August 1, 2003
Released RHP Kevin Appier; purchased the contract of RHP Greg Jones from Salt Lake. [7/30]
Think about these two moves in conjunction: knowing full well that they were going to release Kevin Appier, they decided to deal Scott Schoeneweis instead of placating Schoeneweis' truculence and using him to replace Appier in the rotation. Talk about showing who's boss. In terms of expensive decisions, barring some other team temporarily going insane and claiming Appier off of waivers, the Angels just ate somewhere around $15 million or so. Stranger still, Schoeneweis wasn't really making that much money, although perhaps in the context of deciding to eat the remainder of Appier's contract, even the idea that Schoeneweis could make anywhere close to $2 million through arbitration next year was as unappetizing as letting him have his way.
In Ape's absence, the Angels plan to bump Scot Shields into the rotation, with Jones replacing Shields in the pen. As plans of action go, this is pretty sensible, since the Angels will get a sense of whether or not they can count on Shields in the rotation going into the winter shopping season. If he can stick as a starter, the Angels don't have to worry about acquiring a starter, since they'll have four homegrown pitchers and the remainder of Aaron Sele's contractual obligations to work with. The downside is that Shields didn't exactly thrive as a starter in the minors. He succeeded in a brief trial at Double-A (2.89 ERA in ten starts in 1999) before two tough years in hitter's houses in the PCL: 6.3 runs allowed per nine in 2000 at Edmonton, and 5.5 in 2001 at Salt Lake, not to mention 40 home runs allowed in 300.2 IP over that time. However, it's worth noting that he did only allow 299 hits and strike out 260 in those 300.2 innings, so beyond simply showing he had good stuff, he wasn't getting beat up quite as badly as you might think. Having survived that and thrived in the pen for a couple of years, dropping him into the rotation for two months is a great use of his time as well as the organization's.
As for the package received from the White Sox, I guess everyone's arms are in working order. Gary Glover has been a useful enough mop-up man, and gets good marks for his heat; he's also cheap. The interesting part of the package is Scott Dunn, flipped earlier from the Reds to the White Sox in the D'Angelo Jimenez deal; he has the sort of wicked stuff that you associate with the relievers the Angels seem to collect on the sly. Bittner's a converted college outfielder with a nice breaking pitch and little else, but when you're being groomed for lefty relief work, one pitch can do. Basically, arms worth having, but this was basically a package that mutters 'salary dump' instead of hollering it.
I'm surprised at myself sometimes, but this isn't one of them as much as it's a needed chastisement for getting too enthusiastic about a Garagiola production. The offense hits a cold spell, so the solution is... Raul Mondesi? I guess the good news is that he didn't and won't cost the Snakes much, neither in terms of blood or treasure, not with the package surrendered or with the Yankees and Blue Jays contributing to the kitty to make sure he's somebody else's problem. But Mondesi? Although an improvement over the three-headed monster of Dellucci, QMcC, and Danny Bautista, and although he'll be hard-pressed to look bad in that nice hitter's haven we know as "the Bob," he's not exactly an offensive terror, magazine features and a gaudy rep aside. The key here is that the Snakes made an upgrade at their weakest position for very little in terms of talent, and that's a good thing. The problem is if the Snakes think they have a third big hitter to complement the other two outfield regulars.
When you're the Orioles, any news is good news, but to haul in swag like this for the next two months of Sidney Ponson's time is outstanding. Sure, Ainsworth may not pitch the rest of the year because of a broken shoulder blade, but he remains an outstanding prospect. He's got a full assortment, throws hard, and hasn't required any major reconstructive surgeries since college. If (or when, eventually) healthy, he ought to be an improvement on Ponson next year, although to clarify, by that I don't mean Ponson's 2003 as much as Ponson's more enduring (lower) value with the club over the course of his career. As high as Ponson's value was right now, as demonstrated by the value that came Baltimore's way, he's heavy and has trouble staying healthy, he's been a lot less than consistent over the years, and he was only going to be an Oriole for two more months, since they could pretty reasonably assume that he was going to fetch more on the open market than he's actually worth. Straight up, this deal would have been fine for the Orioles.
That they added Moss and Hannaman as well just makes it that much sweeter. Admittedly, Moss is really nothing more than rotation filler, someone who might be the next Darren Oliver or Omar Daal, but who could just as easily become yet another former Braves starter gone bad outside of howlin' Georgia. Given his persistent control problems, I'd expect him to get eaten alive in the DH league, but stranger things have happened. As a throw-in, Moss would have been a generous addition on top of Ainsworth. But again, that isn't all that Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan acquired: Hannaman's a high-upside high school pitcher with mid-90s heat and a good slider. Although he missed time with a biceps injury earlier this year, he's doing well in the California League, and since being picked in 2000, he has yet to really struggle. I wouldn't say that the Orioles robbed the Giants--they simply extracted a great price, capitalizing on the value they could get for a relatively hot commodity. By way of contrast, you could consider how the Orioles failed to make this sort of move in years past, or consider the comparatively dismal packages the Pirates got for their troubles over the last week or so. Two-fifths of next year's rotation ought to be the product of this deal, and that plus the cost savings and the potential Hannaman represents arguably makes this the best move the Orioles have made since claiming Tony Batista.
Acquired RHP Scott Williamson from the Reds for LHP Phil Dumatrait, a PTBNL, and cash. [7/29]
I suppose major league baseball will have to adopt a new transaction verb, something appropriate like 'nicking,' 'pinching,' or, 'serial hornswoggling,' because there's little other way to describe the out-and-out pillaging of the Pirates by Theo Epstein and his crew. We're not talking about the deal with the Reds here. We're talking about getting Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck for Freddy Sanchez, as well as being allowed a mulligan for swapping a damaged Lyon in the previous deal with the Bucs. As deals go, that's nothing short of criminal. It isn't that Sanchez might grow up to be Marty Barrett Lite or the next Mark Grudzielanek; if that sort of thing floats your boat, inflate away. But to give up such a worthy and get your second-best starter and a nice situational lefty at your moment of need, that's like meeting the waitress with a heart of gold who plies you with free Bloody Marys, just because she likes the cut of your jib: it just isn't supposed to happen. Suppan not only eradicates Ramiro Mendoza from the rotation and John Burkett from any postseason starts (or at least you'd have to hope so), he's among the thirty best starters in the major leagues according to Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral metrics. Put him in front of the best offense in baseball, and you've just significantly improved your shot at winning a short series. Theo Epstein's double heist is, bar none, the most lop-sided deal of the stretch.
Then there's that other nice deal, which was expensive in terms of talent, but with young pitchers, youneverknow donchaknow, and who's to say who the PTBNL will be? Scott Williamson has demonstrated he's healthy, and in joining Byung-Hyun Kim, a more active Alan Embree, and Mike Timlin, as well as Sauerbeck in situational lefty work, that gives you a pretty nice pen. Certainly, it's cleaner now that you have a reminder of the winter's false hopes wiped off the roster; Chad Fox was no more a sure thing than Rudy Seanez. To Epstein's credit, he chose to live with somebody else than die with the ideas that looked good in the cold light of winter. I suppose the real question is, now that the Sox have all of this relief pitching talent on hand, will they get creative with their roles, or have they given up on the wisdom of theory in the face of the pack mentality's hunger for normalcy? I think it's safe to say they won't get cute over the last two months, which is a pity, but when you get your ears boxed with your own ideas for long enough, the path of least resistance ends up looking pretty tasty.
As deals go, this one's less about the now, and more about the future, because they're set for lefties in the pen for this year. What the Sox really get is depth now in case Kelly Wunsch breaks down again, and then they get two-plus years of Schoeneweis beyond this one. Even more than getting a lefty long man for right now, they get a potential starter for 2004 and 2005. Another sunny angle here is that the Sox went from trading Scott Eyre to get Glover in 2000 to trading Glover to get Schoeneweis. Since Eyre was never really going to develop into a useful starter, and Schoeneweis might yet be one, that's not a bad little chain of events. But basically, the Sox gave up live arms for a known quantity, neither a good or bad thing, just something that depends on how they employ Schoeneweis in the future, and whether or not somebody like Dunn or Bittner turns into a significant asset at some point down the road.
It would be easy to lampoon this as crying over spilt milk long since soured now that Mickey Morandini's place in history is certain, or as a silly devotion to another bad ballplayer for a infamously bad Baker bench. But frankly, I like this move. In acquiring Kenny Lofton, they acquired a center fielder and leadoff man who needs two things: somebody who can spot for him against tough lefties, and somebody who can take his place defensively in the late innings. Doug Glanville has failed to be many things over the years, but he's generally been good at those two demands: modest threat to weak lefties, and good defensive rep. As a stretch drive move, it makes sense; as long as you set your expectations appropriately low, Glanville has some small measure of value, certainly moreso than a Goodwin to be named later. The real question is whether the Cubs are in this thing or not. In robbing the Pirates of Aramis Ramirez and Lofton earlier on, they'd already made their big-ticket pickups. Despite being a .500 club, they're only 3.5 out, and the Astros didn't really help themselves this past week. Other than the offensive holes at shortstop and catcher, they're really in the best shape they've been offensively all year, and Mark Prior's supposed to be back shortly. Hell yes, they're in this, so on that level, a stretch move for a minor tactical piece makes sense.
Purchased the contract of LHP John Bale; activated OF-R Wily Mo Pena from the 15-day DL; waived C-R Dane Sardinha; traded OF-R Jose Guillen to the Athletics for RHPs Aaron Harang, Jeff Bruksch and Joe Valentine. [7/30]
Traded 3B-R Aaron Boone to the Yankees for LHPs Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning, and LHP Gabe White to the Yankees for a PTBNL; recalled 3B/OF-R Brandon Larson from Louisville; placed RHP Ryan Dempster on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation). [7/31]
In total, what was achieved here? Well, first off, the Reds got arms, and lots of them. I was amused by the one comment that Aaron Harang could be ready to step into the Reds rotation next spring. Next spring? Harang was giving up 6.5 runs per nine in Oakland, which is terrible, but it would make him the fourth-best starter the Reds have right now, and that's if he didn't get any better pitching in the DH-less league. At this point, the only starter in the Reds' rotation who ought to have job security is Jose Acevedo, and he just got here. Otherwise, everybody acquired should be taken seriously, because everyone has a chance to outpitch the current lot.
In terms of swag, the Reds did well. The best talents brought aboard came over from the Yankees and Red Sox, in Claussen and Dumatrait, two power arms in an organization desperate for any flavor of pitching. Dumatrait's a good arm, a lefty with velocity who can also change speeds and throw breaking stuff for strikes. He comes over giving up 3.5 runs per nine in the Florida State League, which isn't outstanding, but he's got a good assortment, and he's still picking up command of his power/curve/change assortment. Claussen's remarkably quick recovery from Tommy John surgery hides the fact that he's not quite back to the level of dominance he had before, but he's also not far from getting all the way back. Add in Harang, who ought to be able to stick as a useful starter at the bottom of a big league rotation, the flyers taken on Joe Valentine (hard-throwing reliever, but struggling with his control in the PCL), Charlie Manning (standard issue finesse lefty struggling to make the jump to Double-A), Jason Bruksch (2001 pick in only his second pro season since starring at Stanford), a couple of PTBNLs, and a couple of million bucks, and the Reds came out all right.
As for replacing the talent lost in the present on the big league roster right now, the Reds are essentially fine. Between Larson and Russ Branyan and Ruben Mateo, they should have right field and third base covered, and Austin Kearns will be back before the end of the season. With so many veteran relievers ported out, you might think that the bullpen will be a bit sketchy for the stretch, but that's a small price to pay for the amount of talent acquired. They'll get an opportunity to take a very serious look at Ryan Wagner, they still have Kent Mercker for lefty duties, and they still have the three Rs, John Riedling, Brian Reith, and Chris Reitsma. Calling up journeyman John Bale to tackle second lefty duties rounds things out nicely enough, and nobody's really doing that badly.
Recalled RHP Shane Loux from Toledo. [7/29]
I know that the luster is off of Shane Loux's prospect rep after three years in Triple-A, but he's consistently improved in his three years at the level, getting down to only 3.7 runs allowed per nine this year. He isn't dominating, but he's only 23. That the Tigers let him develop and improve at the level for three years can be considered either forgetful or an indictment of how poorly he pitched in his first two years there, but I'm impressed that they've called him up to put him into long relief for the time being. He's young, and presumably still learning. He's shown good command of his off-speed stuff, but his velocity has been all over the place, topping out in the low 90s, but usually a good 5 miles shorter. Whether his velocity will pick up in relief, or if he'll develop into someone the Tigers might look at for next year's rotation, it's a worthwhile usage pattern, and it'll give them a chance to decide if Loux is worth the winter investment of a spot on the 40-man roster. It's also important because he could walk as a minor league free agent if they outrighted him.
Acquired RHP Dan Miceli from the Yankees for a PTBNL or cash. [7/29]
Placed RHP Roy Oswalt on the 15-day DL (strained groin). [7/30]
There's a point in life at which "Catch me if you can" loses its charm: pennant races, the bar scene, babysitting--you name it, it gets old, and eventually, you get caught. With the Astros confronting the certain re-loss of Oswalt for at least a month (and possibly all of 2003), did they shore up their rotation? No, they looked at the Cubs' various woes and the Cardinals' scraggy half of their roster, chortled to themselves over their good fortune, and decided to remain close to the level of their competition. It's that sort of attitude which begs for a first round smackdown, and not just because they're wasting roster space on the likes of Dan Miceli.
Designated 2B/SS-R Gookie Dawkins for assignment. [7/29]
Acquired RHP Al Levine from the Devil Rays for Suitcase O'Cash. [7/31]
Al Levine won't win the Royals the pennant, but he does give them an alternative to letting Jason Grimsley lose it for them. He's not dominant, but he doesn't lose it with men on base, and generally does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground. Added to the pickups of Curtis Leskanic and Graeme Lloyd, Allard Baird did a good job of shoring up his bullpen relatively cheaply. It didn't get the same play in the media as Theo Epstein's various burglaries and retooling, but it was nicely done.
Acquired 3B-L Robin Ventura from the Yankees for OF-L Bubba Crosby and RHP Scott Proctor. [7/31]
Dan Evans is pretty familiar with Ventura from their long employment with the White Sox back in the day, so when the Yankees decided that Ventura was expendable, you could understand the interest from the team in baseball most desperate to add any bat. It's amusing to think that Ventura was bumped aside by a player who hasn't really outhit him this year, but the Dodgers aren't complaining, any more than they're upset that he came over for practically nothing talent-wise. In terms of 2003 production alone, while Ventura's offensive credentials might seem modest, he's immediately the second- or third-best bat the Dodgers have, behind only Paul LoDuca (and arguably Shawn Green). By adding Ventura, they also get to have some flexibility in terms of who plays where and when. By turns, Jim Tracy has the freedom to shunt aside Adrian Beltre at third or the clusterblock at first with equal aplomb. Until Fred McGriff returns, it appears that Ventura will man first, but it'll be interesting to see if he and Beltre end up platooning once McGriff comes back.
Placed LHP Glendon Rusch on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled RHP David Manning from Indianapolis. [7/30]
Just in case it wasn't already clear, Rusch's shot at losing twenty effectively just died, since it appears he'll lose at least the two weeks. David Manning should step into his spot in the rotation, just shy of his 31st birthday. Manning was originally drafted by the Rangers back in '92, flitted through a couple of other organizations, and landed in Indianapolis as a minor league free agent this winter. He's not a prospect, but a survivor, similar to Travis Driskill, and it's nice to see him make it. He also has little chance of sticking, but better to give this dog his day than hand Dave Burba further opportunity to add to his career totals.
Placed C-R Michael Barrett on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/27 (strained hip flexor); purchased the contract of RHP Roy Corcoran from Harrisburg (Double-A). [7/29]
The Expos might be spiraling out of relevance, but they're not entirely done just yet. They do have to play the games, after all. So you might be wondering what they're going to do for backup catcher while Michael Barrett's out, propelling Brian Schneider into everyday play. For that, they can turn to Edwards Guzman in an emergency, sort of like how they called him up in the first place. Guzman can't really catch all that well, but it hardly matters. Scheider hasn't had trouble hitting lefties in his brief career, and if nothing else, the Expos will get a good read on what he has to offer as an everyday player, should they decide to peddle Michael Barrett in the off-season. The shame of that is Barrett's high salary and modest achievements, but Omar Minaya can hope that somewhere, somebody might still be jazzed up about the old scouting reports.
Acquired 3B-R Aaron Boone from the Reds for LHPs Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning; acquired LHP Gabe White from the Reds for a PTBNL; traded 3B-L Robin Ventura to the Dodgers for OF-L Bubba Crosby and RHP Scott Proctor. [7/31]
The sweep is broad, but the results mixed. On the positive side of the ledger, deleting Raul Mondesi was a happy turn of events. Even if there was no other deal that didn't pan out, the Yankees are better off mixing and matching Karim Garcia, Ruben Sierra, David Dellucci, or recalling Juan Rivera, than they were sitting through Mondesi's deepening slump. Add the benefit that Dellucci can handle center in case they want to leave Matsui in left the next time something happens to Bernie Williams, and you've got power, depth, and flexibility. Of course, there is the chance that much of that would go to waste, since Joe Torre's strengths do not include a Stengelian suppleness when it comes to flipping through his offensive options. Early indications will be that he'll just plug Garcia into the slot and be happy, and that's not such a bad choice either.
It also isn't too shabby to have gotten Prinz and Sprowl in the deal. When healthy, Prinz should be an asset in the pen, more than ready to make Yankees fans forget Jay Tessmer (another sidearmer, at that) or whoever else you might consider homegrown since Mariano Rivera's arrival. As for Sprowl, although he's still a bit rough behind the plate, but he's a good hitter at the position, hitting .296/.402/.421 for South Bend before coming over. Given the relative paucity of good backstops in the organization, Sprowl almost certainly has a future here that's sunnier than his life in teal and purple.
On the slightly less elegant side of the equation, you've got the Boone deal. He's an outstanding defender, to be sure, giving the Yankees the sort of wide-ranging third baseman they can use to help compensate for Derek Jeter's deficiencies afield (just as Scott Brosius and Ventura did in their day). However, you're also talking about a guy who has hit .249/.311/.408 outside of the Great American Bandbox this year and an arbitration-eligible beastie likely to get a significant raise over the $3.7 million he costs now. He's someone who not only cost the Yankees their best young pitcher in Claussen, but in acquiring him, made them feel comfortable discarding Ventura for next to nothing in return, meaning that if anything happens to Boone, that's right, they're back to Todd Zeile. So they didn't add depth, they just changed third basemen, and a quick look at their Equivalent Averages (Boone: .272, Ventura: .269), you're left with an expensive decision that did very little to improve the lineup.
Purchased the contract of INF-R Marcos Scutaro from Norfolk; optioned Roach back to Norfolk. [7/31]
I guess on one level, the signing of Sanchez to be a caretaker worked, since Jose Reyes needed the time in Norfolk. But now that the year is devoted to player development, and with Reyes obviously here to stay, Sanchez needed dumping. The strange thing is that he was passed on for a borderline waiver claim talent like Kelly. As physically talented as Kelly might be, he's in his second season in Triple-A, and he isn't hitting (.246/.313/.434). He didn't hit in either of his two years at Double-A either. He's slowing down with age, but at 24, he might be able to salvage a career as an extra right-handed bat in the outfield. In short, he might grow up to be Tsuyoshi Shinjo. The Mets have already been there.
As for the other repercussion to dealing Sanchez, the Mets did the right thing in calling up Scutaro. Although Joe McEwing is re-gilding his 'Super Joe' rep, the Mets would do well to consider Scutaro for the job at second. He's a better threat to get on base, and since neither player is considered a slick glove, the Mets could probably use McEwing going back to his supersub role. They know he can handle that, while they could spend the next two months determining if Scutaro can hold the job at second before going into the winter shopping season.
Designated 1B/OF-R Dave McCarty for assignment. [7/31]
Much as Jose Guillen might not seem to be Oakland's kind of player, it's worth noting that he's cheap, he's riding high at the moment, he gives the lineup a right-handed thunderstick it's been missing since Jermaine Dye disappeared, and they didn't give up any premium pitching talent to get him. He may well be the only regular in the outfield down the stretch, which is fine, since that would mean a situation where the A's mix and match, running the platoon of Billy McMillon and Adam Piatt out to left most days, spotting Chris Singleton and Eric Byrnes in center, and Terrence Long when they feel they have to give him a start. But if there's a loser in terms of playing time with Guillen's arrival, it should be Long. The nice benefit is that with Guillen on hand, they can start an outfield of Piatt, Byrnes, and Guillen against lefties, giving them some desperately needed sock. If there's a nagging concern, it's whether or not they need to start thinking in terms of benching Mark Ellis or Eric Chavez to get Frankie Menechino into the lineup against lefties. At this point, neither Ellis or Chavez have earned the benefit of the doubt to be allowed to continue to start against them, and it would be a way of sharpening up Menechino for postseason play.
I think it would be hard to find a GM whose stock fell more this month than Dave Littlefield's. He has the Red Sox in a fix for having handed him damaged goods, and he rewards them with undoing most of the previous deal ("Take my Sauerbeck, please!"), and handing them Jeff Suppan for Sanchez? For those of you keeping score at home, that's Sanchez for Suppan and Sauerbeck. A good situational lefty and a #2 starter for... a nice little second baseman? And that's it? Everyone's pointing out that Freddy Sanchez is hitting .341/.430/.493, because that's impressive. It's also impressive that it's in less than a half-season of playing time, and it's also impressive that he'll be 26 before the next Opening Day. Don't get me wrong, I like Sanchez. He could be the next Johnny Ray or Marty Barrett. Check out his comps, however, because he could also be the next Doug Flynn or Rey Sanchez. He's not young as prospects go, so this was hardly a situation where Littlefield got value. He made an upgrade on Pokey Reese, acquiring a second baseman who may not be around long enough to be an important part of the next worthwhile Pirates team. That's what you deal pitching to a contender in the middle of a stretch drive for? One that owes you something?
Activated C-R Benito Santiago from the 15-day DL; placed C-R Alberto Castillo on the 15-day DL (wrist). [7/29]
Purchased the contract of OF/DL-R Jeffrey Hammonds from Fresno; optioned RHP Kevin Correia to Fresno. [7/30]
Brian Sabean had young pitching in spades, so he could afford to peddle some to acquire that top veteran starter that the Giants needed to complement Jason Schmidt and Jerome Williams. Setting aside that the Red Sox acquired an equally talented starter for a significantly lesser package--Sabean should not be held accountable for other people's mistakes--he made his deal, and he still has Williams and Jesse Foppert, the two talents healthy enough to contribute now. However, as nice a season as Ponson is having, it's not a better season than the one being enjoyed by Russ Ortiz. But raising that point sort of ignores what dealing Ortiz meant at the time: financial freedom, which went into acquiring and affording Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo and even Marquis Grissom or Andres Galarraga. If Grissom's a risk and Alfonzo hasn't hit, there was at least some logic to it at the time. The misfortune is that, to acquire another starter of roughly Ortiz's caliber, it cost the Giants a couple of quality pitchers. Although both Ainsworth and Hannaman have been hurt this season, neither has sustained a career-threatening injury, and more than Damian Moss's here-and-now value, they're the prizes that the Giants surrendered to win here and now. I can't dismiss Sabean's probable point of view, that it was worth it, because without dealing Ortiz, they wouldn't have the lineup they have, and without that, they wouldn't be in charge of their own fate in the NL West. However, if Russ Ortiz was expensive, so too was this. The Giants have the opportunity to make sure it was worth it, again, and if anything, I'm more confident of what they can do in the postseason this year as opposed to last. It's no sure thing, but Sabean has continued to fulfill his responsibility to win now, and he's done it without crippling the future.
Okay, obvious gags about Guillen's injury listing aside, picking up Rey Sanchez for yesteryear's toolsy waiver claim is a good move for the Mariners. No, it isn't a fix for their Randy Winn problem in left, and it isn't a third baseman, but a reserve infielder who can play a good shortstop is a lot better than anything that might involve the Mariners carrying someone like Luis Ugueto or Pat Borders into October. Of course, so would carrying Kenny Kelly, but that's a point that the Mariners refuse to concede. It's like the Dan Wilson thing: it doesn't matter if they have better players, they're happy with doing things their way, and if their way leaves Edgar Martinez an embittered old man, that's his problem.
Sold RHP Al Levine to the big market Royals. [7/31]
The Devil Rays? Are they still even in this league? As dopey as relegation scenario fantasies tend to be, it's hard not to want to put Tampa's finest in such situations. At any rate, they've created an opportunity here, in that running with a Liefer-Sandberg platoon at third for the last two months would be interesting, giving them an opportunity to make both hitters look good, while providing Liefer with the defensive substitute he so desperately needs. Still, offensively, it isn't going to rival Woyd Grossford for the Orioles in the mid-80s, let along the Mulliniorg platoon that served the Jays for so well in that same decade. But when you're a bottom-feeing cartilaginous fish franchise, you take little steps.
The ripple effect of having such a platoon available is that they can keep running Antonio Perez out there at second and start cutting Marlon Anderson down to size. There's still a bit too much queasy fascination with Damian Rolls to overcome as well, but better to find ways to play Rolls than keep futzing around with a bad rental like Anderson. If they insist on playing Rolls, he could play right or third; if third, they can play Liefer at DH or in right, depending on where Aubrey Huff wants to be that day. It all ends up costing Al Martin playing time, and that's another form of progress.
Traded CF-R Doug Glanville to the Cubs for OF-R Jason Fransz and cash; purchased the contract of UT-B Ramon Nivar from Oklahoma. [7/30]
Dumping Doug Glanville is never a bad thing, even if he coincidentally happens to be something the Cubs can use at the moment. There's really no downside for the Rangers here. They got a modestly talented hitter to replace a modestly talented hitter, except that as a 2002 pick out of the University of Oklahoma, Fransz won't have to be added to the 40-man roster for another year. Since he's only hitting .262/.328/.408 in the low-A Midwest League, and that with a pedigree as a college hitter out of a good league and program, the Rangers might not ever worry about adding him to the 40-man. Essentially, he's a body, one that scouts like for his athleticism, but one with a dicey future.
Meanwhile, to replace Glanville, they get to take a look at Ramon Nivar (formerly known as Ramon Martinez) in center field (he's formerly played a lot of second and short). Despite a modest walk rate, he has hit .345/.374/.466 between Double-A and Triple-A in his first season above A-ball, so while he might not be a major prospect, he's 23 and running hot. I can't shake a Cecil Espy impression here, but that's probably just my hangup. Nivar is a good athlete who handled the middle infield well enough, and his move into center seems to have gone well, well enough to have encouraged the organization to deal Ryan Ludwick a couple of weeks back.
Well, rats. It's been a tale of two seasons for Howie Clark, as he's clearly demonstrated he belongs (as if his minor league track record doesn't make that plain already), but the Jays' need to carry twelve pitchers as well as two right-handed hitting reserve infielders (Berg and old Oakland compadre Mike Bordick). Now, to me that suggests that having both Berg and Bordick is a luxury the Jays shouldn't have afforded themselves, but it's understandable, since the regulars at both second and third hit lefty, Chris Woodward hasn't exactly been xeroxed into lineup cards for the rest of the decade, and both 'B' boys play short handily enough. Life as Howie would be a lot easier if the Jays had another horse in the rotation and a lot more consistency out of their relievers. As much as this season has involved laughing at the Yankees and the Red Sox for their well-publicized failures in the pen, the Jays have had their share of troubles as well.
On that score, Thurman isn't up to fix the pen, but to replace Wasdin in the rotation. In his fifth incarnation or so, Wasdin was a disaster as a starter, again, surprising no one, and begging the question as to why he was called up for anything beyond a long relief role. In his place, last year's touted Rule 5 pick from the Royals organization, Thurman, joins the rotation for the stretch. Unlike the Brewers' desperate dependence on Rule 5 picks this year, the Jays have Thurman in the rotation and Aquilino Lopez in the pen, and both should be important parts of next year's staff. At any rate, better to see what Thurman can do instead of fiddling about with Cory Lidle. Lidle's availability in trade was essentially mooted by the Angels' release of Kevin Appier, glutting the free talent market with veteran starters with ERAs pushing six. Admittedly, the Cardinals could use somebody like that, but the swirl of rumor surrounding Lidle's being dangled strikes me as so much wishful thinking.