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March 27, 2002
March 19-25, 2002
Signed RHP Ramon Ortiz to a multi-year contract extension, either four years or three years plus an option year, depending on how his arbitration eligibility shakes down next winter. [3/22]
Assigned RHP Bart Miadich and LHP Dan Serafini to their minor league camp. [3/24]
Optioned RHP Mickey Callaway to Salt Lake. [3/25]
The two topics of note here are Shawn Wooten's injury and what it might mean for those still standing (or with the use of two thumbs) on the one hand, and some fun at Ramon Ortiz's expense. First, the more serious matter, what three or four months without Wooten means for the roster. Without him, the Angels could really use a platoon mate for Brad Fullmer at DH, but there's a very real danger that the guy likely to get those at-bats might be someone like Benji Gil or Jose Nieves, instead of someone who can thump. The alternatives, oft-discussed, are oddly configured, in no small part because of the commitment to carry Orlando Palmeiro. If you consider Gil and Palmeiro locks, there are at best three roster spots left for hitters, and two will probably be taken by backup catchers Jorge Fabregas and Jose Molina. After all, are they going to cut Ben Molina's brother? Or Fabregas? Mike Scioscia might be forgiven a fondness for catchers, but on this roster, it's a mistake. So there might be a single roster spot available to stock a team short-handed because of suspensions as well as injury. Who are the candidates? Usual suspects Jeff DaVanon and Jose Nieves, as well as Clay Bellinger. Bellinger might have value as the last man on the bench on a team with good regulars and a couple of hitters already on the bench, but on this team, he's not an asset. So that really leaves it between DaVanon or Nieves, and given last year's series of non-decisions on this front, you could almost see Scioscia taking a pass and carrying a twelfth pitcher he'll never use instead.
As for Ortiz, he greeted his new deal with the observation that "Now I'll work more hard." Now that we know what he knows, that he's 29, what exactly is he saving himself for? A career as a Devil Ray in his 40s?
Acquired OF-R Ernie Young from the Cardinals for a PTBNL. [3/25]
With this organization, Ernie Young can look forward to another nice summer in Tucson. Picking him up seems like an odd decision, but one I'm sure that Sidewinder fans will appreciate.
Traded C-R Eddie Perez to the Indians for a PTBNL or cash. [3/21]
Traded LHP Rich Rodriguez to the Rangers for a PTBNL. [3/25]
Henry Blanco has been overrated for a couple of years now, but living in the Age of Matheny and its enthusiasm for hard-throwing punchless judies, he has some sort of value. If there's a team that can afford to give up stuff to get a primo defensive replacement, it's the Braves, and to their credit, they didn't give up much to get one of the game's best-throwing catchers to caddy for Javy Lopez. Jose Cabrera and Paul Bako are both perfect examples of easily replaceable talent, the kind of guys you put on and claim on waivers all the time. In a bullpen that has to make room for Tim Spooneybarger and a roster that already didn't have the space for Cabrera last October, Cabrera was about to hit waivers anyway. So rather than lose him on a claim, John Schuerholz flipped that certain loss and Bako for an upgrade at backup catcher. That's a net positive and a nifty bit of roster management.
As a result, the Braves don't merely make cuts, they banish hope for journeymen hoping for a little taste of relevance. How do you think Cabrera or Bako feel? Eddie Perez doesn't even look like he can play, and now he probably has to walk away from the game on a team where he's a total stranger. Rich Rodriguez? If he yields anything worth anything in exchange, just for hauling him into camp, that's a boon.
Signed 1B/OF-R Jeff Conine to a two-year contract extension through 2005. [3/22]
Placed RHP Calvin Maduro on the 15-day DL (strained forearm). [3/23]
Phew, that was close. I mean, if Jeff Conine had walked in two years the Orioles might only be down to three or four first base/DH types... then. And what with Albert Belle on the 40-man roster until 2004, they've gotta have somebody around actually playing for money, right? By all accounts, Conine is one of the game's standup guys, so plenty of money just happened to somebody nice, but he's now under contract through his 39th birthday, and the Orioles already controlled him through his 37th. If last winter's signing of Marty Cordova is at best an indication of how difficult it is to coax people into wanting to be Orioles, then having Conine around for that long will be his opportunity to finish his career as it essentially started, as the solid citizen on an expansion team.
With the demotions, the fight for the last three roster spots on the team gets interesting. Brian Roberts may or may not end up on the DL to start the season, which opens a slot for Mike Moriarty as the team's utility infielder. Ryan McGuire looks like he'll make the team as a backup first baseman, and Larry Bigbie's in the running for the fourth outfielder's job. The wild cards are outfielder Luis Garcia and another wrangle over whether or not to keep Fernando Lunar or try to slip him through waivers. Just as the Orioles wasted time last year carrying three catchers (Brook Fordyce, Greg Myers and Lunar) out of a misappreciation of the market value of Myers and Lunar (or Fordyce, for that matter), there's a danger that they'll waste the roster space on Lunar again. If they'll count slots on other people's 40-man rosters, the only risk they have is if somebody like the Indians claim Lunar because of their injury situation. But that's only an issue if Lunar was any good, and he isn't, so the Orioles, you, and I have all already spent too much time thinking about the problem already.
Calvin Maduro is in the rare situation of having won the fifth starter's job, but enduring a minor injury that will keep him out right up until the point that he's ready to make his first start of the year.
Placed LHP Jeff Wallace on the 15-day DL (elbow). [3/22]
Optioned RHP Juan Pena to Pawtucket. [3/24]
Juan Pena had a very good camp, and with John Burkett already breaking down, he might be back soon enough. Unfortunately, the Red Sox still have Darren Oliver around, and the risk is that they'll turn to Oliver in the same way that they're already relying on another mediocre LaRussa reject, Dustin Hermanson. With the Duke and Jimy long gone, we'll have to wait and see how Mike Port and Grady Little decide to handle their day-to-day problems.
Elsewhere, the release of Quilvio Veras might make it a little easier to keep Jose Offerman, although with the sordid fascination with Rey Sanchez reaching sickly heights, the Red Sox seem determined to field their crummiest possible infield. However, they have made the right call in preferring Michael Coleman over Damon Buford. Buford has been living on reputation for at least three years, while Coleman is actually better at everything that Buford's supposed to do well. However, Coleman's battling some hamstring problems, so he may not be around on Opening Day either.
Optioned 3B-R Joe Crede, RHP Matt Ginter and C-R Miguel Olivo to Charlotte; sent INF-R Tim Hummel to their minor league camp; placed RHP Rocky Biddle on the 15-day DL (shoulder); released OF-B Brian Simmons. [3/25]
Sometimes bad things happen to good players, but Joe Crede losing out to Royce Clayton is just wrong. Yes, Clayton is having a good camp, but does he really help out that much when he isn't hitting .350? Because we know he won't be hitting .350 when the games matter. Kenny Williams has problems with how he's going to fill out his rotation (Danny Wright, Jon Rauch and Jon Garland are doing nothing to inspire confidence), so a preference for Clayton for defensive reasons might be a slender thread to rely on, but it's also worth remembering that Clayton was part of the problem when the Sox buried themselves in the first half of 2001.
Tim Hummel also had a good camp at the plate, but his defensive problems reflect a more basic problem with determining where he's going to play. He's sort of big and strong-armed for a second baseman, but with Crede at third and the conviction that he can't handle short, he's being groomed to replace Ray Durham, except that Willie Harris might end up sneaking in ahead of him, and the Sox still haven't ruled out re-signing Durham. The Sox have talent they could peddle for a starter, and the danger is that they might give away too much to land another Todd Ritchie or Jumbo Wells.
Optioned RHP Mark Prior to West Tenn (Double-A). [3/24]
You take Oscar Acosta out of the picture, but you still have relievers getting angry about getting sent down, as Scott Chiasson apparently wasn't happy about getting cut. In defense of Don Baylor and Larry Rothschild, Chiasson hadn't pitched well of late, but at what point are communication skills supposed to matter? Or talent, considering what the alternatives are in this pen? With Flash Gordon out and Todd Van Poppel, Felix Heredia and Manny Aybar long since gone, this is a pen which is starting to look ugly. Beyond Kyle Farnsworth and Jeff Fassero, Courtney Duncan and Donovan Osborne are probably in, with Al Benes, Joe Borowski, Mark Watson, Carlos Zambrano and Jesus Sanchez all in the picture. There's talent in that group, but does anyone have any confidence that Baylor and his quick-hook tendencies with his relievers will let any of them settle in? And what good is a quick hook for a guy like Donovan Osborne, who might be the relief equivalent of a Sunday pitcher?
The speculation is already starting that Mark Prior was sent down to avoid service time just as much as he was sent down to make his professional debut in the minors, but I don't think that the Cubs are really thinking along those lines. Prior is already signed to a multi-year deal, and the option is going to be used this year no matter what. Jim Hendry's being sensible to break him in down on the farm first, although with the serious problems in the bullpen, there's the opportunity for Prior to come up and debut the way Roy Oswalt did last summer. Considering that the Cubs have problems in the rotation as well--relying on Jason Bere moreso than last year? Julian Tavarez?--it's a minor point, because Prior will be in the rotation by June.
Placed RHP Seth Etherton on the 60-day DL (shoulder); purchased the contract of RHP Jose Rijo. [3/22]
Signed INF-R Jeff Frye to a minor league contract. [3/23]
The Reds added two-fifths of their rotation from the NRI market, which is both a credit to how they do business and to what teams can do when they have to. Joey Hamilton and Jimmy Haynes are exactly the kinds of guys that Don Gullett has been able to resurrect in the past. Taken with previous retread Elmer Dessens, Chris Reitsma (acquired for Fonzie Bichette), and homegrown Jose Acevedo, it's at least an interesting rotation, unlike last year's group that included Ozzie Fernandez and an obviously injured Pete Harnisch. Of course, the uncertainty that this rotation creates probably encourages Bob Boone's worst instincts towards carrying twelve pitchers, but we'll see how the roster shapes up.
Named Jeff Datz bench coach. [3/20]
Acquired C-R Eddie Perez from the Braves for a PTBNL or cash. [3/21]
Both of these things are interesting. On the one hand, trading for Eddie Perez now is a sure sign of desperation, because he was waiver-destined no matter what. Hopefully, the PTBNL is a token, or the cash just enough for a Happy Meal, and this is just a case of the Braves doing both Perez and Mark Shapiro a simultaneous favor. Perez has no value beyond his familiarity with the workaday requirements of being a backup catcher.
No, more interesting is the decision to bring in minor league martinet Jeff Datz as the team's bench coach. Keep in mind, Datz has been Russ Branyan's bete noire since Datz's snarling, invective-laden tirade about Branyan's lack of commitment to the game in Buffalo, and how the Bisons were better off without their best player because he was downright flaky. Now, as long as the Tribe is going to waste playing time on Brady Anderson and keep Branyan on the bench, is anyone else wondering how well that's going to work out for these old pals?
"Hey, Designated Moonbeam, sit still and don't speak until spoken to."
"Coach, why you ridin' me so hard? All of these negative waves keep me from making contact."
Announced that RHP Carlos Almanza refused a minor league assignment; signed RHP Bobby Munoz to a minor league contract. [3/20]
Released C-R Tony Eusebio. [3/23]
Acquired RHP Chuck Smith from the Marlins for a PTBNL and future considerations, and optioned Smith to Colorado Springs; acquired RHP Victor Santos and SS/2B-R Ronnie Merrill from the Tigers for RHP Jose Paniagua. [3/25]
The Rockies might be adding pitching talent, but neither Chuck Smith or Victor Santos will open the year with the big league club. Instead, they're goofing off with Mike James and Kent Mercker, neither of whom are great bets to be helpful, although there's the chance that Brian Fuentes will get the last slot on the pitching staff. The good news is that Jason Jennings has won the fifth starter's job over Denny Stark and (god forbid) Chris Holt. Along with Shawn Chacon and John Thomson, Jennings gives the Rockies a homegrown trio of quality starters to fill out the rotation behind the two expensive guys.
The other good news is that they're apparently going to pick their two best catchers to be their two catchers after all. They've been jerking Ben Petrick around for awhile, and they need to just plug him in and leave him alone, while Gary Bennett is a great backup who will be useful for 200 PAs or so.
Optioned C-R Brandon Inge to Toledo. [3/22]
Optioned UT-R Oscar Salazar to Toledo. [3/24]
The Tigers are still scrambling to assemble their roster, and while what you're about to get will be labelled major league no matter what they do, this wasn't a bad little trade with the Padres. Mike Rivera has won the starting job behind the plate, and Mitch Meluskey isn't really able to catch much. Rather than carry Javier Cardona as his backup, los Tigres instead got a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers, Matt Walbeck, to sit around and do whatever it is that backup catchers do. More importantly, Damian Jackson might stumble into a bossload of playing time at shortstop, so bringing him in is sort of good in that it'll move Shane Halter to another position, which at this point may as well be center field if it isn't third base. Or, because they're making it up as they go along, they could play Jackson in center, because he's more athletic than Jose Macias, and he'll figure it out after the first hundred games or so.
The bullpen is beginning to shape up. A trio of non-roster pitchers look like they'll make the cut: Juan Acevedo was pretty much a lock, but Matt Perisho seems to have redeemed himself, and Julio Santana appears to have come back from the dead. Along with the pickup of Jose Paniagua and probably lefty Matt Miller, that looks like a functional pen to support Matt Anderson. Danny Patterson is still struggling with back problems, and at this rate looks like he'll start off the year on the DL, which helps answer why Paniagua was considered a necessity. Paniagua certainly lucked out, in that he managed to avoid a summer in Colorado, and coming off of a poor 2001, he needs all the help he can get.
Traded RHP Chuck Smith to the Rockies for a PTBNL and future considerations. [3/25]
The Marlins have an interesting problem, in that they've got pitching talent coming out of their ears, and they need to find somebody willing to take Antonio Alfonseca off of their hands if they only want to let one guy down. Eight pitchers are fighting for six (or, groan, seven) slots. Among right-handers, Braden Looper and Vladi Nunez are set, with Alfonseca being shopped around, and youngsters Gary Knotts and Kevin Olsen have both pitched well enough to stick. Similarly, Mike Tejera has had an outstanding camp, but the Fish have two good lefties already in Armando Almanza and Vic Darensbourg.
This problem extends beyond these eight; Nate Teut and Hansel Izquierdo both had good camps, and would have made other clubs. The problem made it that much easier to simply dump Chuck Smith on the Rockies, where he'll have little hope of haunting the choice, even if he might not generate much in the way of talent in return. And with Olsen or Knotts pitching in middle relief, they'll both be available to move into the rotation if any of the Marlins' bevy of young starters struggles.
At the end of the day, sidearmer Brandon Puffer pitched well enough to stick and token lefty C.J. Nitkowski did not, but both are gone. The interesting aspect of the decision is that it apparently means that the Astros will keep seven relievers, including all four of the righthanded pitchers they were considering for long relief roles: Tim Redding, Scott Linebrink, Ricky Stone and T.J. Mathews. Mathews did the least to earn his keep, but the Astros made the mistake of signing him to a major league contract last winter, so they're stuck with him until he pitches his way off of the roster. This also means they have no left-handed situational reliever, and considering the number of guys who might pop up on waivers in the next few days, they shouldn't feel obligated to trade for one for anything besides a low-ball offer.
Optioned RHP Jeff Austin to Omaha. [3/19]
Optioned RHP Mike MacDougal to Omaha. [3/23]
Rany has already vented his spleen about the Royals, but there is some silver lining, in that both Brandon Berger and Dee Brown are still in camp. With the starting outfielders in the corners looking to be Michael Tucker and Chuck Knoblauch, you can always hope there will be somebody on the roster besides Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran worth watching. But at this point, the Royals resemble the Homestead Homies more than a big league roster. I mean, who really gains on a roster stocked with Donnie Sadler or Luis Alicea or Tucker or Knoblauch or Joe Randa or Dave McCarty? This isn't simply the Island of Unwanted Toys, this is the franchise of players the Salvation Army makes you keep, with a court order if necessary. The only beneficiaries are the players themselves, because they have as much of a connection to baseball's future in Kansas City as Arnold Johnson.
Announced the retirement of DH-R Dante Bichette. [3/22]
Not a bad little deal for the Dodgers; they unload Matt Herges at the right moment, picking up Guillermo Mota and his low-90s gas as well as a solid flycatcher in center. Wilken Ruan could replace Tom Goodwin right now this instant without costing the Dodgers anything offensively, but they've got better options between Dave Roberts and McKay Christensen, and they're stuck with Marquis Grissom anyway. That's still an ugly conjunction of roster spots burned to get one adequate hitter (Roberts) into the lineup, but the Dodgers' bench look like it is going to be significantly weaker this year than it was last. As long as they eat Goodwin's contract, they'll have made as much progress as you could hope for, short of trading for a left fielder and moving Brian Jordan to center.
Jeff Williams blew his shot to force Jesse Orosco off of the roster by pitching horribly. Meanwhile, Orosco seems to have dipped into the fountain of youth, pitching as if he wasn't a day over eighty. The Dodgers seem to have overlooked that Orosco wasn't any good in the situational job last year, and they're asking for trouble if try and rely on him to get people like Barry Bonds or Todd Helton or Larry Walker or Ryan Klesko. When he's brought in to face Sean Burroughs, he'll be facing somebody who was born in Orosco's third year of pitching professionally. He won't get the kid out.
Acquired RHP Jose Cabrera and C-L Paul Bako from the Braves for C-R Henry Blanco. [3/20]
Claimed OF-R Jackson Melian off of waivers from the Reds; designated 2B/SS-B Elvis Pena for assignment. [3/22]
Assigned RHP Francisco Campos to their minor league camp. [3/25]
Tip your caps to Dean Taylor and company for bringing in a couple of guys who throw hard without having to give up much in return. With Chad Fox and Curtis Leskanic both headed for the DL, the Brewers especially needed right-handed relief help, so badly that they're already counting on carrying Mike Buddie. Everett Stull was in danger of winning a job, and Mexican Leaguer Francisco Campos was entertaining fanciful notions of starting up souvenir showers throughout the National League similar to the ones he'd already treated Cactus League fans to this spring. Jose Cabrera and Luis Vizcaino will both make the Opening Day roster (along with Buddie) as setup men for Mike DeJean, still leaving the question of which lefties will make it. Ray King has been brutal, but he's probably a lock. That leaves Japanese import Takaki Nomura and a rehabbed Valerio De Los Santos to fight for the last spot. Yes, that really is a big league bullpen, but just try imagining what it would be without Cabrera and Vizcaino.
The really happy news is that at least the Brewers are out of the business of trying to out-Matheny the original article. Henry Blanco was a hell of a conversion project, turning from a useless non-hitting third baseman in the Dodgers' organization to a hard-throwing defensive sub behind the plate. He was never qualified to be a starting catcher, any more than Matheny was, but the Brewers can comfortably turn the position over to Papo Casanoava and Paul Bako and get significantly better offensive production in exchange for a couple of runners gunned. It's a worthwhile tradeoff. Short-term, this is another gain.
However, if you take a step back, what this really means is that one of Taylor's first big trades has to be judged a near-complete disaster. Remember getting Jamey Wright, Jimmy Haynes and Blanco for Jeff Cirillo and Scott Karl? Haynes was set loose after last season, and Blanco just got traded for two guys who could have been picked up on waivers, which boils the deal down to Wright for Cirillo, plus a couple of years each of Haynes and Blanco. Not good years, either. So it really didn't turn out well, especially if economic concerns were part of the reason Cirillo "had" to be traded, not when you consider the money subsequently blown on Jeffrey Hammonds, Mark Loretta, and Jose Hernandez. As long as Taylor learned something about the danger of overvaluing packages of young arms or hard-throwing catchers, it's not all bad news, except to the paying customers in 2000 and 2001. If Taylor learns from his mistake and moves on, the Brewers will be the better for it. If he doesn't, you can always find another suit to sit in the big chair.
Claiming Jackson Melian isn't a bad idea, considering he's still only 22 (probably) and has already gotten experience at Double-A. The Brewers' farm system is still among the worst in the game, and Melian becomes one of their best prospects by default. But he's also coming over to an organization with little or no track record of refining an unpolished young hitter, and there isn't a phase of the game that Melian doesn't need to work on. One player never represents a fair litmus test of an organization, but it will be interesting to see what happens with Melian this summer.
Optioned LHP Zach Day, 3B-Ls Scott Hodges and Andy Tracy, 2B-B Henry Mateo, CF-L Ron Calloway, LF-L Matt Cepicky and 1B/RF-R Valentino Pascucci to minor league camp; re-assigned RHP Joe Davenport and C-Rs Randy Knorr and Scott Sandusky to minor league camp. [3/21]
I've already argued that if Omar Minaya believes some of the things he's said, he may end up being nothing more than Chuck LaMar with a dash of Monterrey Jack. But did Minaya trade for Jorge Nunez knowing that he's 27, and therefore a complete non-prospect considering he's a guy with one season's worth of experience above A-ball? And if he didn't know, why is he a GM? The Expos just coughed up the two better players in a deal to land Matt Herges, a guy who's bubble is due to burst pretty violently, and a non-prospect. Wilken Ruan isn't a prospect either, but this trade looks ugly, if essentially minor.
If there's a surprise among these moves, it's that Ron Calloway didn't get a longer look. Peter Bergeron doesn't deserve to be handed a job, no matter how good he was a couple of years ago.
Released INF-R Kevin Elster. [3/19]
Optioned 3B-R Drew Henson to Columbus. [3/21]
Can you blame Elster for trying? This wasn't a Kevin Stocker non-comeback comeback attempt, he was shooting for a summer of hard work, Luis Sojo style: sunflower-eating, listening to Don Zimmer, keeping tabs on Ruben Rivera's movements, putting the donut on bats for guys headed onto the on-deck circle, you know, professional stuff.
Assigned LHP Bobby M. Jones to minor league camp. [3/19]
Purchased the contract of 3B-R John Valentin. [3/25]
While it's nice to see Johnny Valentin catch a break, keep in mind that this is the Mets, and they're desperate. They talk up the wrong Bobby Jones, after all.
Optioned RHP Mark Fyhrie to Sacramento. [3/22]
Optioned RHP Chad Harville to Sacramento. [3/23]
These are the minor moves before the major ones to come. The only real news is that the decisions to option out Mark Fyhrie and Chad Harville should mean that sidearming wormkiller Chad Bradford is locked in as the fourth right-handed reliever behind Billy Koch, Jim Mecir and Jeff Tam. There are still the major battles for the last couple of hitting jobs, and one of the three lefties in the pen isn't coming north with this team.
Optioned RHP Brett Myers to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [3/23]
It's easy to like the team that the Phillies will be fielding this year, since it's basically a young and talented lineup supported by a young and talented rotation. But there's something troubling about the way in which the Phillies are simply waiting around, hoping to hand roster spots to players so debilitatingly old that arthritic shakes keep them from maintaining even a tenuous hold on their opportunities, let alone jobs. Todd Pratt has had a bad camp, but at least he's not too far removed in this life from being useful. Reggie Taylor and Ricky Ledee would make as good righty-lefty punch as the fourth and fifth outfielders, except that Ledee has been feeble enough to breathe life into John Mabry. Dave Hollins is nothing more than a memento of 1993, which basically means he's good for Kevin Jordan's job security. Tomas Perez's injury might put Hollins (or more appropriately, David Doster) on the roster anyway.
A lot will depend on Bowa's discretion on who to use where, but with Randy Wolf's aching elbow and Terry Adams being Terry Adams, there's going to be a lot of restructuring of the pitching staff on the fly in-season. That's not enough of a problem to rule the Phillies out, considering the talent on hand. Brett Myers had a good camp, but Larry Bowa seems locked into letting the fifth starter's job go to either Vicente Padilla or Dave Coggin, while passing over Myers and Nelson Figueroa. Myers will be back later on this summer. Padilla's better off relieving, and Figueroa and Coggin will probably both be pressed into duty once Adams and Wolf break down.
The Phillies are doing several creative things with their pen in the meantime. Bowa is risking a repeat of last year's mistake with Eddie Oropesa; Bowa decided that, come hell or high water, Oropesa could pitch, and he had a hard time backing down and admitting he was wrong. But this year is different, because both Pete Zamora and Carlos Silva throw hard (Zamora, with the usual "for a lefty") and have the talent to contribute right now, and on a staff that's already loaded with guys who could either start or relieve and might be good in either role, add two more bodies to that particular mix. For Bowa and pitching coach Vern Ruhle, you've got a very interesting mix in that even without Myers, there are still ten people in camp who could start a major league game this year, leaving just Jose Mesa, Jose Santiago, Rheal Cormier and Schourek who couldn't.
Kudos to the Pirates for understanding the basic truth that people like Pat Rapp need the job more than the Pirates need to give it to them. Dave Littlefield may as well invest the playing time in other places and on people who have a chance at playing on the franchise's next 70-win team. Rapp is, at best, a temp as a fifth starter for a team that doesn't have anybody ready at Triple-A. Either that, or a Texas Ranger.
Shipped off OF-R Ernie Young to the Diamondbacks for a PTBNL. [3/25]
Talk about your major disconnects. What do the Cardinals need? An outfielder, pretty desperately, especially if they're counting on hauling around Mike Matheny's typically limp contributions in the lineup. But what are they doing instead, but trading an outfielder who, like a lot of outfielders (well, just about all of the non-Al Martin outfielders, at any rate), can outhit Placido Polanco. On a basic level, it reflects the deeper issue of Tony LaRussa's problem-solving skills: rather than look at his needs in terms of getting another bat into the lineup, he treats an open slot as a great way to guarantee regular playing time at a single position for Placido Polanco. All of the reasoning involved needs to be questioned: Why is playing Placido Polanco every day a goal? Is it a good thing? Is it the best option? Defenders of the rationale will point that Polanco's a better defensive third baseman than Albert Pujols, but Polanco would have to be able to be Terry Pendleton with wings to make up for the fact that the only outfielders he can outhit are people like So Taguchi or Al Martin. That isn't Polanco's fault; he is a nice hitter for a utility man. Rather, LaRussa and Walt Jocketty both need to be held accountable for punting a lineup slot, a sin even worse than punting a roster spot or two. Ernie Young would not have been an ideal solution, but he would have been a better than overcommitting to a utilityman and leaving the bench short another player on a bench already likely to be burdened with three catchers.
Traded 2B/SS-R Damian Jackson and C-B Matt Walbeck to the Tigers for C-R Javier Cardona and OF-R Rich Gomez. [3/23]
Acquired 1B-L Kevin Barker from the Brewers for C-R Dusty Wathan. [3/24]
To make a long story short, the twin decisions to trade Damian Jackson and to demote Cesar Crespo creates a few practical results. First, Ramon Vazquez and Deivi Cruz are both here to stay, and whoever doesn't start will have to be the utility infielder. Second, Mark Sweeney almost certainly makes the team as its lefty pinch-hitter, and Treni Hubbard probably makes the team as a supersub.
There's a chance that one of Sweeney or Hubbard might yet lose out to a twelfth pitcher, except that the majority of spare relief candidates aren't on the 40-man roster. If it was going to be an extra pitcher, you might have expected it was going to be Rule 5 pick Ryan Baerlocher, but he had an awful camp. Nevertheless, the Pads don't have anybody you might call a workhorse in the rotation. Beyond a core four of Trevor Hoffman, Alan Embree, Steve Reed, and Jose Nunez, NRI Jason Boyd is already considered a lock to make the team. Two more NRIs (Matt DeWitt and David Lundquist) are pitching well enough to garner some consideration, and Jeremy Fikac is already healthy enough to pitch. They might choose to open with a seven-man bullpen.
Still, count the bodies, because getting all of the non-roster talent onto the Opening Day roster won't be easy. Sean Burroughs, Boyd, Sweeney and Hubbard all have to be added to the 40-man roster. Returning Baerlocher creates one space, and my guess is that placing Tom Davey, Adam Eaton, and Kevin Walker on the 60-day DL will make room for the rest. That's not counting making any room for DeWitt or Lundquist, however. It'll certainly be interesting to see how Kevin Towers pulls it off.
As for the trade, in summation, it's a good thing. Javier Cardona might end up hanging around as an adequate backup catcher, a notch above Walbeck and able to be that good for a few years to come, while Rich Gomez is a nice enough reserve outfielder who doesn't take up space on the 40-man roster.
There isn't really any news here, which is significant in itself in that the Giants haven't made some tough choices behind the plate yet. Angel Pena and Yorvit Torrealba are both having good camps, while Benito Santiago is not (surprise) and Scott Servais can safely acknowledge that he showed up. Edwards Guzman is not a lock to make the team as a third catcher and odd-jobs sort; the Giants still have to make decisions to make on Rule 5 pick Felix Escalona and backup first baseman Damon Minor, and even if they send Pedro Feliz back to Fresno, there's only room for two from Escalona, Minor and Guzman. Guzman might have legs in the backup catcher fight, except he isn't much of a catcher. Otherwise, Torrealba has options, so that really reduces the fight to Pena versus Servais. The next 72 hours should be interesting to watch.
Both Wascar Serrano and Greg Wooten had bad camps and they had options, so they didn't do anything to help themselves push Ryan Franklin aside for a right-handed long man role. Assuming that Franklin and John Halama are both still Mariners on Opening Day, that leaves one slot in the pen. To stock it, the Mariners are looking at journeyman mop-up star Shiggy Hasegawa, a retreaded Ken Cloude, and organizational soldier Justin Kaye. The potential merits of each? Well, if Marge Schott owned the Mariners, I guess Hasegawa would offer the cheap option of having three Japanese players share a room on the road. Cloude deserves a break or two after having his career derailed by being rushed to the majors back in 1997-1998, but he's a non-roster player and he needs extended work he may not get in a big league bullpen. Kaye has a nifty slider that might not offer the Mariners a different enough alternative to Jeff Nelson's, but he can pitch.
Of course, if Halama isn't a Mariner come Opening Day, that creates an opening for somebody like Brian Fitzgerald or Matt Jarvis to be the second lefty, but they're both still longshots at this late stage.
Released OF-L Troy O'Leary. [3/25]
O'Leary can afford to go out feeling a little proud, because he's been executing Operation Shutdown with quiet dignity for a couple of years, while Derek Bell is only teasing us with bold talk and less playing time. The really good news is that the D-Rays are edging towards selecting a worthwhile roster, instead of larding it up with their usual junk. Sure, they're still goofing around with Jason Tyner, who won't grow up to be Dave Collins even if everything breaks his way. If the Devil Fishies end up playing Jason Conti instead of Tyner, they'll come out ahead in both halves of an inning. Since they have already made the correct choice between Russ Johnson and Jared Sandberg at third base, they might just end up fielding a baseball team that actually uses its nine best players, and not their latest hair-brained scheme to play some random assortment of legacies old and young.
Assigned RHP Jeremi Gonzalez to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Acquired LHP Jesus Pena from the Brewers for RHP Luis Vizcaino. [3/24]
Acquired LHP Rich Rodriguez from the Braves for a PTBNL. [3/25]
The Rangers are hard up for left-handed relief help, but this hard up? John Rocker's the closer and thus unavailable for any earlier duties, at least as long as Jeff Zimmerman will be on the DL, which leaves Chris Michalak (pitching well, thank you). So you can probably understand why John Hart went shopping. But at what cost? For those of you keeping score at home, John Hart took the Rangers from having Justin Duchscherer (interesting pitching prospect) to Luis Vizcaino (interesting pitching prospect who throws hard) to Jesus Pena (waiver bait). That's what I call transactional entropy, where the only gain is that brief high that comes with free-basing roster moves. Worse yet, it was subsequently exposed as a fool's errand, because Hart clearly traded too soon, as represented by the Rich Rodriguez pickup. Worse beyond even that, there are a passel of lefties who are going to be available between now and Opening Day; in the American League alone, the Twins, Athletics, Orioles and Blue Jays all have somebody they could afford to peddle. The Marlins and Cubs and Cardinals all have lefties caught up in their individual roster crunches that they'd probably be willing to part with. So why in Sam Houston's name would you trade Vizcaino for a really crummy lefty? Why not pick up the phone and offer him to somebody else for somebody useful? Why not wait a day and end up with Rodriguez? Why not scan the waiver wires and sign Allen McDill? This was sloppy at best, inept at worst.
Josh Phelps had a very good camp, and while he's not a smooth catcher, it's worth remembering Yogi Berra took time to develop too. Hell, with Phelps, Jayson Werth and Kevin Cash, the Jays could eventually end up being like the '61 Yankees in one regard, in that they could have three catchers who can hit well enough to want to have all three around at the same time, and making playing time for each of them at other positions whenever possible. The "problem" is that with Cash on the way up, the Jays will have to eventually push Phelps to work at first or DH or who knows where else. But that's a long way off, and while Phelps should be up long before September, they've got a plausible/functional temps in Darrin Fletcher and Tom Wilson in the meantime.