’s
strong
side (cue applause from Leon from beyond the grave), and that makes for
a
good match for Joe Crede (.245/.290/.441 vs. RHPs,
.290/.373/.484 vs. LHPs) against certain righthanded ace types. Add in
that
Blum can play a good third (if a much less special second or short),
and
he’s a good utility infielder for a team that leaves its shortstop and
second baseman on the field close to everyday. That helps explain why
Harris
is out of a job, since he’s really a second baseman in utilityman’s
clothing, and a little too obviously uncomfortable in mufti as well as
stale
in a bench role.

As for swapping Gload for a reliever, again, this one also makes good
sense.
With Dustin Hermanson‘s back woes and the worries that
Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte have
been
overworked, a spare arm for mop-up work makes sense. The Sox tried to
make
Adkins into a starter again this summer, and it didn’t work out
(again), but
plugged back into the long relief role he was in last year, he should
be
useful enough. The problem, such as it is, is that demoting Gload
highlights
the team’s lack of alternatives when it comes to replacing
Frank
Thomas
‘ bat now that he’s apparently out for the season. All
Carl Everett all the time is no way to invest all of
your
DH time, even assuming that you think he can stay healthy, so the Sox
should
definitely make a waivers deal to get an extra bat if they can.
Daryle Ward would be settling, but it wouldn’t be the
worst
thing they could do, given the obviousness of their need. There’s
always the
danger that they could turn to Joe Borchard now that
he’s
up to .255/.325/.461 at Charlotte.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Acquired OF-L Matt Lawton from the Pirates for OF-L
Jody Gerut. [7/31]

Kudos to Jim Hendry for pulling off either the best or tied for the
best
deal of the deadline (tied with the Braves getting Farnsworth). It was
a
particularly neat trick to start with Dubois, a good player to have,
but one
Dusty Baker didn’t know how to use, trade him for Gerut, and then flip
Gerut
for a player you can win games with right now. Because that is the name
of
the game: right now. Catching the Cardinals isn’t the goal, making up
the
four game lead the Astros hold in the wild card race is. It’s more than
worthwhile, it’s imperative, not simply for the well-being and job
security
of Hendry or Dusty, but because the stakes are especially high when
there is
no dominant team in the National League, and any team in the postseason
with
a good rotation and offense might get to the World Series, as the
Astros
almost did last year, or the Marlins did in ’03.

As Joe Sheehan has already noted, this move as well as the elevation of
Jerry Hairston Jr. to a full-time role in center
entirely
changes the character of the Cubs’ offense to one that has runners on
base
ahead of the Lee-Burnitz-Ramirez heart of the order. Lawton might bat
leadoff, and Hairston second, or vice versa, but flipping Todd
Walker
down to the sixth slot makes for good use of his power
and
contact hitting, and really only leaves the Cubs carrying one spot o’
suck
in the lineup, whoever’s playing shortstop that day between
Neifi
Perez
and Ronny Cedeno. What, you expected
perfection?

Having mauled right-handed pitching this year at a .292/.403/.470 clip,
Lawton’s a lineup weapon that should create all sorts of benefits:
getting
on base forces pitchers into the stretch, that can wear out an opposing
starter, and that can get you at-bats against middle relievers. But
more
basically, OBP is life, as the saying goes, and Lee, Burnitz, and
Ramirez
will have that many more at-bats with runners on. Lawton should end up
being
platooned with Matt Murton, which gives Murton a
continuing
role should Dusty Baker figure that much out, although the skipper’s
incomprehensible explanation of how he’d handled Jason
Dubois
might be considered cause for alarm, since he never did
recognize that the key word in any such statement should have been
“poorly.”

Finally, getting Lawton reduces Todd Hollandsworth to
a
fourth outfielder’s role he’s well-suited for, coming into games in
double-switches that might be started by a pinch-hitting appearance
coming
in for the eighth (shortstop’s) slot or the pitcher’s slot, and
triggered by
the inning’s subsequently finishing up with Hairston or Lawton making
the
final out. It’s a little thing, but there’s no penalty for tactical
elegance.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Acquired RHPs Roman Colon and Zach
Miner

from the Braves for RHP Kyle Farnsworth. [7/31]

Take it for what it is, the slightest of gestures that the Tigers have
decided that this isn’t the year, but don’t get all bent out of shape
about
it or start yammering about white flags being run up or anything like
that.
It’s a reliever, and the nice thing about those is that if you know
where to
look, you can shake more out of the bushes and wind up with a pretty
good
pen. What Dave Dombrowski has done is go out and get arms, which
sometimes
works out. In light of Farnsworth’s refusal to sign before testing free
agency–who’s going to choose Detroit if you’re a flamethrowing
reliever and
the world wants you?–Dombrowski flipped Farnsworth for a package while
he
could, because it was almost impossible to expect that Farnsworth would
slip
through in a waivers deal.

So what about the goodies? Colon is the name pitcher, what with his
being in
his second year of big league experience, and having a heater he can
dial up
into the mid-90s while mixing in a splitter and slider. There is the
question about what you use him for, since he’s been worse than awful
in a
relief role, while adding some value in his four starts. Happily, the
Tigers
need a bit of everything, so the challenge will be to sort out where to
use
him. For the time being, he’ll be in the pen. Dombrowski sang his
praises,
but I’m not so sure that Colon is the name pitcher in the deal. Miner
could
very well end up having the better career, although that’s in part
because
Colon’s chip isn’t quite as blue as Dombrowski paints it. Although Miner
started off the season repeating Double-A, he was promoted to Richmond
a few
weeks into the season. Combined over the two levels, he’s pitched 106
innings, allowed 117 hits, but only six homeruns while posting a 81:50
strikeout-walk ratio. That all doesn’t sound that special, I know, but
keep
in mind that he’s a 23 year old who’s already up at Triple-A. He’s been
pretty healthy since being picked out of high school, and and he’s got
good
stuff: with a good hard sinker, a slider he throws for strikes, and
he’s
consistently good at keeping the ball in the park. I’d suggest that
Miner’s
future may not be as a starter, but that, somewhat like Billy
Koch
, his real future is in a big league bullpen. Dombrowski
downplayed Miner, calling him a ‘fringe guy’ with ‘an above-average
arm,’
but I guess I’m willing to invest a little wishcasting; call it a
hunch.

As for the big league bullpen, la vie sans Farnsworth isn’t all
glum.
Fernando Rodney might get the saves, but Rodney,
Franklyn German, and Chris Spurling
all
deserve to be given opportunities to assume more significant roles by
moving
up a peg on the pen’s totem pole. For next year, the pen might be the
right
place for Humberto Sanchez or Miner, although
Dombrowski
will no doubt go shopping for more veteran leavening. Regardless, the
situation holds promise.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Acquired LHP Ron Villone from the Mariners for RHPs
Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery.
[7/31]

I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Villone’s, going back to the days
when
the Mariners, Padres, and Brewers all didn’t seem to know what they had
in
the mid-’90s. It took the charnel house in Cincinnati to give him an
opportunity he could work with back in ’99, as he finally escaped
situational constraints and showed that what he’s really for is a true
swingman’s role, starting as needed, or handling multi-inning relief
assignments. Typically for the man and for this season’s Mariners, one
of
Mike Hargrove’s “successes” has been to reduce Villone back
to the
situational role that nearly ended his career. Now that he’s in Florida
and
reunited with the manager who helped him save his career, the
opportunity is
there for Jack McKeon to let Villone to go back to doing what he can do
best, which is true middle relief work. The Fish don’t have good
relievers
a-plenty, and guys like Todd Jones, Jim
Mecir
and Antonio Alfonseca aren’t known for
their
durability. Along with Guillermo Mota, Villone can be
the
bridge to the late innings. There is the danger that Villone might get
shoehorned into the situational role, because Valerio De Los
Santos
hasn’t exactly filled the bill for a situational lefty,
but
there’s a chance for the Marllins to do more than that, and help
themselves
that much more. It would be a bit of a disappointment if the Marlins
traded
one of their top young pitching prospects, and all they got for it was
a
situational specialist, although it’s worth noting that this isn’t a
simple
rental, as Villone is under contract for ’06.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Placed OF-R Jayson Werth on the 15-day DL (bursitis –
knee); activated UT-B Jose Valentin from the 60-day
DL.
[7/31]

I’ll leave it to people more devoted to counting these sorts of things
than
I am, but I think it’s fair to say that there hasn’t been a whole lot
of
time on the schedule when the Dodgers have had all four of their
expected
front four outfielders on the active roster. Werth, Milton
Bradley
, J. D. Drew, and Ricky
Ledee
, all of them have had to spend time on the DL, helping
to
short-circuit what might have been one of the league’s better offenses
and
reduce it to mediocrity. So how can they cover for the damage now? Beyond
relying on the currently healthy pair from the four (Bradley and
Ledee),
there’s the relentlessly healthy Jason Repko, but in
their
extremity, the Dodgers have been willing to consider one additional
wrinkle:
between time spent at the position in winter ball and an experiment the
White Sox conducted in 2001, Jose Valentin has a solid amount of
experience
in center field. The Dodgers need people willing to play the outfield
more
than they need another infielder, especially now that Oscar
Robles
and Antonio Perez have both panned out
pretty well. If necessity is the mother of invention, that’s in part
because
necessity needs certain things to happen tonight, and can’t afford to
wait
for her parents to introduce her to someone more appropriate. When an
itch
needs scratching, I guess this makes Paul DePodesta the man of the
moment,
and the Dodgers are needy enough that they can’t afford to be picky:
Valentin’s power and patience is going to come in handy wherever it
gets
plugged in.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Traded LHP Buddy Groom to the Diamondbacks for a
PTBNL.
[7/31]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Acquired OF-L Jody Gerut from the Cubs for OF-L
Matt Lawton. [7/31]

Is it a sexy move? Hardly, but there are a few subtle benefits to
having
made this deal as opposed to simply hanging onto Lawton. Although
arb-eligible, he’s going to be cheaper to keep around than Lawton was,
which
matters when you’re a franchise that has to hope and wonder about Kid
McClatchy’s solvency on a year-to-year basis, and buying second- or
third-tier free agents is difficult enough as a result. Because of the
lower
cost, the other thing is that Gerut makes for a nice enough veteran
insurance policy, where he can sit on the bench in case guys like
Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit are
ready to
play, and there to be used as the starter in right field in case they
aren’t. Since Lawton was certain to walk away as a free agent, the Bucs
get
a solid player they can control for as long as they feel they can
afford
him, and the point at which Gerut will be eligible for free agency
himself
is around the point when you’d want nothing more to do with him since
his
peak seasons would already be behind him.

The larger question is why this was all the Bucs did. Or are they going
to
risk arbitration with Jose Mesa, when arb might be the
best
money Mesa can make this winter? Are they comfortable with the certainty
of
an arbitration pay hike they’re certain to have to give to Kip
Wells
if he’s short of service time for free agency? Do they
really
want to pay Mark Redman when he exercises his option?
This
could be another winter where Rule 5 and arbitration present special
problems to the Pirates, problems that David Littlefield has failed to
navigate successfully before. I would have thought there would have
been
plenty of incentive to avoid these scenarios, but apparently not
enough.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Acquired LHP Ryan Meaux from the White Sox for INF-B
Geoff Blum; activated RHP Adam Eaton
from
the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Tim Stauffer to Portland.
[7/31]

Oh, please. Stauffer gives this team quality starts in six of his first
dozen starts, has a couple of rough outings against a couple of tough
lineups (the Phillies and the Cardinals), and for that he gets shipped
off?
To what end, to make a punitive start in Portland while Pedro
Astacio
blows another assignment or two? Do the Pads want to
win
the division or not? They’re already hoping they get a Chan Ho
Park
who resembles the guy who once pitched for the Dodgers.
Doing
that twice over with Astacio as well is simply nuts at this point of
the
season. Since Eaton’s back but going to the pen because his finger
injury
prevents him from throwing curves, he’s no help on this score. As is,
it
remains to be seen if Eaton’s going to be all that handy in the pen,
but if
he can get by with a fastball and change, it isn’t like the pen
couldn’t use
the help.

As for the deal, I like it for what it was, an exchange of a present
role
player for a future role pitcher. Meaux has what I think of as the
standard
lefty assortment (a fastball in the 80s and a curve), but that will
have
less to do with his success than whether he ever gains the
organization’s
confidence that he can pitch well enough to make it before perhaps
inevitably being squished into a situational lefty role. Spending his
third
season in the Southern League, he’s been in more of a long relief role,
averaging almost two innings per appearance while allowing 81 hits in
68.1
IP, and striking out 64 while walking 18. He’s also been consistent
about
keeping the ball in the park, although Birmingham’s a nice place that
way,
and we’ll have to see if Meaux can keep it up now that he’s switching
organizations. All in all, a nice move, since the Pads no longer needed
Blum, while there’s a present and no doubt future need for lefty relief
help
on the big league club. As a result, we might even get to see Meaux
pitching
for the Pads down the stretch.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired RHPs Yorman Bazardo and Mike
Flannery
from the Marlins for LHP Ron
Villone
;
recalled LHP George Sherrill from Tacoma. [7/31]

Flogging Bill Bavasi in this space makes for good sport, but to be
fair, he
did a very good job of flipping a veteran pitcher, getting very good
value,
and then having a suitable farmhand to replace the veteran in the role
he
was in, so that the Mariners shouldn’t even miss a beat at the big
league
level. By offering a pitcher under contract at a relatively modest
salary
for ’06 beyond the next two months to a team where cost is always a
question, Bavasi managed to acquire Bazardo, who’d been touted as the
top
right-handed pitching farmhand in the Marlins’ system coming into this
season.

Pitching in his first season above A-ball, Bazardo’s made the jump to
Double-A, and can be taken that much more seriously as a result. It
hasn’t
been entirely smooth: he’s allowing a hit per inning in his 108.1 IP,
and
his defense-independent spread of 73 strikeouts, 36 walks, and a dozen
homeruns isn’t awe-inspiring. But his power sinker-slider combination
excites scouts, and he did make a clean jump to Double-A by his 21st
birthday. Although he is coming to the Mariners’ System of Doom as a
talented youngster with a good arm and some concerns about his
mechanics,
and as much as that might lead to cynical expectations that his
shoulder has
a date with the knacker, same as every other Mariners pitching
prospect,
it’s a good deal.

Bavasi even got an organizational soldier thrown in for his troubles.
Flannery has bounced around the Fish chain since his being picked as an
apparent draft-and-follow in the 33rd round of the ’99 draft, but he’s
now
25, in his sixth year as a pro, and the nicest thing you can say is
that he
might be worth re-signing as a minor league free agent after the
season.
He’s flopped in both of his introductions to Triple-A, struggling at
Albuquerque in each of the last two years.

As for the big league staff, there are questions about Sherrill’s
durability, as he had to be shut down with fatigue last year, and he’s
only
managed to toss 22.2 innings for Tacoma this year, but in that time,
he’s
posted a 36:6 strikeout-walk ratio, and allowed only 18 hits. If he
physically can’t stand anything more involved than a situational role,
there’s nothing wrong with using him that way, because he wasn’t bad at
it
last year, limiting lefties to .239/.250/.435. Okay, so that last part
wasn’t so good, but at 28, he’s ready now, and he should be an asset
filling
the situational role that Villone had been stuffed into.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Optioned OF-R Marlon Byrd to New Orleans; recalled
OF-L
Matt Cepicky from New Orleans. [7/31]

A platoon on the bench isn’t all that handy to have around, and even
less so
when you’ve got other right-handed bats on your bench, but no effective
lefty pinch-hitter while Ryan Church is complaining
about
shoulder problems. Byrd hasn’t earned himself any job security either,
not
when he was hitting .248/.303/.306 against everybody, however well he
was
doing against lefties (.313/.352/.406). So enter Cepicky of the pretty
swing
and meagre production, because more than half the reason his swing’s so
lovely is that it’s left-handed. It won’t really help the Nats, but if
Cepicky has a few key pinch-hit at-bats, it might get him back on the
40-man roster to stay, or get him a big league contract with somebody
else
this winter if he doesn’t.

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