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Commentary on each week's most notable transactions

Full Transaction Log

August 20, 2007 - Keith - Chicago Cubs designate C Koyie Hill for assignment

With Henry Blanco coming off the DL, the Cubs freed up a roster spot by designating Koyie Hill for assignment. Hill represented an unusual phenomenon with the Cubs: He only hit .161 with the team, yet the Cubs went 17-8 in games that he started. That means that at the time of Hill's departure from the big league club, the Cubs has a .680 winning percentage when Hill started and a .474 winning percentage otherwise (46-51). Hill's catcher's ERA of 3.02 was second only to Josh Bard's mark of 3.00 among catchers with over 200 defensive innings this season. Blanco's cERA stood at 4.04 at the time of his activation.

July 29, 2007 - Keith - Astros Designate Morgan Ensberg for Assignment

After trading struggling reliever Dan Wheeler for utility infielder Ty Wigginton, the Houston Astros designated 3B Morgan Ensberg for assignment. They are responsible for the remainder of his $4.35 million salary.

Ensberg's Astros career lived and died with the instruction of third base legend Gary Gaetti, who served as the Astros' hitting coach for two years (7/14/2004-7/13/2006). Here are Ensberg's career stats with and without Gaetti:

  AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K AVG OBP SLG
With Gaetti 976 160 266 54 4 62 176 167 210 .273 .382 .527
Without Gaetti 1096 163 285 45 6 43 159 152 185 .267 .353 .430


After hitting three home runs with a slugging percentage of .363 before the 2004 All-Star break. Gaetti reportedly chided Ensberg for trying to be a slap hitter instead of driving the ball when he arrived from the Houston affiliate New Orleans Zephyrs. For the remainder of the season, he hit seven homers and slugged .477 in more of a part time role.

Indeed, when you examine the above splits, you can see that Gaetti's primary influence on Ensberg's career was in the power department. The Gae was able to get Ensberg to increase his power output without adversely affecting his batting average, and possibly causing him to also draw more walks as a result.

This brings into question whether hitters should try to hit for power as a general rule.  For an answer, we turn to Asher, Cobb, and Ichiro.

July 18, 2007 – Keith – Atlanta Braves Sign Julio Franco

Just days after naming rookie sensation Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the team's starting first baseman, the Atlana Braves signed ageless Julio Franco for the remainder of the 2007 season. We speculated here at Baseball Evolution that the move would precipitate the demotion of rookie 1B Scott Thorman to the minor leagues, and that Franco would be used primarily to pinch-hit. Franco started at first base for two straight games after signing, however, once against southpaw Mike Maroth and once against the right-handed Adam Wainwright. This could mean that Saltalamacchia will be dealt in the coming weeks.

For all you fantasy players out there, this appears to be the way things line up for Atlanta now: The old man will play first and Salty will catch versus southpaws. Against right-handed pitching, Brian McCann should continue to see the majority of starts at catcher. As to who will man first base against righties on any given day, manager Bobby Cox will consult a specially designed magic 8-ball.

July 12, 2007 – Richard – New York Mets designate 1B Julio Franco for assignment

He signed his first professional contract with Philadelphia back in 1978. He was one of five guys traded to the Cleveland Indians by the Phillies in exchange for Von Hayes back in December of 1982, the same year he made his major league debut. He collected his first major league hit against Bob Forsch on April 23 of that year. Garry Maddux, Keith Hernandez, Tommy Herr, Mike Krukow, Ozzie Smith, Pete Rose and Gary Matthews Sr. were among those who also played in that same game in which he first appeared. In fact, it’s been over 10 years since anyone else who played in that game last appeared in the majors (Smith – 1996), nearly as long as Gary Matthews Jr. has been playing in the majors.

25 years and 23 major league seasons later, however, Julio Franco’s major league career appears to have finally come to an end at the tender age of 48, thirteen months shy of his stated goal of 50. His last hit came against the Astros’ Dave Borkowski as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning last Saturday, and that hit raised his average as a pinch-hitter this year to .269 (7-for-26). But on Thursday, as the Mets prepared to begin the second half of the season, New York designated the seemingly ageless wonder for assignment to make room for Lastings Milledge, who was born nearly 3-years after Franco made his ML debut.

The highlight of Franco’s season came back on May 4, when he became the oldest player in major league history to homer in a big league game by taking the 43-year old Randy Johnson deep. Father time finally seemed to have caught up to Franco, though, as he struggled this season at the plate. Franco batted just .200/.328/.260 overall. Yet Julio’s line belied his value with the Mets as essentially a player/coach. Ironically, his career likely came to an end just days before the Mets named 48-year old Rickey Henderson as their new first base coach.

Franco went into the All-Star break ranked 3rd among all active players in hits, his 2,576 trailing only Craig Biggio and Barry Bonds and ranking him 74th all time. In fact, counting his 1,002 minor league hits (a total that includes time spent in the Mexican Leagues) and 286 Japanese League hits, Franco has amassed 3,866 professional hits, good for 8th best in the history of professional baseball.

Rk

Combined Hits

MLB

MiLB

NPB

Tot

1

Pete Rose

4256

427

0

4683

2

Ty Cobb

4191

211

0

4402

3

Hank Aaron

3771

324

0

4095

4

Jigger Statz

737

3356

0

4093

5

Stan Musial

3630

371

0

4001

6

Tris Speaker

3514

392

0

3906

7

Jake Beckley

2934

972

0

3906

8

Julio Franco

2576

1004

286

3866

9

Carl Yastrzemski

3419

363

0

3782

10

Wade Boggs

3010

724

0

3734

June 28, 2007 – Richard – Philadelphia Phillies purchase the contract of RHP J.D. Durbin from Ottawa (AAA)

Durbin has become a seasoned veteran of the transaction wire this year. His strange odyssey began back in March when Minnesota attempted to pass him through the waiver wire. A second round pick of the Twins in 2000, he was claimed off waivers on March 29 by the Arizona Diamondbacks for whom he made one appearance on April 4, pitching 2/3 of an inning and allowing 7 runs on 7 hits and a walk. The next day, the D-Backs designated him for assignment.

He was then claimed on April 10 by Boston who immediately designated him for assignment once again, trying in vain again to slip him through waivers so they could send him to the minors. The move failed as the Philadelphia Phillies became Durbin’s third team just over two weeks when they claimed him on April 13. The Phillies took their allowed three days to assess Durbin before they too designated him for assignment on April 17. The fourth time, however, proved to be the charm as Durbin this time cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Ottawa club where he remained until the call came last week for Durbin to make his return to the big leagues.

On Friday, Durbin made just his second major league start (and sixth big league appearance), pitching 4 2/3 innings while allowing 6 runs on 8 hits. In 12 2/3 career innings, he has now allowed 19 runs (13.50 ERA) on 27 hits and 9 base on balls. Without the need for a fifth starter until July 17, the Phils for now will have Durbin pitch out of the bullpen rather than risk becoming Durbin’s fourth former team this season.

June 20, 2007 – Richard - Washington Nationals purchase the contract of OF Brandon Watson from Columbus (AAA)

The Nationals on Wednesday purchased the contract of Brandon Watson, the record breaking outfielder who this past Sunday saw his 43-game hitting streak come to an end. On Saturday, Watson surpassed the International League record of 42 straight games set by Rochester’s Jack Lelivelt in 1912. Watson’s 43-game streak is now tied for the 8th longest in minor league history.

Hitting leadoff for Triple-A Columbus, Watson batted .330 (77-for-233) in 57 games for the Clippers before getting the call to the show. This will be Watson’s third tour of duty in a Nationals uniform. A ninth round draft pick in 1999, he made his major league debut in 2005 and homered in his 3rd big league at bat in his first major league game, but in 68 ML at-bats prior to his recall, Watson, a .306 career minor league hitter, was batting just .176 in his major league career.

Watson hit .179 in 28 AB for Washington last season before being claimed off waivers by the Reds in July. He played in just 1 game for Cincinnati and became a free agent in November when he refused an outright assignment. He spent time in the Tigers’ camp during spring training before returning to the organization that drafted him.

June 5, 2007 – Richard – Colorado Rockies designate OF Steve Finley for assignment

The Rockies cut ties with Steve Finley on Tuesday, likely ending the career of the well traveled veteran outfielder. The 42-year-old Finley had batted just .181/.245/.245 (17-for-94) in 43 games for Colorado this season after signing a minor league contract in February. In his illustrious career, Finley hit 304 HR and stole 320 bases to become one of just six players in major league history to reach the 300 plateau in both of those milestones. His 2,548 career hits place him 77th all-time, his 449 doubles 80th and his 124 triples rank 90th on the all-time list, including first among active players.

The five-time gold glove winning CF began his career way back in 1989 with the Baltimore Orioles. Finley was part of the infamous deal that saw the Orioles trade him to Houston along with Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling for Glenn Davis. He played the bulk of his career with San Diego and Arizona, though he also made stops in Baltimore, Houston, Los Angeles (twice – once with the Dodgers and once with the Angels), San Francisco, and finally in Colorado with the Rox. The highlight of his career came with the D-Backs in 2001, as the Snakes beat the Yankees in the World Series as Finley batted .368/.478/.526.

May 28, 2007 – Richard - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recall OF Nathan Haynes

The Los Angeles Angels optioned OF Tommy Murphy to Salt Lake (AAA) and in his placed recalled OF Nathan Haynes. Haynes at the time of his recall was leading all minor league hitters with a .391 batting average (66-for-169) and has flirted with the .400 mark all season long (his on-base percentage was .466 and he was slugging .586). The former first round pick of the Oakland A’s got his first taste of big league ball that night, replacing Reggie Willits in the 8th and getting a basehit in his first major league at bat in the 9th against Jon Huber of the Mariners.

For Haynes, the AB was a long time in coming. He was selected with the 32nd overall in pick by Oakland way back in 1997 and has since toiled long and hard in the minors. The A’s later traded him in 1999 to Anaheim in the Randy Velarde deal. The Angels then eventually released him, and he was later signed by the Giants, for whom he played just 8 games in two seasons. Last season, he began the year playing for Gary in the Northern (Ind) League before the Angels once again picked him up. A career .275 minor league hitter, he batted .280 in 207 AB in AA ball last season and just .228 in a brief AAA stint at the end of the year before breaking out big time this year.

May 28, 2007 – Keith - Chicago White Sox sign Craig Wilson

Two ex-Pirates who were recently cut by the Braves found new homes on Monday. Mark Redman (0-4 11.63) signed with the Texas Rangers, while Craig Wilson (1 2 .172) inked with the Chicago White Sox. Both players will report to the Triple-A affiliate of their new teams.

Since the Craig Wilson signing actually has the potential to be beneficial, we'll focus on that. Sampson (Wilson's nickname after a June 2004 haircut plummeted his batting average from .355 in April and May to .220 thereafter) brings an .827 career OPS to the South Side, or .916 agains southpaws. As Jim Thome is the only Sox regular to have an OPS over .762 and only A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko currently have marks versus southpaws over .616, there is a good chance Wilson can find a spot on the major league roster, especially with a new injury to Pablo Ozuna and the expectation that Scott Podsednik will not return until July.

Craig Alan Wilson would actually become the second Craig Wilson to play for the White Sox. Craig Franklin Wilson played all 139 games of his major league tenure on the South Side, batting .272 as a utility infielder.

May 22, 2007 – Richard - Oakland Athletics Designated C Jeremy Brown for assignment

The minor league catcher was designated for assignment on Tuesday by Oakland when the club purchased Colby Lewis’ contract from Sacramento. Brown, best known for having his own chapter – The Jeremy Brown Blue Plate Special - in the Micheal Lewis book Moneyball, was selected by Oakland in the first round (35th overall) of the 2002 amateur draft. But he has thus far appeared in just 5 major league games (going 3-for-10) and has failed to supplant the good-glove, no-hit Adam Melhuse (.238/.295/.408) as the backup to Jason Kendall. The club announced on Friday that Brown had cleared waivers and was sent outright to Sacramento, where he has batted .241/.297/.414 in 17 games this season.

Brown is the fifth member of Billy Beane’s so-called Perfect Draft to have negatively hit the transaction wire in recent months. Pitcher Stephen Obenchain and outfielder Steve Stanley were released by Oakland this past winter, and the Cubs recently cut loose pitchers Luke Hagerty and Bobby Brownlie.

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