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July 19, 2002
June 25-July 14, 2002
Placed RHP Al Levine on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 6/27; recalled RHP John Lackey from Salt Lake. [6/28]
Activated C/UT-R Shawn Wooten from the DL; optioned RHP Matt Wise to Salt Lake. [7/11]
I don't disagree with the idea of bringing up John Lackey to move into the rotation. Lackey is the organization's best upper-level prospect, and he's obviously ready to go.
Moreover, the Angels' rotation has been bad news beyond the front duo of Ramon Ortiz and Jarrod Washburn; veterans Aaron Sele and Kevin Appier are not looking so hot, and Scott Schoeneweis is pitching almost as badly as they are. Appier has posted just eight quality starts (using runs, not earned runs) in 17 outings, Sele six in 17, and Schoeneweis five in 15. Schoeneweis comes out a little bit ahead of the other two in Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral evaluations, I'm guessing because he's been less bad when he's been bad, and since there's enough bad to go around among the three, that adds up.
Because Schoeneweis has the smallest contract of the three pitchers, he's the one out of the rotation, which coincidentally makes him the best commodity the Angels have at the moment if they want to deal for a first baseman or a catcher who can hit. (Shawn Wooten's return will help, but it isn't a substitute for a good everyday player at either position.) They have a pretty decent group of right-handed middle relievers already, so they don't need to shop for a replacement for Al Levine as much as they can sit back and hope he gets better, while addressing their more pressing needs to help keep their unexpected run at the Mariners alive.
Meanwhile, Red Sox fans have been awfully good sports of late for neglecting to remind me about a prediction made in this space about Sele and Appier versus John Burkett, Darren Oliver and Dustin Hermanson. It's just as well; although it's usually better to wait and see how these things play out over an entire season, if you're a Red Sox fan feeling smug about chiding me over the winter, you should be.
Placed 1B-L Erubiel Durazo on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 6/30; recalled IF-B Alex Cintron from Tucson. [7/1]
Placed RHP Todd Stottlemyre on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 6/27; recalled RHP Erik Sabel from Tucson. [7/3]
Acquired RHP Mike Fetters from the Pirates for RHP Duaner Sanchez. [7/6]
Activated 3B-R Matt Williams from the 60-day DL; optioned IF-B Alex Cintron to Tucson. [7/11]
Mike Fetters debuted in the '80s and will be 38 before Christmas, so you could say that he's got what it takes to be another gray Snake in what must be (at this point) the mongoose-free state. The Snakes do need the help, as the only contending teams with worse bullpens are the Athletics and (notionally) the Expos. When the alternative reinforcements are like Italian sportscars--flashy, expensive, and easily broken--you can hardly blame Joe Garagiola Jr. for learning nothing from his past and continuing to shop outside the organization. It's sort of a shame, because the homegrown relief help is still the best the team has, starting with Byung-Hyun Kim and ending with Mike Koplove, with nothing in between.
Is it just me, or does Erubiel Durazo have all of the good fortune of someone who has to join the cast of Suddenly Susan to make their mortgage payments? The "commitment" to Durazo's overdue unshackling barely made it to 15 starts at first base before the amiable senior citizens managed to break away from shuffleboard and return to their active careers. Then Durazo got hurt again.
As fun as the breakout season of Junior Spivey has been, the Snakes should focus on getting every run on the board, and not just because of the unbalanced rotation. Any run in a Schilling or Johnson start is significant, and every run the other three days out of five is significant. Durazo is a better bet to put those runs on the board day-in and day-out, while Mark Grace and Greg Colbrunn are the kinds of hitters who can get the ball in play, which makes them nifty pinch-hitters in high-leverage situations.
Todd Stottlemyre didn't get the full-blown Viking funeral, but remember that the ballpark pool in the BOB is a bit cramped for that sort of thing. Like Ernest Borgnine as Ragnar in "The Vikings," just as Ol' Google Eyes got a boon from Tony Curtis before leaping to his doom, the Snakes made the grand gesture before letting Stottlemyre take that last leap into a pit filled with snarling surgeons. They gifted Stottlemyre with one last appearance to get one last game finished in which to get one last set of handshakes in uniform. It was a classy gesture.
From a practical standpoint, it's good for the Snakes to be able to move on and get serious about trying to beat the Dodgers. Carrying Stottlemyre on the roster served no purpose: he couldn't really start, and he wasn't durable enough to be able to make multiple effective appearances a week out of the pen. The only healthy joint between the fingertips of his right hand and his nose might be his wrist. He's supposed to be out at least three to five weeks, but with rehab work and a labor confrontation, with any luck the Snakes won't have to reactivate him until September, if at all.
On the non-news front, the Braves not only get to pile onto their lead in the standings, they get to enjoy the benefits of an embarassment of pitching riches. Albie Lopez was their only "big ticket" pitching pickup this offseason, and he's been reduced to non-essential personnel status. First, he lost his job in the rotation to Damian Moss. He's also been passed by because of the success of the scrap-heap duo of Darren Holmes and Chris Hammond, as well as the homegrown talent like Kevin Gryboski and Tim Spooneybarger.
As a result, Albie Lopez has been reduced to an insurance policy. That's useful, just not especially important when everything else on the roster works. That's not to say the Braves shouldn't have signed him; dredging up both Hammond and Holmes this past winter looked like a pair of pretty dubious propositions. But when half of the pitching staff is a testament to the organization's ability to develop or dig up better than replacement-level talent, hunting small game like Lopez in the offseason looks like unnecessary redundancy.
B.J. Ryan has been pretty ineffective of late, so the Orioles started fretting. With Buddy Groom shunted off into the closers' committee meetings in the eighth and ninth innings--while the Orioles' rotation isn't especially noted for its ability to get into the seventh--the belief developed that there was a need for another situational lefty on what was already a 12-man staff. So while Ryan gets his kinks worked out in whatever playing time Mike Hargrove elects to make for him, celebrated third lefty Yorkis Perez can come up and... well, either force a batter change to face somebody who will hammer him, or get a shot at a moderate-leverage out in the sixth inning. Seeing as how the Orioles have nothing to gun for but third place in the AL East and draft position for next June, it seems strange that they won't instead focus on using Ryan. They have to determine by November whether he's a good use of a spot on the 40-man roster.
There's something desperately feeble about a team with nothing at stake failing to make a decision between Jerry Hairston Jr. and Brian Roberts. Neither player is going to make or break the team's shot at third place. Not being able to choose between them, though, is a pretty significant indictment of the supposed virtues of scouting, which is supposed to trump the numbers in some people's minds. Hairston is a good glove with better all-around offensive skill who needs playing time to give the Orioles a read on whether to settle or cut bait. Roberts isn't good enough to be a solution, just a placeholder after you give up on Hairston, and while you look for something better. Randomly reshuffling at the position on the off chance that one of them gets hot and makes people forget Roberto Alomar--or even just Richie Dauer--is merely aimless.
Activated 2B/SS-R Rey Sanchez from the DL; optioned RHP Sun-Woo Kim to Pawtucket. [7/11]
The major issue confronting the Sox at the moment is pretty straightforward: who's going to be the fifth starter? Darren Oliver's star went nova months ago, Rolando Arrojo broke down briefly, and even though we're only talking the fifth starter here, Dustin Hermanson is less than a good bet after he returns in another week or so.
So if you're the Red Sox, and you get to watch the Yankees knocking themselves out to build a rotation for the ages, do you punt a slot, especially when you're counting on Derek Lowe to keep doing what he's doing, not to mention relying on John Burkett and Frank Castillo? The same option is there that has always been there: Tim Wakefield. Although he's been the best part of a bullpen that's done a good job so far, the Red Sox are going to have to wrestle with this decision between now and the end of July, when they'll know if they have what it takes to acquire a good starter, or if they have to make do with what they've got.
There isn't much to add to the good news of Manny Ramirez's return. It's important, and despite that creeping sense of inevitability, the Yankees haven't won anything yet, not this year. What's amazing is the provincial Beantown sentiments about "what have you done for me lately?" Ramirez is one of the best hitters in baseball, but apparently his inability to fly, handle Worldcom's books or foil Lex Luther keeps him well short of good enough for the inveterate Mike Greenwell boosters out there.
Outrighted RHP Ryan Kohlmeier to Charlotte. [6/26]
Talk about interesting moves... the White Sox get D'Angelo Jimenez for practically nothing? Sure, Alex Fernandez might turn into a prospect someday, but so far, he's young (21) and not noticeably good at anything. Humberto Quintero is not a prospect. Most interestingly, the Sox are playing Jimenez at shortstop in Charlotte. With Royce Clayton destined to finally be somebody else's problem in 2003, and both Kenny Lofton and Ray Durham entering free agency as well, that makes for some intreguing signals to be giving off in mid-July. The Sox have Jose Valentin to play shortstop next year (or right now), and with Jimenez, Joe Crede and Willie Harris, the Sox could turn over second base, third base and center field to young players while trading off Lofton and Durham in a surrender every bit as unequivocal as the one the Indians have already made.
The shocker is that the White Sox have to stoop to this. After blowing it in consecutive years, though, the Kenny Williams Era has the misfortune of being twice as long and several times worse than Hawk Harrelson's. To Williams' credit, he has a healthy swag of talent at his disposal if he cares to use it. Harris is a better second baseman than someone like Chad Meyers, but he's also potentially a good center fielder. Jimenez is probably destined for second base, but there are worse shortstops playing in the majors today. Crede should be the White Sox' third baseman starting now and at least five or six years into the future.
The question is whether Jerry Manuel is the manager to weave in that talent, and his recent work isn't cause for confidence. Harris got to stick around for one start and three pinch-hit at-bats in two weeks on the roster, and this at Manuel's request, to get up to 14 position players. Did Manuel really give this all that much thought? In DH-less games, that gave him six players on the bench, instead of the four he was used to with 13 position players and nine hitters in the lineup. As far as putting Harris to any good use, this didn't work. It could have worked, but Manuel didn't make it work.
As for reactivating Sandy Alomar Jr., this creates an opportunity for the Sox. If they can creep back to within five games of the Twins before the month's end, they can hold onto him. If they don't, and he shows he's healthy, they ought to deal him to a contender, along with shopping Lofton or, much as it pains me as a fan of the Little Bull, Durham. The Snakes are the obvious target, but the Giants or even the Angels wouldn't be bad choices either.
Signed LHP Travis Miller to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Iowa. [6/29]
Optioned RHP Francis Beltran to West Tennessee (Double-A). [7/1]
Activated RHP Flash Gordon from the DL. [7/2]
There are some quick observations to make here, in no particular order. First, claiming that the game passed Don Baylor by is sort of like saying Johnny Keane would be out of place today. Jim Riggleman may have been formulaic and dull, but Don Baylor managed to make that look like the acme of managerial competence by comparison. The game didn't passed Baylor by in the last ten years, but rather at least 30, if not 80 years ago; anyone who could play for Earl Weaver but not learn from him is somebody about whom you ought to wonder.
Surely there were other characteristics that made Baylor a useful manager, weren't there? Other than the capacity to make things up to fill print space, I think you'd be hard-pressed to identify any. If it wasn't for miscommunications with his players and coaches, he may not have communicated at all. He readily barfed up beat content in quick, controlled press sessions, but rarely took the time to make it any more credible than some of the demonstrably untrue things he'd say to his players (when he bothered to say anything to them at all). He played favorites, and not really in favor of the guys who were useful. He was addicted to tactics--LaRussian pitching changes, thoughtlessly reactionary platoons, an indefensible addiction to sac bunts--almost for no other reason than to demonstrate that he was actively involved in the game. That translated into a sort of poor man's Bob Boone, or the antithesis of John McNamara or Sleepy Cito Gaston. Overall, they were the sorts of things that make it easy to be mistaken for a manager without actually doing anything productive. Baylor was tactically inept, and had problems handling almost any player.
Some of this might have been resolved if Baylor had ever stooped to managing in the minors; he might have learned people skills, he might have learned to be honest with his players or with the press, he might have learned how to manage a roster. He didn't, and over the course of his managerial career, he hasn't improved. He whined his way into his first job, and strong-armed his way into his second to help orchestrate Davey Lopes' appointment in Milwaukee. If there's a manager unworthy of a third chance, it's Baylor. Not when there are qualified candidates with outstanding minor-league experience, qualified candidates with experience handling young teams, and (presumably) qualified candidates who aren't reflexive micro-managers who put themselves into tactical cul-de-sacs as a matter of habit.
As for the future, I think it's safe to interpret Andy MacPhail's self-firing as a sign that Tom Kelly is no longer a candidate for the job. (Nevertheless, MacPhail couldn't resist grabbing one more ex-Twin, Travis Miller, although it helped that the Cubs are desperately hard up for left-handed relief help at the moment.) That clears the decks for Jim Hendry to make his own choices, and there's reason to believe he's made one he can live with. Hendry worked with Bruce Kimm in the depths of the Cubs' farm system, personally hiring Kimm early on after coming over from Creighton, so he may just as easily stick with him for at least the rest of the year. Since there's talent enough to fuel a strong finish (not as strong as MacPhail's assertions that his club is still in the race, but promising), nobody should be surprised if Kimm lasts into 2003.
Not to slight Hendry or Kimm, but chalk this up as another job with another fantastically accomplished historical loser franchise that will not go to Buck Showalter because he's competent, confident and likes to win ballgames. You know, those managerial qualities that never go out of style.
Placed CF-L Ken Griffey Jr. on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 6/24; recalled OF-R Austin Kearns from Louisville. [6/25]
Purchased the contract of RHP Jared Fernandez from Louisville. [7/4]
Acquired RHP Ryan Dempster from the Marlins for OF-R Juan Encarnacion, PH-B Wilton Guerrero and LHP Ryan Snare; purchased the contracts of 3B-R Brandon Larson and OF-R Raul Gonzalez from Louisville; optioned RHP Luke Hudson to Louisville; designated RHP Seth Etherton for assignment, losing him on waivers to the Yankees; designated RHP Brian Reith for assignment, losing him on waivers to the Phillies. [7/11]
Acquired Roster Hot Potato/RHP Jeff "The Other" D'Amico from the Indians for a PTBNL. [7/12]
The Reds did the right things to help themselves. First, they dealt the right outfielder, making Juan Encarnacion somebody else's fourth outfielder miscast as a regular in an outfield corner. The alignment of Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn was the best possible choice, once Griffey returns from the DL. Getting Ryan Dempster while his value was down isn't genius, but it is a worthwhile risk, taking advantage of one of the team's greatest strengths (pitching coach Don Gullett) while addressing the rotation's basic weakness. Of course, if Dempster doesn't get turned around, the Reds are dead in the water, but they weren't going to win on the strength of Encarnacion's contributions anyway. Jim Bowden had to risk something, and he did.
On the other hand, the limitations of relying too heavily on Gullett's ability to work miracles is evident in Joey Hamilton's collapse. It was, like the pickup of Dempster, a worthwhile risk, but Hamilton has struggled since coming off of the DL in May. He's about to return to the DL, making room in the rotation for knuckleballer Jared Fernandez. The timing works out nicely on another level, which is that with the bullpen nicked up, the Reds could use somebody they can count on for six or seven innings every fifth night.
Traded RHP Bartolo Colon and a PTBNL to the Expos for 1B-L Lee Stevens, SS-R Brandon Phillips, OF-L Grady Sizemore and LHP Cliff Lee; sold the rights to RHP Martin Vargas to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Leagues; outrighted RHP Nerio Rodriguez to Buffalo. [6/27]
Named RHP Tim Drew as the PTBNL to the Expos to complete the Colon trade. [6/28]
Placed OF-L Matt Lawton on the 15-day DL (strained calf); recalled UT-L Bill Selby from Buffalo. [7/12]
In a remarkable turn of events, Mark Shapiro's decision to trade Bartolo Colon is being heralded, appopriately enough, as a triumph. Landing the best shortstop prospect in the game is a coup, although from Phillips' perspective it's sort of a shame that he gets to go from the league in which he'd probably be a 2004 All-Star to the league in which there are five historically great shortstops.
Beyond that minor concern, Shapiro got even more out of the deal. He basically got everything that the Expos had of value, and all it really cost him was taking on Lee Stevens. Grady Sizemore is 20, has a good eye and speed, and he can play center field. He doesn't have much in the way of power, but playing in high-A leagues at his age as a high-school pick, he's looked like a genuine comp to Brett Butler. Shapiro also got Cliff Lee, a four-pitch left-hander who can throw all four for strikes; when he's on, he can be insanely hard to hit. When he's off, he's wild and still hard to hit. It's too soon to call him the next Tommy Byrne, since he's nowhere near that wild, but he's a pretty sweet third player in the deal. Then there's Stevens, who costs money and fills his seat on the team bus well enough. As the price to get the deal done, that's not crippling.
What's amusing is that the coverage of the trade from the Indians' perspective has been mostly positive, despite this being no more abject a surrender than the White Sox' "White Flag" trade of 1997. I'd like to think that it's because the quality of the coverage has improved, but I can't help but wonder if a mitigating factor is that Shapiro has a famous father and an easy manner, whereas Ron Schueler was about as engaging as a blind, constipated yak. Nevertheless, as sensible as Schueler was to give up on chasing the lost legacy of the early '90s White Sox, Shapiro is right to forsake the traditions of near-glory of the mid- to late-'90s Indians.
Firing Charlie Manuel might seem cold at this late stage, but I think Shapiro made the right decision in light of the decision to accept that the future involves rebuilding. Manuel is sickly, and not as familiar with the young talent in the organization as Joel Skinner is. Skinner has been groomed for the job, has done well as a minor-league manager, and has been courted as a managerial candidate in the past. It's just as well to turn the team over to him and start using what you have in the organization.
If you missed it, the news is this: Ben Petrick isn't a catcher any more, at least not in the Rockies' eyes. They have Jack Cust and they don't know what to do with him, but he's a left fielder of sorts. So where do they put Petrick? Left field, which means they're either going to have to peddle Cust in the next few months, or come to a quick decision about whether their long-term future should include Petrick as an outfielder.
Meanwhile, without Bobby Estalella and with Petrick's tools of ignorance squirreled away somewhere, the Rockies are down to journeymen Gary Bennett and Walt McKeel as their backstops, which doesn't make the decision to move Petrick look any better. Bennett is a useful backup catcher, and McKeel is a long-suffering minor-league spear carrier finally catching a break, but the Rockies shouldn't just be in the business of cutting breaks for the downtrodden. Instead, it looks like Dan O'Dowd has far too much in common with his old mentor, John Hart, shuffling between plans without settling on a course of action and seeing how it plays out. Now he's catcherless, considering taking on Jason Kendall of all boondoggles, and he has two prospects--Cust and Petrick--he doesn't know what to do with.
Acquiring talent is a significant part of a GM's job, and O'Dowd has been able to do that, up to a point, although the The Great Changeup Experiment is a wee bit large to be considered a mulligan. As for the organizational skill of being able to sit back and utilize that talent to best advantage... well, there's obviously some work to be done.
Transferred OF-L Jacob Cruz from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/6]
Activated OF-L Bobby Higginson from the DL; recalled RHP Fernando Rodney from Toledo; placed DH-B Dmitri Young on the 15-day DL (hernia), retroactive to 7/6; placed 3B-R Chris Truby on the 15-day DL (pulled rib cage), retroactive to 7/4. [7/11]
In all that movement, the part that gets me is this: why didn't the Tigers just make the deal with the Yankees directly? They're stuck with Dmitri Young for three years to come, so they aren't totally desperate for somebody to stick at first base. They need top talent and stuff they can use, and the Tigers didn't get as much of that out of this deal as the Athletics did.
Getting Carlos Pena is a good thing, but that really seems to be all the Tigers got for Weaver. Franklyn German should be a useful reliever, and if that falls short of an oxymoron when talking about minor-league talent, it falls only just short. There have been rumors that the PTBNL will be a good young pitcher, and there have been rumors that it'll be an organizational soldier. Either way, this deal basically depends on Carlos Pena turning into Raffy Palmeiro to make Dave Dombrowski look good. Dombrowski just dealt his most tradeable commodity, now that the market for Bobby Higginson is shrinking dramatically with Cliff Floyd and Raul Mondesi having been dealt, If Pena is all he gets out of the July scramble, that's bad news for the Tigers.
In Weaver's absence, Scuffy Moehler moves back into the rotation. Steve Sparks has been a disaster, but otherwise the news isn't all bad. Adam Bernero is getting cuffed about, while Mike Maroth is looking adequate and Mark Redman is doing well. It could be worse: they could still have Dave Mlicki. The sad thing is the decision to keep Jose Lima, at this point almost entirely because of a possible labor war. If they cut him, they have to pay regardless of whether or not there's a strike, but if they keep him and the game breaks down, no need to cut a check.
Activated LHP Oswaldo Mairena from the DL; optioned LHP Nate Teut to Calgary. [6/30]
Acquired OF-R Juan Encarnacion, UT-B Wilton Guerrero and LHP Ryan Snare from the Reds for RHP Ryan Dempster; traded OF-L Cliff Floyd, Sibling-B Wilton Guerrero, RHP Claudio Vargas and Currency-$ American Legal Tender to the Expos for RHPs Carl Pavano and Justin Wayne, LHP Graeme Lloyd and IF-R Mike Mordecai. [7/11]
We may have to replace Tom Werner in the owners' rogue's gallery, because I don't know if he belongs on the same playing field as the incredible Jeffrey Loria. Werner only ruined the Padres once, after all. Loria might be able to trash a second franchise inside of a year, something you normally only see from people like Hawk Harrelson or Chuck Tanner. At this rate, Loria might even make people forgive and forget the Huizenganator, no easy feat. After all, Huizenga did actually win once, and did show the ability to make money. Loria loses money, games and talent with such aplomb that you have to wonder if the art market isn't ready for a few accounting disasters of its own.
Discarding Ryan Dempster when his value was at its lowest wasn't a good move; doing it to get as little as they did from the Reds (a fourth outfielder and the inevitable aspiring Moyer wannabe lefty who doesn't throw hard). At least Cliff Floyd fetched... well, Carl Pavano and Justin Wayne, since Graeme Lloyd and Mike Mordecai are just cash soak-offs. Pavano is a mess, and Wayne, despite frequent comparisons to Mike Mussina, is giving up about 3.8 runs per nine in a return engagement with the Eastern League. That's solid, but not outstanding. As packages for Cliff Floyd go, this was astonishingly weak. Even more galling to any other team that may have coveted Floyd for themselves, it was probably the best the Expos could do.
The Marlins rotation has been one of the big disappointments of the season. It goes beyond whether we're ever again going to see the Ryan Dempster who was pretty studly in 2000. Brad Penny and Josh Beckett haven't been what any fan had hoped they would be. A.J. Burnett is the most overworked young pitcher in the game today, pitching for a team that is giving every indication that it doesn't take itself seriously. Michael Tejera has been a nice surprise, but only after most of the famous kids got hurt or flopped. At least Penny is now back, although that's not automatically good news. The bad questions from spring training merely comes back to the fore: is Penny's elbow sound? Is Jeff Torborg qualified to handle a young starting pitcher? There are enough reasons to worry about the answers to either question to make Penny a major source of concern.
There's a very real chance that Jeffrey Loria, baseball's Angel of Death if ever there was one, along with his slack band of destructive henchmen, will be able to destroy within ten months what it took Dave Dombrowski four years to rebuild.
Placed LHP Carlos Hernandez on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Scott Linebrink from New Orleans. [7/2]
Can the Astros keep their hopes alive? At this point, it isn't as bad as it looks. Pete Munro isn't chopped liver, and while losing Shane Reynolds for the season or seeing Kirk Saarloos get roughed up isn't good, it isn't the end of the world. Munro is another one of the talented pitchers that seemed to slip through Gord Ash's fingers, and in a season in which minor-league vets like Rodrigo Lopez, Travis Driskill and Travis Smith have all had good things happen to them, taking a chance on Munro isn't a bad idea. He's been dominant in the Big Easy, posting a 2.31 ERA and a 7-1 record while allowing less than a baserunner per inning (counting that he's hitting a batter every ten innings or so) while posting a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and tossing just two wild pitches. The harder loss is Carlos Hernandez, validating concerns about his shoulder going back to last season (even though it wasn't a pitching injury). He's effectively going to miss the month of July, and since he has been the second-best starter on the team behind Roy Oswalt, that's a pretty significant loss.
As long as Drayton McLane is braying about expenses, he should perhaps consider some of the pointless ones he signed off on just in the past season. Not to kick a man while he's down, but Brian Hunter--hell, either Brian Hunter--is fungible. The value he provides over a toolsy organizational soldier like Barry Wesson is pretty minimal, certainly not on the order of the 5x difference in salaries. If Drayton McLane wants to pretend for public consumption that he's losing five million bucks, perhaps he should have thought about that before letting Hunter get signed to a deal that gives him a million bucks this year, or Orlando Merced a million bucks this year, or T.J. Mathews a million bucks this year, or Jose Vizcaino $1.7 million this year. None of these guys are so good that they can't be replaced by equally talented players making the minimum, and there's a $4 million savings right there. So if McLane has a problem, it's the same problem that he had when he first bought the club, as pointed out by Whitey Herzog in You're Missing A Great Game: it doesn't look like he knows what he's doing.
Wilfredo Rodriguez was once considered the best prospect in the Astros' organization, let alone their best pitching prospect, but now is a good time to try to pass him through waivers. He's been on the DL all year after having bone spurs removed from his elbow in April, and he may not be able to pitch before the minor-league seasons end. So his opportunity to contribute to whoever might claim him is close to nil for this season, and most teams don't yet know what their 40-man roster is going to look like in November.
Successfully placed UT-R Donnie Sadler on a rival AL team's roster by "losing" him on waivers to the Rangers. [7/8]
Ryan Bukvich is big and beefy and throws hard and throws wild; he's always in the mid-90s. The Royals don't have a whole lot to amuse themselves with lately. Cutting bait on guys like Cory Bailey and Mac Suzuki and giving regular work to Bukvich and Brad Voyles was long overdue. Rather than do something as outright dopey as they did in losing Corey Thurman was last winter, the Royals need to take a long look at Kris Wilson to decide whether he's worth a spot on the 40-man roster. Relievers don't really follow "normal" development patterns, as long as they get regular work instead of getting used as pawns in seventh-inning endgames, I like the odds that Bukvich and Voyles will be important parts of a useful 2003 Royals bullpen.
Activated C-B Chad Kreuter from the DL; optioned C-R David Ross to Las Vegas. [7/12]
One of the few advantages to not doing a Transaction Analysis for a couple of weeks is that I don't have to try to come up with something funny, pithy, germane or even moderately interesting to say about David Ross, or the earth-shattering implications of Chad Kreuter's mild and temporary injury.
Announced that Jensen accepted his assignment to Indianapolis. [6/27]
Okay, I find this more interesting than the David Ross go'round, but again, in the interests of brevity and getting back in action, I think this speaks for itself. Paul Bako will share the catching job with Robert Machado. In a season of disappointments, one of the nice things you can say about the 2002 Brewers is that they don't have to settle for Henry Blanco or Mike Matheny any more.
Waived LHP Travis Miller unconditionally; recalled RHP Juan Rincon from Edmonton. [6/26]
Placed RHP Matt Kinney on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); purchased the contract of LHP Jose Rodriguez from Edmonton. [7/1] Traded OF-R Brian Buchanan to the Padres for SS-R Jason Bartlett; recalled OF?-R Mike Cuddyer from Edmonton. [7/12]
There's not much to say here. There's no race, so the Twins can take their time letting Brad Radke, Joe Mays and Matt Kinney recuperate. Indeed, Juan Rincon and Johan Santana have looked good. The next two-and-a-half months can be spent doing exactly what the Twins already seem to have in mind: getting Eric Milton on track, and maybe nabbing a veteran second baseman on the cheap if Luis Rivas doesn't round into shape. They don't really have to sort out who their best choices for DH and right field might be; following Tom Kelly's example, Ron Gardenhire is using everybody, and everybody looks pretty useful. Finding ways to get Matt LeCroy, Bobby Kielty and now Mike Cuddyer into the lineup is a nice problem to have.
Cuddyer arrives after basically quashing any lingering concerns about his hitting after scorching the PCL at a .311/.372/.595 clip. That translates to a .266 major-league Equivalent Average, nice enough for a young utility man; he can play some third base, some first base and some right field, and he'll get playing time at all of those positions plus DH. He's not quite LeCroy, just another useful bat on a team filling up with useful bats.
Acquired 1B/OF-L Brett Roneberg from the Marlins for RHP Donnie Bridges. [6/25]
Acquired RHP Bartolo Colon and a PTBNL from the Indians for 1B-L Lee Stevens, SS-R Brandon Phillips, OF-L Grady Sizemore and LHP Cliff Lee. [6/27]
Acquired RHP Tim Drew from the Indians to complete the Colon trade. [6/28]
Recalled 2B-B Henry Mateo from Ottawa. [6/30]
Acquired OF-L Cliff Floyd, Sibling-B Wilton Guerrero, RHP Claudio Vargas and Currency-$ American Legal Tender from the Marlins for RHPs Carl Pavano and Justin Wayne, LHP Graeme Lloyd and IF-R Mike Mordecai. [7/11]
There's a theme here: going for broke, daring to win, or perhaps just thrilling irresponsibility. The Expos may not be dispersed, but Omar Minaya has held his own virtual dispersal draft, converting the talent that was in the organization into a team that's going to do a damned fine job of winning 84 games, which will excite me, Jonah Keri and Donald Sutherland, while winning squat.
If you ask me, it all boils down to the Charge of the Light Brigade; as General Bosquet might have put it, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas le beisbol." The Expos are bumping around ten games out in the NL East. They're fighting the Reds for third place in the wild-card standings, behind both the Dodgers and the Giants, both of whom have shots at their division title as well, so both of them take themselves seriously. The inspired response as far as attendance? Since the All-Star break, announced attendance has averaged 15,000 in the six home games the Expos have had. That's dramatic improvement in local terms (on the order of a 50% jump), and if it was good for an entire season--which it can't be, since we're more than halfway done--it would boost the Expos to 28th in attendance, ahead of the moribund Florida franchises.
The tragedy is the decision to ship off Brandon Phillips, as it would have made more sense to deal Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera is getting expensive and it looks like he's never going to live up to the expectations he's carted around for the last couple of seasons. That doesn't make him a bad player, just somebody about to make that quick step from useful to overrated and overpriced.
Phillips just turned 21, can play shortstop well, and has already shown he can hit at Double-A and above. However the old saws about not being able to get to the playoffs with a rookie shortstop are in play. Of course, the A's did it in '88 with Walt Weiss, the Phillies did it in '93 with Kevin Stocker, the Braves did it in 2000 with Raffy Furcal. Promoting Phillips to play right now wouldn't be deadly to the Expos' chances this year or their future, but dealing him is almost certainly bad news. However, the Indians almost certainly would not have made the deal if it was Cabrera instead of Phillips. In March, they stuck themselves with Omar Vizquel for two more years at a rate that will make it difficult to deal him, even if he elected to waive his 10-and-five rights, and they already have to eat Ricky Gutierrez or his contract.
To go down to what this does for the Expos in-season, there are some improvements, but one major problem. Clearly, getting a great slugger and a great starting pitcher are wonderful things. Are they enough? Getting Bartolo Colon happily deletes Lee Stevens, which is fantastic for what it does for the rotation the lineup... except that the Expos don't have really good alternatives to Stevens. I mean, keeping Brad Wilkerson as the everyday center fielder is a good thing, but they're stuck with the Big Cat's death ride because Cliff Floyd won't ever be going back to first base, and that plunks Troy O'Leary on the bench (not a bad thing). It's a nice gesture to Andres Galarraga, but now that the roster looks like an Expos reunion. Wilton Guerrero? Wil Cordero? Where's Mitch Webster or Herm Winningham?
If they want to take this scramble after the playoffs seriously, they should probably make the space on the roster for Joe Vitiello or have the willingness to try and nab Steve Cox from the Devil Rays, because the chances of the Big Cat being this productive down the stretch and playing everyday aren't good.
The pitching certainly gets interesting: there are the three talented Latins and two Japanese control fiends in the rotation, and T.J. Tucker and five other randomly generated white journeymen in the bullpen. That's just sort of funky, and doesn't mean anything in particular, although Minaya's sweet tooth for fellow Latins has gotten noticeable on a roster that now has a dozen Latins, including all of the infielders. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, because beyond Wilton Guerrero, everybody can play.
Activated RHP Orlando Hernandez from the DL; purchased the contract of OF-L Karim Garcia from Columbus; optioned LHP Randy Choate and RF-R Marcus Thames to Columbus; transferred LHP Randy Keisler from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/27]
Placed LHP Sterling Hitchcock on the 15-day DL (sprained lower back), retroactive to 6/18; recalled LHP Randy Choate from Columbus. [6/28]
Acquired RF-R Raul Mondesi from the Blue Jays for LHP Scott Wiggins. [7/1]
Designated OF-L Karim Garcia for assignment. [7/2]
Optioned LHP Randy Choate to Columbus; recalled RHP Brandon Knight from Columbus. [7/4]
Announced that C-R Alberto Castillo cleared waivers and accepted assignment to Columbus. [7/10]
Claimed RHP Seth Etherton off of waivers from the Reds; transferred RHP Christian Parker from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/11]
Placed RHP Roger Clemens on the 15-day DL (stiff groin); recalled RHP Mike Thurman from Columbus. [7/13]
Say what you want about the Yankees lording it over the rest of the world or trying to exploit their advantages in a final blaze of glory. For all of the perception that this team is invincible, tip your cap to Brian Cashman and company for doing something they actually had to do.
The Yankees' rotation has not been a source of strength. Mike Mussina and Jumbo Wells have been mediocre, Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez and now Roger Clemens have all been hurt, and of the five, only El Duque has been genuinely good. Considering their age, Cashman was right to try and go out and upgrade, because the Yankees haven't been winning with pitching or managing, but with offense. So giving up good stuff to get Jeff Weaver bordered on a necessity when you look forward to potential postseason matchups against better rotations like the Red Sox or the A's. This is a team that's going to have to bludgeon the opposition if the starting pitching doesn't improve, but getting Weaver gives Joe Torre a little bit of a margin for error. However, if he keeps Weaver at the back of the postseason rotation because he's not appropriately old, and he won't be expensive enough to merit one of the top three slots for another year or two, that's good news for the opposition.
Did they gut their farm system? Perhaps. Their other upper-level prospects beyond Griffin and Arnold set off various alarm bells, with the exception of Juan Rivera, who's now blocked by the strange decision to pick up Raul Mondesi. For all of Mondesi's expense, and the fact that they're stuck with him in 2003, there wasn't a whole lot to recommend getting the Buffalo, even when he didn't cost anything in terms of talent. Offensively, he isn't really an upgrade on the John Vander Wal/Shane Spencer platoon; he's just another equally useful part, not better and not worse than VanderWal or Spencer or Rondell White, just more expensive and almost impossible to bench. As bit players beyond the team's historic core of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, plus Jason Giambi, they're adequate. When they're adequate and expensive, putting them on the Yankees is a good thing for everyone else, if only because it soaks off more Steinbrenner bucks without materially improving the team.
On the minor good news front, the organization undid another one of Joe Torre's spring-training mistakes. They gave him choices in camp for a backup catcher, and as seems to be his wont when he has freedom of action, he chose the worst player. Replacing Alberto Castillo, a player with an overstated defensive rep (good arm, no plate-blocking ability) and no offensive skill, with Chris Widger, who can play some baseball, was about four months overdue.
And no, I take no satisfaction in being present at either a Yankees or Red Sox game on the day that the Yankees moved into first place to stay each of the last two years.
Optioned RHP Tyler Walker to Norfolk; recalled LHP Mike Bacsik from Norfolk. [7/5]
The good news for the Mets, as the long slide into a darkness not seen since the Samuel years begins, is that they're getting a chance to peek at Mike Bacsik right now. Since Steve Trachsel isn't seriously hurt, that creates some flexibility to start breaking up the veteran rotation. Unfortunately, two-fifths of the much-touted oldsters are sucking wind, and overall, the Mets rank 12th in the National League by Support-Neutral metrics.
Shawn Estes and Jeff D'Amico were both combustible acquisitions, and they've both combusted; D'Amico hasn't had a quality start in a month, and Estes has been as wild and spotty as a hyena. So even if the impetus to break up the Mets is finally here, what can they deal? Trachsel is recuperating, and not perceived as a major asset by a lot of people, even if he's not particularly expensive. Pedro Astacio is the team's best starter, but his option for $6 million for 2003 (for 180 IP) looks like it'll vest; if he pitches 230 IP, along shot, the option goes up to $11 million. So acquiring Astacio isn't just a stretch rental, it's a major financial commitment.
No, all the interest seems to be focused on Al Leiter, because he is a free agent at the end of the year, but again, you look closer, and beyond a superficially pretty ERA, you get to a bossload of unearned runs--nearly 30% of all of his runs allowed--that tell you he isn't pitching as well as you initially think he is.
The basic problem is that the Mets need to deal if they want to help themselves in the years to come, and Steve Phillips' hand isn't as strong as his expenses might make you believe. He's almost certainly stuck with Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz and Rey Ordonez and Roger Cedeno. We knew it was going to get ugly, but this is uglier than the the early-'80s Pirates, when everyone was too old and too bad to do much more than slip away as their contracts finally lapsed.
Acquired LHP Ted Lilly, RHP Jason Arnold and OF-L John-Ford Griffin from the Yankees for 1B-L Carlos Pena, RHP Franklyn German and a PTBNL. [7/5]
Optioned RHP Mike Fyhrie to Sacramento to add Lilly to the active roster. [7/7]
One thing that's becoming very clear this season is that Billy Beane has a bad side. If you put yourself on it, you don't need to worry about being in the cold for long; you're a perishable good, and Beane keeps a tidy fridge.
For whatever reason, he gave up on Carlos Pena with a vengeance. Given that first base is one of those positions where you can usually find (and stick) a bat, this isn't the end of the world, but this is nevertheless a concern. Does Pena have problems that can't be fixed? That's unknown, but this was not a symbolic execution the way Jeremy Giambi's dismissal was. Pena's cocky faith in himself is admirable on some levels, but apparently rubbed some people the wrong way. Sometimes comfort with a player matters, so when a package of worthwhile talent--a package that the Tigers should have been smart enough to ask for from the Yankees directly instead of involving Oakland at all--was put together, rather than resolve whatever issues surround Pena and his future, Beane turned him into somebody else's problem faster than you can say "Ben Grieve" or "relegated to irrelevance."
So what did the A's get? I've been a Ted Lilly booster for years. It's sort of amusing to note that he's slightly older than Jeff Weaver, but that's on human time. In professional time, he hasn't had to carry a heavy workload, and he hasn't suffered a career-altering injury. More critically still, he may not have the service time to be arbitration eligible until after 2003, which means he'll be cheap or without leverage as well as good. Since he hasn't been that much worse than Weaver, there's a worthwhile argument that Lilly for Weaver, if not a push, isn't a laughably bad exchange after you take the financial issues into consideration.
Then you get to the prospects, and that's where Beane may have achieved the real pillaging. John-Ford Griffin is an offensive machine; he might not be a good defensive corner outfielder, but he's not Jeremy Giambi or Jack Cust. The only question about Griffin's bat is whether his power will develop from merely good to outstanding. It'll eventually be the difference between seven or eight figures per annum, so there's plenty at stake for him as well as for the A's. As for Jason Arnold, some scouts and some analysts claim he's the best right-handed pitching prospect in A ball. That particular crown of thorns can mean all sorts of things good and bad; before you can really call him a prospect, Arnold will have to show that he's durable just as much as he shows off electric stuff. That doesn't mean complete games in Double-A, but he's in an organization that knows that. Frankly, Griffin and Arnold might be the best hitting and pitching talents in the A's farm system right now. To get that, plus Lilly, for a good young first baseman, a minor-league reliever and a PTBNL seems pretty sweet.
Of course, that's without dredging up Macchiavellian considerations about the self-interest involved in making the Yankees an even more overstated indictment of the status quo in some people's eyes; if any amount of Seligian palavering and Yankee-envy generates any results in terms of liberalized revenue sharing, guess who makes money on that? Oakland, obviously.
What does this mean for first base for the forseeable future? A lot of Scott Hatteberg and Olmedo Saenz, until or unless the A's make a winning bid in the Jim Thome sweepstakes. Scolmedo Hattebaenz puts runs on the board better than a lot of teams' first-base situations do, so as single-season temps go, it works. Nevertheless, it would be tastier to hunt bigger game, assuming that Thome might be convinced forego his insistence on a multi-year eight-figure-per extension to waive his no-trade clause. If Thome insists on sticking with that demand, he can look forward to living down his mass-audience rhetoric about comfort on the Cuyahoga before getting to watch October baseball instead of playing it.
Acquired OF-R Bruce Aven from the Indians for RHP "The Other" Jeff D'Amico. [6/25]
Claimed RHP Brian Reith off of waivers from the Reds. [7/11]
Acquired RHP Duaner Sanchez from the Diamondbacks for RHP Mike Fetters. [7/6]
Optioned Sanchez to Nashville; recalled RHP Bronson Arroyo from Nashville. [7/8]
Activated RHP Josias Manzanillo from the DL; optioned RHP Bronson Arroyo to Nashville. [7/13]
While you always hope to score big when you're peddling relief help, flipping Mike Fetters for a younger, more talented, cheaper, optionable pitcher works for me. Duaner Sanchez won't be a massive improvement so much as he'll give the Pirates up to six years of somebody who might be an asset with value ranging from "stud closer" to adequate bullpen filler. Minor-league starters converted to relievers can surprise you; indeed, Fetters was one of those guys more than ten years ago, and he's been both the stud closer and the bullpen filler and everything in between, when he wasn't injured. It isn't Andersen-for-Bagwell, but it's a respectable exchange.
Recalled RHP Travis Smith from Memphis. [6/25]
You don't have to be a Cardinals fan to root for Travis Smith, given the circumstances surrounding his promotion, his extended service in the minors or the injuries that nearly derailed his career. Now that he's rattled off three useful starts in a row, while he might not steal any thunder from Jason Simontacchi, he certainly creates hope that Andy Benes can be avoided as much as possible.
Certainly it gives Walt Jocketty some freedom of action. With Simontacchi and Smith doing well enough to give hope that they can help the Cardinals win out over the next ~70 games, Jocketty and Tony LaRussa can instead give thought to how they might tailor their shopping list for the talent will help them the most in postseason action. Given J.D. Drew's latest breakdown and the shortcomings of a lineup that gets no offense from the infield (especially when Albert Pujols isn't in it) or from the most-regular catcher, it wouldn't be hard to argue that the Cardinals need a top-shelf hitter as much, as if not more, than they need to find a starter for the front end of the rotation.
Placed RHP Dave Lundquist on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 6/29; recalled LHP Kevin Pickford from Portland; placed RHP Jason Middlebrook on the 15-day DL (strained groin); purchased the contract of LHP Mike Holtz from Portland. [7/1]
Placed OF-L Ray Lankford on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/4; purchased the contract of UT-R Trenidad Hubbard from Portland; designated 1B/OF-L Kevin Barker for assignment. [7/5]
Acquired OF-R Brian Buchanan from the Twins for SS-R Jason Bartlett; activated 1B/3B-R Phil Nevin and RHP Bobby J. Jones from the DL; placed RHP Kevin Jarvis on the 60-day DL; placed LHP Eric Cyr on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff tendinitis); purchased the contract of RHP Tom Davey from Portland; traded away INF-B D'Angelo Jimenez to the White Sox for C-R Humberto Quintero and OF-L Alex Fernandez. [7/12]
Signed CF-L Mark Kotsay to a three-year contract extension; released PH-L Mark Sweeney. [7/13]
What can be said? This team plowed beyond humiliation and pain and moved into areas where you'd normally think only bad luck or Tom Werner could take you. Losing Ray Lankford, losing Kevin Jarvis for the season, giving up on D'Angelo Jimenez... is there anything I can say in brief?
There's some modestly good news here. First, getting Brian Buchanan does make it that much easier to deal Bubba Trammell. Unfortunately, Trammell's value isn't as high as it was a couple of months ago. Second, Phil Nevin is back and playing third base. Sure, that clouds the future as far as what's going to happen with Sean Burroughs, and it does sort of derail the previous commitment to returning Ryan Klesko to the outfield, but smart teams have a way of getting their best bats into the lineup. If Jeff Kent can be endured as a second baseman, I can suspend disbelief about whether or not Burroughs can cut it at the keystone. Of course, if that experiment fails or gets scuppered again, and they decide that Klesko's glove has to be at first base, at least Nevin hits well enough to be an asset as an outfielder. Third, re-upping Mark Kotsay is a good move, and getting it done in the shadow of this ugly season and the soon-to-come ugliness was a pretty canny way of using time that shouldn't get over-invested in watching Deivi Cruz.
Besides, if Burroughs can play second base, Cruz is out of a job anyway, and then there really wouldn't be anyplace to put Jimenez. Given that the Pads had already decided that Ramon Vazquez was a better shortstop than Jimenez, their choice about who to dump first seems pretty straightforward. The question is whether they really got all that much for him. If Jimenez is only a second baseman from here on out, it certainly whittles down his value considerably, but Alex Fernandez is toolsy and young but not particularly accomplished, while Humberto Quintero has the makings of being a full step up from a soy-based Alberto Castillo substitute. Giving up Jay Witasick to get about a year of Jimenez's time and these two might resemble a rollercoaster of value, but trading Witasick when his value was high and Jimenez when his value was low washes out into more of a journey where the only ups and downs are emotional, while the quality levels out.
This is good news for several parties, none of whom have the Giants' best interests at heart. First, Tsuyoshi Shinjo can breathe a sigh of relief, because with Marvin Benard probably out for the year, he can look forward to plenty of out-tastic playing time with which to enjoy his stay in the States. Second, because that same Mr. Shinjo will be enjoying himself, the Dodgers and Snakes can take some small measure of relief that the Giants' offense will continue to fire on fewer than eight cylinders. The Giants can please curious researchers determined--as Tom Tippett of Diamond Mind is--to figure out how a wildly unbalanced lineup like the Giants performs. None of that should make Giants fans happy, but at least scientific curiosity might be satisfied, and other NL West fans can enjoy a dose of schadenfreude.
Activated RHP Jeff Nelson from the DL; optioned LHP Mark Watson to Tacoma. [6/27]
Placed RHP Ryan Franklin on the 15-day DL (viral infection), retroactive to 6/28; recalled RHP Julio Mateo from Tacoma. [7/6]
Placed RHP Rafael Soriano on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled LHP Mark Watson from Tacoma. [7/10]
There really isn't much to say. Jeff Nelson is tanned, rested and ready, same as it ever was, and otherwise, Pat Gillick has a question to answer about whether to go about finding another starting pitcher. He hasn't answered it yet. John Halama has done well in spots, and James Baldwin has been decent as a fifth starter, but there seems to be the sense that the Mariners want somebody extra beyond the big three of Jamie Moyer, Chief Garcia and Joel Pineiro.
How well Nelson does may impact the decision; if the Mariners don't feel they need Pineiro in the bullpen, then they can leave him alone in the rotation. Of course, if the Mariners make tracks between themselves and the Angels and A's, they can afford to take their time making a decision. Unfortunately for Pat Gillick, I don't think that's going to happen.
Placed LF-R Greg Vaughn on the 15-day DL (bruised shoulder), retroactive to 6/23; placed RHP Ryan Rupe on the 15-day DL (knee tendinitis), retroactive to 6/20; activated RHP Jorge Sosa from the DL; designated C/UT-R Paul Hoover for assignment; optioned LHP Jason Jimenez and RHP Victor Zambrano to Durham; recalled C-R Toby Hall and RHPs Jesus Colome and Travis Phelps from Durham. [6/25]
Activated RHP Ryan Rupe from the DL; placed IF-R Russ Johnson on the restricted list. [7/11]
In 40,000 years paleontologists working in the boggy digs in what was once Florida are likely to find Devil Rays, permanently mired and perfectly preserved in their natural state, last place.
What makes them cooler than the Cleveland Spiders or the Kansas City A's? In short, what makes the Devil Rays the ultimate losers is that they have no other history, no other tradition to cultivate or honor or remember. I don't think even the Mariners were this bad from their inception. The Rays simply lose, to the point that they're extremely good at it. If they played a softball game against the Washington Generals, my money's not on the guys representing cartilagenous fishes. If they had really wanted to exploit that relationship with Mike Veeck, they should have held appropriate events, like "Meet Gerry Faust Day" or inviting the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army to throw out the first pitch or giving away a Nancy Reagan bobblehead doll. Sadly, in our contemporary era of fidgety GMs hiring non-entity managers, there's no reason to believe that the status quo is going to change any time soon. It's more likely that Chuck LaMar will be excavated from the same swampy muck.
The only things here to really note are that Greg Vaughn chose the worst possible time to get hurt, because now he can't be peddled between now and the end of July, and Toby Hall is back behind the plate after hitting .348/.382/.457 with Durham. As certain as the sunrise, extended playing time deflated John Flaherty's hot start. As long as Hall's back on track, that's the best news the franchise could reasonably hope for these days.
Claimed UT-R Donnie Sadler off of waivers from the Royals; optioned OF-R Jason Romano to Oklahoma. [7/8]
Purchased the contract of Bandit-R Ruben Rivera from Oklahoma; activated OF-L Rusty Greer and LHP Rich Rodriguez from the DL; designated UT-0 Donnie Sadler for assignment; announced that DH-R Todd Greene cleared waivers. [7/11]
This is a still a John Hart operation, so no, even in a TA covering nearly two weeks of moves, there is no apparent plan. There's some floundering between plans, a choice to waste a 40-man-roster spot on Donnie Sadler (hopefully just temporarily), further mucking around with the Flat-Earther, and further wheel-spinning with the pitching staff to maximize the number of available pitchers without giving much thought to creating regular working roles.
Two points in particular need closer examination. First, the handling of the pitching staff defies description. At best, it's sort of a series of week-long or single-outing trials for the young talent in the organization, created in part because of the multiple failures from among the small legion of veterans of varying quality that Hart put so much effort in amassing this winter. Theoretically, some crust of experience (and some direct observation) will help when Hart finally starts scattering a lot of the veteran components to the winds--assuming Hart actually gets up and does it, and assuming that there's enough interest. More likely, just as earlier cuts like Chris Michalak, Steve Woodard and Dan Miceli had to be made, eventually the Rangers will just have to confront decisions about whether or not to cut people like Hideki Irabu and Anthony Telford and John Rocker.
Second, claiming Donnie Sadler defies explanation or defense. The backup infield spots are already covered by Mike Lamb at the infield corners, starting second baseman Mike Young's ability to play shortstop, and Frank Catalanotto's return to the active roster. While it's all well and good to have Jason Romano and Ryan Ludwick playing every day in Oklahoma (while the team continues to labor to get something out of Carl Everett, Rocker's partner in the Cognitive Difficulty Twins), the question is whether or not it's necessary to have Sadler on the bench while foregoing carrying anyone who can play center field.
Rather than claim Sadler, who has no offensive purpose and who plays no position the Rangers need filled, why not just repurchase Calvin Murray from Oklahoma? Although I'd prefer to keep either Romano or Ludwick up and force Everett into a job-sharing arrangement in center field, at least until Rusty Greer or Gabe Kapler return from the DL, the minimum requirement the Rangers roster has at the moment is for a biped who can play center, because Everett can't. Hart failed to address this basic issue, even though it's been a problem all season, and instead they've got Donnie Sadler. Whatever Murray's offensive shortcomings--and believe me, he's got them--he's the best center fielder in the organization, and if all the Rangers need is someone to fill out the bench for a couple of weeks, Murray's already gone through waivers once before unclaimed, and wouldn't be a debilitating loss even if he was claimed when passed through waivers to make room for Greer or Kapler.
Traded RF-R Raul Mondesi to the Yankees for LHP Scott Wiggins. [7/1]
Activated IF-R Chris Woodward from the DL; optioned OF-L Pedro Swann to Syracuse. [7/11]
So what do you do if you've got a player with decent value but an extraordinary salary, and he's just hitting that age when the really good ones stay pretty good and the durably mediocre ones get bad in a hurry? Raul Mondesi has never been a bad player, just one of the most overrated ones in the game. As he's gotten bigger, he's lost his value in the field. He's a decent offensive player, but nobody should be paying eight figures for decent. While trading him to the Yankees for a minor-league left-handed reliever who isn't even on the 40-man roster is about as transparently ugly a salary dump as you'll find, it's worth remembering that Scott Wiggins and that spot on the 40-man aren't the only things that J.P. Ricciardi got out of this deal.
First, Ricciardi got back the $13 million due to Mondesi in 2003, prying another finger of the dead flabby hand of Gord Ash off of the team's future. It isn't often you can put a price tag on flexibility, but that isn't chump change. Second, he simplified his team's outfield playing time; as long as the team holds onto Shannon Stewart and Jose Cruz, he has them in his outfield corners. Is anyone else amused about this contretemps for the Jays' pair of once and future center fielders, circa 1998?
Third, and most importantly, Ricciardi created a full-time lineup slot for the organization's best young hitter, Josh Phelps. After hitting .292/.380/.658 (which translates to a .294 major league Equivalent Average), Phelps looks like he'll outhit Mondesi from now until forever. He slugged 24 home runs for Syracuse this year, one every 12 plate appearances. It looks like he's been freed from the tools of ignorance once and for all, increasing the odds that he'll "only" develop into a dominant hitter. Normally, you hate to see a great hitter move off of a tough defensive position if there's any hope that he can cut it with the glove, but with Phelps, there wasn't much hope left on the one hand, and there was Kevin Cash rocketing through the organization on the other. There are no such concerns about Cash's glovework. (Incidentally, Jayson Werth is now playing the outfield, and seems to be adapting quickly. Not exactly shades of Dale Murphy, but not Charlie Moore either.)
So don't shed a tear as the Blue Jays get down to tearing down Gord Ash's Dynasty of Aspiring Mediocrity. Moves that simultaneously make the team better and cheaper are the sine qua non of modern roster management. If you do it and add extra talent as well, that would be perfect, but getting out from under the financial commitment was a major achievement as was.
Lastly, apologies for the long delay. Between the SABR convention, some personal matters, moving and the workaday world, I've been bogged down in things that aren't as much fun as TA. Glad to be back, and again, I'm quite sorry about the criminally brief comments about some really interesting moves over the last couple of weeks.