Lost in Transactions 4/13-4/19/09: DeWitt, Milledge demoted; Holland arrives in Texas

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Blake DeWitt (Icon/SMI)

After a hiatus, Lost in Transactions is back. This week had plenty of changes, from demotions to trades to injuries. I picked one to two transactions per day to opine about, so let’s go through the list. One note: This will be less statistically-inclined than usual, because sample sizes are still too small to draw any significant conclusions from at the moment. Let’s spin through the week.

4/13/09


Arizona Diamondbacks recalled RHP Bobby Korecky from Triple-A Reno.

Boston Red Sox placed SS Jed Lowrie on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 12, with a left wrist sprain. Recalled INF Gil Velazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Chicago White Sox released nonroster RHP Franklyn German.

Los Angeles Dodgers optioned INF Blake DeWitt to Triple-A Albuquerque. Purchased the contract of SS Juan Castro from Triple-A Albuquerque. Activated OF Delwyn Young from the 15-day disabled list and designated him for assignment.

23-year old Blake DeWitt can’t catch a break.

A year after amassing 421 at-bats and hitting a respectable .264/.344/.383, the second/third-baseman has been shuttled off to the minors. As frustrating as it may be for DeWitt and Dodgers fans, this was the right move. DeWitt needs to continue getting as many at-bats as he can, and that’ll happen in Triple-A. With Orlando Hudson on a one-year pact and Casey Blake getting older with every passing day, the future is there for DeWitt; it’s just not right now.

That said, DeWitt is clearly the top infield option off the bench.

Castro, 37, is worthless with the stick but can play the infield, while Doug Mientkiewicz parlayed a strong spring into a spot on the bench. Later in the week, Minky went on the DL, so DeWitt has since been recalled. It’s only a temporary move.

The question is: should the Dodgers look to carry both Castro and Mientkiewicz or have DeWitt be the top option off the bench with Castro or another player riding the pine permanently? It’s not an easy call at times, especially when DeWitt has shown he’s capable of producing at the major league level. Again, however, he’s 23. If he was 25, it would be a completely different story (Trevor Crowe in Cleveland).

Tampa Bay Rays activated OF B.J. Upton from the 15-day disabled list. Placed C Shawn Riggans on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 10, with right shoulder tendinitis. Purchased the contract of C Michel Hernandez from Triple-A Durham.

Washington Nationals placed 2B Willie Harris on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique pull. Activated 2B Anderson Hernandez from the 15-day disabled list.

4/14/09

Arizona Diamondbacks activated RHP Max Scherzer from the 15-day disabled list. Optioned RHP Billy Buckner to Triple-A Reno.

Boston Red Sox claimed 2B Travis Denker off waivers from the Padres and optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket. He had been designated for assignment on April 10. Transferred RHP Miguel Gonzalez from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.

Denker, 23, was lost on waivers by the Giants to the Padres. Now he heads to the Red Sox and has since been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

His fielding is in question, but he displays solid gap power and is regarded by many to have a future as a utilityman, perhaps even as a starter at second.

With the Red Sox’s infield woes raring up and biting them where the sun don’t shine, Denker was a logical acquisition even though the true hole is at shortstop. Mike Lowell doesn’t have a pristine bill of heath, and with Dustin Pedroia‘s all-out play, injury always lurks around the corner.

Chicago White Sox placed OF DeWayne Wise on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 3 separated right shoulder. Purchased the contract of OF Jerry Owens from Triple-A Charlotte. Signed free agent OF Scott Podsednik, who had been with the Rockies, to a Minor League contract.

Scotty Po returns!

Podsednik’s best season came in 2003 at age 27 for the Brewers, where he hit .314/.379/.443. By the time he helped Chicago win the World Series in 2005, he had no power and was experiencing a decline in batting average.

He departed to Colorado last year and saw 93 games of action. He was released in spring training by the Rockies, and a White Sox club desperate for center fielders brought him back into town.

Podsednik is certainly not the answer, but neither are Jerry Owens, Brian Anderson or DeWayne Wise. All three of these outfielders can handle playing center, but hitting is another story. The White Sox are hopeful that Podsednik can show flashes of his former self and help hold down center field, but the position figures to be a season-long problem unless Kenny Williams swings a trade. Melky Cabrera from the Yankees is a popular name, but doesn’t make much sense as he is not an appreciable upgrade over what they have. Aaron Rowand from San Francisco is an intriguing thought, but I doubt the Giants would eat the money that the Sox would ask of them.

Their offense is potent enough that they can afford to have a weak link (or two) in their lineup, but it’s also filled with aging sluggers. Williams is making an effort to go younger, likely to combat Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko‘s increasing creakiness. A couple unlucky bounces of the ball, and the ChiSox could be looking at the cellar. It’s part of what makes the center field situation in Chicago more important than it may come across as: there is no significant lack of depth and plenty of risk for things going wrong.

(Anyone wanna bet Kenny is phoning the Nationals about Lastings Milledge?)

Cleveland Indians optioned 2B Josh Barfield to Triple-A Columbus.

Washington Nationals optioned OF Lastings Milledge to Triple-A Syracuse.

This is a surprising move, but only because of the name involved. Josh Willingham deserves to start more often and the club has an incredible glut of outfielders and first basemen. Something had to give to get everyone playing time, and Milledge was the choice to go down due to what those in the game call a laissez-faire attitude.

Milledge’s talent is undeniable and will likely have a 20/20 season before he retires, but his motivation is in question. He has been late for team meetings and shown an indifferent attitude, but Milledge won’t be held back significantly because of this. Teams will play him, and if he produces, they’ll deal with his attitude. At the same time, Lastings needs to adjust his behavior because it’s costing him playing time right now. No one knows if Lastings will take this demotion to heart, but even if he doesn’t feel the need to suddenly become the example in the clubhouse for everyone to follow, all he has to do is be on time and aware of what is expected of him. It’s not hard to simply follow the rules. Roughly 800 people do it in the big leagues every year.

Los Angeles Angels optioned OF Reggie Willits to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Minnesota Twins optioned LHP Brian Duensing to Triple-A Rochester.

Toronto Blue Jays placed RHP Jesse Litsch on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm tightness. Recalled LHP Bill Murphy from Triple-A Las Vegas.

4/15/09

Baltimore Orioles placed INF Melvin Mora and RHP Alfredo Simon on the 15-day disabled list. Recalled RHP Matt Albers and RHP Radhames Liz from Triple-A Norfolk.

Boston Red Sox placed RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka on the 15-day disabled list with a mild right shoulder strain. Recalled LHP Hunter Jones from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Cleveland Indians recalled LHP Aaron Laffey from Triple-A Columbus.

Laffey was not having a pretty start to the year in Triple-A and is another in a long line of Cleveland pitchers who don’t have an overwhelming fastball. Nearly all of their major and minor league rotations are filled with No. 3/No. 4 type prospects and Laffey is no exception.

He started 16 games last year, posting a 4.23 ERA and 5.01 xFIP. As a lefty, Laffey will have plenty of chances to prove himself, but his low strikeout numbers (four per game last year) can’t sustain that 4.23 ERA with a 51.1 groundball percentage. Considering his fastball is of the sinking variety, it means he was leaving the ball up too often.

Promoted to take the place of Scott Lewis (who was injured), Laffey whiffed five in 5.2 innings, which can be considered progress. What can’t be is his three walks, although he has generally exhibited solid control. Since this is Laffey’s final option year, he needs to make an impressive showing or risk being exposed on waivers or traded after the year is over.

Houston Astros placed RHP Brian Moehler on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee. Recalled RHP Alberto Arias from Triple-A Round Rock.

Los Angeles Angels recalled RHP Rafael Rodriguez from Triple-A Salt Lake.

Minnesota Twins activated RHP Scott Baker from the 15-day disabled list.

Pittsburgh Pirates acquired OF Delwyn Young from the Dodgers for two PTBNLs or cash. He had been designated for assignment on April 13. Designated LHP David Davidson for assignment.

Young, a fourth-round pick by the Dodgers in 2002, was supposed to develop into a good player. Now 27, he still has enough promise to get the Pittsburgh Pirates to pick him up and insert him into their outfield logjam. In seven seasons and 3,043 at-bats in the minors, Young has hit .302/.362/.515, which gives hope that he could give the Pirates or another team a smattering of 20-homer seasons. He is pretty much an outfielder but can play second in an absolute emergency.

Since the Pirates now have only one backup middle infielder, it would not surprise me if Young grabs a couple games at second.

Seattle Mariners activated OF Ichiro Suzuki from the 15-day disabled list. Placed LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 11, with triceps tendinitis.

St. Louis Cardinals placed RHP Chris Carpenter on the 15-day disabled list. Optioned RHP Brad Thompson to Triple-A Memphis. Recalled RHP Mitchell Boggs and RHP Chris Perez from Triple-A Memphis.

Texas Rangers activated RHP Willie Eyre from the 15-day disabled list. Optioned RHP Warner Madrigal to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Washington Nationals recalled OF Roger Bernadina from Triple-A Syracuse. Sent outfielder Leonard Davis outright to Double-A Harrisburg.

4/16/09

Atlanta Braves activated C David Ross from the 15-day disabled list. Optioned C Clint Sammons to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Cincinnati Reds acquired INF Drew Sutton from the Astros to complete the March 31 trade and optioned him to Triple-A Louisville. Sent 2B Danny Richar outright to Triple-A Louisville.

A baffling trade by the Houston Astros.

The Astros traded Sutton for infielder Jeff Keppinger, an infielder who can play second, short and third. Keppinger experienced a breakthrough year in 2007 but in full-time duty in 2008 fell back to Earth, posting a line of .266/.310/.346. Certainly passable for a middle infielder in the National League, but far from All-Star worthy. The Astros grabbed him in response to the news that Aaron Boone would be lost for the season.

What did they trade for the 29-year old infielder?

A 26-year old infielder who was ranked the Asros’ eighth-best prospect by Baseball America. Sutton hit .317/.408/.523 for Double-A and blistered pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

Sutton doesn’t have appreciable range at second, but has plenty of sock in his bat. He could make it as a starting second- or third-baseman for the Reds, and could also give the Reds the depth they feel they need to trade Edwin Encarnacion and his awful glove.

The Astros needed Keppinger, to be sure, but was it worth giving up Sutton? No. Not at all.

Drayton McLane and Ed Wade are slowly but surely putting this franchise into the Dark Ages, and they just re-upped manager Cecil Cooper for another year despite Cooper being the overwhelming favorite to be the first manager fired. Clearly, the Astros will be a non-factor for years to come.

Kansas City Royals placed 3B Alex Gordon on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip labral cartilage tear. Recalled OF Mitch Maier from Triple-A Omaha.

Milwaukee Brewers placed RHP David Riske on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 10, with a tight right elbow. Recalled LHP R.J. Swindle from Triple-A Nashville.

New York Yankees placed outfielder Xavier Nady on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 15, with right elbow pain. Recalled RHP David Robertson from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Nick Swisher deserved to start over Xavier Nady anyway, but Nady drew the gig at the beginning of the year.

We’ll never know if Nady would have been able to keep up his career year, but now that news are surfacing he will likely need a second Tommy John surgery, it means that Nady will likely return and finish out his career as a platoon/backup outfielder.

The Yankees now have Melky Cabrera as their primary option on the bench and suddenly have a thin outfield bench and a rotating pitching spot (Robertson and Claggett were both recalled and then demoted almost immediately after their recall). With Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon‘s fragility, it’s a situation to monitor—early scuttlebutt has the Yankees eyeing Austin Kearns from the Nationals.

Seattle Mariners placed C Kenji Johjima on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Optioned 3B Matt Tuiasosopo to Triple-A Tacoma. Purchased the contracts of C Jamie Burke and RHP Sean White from Triple-A Tacoma.

4/17/09

Atlanta Braves placed RHP Jorge Campillo on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. Recalled RHP James Parr from Triple-A Gwinnett.

Los Angeles Dodger recalled INF Blake DeWitt from Triple-A Albuquerque. Placed INF Doug Mientkiewicz on the 15-day disabled list with a dislocated right shoulder.

Minnesota Twins claimed RHP Juan Morillo off waivers from the Rockies. Designated RHP Philip Humber for assignment.

A great claim by the Twins, who didn’t let the fact that Humber was acquired in the Johan Santana trade stand in their way. Morillo is a flamethrower with control issues, but his ceiling is far higher than that of Humber, who throws softer and gives up home runs quite often. Humber could still morph into a solid No. 4 starter, but Morillo can at least strike people out coming from the bullpen.

Humber had given up 11 hits in 4.1 innings this year, although he showed encouraging separation in his BB/K ratio, posting one walk to four strikeouts. (Yes, yes, sample size and all that.)

Morillo, on the other hand, only received 8.2 big league innings over three years before being waived. In Triple-A last year, he struck out 56 in 59.2 innings but gave up an unsightly 56 walks (this is not a misprint) and only 53 hits and three dingers. Control is all that stands between him and his ceiling, which could be that of a top closer.

At 25, he’s still young enough to put it all together.

New York Yankees recalled 1B Juan Miranda from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Optioned RHP David Robertson to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

I’m actually a bit surprised the club opted to recall Miranda instead of Shelley Duncan. Duncan can at least play the outfield and bat against left-handers (which they need). Miranda is limited to first, while Duncan would give the Yankees the flexibility to put Swisher at first base should they feel the need to rest Mark Teixeira or put Duncan in the outfield.

They’ll probably swap Miranda for Duncan later on.

Pittsburgh Pirates optioned INF Luis Cruz to Triple-A Indianapolis. Activated OF Delwyn Young to the 25-man roster.

St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP P.J. Walters from Triple-A Memphis. Optioned RHP Josh Kinney to Memphis.

Walters, 24, has below-average stuff but has no trouble whiffing batters, as he evidenced by striking out seven Cubbies in four innings. He likely doesn’t have the stuff to succeed long-term in the rotation, but could pan out to be a very nice reliever. Walters’ minor league career bears out a 50.7 percent groundball rate, an 8.3 K/9 ratio and consistently low BABIPs.

Washington Nationals placed SS Cristian Guzman on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 14, with a left hamstring strain.

4/18/09

Atlanta Braves designated RHP Blaine Boyer for assignment. Recalled LHP Jo-Jo Reyes from Triple-A Gwinnett.

Houston Astros recalled RHP Felipe Paulino from Triple-A Round Rock. Optioned RHP Alberto Arias to Round Rock. Exercised the contract option of manager Cecil Cooper for 2010.

Arias and Paulino look to end up as bullpen pieces for the Astros down the road, but for now they’re still breaking in as starters. Arias started two games and relieved in another but has an ugly 6.75 ERA on the year. He has nothing appreciable that stands out; he’s just solid across the board.

Paulino, on the other hand, is a hard thrower that debuted in 2007 at age 23. His debut was marred with hits galore, but did whiff 11 in 19 innings. He lost 2008 to injury and is looking to put the luster back onto his name.

Los Angeles Dodgers recalled LHP Scott Elbert from Double-A Chattanooga. Placed RHP Cory Wade on 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 12 with right shoulder bursitis.

New York Mets purchased the contract of RHP Nelson Figueroa from Triple-A Buffalo. Designated RHP Darren O’Day for assignment. Placed C Brian Schneider on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 16, with a muscle strain in his mid-back. Purchased the contract of C Omir Santos from Triple-A Buffalo.

New York Yankees optioned 1B Juan Miranda to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Recalled RHP Anthony Claggett.

Oakland Athletics optioned LHP Jerry Blevins to Triple-A Sacramento. Recalled RHP Dan Giese from Triple-A Sacramento.

Los Angeles Angels placed outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, retroactive to Thursday, and pitcher Dustin Moseley on the 15-day disabled list; purchased the contract of pitcher Dan Davidson from Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Rich Thompson from Salt Lake City.

Texas Rangers purchased the contract of LHP Derek Holland from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Designated RHP Josh Rupe for assignment.

Holland is a top prospect in the Texas organization, but this move caught me by surprise. Only 22, I would have thought that the club would have placed more value on him staying in the minors and pitching out of the rotation.

He’s a future member of Texas’ rotation, but will pitch out of the bullpen for now.

The left-hander pitched at Single-A, Advanced-A and Double-A last year, dominating the competition at each level. His numbers last year overall? 13-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts. He only got to start one game on the year in 2009, a poor effort in Triple-A, which makes the promotion all that much more interesting.

He may be looked upon as a shutdown lefty out of the pen — his mid-90s heater will certainly do plenty of shutting down — and it seems to be a big signal that the Rangers are invested in competing this year. Holland showed such advanced pitchability that he probably won’t suffer too much from the aggressive promotion, but I still would have given him a couple more starts in Triple-A.

They certainly have no intentions of sending Holland back to the minor leagues, so he’ll have to fight his way into a rotation spot this year. He should be a member of the rotation next year, and my guess is that they’re bringing him out of the bullpen to not only limit his innings at the outset of the season (for possible inclusion in the rotation later in the year without taxing him, allowing him to prepare for next year’s increased workload) but to have him get used to the hitter’s haven that is his home park.

Another prized pitcher in the Texas system, Neftali Feliz, may follow a similar path later this year.

The Rangers are getting good, and fast. I think it’s smart of them to bring up their best pitchers and introduce them to the major leagues and more importantly, the home park through brief appearances. As I previously touched on, they probably want to limit Holland’s innings and yet get him the experience needed to make an impact in their rotation next year. This is probably the most effective way to do that; there’s not much that Holland needs to learn in the minors anymore.

My trepidation comes with his innings number. If the Rangers keep him in the bullpen all year, he’ll have a huge workload heaped on him next year which could lead to a breakdown by Holland. I can only hope the new regime in Texas has learned from the old. If they plan on shifting Holland into the rotation later this year and getting him his innings to prepare for next year, I’m all for it. If not, though?

Then Holland will probably follow the trail of broken dreams by former Texas prospects.

Toronto Blue Jays placed C Michael Barrett on the 15-day disabled list with a muscle tear in his right shoulder. Purchased the contract of C Raul Chavez from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Washington Nationals purchased the contract of INF Alex Cintron from Triple-A Syracuse. Placed OF Roger Bernadina on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right ankle.

4/19/09

New York Yankees recalled RHP Steven Jackson from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Optioned RHP Anthony Claggett to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Washington Nationals recalled OF Justin Maxwell from Triple-A Syracuse. Placed OF Roger Bernadina on 15-day disabled list.

Maxwell, 25, got the call over Lastings Milledge primarily because Lastings needs to play every day while Maxwell can take a seat, and primarily because Maxwell isn’t good enough to justify starting.

He was drafted in 2005 with a lot of promise, but has had trouble staying on the field. 2007 has been the only year of his first three years in the minors to have a relatively injury-free season. He only had 146 at-bats last year in Double-A, where he hit .233/.367/.459.

He still has the potential to make an impact, as his career .263/.354/.462 line suggests in only 912 career at-bats (he hit two home runs in his major league debut last year, totalling 26 at-bats). However, he’s far too raw to depend on and will head back to start in Triple-A as soon as Bernadina returns.

He’s 25, but it’s too early to give up on him. What he needs is to stay healthy and play every day.

San Diego Padres placed RHP Walter Silva on 15-day disabled list. Recalled RHP Josh Geer from Triple-A Portland.

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