October 15, 2003
September 26-October 12
Released RHP Matt Wise. [10/6]
This was the extra filler for your 2003 Angels, and unlike the sawdust in your average candy bar, was a lot easier to excise. Now the Angels can lapse back into the potential their 40-man roster has, courtesy of a core of young veterans. There's some utility among the demotions, of course. Wilson Delgado can be anybody's backup shortstop, assuming you don't need him to fill any offensive role. Durrington has become a multi-positional pinch-runner. He could aspire to the heights achieved by people like Rex Hudler or Andy Fox, but it isn't that likely. Gary Glover can be an eleventh pitcher for a couple of dozen teams, depending on whether or not an appropriately-placed pitching coach or manager takes a shine to him. And Eric Cyr throws lefty. You've seen them before, and you'll see them again. Just not necessarily in Anaheim.
Announced the retirement of 1B-L Mark Grace at the end of the season. [9/26]
Baseball's reigning prince of mindless truisms will take his capacity to jabber and obliquely jape to the booth, where he'll be able to be as smarmy as ever, if less well-placed to plant source-free rumors about teammates. He'll be missed, but only by those who think their relationships with Grace or Barry Bonds or Andy Van Slyke or Kenny Lofton are news. That, and a lot of women.
Announced Mike Hargrove will not be offered a contract to return as manager for the 2004 season. [9/29]
There's been some immediate speculation that Grover might try to wangle his way into the White Sox job, taking a great collection of talent in hand and perhaps finally achieving what Jerry Manuel could not. As for the Orioles, it'll be interesting to see if they do something popular, like hire Cal Ripken Jr., or if they do something straightforward, like promoting Sam Perlozzo, or if they roll the dice with Eddie Murray. Ripken would lean on Perlozzo or whoever his bench coach would be, so that could work, except that having to gab 24/7 about the Orioles for media consumption might not prove to be all that much fun for Ripken in a semi-figurehead role. Better to hire Perlozzo outright. But then there's Murray, who has experience, and who has always been extremely popular as a teammate and coach.
Fired manager Jerry Manuel. [9/29]
Activated LHP Josh Stewart from the 15-day DL; outrighted OF-L Armando Rios to Charlotte. [10/2]
Manuel lasted longer than you might have expected for a guy who picked fights with some of his better players, who would pettily stoop to jerking them around, and when he'd finally get his way with a front office unwilling to confront him on the subject of his grandstanding, Manuel would deliberately run some of them off. But because he did it publicly, he was considered a straight shooter, the victor of many a press conference and human interest story, because he made his living catering to the media, inventing a Mahatma-as-manager persona that was cravenly regurgitated, while in fact turning out to be really no very different from Larry Bowa when it came to coping with players. Handed much of what he would ask for in recent years, armed with a well-paid roster in baseball's weakest division, he continually failed to win. But between his skill at giving good interview, his friends in the fourth estate, and a superficially successful-looking record, he'll be recycled long before Chris Chambliss or Marc Bombard catch any breaks.
As for the future, it doesn't look good. Keep in mind, this team stood by Terry Bevington long past all reason. Today, they're fascinated with Terry Francona (another great communicator without a message), Buddy Bell (the stolid baseball guy who's failed in two tries), Cito Gaston (infamously capricious, but wearer of two World Series rings), and Wally Backman, manager at Birmingham this past year. While a less Sybill-ish manager might make sense, making cases for Francona or Bell, given the young roster and the talent on the way up, I'd like to see the Sox take a page from the playbook that seems to have worked for the Twins and Indians, and promote from within. Backman was a wildly successful platoon player who was on teams managed by Davey Johnson and Jim Leyland. I'd rather take my chances on him than turn to two amiably empty suits or a dreaded Gaston resurrection.
Re-signed SS-R Barry Larkin to a one-year contract. [9/28]
Outrighted C-R Dane Sardinha to Chattanooga (Double-A). [10/10]
Half-empty, half-full? Larkin signed for a relatively cheap contract ($700,000, plus a potential $300,000 more incentives), at least judged by the standards of his old deals. But that's still a potential million bucks for a guy who doesn't hit all that well and who can't play shortstop. So what's he for? Carl Lindner's sense of history? A really expensive player-coach? There's the very real danger that another year of this sort of semi-commitment might make for another year of limbo, waiting for the team's next great shortstop, or at least the next Kurt Stillwell, to show up. It can mean more make-believe that Juan Castro has value or that Ray Olmedo is a prospect worthy of tutelage. It is, in short, symbolic of the Lindner regime as a whole: expensive ossification, to the amusement of none.
Outrighted RHP Jose Santiago, INF-R Greg LaRocca, and OF-B Chris Magruder to Buffalo; activated RHP Dave Elder from the 60-day DL and waived him unconditionally; activated INF-R John McDonald, CF-B Milton Bradley, and OF-L Matt Lawton from the 15-day DL. [10/3]
Outrighted RHP Dave Lee, 2B-B Angel Santos and UT-B Zach Sorensen to Buffalo. [10/6]
Claimed LHP Alex Herrera off of waivers from the Indians. [10/2]
Activated RHP Shawn Chacon from the 15-day DL; announced that C-R Bobby Estalella declined assignment to Colorado Springs and elected for free agency. [10/10]
Call me silly, but Jose Jimenez is one of the most interesting free agents on the market. He's an extreme groundball pitcher coming out of the worst place to pitch. He's durable and healthy. He might be able to start or relieve, close or not. And given his spotty track record (courtesy of a Mile High career), he may well prove a bargain, especially in comparison to the undoubtedly ludicrous bids that will get flung at Kelvim Escobar on the strength of his first good multi-month run in a long time. So let's see who flirts with Jimenez, and where he wants to go; it should make for interesting hot stove news.
Recalled SS-R Omar Infante from Toledo. [9/22]
Outrighted RHP Brian Schmack, C-R A.J. Hinch, INF-R Danny Klassen, 2B-L Warren Morris, and 1B-L Kevin Witt to Toledo; activated 3B-R Eric Munson from the 15-day DL and DH-R Dean Palmer from the 60-day DL. [10/1]
Try not to laugh, but Palmer's a free agent, so they can go through the rigamarole of letting him file. Don't worry, Tigers fans, there's little threat of his returning by accepting arbitration. As silly as the formulas for free agent compensation picks are, I would suspect that the Tigers realize there's no point to making the token offer to Palmer, since it would be the best Palmer would get for the rest of his adult life.
Activated 3B-R Mike Lowell from the 15-day DL. [9/28]
In time for the playoffs, and glory. One of the minor treats of the 2003 postseason has been getting Lowell some well-deserved exposure, even if he's less than 100%.
Outrighted RHPs Ruben Quevedo, LHP John Foster, OF-L Jason Conti, OF-R Mark Smith, and OF-L Pete Zoccolillo off of the 40-man roster; activated LF-L Geoff Jenkins, RHP Jayson Durocher, and LHP Matt Ford from the 15-day DL; activated RHPs Nick Neugebauer and Todd Ritchie from the 60-day DL. [10/2]
No real surprises here, although it's a bit curious that they haven't already released Ritchie. It'll be interesting to see if Quevedo gets one last chance, or if his reputation for being soft on the mound weighs him down any more than it already has. It was surprising enough to see the Brewers giving up that quickly on a pitcher who'd given them quality starts in five of eight tries, but Quevedo seems to have a talent for annoying his organizations.
Signed manager Ron Gardenhire through to a two-year extension through 2005. [10/9]
Gardy might have fallen short of the victor this year, and there's plenty of second-guessing that needs to be done about what should have been done with the rotation and the middle infield. But you can't peg the mistake of keeping Doug Mientkiewicz over David Ortiz on him, while you can credit him with making Matt LeCroy a regular in the second half. He's not merely the cypher in front of the talent; he's proven he deserves the work, and then some. Here's hoping he's looking forward to the challenges that re-structuring the Twins' roster this winter will provide.
Outrighted LHP Vic Darensbourg to Edmonton; announced that Darensbourg, Guzman, Knott, and Vitiello all rejected their assignments, and elected to become free agents. [10/8]
Fired pitching coach Vern Ruhle. [9/30]
Somebody has to pay, right? Ruhle's been batted around of late, having flipped between disastrous years with the Phillies and the Mets. Certainly, his reputation as a pitching coach since being separated from Larry Dierker has taken a few hits. Other talented coaches have been around long enough to hit bad stretches, and the Mets assignment was a turkey from the get-go. Hopefully, Ruhle will get a clean shot at doing some good work.
Not a bad pair of free talent pickups. Mark Ellis hasn't resembled a useful ballplayer since June, and Frankie Menechino lacks the range to really handle second base regularly ever again. So that leaves the mystery of Esteban German, or what the waiver wire and minor league free agency might yield. Enter Scutaro, for long an extremely adequate alternative to big league regulars at second. He reaches base effectively, and his defense should be adequate. Regardless of whether he survives the winter on the 40-man--it's always far from a sure thing on a Beane roster--he's a worthwhile alternative who would play for something around the major league minimum. Watson's a decent enough corner bat, someone we compared to Darren Bragg in last year's book. PECOTA likens him to Mike Lum, Joe Keough, Tony Tarasco, and Danny Heep, which looks an awful lot like a reserve outfielder in the making. Of course, with Terrence Long in the house, he's just one of several dozen available, better alternatives. Watson just turned 25, and spent most of the year at Triple-A, hitting .295/.366/.504, which looks like more power than most people think he's capable of sustaining. As a flyer, he's worth looking at, but there's more reason to see the next Rob Ryan than a hidden star in the making.
Activated 3B-R David Bell from the 15-day DL. [9/23]
Milt Thompson... anybody else remember how cool it was when the Phillies had what seemed like scads of prospects who just weren't? Gregg Leg, or was it Greg Legg, or Greg Leg? Again, this smacks of a situation where somebody had to bleed, but it comes across as silly to jump all over Scott when the problem all season was Larry Bowa.
Recalled C-R J.R. House from Nashville. [9/23]
Claimed RHP Jason Boyd off of waivers from the Indians; released INF-R Jose Hernandez. [10/1]
Acquired LHP Cory Stewart from the Padres as the PTBNL to complete the 8/26 trade for Brian Giles; released RHP Jeff D'Amico. [10/2]
I'm not a big fan of Jason Boyd, but he was free talent, he does throw hard, he is coming off a decent year with the Tribe, and the Pirates have nothing if they don't have roster space, especially once they trim the rented dead-end vets who didn't get dealt at the deadline. Similarly, getting Stewart as the throw-in on the Giles deal is nice, not that it repairs the inequity of the exchange. Stewart's had shoulder trouble, but he throws hard for a lefty, and he's still short of his 24th birthday. In his first year at Double-A, he posted a 3.72 ERA as a rotation regular, giving up only 49 unintentional walks and 104 hits in 125.2 IP, while striking out 133. Again, initially, it doesn't look like Dave Littlefield has achieved as much as Dave Dombrowski did in '98 as slash-and-burn projects go, but it's early yet.
Outrighted RHPs Chance Caple and Scotty Layfield and LHP Jason Pearson to Memphis. [10/2]
Added RHP Jason Ryan to the 40-man roster. [10/10]
Ryan's a former Cub pitching suspect turned minor league journeyman. Traded to the Twins in the '98 Aguilera deal (along with Kyle Lohse), he endured the usual fate of injured afterthoughts, drifting around. After filtering out of the Twins' organization, he flitted through those of the Pirates and Dodgers and Reds, then on to the Atlantic League in 2002, where he didn't pitch all that well. Hauled in by the Cardinals to fill out the Memphis staff, Ryan showed that while he might have lost his high school heat to injury years ago. If anything, he's picking up some pitching savvy with age, and he's not even 28 yet. He was easily the ace of the Redbirds, posting a 2.70 ERA with a 110-44 strikeout to walk ratio in 189.2 IP. He's still aspiring for that fifth starter's job he was being groomed for years ago, and he's almost old enough to be a Cardinal. It's a bit strange to see him get onto the 40-man roster, since he's not that desirable as minor league free agents go.
It's a bit of a surprise that the Padres kept their second-string lefty pinch-hitter as late into the year as they did. Once it became clear that they weren't going to move Dave Hansen at the deadline, they could have done Lockhart a favor and waived him, at least allowing him to catch on with a contender; cash on the barrel says the Cardinals would have snapped him up in a heartbeat. Instead, they wasted the spot on the 40-man roster for a couple of months longer than they needed to.
Announced the resignation of Pat Gillick as executive vice president and general manager. [9/30]
Signed pitching coach Bryan Price to a two-year contract. [10/10]
Surprising nobody, Gillick will remain as a consultant. His Delphic indifference to the present presumably did not prohibit his recommending that the organization retain its MVC (Most Valuable Coach). The Mariners have been spectacularly disappointing, one of the game's most amazing Weren'ts among the presumably great teams, but they're still loaded with pitching talent, some of it in excellent repair. There is no better steward for that talent than Price.
Granted C-R Todd Greene free agency. [10/6]
Released LHP Tony Mounce. [10/9]
Todd Greene will catch on as somebody's right-handed bat, but this might have been the year that permanently flipped him from interesting bench player to Mark Parent Lite. Greene will be 33 next year, and while he's a great story for having made it after an injury-riddled minor league career, he has few virtues. He's not much of a glove, and even the willingness to wear the tools of ignorance won't make the struggle to get your OBP over .250 (career .270, a figure he hasn't topped since 1997) all that interesting to potential employers. He'll make a great Tiger.