March 17, 2004
March 10-15, 2004
Signed RHP Brandon Webb to a three-year, $3.3 million contract, with a club option for 2007. [3/10]
Reassigned RHPs Adriano Rosario and Phil Stockman to their minor league camp. [3/15]
In strident economic terms, you might wonder why the Snakes were so generous in eradicating any concerns Webb might have about the years he has no one to appeal to, beyond Jerry Colangelo's sense of fairness; hell, they even took care of an arbitration year. Arizona has acquired a good reputation as employers within the game, among players if not among front office staffers. However, that ought to remind everyone that whenever Colangelo poor-mouths, or a few extra low-end staffers stuck with scut-work get whacked as a PR ploy, the Snakes are still managing to squeeze in some pricey capital expenses, whether it's over-rewarding Luis Gonzalez for past good deeds done, or taking near-term worry off of Webb's financial plate.
Elsewhere, the dispatched include a few homegrown unfortunates burdened with the unhappy lot of being boxed out by more experienced alternatives. The second baseman formerly known as Roberto Alomar is planted in front of Hairston, although that assumes Hairston will stick at the keystone, a big assumption, and one the Snakes can let him earn or discard in the minors. Gonzalez and Gosling probably deserved a bit more consideration than they got, but this team still has to get Shane Reynolds out of its system (hint: fiber), and both John Patterson and Andrew Good need to be checked out as alternatives to Steve Sparks in the rotation. Gonzalez and Gosling will be back, but only once this team recognizes its own mediocrity, and remembers that it is following the Webbs of the world that make the future interesting, not relying on false perceptions of Dessenses.
Thank you all so much for playing, but in case you hadn't noticed, your tickets were pre-stamped for Pawtucket, and like so many others among the formerly 15-minuted famous, you're meant to haunt the same field that Rudy Pemberton once called home.
That snidery aside, it's an interesting gaggle. Hebson, Yarnall, and Rigdon all make nifty daily reminders that as pat as TINSTAAPP sounds, it's a truism forged by bitter experience and reinforced by constant reminders. Medrano can be useful for your average affiliate, assuming he doesn't wind up getting crowded out by the Pawtucket-bound likes of James Lofton or Cesar Crespo.
Benard's name came up in conjunction with the BALCO scandal, which strikes me as about as big a head-scratcher as Manny Alexander's former brush with chemical justice. Naturally, as a newly non-grata'd persona, he can look forward to a few years of beating the bushes in the Atlantic or Northern Leagues, or wherever Pete Rose is selling some recently-concocted remaining shreds of dignity. Carlos Castillo is almost literally on the opposite side of the scale, having in some respects gutted his way out of prospectdom; I suppose a career in pro wrestling awaits. Finally, Ryan Kohlmeier's in that portion of his career where solid citizenship, a willingness to stick with his career, and constant worship to a graven image of Mike Williams might someday produce an actual comeback.
Optioned 2B-R William Bergolla, 3B-R Edwin Encarnacion, and LHP Phil Dumatrait to Chattanooga (Double-A); optioned LF-R Steven Smitherman to Louisville; reassigned Aaron Holbert, C-Rs Steve Lomasney and Miguel Perez, RHPs Matt Belisle, Juan Cerros, Luke Hudson, Joe Valentine, Chris Booker, Seth Etherton, Brian Mallette, and Dustin Moseley, and LHPs Rigo Beltran and Brian Shackelford to their minor league camp. [3/13]
Released OF-L John Vander Wal. [3/15]
Scattered among the names of what you might consider yet more fodder for the seemingly endless turnover that fans in Louisville and Chattanooga have gotten used to, you'll find a few names worth remembering. Encarnacion, Smitherman, and Dumatrait should all be back before September, especially once Dan O'Brien comes to terms with what he's got and starts scattering the veteran components he can peddle. Among the pitchers, you shouldn't be surprised to see someone like Belisle or Valentine or Hudson back up after a good month or two; this team is counting on opening with oft-discarded discards like Jimmy Haynes or Todd Van Poppel, after all. Dustin Moseley needs a full, healthy season, but from there, he'll probably get at least a September styrofoam cup of coffee, if not the full-blown sitdown with the china earlier on. And, of course, roto players might have noticed Bergolla's existence for stealing a few bases. Until we see a lot more of what O'Brien values, there's no way to know whether he'll jump off that Alex Sanchez cliff if he comes to it.
Optioned RHPs Jeremy Guthrie and Francisco Cruceta to Buffalo; optioned LHP Mariano Gomez and 3B-R Corey Smith to Akron (Double-A); optioned SS-R Ivan Ochoa to Kinston; reassigned 1B-L Michael Aubrey, RHP Kyle Denney, and C-R Dave Wallace to their minor league camp. [3/15]
If you have this year's book, you know that we think the Tribe just sent down a great group of prospects, but they have plenty of talent to sort out up front. A guy like Ochoa has to improve and post a good full season at high-A, let alone worry about poaching a few innings at short from Leetle O or Jhonny Peralta, or even the deadly clash between aspiring utilitymen like John McDonald or Zach Sorensen. Aubrey's more than a year away, while Cruceta, Denney, and Guthrie will get their chances after they continue to pitch well and after the prospects already up succeed or fail.
How can you hope to contend when you have to wait your turn behind the likes of Jeff Fassero, Shawn Estes or Adam Bernero? Huisman and Dohmann (with Simpsons snippets already cued, big league Jumbotron operators everywhere are slavering at the thought of his making the show) will get some consideration as the season pokes along, and once the expendable get expended.
As for Marc Kroon, to paraphrase Bill Terry, is he even still in this game? Kroon was a one-time prospect, circa 1998 or so, so he deserves a break. Hopefully, by my summoning up Terry's ill-fated, caustic dismissal of the Dodgers, karma will swing Kroon's way and grant him one.
Optioned LHP Rob Henkel and OF-B Nook Logan to Toledo; optioned RHPs Kenny Baugh, Preston Larrison, and Robert Novoa, SS-L Don Kelly, and INF-R Ryan Raburn to Erie (Double-A); reassigned LHPs Andy Van Hekken and Adrian Burnside, RHPs Jorge Cordova, David Cortes, and John Ennis, C-Rs Mike Rabelo and Maxim St. Pierre, SS-R Rayner Bautista, and OF-R Jeff Inglin to their minor league camp. [3/15]
With so much to easily snort over (Kenny Baugh? Preston Larrison? Harrumph and harrumph), it's worth remembering the happier things on this list. I'm one of those optimistic yutzes who thinks that Henkel is a hidden asset who could grow into a rotation regular. Maybe it's the knuckle-curve (what fan doesn't love a trick pitch?), maybe it's a name that conjures up wildly ugly, ungainly-looking bombers from the Second World War, maybe it's because he's a lefty, but for whatever reason, Henkel's on my irrational rooting interest list. Equally insensibly, Adrian Burnside and Nook Logan are worth following, although Burnside is sort of the Aussie honeypot, full of ear wax instead of the good stuff on closer inspection, while Logan might at least someday make Alex Sanchez an ex-Tiger. Jeff Inglin's had his moments slapping around minor league lefties, but the Tigers already have a better alternative in Craig Monroe.
In terms of people to take seriously (besides Henkel), Don Kelly seems to have won favor, but he'll have to show he can stick at Double-A if he's going to be more than an organizational soldier. Ryan Raburn will hopefully get a chance to stick at second base after moving over from third; he'll also have to prove he can hit Double-A pitching.
Released RHP Nelson Cruz; optioned CF-R Chip Ambres to Albuquerque; optioned SS-R Josh Wilson to Carolina (Double-A); reassigned LHP Cedrick Bowers, UT-B Felipe Crespo, RHPs Bryce Florie, Trevor Hutchinson, Delvin James, and Marty McLeary, and CF-L Eric Reed to their minor league camp. [3/11]
For most of these guys, it's standard fare. Felipe Crespo is used to being shunted aside because somebody's excited about the likes of Lenny Harris; at 31, a future in coaching or managing or auto sales has to start seeming more and more likely. Nelson Cruz is familiar with being cut, or if not, deserves the reminder after last season's case of the surlies when he pouted over not being treated with the respect he felt was his due from the Rockies. Chip Ambres and Josh Wilson have both disappointed those who touted them as prospects, although both have their virtues now that they've endured the jump up from A-ball. Bryce Florie's human interest story didn't command the same sort of attention it might have with the other Florida ballclub. All in all, a business-like bunch of cuts.
Reassigned RHPs Donnie Bridges, Jimmy Serrano, and Eric Thompson, LHP Les Walrond, 1B-L Calvin Pickering, and PH-B Wilton Guerrero to their minor league camp; assigned LHP Mike Venafro, SS-R Gookie Dawkins, and OF-B Adrian Brown to Omaha. [3/14]
Cal Pickering's tale of woe continues, but consider the problem: With Matt Stairs in town and Mike Sweeney looking healthy, at-bats at first base and DH aren't as available as they were last year. As is, that combination will probably consign Ken Harvey to a deserved demotion to platoon work, or a future as Pickering's fellow Omaha steak.
Otherwise, the demotions reflect on some happier developments among the still-standing. Jaime Cerda's having a good camp, which has helped to eliminate Walrond and Venafro from the team's quest to find their first reliable lefty reliever in nearly 20 years. Formerly famed warm bodies like Wilton Guerrero or Gookie Dawkins don't have Bob Boone or famous siblings to look out for them; the Royals have Tony Graffanino and perhaps Mendy Lopez to handle utility infield chores, thank you verra much. Neither makes a great shortstop, but the Royals, bless them, don't seem concerned. To paraphrase Earl Weaver, you can find your backup shortstop in Nebraska.
Interesting in a tough-luck sort of way are Thompson and Bridges. Thompson was one of the A's college pitchers who didn't make it. Although not nearly so highly touted as Chris Enochs or the like, Thompson got prospect consideration as recently as 2000. Bridges was even more of a top prospect with the Expos, with 2000 also marking the pinnacle of his fame. Both have persisted, and both have been useful lately. As retreads go, they're both nice gambles, and better guys to have around at the price of the shovel it took to dig them up than parting with goodies for Brett Laxton. The Royals have learned, and are learning. Rob and Rany might have to swear off teeth-gnashing once and for all.
Purchased UT-R Jose Flores from the A's. [3/11]
Sure, it's a case of getting help from an old friend, but Paul DePodesta's purchase of Flores from the A's is a nifty little pickup. Skip the need-based element of having to find somebody to take Alex Cora's place on the roster, or trying to dig up competition for Jose Hernandez, or having someone to squelch Marty Malloy's feeling that this might have been his big break. No, Flores might be what Joey Thurston is not, a good source of OBP this lineup needs. He can take the field all over the diamond, but he might be particularly useful in a semi-regular role at second, which would in turn keep Jolbert Cabrera in circulation in the outfield.
Sent down already? I wouldn't get all bent out of shape about Hardy's demotion. His back wasn't 100%, the Brewers are determined to take Craig Counsell seriously as a regular at short, and Bill Hall is having a great camp, so Hardy's better off having a premature big league Opening Day taken off of his schedule, so that he can work his way through the upper levels, and wind up challenging for the job once Doug Melvin starts trying to flip pedestrian vets for good stuff.
Less prominently, you might read something into Matt Ford's demotion, but again, the depth acquired in the Sexson trade offers a measure of explanation. Chris Capuano is having a great camp, and Wes Obermueller is also pitching well, so Wayne Franklin looks like he's going to be bumped to the bullpen. Why keep last year's Rule 5er up, when he could use the regular rotation work in the minors while recuperating from last season's elbow trouble? When Ford's ready, Franklin's the sort you can make somebody else's problem easily enough, and he makes an adequate lefty swingman in the meantime.
Optioned RHP Bret Prinz to Columbus. [3/12]
Reassigned LHP Scott Kazmir to their minor league camp. [3/10]
Hawk: You know, Wimpy...
Sold UT-R Jose Flores to the Dodgers; reassigned RHPs Ben Fritz and Brad Sullivan and LHP Mario Ramos to their minor league camp. [3/11]
Optioned 1B-L Ryan Howard, OF-R Jorge Padilla, RHP Elizardo Ramirez, Keith Bucktrot, Franklin Perez, and Alfredo Simon to their minor league camp; reassigned RHP Jeremy Wedel, and C-Rs Trent Pratt and Jeremy Salazar to their minor league camp. [3/13]
You'll find a lot of disagreement about Ryan Howard's prospect status, but for a guy who's already 24 and only has A-ball experience, he looks like he could have a good four-year run starting in 2006, because the guy can mash. I just have to wonder about Ed Wade's willingness to deal him. If Jim Thome's back gave out, I wouldn't be surprised if they moved Pat Burrell to first, so it's hard to see Howard having any future beyond bait as a Phillie. Otherwise, these moves boil down to the ship-out of several of their promising young arms.
Optioned LHP Cory Stewart to Nashville; optioned RHP Bobby Bradley and C-B Ryan Doumit to Altoona (Double-A); reassigned RHP Chris Fussell, LHP Paul Maholm, and C-R Ronny Paulino to their minor league camp. [3/12]
I would have liked to have seen Stewart get a little more consideration, but the Pirates have to sort through Oliver Perez and Ryan Vogelsong and Rick Reed for the back end of the rotation (not to mention the slot that should come open if Dave Littlefield does indeed make Lloyd McClendon's day and make Kris Benson go away). Stewart has a solid assortment, and probably needs some time to make himself familiar to his new organization. Barring injury (as with any pitcher), he'll bear more serious consideration in the future.
Elsewhere, among the organization's herd of useful or interesting young catchers, Doumit was the easiest to dismiss. Although Humberto Cota should be able to fend off the geriatric challenges of Keith McDonald or Sandy Martinez, J.R. House will eventually move into view, once he shows he's really healthy.
Optioned RHP Rett Johnson and C-R Ryan Christianson to Tacoma; reassigned C-R Wiki Gonzalez, OF-L Shin-Soo Choo, LHPs Craig Anderson and Jose Nunez, SS-R Adam Jones, and 1B-L A.J. Zapp to their minor league camp. [3/12]
Optioned RHP Jeff Heaverlo to Tacoma. [3/13]
If there's news here of note, it's the fate of Wiki Gonzalez, one-time fair-haired (so to speak) boy behind the plate, and now an overcompensated Rainier destined to split time with Pat Borders. There are humiliating contretemps, and then there's something like that.
Reassigned RHPs Allen Levrault, Matt Duff, Spike Lundberg, and Chad Paronto, LHPs Randy Flores, Joe Horgan, Jason Pearson, and Tyler Johnson, C-L Dan Moylan, C-R Matt Pagnozzi, and 3B-Rs Gabe Johnson and Scott Seabol to their minor league camp. [3/12]
Most of this isn't news. I would have liked to have seen Randy Flores or Spike Lundberg or even Allen Levrault get taken seriously, and I suspect there's a part of all of us that wants to see Matt Duff and Scott Dohmann in the same game if not on the same team. I was a little surprised to see them release Butler so quickly, since it means a commitment to Wilson Delgado as the regular utility man. Assuming that's the case and they keep both Marlon Anderson and Bo Hart, it's going to be hard to squeeze Rule 5 pick Hector Luna on the back end of a roster that needs room for a squad of possibilities for left field, not to mention the inevitable La Russian 12th pitcher. That would be a pity; Luna can play. There might be some hope that a deal might be struck with the Tribe; this is the second year Luna has been plucked out of their system via Rule 5, and they're still stocked with good alternatives at shortstop.
Steve Cox's fate was probably sealed once the decision to go with Albert Pujols at first started to be chiseled in stone. Kevin Witt's fate is probably similarly sealed; he's not a great bet to make the move to left. That leaves a left field mess with John Gall, John Mabry, Mark Quinn, Todd Dunwoody, Ray Lankford, Judge Crater, and the still standing, still-singing half of Milli Vanilli all gunning for the "established" duo of So Taguchi and Kerry Robinson. Are there really people still pretending that this team is a contender? Maybe only if Dusty Baker and Jimy Williams again insist on helping make it so. Professional courtesy for a Hall of Fame manager and all that, right?
While I'm on the subject of crummy Cardinal outfielders, I guess now would be the time to lay to rest the speculation that signing Taguchi was supposed to bring the added benefit of convincing actual good Japanese players to sign up in St. Louis. It was offered at the time, and it was no less lame an excuse then as it remains now.
Optioned LF-R Jonny Gomes, 2B-R Antonio Perez, and LHP Jon Switzer to Durham; optioned RHP Carlos Hines to Montgomery (Double-A); optioned OF-R Delmon Young to Charleston (A-ball); reassigned OF-B Anton French, OF-L Joey Gathright, RHPs Reynaldo Garcia, Willie Glen, Dicky Gonzalez, Al Reyes, Alan Mills, and Carlos Reyes, LHP Mike Holtz, C-B Mitch Meluskey, 3B-R Jared Sandberg, and SS-R B.J. Upton to their minor league camp. [3/11]
Optioned RHP Bartolome Fortunado to Durham. [3/13]
I guess there's something uniquely Devil Fishy about the dispatch of the unwanted to sentences as either a Bull or a Biscuit, with the newfound horror of the latter representing a fashion indignity not seen since...well, what's your suggestion for a humiliating team name? "Hardware City" was amazingly unfindable on any map. I suspect Oliver Hazard Perry would be a little surprised to discover he was the winner of the Battle of Erie Sea, but I'm sure the SeaWolves will send him a memo. The arrival of Swamp Dragons in Shreveport isn't a happy thing, and I think we all have to wonder what it is that New Jersey Jackals fatten up on. But somehow, I find 'biscuit' the name with the least amount of dignity. It gets worse: check out the logo. That's right, you're a professional, so even if you're wearing clothes a self-respecting Hardee's employee would reject as humiliating, butter up and smile, kiddo. And you too, Mr. Meluskey.
On that score, think on the veteran pitchers just shipped out. Carlos and Al Reyes, Alan Mills, Dicky Gonzalez, Mike Holtz...you'd almost think this was the Rangers' camp. I'm not the biggest Jared Sandberg fan in the world, but barely getting the time of day because the organization is infatuated with Geoff Blum or Damian Rolls...well, I doubt even Harry Caray's advice to eat an extra biscuit for breakfast would help much, under the circumstances.
As much as you might infer a slight when being demoted by the Rangers, given their near-historic desperation for hurlers, this isn't exactly bad news for Snare and Kozlowski. Kozlowski needs to work his way back from elbow surgery, while Snare's a newcomer to the organization. As is, Joaquin Benoit is pitching his way out of Buck Showalter's picture, so it may be for the best to be young, talented, and out of sight for the time being, until a few ugly reminders of what life with a few too many journeymen looks like bring youth back in fashion. The chances that both might be in the rotation by August aren't all that long.