June 27, 2003
June 23-25, 2003
Placed RHP Mike Koplove on the 15-day DL (shoulder pain), retroactive to 6/19; transferred LHP Randy Johnson from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Ricky Bottalico from Tucson. [6/23]
OK, I've already documented my distaste for Scott Service, neato rates aside. But I'd rather take my chances with Scott Service than be party to yet another Ricky Bottalico resurrection. I mean, is there really some sort of burgeoning Brad Lesley/Rob Dibble fan club in the Valley of the Sun? An unquenchable craving for famous former ace relievers gone all flammable and scorchy? I mean, I like toast as much as the next guy, but I don't see Elvis Patterson making a comeback, and there's a difference between carbonized former bread and something you slather with jam. Bottalico was useful in Tucson, but he also gave up eight runs in 18.1 IP, so it isn't like he was inspiring, 17 strikeouts or no. Besides, I always thought the Snakes fancied themselves a classy operation, more of a beignet outfit. I suppose it won't matter, what with Matt Mantei supposedly coming back this weekend, in between DL stints, but it's still a lot of motion without improvement. The more significant problem is losing Koplove, the team's best reliever by Michael Wolverton's reliever evaluation tools. They've had the good fortune to add Jose Valverde to their list of young contributors with some value, but that list doesn't involve the likes of Bottalico or Mantei, and it's going to be harder to replace Koplove than it will be to replace Mantei again. And again.
Signed OF-R Gabe Kapler to a minor league contract and assigned him to Lowell (A-ball). [6/25]
As sweet flyers go, this one's pretty sweet. Presumably, Kapler will get a chance to swing the bat for a few days, work his way towards Boston by the All-Star break, at which point the Red Sox will get to choose between carrying a 12th pitcher or moving aside somebody like Freddy Sanchez or Damian Jackson to cram another bat on the roster. Sanchez and Jackson are the team's utility infielders, with Jackson doubling in the role of backup center fielder, a role that Kapler (or Trot Nixon) could notionally fill. If they decide to bump off the 12th pitcher instead, that gives you an easier set of decisions: Jason Shiell? Ryan Rupe? Hector Almonte? Assuming Grady Little can avoid that panic that fashionably sets in if you try to live life with a six-man pen, it will make more sense to shunt aside a supernumerary reliever, but that goes back to the problems involved in fixing the still-broken Sox pen.
Then, once they have Kapler up, they could platoon him with Jeremy Giambi, or start shaving Giambi's playing time even more in favor of starting both David Ortiz and Kevin Millar, while having Kapler around to play for Ortiz against tough lefties. While there's some speculation that they've tired of Giambi, it would be a mistake to cut him lose. What would they do if either David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez wound up making another one of their longer DL visits? Kapler or Julio Zuleta or Chad Mottola down in Pawtucket haven't earned the consideration to be everyday hitters, so the alternatives should they lose an everyday regular in one of the infield or outfield corners probably involve bringing up Kevin Youkilis. That's not a bad thing, but it wouldn't be a bad thing to keep Giambi's bat around either.
Wow, talk about being spurned. Josh Paul, jilted by Kenny Williams twice? Talk about an April-September romance that couldn't even get that far. But the Sox are still contending, see, so they've got to keep taking Sandy Alomar seriously, even if having him around is entirely irrelevant to the team's larger problems. It shouldn't seriously impact Miguel Olivo's playing time, since Alomar isn't durable enough for regular work, and not useful enough to really encourage that line of thinking to start off with. If anything, you'd think they'd resent the guy for not being part of the answer last season, but having failed to learn much from last year's floppery, they seem content to repeat it.
As discussed last time around, there's not a whole lot of point to the current speculation that the Reds have awakened to the need for a starting pitcher or four if they've already managed to burn out the bullpen in the meantime. While it's great to see Felix Heredia finally get used to advantage, Scott Sullivan's control took May off, and doesn't seem to have really reported back, and this pen really only has Heredia and Williamson to count on. Chris Reitsma has done some decent work in middle relief, but especially with White on the DL, this was a pen that wasn't just shallow, it's in danger of evaporation. The good news is that White's injury isn't considered very serious, and he'll be back after the two weeks. The problem is more basic: will everyone still be standing by the time he gets back?
Activated INF-R Ricky Gutierrez from the 60-day DL; optioned SS/3B-R Jhonny Peralta to Buffalo. [6/24]
Well, tip your cap to Mark Shapiro and company, because they managed to flip a waiver claim and a perennial minor league free agent for...well, let's not count our eggs, let alone our chickens, but maybe they got something of value from the Yankees, and we'll just have to see what. But since neither Miceli or Garcia are the kinds of players you build around and can replace easily enough, you can take this as a sign that the Tribe understands that, in general, they're better off looking at the people they don't know if they want for next year's 40-man roster, while moving beyond the ones that they know they don't. Even with the knowledge that Ellis Burks is out for the season, they're better off looking at Coco Crisp and Jody Gerut all season than cutting the playing time of either for Karim Garcia's benefit. And if, by sending off Miceli, they get to make a choice about Cressend's future after getting the benefit of having given him one last long look, then that's almost the most good you could ask of Miceli, setting aside whether or not the Tribe will get a minor leaguer of any value in the deal.
Elsewhere, it's nice to see Ricky Gutierrez get back to the majors, even if it means setting aside the Tribe's longer-term interest in looking at Peralta or showcasing John McDonald. But down in Buffalo, Gutierrez showed he could hit and run despite the fused vertebrae in his neck, so he's definitely physically able to play. Not to be too much of a cold shower, it should be pointed out that, even when he was 100%, he wasn't a defensive asset at short, so this doesn't really help the Indians as much as you have to hope it inspires them on some level. Besides, maybe he has a good weekend, and some contender decides they need this sort of utility infielder moreso than the one the Rockies just took off of their active roster. At any rate, it's nice to see him get the chance to play, and someday eventually leave the game on his terms, instead of fate's. Here's hoping he gets a crack at a pennant race.
Talk about taking a step back and a step forward and not really making any progress. On the one hand, it's happy to have Belliard back, and he's been plugged directly into the lineup. On the other hand, Chris Stynes is getting the starts at third, even if he is hitting like Jeff Cirillo on the road. So they're not really any better off, they're just sort of where they were. If nothing else, you have to hope that Bellhorn gets the starts at third that had been going to Greg Norton, with Norton resuming a pinch-hitting role that he's good enough for. It makes for a stronger team and lineup, but I'd really rather see Stynes in more of a utility role, and Bellhorn getting the lion's share of the starts at third, but admittedly, Bellhorn's on a team that has a somebody or two, as opposed to the Cubs, who did not, and didn't care.
As for Brent Butler, this is where the Royals grab him, right? Actually, I'd be less than stunned if Missouri's other team didn't nab their former farmhand, given the number of infielders they've lost of late.
A neat roster reflects a capacity to manage responsibilities in a tidy manner. There are other ways, of course, as far as Tampa Bay, but pointing that out would be mean-spirited. Nunez remains an intriguing prospect, as anybody who sort of hits like a fast Rob Deer or Gorman Thomas would, but I can't really think that Florida's the best offensive environment for him to really grow into the sort of asset he can be. As for outrighting Steve Kent, he's not pitching particularly effectively in Double-A: a 5.93 ERA, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 23-24 in 41.0 IP. It would be premature to call him another pitcher whacked by the Rule 5 draft, but I can't imagine premature exposure to Tampa Bay did him any favors.
As losses go, the only things really affected here are Jimy Williams' comfort with his roster and Jose Vizcaino's career totals. The Astros already have Adam Everett up, and he's handling the job at short better than Vizcaino could, offensively and defensively. And as utility infielders go, you can do worse than Bruntlett. At New Orleans, Bruntlett was hitting .262/.331/.315 (good for a .214 big league Equivalent Average, or right there with Vizcaino's .213), and his glove has always been his strongest tool. So basically, he's a completely adequate replacement for Vizcaino, and the Astros shouldn't miss a beat. Unless, of course, Jimy feels uncomfortable with this situation, and starts grousing for someone over 30 to set his mind at ease, which could easily happen. There's always the notional danger that Williams could start playing Geoff Blum at short as a way to get Morgan Ensberg into the lineup a little more often, but fortunately, Williams isn't the type to go for a so-called 'offensive' shortstop to sacrifice defense. This really adds up to a clean shot for Everett to claim the job and hold it until Tommy Whiteman is ready, which may not be that far off, considering that he's faring well in the Texas League (.301/.357/.455).
Placed 1B-L Fred McGriff on the 15-day DL (strained groin), retroactive to 6/14; recalled 1B/OF-L Larry Barnes from Las Vegas. [6/23]
Only on the offensively-starved Dodgers could the Crime Dog boast of being an important offensive cog. The only other regulars at first doing worse than McGriff are Paul Konerko, Wil Cordero, and Randall Simon, and Konerko's a good bet to snap out of it, whereas McGriff is pretty decisively planted in his decline phase. As discussed earlier in the week, they're better off seeing what Daryle Ward might be able to do for them, while keeping an eye out for offensive help anywhere they can find it. They've got larger haddocks to fry than fixing first, especially when the rest of the infield isn't putting runs on the board. Dodgers fans can take some hope out of Adrian Beltre's recent hot streak, but that doesn't fix the more basic problem that Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis are always going to be hard-pressed to pull their weight at the plate.
Placed RHP Luis Ayala on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 6/22. [6/25]
Ouch, this isn't what the Expos needed to have happen. As is, Strat leaguers and Diamond Mind managers ought to be drooling over Ayala's limiting right-handed hitters to .167/.193/.310. It helps that he's also posting an extreme groundball-flyball ratio, 69-26, making him a great rally killer. According to Michael Wolverton's tools, Ayala has been the Expos' best reliever, and their pen hasn't been great as a unit, so this is quite a blow. Joey Eischen has been an 'other people's problem' menace, and both Dan Smith and T.J. Tucker are struggling. Now, instead of dabbling with Julio Manon, and hoping he does something with this rare opportunity, they need him. In terms of the talent on hand, it's not a bad unit, but the Expos have to have Tucker and Smith improve if they're going to have much hope in the wild card race.
We tend to wear out a few themes hereabouts, but one that always bears repeating is that more teams need to take their winter shopping at every level, major and minor league free agents, seriously. The Yankees, to their misfortune, did not, again, leaving them short-handed on the bench, again. Given their general capacity to goof off with worthless bench players, a habit that has spanned almost the entirety of the Torre Era. So, short of useful bench players they could have acquired with a song and a dance and the allure of pinstripery during the winter instead costs time spent on calling and rooting around looking for stuff and wasting front office time sorting through the team's needs, and now it also potentially costs them a prospect. And for what? Karim Garcia? A pitcher they could have had for even less earlier in the year, if they'd taken the time? Miceli has only been moderately useful on the year, so he isn't really an improvement as much as he's a known mediocrity. Garcia's sort of the same story, but in the outfield, and a solution to the recently-acquired positionless Sierra problem and the apparent unwillingness to stick with Juan Rivera for anything like the amount of time they invested in Hideki Matsui before seeing results. So of course they need Karim Garcia, he's the solution to all of their problems, for at least the next week. Besides, this way, they don't have to play Bubba Trammell, cuz what's he ever done in pinstripes?
You can count on at least two AL teams laughing to themselves over this latest roster frippery. It won't appease the Yankees' appetite for destruction or win over the ink-stained mob, but hey, it was one way to fill time until they stumble across a move that will actually help them. At least they come out ahead in that they delete Thurman and Gipson, neither of whom served any near-term purpose beyond filling out the active roster.
Purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Heilman from Norfolk; optioned LHP Mike Bacsik to Norfolk. [6/25]
Well, it was only a question of time, but eventually, the Mets were going to call Heilman up, and having given Bacsik his obligatory chance, they've gotten around to it. He's a nice addition to a rotation that's not this team's problem; Heilman and Jae Seo as the talent behind the stars (Tom Glavine and Al Leiter) and the journeyman (Steve Trachsel makes for a solid right-now group. Heilman wasn't quite dominating the International League the way you'd hope, giving up 99 hits in 94.1 IP, with a decent 71-32 strikeout to walk ratio. His arrival has been anticipated for awhile, but now that he's here, I like the odds that he'll never go back down. He's got the heat, a nifty sinker, and it seems that he's mastering the splitter that should give him an assortment with which to work well against any lineup. He's one of the reasons Mets fans should think about renewing their season tickets, not because he's going to be the next Clemens or even Cone, but because he's worth watching. This isn't a great team, but it's better for giving Mets fans a chance to see Heilman and Jose Reyes, and see what should be, and what someday will be. And that's a whole hell of a lot more interesting than the latest bit of drama involving Mo Vaughn.
At last, the final footnote on the various blue-green incest deals. Perry had been drafted in the sixth round out of Georgia Tech last year, after he had a junior season in which he was one of the team's main power sources, helping propel them into the College World Series. He's already coming up on his 23rd birthday, so he will have to move up quickly to have a career, and the Jays obliged in placing him in the Florida State League. Perry had a great stint in Medicine Hat last year, but has struggled to hit for any power in Dunedin this year, putting up .304/.356/.422, with a single home run. Since he was drafted last year, the Jays and A's had to wait until after this year's draft to complete the exchange. He's off of the 40-man for another year beyond this one, so the A's don't have to worry about that for a while, giving them plenty of time to evaluate him to see if he'll be a keeper.
Recalled RHP Duaner Sanchez from Nashville. [6/23]
Recalled RHP Brian Meadows from Nashville; optioned Sanchez to Nashville. [6/25]
So, this is where I ask, why not just call up Brian Meadows in the first place, except you have to then ask yourself, why would you call up Brian Meadows in the first place? The sense of bewilderment, although perhaps endemic in these parts, was created by Sanchez blowing it and showing up late to his first day, so he never really made it up. I suppose it's good to run the team with a firm hand, though maybe not when the price of discipline is another spin with Meadows. It's worth noting that the Bucs won't be in the postseason, no matter how many times Lloyd McClendon switches between proclamations of faith and profanity, so as much as using Meadows won't feel good, Sanchez is somebody with a future in the organization, and it's better that he learn to take himself, his job, and his team seriously.
Chalk this up as another Mt. Piniella exercise in targeted lava flows being sent after the unwitting youngster. Brazelton got lost trying to take the subway to Yankee Stadium, but still managed to get to the ballpark a couple of hours before the game, although admittedly an hour late. So a basic rookie mistake, right? Wrong, it's a terrible evil, on top of his struggling in back-to-back starts against the Yankees. So where were Brazelton's teammates? Where were the D-Rays staffers? Where was Piniella? See, it's easier to blame the kid for being up too soon, getting clobbered by a good opponent, not knowing how to navigate a strange subway system after getting bad instructions (or misunderstanding the ones he was given, accounts apparently differ). Because the alternative is acknowledging that what's supposed to be a major league ballclub is more of a poorly-supervised gravy train. Anyway, Brazelton didn't have much business being up, and he demonstrated that to excess. He also didn't have the power to call himself up, and sending him to Bakersfield, whatever the excuses about sending him to a place where he won't have to worry about competing, do little to paper over the essential pettiness of the move.
As for the unfortunately aged Perez, he's coming up having hit well at Durham (.281/.342/.533, good for a .264 Equivalent Average in the bigs). If he was going to get an opportunity to get some playing time at Marlon Anderson's expense, it would be pretty nifty. But Anderson's got a bunch of RBI, and he's stealing bases well, and it's almost enough to make you say he's worth starting. And he is, assuming you're going someplace, and you need the position filled by an adequate player. As is, Perez might be able to push his way into a platoon role, and you'd have to hope that Chuck LaMar's working the phones to see if anyone needs Anderson, because there are teams who could. The more basic question is whether the Rays have phones, instead of toolsy bike messengers or something.
While Shannon Stewart is valuable, it isn't as if his absence turned out so bad for the Jays. First, not having him around made it easier to get real looks at Reed Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Howie Clark, and as a result, the Jays have two valuable spare parts locked into place by virtue of their tasty hitting, helping to give them one of the most dangerous benches in the league. That gives them the interesting decision tree. They can decide to contend with Stewart. They could also just as easily elect to contend without him, and flip him for other stuff they need or want, and therefore happily managing to avoid another dickering through arbitration and/or impending free agency. I'm sure that concept will rattle some people's cages, but that's the game today, and it already seems pretty clear that Stewart isn't going to be a career-long Blue Jay.