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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Minor Dealings

Sandy Alomar was placed on the DL today, suffering from an injury resulting from a play at the plate versus the BoSox Kevin Youkilis. Jamie Burke was recalled to take his roster spot and fill-in at catcher.

In another deal, the White Sox signed free agent out fielder Alex Escobar. Escobar was once the key prospect in the trade that brought Roberto Alomar to New York, but has struggled in the majors and recently with injuries.

His was released from the Indians under a unique set of circumstances. Here's how it was explained in the Akron Beakon Journal:
CHICAGO - New Indians acquisition Josh Phelps reported to Cellular One Field on Sunday, as expected. And as anticipated, Kazuhito Tadano was optioned to Buffalo to make room for Phelps on the 25-man roster.

By contrast, the way the Tribe found a spot on the 40-man roster for Phelps came as a surprise and might create some controversy.

The squeeze on the 40-man forced the club's deep thinkers to designate outfielder Alex Escobar for assignment. Normally, when this is done, a player clears waivers and is outrighted to the minor leagues.

That could not be done with Escobar. Because he was on the minor-league disabled list with a stress fracture to his foot, and because the injury occurred after he had been sent to Triple-A, Escobar could not be placed on the 60-day disabled list and thus be removed from the 40-man roster.

Consequently, the Indians have but two options: Within 10 days from the date the trade for Phelps was consummated (last Friday), they must either trade or release Escobar, which means he probably is gone for good.

``We had a number of difficult decisions,'' assistant general manager Chris Antonetti said. ``We've had difficult roster decisions all year and will continue to have them.''

There is only one way the Tribe can keep Escobar: If he clears waivers and is not traded, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team, including Cleveland.

``We would be interested in negotiating with him,'' Antonetti said. ``We will try to make a deal for him, but that's not likely to happen (because of the injury).''

It's unlikely that Escobar would feel inclined to return to the Tribe, which has an abundance of outfielders, including Matt Lawton, Coco Crisp, Jody Gerut, Grady Sizemore and Ryan Ludwick.

Signing Escobar makes sense from the White Sox perspective because of their lack of outfield talent at the AAA level. The Knights line-up includes Detroit cast-off Adres Torres, career minor leaguer Mario Valenzuela, and Cincinnati and Philadelphia cast-off Reggie Taylor. The White sox AAA team was stripped of top outfield talent Jeremy Reed in the Freddy Garcia trade, and Joe Borchard has seen consistent playing time on the Sox since Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez went down to injury.

Think of Escobar as an insurance policy on Joe Borchard, who doesn't appear to be likely to pan out at the major league level. Borchard has little excuse for his lack of production. He has not put together a good season since 2000 at Birmingham. Escobar, on the other hand, has had a series of injuries that has hampered his growth. He has better speed and defensive skills than does Borchard, though he doesn't appear to have quite the upside that Borchard does offensively. He doesn't project to have too much power.

I'm not sure on the conditions surrounding the contract signed with Escobar, but I suspect that he's going to spend the rest of the season in AAA. I could be wrong, but I'd love to see him get some extended time rehabing at the minor league level. He could become a real asset to this team next season.

Edit: ESPN gives confirmation of all moves. It appears that Escobar's injury will likely keep him on the DL for the remainder of the season. I want him to get some time in AAA before he's in the running for a roster spot. I'm unsure what this does to the White Sox 40-man roster. Earlier this season the sox were carrying 38 and 39, so it could be that nobody has to be dropped.

Edit (again): Escobar was signed, then immediately placed on the 60-day DL, meaning he doesn't take up a roster spot. Thus, my past speculation about the 40-man was unnecessary.