Lost in Transactions 4/20-4/26/09: Mets grab Wily Mo, Hoffman returns

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Trevor Hoffman (Icon/SMI)

In this week’s edition of Lost in Transactions, we applaud the Mets for picking up Wily Mo Pena. The Brewers look to turn fortunes around with Trevor Hoffman returning and Andrew Miller hit the DL for the Marlins.

4/20/09

Atlanta Braves acquired OF Brian Barton from the Cardinals in exchange for RHP Blaine Boyer.

Barton was a Rule 5 pick from the Cleveland Indians last year. Spending the full year in the bigs, Barton hit .268/.354/.392 as a 26-year-old. He showed promise of being able to launch a career as a backup outfielder. With the Cardinals full up in the outfield, however, Barton was sent to Atlanta where he was demoted to Triple-A.

Boyer has pitched a career 118 innings in the majors with lukewarm results. He holds a career ERA of 5.42, with 106 strikeouts and 47 walks. He showed immense promise as a rookie, tossing 37.2 innings as a 23-year old in 2005, notching a 3.11 ERA. Injuries caused him to miss most of 2006 and 2007 and despite similar K/BB numbers to his rookie year, saw a marked increase in hits and home runs given up. He has a nice sinker that induces batters to ground out. All in all, while Boyer may have been out of options, he has the better future outlook of the two people involved in the deal.

Baltimore Orioles optioned RHP Radhames Liz to Triple-A Norfolk.

Minnesota Twins placed RHP Jesse Crain on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 18, with right shoulder inflammation.

New York Mets signed free agent OF Wily Mo Pena, who had been with the Nationals, to a minor league contract.

This is a great get for the Mets, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pena supplant Gary Sheffield on the roster in the coming months. Pena has always been long on power and short on putting it all together. He simply doesn’t recognize pitches well and hasn’t, to date, received consistent enough playing time to really harness his power. However, if you take out Pena’s poor year last year which was exacerbated by injury and also give him a pass on his first two years in the bigs (199 AB as a 20- and 21-year-old), his cumulative line of .266/.321/.488 starts to look a lot better. (His actual career line is .253/.307/.447.)

Still young at age 27, the talent is there for Pena to contribute. Perhaps playing day in and day out in Triple-A will be just what he needed and the Mets can make him their left fielder later this year.

San Diego Padres placed SS Everth Cabrera on the 60-day disabled list with a fractured hamate bone in his left hand.

Washington Nationals recalled RHP Jason Bergmann and Garrett Mock from Triple-A Syracuse. Purchased the contracts of RHP Kip Wells and RHP Jordan Zimmermann from Triple-A Syracuse.

A rather impressive overhaul. Zimmermann excelled in his first two starts and he’s almost certainly up for good. Kip Wells is just a band aid. How fortunate they are that Steven Strasburg is landing in their laps.

4/21/09

Baltimore Orioles placed INF/OF Ryan Freel on the 15-day disabled list with a head injury. Recalled OF Lou Montanez and SP Brad Bergesen from Triple-A Norfolk.

Boston Red Sox placed OF Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

If I could have bet on Baldelli hitting the DL before the All-Star Break, I would have.

Chicago White Sox designated RHP Mike MacDougal for assignment. Recalled RHP Jack Egbert from Triple-A Charlotte.

Florida Marlins placed LHP Andrew Miller on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain. Recalled RHP Burke Badenhop from Triple-A New Orleans.

Miller was a first-round pick in 2006 and debuted later that year at age 21. Since then, he’s amassed 35 career starts and has shuttled between the bullpen and rotation for the Marlins. Acquired by Florida from Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade, even the move to the National League hasn’t helped. Even though he pushed his WHIP down to a career-low 1.64 last year in 107.1 innings, Miller posted a 5.87 ERA. Rather misleading as his xFIP was 4.63, but control is constantly an issue.

Miller has a career 5.3 BB/9, which is simply awful. To compare, Daniel Cabrera‘s career BB/9 is 5.1.

Miller also keeps losing velocity—in 2006 his fastball clocked in at 94.3 mph. Since then, it’s gone down to 92.1, 91.5 and 89.1. He’s started relying on his changeup to be his secondary pitch and has all but abandoned his curveball with his slider as a “show-me” pitch.

Miller may be best served to pitch out of the bullpen upon his return until he can regain his velocity.

Badenhop, 26, debuted last year with eight starts and 13 total games. He clocked a 6.08 ERA with 21 walks and 35 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. Badenhop’s had a rough go of it in Triple-A so far, but he has an unsustainable .402 BABIP against him, so that’s nothing to worry about. Badenhop looks like a solid back of the rotation starter but will probably end up in middle relief due to an inability to strike out batters and his BB/9 ratio not strong enough to project a Paul Byrd path for him.

Kansas City Royals recalled RHP Brian Bannister from Triple-A Omaha. Placed RHP Doug Waechter on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 18, with a lateral strain in his right elbow.

Bannister had a promising debut for the Royals in 2007 after coming over from the Mets. His BABIP was .266 and showed good control with a great ability to keep the ball in the park. The extremes swung the other way in 2008 with a high BABIP and the balls flying out of the park. Bannister’s FIP in 2007 was 4.40 as compared to an actual ERA of 3.87. Last year, his ERA was 5.76 as compared to a 5.03 ERA, so it’s clear to me that FIP is a better indicator of his true talent.

Bannister would go on to stifle the Indians in his first start of the season, certainly earning him another start. While the motivation behind getting him in the rotation was, as usual, suspect from the Royals’ perspective (they only moved Horacio Ramirez to the bullpen because they believed the bullpen needed the shoring up) at least it happened.

Meanwhile, Luke Hochevar toils in the minor leagues: 3 GS, 1.89 ERA, 19 IP, 5 BB, 9 K. Hochevar will never improve unless he’s challenged, and it’s obvious he belongs at the majors. In what capacity is to be determined. He’ll likely never live up to his billing as their top draft pick in 2006.

Minnesota Twins recalled LHP Jose Mijares from Triple-A Rochester.

Pittsburgh Pirates placed C Ryan Doumit on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 20, with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. Recalled C Robinzon Diaz from Triple-A Indianapolis.

San Diego Padres acquired INF Chris Burke from the Mariners in exchange for cash considerations.

Washington Nationals recalled RHP Saul Rivera from Triple-A Syracuse. Placed LHP Joe Beimel on the 15-day disabled list with a left hip flexor strain.

4/22/09

Boston Red Sox selected 1B/OF Jeff Bailey from Triple-A Pawtucket. Placed RHP Devern Hansack on unconditional release waivers. Optioned OF Chris Carter to Triple-A Pawtucket.

4/23/09

Boston Red Sox acquired LHP Kason Gabbard from the Texas Rangers in exchange for cash. Placed RHP Devern Hansack on outright release waivers.

As a Red Sox fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Kason back in the fold. Gabbard was a solid pitcher in his time with the Sox—perhaps not fantastic, but absolutely solid. He threw a complete game shutout two weeks before being traded along with David Murphy and Engel Beltre for Eric Gagne, but no need to rip open old wounds, is there?

Gabbard has a solid curveball and certainly doesn’t have velocity by any means, but he just doesn’t give in to the hitter and makes do with what he has. His build denotes his ability to go long into games and could rediscover his abilities back with Boston. Indeed, in 81.1 innings for the Sox in 2007, he had a 4.5 BB/9 and 6.1 K/9. Now, the BB/9 isn’t anything to write home about, but when your ERA (4.65) approximates your FIP (4.70) you have something on your hands.

The next year, he’d go for 56 innings and see his BB/9 spike to 6.3 and K/9 to 5.3. He also battled injury and was converted to a reliever this year, a conversion that didn’t stick. He’s back in town and will be returned to being a starter. I always thought he was a poor man’s Kenny Rogers, and that’s not a bad person to have stashed in Triple-A who can help out in a pinch. Plus, for some reason, lefties are rather notorious for taking especially long to develop. Just 27, Gabbard has plenty more future in him, and I’m glad the short-term future is in Boston.

Oakland Athletics optioned RHP Sean Gallagher to Triple-A Sacramento.

Toronto Blue Jays placed LHP B.J. Ryan (muscle tightness in left trapezius) and LHP Ricky Romero (strained right oblique) on the 15-day disabled list. Purchased contract of RHP Bryan Bullington from Triple-A Las Vegas.

So, was the BJ Ryan contract worth it? Tough call, even though he has another year left at $10 million. He was dominating in 2006 and 2008. The rest of the year and 2010 will be the true indicators.

4/24/09

Boston Red Sox activated OF Jonathan Van Every from the 15-day disabled list.

Florida Marlins claimed LHP Dave Davidson off waivers from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A New Orleans.

Los Angeles Angels optioned RHP Rich Thompson to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Atlanta Braves placed OF Garret Anderson on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday. Recalled OF Brandon Jones from Triple-A Gwinnett.

New York Yankees placed RHP Chien-Ming Wang on the 15-day disabled list. Recalled RHP Dave Robertson from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

So apparently Chien-Ming Wang isn’t over his foot injury.

Sorry, not buying it. He looked just fine in spring training, where he had a 4.15 ERA in six starts (4 BB, 10 K in 21.2 IP). Something else is wrong. Whether or not that’s simply not being ready for the season, a regression of his foot injury or something scarier (an injury to his arm), who knows. But you don’t go from 91-93 to barely cracking 90 mph on your fastball. You don’t just suddenly start leaving pitches up after having been a groundball machine all these years.

Wang could be back as soon as his 15 days are up. Or he could be out all season. The Yankees just don’t know, but without Wang, I question if they can make the playoffs. Either way, Phil Hughes will be making a start (multiple ones, rather) in Wang’s place this week.

Oakland Athletics recalled INF Jack Hannahan from Triple-A Sacramento.

Toronto Blue Jays purchased the contract of LHP Brian Burres from Triple-A Las Vegas.

4/25/09

Atlanta Braves placed C Brian McCann on the 15-day disabled list. Recalled C Clint Sammons from Triple-A Gwinnett.

Chicago White Sox recalled RHP Lance Broadway from Triple-A Charlotte. Optioned RHP Jack Egbert to Triple-A Charlotte.

Favorite Ozzieism of the week: “I will bench [Alexei Ramirez] if I see him moping around the way he was [Friday night]. The only power I have is the lineup card. I don’t need him the way he’s acting right now. There’s one thing about it: When you make me mad, I do stupid things. And I’m willing to do a stupid thing.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

Houston Astros placed C Humberto Quintero on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right shoulder. Recalled C J.R. Towles from Triple-A Round Rock.

While it’s not proper to exult in the injury of someone, it’s no denying this is good news for the Astros. Towles is the catcher of the future and needs to get at-bats at the major leagues. True, his 2008 line of .137/.250/.253 was godawful, but his BABIP was .157. .157!

He also had an embarrassingly poor line drive percentage, checking it at a scant 11.4 percent which is simply unsustainable, even if you’re Eddie Gaedel. Towels had a .344/.382/.531 line in Triple-A and should stand to get a few at-bats (he already has) more than the ‘Stros would have intended thanks to Ivan Rodriguez‘s poor start.

It’s not unfathomable to think that if I-Rod continues to struggle over the next two months that the club would release him and go to a Quintero/Towles platoon. Either way, as long as Towles can stay away from his gut-wrenching ways of last year, he should open up next year as the starting catcher.

Kansas City Royals designated C Brayan Pena for assignment. Activated OF Jose Guillen from the 15-day disabled list.

Los Angeles Angels recalled RHP Fernando Rodriguez from Triple-A Salt Lake. Designated LHP Daniel Davidson for assignment. Recalled RHP Anthony Ortega from Triple-A Salt Lake.

May and June can’t get here fast enough for the Angels, who will start getting all their starting pitchers back from injury.

Kelvim Escobar, who has been one of the better pitchers on the Angels staff since he signed to pitch there for 2004, will return in early June. John Lackey, in a contract year, will return within the next couple weeks after suffering a forearm strain. Lastly, Ervin Santana will join the club in mid-May. So by June, they’ll finally have a playoff-caliber rotation of Lackey, Santana, Saunders, Escobar and Jered Weaver. Can they stay in the race in the meantime? With Darren Oliver, Kevin Jepsen and Vladimir Guerrero also on the DL and the tragic death of Nick Adenhart, that’s in question.

New York Mets signed 3B Mike Lamb and LHP Nelson Figueroa to a minor league contract.

Detroit Tigers activated RHP Joel Zumaya from the 15-day disabled list. Optioned RHP Eddie Bonine to Triple-A Toledo.

Pittsburgh Pirates placed RHP Craig Hansen on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 20, with neck spasms. Recalled RHP Evan Meek from Triple-A Indianapolis.

New York Yankees released LHP Humberto Sanchez. Placed 3B Cody Ransom on the 60-day disabled list. Placed RHP Brian Bruney on the 15-day disabled list. Recalled INF Angel Berroa from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Purchased the contract of pitcher Mark Melancon from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

4/26/09

Arizona Diamondbacks placed SS Stephen Drew on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Optioned LHP Doug Slaten to Triple-A Reno. Recalled RHP Esmerling Vasquez from Triple-A Reno. Selected the contract of INF Josh Wilson from Triple-A Reno.

Detroit Tigers placed C Matt Treanor on the 15-day disabled list with a torn labrum in the right hip. Recalled C Dane Sardinha from Triple-A Toledo.

Florida Marlins selected the contract of LHP Graham Taylor from Double-A Jacksonville. Designated RHP Logan Kensing for assignment.

Taylor, a 10th-round selection in 2006, made his major league debut at age 24 Sunday replacing Andrew Miller. The left-hander, who has drawn comparisons to Jamie Moyer (the man he matched up against) drew the loss after struggling with control. With a fastball only around 85-86 mph, he’s got to have that control to survive. Six walks later (and a hit batter) in just 3.2 innings, he was headed to the showers and a poorly executed game plan. He had made three starts for Double-A on the year, posting a 3.24 ERA in 16.2 innings.

Kensing is still young (26) and can still dial the fastball up to the mid-90s, so he’ll get a shot somewhere else. In Kensing’s two seasons where he’s gotten more than a cup of coffee, he’s stuck out 113 in 106.1 innings, posting a 3.98 ERA. Frankly, I’m surprised the Marlins cut bait. I’m guessing he lands in San Diego, because what young flamethrower doesn’t these days?

Houston Astros activated RHP Doug Brocail from the 15-day disabled list. Optioned pitcher Jeff Fulchino to Triple-A Round Rock.

Milwaukee Brewers optioned LHP R.J. Swindle to Triple-A Nashville. Activated RHP Trevor Hoffman from the 15-day disabled list.

Hoffman is finally back and hoping to give the Brewers the shot in the arm they need out of the bullpen.

Hoffman was curiously prone to the home run ball all of a sudden last year, posting a 1.59 HR/9 ratio, the highest ratio since 1995 where he had a 3.88 ERA in 53.1 innings and 31 saves. These numbers were rather similar this year as well, when he posted a 3.77 ERA in 45.1 innings, saving 31.

Hoffman may be getting older, but there’s nothing to suggest that this sudden propensity to give up home runs is anything but a fluke.

Now that Hoffman is handling the ninth, it allows Todd Coffey and Mark DeFelice to come in earlier. Perhaps the Brewers will now be able to improve on their 8-10 record.

Pittsburgh Pirates placed shortstop Jack Wilson on the 15-day disabled list. Recalled shortstop Brian Bixler from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Bixler has the potential to take over at short for Jack Wilson once Wilson exits Pittsburgh (whether via trade or free agency) but he probably won’t stick for long. He has very low pop but a rather good eye. He seems best suited to a life as a utilityman. For short-term purposes, Ramon Vazquez looks to chew up the playing time made available.

San Diego Padres recalled outfielder Drew Macias from Triple-A Portland. Placed pitcher Shawn Hill on the 15-day disabled list.

Boston Red Sox optioned INF Gil Velazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket. Recalled RHP Michael Bowden from Triple-A Pawtucket.

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