March 21, 2002
March 14-18, 2002
Assigned RHP John Lackey to Salt Lake. [3/14]
Signed CF-R Julio Ramirez to a minor-league contract. [3/18]
Although basically brought in to replace Nathan Haynes during Haynes's recovery from his latest injury, Julio Ramirez has gone to one of the right organizations for him to have a shot at returning to the majors. Not the perfect team--that would be the Brewers, considering that they're still pretending Jeffrey Hammonds can play center, which he can't, if he was healthy, which he isn't. But Darin Erstad is a free agent after this summer, and once the Angels' tepid dreams of finishing higher than third in the AL West start fading, Erstad will be one of their most valuable commodities to offer to the appropriate contender. That will create an opportunity for Ramirez to the extent that Ramirez might get to come up and play some center and/or platoon with Orlando Palmeiro.
Although he's the Angels' best young pitcher at the moment, John Lackey wasn't really in the hunt for a rotation spot this spring, so his demotion isn't really a surprise. As is, Matt Wise is already crowded out of the picture, so the Angels are in the happy situation where they won't have to push Lackey up as the sixth starter once something happens to one of the front five.
Optioned RHPs Jeremy Ward, Mike Koplove, Jose Valverde, and John Patterson and RF-L Doug Devore to Tucson; optioned RHPs P.J. Bevis and Duaner Sanchez and CF-BLuis Terrero to El Paso (Double-A); assigned C-R Brad Cresse to El Paso. [3/15]
Optioned SS-B Alex Cintron to Tucson. [3/18]
The Snakes' pen isn't really that crowded, so it is a bit of a surprise to see some of the pitchers sent down here get demoted so soon. So far, Byung-Hyun Kim, Bret Prinz, Mike Myers, Greg Swindell, Mike Morgan, and probably Miguel Batista (if the Todd Stottlemyre's death ride goes any further) are locks. Then there's filler like Jose Parra and Erik Sabel, and the usual wounded like Matt Mantei and Armando Reynoso, at which point it might make sense to remember that Mike Koplove was good enough to be on a couple of postseason rosters. Jeremy Ward and John Patterson are both on the road back from Tommy John surgery, so it's defensible to focus on letting them continue to get reps and innings in the minors. What this really should add up to is Joe Garagiola Jr. watching the waiver wire this spring, because he could use a right-handed middle reliever.
The fifth starter's job in the rotation is still up in the air, but it won't be Matt Guerrier's to gun for after he gave up 17 baserunners and 10 runs in less than seven innings. With Jim Parque looking like he'll be stuck in extended spring training trying to regain his form, the front four in the rotation is currently down to Mark Buehrle, Todd Ritchie, Jon Garland, and Danny Wright. Matt Ginter has had a bad spring, and in the absence of a good third pitch, he's probably not a real alternative, anyway. By default, that leaves Jon Rauch or Lorenzo Barcelo, two guys trying to bounce back from arm problems. Neither are pitching well, and Rauch just got lit up by the Giants.
That does not mean that the Sox lack options. The danger is that Kenny Williams will take this as a reason to make an unfortunate deal for another veteran starter, when he may not have to do so. Each of the front three relievers in his pen--Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, and Gary Glover--has experience as a starting pitcher, and with Antonio Osuna looking relatively healthy, bullpen depth is less of an issue than the rotation appears to be at the moment. The problem isn't a shortage of starters, it's the surfeit of guys who might be able to start. Solving the problem will require a good snap decision from Jerry Manuel and pitching coach Nardi Contreras, especially if the Sox are going to avoid another deal like the Ritchie trade, in which the Sox give up too much talent for semi-respectable mediocrity.
In a perfect world (a perfect Sox world), they'd be able to convince the Devil Rays to take Royce Clayton, Sandy Alomar, cash, and a playoff share for Chuck LaMar in exchange for Tanyon Sturtze. Heck, with Cam Bonifay consulting the boys in electric aqua, you might even get lucky.
Optioned 1B-L Hee Choi and RHP Mike Meyers to Iowa; optioned SS-R Nate Frese to West Tenn (Double-A); assigned RHPs Will Cunnane and Ben Ford to their minor league camp; acquired RHP Shawn Sonnier from the Royals to complete the 12/10/01 trade of OF-L Michael Tucker. [3/15]
Hee Choi's future is still in the future, so the good news with him is that he hit well in camp, hopefully dispelling the lingering concerns about his recurring hand injuries. Other good news? Dave Kelton hit the ball hard, and considering he's still just 22 and that he's still playing third base, there's a very reasonable chance that by the end of 2003, both Chicago teams will have homegrown third basemen to be excited about.
What's a little more surprising is that Mike Meyers is being shipped out so quickly. He had a good camp, not that it matters considering he was only allowed to throw a pair of innings scattered over three different games. But compared to the seriousness with which Donovan Osborne is being taken (and for so little reason considering Osborne's last good season was during Clinton's first four years), and the oddly divergent readiness to try to see if Mark Prior can or can't make it rightnowthisinstant, Meyers appears to have been lost in the shuffle again.
This is old ground for him, seeing as how he routinely gets overlooked for almost any of the numerous Latin flamethrowers the organization is developing with varying levels of success. To be fair to Jim Hendry and his crew, there has actually been success, at least as far as Juan Cruz is concerned. But Meyers would be a good bet for a lot of other teams, and with the Cubs counting on Jason Bere and wondering if they really will have to pencil Julian Tavarez into the fifth slot again, he deserves better consideration.
Ed. note: Meyers injured himself pitching earlier this spring.
Finally, in getting Shawn Sonnier from the Royals, the Cubs picked up somebody who, before shoulder surgery in January, threw hard. Essentially, they got somebody with enough talent to be on a 40-man roster, but with an injury that will place him on the 60-day DL and thus off of it until he's healthy. To unload the eminently replaceable Michael Tucker, that's a reasonable enough flyer, especially on the karmic consideration level, because one of the two pitchers traded to the Reds to get Tucker (Chris Booker) is also going to miss the season with an arm injury.
The Reds really like Ricardo Aramboles, and he had his moments in camp, but not all of them were good. With the bevy of alternatives that have to be sorted through this late in March, there wasn't any further need to send the message that they expect great things.
Optioned RHPs Tim Drew, Roy Smith and Martin Vargas and LHP Alex Herrera to Buffalo; optioned C-B Victor Martinez to Akron (Double-A); assigned RHP Jeff "Other" D'Amico, LHP Heath Murray, IF-R Anthony Medrano, 1B-R Earl Snyder, OF-L Todd Dunwoody and OF-B Donzell McDonald to minor-league camp. [3/17]
There's some talent among these demotions, as well as some repercussions. First, the Tribe had the good sense to not keep Todd Dunwoody, which means there's still some hope for Karim Garcia. Nevertheless, there are several roster train wrecks in the making. The Tribe is apparently leaning towards carrying 12 pitchers, and it only gets worse considering that they want to have Brady Anderson and Wil Cordero as two of their 13 position players. It will be somewhat painful to determine what exact purpose they serve. Travis Fryman has had one good year in the last three, and is looking awful this spring, so Russ Branyan might not be the DH or left fielder if he ends up having to play a lot of third. Cordero might have value as a platoon partner for Anderson, but the question is whether an Anderson/Cordero platoon is any better than a Garcia/Bruce Aven combo. The roster already has a good utility man in Jolbert Cabrera, there isn't the roster space to keep everybody, and the best possible combinations can't even be evaluated because of the expensive and foolish commitments to Anderson, Cordero, and a 12th pitcher.
The commitment to a dozen pitchers is sillier still when you notice who that probably includes in the bullpen. Bob Wickman, Paul Shuey, and Ricky Rincon are all in. Scott Radinsky deserves some breaks in life, but the Indians can't afford to be the team handing them out, which should mean that the Tribe is going to shop for a lefty reliever; whether they get one that can pitch or they carry Radinsky, that's a fourth body. There's already a bullpen spot wasted on Mark Wohlers, so that's five. Chances are the Tribe will end up carrying one of Omar Olivares or Charles Nagy or Jose Mercedes as an alternative to Ryan Drese as the fifth starter, which is six, at least, and like Wohlers, it's a waste of a spot. David Riske should be on the roster come Opening Day, but that's because he's talented and will end up having to do whatever it was Wohlers was supposed to be good for, and for less money. Roy Smith and Martin Vargas deserved better consideration than this, Vargas because he had a good camp and throws hard, and Smith because he'd give the team a sidearmer. At best, this all leaves Jerrod Riggan on the bubble, pitching against the various leftovers from the fight for that fifth starter's job.
Signed CF-L Juan Pierre to a four-year contract. [3/14]
Wow, those bad old Rockies, they really don't take the whole 60-40 thing seriously enough. I mean, here they are, running up debt with a long-term commitment, and even if it isn't for very much, the man who made Franklin Stubbs rich says that this is a new age no-no.
More practically, this is a good move by the Rockies. Pierre is one of the most interesting players in the game today, because of his skill set, the environment in which he plays, and whether he can derive some greater value from his home park than he did in his rookie season. Almost any guy who gets the ball in play is more valuable in Coors Field than anywhere else, but Pierre managed to slug higher on the road than at home, and that's remarkable. Not quite get-an-e-mail-from-God-confirming-papal-infallibility remarkable, but certainly more than a Kylie Minogue comeback.
At any rate, Pierre is a player that we should all enjoy watching, both on the visceral "watch that waterbug skitter on the bases" level, and on the lofty theoretical level of seeing what a player with his ability to run and make contact can do on Planet Coors. If you happen to like the Rockies, it doesn't hurt to have a guy who can fly to the gaps in center on your team.
Optioned RHP Adam Bernero, 1B-L Eric Munson, OF-R Craig Monroe and CF-B Andres Torres to the minor leagues; assigned C-R Yohanny Valera, SS-R Omar Infante, 3B-LJarrod Patterson, UT-R Adam Riggs, SS-R Juan Sosa, OF-Rs Chad Alexander and Rod Lindsey and OF-L Chris Wakeland to their minor-league camp. [3/15]
For those of you keeping score, this means that yes, the Tigers will be playing Shane Halter at shortstop, and yes, two of their outfielders will be Wendell Magee and Jose Macias, and...<cringe>, yes, they're excited about a roster that might--yet again--carry people like Randall Simon and Ryan Jackson. The four-way fight for the catcher's job has garnered the most coverage, but at the end of the day, the Tigers will be fielding a team of leftovers that make a table-league dummy team picked randomly look good. What does it say about a team if its left fielder (Bobby Higginson) is its best defensive player? This state of affairs won't last forever, since we can probably count on Omar Infante to show up and play shortstop by September. Meanwhile, this is a roster clogged with a unique blend of DHs, utility men, and punchless corner infielders and outfielders.
Both Hansel Izquierdo and Nate Teut pitched well enough to get longer looks, but the Marlins already have six relievers pretty well locked in for Opening Day. In part, that's because they've had to bounce Chuck Smith back into the bullpen, but they've also already got two good left-handed relievers in front of Teut, and until they find a way to move Antonio Alfonseca, they're going to have to wait before they can create opportunities for young right-handers like Kevin Olsen or Gary Knotts or Blaine Neal or Jason Grilli, let alone an intriguing retread like Izquierdo.
You've already read about the decision to move Richard Hidalgo to right field and make Lance Berkman the regular center fielder, and this does keep things somewhat simpler in late-game moves, in that Hidalgo will now remain in place while Berkman moves to left whenever Jimy Williams brings in Brian Hunter for Daryle Ward. That's all well and good, and it might not hurt the Astros too badly. No, what's really amusing is that they're also going to try Jason Lane as a center fielder in New Orleans. This is the danger of when you start off with the assumption that if Ward can play left, and everyone else can play the outfield better than Ward, then why can't everyone else play in the more difficult positions, because you've already committed yourself to the assumption that Daryle Ward can play left.
I don't mind the willingness to try to make Berkman and Lane more than just left fielders; they're obviously more valuable if they can play somewhere besides left. But I also don't think any of us should be surprised if both Berkman and Lane turn out to be less than ideal center fielders.
Optioned LHP Tony Cogan to Wichita (Double-A). [3/16]
Despite the demotions of Jordan Zimmerman and Tony Cogan and Scott Mullen, the Royals are not on the verge of becoming the first team to go leftyless in the pen since Felipe Alou had the stones to do it in the early 1990s. They still have Jeremy Affeldt in camp throwing well, and Darrell May is hardly a lock to be in the rotation come Opening Day. The intriguing opportunity is if they let Affeldt stick around as a real middle reliever, with an eye towards grooming him for what would probably be a midseason insertion into the rotation. Paul Byrd looks like the latest variation of a Brian Meadows theme, while Chad Durbin and Blake Stein both seem likely to get out of Tony Muser's lukewarm graces easily enough.
Released OF-R Roberto Kelly. [3/18]
Releasing Boberto Kelly doesn't answer the desperate question of which stiff gets playing time in the Dodgers outfield: Fonzie Bichette, or any of their trio of light-hitting center fielders? Bumping Brian Jordan into center field to get a bat into the lineup would be a good thing for a team that has to compensate for carrying Eric Karros at first base, but the tragedy for the Dodgers is that they don't have somebody who can hit enough to play left field and make it a worthwhile proposition. Instead, they've got the baseball equivalent of an undercard at the Dwarf Wrasslin' World Championship. Does the winner really earn bragging rights for anything?
Optioned 2B-R Marcos Scutaro and IF-B Elvis Pena to Indianapolis; re-assigned C-R Lance Burkhart, 1B-L Jon Zuber, LHP Derrin Ebert, RHPs Gus Gandarillas and Ryan Glynnand OF-R Robert Perez to minor-league camp. [3/18]
With Mark Loretta, Ronnie Belliard, and Eric Young already all on the roster, the odds that Marcos Scutaro had a prayer in hell of cracking the roster were pretty remote. As for Ryan Glynn (or any pitcher already sent down), we haven't seen the last of him. With at least five or six pitchers you would otherwise expect to be on the Opening Day roster nursing various aches and pains, the odds are extremely good that the back end of the bullpen and the rotation is going to include a few surprises. Mexican League refugee Francisco Campos and Japanese import Takaki Nomura are the mysterious foreigners, while more pedestrian alternatives like Mike Buddie and Paul Rigdon are still floating around. If the market on middle infielders wasn't already flooded, you might expect the Brewers to try to move one for some pitching help, but nobody else wanted Eric Young to start, and nobody's willing to take on Mark Loretta's salary ($5 million). That puts the Brewers in the inverted situation of trying to peddle younger, cheaper talent--Ronnie Belliard--instead of keeping it to build towards something more ambitious than a 75-win season.
Optioned RHPs Josh Karp and Donnie Bridges and CF-R Wilken Ruan to Ottawa; assigned OF-B Norm Hutchins, 1B-L Ivan Cruz, 3B-R Howard Battle, SS-R Wilson Valdez, C-L Alex Andreopoulos, LHP Anthony Ferrari and Eric Good and RHPs Don Levinski and Jim Serrano to their minor-league camp. [3/15]
Most of these demotions are unsurprising in themselves, with the real treat being the battle currently playing itself out among the survivors. Beyond the injuries to every member of the starting infield and what that has meant as far as playing Tomas de la Rosa almost every day, two-thirds of the outfield is still up in the air, with Brad Wilkerson and Pete Bergeron not doing particularly well as far as fending off Jose Canseco and Ron Calloway, let alone Felix Jose or Glen Barker. Brian Schneider might actually win a share of the catching job. Three or four jobs in the bullpen are up in the air. It almost seems quaint, but this is one camp where the final couple of weeks really do matter, and will end up determining the shape of a big chunk of the roster, and not just the usual questions about the fifth starter, fifth outfielder, sixth reliever, or backup catcher.
Released LHP Allen Watson. [3/15]
Released UT-R Jim Leyritz. [3/17]
If the Yankees don't have room to stow you in extended spring training in Tampa, you're either done, or about to cross the bay and play for the Devil Rays. I don't think this is really the last we've heard of Jim Leyritz, any more than Luis Sojo's retirement last winter was an issue worthy of lengthy consideration. Old Yankees never die; they just wait around until they get to be Yankees again.
Optioned C-R Jason Phillips, LHP Mike Bacsik, and RHPs Mark Corey and Dicky Gonzalez to Norfolk; assigned C-Rs Joe Depastino and Jimmy Gonzalez, IF-Bs Luis Figueroaand Hanley Frias, SS-B Jose Reyes, RHP John Frascatore and OF-L Darren Bragg to minor-league camp. [3/18]
If there's a surprise, it's that John Frascatore was sent down so soon. But with Satoru Komiyama having a good spring, Bruce Chen untraded, and Grant Roberts out of options, the six-man bullpen is pretty well set, courtesy of John Franco's injury. The only wild card is what happens with Pete Walker, but since he's a non-roster player, he's entirely dependent on the Mets trading Chen or Roberts between now and Opening Day.
The good news on a more general level is that Mike Bacsik had a good camp, and that should bump him ahead of a guy like the wrong Bobby Jones for a swing lefty role later on this summer.
Exercised their 2005 option on RHP Tim Hudson. [3/16]
Traded RHP Luis Vizcaino to the Rangers for RHP Justin Duchscherer; optioned RHP Allen Levrault to Sacramento; assigned 2B/OF-R Chad Meyers, OF-L Rob Ryan, OF-RMike Wenner, RHP Aaron Scheffer and C-R Carlos Mendez to minor-league camp. [3/18]
Leave it to the Athletics to favor a pitcher with excellent command over a pitcher with stuff. Luis Vizcaino was out of options and not likely to make a bullpen that was already crowded with nine other worthy candidates for six jobs. Even so, a guy like Mike Fyhrie might have to get outrighted, Chad Harville's status as one of the game's rare four-option players might get exercised, and Billy Beane will still have to peddle or outright one of his three left-handed Mikes (Venafro, Magnante, and Holtz).
The outstanding aspect of this is that Justin Duchscherer isn't your average warm body. Despite only average velocity, he can throw three pitches for strikes, and would be more highly regarded as a pitching prospect if he wasn't going from one organization with several to another organization with several already in their big-league rotation. He gives Oakland an alternative to Erik Hiljus for later this summer, one who just as handily has a couple of options left.
Chalk this up as a fine exercise in roster management, because Beane acquired something of value for something else of value, but more specifically a player who fit into the current collection of talent on the 40-man roster better than Vizcaino was going to.
Optioned OF-L Eric Valent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [3/16]
Eric Valent didn't have much of an opportunity to challenge Ricky Ledee for at-bats. With the apparently never-ending fascination with John Mabry manifesting itself hereabouts, and with the Phillies still sorting through who to keep from among Kevin Jordan, David Doster, Dave Hollins, and Felipe Crespo, Valent is better off getting his stroke down in Scranton and playing regularly anyway. His primary value to the organization at this point is probably as trade bait in a package deal to bring in some stretch-drive talent.
Purchased the contract of RHP Brian Boehringer. [3/15]
Despite the demotion of three pitchers with big-league experience, and the decision to commit to Brian Boehringer, the pitching staff is still a tangled mess. Four starters seem to be in place: Ron Villone, Kip Wells, David Williams, and Jimmy Anderson. The fifth slot might go to Sean Lowe, but you've also got Josh Fogg in the running. Tony McKnight has to make the team (he's out of options), and the other candidates for the bullpen are closer Mike Williams, Mike Fetters, and Boehringer for right-handers, and Scott Sauerbeck, Joe Beimel, and Damaso Marte for lefties, and then you have to sort out what happens to Fogg if he doesn't beat Lowe, and you have Mike Lincoln and Bronson Arroyo on the 40-man roster as well.
There are a lot of people pitching, and the work seems to be getting spread around too thinly, which means that just about anything could happen in a camp that has already seen Ron Villone get named as the favorite to be the Opening Day starter, this on the strength of six spring innings.
All of which is another way of saying I don't think we've seen the last of Salomon Torres's remarkable comeback.
Signed OF-L Mark Sweeney to a minor-league contract. [3/16]
The Padres are probably done as far as filling up their outfield. They've got the front four of Mark Kotsay, Ryan Klesko, Ray Lankford and Bubba Trammell. Ron Gant has made the team as the fifth outfielder, and Treni Hubbard is having an outstanding camp. Sweeney still might yet make the roster as the team's primary left-handed pinch-hitter, depending on how the infield shakes down. The starting four of Sean Burroughs, Phil Nevin, D'Angelo Jimenez, and Ramon Vazquez is in place, which leaves Deivi Cruz, Damian Jackson, and Cesar Crespo. If the Padres decide to keep all three (Cruz for defense, Crespo for his blend of flexibility, power and patience, and Jackson because they've invested several years in him to see if he'll work out), then Sweeney is out of luck. Of course, if Hubbard gets any hotter, it may not matter what Sweeney does or which way he bats.
Optioned RHPs Jeff Heaverlo and Gil Meche, LHP Ryan Anderson and CF-R Kenny Kelly to Tacoma; optioned RHPs J.J. Putz, Allan Simpson, Rafael Soriano and Aaron Taylor, 2B-R Willie Bloomquist and SS-R Antonio Perez to San Antonio (Double-A); sent RHP Brian Falkenborg, C-Rs Blake Barthol and Ryan Christianson and OF-R Juan LeBron to their minor-league camp. [3/14]
The Mariners' roster is pretty well set, beyond the "what do we do with John Halama" problem (or perhaps as appropriate, "remind me why we signed James Baldwin?"), so there aren't any surprises or shocking demotions in this bunch. The bigger news is the loss of Jeff Heaverlo and Ryan Anderson for the year to shoulder problems, and considering the ongoing problems that Gil Meche is suffering, the Mariners are a reminder about why it's best to judge an organization in terms of its depth in pitching prospects, and not strictly on the basis of the specific prospects. The Mariners still have a lot of young talent, and Ken Cloude is on the comeback trail and doing well in camp.
Neither Antonio Perez nor Willie Bloomquist had great camps, but that wasn't that much of surprise, since neither got serious looks, and Bloomquist is a non-prospect. However, there was one surprise involved, in that it was surprising to learn that Perez was not one of the names caught up in the burgeoning Agegate scandal, despite longstanding rumors that his listed age was fictitious. Now, whether that's because he has a multi-year visa that he picked up previously, I don't know, because there are going to be some more surprises on this front next spring.
Ed. note: Perez was in fact discovered to be a year older than previously thought upon his reentry to the United States.
Jorge Sosa is a Rule 5 pick from the Mariners that the Brewers tried to slip through waivers, and the Devil Rays, being bottom-feeders in fact as well as in nature, snapped him up because they don't have a whole lot to lose, now do they? Another hard-throwing converted outfielder who can dial up heat in the mid-90s, Sosa is a worthwhile use of a roster spot for a team that doesn't exist for anything but a future that can't help but be better than the past or present.
Kevin McGlinchy, on the DL? For what, mooning over the loss of a playoff share now that he's no longer a Brave?
Acquired RHP Luis Vizcaino from the Athletics for RHP Justin Duchscherer. [3/18]
Luis Vizcaino is out of options, and not a great bet to make the Rangers. Essentially, picking him up seems to be a calculated risk, in that the Rangers are shopping for another starting pitcher, and they want to be able to have enough stuff to offer for somebody, and an extra guy who throws hard is a nice bargaining chip. Not every team would value Justin Duchscherer the way the A's did, so to give credit where credit is due, John Hart has added somebody with more broadly marketable skills in the trade market. Of course, there's risk built in, in that the Rangers might get stuck and have to carry Vizcaino and not wind up getting that extra starting pitcher, but that's why they pay Mr. Hart the big bucks.
As exciting as Hank Blalock has been in camp, it's worth noting that Mark Teixeira didn't seem to be overmatched in his brief exposure to the big leagues this spring. Once the Rangers clear away the merely decent players on their roster--Rusty Greer, Carl Everett, and perhaps Gabe Kapler--and hitters like Blalock and Teixeira start coming into their own, the Rangers should have an insanely great offensive club in 2004.
Justin Miller and Chad Ricketts both came into camp with shots at jobs, but Miller has options and the Jays are happy with what Corey Thurman, Brian Cooper, and Scott Eyre have done in camp. The real question is what happens next, because Brandon Lyon and Roy Halladay have had spotty springs. A lot will depend on whether or not the Jays find a good match amidst all of the ongoing interest being expressed in Chris Carpenter, and whether or not they find a home for one of their three left-handed relievers (Felix Heredia, Dan Plesac, and Pedro Borbon).