April 20, 2004
April 13-18, 2004
Signed OF-L Garrett Anderson to a four-year $48 million contract, with a club option for 2009. [4/13]
Generally speaking, we've been thorough in criticizing the Anderson deal. Joe has reviewed its slender merits, and Jonah got about as close to a sneer as you'll ever see him get. And while the expense is ridiculous, and as an A's fan I'm delighted, let's run through some of the other repercussions and loose ends this deal entails.
First, it bears repeating that health is a skill, and Anderson has been nothing if not remarkably durable. He hasn't quite worked his way down to Joe Carterdom in terms of controversy between general fan and stathead circles, but in part because he can handle center, he's also generally more valuable than Carter was at the point that he became a number cruncher's whipping boy (circa 1988). Being able to play center field matters, but that gets underplayed for all of the gnashed teeth over Darin Erstad at first base.
The Erstad situation troubles me, because it says something about how quickly people are willing to ascribe some measure of value of a player, rather than simply coming to terms with the fact that he's closer to useless than anyone wants to admit. Consider the Angels' outfield/first base/DH situation, which is "only" set through 2005. After that, Tim Salmon probably scoots, and Jose Guillen has an option to pick up. It isn't till after the next season, 2006, that Darin Erstad can finally become somebody else's problem at their price. Ideally, for 2005 Erstad would resume his career in center field, but frankly, he's not even as valuable there as he's cracked up to be. Last season, the only center field situations that contributed less to their teams offensively than Erstad might be good for are the usual low-wattage suspects, people like Chris Singleton, Coco Crisp or Endy Chavez, none of whom have jobs now. For as good as Erstad's defense might be, let's face it, we're talking about Rick Manning or the like here. PECOTA's reasonable expectations for him are that he's going to be awful, without any reference to his "death to flying things" rep. It isn't just that Erstad is a wasted talent at first base, it's that Erstad is a waste, even without considering the $24 million the Angels have to pay him through 2006.
And there's the rub. The problem isn't as much that Anderson's being overcompensated, because at least Anderson has value, and he should be the Angels' center fielder until he can't handle the position any more, or the Angels find somebody who can handle the job. Erstad has long since betrayed any confidence that he's the person who can. The problem is Erstad's contract in conjunction with those given to Vlad and Anderson, and how, for example, that might lead the Angels to wish Salmon well as he wanders off to DH for somebody else, while Erstad sticks around for far too long for far too much, in any role. If the Angels lack a center fielder and a first baseman
Activated C/UT-R Eli Marrero from the DL; optioned UT-R Mike Hessman to Richmond. [4/14]
Ahh, that's better. Hessman was a bad idea, but he was also an organizational soldier being given a two-week stint of relevance and encyclopedia-padding. (After going 0-9, he might want to sign on for International League Lifer plan, to avoid dropping below the Mendoza Line.) Marrero's return puts pressure on the right sorts of people for the wrong sorts of reasons; once J.D. Drew returns to health, however briefly, Bobby Cox will have the epic choice between benching DeWayne Wise or Johnny Estrada, with Marrero flipping from catcher to an outfield corner. I think we all reasonably expect Wise is the big loser in that particular lineup duel, reverting to a reserve role he might be able to hold for weeks or months.
Complicating the situation is Chipper Jones's hamstring. If, as expected, that pushes him to the DL on Tuesday, Wise might get more playing time, although the Braves face an interesting decision. But will they purchase Russ Branyan's contract? I suppose adding a warm body like Ryan Jackson is possible, if only because his talent can risked through the inevitably subsequent waivers exercise once Chipper healed up. Or call up Ryan Langerhans? Branyan's drawing walks and playing the outfield, and nobody at Richmond is hitting; given the lack of depth in the infield, exacerbated by Raffy Furcal's back woes, calling up Branyan in Chipper's place should make all sorts of sense, assuming they can get him onto the 40-man at the moment.
MLB voided the recall of LHP Erik Bedard for violating the 10-day rule. [4/13]
Designated DH-L Jack Cust for assignment; recalled OF-B Tim Raines Jr. from Ottawa. [4/15]
Outrighted DH-L Jack Cust to Ottawa. [4/16]
In camp this year, at least one report made a big deal of how Lee Mazzilli was reading Weaver on Strategy to see what wisdom he might glean. It looks like he decided that, whatever Earl might have to say, hitting matters only so much. Appropriately enough, the Orioles noted they had a glut of people to play at first base or DH, while failing to note that the remote odds that B.J. Surhoff or David Segui might be useful at the hitting portions of their responsibilities at offensively critical positions. I can understand wanting to have an alternative on the roster to Luis Matos, but to keep Surhoff and Segui?
Fortunately for the Orioles, their thirteen DH-using peers seemed to agree, at least where Cust's bat is concerned. Nobody feels their DH position needs shoring up, and after a few too many changes of organization, you can understand how teams start wonder if a player really has that much value if people are giving up on him so easily. I remain convinced Cust deserves a couple of hundred at-bats to show whether he's Kevin Maas or Mike Epstein, a short-term or mid-term popper for some cheap, immediate offensive help.
Outrighted 1B/OF-L Brian Daubach and LHP Bobby M. Jones to Pawtucket; recalled LHP John Seibel from Pawtucket. [4/14]
Acquired RHP Scott Cassidy from the Blue Jays for a PTBNL. [4/18]
Activated UT-B Jose Macias from the DL; placed 2B-R Mark Grudzielanek on the 15-day DL retroactive to 4/10 (strained Achilles tendon). [4/13]
There isn't much point in expressing sympathy, the Cubs want to have Jose Macias around, and they profited from their place in Todd Walker's heart. For however long Grudzielanek is out, the Cubs will happily get to rely on Walker in a semi-platoon arrangement with Ramon Martinez.
As for the Pratt situation, I still like Pratt, but their having him and then quitting on him, at the price of no longer having Juan Cruz to kick around, while the bullpen struggles, let's call it all part of the not-so-hidden benefits Dusty Baker brings to a ballclub. He wanted Cruz gone, and he wanted a lefty; he got those things. He took a shine to Mike Wuertz, and now that stroke of insight doesn't look particularly inspired. Can you blame Jim Hendry if he's coming to realize that Dusty is the ultimate December 26th brat, immediately asking what has been done for him lately? Francis Beltran has the stuff to be a bullpen asset, but if he becomes another object of Dusty's ire, exactly the way Cruz became, and Kyle Farnsworth's entire career seems condemned to flirt with, then the pen is going to be in for a long summer.
It isn't really a big deal to lose Jimenez for a stretch right now. He should only miss the two weeks, and they're going to be better off riding out the early season cases of the yips of both David Riske and Scotty Stewart. As is, it's worth seeing if David Lee has anything to offer. If he does, after they subsequently get Jimenez and later Wickman back and pitching well before either trade deadline, their position will be that much stronger when it comes to flipping the veterans to contenders while being able to comfortably rely on a reliever who, like Raffy Betancourt, won't cost them many clams for the immediate future.
Recalled OF-R Matt Holliday from Colorado Springs; placed OF-R Preston Wilson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/13 (knee). [4/15]
As if the organization's case of altitude fatigue wasn't bad enough, it now has to turn to the bitter fruits of the tail end of the Gebhard era for sustenance. No, Harrikkala isn't a Rockies product, he's a minor league journeyman in the right place with an organization more suitably shallow and desperate than your average American Idol contestant. Similarly, longtime "prospect" Holliday gets a taste of the majors, more out of the organization's near-total want for alternatives than for anything Holliday's achieved in a career that has gotten this far on the same general principles that put driftwood at the top. Why did this team commit to Denny Stark in the rotation if all it would take was two bad starts to cost him his job? They effectively discarded Justin Huisman to keep Stark, and they got little more than donuts and a thank you for their trouble.
So what's left? An outfield where they have pick through Rene Reyes, Holliday, Jeromy Burnitz, and Kit Pellow is like saying the Rockies have no choices at all. Among their Sky Sox options, Holliday may well have been their worst available option. At least Brad Hawpe is hitting, although his conversion from first base is a work in progress. Choo Freeman carries a nice defensive rep in center, and has shown promise now and again. Since Holliday has yet to make a comfortable transition to the outfield from third base himself, the nicest thing you can hope for is that the Rockies are looking at him right now to decide if he's worth the spot on the 40-man roster.
As for the rotation, now that Stark is out of it, they're actually considering Jeff Fassero the answer to their immediate needs. In happier news, at least Aaron Cook and Jason Young are pitching well in Colorado Springs, so like so much else on this roster, you have to hope things get set aright by June. But given this team's sudden fascination with really old bit players with next to no potential value in trade, you're left with the realization that when it come to being a victim of your own lack of convictions, few do it better than Dan O'Dowd.
Signed C-R Mike DiFelice to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Toledo. [4/13]
Signed OF-R Eric Owens to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Toledo. [4/16]
Uggy's arrival in the Motor City is good news, of course, but the Tigers can't really wonder what might have happened if only they'd signed him sooner. They've really only lost one game in the bullpen, on April 13th; the previous night's blown lead in the 7th inning might have contributed to that, but that was Al Levine being put into a runners-on situation he's going to get anyway. So basically, two weeks without a capital-c Closer didn't mean an awful lot to the Tigers' early season fortunes, and they'll be able to bring him up to speed on whatever pace makes sense.
Jamie Farr ought to be doing a mad-as-hell, not-going-to-take-it-anymore cover of Peter Finch on the Toledo dinner theater circuit, because any team adding Mike DiFelice, Eric Owens, and Joe Vitiello all at once is in a world of hurt. Remember, adding them is supposed to represent improvement of the club's roster, and shamefully, it does. The outfield has Marcus Thames, the infield Danny Klassen, Warren Morris, and Jason Smith. There are few better illustrations of Triple-A being reduced to the level of spare parts, with the majority of the actually promising talent learning its craft at Double-A.
Optioned RHP Jared Fernandez to New Orleans; recalled LHP Mike Gallo from New Orleans. [4/14]
It's easy to sum up the Astros' interest in Harville as the wisdom born of happy experience with short flamethrowers (heck, I do it down in the Oakland segment), but they could also use a good reliever. If having Harville helps Jimy Williams wise up and use Octavio Dotel a little more sensibly, so much the better.
Purchased the contract of SS-B Andres Blanco from Wichita (Double A); activated RHP Kevin Appier from the 15-day DL; placed SS-R Angel Berroa on the 15-day DL (migraines); optioned LHP Jaime Cerda to Omaha; transferred RHP Miguel Asencio from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/17]
This is an ugly moment, to say the least. The rotation isn't anywhere close to being ironed out, and now they lose Berroa to something like migraines? For all of the public concern about Mark Prior, I'm more worried about Berroa. It could be anything from drinking too much Diet Coke to something a lot worse than drinking too much Diet Coke. That said, I'm clearly speculating, and there's every reason to hope it'll all go away in two weeks. The point is that the unknown sucks, and while the Royals have to deal with doubt at a time when they're already short one Relaford, robbing them of the obvious patch when Berroa went down. All of 19, Blanco isn't ready or anywhere close to ready, having just gotten out of A-ball without dominating it. However, Blanco's defensive ability is supposed to be already big league caliber, and maybe this will be like Jose Oquendo's wildly premature arrival in the majors with the Mets. If, for the sake of argument, Berroa was out all year, and you were the Royals, as long as Relaford was on the DL, your alternative to playing Blanco would be Omaha's Gookie Dawkins. Sort of like the choice that George Bamberger had in 1983 between Oquendo and Ron Gardenhire or utilityman Bob Bailor, you can understand the instinct to pick the kid who can play shortstop and who has a future over the Gookies of the world.
Regardless, it isn't a happy choice for a notional contender.
Acquired LHP Glenn Bott from the Mariners for RHP Aaron Looper. [4/12]
Outrighted OF-R Wilkin Ruan to Las Vegas. [4/15]
I'm a little surprised to see the Dodgers flip Looper back to the Mariners so quickly. Bott is as promising as a soft-tossing lefty who relies more on guile than a great breaking pitch could possibly be, but the Dodgers could win this year. Don't get me wrong, I like Duaner Sanchez, and maybe this is the year that Darren Dreifort is useful and expensive, instead of merely expensive. But a quick peek at the roster of the 51s, and you'll see that they've got guys like Masao Kida, Bill Simas, and Rod Myers knocking around. Looper could have come in handy.
If you're a Dodgers fan, I wouldn't get bent out of shape on having Chen up in Werth's place. If Chen doesn't show something as a lefty masher and spot starter now, he'll run the risk of being outrighted off of the 40-man. He has hope; the Dodgers might sort out that there's little that Olmedo Saenz can do besides play first and hack a bit, and Chen's slightly more versatile than that.
Resigned RHP Livan Hernandez to a three-year, $21 million contract extension. [4/13]
As cynical exercises in demonstrating that the Expos are a real franchise, operated for its own benefit, it would be hard to top the Livan contract. I guess Omar gets to feel good, since his expenses, although requiring the sanction of the 29 co-owner/conspirators, are not really his own. Look at it this way: if you're one of the 29, you have to figure that the lucky winner in the ghastly exercise is now that much more in crippled in his/her/their bid to become the thirtieth frat member. It's the baseball equivalent of an unfunded mandate.
That Livan isn't exactly worth it only adds to this little stunt's capacity to tax anyone's sense of business rectitude. By becoming the industry's dumping ground for bad contracts, and somewhat less it's sop for players with exaggerated financial expectations and a capacity to inspire disinterest. So you have Carl Everett and Tony Batista, Einar Diaz and Livan, all showing the union that MLB is acting on the up-and-up, because see, they're spending money on this Potemkin village.
Placed RHP Jorge DePaula (sprained elbow) and CF-L Kenny Lofton (strained quadriceps) on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Scott Proctor and LHP Alex Graham from Columbus. [4/18]
Kenny Lofton didn't hit much in all of two weeks, and naturally, there are Appleheads ready to give up on him faster than you can say "Jerry Mumphrey." Or was that Mike Easler? Steve Kemp? The nice thing about what the Yankees have on hand right now is that they do not have to worry about their lineup, even with Lofton hurt and Enrique Wilson playing far too often. Bernie Williams will get to do his worst in center, there's now an emotional attachment to letting Bubba Crosby get some defensive replacement time, and with Lee healthy, they can port Jason Giambi's creaky bones to DH and let Lee and Tony Clark split time at first. Yes, there's still the obvious question, about why the Yankees won't flip Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams in the outfield, but like the A-Rod versus Derek Jeter question at short, do the 99% of us who aren't Yankees fans feel badly about their picking the wrong answers? History's dead hand apparently has a death grip on some aspects of the team's decision-making, but that will catch a lot less flack now that there are a few essentially irrelevant injuries to make it seem as if this is a team with problems beyond their control. Joe Torre rarely gives the last three or four slots on his roster much thought, and now isn't going to be any different.
Signed RHP Ricky Bottalico to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Norfolk. [4/18]
Designated RHP Chad Harville for assignment; recalled RHP Rich Harden from Sacramento. [4/15]
Talk about retrospective predictability. The Astros, taking an interest in a short reliever who throws hard? The A's, interested in a polished college pitcher who knows how to get people out? I guess the funky angle is where Saarloos might fit into the future, considering that Justin Duchscherer is already cooling his heels, waiting for a rotation slot. I guess the possibility that might frighten the habitually unhappy fans who want permanence on their ballclubs is that the two of them, along with Harden and Joe Blanton, represent a lot of potential disincentives towards a decision to give Tim Hudson or Barry Zito contract extensions beyond their current deals, which run through 2005. But the other consideration is that they collectively represent a great gaggle of nearly-ready big league pitching talent, which gives Billy Beane the best coin in the realm to deal with the teams that despair of their wild-card hopes around the All-Star break. The other thing to consider is that with Jim Mecir almost literally on his last legs, and Chris Hammond's option for 2005 a poor bet to be picked up, there are going to be meaningful jobs in middle relief on this club no later than next year. If the suspicions that Saarloos or Harden might eventually do best in relief roles have any merit, next year's camp should be very interesting. Only the fifth starter's job will be available in the rotation, but at least two bullpen jobs will be up for grabs. With contract balloon payments to core players on the roster right now adding somewhere around $13 million to next year's payroll, you can bet the A's won't mind plugging in some more talented kids for the minimum on the edges of the staff.
Who says Boston holds the patent on April panic attacks? After being swept in a Corporately Indeterminate Logo Park by the Dodgers, you have to expect the Giants to be a little snippy over their place in the world, even at this early date. At least Schmidt is back for the time being, and Kevin Walker is out of the way; with Jason Christiansen and Wayne Franklin, the Giants have a pair of experienced lefties, and hardly needed a perpetually struggling spare situational reliever when they've got larger problems. In part, that's why Cooper gets to stay; after a quality start against the Brewers, Brian Sabean is keeping him around to lurk in middle relief, where he joins Franklin in the dual-purpose role of either cleaning up after or spotting for Brett Tomko, Jerome Williams, or Dustin Hermanson. Williams is the one with promise, but Tomko's expensive and Hermanson's a former Alou player from Montreal. It would be goofy to yank Williams, but the Giants have expectations of contention. If they have a bad series against the Padres, I think we can look forward to some roster mayhem.
Reacquired RHP Aaron Looper from the Dodgers for LHP Glenn Bott. [4/12]
Released C-R Ryan Christianson. [4/13]
Optioned RHP Rafael Soriano to Inland Empire (A-ball); recalled RHP J.J. Putz from Tacoma. [4/14]
Signed RHP Allen Levrault to a minor league contract. [4/15]
Optioned RHP J.J. Putz to Tacoma; activated UT-B Scott Spiezio from the DL. [4/17}
The Soriano situation is pretty cut and dried; he's hurt, so he's basically off to the Cal League on a rehab assignment. Since the big league roster already has Ron Villone and Kevin Jarvis crowding the long relief picture, as long as Soriano isn't right, he wasn't going to get innings.
I suppose there's nothing more reassuring than the unconditional love of a parent. Or a parent's organization, apparently. Having just dealt one of so many organizational favorite (genetic) sons away to the Dodgers in the Jolbert Cabrera deal, you can understand the subsequent anguish, separation anxiety, and need to repair the deal by somehow placating those loveless boys in blue with something as emotionally unrewarding as roughly equivalent talent. If nothing else, Benny Looper is a placated papa.
Even so, it isn't a bad little exchange, as long as the Mariners are actually intent on using Looper this year. But if they already don't have the space for somebody like Putz, when are they going to find the time and space for Looper? I guess the other virtue is that Looper's nearly ready, so he might fetch more value as a bargaining chip at the trade deadlines, but that's assuming the Mariners are in the hunt.
Cattiness aside, the Mariners did get Spiezio back already, and that makes their lives easier, as he slips into the everyday job at third, pushing Jolbert into platoon duties and Willie Bloomquist into some indefinite representation of utility. It would have been a lot more fun to have seen them run a platoon of Dave Hansen and Cabrera out their in Spiezio's absence, but Bloomquist must have taken the Looper family goldfish hostage.
Placed 1B-B Mark Teixeira on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/13 (strained oblique); recalled 1B-L Adrian Gonzalez from Oklahoma. [4/16]
As much as it might be premature to pitch the Callaway-as-starter experiment into the Bad Ideas file, he did only get one in before breaking down, and Texas is always looking for a few good men. Why else import blueblood Connecticut Yankees? But I digress. Replacing Callaway with Drese is a simple enough plug-and-play exchange, and one that they shouldn't regret. Drese isn't a great option, but let's face it, to be charitable, the Rangers have three starting pitchers if you count Chan Ho Park, Kenny Rogers, and Colby Lewis, and Lewis is hurt. You can always hope that another pitching coach might finally fix Drese.
Anyway, Callaway was sort of a freak trial as exercises go, and a reflection on the team's absolute desperation and willingness to put anyone on the mound. Callaway's shot is sort of like R.A. Dickey's; of course it isn't a good idea, but that's not the point. As long as it isn't Dave Burba, maybe it smells like progress. That, or cordite.
As for calling up Gonzalez right now, it's an opportunity to give him a cup of coffee with little or no expectations. He'll share the job with Herb Perry for a few weeks, until Teixeira heals up, after which he'll hopefully have learned something to work on in Oklahoma that will make his next trip up a more permanent one. The odds of his being ready to claim the job now are pretty remote, so as long as the Rangers treat this as a touch of seasoning and not the real Tabasco, there's still the future to look forward to.
Purchased the contract of OF-R Chad Hermansen from Syracuse; optioned UT-L Simon Pond to Syracuse. [4/13]
Outrighted RHP Sean Douglass to Syracuse; recalled RHP Jason Frasor from Syracuse. [4/14]
Traded RHP Scott Cassidy to the Red Sox for a PTBNL. [4/18]
A pair of simple roster tweaks, although one reflects a somewhat minor roster mistake. Hermansen is up because he makes for a nice alternative to Frankie Catalanotto against tougher lefties. It won't last as straight platoons go; once either Alexis Rios or Gabe Gross earns a shot, Reed Johnson will start slipping into Cat's platoon partner role. Chad might then get an opportunity to participate in Syracuse's quest for postseason glory, and what little kid doesn't grow up hoping for that?
That said, it's sort of an unfair spot for Pond, because he'd be pretty handy as the lefty on the bench who could fill in at the infield and outfield corners. I guess he's an honorary recipient of my now-standard Howie Clark Lament. Unfortunately, Pond is in an organization that has both Dave Berg and Chris Gomez providing some right-handed redundancy as their team's backup infielders, while sticking with twelve pitchers to allow Carlos Tosca to use seven relievers too often for too little time. What's especially goofy is that they've got Hermansen up because of the previous decision to trade Werth, which brought them Frasor, who's up, perhaps on the principle that you have to have people up if you traded a big leaguer for them, and yet because of the terrible problems with rotation starters getting through six innings, this is a team that could use a former starter like Douglass in a long relief, seventh body in the pen role. Instead, the Jays seem to be lurching pretty desperately through the early going.
All of that shuffling aside, life would be a lot simpler if they hadn't given Berg a two-year contract. The Jays subsequently learned they could find replacement infielders like Mike Bordick and Chris Gomez who can do everything that Berg provides, and if you're going to operate a four-man bench, in terms of roster space, two right-handed hitting middle infielders are a luxury you'd rather not want to be able to afford.