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Released 1B/LF-L Chris Duncan. [8/20]
Designated RHP Fernando Cabrera for assignment; optioned OF-R Brian Anderson to Pawtucket (Triple-A); activated OF-R Rocco Baldelli from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Michael Bowden from Pawtucket. [8/21]

It’s a sad story in the making, but Duncan didn’t deliver anything for the PawSox, let alone the big-league club. Whether you want to ascribe that to not adjusting to a new organization, being unhappy about being sent down to the minors, or physical incapacity as a result of his neck injury, it’s clear that his career’s in the process of digging to see how deep its nadir can get. That said, as a free agent this winter, he’ll have it somewhat within his own power to help determine the location for his next comeback attempt, because you can bet that somebody will be willing to bring him to camp.

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Placed OF-S Trevor Crowe on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 8/17; recalled LF/1BR Matt LaPorta from Columbus (Triple-A). [8/19]

Waiting for rightful restorations is one of those historical themes which involves plenty of frustrations for the true believers, and not often a lot of satisfaction. Happily, Matt LaPorta’s no Bonnie Prince Charlie or the comte de Chambord; as prospects go, he’s legit instead of Legitimist.

That they spun their wheels for a few weeks with Crowe in left field, or Jamey Carroll getting outfield playing time, not to mention Chris Gimenez bouncing between the outfield and first base, not to mention their one, presumably last spin with Andy Marte… well, these are things that only the Indians themselves can properly explain, because outright merit obviously wasn’t the key consideration. We speculate fruitlessly about the factors that lay behind orchestrating a particular arc to LaPorta’s return, whether in terms of service time manipulation, or making him “earn it” (which he did, hitting .309/.433/.564 in August for the Clippers), or out of a genuine curiosity in Crowe’s viability*, but at the end of the day, it didn’t really change their season’s fortunes any, LaPorta’s exactly where he should be, and there’s every reason to feel good about what he’s going to deliver, now and into the future.

A quick look at his splits with Columbus reveals a massively backwards platoon split, showing a .323/.419/.551 line against right-handers and .226/.286/.484 against lefties. Despite a slightly higher strikeout rate against lefties (18 percent against 13 percent of all PA vs. RHPs), one could operate from the assumption that that’s the sort of thing where he’ll deliver a more normal performance against southpaws while keeping the production against righties. Some of that seems like it would come in the form of a normal BABIP-related bounceback, but given the distance between the Indians and contention, it’s the sort of kink they can keep an eye on, but it’s hardly the sort of thing they need to sweat in pondering whether or not LaPorta’s their once and future left fielder; he simply is.

*: Suspension of disbelief required, do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect $200.

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Acquired UT-R Bill Hall and the ubiquitous $$-S Stacks O’Cash for RHP Ruben Flores. [8/19]
Optioned LHP Garrett Olson to Tacoma (Triple-A); activated UT-R Bill Hall. [8/20]

It’s not really a big deal for them to have added Hall, since they won’t be paying much of his salary, and Flores was one of those organizational arms straight out of central casting (throws in the 90s, hurts himself repeatedly, stalled in A-ball, and elderly for the level), so Jack Zduriencik didn’t have to venture much to land a former associate. It’s just as well, given how terrible he’s been with the Brewers since they decided to make him something besides a utility infielder, and tried to first make him a starting center fielder, then a starting third baseman, and then a “we-don’t-know-what-he’s-for” guy. It isn’t inconceivable that he becomes the latest guy who profits from a change of scenery, and given the Mariners‘ supply of established players at second and short, alternatives at third base (whether Jack Hannahan now, or Matt Tuiasosopo next year) or left field (Michael Saunders, presumably), it’s easy to see how he might fit in as a multi-positional substitute playing with a sense of liberation from the understandable opprobrium attached to him through repeated failure in Milwaukee.

In the meantime, it’s nice to see them get Olson out of the way. As is, the rotation’s become an exercise in evaluation, as they take a look at what they have in Ryan Rowland-Smith, Doug Fister, and Luke French beyond Felix Hernandez and Ian Snell. That’s four maybes and the King, of course, but if they come away with two useful rotation regulars for next season out of that quartet, it’ll be time well spent. Fister followed up his first, impressive start with an equally good victory over the Yankees, Snell’s had two starts good and bad apiece in his four since becoming the rotation’s most ancient Mariner at 27, and Rowland-Smith has had his moments. French hasn’t given them a quality start yet in his three since shedding his Tiger stripes, so he’s perhaps the guy behind the eight ball for Olson, Brandon Morrow, Jason Vargas, and who knows who else-because let’s face it, Fister came from way down the list of seeming likelies-might gun for.

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Outrighted C-R Kevin Richardson to Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [8/21]

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Activated RHP Anibal Sanchez from the 60-day DL; optioned RHP Cristhian Martinez to Jacksonville (Double-A). [8/21]

Well, I mooted this last time around in our irregularly scheduled Marlins segment, but now we know that it’ll be Sanchez who’s active and starting on somewhat short rest his first time back (since he pitched a deliberately abbreviated start on Monday), and Chris Volstad going tomorrow, and with Nick Johnson on the bench cooling his jets until he’s 100 percent.

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Acquired INF-S Jose Vallejo from the Rangers as the PTBNL in the Pudge deal. [8/20]

Vallejo might get props for being a 22-year-old in Triple-A, but it’s worth noting he was sort of sucked up there and rescued from a non-descript first month into a return engagement in Double-A. But injuries at Oklahoma City helped clear a quick path for Vallejo. Playing in the PCL, he hasn’t lived up to a reputation as a speed guy (three steals on five attempts? ugh), his patience barely exists, and his power is negligible. He gets high marks on defense, but at this point, the bat doesn’t yet profile to Chico Lind caliber, so the defense would have to be Mazeroski-level special to merit much consideration for big-league roster space. His arm won’t play at short, so basically, he’s a dubious use of a spot on the 40-man roster, and might have been at risk for losing it were he still with the Rangers in November. In the wide open spaces of the Astros‘ extended roster, he has a better chance of hanging around, but he’s not really a prospect, or somebody to feel excited about if you’re a rooting fan. He passed through waivers for cause.

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Dumped UT-R Bill Hall and cash on the Mariners for RHP Ruben Flores. [8/19]
Placed RHP Jesus Colome on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of LHP Chris Narveson from Nashville (Triple-A); designated C-R Carlos Corporan for assignment. [8/21]

Flores isn’t really a prospect as much as guy you might find knocking around any organization: tall and stringy, he’s thrown heat into the mid-90s before and after losing time to a couple of shoulder surgeries, and coming back this season to blow kids out of the water as a 25-year-old man in the Low-A Midwest League before getting promoted to a few pastings in the Cal League. So as exchanges go, this was more a matter of doing a Lend-Lease deal with a frenemy to get out from under some portion of the financial obligation of otherwise having control of Bill Hall, asset, not unlike dispensing with a rusty old destroyer you can’t use yourself for pennies on the dollar. The Brewers are covering all of 2009’s expense of employing Hall, and some (undisclosed, large) portion of Hall’s $8.4 million contract for 2010. They did at least get something for somebody who’d obviously come to be worth nothing to them, so you can charitably describe this as a good deal on that level, but that takes not getting too deeply into criticizing Doug Melvin for giving Hall that arbitration-inspired inflated extension in 2007.

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Activated LHP Billy Wagner from the 60-day DL; released RHP Livan Hernandez. [8/20]

We’ll have an article on Monday here on about what teams stand to get from Billy Wagner-whether that’s the Mets or an employer TBNL-but it should generally involve good things. The variable as to who it’s for is almost the whole ball of wax on the subject, however, since he has a no-trade clause that he might employ to try and get his $10.5 million club 2010 option for 2010 picked up by his next employer, even while stating he’d waive his no-trade to get dealt to a contender.

In the meantime, the latest development in the season’s Metastrophe is the decision to release Hernandez. It’s hard not to interpret this as anything other than a financial move, since he was entering into the portion of his structured deal where he stood to make an additional $250,000 (at least) for lasting another 15 innings in his next three turns. His last three were all disaster starts (more runs allowed than innings pitched), but he had three consecutive quality starts right before that. His .461 SNWP isn’t all that special, ranking 93rd out of 131 pitchers with 80 or more IP.

Even so, that would rank well enough in several aspiring contenders’ rotations. He’s not a savior as much as a band-aid, but that’s what the Mets signed him to be, before their number of roster wounds suppurated beyond repair. He’s not a good starter as much as a guy who could still take his turn at the back end of a rotation, ideally on a good defensive club. He controls the running game effectively, and doesn’t really have any platoon issues. I don’t envy the team that decides it has to turn to him, but it wouldn’t be entirely implausible.

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Placed RHP Jeff Karstens on the Bereavement Leave List; activated LHP Phil Dumatrait from the 60-day DL; transferred RHP Evan Meek from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/21]