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Acquired LF-L Chris Duncan and a PTBNL or cash from the Cardinals for SS-R Julio Lugo and cash, and optioned him to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [7/22]

If you mix a flea market with a swap meet, do you get a flea swap? Stare long enough, and I’m sure you’ll see reasons why this works for the Red Sox, but it’s more about scratching two itches with one move. On the one hand, Duncan is more than notionally a lefty power source of some merit, however pronounced his present difficulties are, and however open the question remains of whether or not he has much of a career left trying to come back from his neck injury. We could prattle on about regression and how he has to get better from his hitting just .227/.329/.358, or hit for more power-after all, he’s hitting fewer liners than an average hitter, and popping up more-but it would be a bit silly, because we don’t know if that’s just normal booting about and something he can work on with the PawSox, or a reflection of his new limitations. On the other hand, though, he’s a lefty power source who can play first base or left field, and old-player skills or no, he’s just 28 years old. From the position of their organizational depth, with Chris Carter and Paul McAnulty flailing with the PawSox, Lars Anderson struggling at Double-A Portland, and Jonathan Van Every already out for the year, even after acquiring Adam LaRoche, it made sense to take a flier on Duncan. To pick him up and something to be determined-cash or cattle on the hoof-for Lugo while still having to pay almost all of their obligation to Lugo may not sound all that special, but getting somebody else’s nothing for your nothing could nevertheless wind up being something for both teams.

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Activated DH-R Mike Sweeney from the 15-day DL; designated INF-R Josh Wilson for assignment. [7/21]

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Placed RHP Chad Bradford on the 15-day DL (lower back); recalled RHP Dale Thayer from Durham (Triple-A). [7/23]

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Optioned LHP Andrew Miller to New Orleans (Triple-A); recalled 1B/3B-R Gaby Sanchez from New Orleans. [7/21]

Miller went kablooey in consecutive starts, and with the decision to bring Rick VandenHurk up, they’re sort of flip-flopping between who their fourth and fifth starter is in terms of pecking order, taking advantage of offdays today and next Monday to wisely ditch their presently ranked fifth (Miller) and use the roster spot on something else, as they won’t need their fifth starter again until August 1 against the Cubs. Ideally, Miller will take to his Big Easy cure, and be able to come back squared away, but if he isn’t ready, they can just as easily go back to using Sean West and seeing if he’s ready to improve upon his initial spin in the rotation.

Sanchez arrives hitting .281/.351/.440 for New Orleans; although he missed most of May with a knee injury, he’s been doing a good job of challenging the assumption that he’s a platoon player in the making by raking for better pop against right-handers (with eight of his nine homers and a .456 SLG). Bouncing between first and third, he’s still giving reason to believe that third base isn’t a position he’ll handle for any great length of time, however; not that fielding percentage is a metric to peg a guy with all by its lonseome, but seven errors and a .908 fielding percentage isn’t anything to generate any endorsements that this is the man who will be the antidote to Emilio Bonifacio. Jorge Cantu, on the other hand, would be, but would the Marlins choose a job-share at first involving Sanchez, Wes Helms, and Ross Gload over playing Bonifacio? It seems as if no amount of bad ballgames from Bonifacio has altered their amazing faith in the speedster’s utility, and add in the frustratingly weak performances from Chris Coghlan (.258 EqA) and Jeremy Hermida (.264) in the outfield, and the Fish have been willing to settle for weak hitting at three of the four corners, and that’s without getting into how Cantu’s not an asset at first base, not when he’s cranking out a .272 EqA at a position where that’s inadequate (all MLB first basemen are producing at a .292 clip) while at third base it’d be OK (MLB third basemen are at .268 collectively).

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Placed RHP Fernando Nieve on the 15-day DL; recalled OF-L Cory Sullivan from Buffalo (Triple-A). [7/20]

Losing Nieve isn’t good news, because the likely replacement for him in the rotation will be Jon Niese, leaving us with the question of what a difference one consonant makes. Even with Niese tearing off eight quality starts in a row for the Bisons, he’s not a high-upside prospect about to electrify the league as much as somebody who might help flesh out a rotation-not too much unlike Nieve. That’s not a bad thing, but with Livan Hernandez being pulled back well downslope by the tentacles of his mere utility and down to a sub-.500 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, John Maine still only working towards a rehab stint, Mike Pelfrey alternating disasterpieces and winnable ballgames with a dull reliability, and Oliver Perez walking 20 percent of all batters faced since his reactivation, this isn’t really a unit that can afford to take any hits. Functionality is fine, but Maine, Pelfrey, and Perez were supposed to deliver more than that, and instead the Mets are down to Johan Santana fending off concerns about his health (three straight quality starts muting that source of worry only somewhat) and hoping they luck into the odd good day from their starter du jour or a bunch of runs from a lineup no less unreliable.

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Recalled 1B/OF-R Steven Pearce from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [7/23]

Sure enough, here’s Pearce, called up in the wake of yesterday’s LaRoche trade. It makes for an interesting blend in the outfield corners and first base-at least until they decide to bring up Lastings Milledge-in that they can play Pearce and Garrett Jones at first as well as the corners, with Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young getting long looks in the outfield. Moss is increasingly taking a back seat, which is just as well (history has its losers, after all), while Young’s doing almost all of his damage against right-handers. Pearce comes back up having gone on a modest tear for Indy, ripping out nine extra-base hits in 12 games while hitting .333/.429/.643 in 49 PA. It’s still not cause for overstated enthusiasm-he is already 26, so his future is now-but he’s as ready to contribute as he ever will be, and one hopes that one of the distinctions between the present and the past is that, even if he does somewhat improbably make like Kevin Young and break out however briefly-say, he surprises us all and hits something like his 90th-percentile projection for 2009 next year-they don’t subsequently over-reward him and find themselves sinking under the weight of a latter-day unsinkable cost.

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Outrighted RHP Josh Banks to Portland (Triple-A). [7/22]

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Traded LF-L Chris Duncan to the Red Sox for SS-R Julio Lugo after optioning him to Memphis (Triple-A); recalled INF-R Brian Barden from Memphis. [7/22]

Discarding Duncan to add Lugo-and with the Sox paying Lugo-was a nifty little pickup for the Cardinals in light of their balance of the expansive outfield depth that had already crowded Duncan out of the picture and their equally apparent need for an infielder of any stripe. In the outfield, Duncan couldn’t and shouldn’t deserve any consideration ahead of Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel, or Ryan Ludwick, and Brendan Ryan‘s predictable slump since being handed the starting job at short about a month ago (.244/.267/.337 since June 20) meant that, even with Mark DeRosa reactivated from the DL, they had a lineup slot that had gone slack. Lugo’s no prize defensively, and pairing him up with Skip Schumaker in the middle infield makes the Cards something a force of unreformed evil now that defense is the only acceptable fashion accessory for aspiring contenders in some circles. Suggesting that Lugo will blossom away from the pressure of Boston strikes me as a bit specious-anybody really think they take their baseball less seriously in St. Louis?-but heck, Felipe Lopez got his career going again there last season, and given the Cards’ absolute need, this was a perfect pickup. Add in that Lugo’s under contract through 2010 on Boston’s dime, and if he delivers they can look forward to a winter where they won’t have to give achieveing a happy ending to the Khalil Greene story all that much thought, however nice that might be. If, however, Greene does bounce back, wherever he starts in the infield (probably third), that might also give the Cardinals the depth to move Mark DeRosa to the outfield now and again to spot for Ankiel (if he’s slumping) or for Rasmus against the odd lefty (with Ankiel returning to center), or do likewise with Schumaker in the outfield a little more frequently (with DeRosa moving to second).