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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned OF-R Nick Gorneault to Salt Lake. [3/17]

Reassigned LHPs Nate Bland and Jonathon
Rouwenhorst
, RHP Dustin Moseley, C-R Ryan
Budde
, OF-B Tommy Murphy, SS-B Erick
Aybar
, and 2B-R Howie Kendrick to their minor
league camp. [3/19]

I owe an apology to everyone for last week’s “disappearance,” but
between the limitations of having access while on the road, and the
hurly-burly of long train rides to Boston and Philly, in the end, I got a
lot less done than I expected. That said, I know that we’re all extremely
grateful to everyone who turned up to the events in Boston and Philadelphia,
and also happy to have found that we didn’t have to deal with nearly as many
steroids questions in either city as we did in New York. So, as we gear up
for daily TAs through the final cutdowns for Opening Day, here’s my quick
run-through on most of the teams’ moves in the past week…

Nothing wrong with the Angels’ group of send-downs. Don’t get me wrong–I wishcast
fab futures for Aybar and Kendrick as much as the next fan–but basically,
these were all players who weren’t going to make the team. If, later on,
there’s enough interest in Adam Kennedy, or if
Dallas McPherson flops, perhaps even if it’s a matter of
the Angels accepting the inevitable and making Darin Erstad
into glue, if that then pushes Chone Figgins into center
field, even if it’s a matter of swapping in Kendrick for Erstad, that’s an
in-house upgrade. It’ll bear watching, not because these are the things the
Angels want to do, but because they may finally have to.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Reassigned DH-R Leo Daigle, OF-R Keith
Reed
, and C-Rs Brian Bock and Ryan
Hubele
to their minor league camp. [3/18]

Released RHP Ricky Bottalico and 1B/3B-R Luis
Lopez
; optioned OF-L Val Majewski, SS-L
Brandon Fahey, and RHP Hayden Penn to
Ottawa (Triple-A); optioned OF-L Jeff Fiorentino to Bowie
(Double-A); reassigned RHP Winston Abreu, LHP Scott
Rice
, 1B-R Alejandro Freire, and 1B/3B-L
Andy Tracy to their minor league camp. [3/22]

Bottalico obliged the team by demonstrating that they’d be better off
considering other alternatives, but beyond that sort of good news, who’s
left standing in the pen? Both John Halama and
Sendy Rleal, permanent projects like Eddy
Rodriguez
and Eric DuBose, and possibly
Andy Mitchell. But even with Bottalico gone, there’s still
the likely veteran horror of having Jim Brower still
hanging over the club’s collective head.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Reassigned RHP Matt Ginter, LHPs Craig
Breslow
, Mike Bumatay, and Phil
Seibel
, 2B/SS-B Jed Lowrie, and OF-L Luke Allen to
their minor league camp; optioned RHP Cla Meredith to
Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/17]

Signed DH-R Juan Gonzalez to a minor league contract.
[3/19]

Acquired OF-R Wily Mo Pena from the Reds for RHP
Bronson Arroyo and cash. [3/20]

Optioned INF-B Alejandro Machado to Pawtucket (Triple-A);
reassigned OF-L Ron Calloway and RHP Jimmy
Serrano
to their minor league camp. [3/23]

Claimed 1B-L Hee Seop Choi off of waivers from the Dodgers.
[3/24]

It’s easy to write off the Red Sox as some sort of push-button front office,
as Johnny Damon has, but that misses the point. As
assemblages of skills go, it isn’t like Choi and Pena have all that much in
common superficially. Pena hacks, and Choi waits, after all, and either one
can bug most of the people much of the time because of those qualities. But
the more basic fact, what Theo Epstein and company recognize, is that both
are hitters who might really bust out, and both were available at
ridiculously cheap prices. As moves go, nabbing Pena for a fifth starter
(aspiring to be a fourth, yeee-ha), or swiping Choi off of waivers, aren’t
really that different from the decision to grab David Ortiz
because he was there. Epstein’s picking people for their upside potential,
and that’s what inspired the decisions that added Papi or Kevin
Millar
alike.

Which is not to say that they’re perfect; they’re not, and each has issues
that need to be addressed. Pena has OBP and strike-zone command issues that
might keep him in the Glenn Braggs, “prodigious
power – batting practice displays” category of Olympic Demonstration
Sports. Similarly, Choi needs to beat his rap as a patient hitter who has
slid into passivity. With playing time, both can answer those questions this
year. What both players share is that they’re both actually pretty athletic
for players on the left side of the defensive spectrum, Pena because he can
run and throw, and Choi because he’s pretty nimble around the bag and on the
bases.

Both also have different ranges of possible success. Partially, that’s
because Pena’s only 24 while Choi is already 27. But also, that’s because
Pena’s locked in for three more years and the hope is that he’ll claim right
field for himself after Trot Nixon‘s contract runs out
after this season, while Choi will have to beat out J.T.
Snow
and make a good impression quickly. Finding useful first
basemen isn’t really that hard, so if Choi doesn’t shine quickly, he could
be as quickly thrown over the side or overlooked as Roberto
Petagine
was last year. But where Pena’s a necessity forced on a
club that can’t count on Nixon and which would rather have Manny
Ramirez
off of the field with a late lead, Choi creates additional
possibilities in the lineup. Now that Boston has Choi, manager Terry
Francona can consider pushing Kevin Youkilis back over to
third base, making the Sox that much less dependent on Mike
Lowell
successfully coming back from a career-crippling 2005
season. Heck, if it winds up that Lowell serves as the defensive replacement
at third, and offensive platoon partner with Choi, with Youkilis flipping
between the corners depending on which of the Heke Choiwell platoon is
starting, that’s pretty tasty. But there is the danger that Lowell’s going
to get more time than he’ll earn, courtesy of his past fame and the salary
that reflects it, placing the Sox instead in the position of platooning Choi
and Youkilis. That can work, of course, but that means Lowell must hit, and
I’m pretty doubtful on that score.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Optioned OF-L Jerry Owens and LHP Paulino
Reynoso
to Charlotte (Triple-A). [3/17]

Acquired LHP Matt Thornton from the Mariners for OF-B
Joe Borchard. [3/20]

Reassigned 3B-R Josh Fields, OF-B Darren
Blakeley
, and RHP Agustin Montero to their minor
league camp. [3/21]

Optioned RHP Sean Tracey to Charlotte (Triple-A);
reassigned LHP Armando Almanza, 2B/SS-R Angel
Gonzalez
, SS-R Robert Valido, C-R Gustavo
Molina
, and OF-L Ryan Sweeney to their minor
league camp. [3/26]

I’m not inclined to judge Kenny Williams too harshly on his decision to dump
Borchard for a token lefty. If anyone had kept a candle lit for Borchard’s
prospect status, it was Williams, and if he’s willing to cut bait because
the former Stanford wunderkind was out of options and seemed unlikely
to help the team as a major league reserve, I’m willing to believe that
nobody was better placed to make that call. Still, Sox fans shouldn’t work
themselves up over what they’re getting in Thornton. Maybe pitching
coach Don Cooper can help fix Thornton’s control issues, but he’ll be 30
before the postseason, and he completely flopped in the situational lefty
role as a Mariner last season: .262/.372/.485, not to mention seven bombs in
103 lefty hitter at-bats.

The interesting wrinkle is that the paired decisions to swap Borchard and
demote Owens do not in turn make Ross Gload a lock. With
Dustin Hermanson certain to open the season on the DL, the
Sox seem inclined to make the compensation mistake of carrying a twelfth
pitcher. But keep in mind that one of the two guys crammed into the
Hermanson substitution set-up will be Thornton, who might generously be termed a work in progress. The other might be Tim
Redding
, a pitcher similarly hoping to get his act together at the
back end of the world champion’s pen. Javier Lopez seems to
have already won the second lefty job, but there’s also camp phenom
Boone Logan to consider. Maybe it’s just me, but a
seven-man pen where there are three guys you aren’t afraid of (Bobby
Jenks
, Cliff Politte, and Neal
Cotts
), and four you can’t be quite so sure about (Brandon
McCarthy
, Lopez, Thornton, and Redding), I don’t see potentially
not making a choice between Redding and Thornton as a decision where going
with strength in numbers erases the questions about how good this pen will
be.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Reassigned OF-R Ryan Mulhern to their minor league camp.
[3/17]

Optioned RHP Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo (Triple-A). [3/25]

Optioned RHPs Andrew Brown and Fausto
Carmona
to Buffalo (Triple-A). [3/22]

Optioned 1B/C-R Ryan Garko, OF-R Franklin
Gutierrez
, and 3B-R Andy Marte to Buffalo
(Triple-A); reassigned SS-R Jose Flores, RHP Ben
Howard
, and INF-R Lou Merloni to their minor
league camp. [3/24]

The names might surprise you, but this is the way it’s going to be in the
early going. I’m less disappointed about the decisions to send down Garko
and Marte than I am about Carmona. Not that having Carmona pitch every fifth
day in Buffalo is a bad idea. But consider their individual competition.
Garko has to deal with waiting for the loyalty to Ben
Broussard
to wear thin, and Jason Dubois‘ latest
bid for a major league job. Marte might get the job at third sooner rather
than later, but again, the team has Aaron Boone making real
money, and they’ve been convinced from the start that he’s going to continue
to turn things around. Where I’m frustrated by the decision to demote
Carmona, or Kaz Tadano or probably Jason
Davis
, is that it’s being done to hand that last spot in the pen to
Danny Graves. Digger’s already managed to bury other
people’s hopes for him, having flopped as a starter, a closer, and as a
person who throws baseballs for cash in 2003, ’04, and ’05 respectively. I’d
be much happier about a decision to give the last slot in the pen to someone
like Tadano or Davis or Carmona, to have them prepped for the rotation
through seeing major league hitters and reading major league scouting
reports, instead of repeating their experiences with what it takes to beat
those league champion Mudhens. But again, I harbor no real hopes that Graves
or Steve Karsay have anything left. If anyone could use
time in Triple-A to prove that they do, it should be those two, and not guys
like Carmona.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Optioned RHPs Eulogio De La Cruz, Preston
Larrison
, Humberto Sanchez, and Jordan
Tata
, SS-B Tony Giarratano, 3B-R Kody
Kirkland
, and OF-R Brent Clevlen to Erie (Double-A); reassigned
RHPs Tim Crabtree and Colby Lewis, C-B
Mike Rabelo, C-R Danilo Sanchez, and
2B/SS-R Kevin Hooper to their minor league camp; released
RHP Matt Mantei from his minor league contract. [3/17]

Optioned LHP Wil Ledezma to Toledo (Triple-A); reassigned
RHPs Chad Durbin, Lee Gardner, and
Kevin Hodge, C-Rs Brian Peterson and
Max St. Pierre, 1B-R Josh Phelps, OF-R
Ryan Ludwick, and OF-L Reggie Taylor to
minor league camp. [3/23]

Released 1B-L Carlos Pena. [3/26]

So, the real question here is who’s going to pick Pena up? The Reds would be
a pretty sweet fit, assuming they can get over their mancrush on
Scott Hatteberg, but so would the Devil Rays, stuck as they
are with the ever-replaceable Travis Lee. Even the Yankees
could use a slick-fielding first baseman, with Pena perhaps fulfilling the
role that Lee could not in 2004. Houston, perhaps, so that Lance
Berkman
could play an outfield corner? The Brewers, as insurance in
case something goes terribly amiss with Prince Fielder?
(Nah, they should just play Corey Hart if that happened.)
But if there’s a team that I think Pena would be a really good fit for, it
would be the Giants. I don’t think anyone should be drinking too deeply from
Lance Niekro-brand Kool-Aid, but a Pena-Niekro platoon
might provide everything that last season’s J.T.
Snow
-Niekro platoon was supposed to. Pena is only just about to
turn 28, and as disappointing as he’s been to so many teams as a player only
too ready to believe his own hype, there’s still the chance that he could
turn around his career and give people a good season or two.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Reassigned RHPs Kyle Snyder, Adam Bernero,
David Elder, Bob Keppel, and Joe
Nelson
, OF-R Chad Allen, and OF-L Kerry
Robinson
to Omaha (Triple-A); reassigned C-L Mark
Tupman
to Wichita (Double-A); optioned LHP J.P
Howell
, SS-B Andres Blanco, 2B-B Ruben
Gotay
, and 1B-R Justin Huber to Omaha (Triple-A).
[3/20]

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Reassigned LHP Ricky Barrett and RHP Kevin
Cameron
to their minor league camp. [3/17]

Optioned RHP Boof Bonser, C-R Chris
Heintz
, and 1B-L Garrett Jones to Rochester
(Triple-A). [3/20]

Released LHP Darrell May; reassigned 1B-R Jason
Hart
, CF-B Andres Torres, and OF-R Josh
Rabe
to their minor league camp. [3/26]

Now Boof’s out of the running, which reduces the race for the fifth slot to
the two men it was supposed to be between all along, Francisco
Liriano
and Scott Baker. It’s a lovely choice to
have, of course. Baker’s having a good camp, though, despite four home runs
allowed in 17 IP, and the job was his to lose, something he didn’t do; as
much as all of us might be excited to see the best pitching prospect in the
game make it, it isn’t the Twins’ fault that they have some good pitching
depth. If something’s truly odd here, it’s Heintz. There’s no rational
explanation for why a past-30 Triple-A lifer backstop is on the 40-man, but
that’s the Twins for you. Still, consider that a potential asset, in that
they should be able to safely outright Heintz this week, when the time comes
for them to purchase the contracts of Ruben Sierra (ick) or
Jason Tyner (ack). Okay, so maybe that isn’t exactly
reassuring.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned RHP T.J. Beam to Trenton (Double-A); optioned OF-B
Melky Cabrera and LHP Sean Henn to
Columbus (Triple-A); reassigned LHP Frank Brooks, RHP
J. Brent Cox, C-R David Parrish, 3B/SS-B
Marcos Vechionacci, SS-B Ramiro Pena,
1B/3B-L Eric Duncan, and 1B-R Mitch Jones
to their minor league camp; announced the retirement of LHP Al
Leiter
. [3/19]

Optioned OF-R Kevin Thompson and OF-L Kevin
Reese
to Columbus (Triple-A); reassigned C-B Ben
Davis
to their minor league camp. [3/26]

There really isn’t that much to say about the Yankees’ demotions: as a
matter of habit, they don’t really look all that closely at their own. The
one news item of note might be the overly maudlin note of Leiter’s
retirement, which seemed to take on a “I’ll miss you most of all,
Scarecrow” note. Who knew there was this much burgeoning nostalgia for
the Mets of the last ten years? That said, Leiter did manage to survive some
early career arm trouble, not to mention coming up with the Yankees at a
time when it was a rough thing to be young, talented, and working for the
last Billy Martin ballclub, right before things really fell apart in the
Bronx. What’s remarkable is that after spending much of his career in New
York, he’s maintained his reputation as a good egg, and he even managed to
make a good impression in the booth. I doubt this is the last we’ll see of
him.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned RHP Chris Mabeus to Sacramento (Triple-A);
reassigned 1B-L Daric Barton and SS-B Cliff
Pennington
to their minor league camp. [3/17]

Optioned RHPs Shane Komine and Matt Roney
to Sacramento (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Jason Karnuth, C-R
Kurt Suzuki, and UT-B Andrew Beattie to
their minor league camp. [3/19]

Reassigned OF-L Doug Clark to their minor league camp.
[3/20]

Optioned LHP Dan Meyer to Sacramento. [3/25]

Acquired LHP Brad Halsey from the Diamondbacks for RHP
Juan Cruz; optioned RHP Chad Gaudin, LHP
John Rheinecker, C-R Jeremy Brown, SS-L
Mike Rouse, and OF-Ls Charles Thomas and
Matt Watson to Sacramento (Triple-A). [3/26]

Unless the master plan is to make the Admiral a situational lefty, I don’t
really get the decision to discard Cruz like this. Even then, Halsey was
hardly dominant against lefties last season (.267/.308/.393), although those
numbers get better if you let a bit of the Banker’s Ballpark out of them.
That’s just about all that might be in the cards, because the rotation is
already jam-packed (jellied, even), so Halsey’s got next to no chance to
make it as a starter. But then why make a point of getting him when you’ve
got lefties Meyer and John Rheinecker similarly damned and
doomed to a Sacramento summer? I’d rather have Cruz than Chad
Gaudin
or Kirk Saarloos, and is there really that
much reason to suspect that Halsey can outpitch Meyer or Rheinecker in the
second lefty’s role that neither Ron Flores nor
Randy Keisler managed to seize in camp?

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Optioned OF-R T.J. Bohn to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/17]

Acquired OF-B Joe Borchard from the White Sox for LHP
Matt Thornton. [3/20]

Optioned LHP Bobby Livingston to Tacoma (Triple-A);
reassigned C-Rs Jeff Clement and Rob
Johnson
, SS-B Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B-L Todd
Sears
, and OF-R Matt Tuiasosopo to their minor
league camp. [3/21]

Optioned OF-L Shin-Soo Choo to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/23]

Released RHP Dave Burba and 2B-L Fernando
Vina
. [3/24]

Optioned RHP Jesse Foppert to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/26]

Some things, if not exactly settled, are close to it. The decision to cut
Vina should make Jose Lopez the starting
second baseman. I say only ‘should’ because anything that might involve the
name ‘Willie Bloomquist‘ involves irrational
decision-making in this neck of the woods.

What’s cool is the decision to pick up Borchard. Now, that might be a case
of Bill Bavasi going back to the same well that gave them Jeremy
Reed
, and some Mariners fans might still be bitter about how little
Reed has done for them in his first two years in the organization. But this
is a case of dealing from depth, swapping out another one of the Mariners’
dodgy mighta-coulda-shoulda-been hurlers for some needed outfield depth. And
as much as Borchard has yet to really pan out as a prospect, it isn’t really
a problem for Seattle that he’s out of options. They have no real
alternatives, and once Carl Everett tanks, they’re going to
have playing time to spare, just as they do now with Reed out.
Better still for Borchard, he’s getting a look-see in center field because
of Reed’s injury. Not that Borchard might be a good center fielder, but he’s
gotten some work there in his multiple engagements in Charlotte, his
advocates have always cited his athleticism, and having a slot open where he
might get some at-bats make whatever likelihood exists that he might finally
stick as a major leaguer that much more tangible.

Now, do I wish the team would take Choo a little more seriously? Yes, but
that they aren’t says more about them than it depended on whether or not
they pulled the trigger on the Borchard deal. After all, it didn’t cost them
anything to get Borchard, and even if it was a case where Borchard had to
compete with Choo, it was worth getting Borchard. Besides, they are giving
Roberto Petagine serious consideration, and it’s hard to
get too down on them when he’s among their possibilities. Now, if they
make Petagine a Rainier and keep Greg Dobbs instead, that’s
a flavor of disappointment that might be new, ever for M’s fans.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Outrighted LHP Jon Switzer to Durham (Triple-A). [3/18]

Signed RHP Al Reyes to a minor league contract; reassigned
RHP Jason Hammel to Durham (Triple-A). [3/19]

Interesting that the Rays gave Reyes just a one-year deal, instead of the
more standard “you’re hurt, you’re probably not going to pitch until
September, and we want you for next year” two-year deals, like those
given to Jon Lieber by the Yankees or Scott
Williamson
by the Cubs. Maybe this will buy them some goodwill, in
which case, it could turn out pretty nicely.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Reassigned C-R Nick Trzesniak and 3B-R Travis
Metcalf
to their minor league camp; optioned SS-R Joaquin
Arias
to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [3/17]

Reassigned RHP Rick Bauer to their minor league camp.
[3/18]

Reassigned LHP Kevin Walker to their minor league camp;
optioned OF-B Jason Botts to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [3/25]

Reassigned LHP Ron Mahay to their minor league camp. [3/26]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned RHPs Brandon League, Shaun
Marcum
, Francisco Rosario, and Ty
Taubenheim
, and OF-L John-Ford Griffin to Syracuse
(Triple-A); optioned OF-L Miguel Negron to New Hampshire
(Double-A). [3/17]

Optioned RHP Dustin McGowan to Syracuse (Triple-A). [3/18]

Reassigned RHP Ben Weber to their minor league camp. [3/22]

Reassigned LHP Matt Blank to their minor league camp.
[3/26]

Not that McGowan or Marcum aren’t already effectively ready for the major
leagues, but the pitching staff is crowded by the decisions to retain
old-timers like Pete Walker while also importing this
winter’s big-ticket pickups, A.J. Burnett and B.J.
Ryan
. If they don’t have room for these guys, you can imagine how
difficult it is for NRIs like James Baldwin, Brian
Tallet
, or Adrian Burnside. Tallet’s having an
especially good camp (12 baserunners and no runs allowed in 10.1 IP), which
is why he’s still in the running, but it hasn’t been easy. The Jays simply
have a lot of ready or nearly-ready pitching talent, which makes it
dangerous for guys like League or Rosario if they fail to impress.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Brian Bruney and reassigned LHPs Neal
Musser
and Felix Heredia, RHP Kevin
Jarvis
, 1B/OF-L Chris Carter, and C-R Matt
Morgan
to their minor league camp. [3/19]

Acquired RHP Juan Cruz from the Athletics for LHP
Brad Halsey. [3/26]

The decision to bring in Cruz might strike some as odd–is there really that
much sense to having Cruz and Luis Vizcaino?–but I
like it. Whereas Halsey might never have had a decisive advantage over
Claudio Vargas in the fight for the fifth spot, and neither
Halsey nor Vargas would probably ever perform well enough to push past
Russ Ortiz on the rotation depth chart, Cruz could.
However, if he doesn’t get that opportunity, he might still be able to
become a dominant reliever, something that, as talented a group as the
Snakes seem to be putting together in their pen, you can never quite have
too many of. Halsey wasn’t going to be any of those things, not now, not
ever, so this is a slam-dunk good deal for Josh Byrnes and company.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Optioned RHP Anthony Lerew to Richmond (Triple-A);
reassigned RHPs Chad Paronto, Wes
Obermueller
, and Travis Smith, UT-B Cesar
Crespo
, 1B/OF-R David Kelton, and OF-L
Michael Ryan to Richmond (Triple-A); RHP Sean
White
and C-B Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Mississippi
(Double-A); and C-R Steve Pyzik to Myrtle Beach (A-ball).
[3/23]

If there’s a surprise here, it might only be the decision to cut Ryan a week
early, but when you consider that the last thing the Braves need to worry
about is finding a lefty-hitting reserve outfielder to back up lefty-hitting
outfielders like Kelly Johnson and Ryan
Langerhans
, it really doesn’t wind up being all that surprising.
Certainly, nobody should have been wondering if Crespo was going to push
past Pete Orr, and Kelton’s failure to outshine
James Jurries in a bid for platooning with Adam
LaRoche
is just the latest bad break in a prospectdom long since
gone sour.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Reassigned C-R Jake Fox and C-B Dennis
Anderson
to their minor league camp. [3/21]

Optioned C-R Geovany Soto to Iowa (Triple-A); optioned C-B
Jose Reyes and 1B-R Brian Dopirak to West
Tenn (Double-A); reassigned 3B-R Casey McGehee and INF-B
Augie Ojeda to their minor league camp; received Rule 5
pick RHP Juan Mateo back from the Cardinals. [3/23]

Optioned CF-L Felix Pie to Iowa (Triple-A); reassigned LHP
Les Walrond and RHP Randy Wells to their
minor league camp. [3/26]

CINCINNATI REDS
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Released OF-L Tuffy Rhodes; reassigned C-Rs Ryan
Hanigan
and Steve Torrealba, 1B/3B-R Earl
Snyder
, INF-R Aaron Holbert, and RHP Homer
Bailey
to their minor league camp. [3/19]

Acquired RHP Bronson Arroyo and cash from the Red Sox for
OF-R Wily Mo Pena; reassigned LHP Tommy
Phelps
to their minor league camp; released RHP Jimmy
Journell
and LHP Ty Howington. [3/20]

Acquired C-R David Ross from the Padres for RHP
Bobby Basham; designated RHP Jason
Standridge
for assignment. [3/21]

Optioned LHP Michael Gosling, RHP Justin
Germano
, and OF-R Chris Denorfia to Louisville
(Triple-A); reassigned LHP Jung Bong to their minor league
camp. [3/24]

Signed Menace-B Alex Sanchez to a minor league contract;
announced that RHP Jason Standridge accepted his outright
assignment to Louisville (Triple-A). [3/25]

Wayne Krivsky’s opening weeks as general manager have been nothing if not
decisive. He’s been more than willing to shake up his 40-man roster,
particularly concerning some of the pitchers, and sure enough, nobody else
really wants guys like Bong or Standridge or Howington or Basham, the
detritus of years of mismanagement. The real question is whether or not that
shortage of pitching talent in particular makes for an acceptable motivation
to go out and get a merely adequate starting pitcher in exchange for one of
the team’s few actual commodities. There’s no tin badge for finishing fourth
in the NL Central, so why Krivsky feels that his team is better off going
out and getting a starting pitcher who, on a good team, might rate as a
fourth or fifth starter, and giving up one of his coveted quartet of
outfielders to do it, defies explanation.

Now, yes, a rotation that has to count on Dave Williams and
Eric Milton, one with Aaron Harang as its
putative “ace,” obviously needs help. Maybe there’s something to
be said for having people who can give you six innings per outing, quality
start or no, because it’s going to be a long, hard summer for the Reds’ pen.
But is Arroyo really going to help? Other than being able to handle a larger
workload last year, is he really somebody you want to rely on? His strikeout
rate was in the dumper, he’s a flyball pitcher with problems against lefties
coming into a lefty-friendly power park. All because he’s affordable, having
been signed to a three-year deal? That’s a Minnesota way of seeing things,
acquiring cheap players to achieve cheap goals, except unlike the Twins,
Pena was something of value, one of the very few players on this roster with
a future, and he was also relatively affordable.

Dealing Pena for somebody else’s fifth starter doesn’t just give you a fifth
starter, it may also cripple up your opportunities to swing other possible
deals with the outfielders you’ve got left. Can the Reds afford to move
Ken Griffey Jr. now? Even with Pena out of the way, they’re
not creating an opportunity for Denorfia, they’re making it that much easier
to give significant playing time to Scott Hatteberg,
or perhaps to play Ryan Freel in the outfield a little more
often, just to make sure they have Tony Womack in the
lineup. As much as Krivsky inherited a weak hand, this was a deal that did
nothing to make it any better, with the best possible outcome being that
perhaps they’ll flip Arroyo to a contender looking for a fifth man in
July. Failing that, this is a reconstruction project that will really have
to start from scratch, reliant on the draft’s slowly-delivered gifts, and
without the benefit of adding near-ready prospects from other systems
through a needed tear-down.

There might be some head-scratching over the decision to pick up Ross, but
even if Jason LaRue‘s knee wasn’t an issue (he might miss a
month), it makes sense for the Reds to have a fallback option in case they
wanted to shop LaRue for a top prospect later on this spring. And if,
instead, they wanted to peddle either Ross or Javier
Valentin
to somebody who needs a useful backup catcher, and get a
second-tier prospect, again, that’s a play that the Reds should have on
their menu of in-season options. It isn’t like Dane
Sardinha
is useful, and I would like to think his days on the
40-man will be coming to an end.

Finally, while I believe in second chances, and while I believe in the
utility of slumming for the occasionally viable retread, there comes a
point where you really need to check out what you might be getting yourself
into, because if you don’t dig up a bit of history, it doesn’t repeat
itself, it tap-dances on your present and expects you to foot the bill. Alex
Sanchez isn’t asking for a second chance, he’s asking for his fourth or
fifth, and there are several reasons for it. Like his hitting, like
brainless baserunning, like his Wrongway Corrigan routine in the outfield or
his throwing arm, or like his studiously developed reputation for surliness.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Assigned RHPs Nate Field, Bret Prinz, and
Keiichi Yabu, LHPs Steve Colyer and
Randy Williams, and C-R Dan Conway to
their minor league camp. [3/20]

And just like that, the Rockies are essentially down to five pitchers
fighting for three spots in a seven-man pen: righthanders Miguel
Asencio
, David Cortes, and Scott
Dohmann
, and lefties Tom Martin and Jamie
Cerda
. (The “Big Four” are Brian
Fuentes
, Ray King, Jose Mesa, and
Mike DeJean.) There is also the possibility that one of the
losers in the three-way fight for the fifth slot in the rotation, either
Sun-Woo Kim, Zach Day, or Josh
Fogg
, will get bumped to the pen. Ideally, you’d like to see the
pen include some few who might be useful Rockie hurlers in two years, but
all of these guys are young vets: Cortes is 32, Dohmann 28, Cerda 27. Only
Asencio really qualifies as a guy with a potentially notable future at 25,
which makes for a staff with which GM Dan O’Dowd can merely endure, and not
even really use as stretch drive components for other clubs in a bid to add
other people’s farm talent. That’s about as grim as things get. Okay, it
would be worse if the club really wants to find out whether King or
Mesa would win an egg-eating contest, but sort of like Cool Hand Luke and the rest of
the gang, there isn’t much else to do to pass the time. Let’s face it, when
you’re pitching on Planet Coors, you’re serving time.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned RHP Logan Kensing to Albuquerque (Triple-A);
reassigned RHPs Buddy Carlyle and Eddie
Gaillard
, 2B-B Mickey Lopez, and 3B-R
Scott Seabol to their minor league camp. [3/21]

Optioned RHP Yusmeiro Petit to Albuquerque (Triple-A).
[3/22]

Reassigned LHPs Taylor Tankersley and Josh
Stewart
and RHP Ryan Rupe to their minor league
camp. [3/24]

Optioned RHP Travis Bowyer, 1B-R Jason
Stokes
, and SS-R Robert Andino to Albuquerque
(Triple-A). [3/26]

So, shortstop is settled, and the job’s going to Hanley
Ramirez
, as it really should. And the closer won’t be Bowyer, as
the Fish learned–as they will learn all summer–that no matter how many kid
pitchers you pick up, most of them don’t live up to your fondest hope for
them. As for the decision to demote Stokes, if there’s one to regret, it is
perhaps that one. The pity (or the irony) is that this is the franchise that did not make the
mistake that the Royals did when they saw Jeff Conine as
someone who couldn’t cut it in left field. Instead, the Fish went ahead and
made him one. Now that they’re every bit as much in need of a left fielder
as they were in 1994, it’s a pity that they didn’t give Stokes more of a
shot.
However, before getting really worked up over the Chris
Aguila
Era, keep in mind that Stokes isn’t out of the running yet.
Left looks like it’ll be manned by Josh Willingham now and
again, to keep his bat in the lineup as well as to get Miguel
Olivo
a few PAs, and Stokes needs to make up for time lost to last
season’s injury. If Stokes has a hot start, even if Willingham’s going
strong, there’s still a possibility for him, since manager Joe Girardi has
made it plain that he takes Willingham seriously as a catcher.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Optioned RHPs Matt Albers and Felipe
Paulino
to Round Rock (Triple-A). [3/19]

Reassigned RHPs Ezequiel Astacio, Joe
Valentine
, and Dave Borkowski, OF-Ls Josh
Anderson
and Luke Scott, OF-R Charlton
Jimerson
, INF-R Danny Klassen, and C-B
Hector Gimenez to their minor league camp. [3/25]

The only news of note in conjunction with these cuts is that Astacio’s
demotion confirms that Wandy Rodriguez is set as the fourth
starter, and that Astacio doesn’t have that much room for maneuver now that
both Taylor Buchholz and Fernando Nieve
are nearly ready. That’s not bad news, other than the Rodriguez part,
since you can safely infer from that comment that Brandon
Backe
is the #3 starter, which in turn means that the Astros don’t
have a rotation that can really keep up with the better teams in the
division, and perhaps not even one substantively better than the Reds’ after
you get past Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned OF-L Andre Ethier to Las Vegas (Triple-A);
reassigned RHP Takashi Saito to their minor league camp.
[3/23]

Ethier just wasn’t going to beat out Joel Guzman this
spring, let alone make the team wonder about its commitment to Jose
Cruz Jr.
, so it’s just as well that he’s going to get his hacks
playing in the PCL, to see if he can build on last season’s success in the
Texas League and the Arizona Fall League. It’s going to be interesting to
see how this plays out in future seasons, because J.D. Drew
is under contract through 2009, and neither he nor Ethier are likely to play
center for any extended period during the intervening time. Of course, as a
DePodesta legacy contract, I think we all expect Drew to be dealt before the
end of that deal, which becomes something of a necessity if the Dodgers are
ever going to have Guzman and Ethier in their outfield corners
simultaneously.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Signed RHP Allan Simpson to a minor league contract;
reassigned LHP Zach Jackson to their minor league camp.
[3/19]

Optioned RHP Carlos Villanueva to Huntsville (Double-A).
[3/21]

Optioned CF-L Dave Krynzel and RHPs Dennis
Sarfate
and Ben Hendrickson to Nashville
(Triple-A). [3/22]

Reassigned LHPs Jason Kershner and Justin
Thompson
, RHP Allan Simpson, C-R Mike
Rivera
and UT-R Brent Abernathy to their minor
league camp; optioned OF-R Nelson Cruz to Nashville
(Triple-A). [3/25]

To paraphrase Slim Pickens in Doctor Strangelove, you could have a
pretty good weekend in Nashville with all that good stuff. Cruz had to be a
particularly tough send-down, but with Gabe Gross and
Corey Hart on hand, the Brewers have all sorts of tasty
options for outfield reserves. Gross certainly helped his cause by heating
up at the right time. But as for the rest, Hendrickson and Sarfate certainly
bear watching, since each will be pitching for the opportunity to be the
club’s first call-up after somebody in the rotation breaks down, while
Krynzel needs to see if he can refresh his prospect status by posting his
first really good season since 2002. Barring that, he’d be a great center
fielder for the Marlins right now, but the Brewers would have to feel
charitable to make it so. Turning back to Hendrickson and Sarfate, however,
neither had really stellar camps, and with Zach Jackson
wowing people, and with Rick Helling in reserve, it’s up to
them to actually impress people, and not just take their turns.

NEW YORK METS
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Reassigned RHPs John Maine, Henry Owens,
and Steve Schmoll, LHP Matt Perisho, 1B-R
Juan Tejeda, and OF-R Julio Ramirez to
their minor league camp. [3/19]

Reassigned RHPs Mike Pelfrey, Bartolome
Fortunato
, and Jeremi Gonzalez to their minor
league camp. [3/22]

Placed RHP Juan Padilla on the 60-day DL. [3/23]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Reassigned OF-L Peter Bergeron, RHPs Ryan
Cameron
, Clay Condrey, Travis
Minix
, and Brian Sanches, 1B/OF-B Shawn
Garrett
, UT-B Bobby Scales, and 2B- Joe
Thurston
to their minor league camp. [3/20]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Optioned LHPs Sean Burnett and Tom
Gorzelanny
, UT-R Yurendell De Caster, 1B-R
Brad Eldred, and OF-R Rajai Davis to
Indianapolis (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Ron Chiavacci,
Nerio Rodriguez, and Matt Whiteside, C-R
Carlos Maldonado, INF-R Jason Alfaro, and
SS-R Gookie Dawkins to their minor league camp. [3/21]

Sort of like the Indians, you might be slightly surprised by some of the
names, but again, these were guys who were bound to be demoted given the
ballclub’s alternatives. Eldred was boxed out by Sean
Casey
, Burnett and Gorzelanny by … well, okay, Brandon
Duckworth
or Victor Santos. That sounds more
disappointing than it is, however: Gorzelanny could have shown better
control, and Burnett’s still recuperating from surgery. I would have liked
seeing De Caster get a better shot at the job that seems likely to be handed
to Mike Edwards, but Edwards is a favorite of manager
Jim Tracy’s from last season in L.A., but that wasn’t going to be in the
cards, not when De Caster was off galavanting about in the WBC for Team
Netherlands. So instead, Edwards is contending with J.J.
Furmaniak
and Jose Hernandez (another former
Dodger). If there’s a guy I’m really disappointed for, it’s Davis, but in
queue for the center field job, his number’s lower than Chris
Duffy
‘s or Nate McLouth‘s. Since it remains to be
seen how well McLouth can play center, and whether or not Duffy will pan
out, I suspect we’ll see Davis again. He can handle center, gets on base at
a decent clip, and if base-stealing really does come back in vogue, he can
run.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHP Tim Stauffer to Portland (Triple-A);
reassigned C/1B-R Jason Hill to their minor league camp.
[3/17]

Optioned CF-B Freddy Guzman to Portland (Triple-A). [3/18]

Acquired RHP Bobby Basham from the Reds for C-R
David Ross. [3/21]

Purchased the contract of LHP Alan Embree from Portland
(Triple-A). [3/22]

Outrighted RHP Seth Etherton to Portland (Triple-A) after
the Royals declined to take the Rule 5 pick back. [3/24]

With the demotions of Stauffer and Etherton, the question over the last slot
in the rotation boils down to an epic choice between Dewon
Brazelton
and Shawn Estes, not exactly the stuff
champions are made of, not that both of them won’t look better pitching in
Petco. Add in that this team is counting on Embree as its situational
lefty, and that many of the pen’s considered first choices, guys like
Scott Linebrink, Clayton Hensley, and
Japanese League re-import Brian Sikorski, are all looking
bad in camp, and the pitching staff has very much become a source of
concern. If there’s been a bright spot, it’s how well Steve
Andrade
has pitched in camp, striking out 15 in eight innings, and
allowing only three hits.

As for picking up Basham, he’s damaged goods trying to work his way back
from shoulder surgery, so it isn’t like the Pads got something they can use
for Ross. The point was that they didn’t need Ross now that they have both
Mike Piazza, Doug Mirabelli, and
Pete Laforest all hanging around. Basham’s not on the
40-man, so he’s a flyer picked up as a matter of doing the Reds a small
favor.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Reassigned LHP Michael Tejera, RHPs Matt
Anderson
, Brian Cooper, and Matt
Kinney
, INF-R Tomas de la Rosa, and C-R
Yamid Haad to their minor league camp; optioned C-R
Justin Knoedler and OF-L Nate Schierholtz
to Fresno (Triple-A). [3/19]

Reassigned RHP Pedro Liriano to their minor league camp.
[3/26]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned RHP Anthony Reyes, LHPs Carmen
Cali
and Tyler Johnson, and C-R Michel
Hernandez
to Memphis (Triple-A). [3/22]

Returned Rule 5 pick RHP Juan Mateo to the Cubs. [3/23]

Okay, as much as I know that Reyes losing out to Sidney
Ponson
might inspire some panicking in the streets, I’m just not
that disappointed about this. First, it does take whatever Opening Day
jitters might come with Reyes winning the job in camp off of the table–some
people in the game like working rookies into things after the season’s
started, and after they’ve taken the edge off with a little bit of initial
work in Triple-A, and no, that’s not all about manipulating service time.
Second, as I stated earlier this winter, if anybody’s likely to successfully
retread Ponson, it’s pitching coach Dave Duncan. Third, it’s only the fifth
slot that we’re talking about, and given how weak the rest of the division
looks, the Cardinals can afford to experiment to see if they’ve got
something for nothing here. As long as they don’t get too carried away, and
are willing to cut bait on Ponson if he has a bad first month, there’s
really not a lot of initial downside, just some prospect maven heartbreak.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Reassigned SS-R Ian Desmond and RHPs Anastacio
Martinez
, Santiago Ramirez, and LHP Joe
Horgan
to their minor league camp. [3/17]

Optioned OF-L Tyrell Godwin and 2B-B Bernie
Castro
to New Orleans. [3/19]

Optioned LHP Billy Traber to New Orleans (Triple-A);
reassigned RHPs Kyle Denney, Saul Rivera,
and Steve Watkins, C-R Mike DiFelice, OF-R
Kenny Kelly, and OF-L George Lombard to
their minor league camp; released LHP Valerio de los Santos
per the terms of his contract. [3/23]

Where’s William Randolph Hearst when you need him? Now that the Nats have
lost Luis Ayala for the season, I’d figure that would rank
as a casus belli for old Mr. Go-Jingo. There is the question of where
he’s want the Marines sent, to the Halls of Montezuma or the shores of
Milwaukee, against either Mexico or Bud Selig, but since we don’t really
know why the Great Lakes Naval Base exists (Canadian piracy not being what
it used to be), I’d figure it’d be easy enough to scrape up a strike force
and remove the odium of the last representatives of dynastic absolutism, and
send the Seligs to the same dustbin that the Spanish Habsburgs, and perhaps
even a Portuguese Braganza to be named later, are already consigned to.

What losing Ayala highlights is the extent to which both Ramirez and
Martinez might be a bit disappointed to have been shipped out already,
because both have four years of experience at Double-A or higher, and they
couldn’t make the cut. That’s less an indictment of either of them–with
luck, both could wind up as big league middle relievers–than a comment on
some pretty decent depth in the pen, with or without Ayala. After closer
Chad Cordero, the Nats still have right-handers
Gary Majewski, Jason Bergmann,
Travis Hughes, and Felix Rodriguez. On
the lefty side of the equation, it’s Mike Stanton and
Joey Eischen. That’s just on the 40-man roster–NRIs
shouldn’t lose hope, because with Ayala and Brian Lawrence
bound to wind up on the 60-day DL, at least two slots on the 40-man will
open up. So Kevin Gryboski can hope his camp means
something. Regardless, that’s enough talent to put together a functional big
league bullpen.

In news on vaguely related to Ian Desmond’s status as the club’s shortstop
of the future–and whether or not that future, if not now, is going to be
real soon–it’s hard to know how seriously to take Cristian
Guzman
self-excusification about how his shoulder’s been aching for
years. After the last couple of seasons, any alibi will do, but when the
high end of expectations for what Guzman might give you is in the
U.L. Washington class of ballplayer, this sort of
explanation ranks with a press conference explaining the lack of progress of
the Albanian space program.

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