Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
April 2, 2002
March 26-30, 2002
Placed LHP Dennis Cook on the DL, retroactive to 3/22 (rib cage). [3/26]
The news is that Jeff DaVanon and Mark Lukasiewicz won the last two slots for hitter and pitcher, both good ideas in themselves. Lukasiewicz becomes the token left-hander in the pen; because both Lou Pote and Ben Weber had awful camps, there's still a chance that the Angels might keep an eye on the waiver wire over the next couple of days for another lefty. DaVanon gives the bench somebody who can hit a little, especially in the absence of Scott Spiezio during his suspension. Think about that: the Angels need Jeff DaVanon. The Angels need Scott Spiezio. Hell, these days, the Angels need Jack Howell.
Given the limited range of choices at hand, Mike Scioscia ended up picking the best stuff he could, even foregoing the tantalizing opportunity to carry a third catcher. The misfortune is that the Angels chose to carry Jorge Fabregas over Jose Molina, on the theory that Fabregas's lefty bat somehow endangers somebody. Fabregas is still only able to hit an off-speed chest-high fastball, and his catching skills leave a lot to be desired, so this is about as goofy a selection as you can get.
Released LHP Troy Brohawn. [3/29]
Purchased the contracts of LHP Eddie Oropesa, PH-L Chris Donnels, and OF-B Quinton McCracken; placed RHPs Armando Reynoso and Matt Mantei, and 3B-R Matt Williams on the 60-day DL; placed IF-R Jay Bell, PH-R Greg Colbrunn, 1B-L Erubiel Durazo, RHP Todd Stottlemyre, and LHP Greg Swindell on the 15-day DL. [3/30]
Your world champion Sand Serpents will include... QMcC? Chris Donnels? Eddie Oropesa? With eight people on the disabled list, you might think the Snakes were taking the unsubtle route towards establishing their very own Walk of Fame, and this in just their fifth year of existence. The only real loss among the weak flesh is Erubiel Durazo, still as ready to outhit Mark Grace or Jose Guillen as he ever was.
It's amusing to hear some numbskulls characterize Durazo advocacy as roto-inspired, but hey, what do you expect, some journalists apparently don't understand that the object of the game is to score runs, and the Diamondbacks should be going out of their way to field their best possible lineup. Durazo's ability to contribute to a major-league offense is beyond question; the only lingering doubts might belong to Joe Garagiola, Jr. To Garagiola's credit, he's fended off numerous trade inquiries, and can hopefully impress upon Bob Brenly the importance of letting the best lineup take the field more often after Durazo returns.
At this point in his fabled career, Matt Mantei has pitched in all of 85 games over his two-and-a-half seasons as a Diamondback. His track record for repeated breakdowns was public knowledge beforehand, so it wasn't as if the organization wasn't aware of the risks; they just chose to ignore them. The trade portion of having Matt Mantei was a disaster from day one, but the decision to hand Mantei a four-year contract in January of 2001 is one of the worst decisions in franchise history. Mantei is the epitome of why closers aren't commodities to trade for, they're what you develop and pawn off on the other guy for good stuff.
Purchased the contracts of LHP Chris Hammond, RHP Darren Holmes, 1B-R Julio Franco, and 2B-L Keith Lockhart; placed OF-Ls Dave Martinez and Cory Aldridge on the 60-day DL; optioned LHP John Foster, RHP Kevin Gryboski, SS-B Wilson Betemit, and 2B/OF-R Travis Wilson to Richmond; optioned RF-L Ryan Langerhans to Greenville (Double-A); assigned C-R Dax Norris, PH-L Matt Franco, and OF-R Ozzie Timmons to minor-league camp; designated PR Jesse Garcia for assignment; placed OF-L George Lombard, LHP Horacio Ramirez, RHP Derrick Lewis, and 2B-R Nick Green on the 15-day DL. [3/30]
Keeping Chris Hammond and Darren Holmes around would be pretty demoralizing under any circumstances, but keep in mind that the Braves also have Tim Spooneybarger and Damian Moss in the Opening Day bullpen, and while both aren't complete rookies, they're both wet behind the ears. Hammond and Holmes will have to pitch effectively to keep their jobs; the Braves won't be shy about sending them off, just as they lost patience with Marc Valdes and Joe Slusarski.
Julio Franco? He's unstoppable. He's like one the Templar Knights in the Spanish B-movie horror classic Tombs of the Blind Dead, grimly creeping up on a roster spot and wrestling it to the ground, just without the part involving drinking the blood of several sexually promiscuous bystanders.
Recalled RHP Rick Bauer from minor-league camp. [3/26]
Signed LHP Yorkis Perez to a minor-league contract. [3/27]
Optioned LHP Erik Bedard to Bowie (Double-A). [3/28]
Purchased the contract of RHP Rodrigo Lopez from Rochester; placed Golfer-R Albert Belle on the 60-day DL (insurance scam); placed OF-R Luis Matos on the 15-day DL (broken hamate) and RHP Luis Rivera on the 15-day DL (shoulder). [3/29]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Chris Brock, OF-R Luis Garcia, and IF-R Mike Moriarty; placed RHP Pat Hentgen and LHP John Parrish on the 60-day DL; placed OF-L Chris Richard on the 15-day DL (shoulder); designated LHP John Bale for assignment; optioned 2B/SS-B Brian Roberts, OF-L Larry Bigbie, and RHP Rick Bauer to Rochester. [3/30]
Nothing earth-shattering here. Rick Bauer wasn't about to stake a claim on Calvin Maduro's job as the fifth starter during Maduro's brief stint on the DL, and bringing in Yorkis Perez is another datum in the increasingly cranky relationship between Rochester and Baltimore. Having a backup alternative like Perez to alternatives like a now-healthy Matt Riley or a now-healthy Sean Runyan is pretty much a maximization in the old redundancy department. The only happy part of that program is if it encourages the Orioles to start shopping around Buddy Groom's insane contract.
The other element of madness is the Albert Belle situation, where to avoid having to bear the cost of paying Belle the full amount of his contract, he has to consume a roster spot every winter, waiting for the opportunity to go onto the 60-day DL during the season, freeing up a slot on the 40-man for an NRI or for claiming somebody else's Rule 5 pick on waivers before he goes back to his original organization. If the Orioles weren't already wasting roster space, this would be a little more significant; for now, it just represents the way in which no decision, no matter how semi-sensible, gets punished with prejudice when it involves the Orioles.
There are several happy little tidbits here, nevertheless. It's a good thing to see Mike Moriarty finally make the majors. If there's a bragging right for being a poor man's Jeff Reboulet, Moriarty might have it. He's a decent little hitter for a middle infielder, and tends to be credited with good defensive skills and smart play. He was one of the prizes among minor-league free-agent middle infielders this past winter, and it's good to see him finally break into the majors. Rodrigo Lopez is an ex-Padre project from Mexico who at one point looked like an attempt to make the Padres more popular in Tijuana, but he might be useful as a reliever, regardless of whether or not he can draw people from Delmarva.
Placed OF-R Michael Coleman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/25 (hamstring). [3/26]
Clearing out roster space for Rickey Henderson and Jose Offerman wasn't easy, but it looks like the Red Sox pulled it off, with room for both Carlos Baerga and Lou Merloni to boot. So that gives Grady Little a bench with a left fielder, two guys with no position, and a utility infielder. That's not half bad, because Henderson can fill in as a DH or left fielder against lefties in a playing time (not position) platoon with Offerman or Brian Daubach.
It will be interesting to see how often Little decides to try to spot Offerman in the lineup for Shea Hillenbrand at third base or Rey Sanchez at second base, because otherwise the Sox are carrying a pair of really weak sticks in the lineup. Even then, I'm giving Offerman considerable benefit of the doubt, but he wasn't worthless last year despite all of the various slings and arrows sent his way, and it isn't like it takes much to out-hit Rey Sanchez.
When Michael Coleman comes off of the DL, one of Baerga, Merloni, or Offerman will have to feel some pain, feign it, or get familiar with waivers. Baerga's the best bet to be sent away, since he wouldn't be missed if claimed during an attempt to outright him to the PawSox. Heck, that might even make the people of Pawtucket happy, since they wouldn't have to watch as his slump enters Year Seven.
Optioned 2B/OF-L Willie Harris to Charlotte. [3/30]
This is a strange little deal, one where the Sox do the Pirates the favor of trading a pitcher with options for a pitcher without them. It's odd because the White Sox need alternatives for their rotation more than they need a situational left-hander, especially with Jim Parque bound for the minors and Jons Rauch and Garland doing little to inspire confidence. Why peddle one of their best high-minors starters like Matt Guerrier, and why do it to add a replaceable lefty reliever with no options left?
The candy--and hopefully the explanation--here is Edwin Yan, an interesting blend of blazing speed (he swiped 56 bases in the Sally League) and enough patience to draw 42 walks in ~500 plate appearances, not shabby for a guy who was supposedly 19 last year. Damaso Marte's chief value is that he's left-handed and he's throws hard for the species, and that's worth keeping around for the bullpen now that it's clear that Kelly Wunsch is headed for the DL.
If the Sox start wondering if they have to rebuild their rotation by the end of April, Kenny Williams will have to remember that he accepted that risk right here.
Assigned 2B-B Bobby Hill, IF-R Luis Ordaz and 3B-R Kevin Orie, and C-R Mike Mahoney to minor-league camp. [3/26] Acquired RHPs Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement from the Marlins for RHPs Julian Tavarez and Jose Cueto, LHP Dontrelle Willis, and C-R Ryan Jorgensen; optioned RHP Courtney Duncan and 1B-R Julio Zuleta to Iowa; assigned RHP Alan Benes and LHP Mark Watson to minor-league camp. [3/27]
Optioned RHP Carlos Zambrano to Iowa. [3/29]
Purchased the contracts of LHP Donovan Osborne and RHP Joe Borowski; transferred RHP Tom Gordon from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [3/30]
So did the Cubs really improve themselves? Bringing in the Octopus, Antonio Alfonseca, might make rotoheads happy, and it might make Don Baylor feel some sort of special confidence, but Alfonseca isn't a particularly good closer as closers go. The real benefit of bringing in Alfonseca is that he pushes Kyle Farnsworth forward into the game, where Baylor will have the freedom to use his best reliever in the higher-leverage situations that actually win and lose more ballgames. That won't make Farnsworth any richer, but it will make the Cubs a better team. There's greater opportunity for Farnsworth to make a difference in the eighth and earlier, and that outweighs the two or three extra blown saves the Cubs might have to worry about by lugging around Alfonseca in the glory role.
Quantitatively, the deal shakes down into one year of Alfonseca and three years of Matt Clement for the kids and one year of Julian Tavarez. Clement still desperately needs a pitch that works against lefties, so he's sort of similar to Jon Lieber, just wilder and not as good. Clement at his best is about as good as Jason Bere at his best. That's a building block for a rotation, just on its back end, while Alfonseca should be allowed to walk after this season.
While this is an obvious win-now move, beyond the tactical considerations of getting Farnsworth into a role that will impact more undecided games, the trade merely swapped a fifth starter for a fourth plus one of the game's worst (yet effective) closers. That's not enough to beat the Astros or keep the Cardinals in the rear-view mirror. It's a nice move, but not a particularly decisive one. Many of the slender benefits may have already been surrendered by the subsequent decision to carry Donovan Osborne and Joe Borowski, since Farnsworth can't protect leads or preserve ties that may not reach him.
Elsewhere, Don Baylor turned a blind eye to results, picking Delino DeShields over Bobby Hill because...well, there wasn't really a real reason, just a pro forma statement about how it was Delino DeShields's job. That would be the same Delino DeShields who earned his trip to the waiver wire last summer. DeShields has value, but when a better player plays better, why turn a worthwhile expression of confidence in a veteran's mediocrity into a suicide pact?
Optioned C-R Corky Miller, LHP Hector Mercado, SS-R Gookie Dawkins, and RF-R Ruben Mateo to Louisville; placed RHP John Riedling on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); promoted Brad Kullman to Assistant GM/Baseball Operations. [3/26]
Placed IF-R Juan Castro on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/28 (strained hamstring); recalled SS-R Gookie Dawkins from Louisville. [3/29]
The Reds are one of those teams with whom you never know what might happen, and sure enough, they surprised me at the last minute. Reggie Taylor? If you're paying Ken Griffey Jr. the big bucks, why do you bring in a defensive replacement and pinch-runner? Why do you do it at the expense of your best left-handed bat on the bench? You'll lose more not having Robin Jennings around than you're going to gain with a pinch-stolen base once every couple of weeks. And why add Taylor to a bench already saddled with Wilton Guerrero and now Gookie Dawkins? After you use Brady Clark, you've tapped the Reds bench. Why is that a good thing?
Meanwhile, you've got a team that has five off days in the month, and Bob Boone is carrying seven relievers? As much as you might worry about going with a relatively uncertain rotation, if you don't have the gumption to use your fifth starter as an extra reliever because of all of those off days, how clever a roster manager can you really be? At this time of year, that may as well be an eight man bullpen.
Those frustrations aside, congratulations to Brad Kullman on his promotion. Like a lot of guys in the thirtysomething age group in front offices around baseball, Kullman bears watching.
Traded OF-B Donzell McDonald to the Royals for a PTBNL; released RHP J.D. Brammer. [3/28]
Placed RHPs Jake Westbrook and Jaret Wright, UT-R Jolbert Cabrera, C-L Eddie Taubensee, and CF-R Alex Escobar on the 15-day DL; announced that RHP Omar Olivares accepted an assignment to Buffalo. [3/30]
If there's an upset here, it's the inconsistency. On the one hand, the Indians recognized that one of their silly winter pickups (Scott Radinsky) isn't worth a whole lot these days, and this while dumping Karim Garcia to keep one of their other silly winter pickups, Brady Anderson. Garcia even went so far as to thoroughly out-hit Anderson in camp, which, coming on the heels of Anderson's completely worthless 2001, shouldn't inspire any sort of confidence, either in Anderson or in Mark Shapiro's judgment.
Announced the retirement of RHP Andy Larkin. [3/26]
Optioned LHP Brian Fuentes to Colorado Springs. [3/27]
Designated OF-R Mario Encarnacion for assignment; released C-R Carlos Hernandez; optioned IF-R Brent Butler to Colorado Springs; assigned I-F-Rs Tim Bogar and Mike Bell to minor-league camp; placed RHP Pete Harnisch on the 15-day DL (elbow). [3/28] Placed RHP Justin Speier on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled IF-R Brent Butler. [3/30]
Brian Fuentes didn't make the team, losing out to Mike James and to Kent Mercker. This isn't a horrendous miscarriage of justice, insofar as Fuentes has options, while Mercker and fellow left-hander Dennys Reyes both had good camps.
The strange thing is the collection of right-handed relievers who look like they'll stick. Todd Jones, Rick White, Mike James, and Justin Speier are the gaggle of guys in front of closer Jose Jimenez. My question is whether White's 2000 season was the best year any of them ever had or are ever likely to have. They can all be useful, but that's a bullpen of journeymen, not a single guy homegrown, not a single guy who might develop into something more than a semi-useful reliever, and not a single guy with an upside to project or expect. It's just a pen made up of guys you get if you go to the reliever bush and pick a few without looking too closely. The Rockies are spending about $7 million on this bullpen, and there isn't a guy in the lot who's going to sneak up and have a great year.
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Jacob Cruz and RHP Terry Pearson; designated Rule 5 pick RHP Joe Valentine for assignment; assigned LHP Matt Perisho and RHPs Julio Santana and Bill Simas to minor-league camp; placed DH-R Dean Palmer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/22 (shoulder); placed RHP Brian Moehler on the 15-day DL (shoulder); placed LHP Adam Pettyjohn on the 60-day DL (colitis). [3/30]
So with major-league veterans Matt Perisho, Julio Santana and Bill Simas not making the team, that in turn means that Matt Miller, Jeff Farnsworth, and journeyman Terry Pearson have made it. Strangely, only Pearson and Perisho pitched well enough to stick, but I suppose we can credit Phil Garner for kicking any fear of the unknown.
If only Jacob Cruz could play center field. Hell, if only Randall Simon could play center. The Tigers still don't have a shortstop or center fielder, which isn't like saying they should go dig up Tommy Thevenow or Milt Cuyler, but it's going to be ugly.
Traded RHPs Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement to the Cubs for RHPs Julian Tavarez and Jose Cueto, LHP Dontrelle Willis and C-R Ryan Jorgensen. [3/27]
Placed C-R Charles Johnson on the 15-day DL (thumb). [3/29]
Placed LHP Armando Almanza on the 15-day DL (elbow), and recalled RHP Gary Knotts. [3/30]
Kudos to the Marlins for dumping their least valuable pitchers. While they also none-too-coincidentally dumped some salary by moving Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca, they were probably the team's worst starter and reliever, respectively, and losing them both made room for the three rookies in the bullpen (Gary Knotts, Kevin Olsen, and lefty Mike Tejera). That's the crunch the Fish face: they need the roster spots more than they needed these two veterans in particular. The Marlins also stocked the #5 slot in the rotation with an equally adequate fifth starter, one who will go away after this season, leaving the job to one of the three rookie relievers or Jason Grilli, with a guy like Hansel Izquierdo coming up.
For this collection of current roster conveniences, the Fish also came away with a nice pair of young pitchers. Dontrelle Willis is a big, young, raw lefty, just 20, who is expected to pick up velocity as he develops physically. Jose Cueto is an ex-outfielder who throws in the mid-90s and needs to work on the pitching part of his job description; even if he doesn't master it, he could easily turn into a good big-league reliever. The position player in the deal, Ryan Jorgensen, is a plus defensive catcher with a college pedigree. He's not expected to be much of a hitter. It's strange, both that the Cubs would give him up when they have little else in the organization (stuck as they are with Todd Hundley for three more years), and because the Fish have three better catchers on their major-league roster than the Cubs have at any level of their organization. He's an odd throw-in, so it will be interesting to see if it portends anything in terms of what the Fish want to do with Charles Johnson, Ramon Castro, and Mike Redmond.
Optioned RHP Tim Redding to New Orleans. [3/30]
The demotion of Tim Redding means that both Scott Linebrink and Ricky Stone made the team as middle relievers. That still leaves one T.J. Mathews to possibly regret, in the sense that the expense and the roster spot were too much of a commitment for the expected return, but overall, this shapes up as a pretty good bullpen.
The real question is whether any of these guys will get to stick for any length of time. The Astros are still operating without a left-handed set-up man, and still have Hipolito Pichardo and Doug Brocail littering corners of the clubhouse. While Tim Redding will be pitching in the rotation for the Zephyrs, unless they boldly replace Dave Mlicki early on, Redding is a potential factor in the bullpen in the season to come. So Linebrink and Stone will be pitching for their lives, because at least one of them is doomed to be demoted so Pichardo can decide whether or not he feels like pitching, and then whether or not he's going to be any good at it.
Acquired OF-B Donzell McDonald from the Indians for a PTBNL. [3/28]
Mike Sweeney's contract is about as interesting a dare as you're going to find these days. This isn't like giving Brian Jordan way too much money to see if he'll be worth it, or seeing how quickly Darren Dreifort can make you feel stupid. This is a more basic challenge: get better, and I'll stick around; suck, and I'm gone. He's locked in only through 2004, and the Royals have to be a .500 team in either 2003 or 2004 or he gets to opt out of the deal.
The sort of ironic component of it is that it took George Brett's intercession, and talk about how the Royals once upon a time similarly went out of their way to convince Brett that they'd contend and he should be a sky blue minion for the rest of his playing days. After the Miracle of '85, Brett was a Royal for eight more inglorious years, watching teams like the Twins and Athletics rise and fall, watching the White Sox start to matter. I'm happy for the Royals and happy for Royals fans, but this dare has terrible potential consequences, consequences born of a concern about this team's ability to identify the talent they'll need to finish above .500. As good as this is, you're still talking about a team that thought acquiring Neifi Perez was a good idea, and that identified having Roberto Hernandez as a major accomplishment.
Sending away Dee Brown still means there's hope for Brandon Berger. With the Royals playing without a good corner outfielder or a good DH, and with Mark Quinn headed to the DL for Opening Day, that translates into an opportunity for Berger similar to the one that got Raul Ibanez a new lease on life last summer. It's hard not to root for a guy who's a rookie, yet older than both members of Los Dos Carlos, even older than Donnie Sadler.
Other good news comes in the bullpen, where the Royals actually seemed to have made an effort to keep people with promise. They kept Jeremy Affeldt and Miguel Ascencio and Jeff Austin, which will undoubtedly lead to cracks about the Triple-A bullpen, but which is a hell of a far sight more likely to be major-league caliber than Doug Henry these days. The far more difficult question than identifying talent and taking the relatively bold step of putting it on the Opening Day roster will be to see if Tony Muser can settle down and use it to best effect, instead of blowing his stack and fulminating about kids these days.
Oh, and life without Roberto Hernandez will affect the Royals in the standings not a whit, but it might do wonders to Jason Grimsley's "closer rating" in Strat and break a few hearts in fantasy leagues. This being real life, it's barely worth mentioning.
Optioned LHP Valerio De Los Santos to Indianapolis. [3/26]
Assigned OF-R Ryan Christenson to Indianapolis after he cleared waivers. [3/29]
Assigned DH-R Izzy Alcantara, OF-L Midre Cummings, OF-R Ryan Thompson, C-B Marcus Jensen, LHP Andrew Lorraine, and RHP Everett Stull to minor-league camp; placed IF-B Luis Lopez and RHPs Chad Fox, Curtis Leskanic, and Paul Rigdon on the 15-day DL. [3/30]
Today's Brewers are going to feature Alex Sanchez, not because he can hit--he never has--or because he can field--he's adequate--but because Davey Lopes likes speed, and speed is the weapon that will make the Pirates work for fifth place. Considering he's backing up Jeffrey Hammonds, Sanchez is going to get to play, a lot, but is Alex Sanchez who you'd want to have playing regularly? And if for some unknown reason aliens came down from the heavens and made Jeffrey Hammonds healthy for an entire year, unless they were extra-generous and gave him wings, you'd still need a defensive replacement for him, so why Sanchez? At least Alex Ochoa had a good camp.
Outrighted LHP Travis Miller to Edmonton. [3/26]
One of the challenges or dangers that any manager represents to his own ballclub is the question of whether or not he can see past his own prejudices. Ron Gardenhire was a second baseman who needed to catch a break or two to have a career, and he couldn't really play anywhere else. So what do your 2002 Twins already have on their hands, but three guys just like Ron Gardenhire on the roster: Denny Hocking, Jay Canizaro, and Warren Morris. And none of them will be starting at second base.
The posse of second sackers is an outgrowth of a semi-sensible resolution as far as the right-field job and the outfield situation is concerned. As expected, Brian Buchanan was handed the job, and he'll probably have a month or two to demonstrate some justification for that confidence. With Buchanan the winner, that left the question of what to do with the two prospects--Michael Cuddyer and Bobby Kielty--who didn't win the job, and the organization made the reasonable decision to have them both playing every day in Edmonton. If Buchanan had lost the job, that would have probably pushed one of the second basemen off of the roster, because Buchanan would have occupied that spot on the bench. The other result is that Dustan Mohr sticks as the fourth outfielder, since he's the guy who isn't considered a prospect, but looks like he'll turn into a good, workmanlike spare.
So the outfield situation played itself out nicely enough, and perhaps the nagging injury to Hocking played a role in getting three backup second basemen on the roster, but what about the nagging injury to Tom Prince? Why not keep Matt LeCroy to back up A.J. Pierzynski and give the team some sock on the bench?
We'll have to wait and see how Gardenhire uses his bench before drawing any conclusions, but it's more than a little strange to have three guys sitting next to you who would actually be engrossed by recollections of Ron Gardenhire's career because of its relevance to their own lives.
Lastly, Brian Meadows might be on the loose, but as anyone who employs him will discover, using him always comes with a price, so it would be improper to refer to him as a "free" agent.
Signed OF-L Troy O'Leary to a minor-league contract. [3/28]
Who's an Expo now? Who will be an Expo next week? Otto Velez? Bombo Rivera? Geronimo Pena? You? Me? Probably not me, I'd almost certainly refuse assignment to Ottawa too, given the choice between tormenting Youppi! and schlepping around the proud, parochial burgs of the International League.
It's a bit of a surprise to see that it took so much talent to land Lou Collier, essentially to just pre-empt the waivers process he was about to sail into. However, Collier will be useful to this team, and may well end up platooning in left field with either Henry Rodriguez or Brad Wilkerson. Or he could be your everyday second baseman. Or the center fielder. After all, if Herm Winningham isn't available, anybody can be almost anything with the Expos.
Well, OK, not everything is possible, since Jose Canseco couldn't be an outfielder.
Randy Choate was already a pretty good bet to make the team, since Ted Lilly isn't about to be converted to a mere situational lefty, while Choate happens to be quite good in the role. It's a little entertaining to note that with Ramiro Mendoza hurt, big side-armer Jay Tessmer finally made it up with his original organization. Will he stick? Not likely, considering the horde of starters floating around looking for innings and work, but it's sort of nice to see him catch a break.
No, the real upset is that Joe Torre was given freedom of choice for his backup catcher, and he picked wrong. Not just a little wrong, but picking the worst of his possible options. Handed a decision among Todd Greene (good enough for last year), Bobby Estalella, Chris Widger, Creighton Gubanich, and Alberto Castillo, Torre picked the worst hitter and plate-blocker of the bunch. Gubanich and Estalella barely got looks, while Widger scuffled and Greene can't throw, so Torre let 30 spring plate appearances dictate his choice. Okay, nobody's weeping for the boys in pinstripes, but even Clay Bellinger was defensible on some level because of his flexibility. If Castillo has to start a few games, that's worth zero runs offensively, some decent arm strength behind the plate, and a catcher some people believe is to catching what Jim Everett was to tackling.
Purchased the contract of 1B-L Mark Johnson; designated OF-B Chris Latham for assignment; optioned OF-L Timo Perez to Norfolk; placed LHP John Franco on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/20 (elbow tendinitis); assigned RHP Pete Walker to Norfolk. [3/30]
Most of this isn't surprising. Japanese Leagues (waning) star 36-year-old RHP Satoru Komiyama makes the team as a middle reliever alongside bumped starters Bruce Chen and Grant Roberts and Rockies refugee Kane Davis. That gives the Mets a good collection of alternatives for when something goes wrong with Jeff D'Amico and if something goes wrong with one of the other four starters.
However, the decision to keep 12 pitchers still left no room for Lou Collier; the Mets could afford to deal him since they already had a very similar player on the roster in Joe McEwing. Better yet, in acquiring Jim Serrano and Jason Bay for a waiver-claim-caliber talent, they got a couple of players good enough to rank among their best prospects. Bay crushed the Midwest League, and although he wasn't a young player for the level, he showed good power, patience, and speed. Serrano throws hard, and that might be worth something in July, when the Mets will be looking to find another outfielder and, hopefully, a shortstop. Finally, Chris Latham was a good waiver claim, in that he might turn out to be better than either of their current center fielders.
Optioned 2B/SS-R Mark Ellis and OF-Rs Eric Byrnes and Adam Piatt to Sacramento; placed RF-R Jermaine Dye and 1B/OF-L Mario Valdez on the 15-day DL; assigned 1B-R Luis Lopez, C-L Cody McKay and RHP Matt Miller to minor-league camp. [3/30]
Some of this isn't surprising. Jermaine Dye's broken leg is going to take time to heal, but he's still expected to be back long before May 1. That in turn creates pressure on Scott Hatteberg to have a good multi-week trial as the team's DH, lest he get pushed back into competing with Greg Myers for a roster spot. Adam Piatt needs to show he's completely healthy before he's brought back. Mark Ellis had little shot of making the team after Randy Velarde was brought in, but Ellis remains a worthwhile alternative if anything bad happens to Velarde or Frank Menechino. Eric Byrnes flat-out lost to Mike Colangelo for the last outfield job. That makes sense, particularly in the early going with Dye missing, because Colangelo will come in for Dave Justice or Jeremy Giambi for defense--hopefully pushing Terrence Long to a corner late in the game--as well as start against a number of lefties.
And Mario Valdez? Well, I suspect his calf injury and subsequent rehab time will last however long it takes until something bad happens to somebody currently on the roster, because he's out of options and the A's don't want to lose him on waivers.
Recalled SS-R Nick Punto from minor-league camp. [3/26]
Traded OF-L Reggie Taylor to the Reds for a PTBNL. [3/28]
Waived IF-R Kevin Jordan; optioned LHP Pete Zamora to Scranton/Wilkes Barre; assigned IF-R David Doster and C-R Jeremy Salazar to minor-league camp; purchased the contracts of C-R Todd Pratt and OF/1B-L John Mabry. [3/29]
Received LHP Hector Mercado from the Reds as the PTBNL for Reggie Taylor; designated RHP Nelson Figueroa for assignment. [3/30]
The Phillies manage to do some strange things, and sure enough, this was a real doozy of a weekend.
First, they've decided to carry Dave Hollins around as a memento of the last Phillies team to ever win anything. He has no position, he won't hit much, and he's one of the game's most notorious red-asses, but he's here because he's a little lighter on his feet than John Kruk these days. He is not a better player than David Doster or Kevin Jordan. Now, that said, the constellation of choices was limited with Tomas Perez on the DL, in that they have to have somebody around to back up Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, and if it wasn't a slick fielder like Nick Punto, you had to hope that David Doster could handle short once in awhile; Jordan was hurt by his inability to play short. The Phillies kept the good glove and the lucky charm, and dispensed with the generalists. If they start to wonder about their bench by May 1, considering they're counting on Ricky Ledee, John Mabry, Hollins, Punto, and an aging Todd Pratt, they shouldn't be surprised.
The other strange choice? Why trade for Hector Mercado? Getting Reggie Taylor out of the way isn't a bad idea, but if getting Mercado costs you Nelson Figueroa on a waiver claim (and a team like the White Sox or the Reds or the Pirates really ought to claim him and plug him into their rotation), that is not a net gain.
Acquired RHP Matt Guerrier from the White Sox for LHP Damaso Marte and 2B/SS-B Edwin Yan. [3/27]
Placed IF-R Pat Meares on the 15-day DL (hand); placed RHP Ryan Vogelsong on the 60-day DL; designated RHP Tony McKnight for assignment; purchased the contract of LHP Ron Villone; released OF-R Derek Bell outright; assigned OF-R Adam Hyzdu and RHP Josias Manzanillo to minor league camp. [3/30]
You know what Derek Bell's problem is? He wasn't even as worthwhile of ire as Claudell "Washington Slept Here" Washington. I mean, Washington was an extremely good player at points of his career, and not so good at others, and the frustration Washington inspired was the sense that he could have been something more.
Bell was never as good as his press clippings, and far too ready to promote himself or his slender talents. Like Chad Curtis, he isn't really worth our ire. Derek Bell is a cautionary tale, because in some ways, he seems to be the same guy as he was during the last weekend of the 1992 season. Back then, he enthusiastically set aside his scrubeenie status to treat his teammates' clinching of the AL East title as an excuse to do victory laps around the field waving an enormous Blue Jays banner. Doing this in the penultimate game of the season, he'd managed to make himself a marked man for the following day, and sure enough Sparky Anderson wasn't about to let Bell forget. If a smaller anecdote can be blown into some larger generalization, Bell's entire career has been an exercise in tactless obliviousness smacking up against the cranky reality of his limitations.
To be fair to Bell, he had two pretty good years in his career, which is a lot for the best of the generation of horrifically disappointing Blue Jays outfield prospects who came up during the mid-'80s to early '90s.
As for getting Matt Guerrier, another nice little move by Dave Littlefield. Damaso Marte isn't anything special, and Guerrier might be in the Bucs' rotation by the end of May. If the Pirates have three league-average or better starters (Guerrier, Sean Lowe, and Kip Wells) in their rotation in exchange for one (Todd Ritchie) and a spot lefty, and they're spending less money and have control of the players' careers for more time, then they're ahead of the other guy.
Released RHP Brad Clontz. [3/26]
Purchased the contract of 3B-L Sean Burroughs, PH-L Mark Sweeney, OF-R Trenidad Hubbard, and RHP Jason Boyd; placed LHP Kevin Walker and RHP Adam Eaton on the 60-day DL; placed RHP Tom Davey on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); optioned C-R Javier Cardona to Portland; assigned SS-R Julios Matos, OF-R Pete Incaviglia and RHPs David Lundquist and Matt DeWitt to minor-league camp. [3/30]
Well, my friends, leave it to Kevin Towers and Bruce Bochy to build not just another good bench, but arguably the best bench in baseball: Bubba Trammell, Ron Gant, Mark Sweeney, Treni Hubbard, Deivi Cruz, and Tom Lampkin. They'll get to play, too. Deivi Cruz will spot Ramon Vazquez at shortstop until Vazquez settles in, Trammell will replace Ray Lankford in a number of lineups and situations, and Ron Gant is available to spot start for Ryan Klesko against the better lefties in the league. Treni Hubbard and Mark Sweeney make a nice pinch-hitting platoon, giving Bochy a pair of expendable but useful at-bats in lower-leverage pinch-hitting situations. This team should score runs, especially once Vazquez and Sean Burroughs settle in. What can I say, I like this bunch, and a well-crafted roster deserves a tip of the cap.
Unfortunately, Benito Santiago is still here, and will be about as active as your average major geological event: infrequent at best, and crippling when actually present.
Now he gets to be So Taguchi in Memphis, and speculation that he was somehow going to fix the left-field problem or inspire a wave of Japanophilia in the greater St. Louis area ends up looking about as silly as the expectations that New York was going to go bonkers for Tsuyoshi Shinjo. At the end of the day, marketing requires results, otherwise, you're just the Devil Rays.
Assigned 1B-R Ron Wright to minor-league camp. [3/28]
The news here is that Rule 5 draftee Luis Ugueto was kept over Alex Arias. Ugueto was picked out of the Marlins organization, and he's probably capable of helping out defensively or as a pinch-runner, but he's not a real burner or Ozzie Smith, so what he'll be used for and whether he's good for it are open questions. He's 23 and he's never played above A ball, so he's not exactly a prospect.
How quickly he gets "injured" and has to spend time rehabbing will be, as it always is with Rule 5 picks, entertaining. Invariably he's going to stiffen up in warmups (it's hard to hurt yourself playing when Lou Piniella has already made it plain you won't play), and go for evaluations, and see a specialist, and if the Mariners are really creative, he'll get a second opinion or three. Then he'll have to rest, then he'll go rehab, and before you know it, September and expanded rosters will be here.
Optioned LHP Nick Bierbrodt, RHP Delvin James, 3B-L Aubrey Huff, and 3B-R Jared Sandberg to Durham; assigned C-Rs Sal Fasano and Yamid Haad and RHPs Gerardo Garcia and Travis Harper to minor-league camp; released SS-R Felix Martinez. [3/26]
Claimed 2B/SS-R Felix Escalona off of waivers from the Giants. [3/27]
Placed LHP Bobby Seay on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/22 (shoulder tendinitis). [3/29]
Placed IF-R Russ Johnson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/28 (strained tendon).
No sooner does Russ Johnson catch his first real break by getting named the Opening Day third baseman than he gets hurt in a twist of fate reminiscent of Craig Grebeck's misfortunes in the early '90s. But does it end there? No, because now Aubrey Huff is out at least two months (minimum) with a fractured eye socket, so scratch the best alternative to Johnson. That leaves the Rays with Bobby Smith at the hot corner, or the indignity of the still-premature experiment with somebody with a famous name. Let's just call this the Curse of Jim Morris, as the franchise that reduced itself to a publicity stunt catches more than its share of bad karma as its reward.
Taking advantage of their misfortune, however, the plucky Rays nabbed Rule 5 draftee Felix Escalona off of waivers from the Giants before he could make it back to the Astros. Escalona has an interesting blend of power and speed, but he's not an especially patient hitter. He had an outstanding camp with the Giants, but it would be a lot to expect good things. That said, there isn't a whole lot of talent at shortstop in the organization, so if anything happens to Chris Gomez for the third time in the last four years, there's an outside chance that Escalona could wind up with a lot more playing time than anyone would have expected from a guy right out of the Sally League.
Purchased the contract of RHP Hideki Irabu; placed RHP Danny Kolb on the 60-day DL (partially torn rotator cuff); assigned LHP Jesus Pena to minor-league camp; released IF-R Jason Maxwell; optioned 2B/OF-R Jason Romano and OF-R Kevin Mench and assigned UT-B Santiago Perez to minor-league camp. [3/28]
Assigned LHP Chris Michalak and RHP Anthony Telford to minor-league camp; optioned RHP Francisco Cordero to Oklahoma; placed RHP Jay Powell on the 15-day DL (finger tendinitis); designated LHP Juan Moreno and OF-B Chris Magruder for assignment; purchased the contracts of RHPs Danny Miceli, Rudy Seanez and Steve Woodard. [3/30]
Thirteen pitchers. It's an even worse idea than the 12-man staff, but in the Rangers' defense, if there's a team that has no use for its bench hitters, it's probably the Rangers. John Hart's mad scramble to add adequate relievers this past winter consumed almost as much time and effort as the open casting call for starting pitchers, but he just lost his one really good reliever in Jeff Zimmerman, and Jay Powell is on the DL as well. So rather than make any tough choices, the Rangers will carry an eight-man pen: John Rocker, Todd Van Poppel, Rudy Seanez, Steve Woodard, Danny Miceli, prospect Colby Lewis, rotation battle loser Hideki Irabu, and lefty Rich Rodriguez. So that's one lefty set-up man, two starters pressed into a long relief role, one of the organization's best young pitchers hanging out, and a guy like Danny Miceli, who's entering his fourth season since his lone solid year.
Now, I'm sure that an ex-catcher like Jerry Narron knows that you have to keep everybody working to keep everybody effective. And I'm sure that with a rotation featuring in particular the chuck-and-duck stylings of Dave Burba will need all the relievers it can get a couple of times per week. But I'm a little perplexed at the decision to keep Lewis around in an eight-man pen. Even if Van Poppel, Seanez, and Rodriguez are reserved for the primary set-up duties for Rocker, that's still four other right right-handed relievers. Lewis, Irabu, and Woodard can fight for the innings in blowouts or blown-outs, but that's an out-of-the-ordinary usage pattern these days, and even if the Rangers can anticipate a bunch of high-scoring games, it will be very interesting to see if Narron can keep everyone working often enough to keep them sharp.
So what's left on the bench? Well, your three-man collection of bench hitters is backup catcher Bill Haselman"ia", the Milkman, Herbert Perry, and the bodybuilder, Gabe Kapler. No real backup center fielder for the bumptious, rotund Carl Everett, and no backup shortstop for Alex Rodriguez. It's daring and it may not hurt them much in the short term, but it isn't a roster designed to last through the season.
Designated RHP Brian Cooper for assignment. [3/28]
Placed LHP Mike Sirotka on the 60-day DL (shoulder); placed RHP Steve Parris on the 15-day DL (shoulder); placed RHP Esteban Loaiza on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/23 (shoulder tendinitis); placed RHP Bob File on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/27 (pulled side muscle); recalled RHP Scott Cassidy from Syracuse; purchased the contracts of OF-R Brian Lesher and IF-R Dave Berg; assigned OF-R Chad Mottola to minor-league camp. [3/30]
There were a few surprises at the end. Dave Berg was pretty much the best utility infield option the team had from the get-go, so his making the team is no surprise. No, the bigger surprises are that Brian Lesher beat out Chad Mottola and that Scott Cassidy is here ahead of Chad Ricketts or Brian Bowles. Lesher is probably the beneficiary of the fact that with Vernon Wells on the roster, there are a couple of people who can play center field, and four people who can handle the three outfield positions, so Lesher's experience playing first base as well as an outfield corner becomes a factor, especially with Tom Wilson probably reserved for a lot of catching (as opposed to playing first or DHing) as long as the alternative there is Darrin Fletcher.
Cassidy is even more of a surprise, but with Bob File due back at some point in April, I'm not a big believer that he's going to stick around. He's not a hard-throwing prospect, more an organizational soldier with good command coming off of a decent spring. Since the Jays are already carrying Rule 5er Corey Thurman and three lefties in the pen, it's not too much of a stretch to believe that they needed to carry somebody right-handed to fill in. That said, within some limits, his fate is in his own hands: if Cassidy has a good couple of outings or weeks, who knows what will happen, since the Jays are definitely in the market to trade one of their three lefty relievers.