Happy Labor Day! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume on Tuesday, September 2.
April 8, 2002
April 4-6, 2002
Transferred RHP Steve Green from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/6]
It's unknown how long either Benji Gil or Troy Percival will be out; Percival's ribcage injury isn't responding to medication, while Gil's badly sprained ankle (courtesy of a Rusty Greer takeout slide) is swollen, but not broken.
Losing Gil won't break this weak offense's back. It just means that Jose Nieves moves to the front of the line as the team's utility infielder, with Clay Bellinger taking over as last man on the bench. The real issue with losing Gil is that if you accept that he poses some danger to left-handed pitching, he could share DH at-bats with the so-platoonable Brad Fullmer, but the Angels would be better off just picking up the phone and calling Jose Canseco. Since Canseco has already indicated a willingness to play first base, and the Angels don't have a first baseman, why not try and score some runs? It would hurt defensively, and it would mean that GM Bill Stoneman might have to eat some crow (after last year's Canseco fiasco), but the Angels aren't good enough to rely on first-base defense or a backup utility infielder as cures for what ails them, and Stoneman's prestige should be a non-factor considering its major prop is that he is not a Bavasi.
Losing Troy Percival for a brief moment is an obvious bad thing, because it bumps middle-relief godling Al Levine into the closer slot and out of high-leverage mid-inning situations.The pressure is really not on Levine, but on Ben Weber, Donne Wall, and Lou Pote. Wall has a lot to prove after a miserable 2001, and Weber seems to be bouncing back nicely from a broken ankle. Brendan Donnelly was a 27th-round pick out of Mesa State College in Colorado in 1992, and has essentially been hanging ever since to get to this day, usually as a set-up man in a number of minor-league bullpens, the last six years above A-ball. Here's hoping he has a good debut; given that Weber and Pote and Levine all essentially came off of the scrap pile as well, Donnelly has an outside shot at getting a big-league career out of this.
Greg Maddux is expected to be activated on April 10, and he had what was deemed a good throwing session on Thursday. However, he also had to have a couple of cortisone shots on Friday. Draw your own conclusions, but Maddux says he's OK to throw, just not run or field.
In the meantime, that means a spot start for Damian Moss, which isn't a bad thing. Maddux might be ready on the 10th, but the Braves could afford to push him back to the 12th and keep everyone else pitching on regular rotation. If it gives Moss an opportunity in the meantime to start putting some pressure on Albie Lopez for the fifth starter's job, that's not a bad thing either.
Placed OF-R Moises Alou on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/31 (sore calf); claimed OF-R Mario Encarnacion off of waivers from the Rockies, and activated him; designated 1B-R Julio Zuleta for assignment. [4/5]
Moises Alou, hurt? That doesn't seem so strange, considering his reputation. Hurt in such a way that he isn't out for a huge chunk of the season? That's what seems a little bit out of the ordinary. Alou should be back before the end of the month. In the meantime, that should give Don Baylor plenty of opportunity to let Rosie Brown sink or swim. Unfortunately, Baylor seemed inclined to repeat Jimy Williams's mistake with Darren Lewis, in trying to make Lewis a platoon mate. Claiming Mario Encarnacion might help somewhat, but Brown has hit lefties in the minors, so why not just play him until you either lose confidence in him or Alou comes back?
Now that it's clear that Encarnacion is two years older than previously reported, he's fallen from intriguing near-miss as a prospect to journeyman hoping to have a career as good as Patrick Lennon's. That doesn't make him a waste of a roster spot; the Cubs could use somebody on their bench who bats right-handed with some pop, and Encarnacion can play the corners well enough to spot for Sosa or Alou for defense. If the Cubs use him, they might learn that he's handy, and that in turn creates a hell of a problem when Alou returns. Encarnacion is out of options, so if they try to demote him, they'll have to expose him to waivers just as the Rockies did. Considering that they have to make room for Alou and eventually Bill Mueller, Encarnacion is almost certainly screwed by the decision to sign Lewis and carry three catchers. Here's hoping that the Cubs somehow wind up with their best roster and keep him as a reserve outfielder. An outfield with the starting three of Sosa, Alou, and Corey Patterson, with Brown and Encarnacion on the bench, would be one of the best groups of five in the majors.
Chris Magruder is a decent fourth outfielder (hell, he'd be the starting center fielder on the Giants or Dodgers), but on a roster already clogged with Brady Anderson and Wil Cordero, he has next to no chance at coming up any time soon. He does give the Buffalo Bisons a good center fielder to replace Alex Escobar, and if anything happened to Milton Bradley, Magruder would be a nice replacement.
For the Indians, swapping Rashad Eldridge for Magruder is a decent "win-now insurance" type of exchange.
This isn't a bad bit of news for the Tigers, since Matt Perisho had a significantly better camp than Matt Miller. The misfortune is that Perisho might get shoehorned into the situational lefty role, one he doesn't really have the assortment for or much of a track record of success to justify. Phil Garner might take the opportunity to dispense with LaRussian usage patterns. The Tigers are the kind of team where it doesn't matter: there are plenty of relief innings to go around, there aren't going to be many tight games, and Garner's primary responsibility in managing his pen should be to spread the work around to keep everyone sharp.
In Ray King's absence, the Brewers will rely on Japanese import Takahito Nomura as their situational lefty, and they'll have room to keep Nelson Figueroa in the meantime. Figueroa is (or should be) their first choice if they choose to replace anybody in the rotation, and King's injury means that nobody else has to whacked from the roster. The obvious candidate would be Lenny Harris, but the odds of the Brewers identifying that this early in the season seem pretty slight.
How strange to think back and see that organizational depth has gone from a weakness to a strength for the Twins. In the absence of Brian Buchanan and Luis Rivas, the Twins can afford a pair of job-sharing arrangements; not really straight platoons, but the chance to spread the playing time in right field between Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty, and the playing time at second base between Jay Canizaro and Warren Morris.
There are a few sad notes; this was probably Brian Buchanan's only shot at becoming a regular, and while he'll probably enjoy a career as a useful spare outfielder, he may not ever earn consideration as an everyday player ever again. The Twins are better off if he isn't a regular, but that's Buchanan's problem.
The other slightly frustrating thing is that while it's good to have Matt LeCroy up, whether or not he'll play becomes an issue. Will he get to spot for Doug Mientkiewicz one day a week, David Ortiz another, and A.J. Pierzynski a third? A structured rotation of the position players to let LeCroy play regularly makes sense, but it's unclear as to whether Ron Gardenhire will create one.
Acquired LHP Bruce Chen, RHP Dicky Gonzalez, IF-B Luis Figueroa, and a PTBNL from the Mets for RHP Scott Strickland, LHP Phil Seibel, and OF-L Matt Watson; optioned Gonzalez to Ottawa; assigned Figueroa to Ottawa; designated IF-R Tomas De La Rosa for assignment. [4/5]
Kudos to Omar Minaya, because he landed significant talent at a very early stage of the season. Bruce Chen has maddened three organizations (OK, he might not have angered the Mets yet, but both the Phillies and Braves got cranky with him), and eventually he should slip into the Expos rotation, probably at the expense of one of the two Japanese pitchers there now. Dicky Gonzalez will be another potential starter at some point down the line, although he's more of a back-of-the-rotation sort of guy. To get the two of them for a situational right-handed reliever is downright sweet. In this instance, Minaya did an outstanding job of acquiring somebody who can be a part of the franchise's future.
Acquired RHP Scott Strickland, LHP Phil Seibel, and OF-L Matt Watson from the Expos for LHP Bruce Chen, RHP Dicky Gonzalez, IF-B Luis Figueroa, and a PTBNL; assigned Seibel and Watson to the minors; claimed 2B-R Marcos Scutaro off of waivers from the Brewers and optioned him to Norfolk. [4/5]
The Mets landed one of the few experienced quality relievers available. While they overpaid for Strickland now--just as they would have had to at the trading deadline--can they apologize for the move because the Mets feel they need to win as many games as possible now, during the next three months, because of the rumors of a work stoppage in July?
To Steve Phillips's credit, while joining the list of GMs to have quickly discarded Bruce Chen and tossing in his next-best alternative to the front five (besides Chen) in Dicky Gonzalez, at least he managed to add bodies for the system in the deal. Phil Seibel isn't really a prospect; he's a 23-year-old lefty coming off of a season where he gave up more than 4.5 runs per nine in the Florida State League, which isn't good. It was his first real pro experience (although drafted in 2000, he didn't pitch) after pitching for the University of Texas. He owns a bunch of junk and good command of it. Matt Watson is a high-OBP, high-average hitter with good patience and decent speed, and he hit plenty of doubles in the Florida State League; those might turn into taters as he moves to Double-A. He might develop into something special, but as is, he could become a good fourth outfielder.
The other nice addition is nabbing Marcos Scutaro off of waivers. He has next to no personal value to the Mets, since he's not going to come up with Roberto Alomar and Edgardo Alfonzo around. But Scutaro has some power, gets on base well, and represents a good throw-in for some future deal that Phillips might be able to pull off. Because of the perilous state of the farm system, Phillips needed a free talent addition like this, to give him a bargaining chip.
Agreed to terms with RHP Jose Mesa on a one-year contract extension, with a club option for 2004. [4/4]
This might appear to be one of those irrational exuberance moves that Keith Law always got apoplectic about, but Mesa will be cheaper than most free-agent closers might be in the next two years. Will he be worth it? I have my doubts, especially since Mesa just had a better season than I thought he had left in him, but I can understand where Ed Wade is coming from here.
Announced that RHP Tony McKnight cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Nashville. [4/4]
With all of the petty kvetching about the lack of pitching, it seems strange that an ex-first-round pick who posted an ERA under 5.00 in the majors last season would slip through waivers.
Placed RHP Woody Williams on the 15-day DL (strained oblique). [4/6]
Well, that sort of fixes things. You have to expect that Bud Smith will get the call-up for the next point at which the Cardinals will need a fifth starter (next Saturday). That gives Andy Benes another start in which to undermine the misplaced confidence in him. By the time Woody Williams returns, Smith should have a couple of starts to back up his case that he should be in the rotation, and Tony LaRussa will have a couple of starts' worth of additional evidence that Andy Benes is cooked. By the end of the month, the Cardinals should have their best rotation, and they'll have done it in such a way that LaRussa can retain his reputation as a veteran-friendly manager.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: roto is evil. Why, you may ask, this time? Because it perverts how you follow the game and look at a boxscore. In particular, anybody who has Tom Lampkin in their fantasy league (as Team BP does in LABR) might take the news as a reason to feel good, because it means Lampkin will play, a sensibility arrived at without any consideration over how this situation affects the real team, the Padres.
What does this mean in real life, where it matters? The Pads already had to cope with Gonzalez's injury-plagued spring, and the decision to get Javier Cardona from the Tigers looks downright prescient at the moment. Gonzalez will be out for a good month-and-a-half to two months, so a Lampkin/Cardona platoon will bat eighth for the next six to eight weeks. That may well give Lampkin the outlet he needs to force his way into a job-sharing arrangement with Gonzalez when he returns from the DL--not a straight platoon, but two to four starts per week, depending on the opponents. The lineup might be better off for it, but Lampkin is 38 and into that portion of a player's career where everything could go sour overnight. Plus, it gives Javier Cardona another chunk of service time to work towards that Backup Catchers International union card that guarantees employment until...well, just look at Lampkin.
Kent's return created a minor roster dilemma, in that Damon Minor is out of options, while Pedro Feliz played well enough in the first week to stick around. The only other alternative would have been something drastic, like cutting Shawon Dunston, but that almost certainly wouldn't get kicked around. Instead, Minor had the good fortune to get "hurt," not that this "injury" kept him from pasting seven home runs in spring training.
Released IF-R Alex Arias unconditionally. [4/4]
Alex Arias lost out to Rule 5 pick Luis Ugueto, which is defensible considering that the lineup is relatively set. Arias has a rep as a sweet pinch-hitter, but that's not especially valuable for an American League team, let alone one with nine regulars in the lineup already looking for ways to use Mark McLemore and Desi Relaford. So Pat Gillick deserves some credit for utilizing his 25th spot to keep a Rule 5 pick around; not every contender would do it, and Lou Piniella seems a bit perplexed by it, and Ugueto won't play, but it's a good move of the minor-bold variety.
With Chan Ho Park already out of action (hopefully not for long), the decision to keep Hideki Irabu around worked out pretty well, in that he got bumped into the rotation in Park's place. The Rangers' rotation isn't as bad as you might believe. Park, Doug Davis, Kenny Rogers, and Ismael Valdes make for a pretty good foursome. The problem, as John Hart sees it--with the agreement of most of the civilized world--is that there isn't a number-one starter, and you have to count on Irabu or Dave Burba, instead of just arguing whether Davis is the #4 starter and Rogers the #5, or vice-versa.
By far the more troubling issue is Hart's roster management. Why was Rich Rodriguez acquired in the first place, when his spring was already marred by injury, and his ability to contribute unremarkably already well-documented? I never thought I'd see the day when I'd say it was good news that a club was "only" using 12 pitchers, but the decision to replace Rodriguez with Kevin Mench makes all sorts of sense. With Carl Everett out of shape and starting off poorly, Gabe Kapler has been pressed into more regular work in center field. That's not a bad thing, but with Herb Perry needed to caddy for Hank Blalock during Blalock's slow start, that means the bench is short of right-handed sock. Having Mench up answers that problem. He should get plenty of work alternating with Rusty Greer in left field (or at DH now that Frank Catalanotto seems to be getting most of the playing time at second base), and considering how well Mench blistered left-handed pitching in the Texas League last year (slugging almost .700 in ~140 PA), should be an asset in the job.
Finally, Hart cleared up the last of his roster losses caused by having to add so many NRI pitchers to the 40-man roster at the end of camp. Chris Magruder had been part of the swag that came over in exchange for Andres Galarraga last summer, and while he's good enough to play in the majors, he's a fourth outfielder type, not a serious prospect. By a good turn, Hart's protege in Cleveland, Mark Shapiro, handed him a young hitter who might turn out to be a better prospect and who is another year away from having to be added to the 40-man roster. Rashad Eldridge is only 20, hit for good power and drew some walks as a 19-year-old in the Appy League last year, with the lone blemish being a bossload of strikeouts. As Clay Davenport's research on minor leaguers has indicated, that's the kind of problem that can be fixed. If the Rangers can fix him, he might be somebody to keep an eye on.
So although things turned out badly initially, and while Chan Ho Park had to go on the DL, the Rangers are generally better off. They lost talent, but they got some back, and their roster is better configured now than it was a week ago. Whether Hart is willing to stick it out through a rough early-season schedule, or whether he'll just freak out and overreact (as he did with the David Justice trade in 2000) should make for interesting viewing.
Placed RHP Chris Carpenter on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/2 (shoulder tendinitis). [4/5]
Recalled RHP Brian Cooper from Syracuse. [4/6]
Losing Chris Carpenter is bad on several levels, but perhaps the one that matters most in the long term is that time spent on the DL is time that could have been spent showcasing him in trade, and whatever the Blue Jays can get for Carpenter is what matters in terms of trying to contend in 2003 and beyond. As is, his reluctance to come forward and mention that his shoulder hurt didn't win him any brownie points, and it can create all sorts of regrets that he wasn't dealt during spring training. The Jays have been holding out for a top-shelf prospect, which makes sense considering they're an organization that knows it can pick the second-shelvers on waivers or in next winter's minor-league free-agent pool, and that's without bringing up the Jays' good collection of young talent already in the organization.
The opportunity has slipped away for the time being, which is the risk when you're playing for higher stakes with an eye towards the long-term. If the Jays were merely dumping salary, Carpenter would already be gone. With John Hart getting antsy (and harboring high expectations), it made sense to hold out. Unfortunately for the Jays, Carpenter's shoulder didn't cooperate.
Short-term, it means a rotation where Scott Eyre is the graybeard, with Roy Halladay, Brandon Lyon, Luke Prokopec, and Brian Cooper filling it out. That represents a great opportunity for Scott Cassidy or Corey Thurman to eventually get looks in the rotation after a month or two in middle relief, because the odds of all five members of the current rotation pitching well enough to hold their jobs is remote.