Comings and Goings (4/15-4/21)

Welcome to the first ever Comings and Goings, The Hardball Times’ weekly breakdown of transactions. I, Bryan Smith, will be one of your hosts for the weekly festivity, so I thought we’d start with an explanation of what you’ll see here.

Each week (at C&G, weeks go Thursday-Wednesday) you’ll see most of the transactions from the past week analyzed by either myself, Joe Dimino, or both of us. Some moves might get anecdotes, others statistical analysis, and some just a short blurb. Instead of the traditional transaction-by-team style, we will rank the transactions by importance.

1) Giants activated RHP Jason Schmidt from 15-day DL; recalled LHP Noah Lowry from AAA; optioned RHP David Aardsma and LHP Kevin Walker to AAA

Landing the top spot today, mainly because of Jason Schmidt’s importance to the Giants. Barry Bonds has been holding this team up on his shoulders, all by himself. Last year Schmidt helped him, and the two carried the club right into the playoffs, promptly losing to the World Champion Florida Marlins.

Schmidt wasn’t able to start the year, but Bonds’ insane first month is making up for it. San Francisco has no starter with an ERA currently under 4.00, which is not good. Schmidt must jump back on the ace bandwagon if the Giants are planning to make a run for this thing. Either that or Bonds has to keep that OPS over 2.000.

OK, I admit it, I just wanted to keep the listing-Aardsma-first thing going…

2) Yankees placed OF Kenny Lofton and RHP Jorge DePaula on 15-day DL; recalled RHP Scott Proctor and LHP Alex Graman from AAA

Somewhere, a Yankees fan is smiling at the fact that Lofton’s injury only means more starts for his newest favorite player, Bubba Crosby. This is not necessarily true, as both Ruben Sierra and Travis Lee will see starts too, with Bernie Williams moving back to his old stomping grounds. The Yankee lineup can easily recover from this blow, but now they have two weak spots in the order rather than one. DePaula has been hobbled on and off since Spring Training, so it’s no great surprise to see him go down.

So, who are these two from Triple-A? Graman has already started one game since his call-up, grabbing a start last Tuesday against the White Sox. Despite being shallacked, the Yankees gave him enough run support to avoid the loss. The former Indiana State southpaw is very prone to homers, but strikes out a lot of guys with his slow curve. He struggles to get that K/BB above 2.00, and that can get you in trouble up in the Majors.

Proctor has been talked about quite often since being a part of the Robin Ventura trade, since his 2003 was so dominating. It was his first time as a reliever, and the former Seminole was dazzling, nearly landing a spot on the Yankee Opening Day roster. Time will tell if Proctor is Yankee, Devil Ray, or AAA material, though I doubt his time in pinstripes will be lengthy.

3) Oakland traded RHP Chad Harville to the Houston Astros for RHP Kirk Saarloos

While Moneyball scared many teams from dealing with Billy Beane, sometimes Beane will throw in a trade that the book preaches about. Kirk Saarloos doesn’t throw 95 mph like Harville does. I mean, he doesn’t even throw 90.

Both of these players have torn up the minor leagues, but have seen troubles in the Majors. Harville is finally out of options, and the A’s had no choice but to designate him for assignment when they called up Rich Harden.

And then the Astros called. According to Baseball America, Houston had been interested in Harville out of college, and I’m sure Oakland was hot after Saarloos. Texas loves power pitches, so it makes sense that Hunsicker would make this move. Saarloos will have more time to get acclimated in the minors, but his future is like Harville’s: middle relief.

I can’t say there is a clear winner in this trade, but Saarloos’ options might just be the most effective part of this deal.

4) Expos placed OF Carl Everett on 15-day DL; recalled OF Matt Cepicky from AAA

The “R” in WAR
How a person can be a hero by being a zero.

Expos R/G in Player A’s absence: 1.7
Expos R/G in Player B’s absence: 4.8

In the old Rob Neyer style of looking at things, I’ll tell you that Player A is Carl Everett, without whom the Expos have scored only 12 runs in seven games. Without Everett and Nick Johnson, Montreal has been unable to score runs, especially with Brad Wilkerson‘s slump. Oh yeah, and Player B? Vladimir Guerrero. That outfielder that missed 36 games with an injury last year…not so important. Everett is essential for this team not to embarrass itself, a proposition that looks hilarious at best right now.

5) White Sox placed SS Jose Valentin on 15-day DL; purchased the contract of SS Kelly Dransfeldt from AAA

Ken Williams did nothing last winter. He sat and watched while his innings-eater (Colon), best reliever (Gordon) and big-name 2B (Alomar) all left for different teams. The White Sox made very few additions, and in doing so, forgot about depth. Willie Harris, he of the .204 2003 average, was penciled in at second base. Juan Uribe, the light-hitting version of Neifi Perez, was the middle infield ‘insurance’. And now, Ken Williams is getting punished, and powerful shortstop Jose Valentin is on the DL.

So now the White Sox have an everyday middle infield of Harris and Uribe. And while Uribe is currently tearing the cover off the ball, the Law of Averages will make that dip. So who takes over Uribe’s old seat on the bench? None other than Kelly Dransfeldt himself. Why the former Michigan shortstop still plays baseball is beyond me, seeing as though he hasn’t hit .250 since 1998. Well, I guess that means Ozzie is sure to love him, while Chicago fans sit back and curse their GM.

6) Royals placed SS Angel Berroa on 15-day DL; purchased the contract of SS Andres Blanco from AA; activated RHP Kevin Appier from 15-day DL; optioned LHP Jamie Cerda to AAA

From one powerful AL Central SS to another, Angel Berroa now finds himself on the DL, thanks to some bad migraine headaches. Berroa had become the leadoff hitter of this team, and his great defense at shortstop is essential. In his place is Andres Blanco, a weak-hitting shortstop with less than one month’s experience above the Carolina League. He doesn’t have great baserunning skills, and absolutely zero power, as his zero home runs in 788 AB proves. With Desi and Berroa hurt up the middle, Tony Graffanino and Mendy Lopez are going to have to step up big time. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks in the AL Central.

7) Minnesota traded LHP Brad Thomas to the Boston Red Sox for cash or a PTBNL

Theo’s attempts to find some LOOGY, any LOOGY, to pitch in that bullpen continue. But I must say, this trade reminds me more of the Bronson Arroyo claim, and one that could turn out very well for the Red Sox. Thomas, an Australian left-hander, was at times a great prospect. He dominated the Midwest League in 1998, but struggled in the Florida State League in 1999. The next year he spent half the time dominating the FSL, then was destroyed by the Eastern League. In 2001, he pitched very well in AA, but got hammered in a premature visit to the Metrodome. After struggling in the PCL in 2002, Thomas pitched very sparingly in 2003, but we did see K/9 numbers of old (50 in 58.2 IP).

What I’m trying to say here is that Thomas needs time to get used to his level before succeeding. Another summer in AAA could prove well, and Thomas could look to have a spot as early as 2005. Rushing to him to the LOOGY role is a bad move, and one that could stall his development.

8) Diamondbacks placed 2B Robbie Alomar on 15-day DL; recalled 3B Chad Tracy from AAA; activated C Robby Hammock from 15-day DL; optioned RHP Andrew Good to AAA

Yes, Robbie Alomar really is trying to end his career in the worst ways possible. While it’s seemingly impossible for Alomar to hit himself out of Cooperstown, it’s been years since this guy was usable. The Diamondbacks will be better with Matt Kata, and by trying to find a spot for Chad Tracy. Tracy, like Jason Lane in Houston, just needs to find a home somewhere, as he’s just too damn good to be on some bench or AAA bus. Why wouldn’t a team with a 3B hole (Reds? Pirates? Devil Rays?) try to acquire this guy? And yes, I’d like to clarify, Chuck LaMar still has a job with the Tampa organization.

9) Rangers placed RHP Colby Lewis and 1B Mark Teixeira on 15-day DL; recalled LHP Ryan Snare and 1B Adrian Gonzalez from AAA

Now it’s time for John Hart to see up close and personal exactly what he got out of the Ugueth Urbina trade. Snare, a 25-year-old southpaw, saw a big drop in K/9 rates last year. But the kid remains consistent, as his ERA hasn’t topped 4.00 or dipped below 3.00 at any level. Replacing Colby Lewis isn’t too difficult of a job, though I don’t see Snare being suited for the Major Leagues.

Gonzalez, he’s a different story. The former #1 overall choice has only about 300 AB of non-struggling baseball above AA, so he’s definitely not ready. It’s not a good idea to rush your top prospect, and I think the Rangers would have been better off calling up someone else. Look for Gonzalez to struggle big time until Teixeira gets off the DL.

10) Mets signed RHP Ricky Botallico to a minor league contract and assigned him to AAA

No matter how hard he tries, how bad he pitches, Ricky Bottalico manages to stay in baseball. It’s weird that people don’t see through his name, but they can’t, they immediately flash to that kid who saved 68 games for the Phillies in back-to-back years. Who cares that since 1998, only one of his seasons has contained an ERA under 4.00, and that he can no longer strikeout one batter an inning? He’s Ricky Bottalico, the Rafael Soriano/Francisco Rodriguez of the 1995 Philadelphia Phillies. With Scott Erickson and Ricky Bottalico (not to mention guys like Glavine and Leiter), the Mets are seeking to establish the best collection of once-great players on this side of the planet. Well Jim Duquette…it’s working.

11) Mariners activated 3B Scott Spiezio from 15-day DL; optioned RHP J.J. Putz to AAA

Note to Bavasi/Melvin: Please, let that be the last time Willie Bloomquist gets a start at the hot corner. A .600 OPS is pretty necessary to play a power position, and while he may have had that in September of 2002, this is 2004. It’s amazing how many useless players (Bloomquist, Hansen, McCracken) the Mariners are currently carrying.

12) Devil Rays recalled RHP Travis Harper from AAA; designated IF/OF Jason Romano for assignment

With Damian Moss finally having to move to the rotation, the Devil Rays needed one more arm for their bullpen. While the starting rotation has been shaky this year, the bullpen has been rock solid, with great performances by newcomers Danys Baez and Trever Miller. I’ve always liked Harper, and I thought he was one of the top two or three relievers the Devil Rays used last year. It shocked me that he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, but I didn’t think Lou Piniella was going to wait until April 22 to use his fifth starter.

Things have soured for Jason Romano. It wasn’t long ago that Romano was thought to be the next Rangers 2B, soon to be paining up with Alex Rodriguez up the middle in Arlington. But Michael Young came along and stole the show, and Romano’s career has never been the same since. His ability to play six or seven positions makes him useful, so I predict he’ll be a Mariner by season’s end.

13) Indians placed LHP Jason Stanford and RHP Jose Jimenez on 15-day DL; recalled LHP Jeriome Robertson and RHP Dave Lee from AAA

It was only a matter of time before the worst 15-game winner in recent memory was called up and planted into the Indians rotation. Robertson really brings nothing to the table, and it shouldn’t take a long time for the Indians to realize this. Stanford isn’t a lot to replace, so that makes it all the more discouraging that the Indians can’t even do that.

The injury to Jose Jimenez is really damaging, as it seems the Indians relief depth is constantly being tested. Instead of a youngster like Kaz Tadano, Mark Shapiro elected to call up Dave Lee, the veteran reliever on the wrong side of 30. He has been effective in the Majors, as a 3.70 ERA in 41 games with San Diego in 2001 and a 3.67 ERA in 36 games with Colorado in 1999 prove. He still walks way too many guys, and sooner or later that is going to catch up to him.

14) Toronto traded RHP Scott Cassidy to the Boston Red Sox

OK, maybe it’s not just southpaws, let’s just say that Theo Epstein must try and trade for every reliever that moves. Cassidy is nothing special, a 28-year-old right-hander who was good in the International League last year, his first as a reliever. Epstein is hoping to land another Brandon Lyon here, but Jason Shiell is a more likely result.

15) Red Sox traded LHP Ed Yarnall to Phillies

You probably looked at this trade, and remembered seeing the name Yarnall before. Yeah, he was that southpaw with a big curve that dominated in his first two months in professional baseball, and then became a vastly overrated prospect. Sure, he’s that kid who couldn’t cut it here, so spent some time overseas pitching in the Japanese League. The same guy who made noise in A’s camp last year, only to hardly get through the AAA season with them. His problems are the same as always, too many walks, and I just don’t see him going anywhere. Better than Brad Thomas? No way. Better than Bud Smith? Well…

16) Blue Jays recalled IF Howie Clark from AAA; designated OF Chad Hermansen for assignment

Mainly, I’m writing about this move for Craig Burley. Craig is in total confusion as to why Toronto made this move, seeing as though they’ve left themselves with three outfielders on the whole roster. Clark, a great minor league signing last winter, is a Scott Spezio infield type. Hermansen, formerly a top prospect, has always struggled to hit his weight at the Major League level. This is bad roster management by Toronto, but it was a bad idea to get Hermansen to begin with. Wait…how long until Alexis Rios gets here?

17) OF McKay Christensen announces his retirement

For some reason, I’m really sad to see McKay retire. Maybe this is because he never got his chance, or maybe I just like blue-collar players. Maybe it’s because I was there in 1999, witnessing his first of what would be two career home runs. But for whatever reason, I’ll miss reading his name.

After hitting between .280 and .290 from 1997-1999 (A+, AA, AAA), Christensen debuted with the White Sox in 1999. He hit just .226 in 53 AB, but got very few starts in 28 games. Same story in 2000, when McKay got just two hits in 19 AB, but appeared in 32 games. His base-running and defense were well-received, but Chicago wasn’t his place to get an everyday job.

So after a few more months with the White Sox in 2001 (and four AB!), McKay was moved out West to the Dodgers. He was moved up to the Majors in a short time, and promptly hit .327 in 49 AB. But, Los Angeles still didn’t give him enough chances, and he left for the Big Apple. The Mets signed him to a minor league deal, and he made one helluva run at the Mets CF job. But, he lost.

On the surface, 2002 was his best year, as he hit .284 and pounded a career high 34 XBH at AAA. But the plate discipline he once had vanished, as his BB/K numbers worsened to 26/72. McKay was caught stealing 13 times in 33 attempts, and by then, what had made Christiansen unique had long since left. He was just another sleet-footed outfielder with an empty batting average, heading nowhere fast. Contrary to popular belief, he will be missed by at least one person.

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