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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Recalled RHP Chris Britton from Bowie (Double-A); optioned
RHP Cory Morris to Ottawa (Triple-A). [4/12]

Riding the hot hand is a time-honored tradition in the game, but managing
your roster to bring up a minor league hot hand on less than a week’s work
seems like a bit of an overreaction. But Britton is the reigning
organization Pitcher of the Year after his nifty work in High-A Frederick
last season, he does have a nice power mix of good heat and a hard slider,
and let’s face it, the Orioles are hard up for some relief help.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Placed CF-B Coco Crisp on 15-day DL (fractured finger),
retroactive to 4/9; purchased contract of OF-R Dustan Mohr
from Pawtucket (Triple-A). [4/11]

Activated LHP David Wells from the 15-day DL; placed RHP
David Riske on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive
to 4/5; signed CF-B Coco Crisp to a three-year, $15.5 million
contract extension, with a club option for 2010. [4/12]

Crisp’s deal breaks down into a million dollar signing bonus, then $3.5,
$4.75, and $5.75 million per year, with the option running $8 million (or a
$500K buyout). (He’s under contract for $2.75 million this year.) That adds
up to $17.75 million he’s due through 2009, while his Marginal Value Over Replacement Player (or MORP) over that time is projected
to be $28.7 million. Contrast that with Johnny Damon at $13
million per for the next four, of $52 million actual dollars (three times as
expensive as Crisp), and a prospective $26.05 million of value projected
through MORP. That’s all offense, setting aside Damon’s declining play
afield and Crisp’s solid rep. You’re damn right I think the Sox wound up
with the better center field situation through 2009 or 2010, even with the
injury to Crisp notionally dampening people’s enthusiasm. Better now than
later, I suppose, in that if the Sox have to get by without Crisp for an
extended period of time, you may as well see how much it’s going to cost you
now, when you can still do something about it, than if he’d gotten hurt in
September.

I’m just not that enthusiastic about Mohr, who seems destined for little
better than enshrinement in the Bob Zupcic Wing of the
Boston Sports Hall of Moderate Repute. (Better known as the guys who aren’t
as cool as Mosi
Tatupu
.) Nevertheless, it looks like he’s to be the default center
fielder, while Adam Stern awaits the Guillotine of Rule 5
Service Time to drop on April 19. I guess the nice thing about Pawtucket is
that it isn’t that big a deal to throw your stuff in the car and move
down, but still, it’s a bit of a bitter pill. If, eventually, the Sox bring
Willie Harris up to play a little bit of outfield, get on
base now and again, and run, I guess that’s a viable enough alternative to
Mohr. And there’s always Wily Mo Pena, if the Sox elect to
go that route (and if Trot Nixon is ever healthy for a long
enough stretch during Crisp’s absence).

Finally, Jumbo’s return to the rotation seems a bit hurried, but he’ll be in
the fifth slot, and no doubt throwing on the side and whatever else it takes
away from live action to get ramped up for better work than what he showed
against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. Besides, Riske really only had the
benefit of not being Keith Foulke, keeping his neverending
struggles since being swapped over to Boston from becoming a focus of angry
mob attention. Hopefully he’ll be shipshape by the time Rudy
Seanez
‘s scheduled return to Traction Action comes up.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Announced that C-R Wil Nieves cleared waivers, and
outrighted him to Columbus (Triple-A). [4/13]

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Recalled C-R Rene Rivera from Tacoma (Triple-A); reinstated
OF-L Matt Lawton from the restricted list; optioned RHP
Jeff Harris to Tacoma; designated C-R Guillermo
Quiroz
for assignment. [4/12]

I don’t know if Quiroz finished the pot of coffee without making a fresh one
or what, but the best you can say about this is that either he gave the
Mariners a reason to just say no, or this is the period of time that GM Bill
Bavasi thinks he can squeak Quiroz through waivers to get him down to Tacoma
and pile up the playing time that he really needs if he’s going to
jump-start his career. Either would be defensible. There’s always the
possibility that the Mariners just simply prefer Rivera, given his age and
his glovework, but his future’s relatively limited.

As for the decision to swap out Harris upon Lawton’s return, instead of
risking Joe Borchard on waivers or designating
Roberto Petagine for assignment, I’m glad they made the
sensible choice and came down to eleven pitchers. They were going to need all
the hitters they could get once they made that coyote-ugly
decision
to bring Carl Everett home in December,
and they can’t afford to lose either player lest they be reduced to another
go-round with that nice young man, the safe, dull, dependably awful
Willie Bloomquist.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Recalled RHP Jason Hammel from Durham (Triple-A). [4/11]

Placed 3B/OF-L Aubrey Huff on the 15-day DL (sprained
knee). [4/12]

Nick Green collided with Huff on a foul pop, as nobody bothered to call for
the ball. You can consider that a ripple effect of losing Julio
Lugo
, I suppose, and this wouldn’t be the only situation where
Green playing someplace other than second hasn’t caused a bit of regret
already.

It’s interesting that, in replacing Mark Hendrickson, the
Rays took the opposite approach from their position player dilemma. Where
the Rays say that they can’t call up B.J. Upton just yet,
even with Huff out, because they want him to gain consistency at Triple-A
and be ready to stick once he comes up, they’re doing the exact opposite
with Hammel. It’s a risk, of course, especially when the kid in question has
less than a full season above A-ball, however hard the kid throws. It seems
especially odd when Edwin Jackson is cooling his heels in
Durham, but Jackson’s responsibility is to improve his control and settle
into a consistent delivery, and jerking him around probably isn’t the best
way to help. In point of fact, Hammel’s actually a year older than Jackson,
so it isn’t like Jackson’s being oversloughed for a stripling. So a little
bit of Hammel, a lot of Ty Wigginton, possibly an early
return from the DL for Sean Burroughs, and perhaps a
situation where Russell Branyan gets a shot to stick as a
four corners bopper.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Placed 2B-R Ian Kinsler on the 15-day DL (dislocated
thumb); activated OF-B Gary Matthews, Jr. from the 15-day
DL; activated INF-R Marshall McDougall from the 15-day DL,
and optioned him to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [4/12]

Well, crud. I’m far from being mistaken as having Texas sympathies in any
way, shape, or form, but I harbor high hopes for what Kinsler can do on a
diamond. Happily, his thumb should only shelve him for three weeks, during
which time the Rangers can see what’s to be done with D’Angelo
Jimenez
. Will he do good stuff? Will he just tantalize those of us
in the seamhead community, the same way he always has, before somehow going
terribly wrong? Maybe The Butterfly Effect would have been tolerable
if Ashton Kutcher was trying to fix Jimenez’s life, to give him the career
that we all kept expecting him to have. Would Jimenez have been okay if he’d
never been in the car accident? Would he not be the guy who annoys his
teammates if he, I don’t know, had gotten a pony instead of a pony sandwich
back in the day? If he didn’t start wearing a hat two sizes too small? I
don’t think we’ll ever really understand why Jimenez became the occasionally
excellent and suddenly disposable roster gypsy he’s turned out to be, but
something’s up when teammates are emptying buckshot into you on your way out
the door, as happened last season in Cincy. I’m always hopeful that a guy
can capitalize on a second chance, but Jimenez is probably on his fourth or
fifth by now.

Meanwhile, Matthews’ return has generated bold talk that the Rangers might
have their leadoff man. This would also probably involve throwing
Laynce Nix in a woodchipper, because it isn’t like they’re
going to cut bait on Brad Wilkerson and Kevin
Mench
. It would be easy to jeer this turn of events, but Matthews
is the best they’ve got, and better to get to it and play the man than
pretend that Nix is ever going to turn it around. Who knows, if they get
that far, they might even have Gerald Laird and Rod
Barajas
exchange roles. Whatever their complaints about their
leadoff problems, Jimenez and Matthews at the top of the order isn’t the
worst possible outcome.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Outrighted C/1B-R Jason Phillips to Syracuse (Triple-A);
announced that they lost RHP Vince Perkins on a waiver
claim by the Brewers. [4/12]

So, barely a week of Jason Phillips was worth… what again? Was there
something Phillips did in that time that justified purchasing his contract
on April 1, a move that essentially cost them Perkins? You can look at
losing Guillermo Quiroz as an eventuality that would have
come by now (once Gregg Zaun was ready to come off of the
DL), but to discard Perkins as well, just because you wanted to have
Phillips instead of Quiroz as your catching reserve for four games?
That’s just plain old bad management of your 40-man, made worse when you
have to realize that your old GM is a front office flunky in Milwaukee these
days. Given Gord Ash’s past critiques of the Ricciardi regime, it also
appears he’s itching to trump the Jays at any turn. As having an arch-enemy
goes, this is probably no more threatening than the classic question of
Canadian filmcraft
, but still, the Jays might have to worry that
somebody out there wants to have their number.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Placed LHP Terry Mulholland on the 15-day DL (elbow
inflammation); purchased the contract of RHP Casey Daigle
from Tucson (Triple-A). [4/12]

Terry Mulholland is not the Mechanical Man? Who knew? The interesting
wrinkle is that, in his absence, the Snakes decided to forego finding a
token lefty, and instead made a point of bringing in Daigle, arguably their
best available pitcher and one of their last camp cuts. (The alternative
would have been Jeff Bajenaru, I suppose.) Sadly, he’s also
one of the guys we overlooked doing in this year’s book, but he won’t get a
lot of opportunities to pitch with both Juan Cruz,
Luis Vizcaino, and Greg Aquino all
doing well in the middle innings. Having re-launched his career as a
reliever last season at Double-A, Daigle can at least plausibly stick in a
pen that shouldn’t try to get by with Jason Grimsley and
Brandon Lyon all season.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Recalled SS-R Tony Pena Jr. from Richmond (Triple-A).
[4/12]

That nattering you hear is probably coming from Beantown, along with a few
sniggers of welcome about what life might be like with a post-famous
Edgar Renteria. But on a practical level, this is more
about giving the roster an extra infield reserve behind Pete
Orr
now that Wilson Betemit is playing third
pretty much every day. Pena has little offensive value: he runs more often
than he should, doesn’t walk, and has just enough power to avoid being
mistaken for Rafael Belliard. He does arrive with enough of
a defensive reputation that if the Braves really do start fretting about
Renteria’s leather play, they can always employ something more slick and
whip out their Pena.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Signed 1B-R Derrek Lee to a five-year, $65 million contract
through 2010. [4/11]

I guess it’s hard to frame the concept of how good a player Lee is
relative to other recent Cubs greats. I know, it’s early to get too worked
up, but let’s try to put his 2005 in Wrigleyville-specific context. Last
season, Lee’s performance rated .347 in all-time adjusted Equivalent Average. Andre Dawson
couldn’t touch that, only getting up to .308 and .304 in his two best Cubs
seasons (1990 and 1988, respectively). Sammy Sosa topped
Lee’s figure only once, in his 2001 season (with a .368), but to give Lee
his due in other departments, he’s a useful first baseman, and by then,
Sammy was a waddling circus strongman in right field. Rick
Wilkins
? (Sorry, Cubs fans, that scab needed picking.) His single
season in the sun, 1993, saw him crank at a .316 clip.

Let’s skip over to the VORP family of stats for a second. (If you’re a
do-it-yourself type, play with this.) Consider where Lee’s 2005 rates among Cub greats from 1960 to the present in Marginal Lineup Value, which is position-neutral, and so handy to use when just
talking about what the guy did with the stick:

Player          Year     MLV
Sammy Sosa      2000    109.5
Derrek Lee      2005     87.2
Sammy Sosa      2001     77.1
Sammy Sosa      1998     69.8
Billy Williams  1972     68.8
Ron Santo       1964     62.8
Billy Williams  1970     61.2
Billy Williams  1965     60.9
Sammy Sosa      2002     59.2
Jim Hickman     1970     55.2

Always a good thing to be reminded of Billy Williams
greatness, and yes, that really is Piano Legs Jim Hickman in the tenth slot.
And no, no Andre Dawson to be found. Ryne Sandberg‘s best
season, 1990, ranks 15th, and Mark Grace‘s 1995 ranks 20th.
To get to the Hawk’s 1990 season, you have to get past some choice cuts from
Bill Madlock, and the best years of Leon
Durham
(1982), Dave Kingman (1979), and even
Aramis Ramirez‘s 2004.

He’s certainly that occasional genuinely athletic first baseman–a
gifted fielder who can run the bases–but in franchise history, he’s keeping
company with the oft-salaam’d one, and achieved something far better than
the other routine recipient of Bleacher Creature worship.

That said, that was yesterday, and what’s he going to do for the money going
forward? It’s interesting that PECOTA
has trouble identifying meaningful comparables for him
. That isn’t
PECOTA’s fault: the guy’s combination of skills is pretty rare, which is why
a mid-career Dave Winfield is about as close as you get.
That doesn’t make Jim Hendry’s job any easier, of course, but since Lee seems to
be the sort who really only had that proverbial extra biscuit for breakfast
(as Harry always put it), and has been able to crank pretty consistently, if
not at last year’s level, it’s an interesting, defensible risk.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed RHP Mike DeJean on the 15-day DL (shoulder
inflammation), retroactive to 4/8. [4/11]

Recalled RHP Ramon Ramirez from Colorado Springs
(Triple-A). [4/12]

DeJean’s never really a loss, although I think his career-long ability to
avoid too much humiliation and pain on Planet Coors probably has him prepped
for a gig as a pitching coach or roving pitching instructor in one
particular organization. But in the meantime, the curiosity should be about
Ramirez, a converted outfielder who represents a significant chunk of the
initially lupin-like
bounty
of the Chacon trade. Ramirez is certainly interesting, apparently
having picked up some nasty breaking stuff during a stint in Japan, as well
as having good heat. He’s really only here for the proverbial cup of coffee,
keeping a seat warm for Byung-Hyun Kim, or perhaps
Scott Dohmann once he beats whatever virus it is that’s
making his life miserable at the moment.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Recalled LHP Scott Olsen from Albuquerque (Triple-A);
optioned RHP Chris Resop to Albuquerque. [4/13]

It’s the portion of the program where the Marlins add their fifth to this
year’s Fishfinger
Surprise special
. Olsen got one start with the Isotopes, and didn’t
allow a run, so there’s no second-guessing, and no real news. He’d won the
fifth slot in March, and while it might seem a bit doofish to have had him
in the Pacific Coast League while Scuffy
Moehler
takes his lumps, that’s the nature of big league life when you
have options: they may not be yours, but you can hopefully make other people
not avail themselves of them. Olsen’s prepped for what should be an
interesting rookie year, the sort of season that should remind people that
the Marlins actually still do develop a few pitchers of their own, instead
of having to deal for everyone else’s leavings.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Claimed RHP Vince Perkins off of waivers from the Blue
Jays. [4/12]

So, you have a guy who throws in the mid-90s, has a career record of being
tough to hit, pretty good at keeping the ball in the park and on the ground,
and he’s available as a waiver claim? Even if his breaking stuff remains an
only-promising work in progress, this is somebody who might make for a
pretty tasty reliever, let alone a relative roster freebie. Assistant GM
Gord Ash was the front man in a Jays organization that picked him as a
draft-and-follow in 2000 and signed him in 2001, so of course the Brewers
are a wee bit familiar with Perkins. As they were with Gabe
Gross
for that matter, although to be fair, both David
Bush
and Zach Jackson were Ricciardi picks, so it
isn’t like Ash is truffling for only his own Jays leavings. Not that there’s
anything wrong with this: people act on what they know, and it’s fair to say
that Ash is a wee bit familiar with the Blue Jays. In terms of worthwhile or
interesting young talent, that’s bad taste to acquire when it comes to
keeping an eye on the waiver wire.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Recalled OF-L Ryan Church and INF-R Brendan
Harris
from New Orleans (Triple-A); optioned CF-L Brandon
Watson
and C-R Wiki Gonzalez to New Orleans.
[4/13]

I will not thank any particular deity for a wrong made right. But in saying
that, I should also state that we cannot thank reason either. Instead, we
can all be grateful to man’s capacity for exasperation, courtesy of the
caprices of Nats GM Jim Bowden. It was he who can take the credit for
raising Watson on high, he who drank the Ozzieball-brand Kool-Aid that told
him that success goes to the swift and not the strong, and then he who,
shaking off that particular hangover and panic-stricken over a 2-8 start,
cast Watson down. You’d a thunk a man who worshipped at the altar of Freon
Deion as long as he did would have long since figured out the penalties of
praying to false idols.

If you don’t think this was both a bit of scapegoating (to paraphrase Casey,
they couldn’a dunnit without a Watson), why does Gonzalez get sent to the
wall as well? Well, actually, that might have more to do with the eventual
return of Robert Fick, because it doesn’t look like Harris
is going to play all that much. Think about that bench for a second, once
Fick is ready to be reactivated. At least notionally, that gives you a
lefty-righty tandem in Fick and Matt LeCroy as
pinch-hitters who can bop a bit, catch, and play first. You also already
have Daryle Ward and Marlon Byrd sort of
offering that same combination in the outfield. And for utilitymen who can
play six or seven positions apiece, you’ve got a lefty-righty pairing of
Marlon Anderson and Damian Jackson. No,
it’s not a great group of players, but that’s why it’s a bench, and it’s an
interesting and useful enough group, a combination of people who can run,
sort of, or hit for power, sort of, or hit for average. Sort of.

Finally, as far as center field, where does this leave the Nats? Happily,
where they should have been all along. I’m glad that the club has made a
choice that’s all about getting results on the field, instead of playing
make-believe that Watson’s going to be… what, the next Vince
Coleman
? For the curious, Church didn’t hit during his week in
Triple-A. So what? Like getting worked up about a bad week or two in spring
training, a good team is supposed to be able to assess the difference
between data and talent. From an analysis perspective, Church is the same
guy who’s mashed in the minors for years. From a player development
perspective, you’re supposed to be able to see that sort of thing, instead
of getting all worked up like some fantasy leaguer over a dry spell. Here’s
hoping Church hits the bejeebus out of the ball, not just on Easter weekend,
but for a few seasons’ worth of weekends to come.

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