Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
September 12, 2002
September 4-10, 2002
Purchased the contract of AARP-B Felix Jose from Tucson. [9/4]
Activated LHP Greg Swindell from the DL. [9/6]
Yippee. Greg Swindell briefly gave the team reason to think he can contribute, but the point isn't whether or not he has much gas left as much as he hopefully keeps the postseason roster entirely Oropesa-free. The less easily answered question is why the Snakes would call up Felix Jose. He has no defensive value, he can't pinch-run, he's a toothless threat as a pinch-hitter, and unless he saved a Garagiola from a house fire, there just doesn't seem to be any reasonable explanation for why he's up.
Activated 1B/3B-R Wes Helms from the DL. [9/10]
Now the Braves have choices at third. Sure, the odds are that they'll just hand (or punt) the at-bats in the postseason to Vinny Castilla, but they can look at Helms now that it looks like the Franco x2 platoon has first base nailed down. The problem is that the Braves have all sorts of alternatives, and seem to have trouble discriminating between Castilla and Keith Lockhart and how little they have to offer as opposed to Helms, Marcus Giles, or Mark DeRosa. If Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz elect to rest on their too-easily asserted superiority in the NL East and ride the same old dead ponies into the postseason, they'll deserve to be left with carrion and another October surprise.
Activated RHP Pat Hentgen from the 60-day DL. [9/8]
I know it's inspiring and all that Hentgen has battled back from his injury and is ready to roll, but he got his paychecks, and the Orioles need the game experience to look at people who will be Orioles. They have no more need to get reacquainted with Pat Hentgen than they do with Albert Belle; the money is gone. They don't owe him any favors; relegating him to the same limbo already inhabited by Scott Erickson is in the organization's best interests.
Released SS-R Royce Clayton. [9/8]
Activated RHP Todd Ritchie from the DL. [9/10]
Royce Clayton... released. Sox fans generally take their pleasures at other people's expense, and about the only way this could make them any happier is if Clayton suddenly somehow became a Cub. This really only leaves Todd Ritchie (and arguably Antonio Osuna) from among the Kenny Williams House of Horrors All-Stars, almost returning the organization back to where they were before he started working his magic. Yes, they're lighter by a few good young pitchers for their troubles, and there's naught but bitter pride for Williams to reap in helping make life easier on the Indians last year and the Twins in the last two.
More basically, releasing Clayton clears the decks for spending the last couple of weeks sorting out what the team's middle-infield combo should be. Jose Valentin is still an odd collection of great strengths and galling weaknesses, but he should be used as the regular at short. Willie Harris is similar to Valentin, in that he has defensive limitations, he may need platooning, but he still has the on-base skills that this lineup needs. D'Angelo Jimenez frustrated the Padres in just about every phase of the game early this season, but the White Sox haven't ruled out his playing short, and he can be an asset either there or at second, as a regular or as a part-time player. Tony Graffanino's under contract for next season, but his knee injury is pretty significant, so you can expect the Sox to shop for another veteran infielder this winter, but the opportunity is there for Valentin, Jimenez, and Harris to nail down the middle infield and put some runs on the board.
As for Ritchie's return, they shouldn't bother starting him. To paraphrase Roger Craig, he didn't earn his drive to lose twenty. Sure, he had the skill to do it, but the Sox have alternatives, and Ritchie doesn't deserve his rotation slot.
Activated RHP John Riedling from the DL. [9/4]
He's up early, but can you blame the Reds for taking a look at Wily Mo Pena now, when the games count? They have to expose him to waivers or let him make the team next spring, so they may as well put him in real game action now and see how badly it turns out. Down in Chattanooga, Pena hit .255/.330/.405, or well enough to keep his job there. He'll be 21... next year. To say he's raw and unready is an understatement, but the Yankees snookered the Reds into making him their problem, and now he's raw, unready, and balancing on becoming waiver bait. Sure, because the Reds have three guys who ought to play regularly in next year's outfield, they could hide Pena as the 25th man on the 2003 roster as if he were a Rule 5 pick. But to what end? He loses development time by not playing, and the Reds would just have the same problem in 2004, and they'd still have Griffey, Dunn, and Kearns playing every day. So they can use three weeks to make a defensible choice: evaluate him, and then make an informed decision to pass him through waivers at the end of next spring.
Recalled OF-B Covelli Crisp from Buffalo. [9/10]
As prospects go, Victor Martinez exploded this season to hit .336/.417/.576 (good for a .276 translated Equivalent Average), and poking 40 doubles and 22 home runs in the Eastern League is no easy feat. Add in that he's only 23, and gets good marks for his glovework. Since the Tribe also has Josh Bard up and looking like a good backstop as well, they should be able to go into the winter with the opportunity to shop Einar Diaz for any kind of pitching help, young, experienced, mediocre, talented, you name it, this organization needs it. Although Diaz is the least talented of the three, he should be interesting to big league teams interested in known quantities and fixed costs.
John Barnes might end up being a useful fourth or fifth outfielder, or he could wind up getting stuck on that sixth outfielder/Triple-A shuttle that Mark Little never really got off of. Shawn Chacon is a talented young starter, and he's been successful, but at the moment, he's without a slot in the rotation while the Rockies explore ways to make either Mike Hampton or Denny Neagle somebody else's problem.
Released RHPs Jose Lima and Jose Paniagua; recalled RHPs Jason Beverlin, Nate Cornejo, Franklyn German, Shane Loux and Fernando Rodney, C-R Mike Rivera and 1B-L Eric Munson from Toledo; purchased the contracts of LHP Eric Eckenstahler and SS-R Omar Infante from Toledo. [9/7]
It's sort of nice to see the Tigers clear the decks. I'll leave the pitching alone, in that Rodney or Eckenstahler or German could all be key contributors in next year's pen, but what they do next March or in winter ball will matter every bit as much as whatever they flash right now. Shane Loux and Nate Cornejo both need to be considered for the rotation, both short-term and long. Short-term so that they can let Andy Van Hekken call it a season now, since it would be an upset if he wasn't an easy favorite for the 2003 rotation, and long-term because both of them have their own stars to follow.
While it's nice to see them accept some sunk costs and cut bait on both Lima and Paniagua, the Tigers are still stuck in some ways. Craig Paquette, Dean Palmer and Shane Halter are all under contract for next year, and Damion Easley for the next two. None of them play a position where the Tigers don't have better alternatives.
As a result, among the call-ups, they do need to really look at Eric Munson, Mike Rivera and Omar Infante. In Infante's case, the Tigers already have Ramon Santiago up to play short, but the two of them might be the team's middle infield combo if they decide to punt some of the vets. Infante only hit .268/.309/.369, didn't look too steady afield, and got nabbed 15 times on 34 stolen base attempts. Although he only hit .262/.367/.493 at Toledo, Munson has to be given a chance to push his way into the logjam at first base and DH. If he doesn't make Randall Simon expendable, then he in turn becomes expendable, but Munson is only just about to turn 25, and has some up-side, whereas you've seen all you're going to get from Simon, and that's trade bait.
Finally, Rivera comes back up to find that Brandon Inge once again did nothing to stick, while after his demotion to the Mudhens, Rivera hit .249/.341/.525, poking twenty home runs in only 305 PAs. That reinforces the idea that Rivera's great 2001 season at Double-A was no fluke, while at most Inge has a good month at Toledo last year and a good three weeks there this year to represent the entirety of his productive career as a hitter. Since Inge's defensive rep has been more than a little too obviously overstated, you would think that the Tigers would be a little more motivated about letting them fight it out for the job.
Activated OF-R Richard Hidalgo from the DL. [9/9]
Hidalgo may be off of the DL, but he is not back into the lineup. See, Jimy Williams has gotten his fancy struck by Speedy Hunter, so Hidalgo's on the bench alongside Daryle Ward. This hasn't been all bad: both Ward and Hidalgo have been totally outhit by Orlando Merced, and it has given Jason Lane a chance to contribute. But at the end of the day, life without Hidalgo hitting like he did in either of the last two seasons makes the Cardinals' limp to the finish that much easier to sustain.
Recalled OF-R Brandon Berger, SS-R Angel Berroa and 2B-R Carlos Febles from Omaha; recalled RHP Mike MacDougal and purchased the contract of RHP Jeremy Hill from Wichita (Double-A); Released LHP Tony Cogan. [9/6]
Released RHP Blake Stein. [9/9]
Most of these are return engagements, as the Royals sort out (again) whether or not they feel good or bad about Angel Berroa and Carlos Febles after disastrously awful 2002 seasons. Berroa only hit .215/.277/.360 in an injury-plagued season at Omaha, while Febles has to start wondering if he can somehow pull a Terry Shumpert and salvage a career out of being a Royal second base flop. As a result, Brian Harris is starting to move into view as the team's second baseman of the near future, and Neifi Perez almost... well, no, not even that sort of year out of Berroa makes Neifi at all palatable. Brandon Berger has been up before, and he still offers the Royals an improvement on Chuck Knoblauch. Yes, I still think a Berger/Dee Brown or Berger/Raul Ibanez platoon would be pretty tasty. They'd still be short a middle infielder (see above) and a corner outfielder, but that's better than Michael Tucker every day.
The last guy to mention here is Jeremy Hill, sort of the Royals' answer to Chad Harville in that sparsely-populated world of flame-throwing normal-height humans. Like Harville, Hill has been made into a reliever, and like Harville, he can dial it up into the mid-90s. Unlike Harville, he's yet another converted position player. As the closer at Wichita this season, Hill was pretty successful, notching 19 saves while only allowing 61 hits and 27 unintentional walks in 76.1 IP, while striking out 80. The Royals aren't normally a team you associate with doing something out of the ordinary like developing a guy like Hill, so it's both nice to see and easy to root for some success.
As for cutting loose Blake Stein and Tony Cogan, I can't say anyone should be surprised. Like far too many of the pitchers they received from the A's in their various deals, there never seemed to be a consistent plan for what they wanted to do with Stein, and he went from an interesting maybe to another source of frustration on a staff loaded with people Tony Muser managed to get frustrated with. Cogan was just never a good option as a lefty situational reliever, no matter how often they tried to pretend he was. It can't hurt for all parties concerned to part ways.
It will be interesting to see what Jim Tracy does with Luke Allen and Chin-Feng Chen down the stretch. Continuing his pattern of producing beneath the lofty expectations that accompany any Dodger semi-prospect, Chen hit only .284/.352/.503 in Las Vegas. He pounded lefties pretty well, slugging in the .560s, and that could come in handy, but his defensive limitations aren't going to help him push Eric Karros aside any time soon. Luke Allen hit .329/.395/.469 in his first full season at Triple-A after three years in Double-A, which is a pretty impressive amount of upper level experience for a guy who just turned 24, but he's a corner outfielder without a lot of sock or command of the strike zone. Can he be a nice spare part? If anyone can find a way, it's Tracy.
Robert Ellis seems to be showing better and better control as an old man in the minors, almost dispelling the image of him as a wild young hurler from so many years ago in the White Sox organization. This year, in 172.2 IP, Ellis posted an 110:37 strikeout to walk ratio, although he has pegged 13 guys at the plate and thrown a dozen wild pitches. He's really only up to toss waste innings, preserving the Dodgers' bullpen assets for other games and situations as they come down the home stretch. Similarly, Victor Alvarez is up to share that exciting role from the left side of the pen with Jeff Williams.
Placed OF-L Alex Sanchez on the 60-day DL (fractured fibula). [9/5]
Activated RHP T.J. Tucker from the DL. [9/6]
The shame of this is that Joe Vitiello really did earn a call-up by hitting .329/.390/.520 at Ottawa, and he won't be called up because while bringing him--or Pete Bergeron to give him a last chance--runs less than getting Bud Selig's car detailed, that's still too rich for the team's 29 co-owners.
Designated UT-R Oscar Salazar for assignment. [9/4]
Outrighted RHP Ryan Jamison and UT-R Oscar Salazar to Binghamton (Double-A). [9/6]
Recalled RHP Jason Middlebrook from Norfolk. [9/8]
Recalled RHP Aaron Harang, LHP Mike Venafro and INF-R Frank Menechino from Sacramento; purchased the contracts of C/OF-L Jason Grabowski, C-L Cody McKay, and SS/OF-R Jose Flores from Sacramento. [9/4]
Activated LHP Ted Lilly from the DL. [9/10]
These are almost all already-familiar faces. Aaron Harang is next year's #5 starter, and Ted Lilly this year's #5 (and postseason second lefty in the pen) and next year's #4, as Cory Lidle's penchant for hot finishes and 2003 salary make his departure via trade a possibility. Mike Venafro managed to be the last lefty Mike left from the Opening Day trio alongside Holtz and Magnante, but he did not pitch well enough to keep the A's from going out and getting Ricardo Rincon. Frank Menechino comes back after spending most of the summer playing short for Sacramento, splitting time with Jose Flores. Menechino didn't help himself, hitting only .248/.356/.344, while Flores checked in with yet another good OBP season that should make him interesting to anyone looking for a utility infielder who can get on base (.306/.397/.380). Cody McKay checked in with another nice little season (.288/.337/.439), and he's always had a great arm behind the plate; he should still wind up as somebody's backup catcher someday. The project player among all of these guys is Jason Grabowski, who's been given some time behind the plate, but is still effectively positionless after experience in all four corners. What intrigues is that he can hit (.294/.387/.536), and if he can play anywhere, he's an asset as a bench player.
An interesting group of call-ups, although it remains to be seen where anybody's going to get to play. Yes, Marlon Byrd should have the starting job in center handed to him after his .297/.362/.476 season at Scranton, but on today's Phillies, Doug Glanville's admirable citizenship skills count more than tawdry things like runs or wins. If Byrd has to struggle to get playing time, you can imagine Eric Valent's problems when he has Byrd, Glanville, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu ahead of him, but after only hitting .251/.311/.370, his prospectdom may have just vanished into the Schall Zone. With Mike Lieberthal's new deal, Johnny Estrada is reduced to trade bait and injury insurance; that's not all bad news, since he was overtouted after last year, and only hit .279/.322/.417 this year. Nick Punto is about as intriguing as a guy who only slugged .327 can be. He can play short, drew 75 walks to generate a .378 OBP, and he swiped 42 bases in 50 attempts. If you didn't already have a shortstop and you gave me a choice between Neifi Perez at any price or Punto at the minimum, the choice seems pretty obvious to me.
Released RHP Sean Lowe. [9/8]
The Pirates already got what they needed out of their Ritchie swindle, what with both Josh Fogg and Kip Wells in the rotation and thriving in obscurity instead of helping the White Sox contend. Whatever Sean Lowe did was going to be gravy, and now the season has progressed to that time of year when the Bucs are just passing around cuppajoes to see who might be a worthwhile Pirate in 2003. That doesn't include Lowe, so cutting bait now gives him his pay, time with his family, and time to think about where he wants to be next year, while sparing the innings for people the Pirates should be looking at.
Recalled OF-R So Taguchi from New Haven (Double-A). [9/7]
Just remember that this call-up is one of those basic reminders that while the majors feature the overwhelming majority of the best baseball players on the planet, that is not the same thing as a true meritocracy. So Taguchi wasn't good enough to stick in the PCL, so his promotion, like the $3 million thrown at him over the next three years, is nothing more than the latest development in an extended PR stunt. The question is for whose benefit the stunt is: a Cardinals fan base smart enough to identify that Taguchi is merely an elegant way of saying "Scarborough Green Lite," or worthwhile Japanese leaguers that may be impressed with Cardinal largesse.
Purchased the contract of RHP Jason Shiell from Portland; released RHP Bobby J. Jones and OF-R Trenidad Hubbard; recalled C-R Wil Nieves, OF-L Kory DeHaan and UT-B Cesar Crespo from Portland; activated 3B-L Sean Burroughs from the DL. [9/4]
Activated OF-L Ray Lankford from the 60-day DL. [9/10]
Well, color my face red. The hazard of getting caught in the Bobby Jones Zone is keeping them straight. This is sort of like keeping Rosey Grier and Ray Milland straight in The Thing With Two Heads: two very different guys with one thing in common, and now two things, because they're both now ex-Pad people. So chalk this up as one of those instances where I'm in favor of passing a league rule to keep the Bobby Joneses and the Jeff D'Amicos on separate teams, and both Torborgs out of baseball, just to make things simpler and happier for everybody.
Otherwise, the Padres get to bring up all sorts of people who were sources of optimism in the spring and then disappointment during the summer. Sean Burroughs will now get to play some second as well as some third, with Phil Nevin shuttling back and forth between the infield corners, and Ramon Vazquez between second and short, and it should all add up to less playing time for Deivi Cruz, and that's all to the good. However, this conversion does handicap Cesar Crespo's shot at being anything more than a bit player, unless they try to make him an everyday outfielder for keeps. But that takes them back to the original issue of whether or not Ryan Klesko is their first baseman or their right fielder, and it is this problem that will most directly affect the futures of Nevin, Burroughs, Vazquez, Crespo, and basically the shape of the lineup and the roster. All of those moving parts blur the basic issue, which is whether or not they should play Deivi Cruz at short or Ryan Klesko in the outfield. Klesko in the outfield lets them play Burroughs at third, Vazquez at short, and Nevin at first, and just requires finding a second baseman who can outhit Cruz, which is not hard--it may even be Crespo.
Ray Lankford's career is in trouble, in that he may not get much of a chance to get any at-bats in these last couple of weeks, and given his injury history and his battles with the Cardinals before getting traded away, he may have some problems getting much more than a spring training NRI.
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Scott Podsednik and C-R Pat Borders from Tacoma; designated RHP Justin Kaye for assignment; recalled OF-R Kenny Kelly from Tacoma and placed him on the 60-day DL (shoulder tendinitis). [9/4]
Recalled RHP Aaron Taylor from San Antonio (Double-A). [9/9]
Justin Kaye and Aaron Taylor are a pair of the kind of big, hard-throwing guys that the Mariners just seem to have coming out of their ears as an organization. Kaye was especially wild with the Rainiers, giving up 14 wild pitches and 41 walks in 62.1 IP, but with only two home runs and 54 hits allowed. Taylor had a nice little year closing for San Antonio, giving up only 51 hits in 77.1 IP while posting a 93:34 strikeout to walk ratio. Both of them could be effective parts of next year's bullpen. The Mariners have the big relief trio of Kaz Sasaki, Arthur Rhodes and Jeff Nelson locked in for next year. They'd be well-advised to punt their option on Shiggy Hasegawa and fill out the rest of the pen with cheap alternatives who are coincidentally the best potential future replacements for Rhodes and Nelson.
Pat Gillick employing Pat Borders? At this rate I suspect Borders will still be picking up Gillick's dry cleaning ten years from now. Or they'll go fishing together a couple of times a week. Or have their own zany Coach spin-off with a VPTBNL (Van Patten to be named later).
Agreed to a two-year contract extension with 3B/1B-R Herbert Perry. [9/9]
Apparently Tom Hicks' bluster about fiscal responsibility was akin to Pentagon claims of phasing out the $139 hammer. I like Herbert Perry a lot, but if you want to fret about the money being spent on your roster, why pitch simoleans in Perry's general direction when that comes straight off the top of whatever bid you might make for Pudge Rodriguez, and for a bit player? Not that I think losing Pudge is going to make them a fifth-place team in a four-team division, but there's no way they're going to move the $40 million roster anvil of the broken-down outfield of Rusty Greer, Juan Gonzalez or Carl Everett, and they're already locked into big contracts with Raffy Palmeiro, Chan Ho Park, and nearly $10 million more on the bullpen trio of Jay Powell, Jeff Zimmerman, and Todd Van Poppel. All of which is a long way of saying that the Rangers don't get to keep their homegrown star, because they're busy affording John Hart's dream team.