September 17, 2004
August 30-September 15
Recalled 1B-L Casey Kotchman from Salt Lake; purchased the contracts of 1B-R Andres Galarraga and UT-R Shane Halter from Salt Lake; designated RHP Ben Weber for assignment; outrighted RHP Steve Green and OF-R Barry Wesson to Salt Lake. [9/1]
Purchased the contract of RHP Scott Dunn from Salt Lake. [9/2]
Activated LHP Jarrod Washburn from the 15-day DL. [9/4]
Released RHP Ben Weber. [9/7]
So now, two-thirds of the Angels' trinity of superprospects is in uniform. McPherson arrives with his blue-chip status enhanced by the past five months, having hit .317/.387/.670 between Double- and Triple-A. Casey Kotchman, well, less so. Drawing only 24 walks in 350 plate appearances at the same two levels is a little disappointing, but still, keep in mind, he's only 21, and this was his first full season above A-ball. Also, for a season where he didn't hit for a lot of home run power, he did still manage an Isolated Power of .182. (For the curious, Jeff Mathis had a lousy year, hitting .223/.308/.392, enough to make everyone wonder if he's going to be the next Jeff Goldbach in the unhappy history of great catching prospects who never recovered from being great catching prospects.) I haven't sat down and really given this much thought, but I always like to see a team in contention have the kids with futures getting up to at least see what being in contention can be like. Ideally, it won't be something new when the Angels contend again next year, and they're relying on one or both of them.
There isn't a whole lot to say about the Big Cat's latest swan song. Like other 40-somethings, he's obviously a player having a good time with every "final" cameo, and he fits in with that general appropriately aged Latin meat leitmotiv that characterized Year One of the Reign of Arte. Adding him to the bench to add perhaps a bit more gravitas than Shane Halter or Josh Paul can offer seems sensible enough, and it's a classy gesture besides. You might hope that it won't get to that point like Sean Connery's appearance in Highlander 2, where the whole elder statesmen gig could be mistaken for a post-career junket. Right now, he has to be having fun, and if Julio Franco can do it, do it well, and do it right, why not Galarraga? The difference is that Galarraga probably won't make it for anything other than roster expansion; it's hard enough to find somebody who wants a spare right-handed DH-first baseman from among the people who don't want 12 pitchers on the team during the first five months.
Recalled RHP Eddy Rodriguez from Ottawa. [9/7]
Returned 1B-B David Segui to the 15-day DL (recurring inflammation - knee). [9/13]
Purchased the contract of C-L Sandy Martinez from the Indians, and assigned him to Pawtucket. [8/31]
Recalled RHP Brandon Puffer from Pawtucket. [9/2]
Purchased the contract of RHP Pedro Astacio from Pawtucket. [9/5]
This is all sorts of good news. By finally getting Nixon back, they can put him in right and get Kevin Millar out of the outfield, and since Nixon's bat seems anything but rusty, the Sox just added a second lefty bopper to the lineup to help cover David Ortiz. Meanwhile, getting Youkilis back lets them rest Bill Mueller's knee as needed. Combined, the return of the two of them pushes Gabe Kapler entirely into a platoon role, and helps keep Doug Mientkiewicz out of the lineup. I know, that might generate all sorts of Dave Stapleton, The Missing D-Rep nostalgia, but let's face it, that's the best situation for a glove-first first baseman: fond memories, and infrequent opportunities to make them less fond. Just ask White Sox fans about Mike Squires; to hear some tell it, the man could fly. Happily, you didn't trip up Greg Walker much. Anyway, having Nixon and Youkilis back in the fold makes for a significantly stronger team as they push into that first big series against the Yankees.
The pitching side of the equation is a little more interesting, if uncertain. No, I'm not harboring all sorts of hopes for Pedro Astacio. It's nice to see him out there, but he's caught in a bit of circular logic: It's going to be hard to entrust tight games to him until he shows he's healthy and reliable, and the Sox don't have the time to entrust tight games to him to prove it because they've got the postseason to think about. However, having Scott Williamson in fully operable order is critical, because the pen isn't deep in terms of reliable right-handed help between the rotation and Keith Foulke. Mike Timlin will always have his moments, but Ramiro Mendoza's still being watched for being a closet Yankee, Terry Adams is never a source of confidence, and Curtis Leskanic has to show he's healthy. It's potentially a very good pen, but Terry Francona has a few kinks to work out, and only two weeks in which to do it.
Recalled LHP Arnie Munoz from Charlotte; activated C-R Sandy Alomar Jr. from the 15-day DL. [9/1]
Purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Bajenaru from Charlotte. [9/3]
Recalled 2B-R Wilson Valdez from Charlotte. [9/7]
Optioned OF-L Grady Sizemore to Buffalo. [8/30]
Recalled RHP Jason Davis from Buffalo. [9/4]
Purchased the contract of RHP Kyle Denney from Buffalo. [9/14]
Wait a minute, where'd Sizemore go? To help Buffalo win the Governor's Cup, which is OK, it isn't like the organization is down on him. (Coco Crisp makes a nifty fourth outfielder, but until Sizemore has a great camp, I suspect somebody would have to make a pretty sweet offer to get him away from them.) The real question isn't what happens next year for Sizemore--center field is his--as much as what happens in the corners. Matt Lawton should be set in one, but Jody Gerut didn't do enough to keep his job next season, so he'll have to hit to earn it. Now that Ryan Ludwick is healthy and hitting again, the question is whether he can push a right-handed bat in amongst those three lefties.
The other interesting stuff is getting peeks at what might happen with Davis and Denney. For now, it seems that converting Davis to the pen is the plan. Keep in mind, they have a club option on Bob Wickman; would picking it up really make sense, given his questionable durability? Since Davis pumps gas in the high 90s, he might join Kaz Tadano, David Riske, and perhaps Bobby Howry and Raffy Betancourt to give the Tribe a pen loaded top to bottom with flamethrowers.
But what about the rotation? Having Denney and Jeremy Guthrie nearly ready certainly helps make that decision that much easier. As is, the Indians have the big three of Sabathia, Westbrook, and Cliff Lee--though Lee has struggled badly in the second half. The Scott Elarton experiment is in one slot, but that might not persist; you can be committed to science up to a point, but only up to a point. Jason Stanford's going to be recovering from this summer's Tommy John, but both Brian Tallet and Billy Traber should be in camp and challenging for jobs. Denney's managed to leapfrog some of the better-regarded arms, so he'll have competition, but he can stake a claim to a rotation slot with a few good outings.
Acquired a PTBNL from the Cubs for C-R Mike DiFelice. [8/31]
Activated RHP Lino Urdaneta from the 60-day DL; recalled RHP John Ennis from Toledo. [9/1]
Purchased the contract OF-L Curtis Granderson from Erie (Double-A); recalled RHP Robert Novoa from Erie (Double-A). [9/12]
Sent RHP Lino Urdaneta outright to Toledo. [9/13]
Activated OF-L Dee Brown from the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Signed 1B/OF-L Matt Stairs to a one-year, $1.2 million dollar extension for 2005. [9/15]
Recalled LHP Aaron Fultz from Rochester. [9/2]
Sent 2B-R Alex Prieto outright to Rochester. [9/7]
Beyond the bevy of homegrown goodness up to witness this latest triumphal march through the AL Central, two things stand out in my mind. First, having to acquire Pat Borders, even if it only cost them a washout, is somewhat embarrassing. But that's the product of having had to watch both Brandon Marsters and Rob Bowen crater this season, and not having invested in a journeyman to cool his heels in Rochester. You could argue that's what Henry Blanco was for, but let's face it, the plan was never to have Matt LeCroy catching so much as he had to. Now that LeCroy is limping and Joe Mauer's damaged, though, the Twins felt understandably needy. Borders wasn't a particularly good catcher 10 years ago, but he has survived, and that gets him a postseason share. If he gets another ring out of all of this, he'll have a last laugh, certainly.
The other interesting predicament is Kubel's. After hitting .377/.453/.667 in New Britain and .343/.398/.560 at Rochester (.352/.413/.590 combined), all in a year where he turned 22, you'd think he'd be an early favorite for 2005 Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, with the elephantine slowness with which the organization seems to accept the quality of the talent on hand, I have to wonder if he'll get a clean shot at a job next spring. He's young, after all ("hasn't paid his dues"), and Lew Ford will probably get first shot at replacing Jacque Jones if they let Jones depart through free agency. There might be another outfield corner available if Shannon Stewart lingers in the DH role, but that depends on what happens with Mauer and LeCroy to some extent. And then there's Restovich and Mike Cuddyer, both of whom would be starting on some teams. I figure Kubel's better than either--and I like both--which ought to make it easy, but barring some aggressive dealing this winter, next spring's going to involve a crowd trying to get its at-bats in. As they demonstrated with Justin Morneau, there's no reason to think that the Twins will come to a quick decision.
Purchased the contract of C-B Dioner Navarro from Columbus; activated RHP Steve Karsay from the 60-day DL; recalled LHP Felix Heredia from Trenton (Double-A); designated OF-R Mike Vento and RHP Juan Padilla for assignment. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Bret Prinz from Columbus. [9/4]
Recalled LHP Brad Halsey from Columbus. [9/9]
I don't think any of us know if Jason Giambi is really well, but I'm glad he's back and hope he's able to play. Consider it my sporting instinct: If the Yankees are to be beaten, I'd prefer they have as few excuses as possible, and lose because they got beat at full strength. Growing up in California, it was always amusing to watch Bill Walsh explain away every defeat as a failure of execution; clearly his master plan was unbeatable, and the opposition a collection of helpless ponces. Not that coaches, managers, or leaders should walk around saying I'm a loser, but sometimes the other guys are pretty good. Anyway, between the injuries and the infections and the tumor, I have to wonder if Giambi's going to be the first big leaguer to come down with scrofula, which would be hard to cure, considering France's desperate shortage of reigning Bourbons these days.
Beyond letting Karsay pitch to see if he'll actually be able to contribute in October, almost everyone's here to watch. Karsay's availability could be huge: Bloody Paul Quantrill has been worn down to the nub, really only leaving Flash Gordon and Mariano "The Red Skull" for bullpen heroism.
Recalled 2B/3B-R Esteban German from Sacramento. [9/1]
Purchased the contract of OF-B Nick Swisher from Sacramento. [9/3]
Recalled RHP Justin Lehr from Sacramento. [9/7]
Designated INF-R Ramon Castro for assignment; purchased the contract of C-B Mike Rose of Sacramento. [9/13]
Recalled RHP Jairo Garcia from Sacramento. [9/14]
Optioned RHP Justin Lehr to Sacramento. [9/15]
Here's a fun test case for whether some are more equal than others: Will Nick Swisher get to play in October, courtesy of the K-Rod Random Exception? Or will the A's be held to the intent of the rules, and have to make do without him? This will bear watching, of course. It would be quite Seligian to try to shut the barn door after the last cow out won the World Series.
Anyway, Swisher fills an immediate need, now that it looks like Jermaine Dye's status seems to have degenerated to "occasionally present." Swisher hit .269/.406/.537 (which translates to a .251 Equivalent Average in the bigs). Depending on your point of view, that could be a switch-hitting Gorman Thomas in the making, or a disappointment after Moneyball. To be fair, it isn't like he's turned out like Greek golden godling, Joe Borchard. To give Borchard, Swisher, and even Todd Linden credit, though, Clay Davenport's research indicates that it's the guys who strike out a lot in the minors who turn out better than you might expect, so all of them could have futures. But in Swisher's case, he can fill the bill now, while pushing Billy McMillon and Bobby Kielty into being a pretty sweet platoon off of the bench.
For once, a Rose by any other name is just a Rose, or in this case, a Rose that earned his keep and deserves a shot at the big leagues. At Sacramento, Mike Rose hit like the new Gregg Zaun (.281/.407/.401), but it's consistent with how he's hit in recent years while drifting from the Snakes to the Red Sox to the Royals to the River Cats. With Adam Melhuse around, it isn't like the A's need a good backup catcher, but it's interesting to see them employing two underrated, switch-hitting catchers who can chip in at the plate. Or perhaps it's exactly what we've come to expect, but it does leave them in a decent spot should something terrible happen to Damian Miller.
Claimed RHP Masao Kida off of waivers from the Dodgers. [9/1]
Purchased the contract of 2B-B Mickey Lopez from Tacoma. [9/7]
It's hard not to like an exercise where you take a flyer on a former prospect in exchange for Pat Borders, although I can understand if Twins' GM Terry Ryan was concerned about having to take Pat Gillick in the deal. Garbe hit only .201/.275/.283 in Double-A this year, so odds are that he won't grow up to be Adam Hyzdu or even Mark Merchant. Even so, he's a problem with promise, not an organizational plaything left over in the toy box by the previous GM. If it brought something, great, otherwise, they got nothing for nothing, while making a classy gesture for Borders' benefit.
Elsewhere, this is Mariners' fans opportunity to become familiar with Reed, arguably the prize in their dumpery of Chief Garcia on the White Sox. Reed hit well with Tacoma after the deal (.305/.366/.455), but with Mike Morse continuing to look like a newfound slugging shortstop at Double-A, the Mariners might not have a key player in the package as much as all-around good stuff. Regardless, they're plugging Reed into center, where he doesn't exactly have a tough act to follow now that Randy Winn is the nominal incumbent, instead of Mike Cameron. Now that Edgar's retiring, Raul Ibanez might get pushed into regular DHing, Winn might get shunted over to left for next year, but beyond that, he's no longer the Mariners' problem, save by choice via mutual option.
So Reed could stake a claim for the job in center now, giving Mariners fans at least some element of schadenfreude at the White Sox's expense, what with the Garcia gambit falling flat. Hopefully, before the end of next year, they'll have Chris Snelling and Shin-Soo Choo ready to go. I know, Snelling's capacity for breaking down regularly does make it seem like he's the love child of a Spinal Tap drummer to be named later, and I'm slighting Jamal Strong.
Recalled RHP Chad Gaudin from Durham; activated CF-R Rocco Baldelli from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of OF-R Matt Diaz from Durham. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Franklin Nunez from Durham. [9/3]
Activated RHP Doug Waechter from the 15-day DL. [9/6]
Activated RHP Joaquin Benoit from the 15-day DL. [9/7]
Claimed LHP Mike Tejera off of waivers from the Marlins; designated RHP Rosman Garcia for assignment. [9/10]
In the Rangers' perpetual quest to find people you can plausibly use to fill out a pitching staff, I really like claiming Tejera. Of course, I've liked almost everyone the Rangers have claimed in the last 10 years at some point or another, and other than Rick Helling...well, let's see...Helling...Kenny Rogers isn't really the same sort of animal, so not him...hmmm, does Ron Mahay count? Brian Shouse?
Anyway, the point is that Tejera is a strike-throwing swingman, and when those come in 'lefty' and on sale, that's extra-handy. Considering the shape the rotation is in, I'd be tempted to start him. Tejera's apparently dropping down these days, coming in at more of a three-quarter or side-armed delivery, which might make him even more useful in the pen, although it could also get him stuck in a situational role on a team that seems always short on people who can finish their own innings cleanly. However, it's a good claim, and given how well this year's pen has turned out, a reinforcement that Texas can use now and into the future.
These are basically tasters, a September sampler plate after five months of generally disappointing courses. Quiroz lost a significant chunk of the season to injury; the next few weeks will do more to inform the Jays about whether they want to stick with the platoons they've relied upon recently, or if Quiroz will be that much closer to mounting a challenge for the big league job. That would work out well in terms of keeping Gregg Zaun around to return to the 'ultimate backup catcher' chores that left him ridiculously overqualified to be an Expo, while giving the team that blend of prospect and veteran that tends to be habitual whenever a young catcher is being broken in. It does reduce Kevin Cash to a throw-in for winter barter, but after how he's hit this year, he might only be that flyer you politely decline to be handed.
Otherwise, although he's clearly the man with a future in a Toronto infield, Russ Adams had a season at Syracuse that only produced memories of Brent Abernathy, instead of erasing them. Hitting just .288/.351/.408 at Syracuse is nice, but it isn't so nice that the crowd of right-handed crash test dummies in the Jays' middle infield can just be pitchforked out of the way. Practically speaking, we've got a guy who so far hasn't hit for power, hasn't walked 10% of the time, doesn't run, and who may not be so hot at short. It would be easy to be disappointed, but to be fair, Craig Reynolds had a lot of the same limitations, and he had a nice career. It's a question of what you want, and the Jays probably aren't happy that Adams seems to have taken Mae West's advice and left them wanting more.
Finally, there's some great reward brought in for having purged Josh Phelps, and that's Crozier. It's within the realm of possibility that he could claim some chunk of the future at first base or DH. Delgado's headed elsewhere, and the thought that Eric Hinske might fill some of that bill someday seems somewhat academic as long as he isn't hitting. (The Jays don't have an internal third base alternative anyway, not unless John Hattig pushes his way up fast. With Hinske signed through 2007, he'll have plenty of opportunity to bounce back at third in Toronto.) So Crozier gets the chance only this sort of organization might give him, with the Jays taking his hitting credentials (.292/.380/.528) from the International League seriously, on the off chance that he can fill the bill for a few years before the arbi engine makes him non-tenderable. He just turned 26, so by the time he hits arbitration, he could be coming off of his Age-29 season. It's in the Jays' interests to see if he can help in the meantime, while watching to see how quickly and well Vito Chiaravalloti makes the jump to Double-A next year.
But you knew all that, didn't you?
Claimed RHP Chad Durbin off of waivers from the Indians. [8/31]
Recalled OF-L Josh Kroeger from Tucson. [9/2]
Recalled OF-L Doug Devore to Tucson. [9/4]
Activated RHP Scott Service from the 15-day DL. [9/5]
Activated C-R Robby Hammock from the 15-day DL. [9/8]
Two guys are worth mentioning here, representatives of the organization's player development program. First, Kroeger's on all sorts of people's watch lists. He's had a nifty season, hitting a combined .331/.386/.587 between El Paso and Tucson after hitting almost identically well at the two levels (.331/.393/.588 at Double-A, .332/.376/.587 at Triple-A). That's an interesting little coincidence, especially since the almost-same thing at one level isn't worth the same at the other, although again, the distinctions are minor: a .248 translated Equivalent Average in the Texas League, versus .254 in the higher PCL. Still, hitting for a high average, slugging well, being as young as Kroeger is (just recently turning 22), there's plenty of reason to think the best sorts of things, especially since the BOB is another hitter's haven. Unfortunately, with both Chad Tracy and Scott Hairston hitting well short of expectations in that same bandbox, I'd suggest that it's important not to get too excited too soon. Kroeger has the advantage of not being in the Twins' system, so he'll get opportunities to play, but I wouldn't expect instant stardom.
On the other hand, Gosling really isn't looking so good, having been touted for a few years. Giving up seven runs per nine at Triple-A is the sort of season where you're just glad nobody got hurt: the player, bystanders, family pets. Although a former flamethrower at Stanford, it wasn't like he was fooling people either, striking out only 4.7 hitters in those same nine, but this was his first year after "minor" shoulder surgery that was supposed to move him beyond last year's struggles. (At this point, I'd beware of any claims of minor shoulder surgery where pitchers and their pitching arms are concerned.) But for the same reasons that getting a good bead on the future of assorted Snakeling hitters, I suppose it's within the realm of possibility that Gosling could turn into a big league pitcher despite years of minor league beatings.
Finally, not that claiming him really advances the 2005 Snakes one whit, but they're getting to the point that they're pretty stretched for innings, and if there's one thing Durbin can do, it's soak up a few innings spot-starting or in long relief.
Recalled OF-L Dewayne Wise from Richmond; optioned RHP Roman Colon to Greenville (Double-A). [8/30]
Released SS-R Jesse Garcia from Richmond. [9/2]
Activated RHP Tim Drew from the 15-day DL. [9/4]
Recalled RHP Roman Colon from Richmond. [9/8]
Recalled RHP Jose Capellan from Richmond. [9/11]
Purchased the contract of LHP Dan Meyer from Richmond. [9/14]
Calling up Capellan deserves the most attention, because it comes in conjunction with the news of Mike Hampton's knee injury. Happily for the Braves, Hampton wasn't automatically among their four obvious choices for October starts. Although Hampton's posted a 7-1 record since the All-Star break, Jaret Wright and John Thomson have been more valuable, and despite his second-half control problems, Russ Ortiz would have to be considered a lock. Hampton's nice second half and reputation probably would get him the nod over Thomson (unfairly) or Paul Byrd (as a matter of taste), but now it makes for a simpler choice. This isn't 2001, the Cardinals aren't vulnerable to lefties as they once were, and the Giants have been chewing through the lefties attempting to "get" Bonds. The Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, Padres, and Marlins have muddled around .500 against portsiders, but none of them lose to them regularly. Would you really want to start Hampton against the Cubs' wall of right-handed power? Or the Marlins? Or in Houston? This isn't the setback some scaremongers might make it out to be.
Meanwhile, the Braves get to look at Capellan. He's two years removed from Tommy John surgery, still has the high-90s heat that made him a surprise prospect after being dug up out of the Dominican in 1998. Two numbers to keep in mind: 152 and 1. That's the number of strikeouts and home runs he's logged in his 139.2 innings this year across three levels before getting called up to his fourth. He might be on the postseason roster without any K-Rod exceptionalism, since he didn't have to have to be slipped onto the 40-man roster at this late date. But regardless, he looks like a potential fill-in for next year's rotation. Byrd, Ortiz, and Wright are all free agents this winter, and not everyone will be kept.
For those of you following the end-of-roster machinations this time of year, his recall doesn't automatically guarantee that Dewayne Wise has to be on the postseason roster as much as that he's there without any of the winking and secret handshakes some teams might have to resort to. I guess the question is whether having a pinch-runner and fifth outfielder around makes sense. There's nobody around to claim the Joe Ayrault third catcher spot, so Wise is competing against potential 11th pitchers and infield reserves like Betemit or Nick Green. The Braves don't have any ridiculously slow regulars, or a strong enough bench to really go out of their way to put Wise into that many situations, so he might be a bit of a luxury; that's the first and last time you'll hear me put Wise and 'luxury' in the same sentence.
Picking up a reserve catcher might make sense when the alternative in case of an injury to either Michael Barrett or Paul Bako might have been Fernando Lunar. But let's face it, if they lose Barrett for October, it doesn't matter if they have Bako or Lunar or DiFelice, they'll have three guys to pick from, and all of them are people who bring to mind an anecdote about Dann Bilardello, working on his situational hitting in the cage one day. The hitting coach barked out 'runners in scoring position,' and Bilardello gets out of his stance, and bellows "Pinch-hitter!" Anyway, hopefully the contingency will never arise.
Far more important was getting Grieve, because it ought to give this team the lefty pinch-hitter it needed. Unfortunately, it might not work out as neatly as the Cubs might like. Grieve's more of a walker and a watcher, and that's great in situations where they need a man on base, but Dusty Baker's more likely to feel the need to get what he had gotten from Todd Hollandsworth earlier this season. He wants balls in play, balls hit hard, hits period. Don't get me wrong--who doesn't? The problem is that with Grieve, that won't happen, so I wouldn't be surprised if Baker ignores him for not entirely fulfilling his wish for what a spare lefty-hitting outfielder is supposed to do. I guess the better news is that if anything bad happens to Moises Alou or Sammy Sosa, then at least the Cubs have a reserve who can step in and help score some runs. As a stretch pickup, it's a great move, because Hollandsworth looks done for the year, and the alternatives are the regrettable Tom Goodwin and Jose Macias.
Recalled C-R Corky Miller from Louisville. [9/4]
Designated 3B-R Brandon Larson for assignment; picked up the contract option on manager Dave Miley for 2005. [9/6]
Purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Myette from Louisville; recalled SS-B Anderson Machado from Louisville. [9/7]
Announced that 3B-R Brandon Larson accepted an outright assignment to Louisville. [9/8]
There are really two things worth commenting on here, at least right now this instant. First, giving Miley another year is a happy development, because he earned it, and if he can keep getting extended mileage out of spare parts, that's better than somebody whose solution to any problem might be hauling Deion Sanders out of retirement. And, of course, the other bit of good news is that it makes it that much more clear that the monster in the closet will remain locked up, unable to make a mockery of the game he so willingly betrayed. If this means that Miley has to go year-to-year, while upper management waits for Pete Rose to unsnarl his hopelessly broken situation, he might get to manage forever.
The other cool development is adding Machado to the list of potential candidates to replace Barry Larkin at short. Although Larkin seems unsure what he wants to do next, the one thing he can't do is play short effectively. So Machado enters the lists to compete with Felipe Lopez for the heir apparent gig behind Larkin. Lopez has more power, but not a lot of power, while Machado's a patient speed guy. Lopez always seems to have an extra thumb afield, whereas Machado has a good tools rep afield. It's a strange, unequal contest, where different types of player are playing for the same prize. If Larkin keeps lingering, I'm inclined to think Machado's the better understudy, because he can pinch-run, spot start for groundball pitchers, and work as a defensive replacement; Lopez needs everyday play--the kind he's getting now--to see if he's ever going to get any better defensively.
Activated C-R Todd Greene from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Recalled 3B-R Garrett Atkins, OF-L Brad Hawpe, and RHPs Chin-Hui Tsao, Allan Simpson, and Chris Gissell from Colorado Springs; purchased the contracts of RHP Adam Bernero and 1B/3B-L Andy Tracy from Colorado Springs. [9/7]
Recalled RHP Ben Howard from Albuquerque; recalled C-R Matt Treanor from Albuquerque. [9/1]
Designated LHPs Tommy Phelps and Michael Tejera for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Small from Albuquerque; signed RHP David Weathers; activated 1B-R Wil Cordero from the 60-day DL. [9/7]
Designated OF-R Chip Ambres for assignment. [9/8]
Outrighted Phelps to Albuquerque and Ambres to Carolina (Double-A). [9/10]
The Marlins are contending for the wild card and all that, and they have to turn to... Aaron Small? Scraping the gunk off of Stormy Weathers? These are the sorts of moves that make last season's inspired pickups of Rick Helling and Chad Fox suddenly look like random grabbery and seat-assignment swapping. It's Aaron Small, for god's sakes. I mean, why not dig up Bob Scanlan while you're at it? He's got all his fingers and toes, and he pitched in the majors once upon a time. If all you want are people to soak up innings in lost or unlosable games, why not give that sort of work to Phelps or Tejera?
Recalled 2B-R Chris Burke from New Orleans. [9/2]
Activated RHP Dan Miceli from the 15-day DL. [9/9]
I have absolutely no confidence in Redding, Duckworth, or Oliver contributing now, at the finish. Redding and Duckworth struggled in New Orleans, far removed from Jimy Williams or his clubhouse ghost. No, what's interesting is whether or not some of these moves might prefigure some winter changes, regardless of whether or not the Astros play into October's second week. Most obvious is Burke, because after winning the PCL Rookie of the Year award on the basis of his .315/.396/.507 season (translated: a .259 big league Equivalent Average), he could help the Astros decide to let Jeff Kent walk this winter, and invest the difference in tying up Lance Berkman in a multi-year deal, or trying to keep up with the bidding on Carlos Beltran. But if instead the money simply disappears into Jeff Bagwell's bank account, that's a shame.
But if the outfield doesn't exactly turn out the way they want, beyond Jason Lane, they also have Taveras. Having made their deal with the Indians this spring to keep him, Taveras justified some of the excitement about him, hitting .335/.402/.386, playing a great center, and swiping 55 out of 66 stolen base attempts successfully. That's only a .235 translated Equivalent Average, so he still has a lot of room for improvement at the plate, but he's not even 23 yet. Next year will probably just be a season where he shuttles between New Orleans and Houston as injuries dictate, but if he hits well enough, the other stuff is good enough to get him a shot.
A fun call-up is Alfaro, a multi-positional jack-of-all-trades with some offensive value. As a Zephyr (a Zeph?), he hit .325/.363/.477 while playing second, third, short, and the outfield. His production comes out to a translated .242 Equivalent Average, not great, but for a utility man who can play anywhere, that's useful enough to carry as an odd jobster and pinch-hitter.
Meanwhile, they get to choke on Jose Vizcaino as well as Brad Ausmus, which is exactly what they wanted. Consider that further proof that you always need to be careful what you wish for. When you're a kid on Christmas after the unwrapping orgy, it's one thing, but when there's stuff like a playoff spot at stake, you're not allowed to get bored with the 'it' toys it turned out only you wanted, especially when they were never that fun in the first place.
Recalled LHP Mike Venafro from Las Vegas. [9/3]
recalled OF-R Chin-Feng Chen from Las Vegas; activated RHP Edwin Jackson from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of 2B-R Jose Flores from Las Vegas; recalled INF-R Antonio Perez and 2B-L Joe Thurston from Las Vegas. [9/7]
If there was something that would make you wonder, it's the decision to plug Nomo into the rotation in a stretch drive where not just the division, but the whole postseason thingy, is on the line. Spotting him twice against the hapless Snakes confirmed he was healthy enough to be up for it, but watching him get torched by the Cardinals has to have created some concern going into the final two weeks of the season. I know, the Cardinals are flat-out great, and it's just one game, but the rotation's performance down the stretch is troubling. Odalis Perez has faded, Brad Penny's on the shelf, Nomo's an obvious question mark, Kaz Ishii's hurt, and Edwin Jackson's dinged up and won't be starting. So you've got an awful lot of Jose Lima and Wilson Alvarez going from options to must-starts. Over 162 games, the depth has been great in keeping the Dodgers in contention, but having so many starters break down during the stretch is crippling in the now, and deadly come the postseason.
Acquired a PTBNL from the Cubs for OF-L Ben Grieve; recalled CF-L Dave Krynzel from Indianapolis. [8/31]
Activated RHP/PH-L Brooks Kieschnick from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Jorge De La Rosa from Indianapolis; acquired LHP Andy Pratt from the Cubs to complete the Grieve deal; acquired LHP Josh Habel from the Giants for RHP Dave Burba. [9/3]
Purchased the contract of RHP Gary Glover from Indianapolis. [9/4]
Purchased the contract of RHP Ben Ford from Indianapolis. [9/6]
Whew, that was close, the Brewers almost didn't have Dave Krynzel on their active roster before the deadline. Of course, having him on the 40-man made him eligible in the first place, so it really wasn't a concern, and since the MLB offices only sketchily observe these sorts of things, I somehow doubt that Bob DuPuy or Sandy Alderson would punish their Seligian masters for playing as fast and loose as they allow everyone else to. Happily, there's no concern of a conflict of interest, what with the Brewers sucking and all.
On a less happy note, it is with no joy that I report the release of Neugebauer. Back between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, his mother wrote in to me to complain about his absence from our top prospects list. I explained that we were worried about his health and his control, and that we generally tried to avoid going wild for pitchers who hadn't gotten out of A-ball. She seemed to accept all of that, and my comment that if he jumped to Double-A and alleviated the other concerns, we'd belatedly tout him, just like everyone else. I don't necessarily feel good about being right, wrong (we did end up naming Neugebauer a Top 40 prospect, a decision I agreed with), and then right the first time after all. Just call me an Election Year flip-flopper, although to be fair, even when we named Neugebauer, it was with standard, and in his case obvious, reservations. Here's hoping he'll be able to put something together, because it would be a lot more fun to be wrong.
Finally, on the still-pulsing prospect front, Krynzel's up, but any hope that he's ready to push into the Milwaukee outfield would be premature, even with right field opened up after the Grieve deal. Krynzel did not have a great season at Triple-A, and his historical problems with adjusting at each new level don't bode well for his holding the job at the start of next season. Brady Clark makes a hell of a fourth outfielder, and a decent enough fill-in for the meantime. With Geoff Jenkins and Scott Podsednik signed-up near-term, I think it's a lot more likely that the rookie who could claim the job in right next spring is Corey Hart, and not Krynzel.
Recalled OF-R Valentino Pascucci from Edmonton. [9/1]
Recalled 3B-R Brendan Harris from Edmonton. [9/7]
Activated RHP Francis Beltran from the 15-day DL. [9/11]
It's the same old story for the Expos, as they get to showcase various baubles they either grew on their own, or received in trade. Harris should get some consideration for third base for next year; Tony Batista didn't earn his keep, even at Expo pricing. Pascucci makes for a more interesting problem in an already crowded outfield. Assuming Nick Johnson can play next year (I know, stifle that dry, sympathetic chuckle), Brad Wilkerson could move back out to center, leaving the outfield corners for some combination of Juan Rivera, Terrmel Sledge, Ryan Church, and Pascucci (.298/.423/.577 at Edmonton). Looking at Equivalent Averages and translated EqAs for the four from this season:
It would look like Church would be an easy choice, but both he and Sledge might need platooning (coming out against lefties), and Rivera's hit well enough to want to see more of. Pascucci might have to outslug the two lefty hitters to really earn a shot, and given that nobody's considered a blue-chipper, it'll boil down to making good impressions now, in the AFL, and in camp. Of course this all assumes that the Spos will ditch their Endy Chavez, something they've shown no signs of doing to date.
Purchased the contract of C-R Joe Hietpas from Binghamton (Double-A); placed C-R Vance Wilson on the 60-day DL (torn ligament - hand). [9/14]
Fired manager Art Howe, effective at the end of the season. [9/15]
"What do you mean, you couldn't win? We gave you Scott Erickson! Karim Garcia! Sheesh, the nerve of some people. We've obviously made our commitment to winning. Next year, we'll show this division what's what."
Yes, I know, it would be great to coax Davey Johnson out of retirement, and let him run the offense and media relations while Rick Peterson handles the pitching staff. It won't happen. I'm far more worried that Peterson will venture where both George Bamberger and Ray Miller have gone before, and try to avoid damaging a superb reputation as a pitching coach while trying to run the whole team. It could work. Managing a pitching staff remains the key area of discretion for a contemporary manager, and running an offense isn't rocket science. Perhaps the right bench coach to help with all that, and that sort of crazy talk could turn into the kind of scheme that's just crazy enough that it might actually work. Stranger things have happened, and not just in New York.
Activated LHP Billy Wagner from the 15-day DL. [9/4]
Released RHP Paul Abbott. [9/8]
Activated RHP Kevin Millwood from the 15-day DL. [9/12]
So here it is, the team that was supposed to win the division by 10 games, or at least most of it. Except for Randy Wolf, the Phillies finally have just about everyone they were counting on back in action, in plenty of time to keep the team close to the heady goal of 85 wins. How about a team chorus to sing "Hail, hail, the gang's all here?" That's sure to pick up everyone's spirits. Most years, 85 wins would be considered a pretty good thing; this year, it's the definition of a pyrrhic season. A few more like this, and nobody's going to be left standing to wonder what all the fuss was about.
Transactions junkie that I am, I'm still happy we had A.J. Hinch on the right team from the get-go, unlike some media outlets. It's not that I'm right all the time or anywhere close to it, but there was an awful lot of ink spilled on A.J. Hinch's whereabouts, with people putting him in Toronto, where he never went. As winter confusion goes, it ranked up there with a D'Amico misunderstanding on the wires a few years back. That was one of those Monarch versus Viceroy butterfly sorts of things, where one isn't the other, and it helps to have their parents handy to sort out who's who.
Activated RHP Kip Wells from the 15-day DL. [9/5]
What needs noticing here is a 'hey, there he is' for Sanchez, finally back in action after a season mostly lost to injury. He spent most of the little time he played at second, so you can take that to mean Bobby Hill's only so much trade bait. I don't get the fascination with Jose Castillo; this year could have been used to see if Hill's part of the near future, and instead, the Pirates didn't really sort which between Sanchez and Hill should be their second baseman for the next several seasons, despite Sanchez missing most of the year. How do you end up doing that, when the Sanchez versus Hill issue was one of the few things they really needed to find an answer on in 2004?
Announced the retirement of LHP Sterling Hitchcock. [9/3]
Purchased the contract of RHP Andy Ashby from Portland. [9/5]
Purchased the contract of LHP Mike Bynum from Portland. [9/10]
Recalled CF-B Freddy Guzman, RHP Brian Sweeney and C-R Humberto Quintero from Portland. [9/13]
I sort of like having Rob Fick here, where he makes a bit of sense, not that he wouldn't have looked handy on the Giant or Cub benches. Otherwise, it's basically the entire season's worth of alternatives for the last five spots on the roster making appearances simultaneously, as if the credits were already rolling. But not entirely. In Ashby's case, it's remarkable that he's pitching so soon after the Tommy John surgery he had last October; he was already back on the mound by June, tossed a couple of shutout innings, and now he's been shut down. You can probably expect him to give the Pads a break as far as getting re-signed for next year, and he might be useful in a swing/long relief role.
The other guy out of place is former famous person Sterling Hitchcock. From the start, he was the sort of cameo you immediately regret, like trying to stick Charles Nelson Reilly in Schindler's List: you immediately wonder which brand of dishwasher detergent you must have put on your corn flakes that morning. But then, having made the mistake of signing him to real money, and only about five years since his career ended, what sort of ending were you expecting?
Finally, I guess it looks like the 'nays' had it on Freddy Guzman. Damned oat-eating whinnying neigh-sayers. These nattering nabobs of vegetarianism reflect a certain herd mentality, refusing to see the bright side of certain propositions. Perhaps it's best that they be put out to pasture. Meanwhile, the Pads still need a player who play center field while also hitting well enough to stick. That isn't T-Long or Jay Payton. With two series against the Giants and two against the Snakes left to play, the Pads aren't out of the wild-card hunt; it makes sense to me to pursue some marginal value on defense, instead of counting on Long or Payton to really do enough to help at the plate. Bochy seems to have chosen the safe tack, going with Payton down the stretch, and I suppose that can't be second-guessed, what with his being paid to be a starting center fielder and having a wealth of experience and all that good stuff. If the Pads get their backs broken on a few whistlers to the gap in Phoenix, though, don't say you weren't warned.
Recalled UT-R Brian Dallimore, OF-L Tony Torcato, and OF-R Jason Ellison from Fresno. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Kevin Correia from Fresno. [9/4]
Someday, Barry Bonds should be offered a watered-down beer commercial with Brian Sabean, with the punchline being "I dragged your sorry ass into contention all year, and all you bring me is turtle piss and Dave Burba?" "We let you sit in the comfy chair, didn't we?" Of course, at that point the whole product promotion angle goes out the window, not unless some former Python will work cheap with Bonds, and no, Carol Cleveland would not do.
Suffice to say Bonds isn't really getting the benefit of a big league pitching staff. Kirk Rueter's on borrowed time, Noah Lowry's had one quality start against a winning team since his recall. Brett Tomko's shown signs of life, fortunately. For all of the fearmongering in New York about the state of Yankees pitching, it's interesting to see two contenders coming down the stretch with nothing resembling strong top-to-bottom pitching staffs. Not that anyone's going to re-write "the book," but it is interesting how two teams may be playing in October courtesy of great hitting--as a team in the one case, or singularly with the Giants--above all else.
As for what's here to witness the big leaguers win, why do you think they have to trade for Dave Burba? Still, I like David Aardsma's shot at being useful, and Todd Linden almost had a good season: .260/.349/.466, and 23 home runs and 60 walks sound handy...but that's in 567 PA in the PCL and that walk-in closet they call a ballpark in Fresno, which reduces his translated Equivalent Average to .217, well short of prospect status.
Outrighted RHP Al Reyes to Palm Beach (A-ball); recalled RHP Dan Haren from Memphis. [8/31]
Activated OF-L Ray Lankford from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Purchased the contract of LHP Carmen Cali from Memphis; activated RHP Kiko Calero from the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Re-purchased the contract of RHP Al Reyes. [9/7]
I guess the cool news is that they made Dan Haren easily available for postseason work, but beyond that minor tweak to make sure they're covered in case of two injuries in the rotation in October, there's not much to report. Lankford will almost certainly get a sympathy spot on the playoff bench as a reward for his enchanting April. I suppose Cody McKay won't have to sit with Mom and watch Dad coach first base in October, instead getting to warm people up in the bullpen. At this late date, there isn't a whole lot to add to the Ankiel story. Throwing entirely from the stretch might fix him, and it might not, but with his sort of talent, you try everything, and then you try some other stuff, before you paste up his pic after that of Steve Blass in Encyclopedia of Strange, Incurable, Odorless, Non-Infectious Diseases.
If there's a name that makes you wonder "who?," it's Cali. Don't get all wild; he's an organizational soldier in his fifth pro season out of Florida Atlantic. He could be around for a dozen years or a dozen days. With the Cardinals short a lefty in the pen while Steve Kline recuperates, it makes sense to spare Ray King wherever possible, meanwhile letting Randy Flores, Ankiel, and Cali fill out the in-game tactical chicanery certain to keep games around three hours. Hey, it's good for beer sales, and with the division won, you gotta do something between now and Oct. 4.