March 26, 2010
Released LHP Brian Shouse. [3/25]
Optioned LHP Fabio Castro to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/26]
If you're a stathead of whatever stripe, reasons to like or respect the Red Sox pile up in little ways as well as large. Take this minor move: Shouse was having a fine camp by his own or anybody's rights, but who cares, and who cares about spring stats? Not the Red Sox, who understood that, in the end, he's still only Brian Shouse, a lefty so limited to situational applications that he doesn't exactly fully fill his roster spot, even in a seven-man bullpen. That might have been affordable when the pen's primary lefty is Hideki Okajima, as he's someone Terry Francona can leave out there against anybody, but why tax yourself with a one-batter lefty when you might just as well ponder the benefits of the just-signed Alan Embree, NPB veteran Scott Atchison, and the non-roster bid of Joe Nelson? If Embree isn't ready to go by Opening Day, it's worth noting that Nelson's changeup-dependent mix has worked well against left-handed hitters, with a career clip of .215/.311/.356. Even in terms of the opportunity cost, the hit that comes with discarding Shouse is negligible; if doing without such an extreme specialist hurts the Sox later on in-season, it's the sort of player you can got out and get, at some expense if you want to go for a luxury brand, and for next to nothing if you're willing to make do. And that's without knowing if, say, Dustin Richardson turns out to be that guy later this season. So, kudos to the Sox, for looking not simply at Shouse's nice Grapefruit League performance, but keeping in mind the full spread of his career.
Made the announcement that LHP Danny Duffy will be taking a leave of absence. [3/24]
If you made the mistake of reading Umberto Eco's Baudolino all the way through to the end, and found, as is the case far too often in Eco's works, that you just want to throw the $27.00 monument to your own incapacity to learn* out the nearest window, you have my sympathy. Surely, I thought, there was no reason to indulge in a extended references to skiapods, the very antithesis of Herb Washington, in what was shaping up to be a ripping good yarn about Prester John and sacking Byzantium and all the other big ideas of Medieval fancy. But, having soldiered on to the hash-addled conclusion, with the reader's experience in ruins, the author's conceit deliciously self-indulged, surely, I thought, there would be no reason for me to wax hypocritical and resort to the same device.
Imagine my surprise when this very opportunity was afforded me by this very tidbit, because I'll bet that unless you're one of those equally determined few who slogged through the considerably less popular sequels of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia, and made it to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, you had no idea that what Eco refers to as skiapods put in an appearance in the third Narnian chronicle, as one-footed dwarves called Duffers. Mortified by what they had been made into by one of those ubiquitous evil sorcerers, the Duffers made themselves invisible. That, or they stayed indoors watching cable. Same difference, right?
Which brings me to the subject of a Duffy who's made himself disappear rather than remain a Royal, apparently to "reassess his life priorities." It's cause for organizational chagrin, since he was sixth on Kevin Goldstein's list of top Royals prospects, albeit one without the same sort of upside as Mike Montgomery and Tim Melville, and further away from the show than Aaron Crow. Duffy had been hampered by a bad elbow in camp, which had kept him out of any game action, and while you never know if overcoming injury triggers some reflection in anyone, it's certainly understandable if that were part of the problem. He is only 21, and the Royals will still be there if and when he decides becoming one of them is still within his early-life ambitions. Whatever course he sets, here's hoping it's the right path for him.
*: Because not only are you dumb, as I am, but you just had to get hardcover, so that you're not only bitter, you're down at least an extra Hamilton.
Optioned RHPs Mark Melancon and Jonathan Albaladejo, 1B-L Juan Miranda, 2B-R Kevin Russo, and CF-R Greg Golson to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); released RHP Chad Gaudin. [3/25]
Excusing Gaudin came at the same time that they named Phil Hughes the winner of the race in the fifth starter's derby. Ideally, that commitment will be as final as the deletion of Gaudin, because the last thing the Yankees should indulge in after last season's antics with Joba Chamberlain's workload and role is generating any further controversy. As rotation plugs for defending champs go, Gaudin was disposable, as Sergio Mitre was and remains equally disposable; how they handle Hughes and Chamberlain from here on out is understandably much more important. It's modestly disappointing that nobody wanted to give the Bombers a cookie of some sort to acquire Gaudin for themselves, but I wouldn't weep for them or Gaudin—he'll land somewhere, given the number of teams that could use a patch in the rotation. (The Snakes and Mariners come to mind.)
Of course, this now leaves the drama for who's going to be in the bullpen in all of the non-Mo slots. Chan Ho Park and Damaso Marte are givens as set-up selections ahead of Mariano Rivera, but Chamberlain, Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves find themselves fighting with David Robertson and a pair of lefties—Boone Logan and non-roster surprise Royce Ring. Since Mitre's the only one of the lot out of options, Joe Girardi has at least six reasonable choices for three or four slots.
Traded INF-R Gregorio Petit to the Rangers for RHP Edwar Ramirez. [3/24]
Having grabbed Steven Tolleson off waivers from the Twins, the RiverCats may well be set at shortstop, and with Eric Sogard and Adrian Cardenas knocking around affiliated infields, plus Grant Green's expected push up as far as Double-A at some point this season, infield depth in the upper minors isn't quite the concern it had been when Petit was on the 40-man and getting the occasional call up to The Show. The more pressing concern is sorting out who's going to be healthy enough to man the big-league bullpen come Opening Day, with Joey Devine looking certain to land on the DL early on, and with their choices beyond Andrew Bailey, Brad Ziegler, Craig Breslow, and Michael Wuertz looking wide open. For Ramirez, this might be the best possible opportunity to show that his killer changeup-driven act can play in the majors, since he'll make a distinctly different type of right-handed reliever than Bailey's heat, Wuertz's slider, or Ziegler's side-arming. Certainly, pitching in the Coliseum in front of the A's defense-minded outfield crew makes for a better bet for Ramirez's survival than the Ballpark would have been.
Optioned 1B/LF-L Mike Carp to Tacoma (Triple-A); re-signed RHP Yusmeiro Petit to a minor-league contract. [3/25]
There is perhaps no more important lesson when it comes to first-base types labeled as prospects than to remember that the vast majority of them are as damned and doomed as Legionnaires. They'll wind up spending the better part of their best years in obscure venues like Ougadougou or Scranton, or degenerative exurbian venues like Tacoma or Gwinnett or Djibouti, and their heroics on those far-off fields, for the benefit of a parent institution they might only feel the most theoretical of associations with, are usually to no greater purpose, let alone any personal benefit.
To graduate from that sort of existence, a first-base prospect has to be good, not just a little good, but great, because not only does said first-base prospect have to be able to outmash other first-base types, he has to be able to be better or at least competitive with the grognards with the bad knees or the bulk that comes with age, or otherworldly sluggers drifting to first base by the inexorable logic that somebody who hits like a first baseman ought to be a first baseman, players named Pujols or Cabrera or Dunn or Berkman. You have to be great, or luck into an association with a team—usually a second-division team, as with the Pirates and Jeff Clement, for example—that finds itself in pari delicto at first base, and can make a superior claim to the job.
Whether or not Carp's in such a situation is, for the time being, in doubt. The Mariners have their initial preferences at first base, but they're far from excellent. While the reasons why are varied, Casey Kotchman's been getting and blowing opportunities with an aplomb perhaps only Jenna Jameson could admire. Ryan Garko's major virtues are mangling the odd lefty (and Joe Blanton), and an expressed willingness to play other places than first base if it keeps him from those aforementioned far-off fields. Maybe that adds up to a decent platoon, and maybe it looks lousy by June, and Carp's better-case scenarios—involving a TAv in the .270s—begin to look like a useful enough alternative. It's not the same thing as having a simply great offensive first baseman, but for the time being, the Mariners don't have one; their handicap is first Kotchman's opportunity, and perhaps later Carp's.
Optioned OF-R Justin Ruggiano to Durham (Triple-A); outrighted 1B-L Dan Johnson to Durham. [3/25]
Neither demotion is all that surprising in itself. Johnson's difficult bid for playing time on a roster already boasting a full-time DH and a full-time first baseman was already scuppered by the decision to take a gander at Hank Blalock, and it isn't like he'd set Japan's Central League afire last year. Ruggiano had a great camp, but Sean Rodriguez has had an even better one, and however Joe Maddon decides to piece together that second base/right field swing, he has Ben Zobrist as the ultimate lineup widget, Rodriguez beginning to resemble a Zobrist clone, and Matt Joyce's bid to be a secondary average all-star to consider. And there's still Reid Brignac, potentially pushing Zobrist and S-Rod into more outfield at-bats. So while Ruggiano might make a fine platoon partner for someone like Joyce, or a good fourth outfielder on all sorts of teams, he won't get to be on this particular team, at least not yet.
Traded RHP Edwar Ramirez to Oakland for INF-R Gregorio Petit; optioned RHP Pedro Strop and OF-S Brandon Boggs to Oklahoma City (Triple-A); optioned LHP Michael Kirkman to Frisco (Double-A); outrighted 2B/OF-L Hernan Iribarren to Oklahoma City. [3/24]
Ever since Khalil Greene failed to report to camp, the Rangers have had to mull their alternatives for reserves. Joaquin Arias might wind up as the primary middle-infield reserve, but they needed to free up a spot on the 40-man roster to make room for any one of a number of viable non-roster players. From that lot, for example, there's Matt Treanor, in case they need him to caddy for Taylor Teagarden. Or Esteban German could stick around, as a better OBP-oriented option for backing up at second, third, and the outfield corners than Iribarren, and more experienced at it. Or perhaps even Petit, if they decide that this latest fruit of the glove bush represents a better option than Arias for big-league bench time, while Arias takes a last shot at redeeming his former prospect status by playing every day in Oklahoma.
Even as Jon Daniels tacks agressively in the ticky-tack transactions market, you can understand reasons why you'd rather have German and Petit and Treanor than Ramirez (who's still trying to beat the Quad-A rap) or Ray Olmedo (who never will) or the still-broken Toby Hall. It's a lot of attention devoted to who might be stocking the last three or four roster spots, but the Rangers have reasonable ambitions for the season to come, so why not? This isn't the only level at which Daniels is operating, as rumors of landing relatively bigger game for bench duties are already afoot, with the Rangers apparently interested in Augie Ojeda, who's sort of the poor man's Punto, and someone the Snakes are shopping.
Outrighted RHP Todd Redmond to Gwinnett (Triple-A). [3/25]
Optioned RHPs Jeff Gray and Marcos Mateo, LHP John Gaub, and OF-L James Adduci to Iowa (Triple-A). [3/26]
Optioned RHP Chris Leroux, LHP Andrew Miller, and C-R Brett Hayes to New Orleans (Triple-A). [3/26]
The decision to excuse Miller and Rick VandenHurk's poor performance seems to be leading the Fish towards a decision to make Clay Hensley the club's fifth starter. (Insert token nod towards Hayden Penn here: < nod >Good day < / nod >.) This is disappointing insofar as Hensley's merely a placeholder and someone certain to lose the gig at some point in-season, but it was up to VandenHurk and Miller to show them something. It's not everyone's idea of ideal decision-making, but if Hensley gets rocked in a couple of turns while this challenges either of the prospects to live up to their billing, and they come back up with the wind at their back after a good start or two as Zephyrs, I wouldn't discount that having some value. Morale may be metric-less, but it matters, and as the Fish realized outstanding results with negative reinforcement last season as a result of their decision to give Ricky Nolasco a punitive demotion, as easy as it is to observe the obvious—Miller and VandenHurk have considerably more upside potential than Hensley—it's also separated from the responsibility to find a way to achieve that potential. And besides, we're talking about who's in the fifth slot: the ambitions for what either Miller or VandenHurk can do in a big-league rotation should transcend that modest goal, while that's Hensley's utility to a 't,' which in this instance obviously doubles as a reference to 'transient' as such solutions go.
Optioned LHP Wesley Wright to Round Rock (Triple-A). [3/26]
Placed RHP David Riske and 4C-L Mat Gamel on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of CF-L Jim Edmonds from Nashville (Triple-A). [3/24]
No surprise here, as a job on the bench was Edmonds' to lose, and he merely failed to achieve failure. He'll be fun to follow, however it turns out, and given that his competition for playing time in the outfield is the disappointing Carlos Gomez in center and the moderately less disappointing Corey Hart in right, it seems likely he'll be more than a token ex-famous dude riding pine and keeping Ken Macha company. The Brewers appear confident that his highlight-reel defense is still intact after a year away, so we'll have to see to what extent he ends up cadging starts from Gomez in-season.
Signed RHP Mike MacDougal to a minor-league contract. [3/24]
Released by the Fish, it's not really shocking to see him return to the Nats, where he might have a decent shot at reclaiming his role as the club's closer if Matt Capps struggles in-season as badly as he has at various stretches of the spring (or last year, or the year before that).