November 29, 2004
November 17-22, 2004
Prospects for a problem, right? Well, yes and no. First, Juan Rivera's not that far behind Guillen in terms of his production last year:
Player AVG OBP SLG MLVr VORP Rivera .307 .354 .465 .173 30.2 Guillen .294 .351 .497 .140 36.4Basically, these are two right-handed hitters who play a pretty good right field, so I wouldn't exactly call Rivera a prospect. The man's already shown he can play. But the two of them are also not separated by all that much age: Rivera was born in July of '78, Jose Guillen in May of '76. Even if you give credit to Rivera for his being buried in a Yankees system that wasn't going to give him many chances, he's not that young, he's in the middle of his career. Angels fans might take particular pleasure in knowing that Rivera busted out in the last two months of the season after finally being entrusted with a full-time job, hitting .370 and slugging .549. Will that good stuff continue next year? To an extent, but not really any more than what the Angels could have reasonably expected from Guillen if his issues with management weren't in play.
So they really haven't changed what they can expect offensively, with the added benefits of cutting payroll (since losing Guillen gives them almost $4 million extra to kick into the pile they're offering to whatever shortstop is on their must-have list) and they get Izturis. Picking up Izturis is handy on a couple of levels: even if Adam Kennedy's injury encourages the Angels to bump David Eckstein across the keystone to second base, somebody needs to be the utility infielder. Alfredo Amezaga certainly didn't stake any claims, but admittedly, having Izturis is more insurance than anything else.
Of course, there's also Chone Figgins, but he can probably bet on a continued multi-task job on the roster, where he moves among third base, second base and the outfield; Izturis should spare him from any work at short. But now that they have Izturis, they don't have to rush Alberto Callaspo or rely on Amezaga, while also having the freedom to deal Eckstein once Kennedy's healthy, if not before.
All in all, a nifty bit of clubhouse politics, payroll savings, depth acquisition, and all while giving up very little to achieve it. Hats off to Bill Stoneman, even if it's understood he's exploiting an industry-wide understanding of Jim Bowden's sense of taste.
Announced that OF-R Gabe Kapler signed with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Leagues. [11/23]
Not the sort of loss that will break the world champeen's collective back. Although Kapler was handy as a platoon bat, he wasn't going to grow beyond that role at 29, and this was an opportunity for him to cash in on the cachet of being the spare hunk associated with Boston's happy season. Kapler was free talent nabbed after his release by the Rockies, and Theo Epstein and company know how to replace players of this caliber.
Purchased the contracts of RHPs Kris Honel, Matt Smith and Sean Tracey, IF-R Pedro Lopez, 1B-L Casey Rogowski and LHP Paulino Reynoso; signed RHP Jon Garland to a one-year, $3.4 million contract. [11/19]
Three million smackers: it's fast becoming the market-ish rate for fourth starters. You can have aspirations of growing up to be third starters, or you could be happily settled into a Stuart Smalley-like "I'm a fourth starter, and I'm OK," if you have leverage and a track record for good health, it looks like you get $3 million, few questions asked. I've always liked Garland; at 25, having been reliably able to pitch a fifth of the schedule the last three years, he got the market rate. I keep hoping he'll turn some corner and get much better, but there isn't much by way of statistical indicators to inspire that faith.
Re-signed RHPs Jake Robbins and Kenny Rayborn and OF-R Ernie Young to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [11/23]
Signed RHP Troy Percival to a two-year, $12 million contract. [11/17]
Outrighted RHPs Nate Cornejo and Matt Roney, LHP Felix Sanchez and IF-L Don Kelly to Toledo; purchased the contract of RHP Mark Woodyard; activated 2B-L Fernando Vina and RHPs Fernando Rodney and Chris Spurling from the 60-day DL. [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of 3B-L Mark Teahen, C-R Justin Huber, and RHPs Ambiorix Burgos and Devon Lowery. [11/18]
Purchased the contracts of LHP Francisco Liriano, RHP Travis Bowyer and 1B Garrett Jones. [11/17]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Scott Tyler and LHP Dave Gassner. [11/19]
Castro should be sending something more than a fruit basket to his agent this year. As much as three years for a 32-year-old utility infielder with little offensive value and an overstated defensive reputation? Castro seems to have hoodwinked some people into believing he had a good year after hitting .244/.277/.378; his career numbers are .226/.269/.331. And the "small market" Twins toss at least $2.5 million at this guy? Plus up to a quarter-million dollars in incentives? He isn't demonstrably better than Augie Ojeda or Nick Punto, he isn't worth a 40-man roster spot at this time of year, and getting him now should hurt an organization with the sort of farm depth the Twins can boast. Consider this just another bad move to add to Terry Ryan's lackluster shopping history, and another source of hope for every other team in the underwhelming AL Central.
Claimed SS-R Ferdin Tejeda off waivers from the Padres. [11/22]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Chris Mabeus, C-L John Baker, C-R Jeremy Brown and OF-L Jason Perry; re-signed LHP Steve Smyth to a minor league contract; signed UT-L Jermaine Clark, RHPs Britt Reames, Jimmy Serrano, Evan Fahner and Billy Sylvester, UT-R Hiram Bocachica, OF-B Shawn Garrett, and DH-L Jack Cust to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [11/19]
Some combinations are simply a question of the whens and wheres. I mean, sure, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, you could see that coming. K-Mart and Martha Stewart. So, Jack Cust, in a Billy Beane organization? What were the odds?
Acquired INF-R Billy Hogan from the Padres for LHP Randy Williams; outrighted SS-B Ramon Santiago to Tacoma; purchased the contracts of OF-L Shin-Soo Choo, SS-R Mike Morse and OF-R Wladimir Balentien. [11/19]
It's interesting to consider that this was Gonzalez's fate, especially after all of the trade rumors that swirled around him last winter. It appears Chuck LaMar set his value too high, even into last spring, so he didn't get dealt. Fifty bad innings on a bad team won't keep him out of baseball; he'll be in the mix somewhere for somebody's fourth or fifth rotation slot.
Lou Pote, Agustin Montero, Shane Bazzell, Jason Standridge, Vladimir Nunez, and Jose Veras, OF-R Andres Torres, and 2B-R Esteban German to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs; re-signed OF-L Jason Conti, 1B/OF-R Jason Hart, INF-R Manny Alexander, and RHP Rosman Garcia to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs; signed RHP Chris Young to a three-year, $1.5 million contract through 2007 with a club option for 2008; signed SS-R Jace Brewer to a minor league contract; claimed 2B-B Ruddy Yan off of waivers from the White Sox. [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of 1B/DH-B Jason Botts and RHPs Josh Rupe and Nick Masset. [11/20]
A pair of odd-ish moves, one because it's out of the ordinary, and the other because its wisdom remains to be demonstrated. Yes, they got stuck giving Young a bigger chunk of change than you'd like to on a rookie because the Sacramento Kings were attempting to spirit him away to the NBA, but he'll be 26, he is already in their plans for next year's rotation, and he already has a year and a half above A ball. It isn't that much money that they've committed to, as much as they're just going to have a little bit of an incentive to be patient with him as he continues to develop his power/curve assortment. It's to the Rangers' credit that they swiped him from Omar Minaya for Einar Diaz in another in a glut of ill-considered Expos moves, but Young had been previously sold short by the Pirates, having been dealt for Matt Herges. Not that Young's bound for the Hall of Fame, but having been flipped for Diaz and Herges is sort of amusing, and he should end up being more valuable from here on out than the two of them (or any of the other bits involved in those deals).
Far more strange is picking up Yan. He's not really a great investment of a spot on your 40-man roster, but I suppose he's not the worst choice. He's not all that young, since he's about to turn 24 and he didn't exactly dominate Double-A, but he is fast, he can bunt, he switch-hits, and man, if you're looking for some sort of Julio Cruz fix, aside from my sympathies, I guess Yan fits your bill. But you're talking a guy with Alex Sanchez's power and instincts on the bases, and no matter how entertaining those "qualities" might be, you can generally find better replacement fodder in the minor league free-agent market. There won't be a nickel's worth of difference between what German and Yan would contribute if the Rangers were forced to call upon either.
Re-signed C-L Greg Myers to a minor league contract with a spring NRI. [11/23]
Regardless of whether the opening months of the season belong to Kevin Cash or Guillermo Quiroz, the job behind the plate will eventually go to Quiroz. The question is who the Jays should keep around as their card-carrying veteran caddy, and in this case, it appears that they've convinced Myers to put off retirement another year so that he can fulfill the role. This isn't all bad; his rep as a backstop is stronger than Gregg Zaun's, and he gives the Jays a bat from the left side of the plate to alternate with either of the right-handed hitting kids.
Outrighted UT-R Tim Olson, 2B-R Andy Green and OF-L Doug DeVore to Tucson; purchased the contracts of LHP Bill Murphy, and RHPs Jason Bulger, Enrique Gonzalez, Dustin Nippert, Ramon Antonio Pena, and Justin Wechsler and OF-R Marland Williams. [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of LHP Russ Rohlicek and C-R Geovany Soto from West Tenn (Double-A). [11/19]
Re-signed LHP Glendon Rusch to a two-year contract. [11/20]
What will be interesting is seeing if the Cubs will seek to keep Rusch intentionally in a swing role, or if they'll instead seek to make him into a rotation regular. It could depend on whether or whomever else Jim Hendry signs up. I don't expect we'll see Ryan Dempster flipped into the rotation, or Dusty Baker consider Todd Wellemeyer or Sergio Mitre or Jon Leicester for that last spot behind the front four of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux. With various concerns about all four, signing up Rusch should be all the veteran insurance they need, while still creating opportunities for the system's bounty.
With guys like Renyel Pinto, Bobby Brownlie and Jon Connolly on the way up, the question really will be whether Hendry wants to use the last open slot in the rotation as a destination for the farm system's fine prospects, or if Baker will whine for some extra veteran to compensate for the failures of 2004. It would be a mistake to sign up some randomly generated $3 million crash test dummy, a la Cory Lidle, but what happens as far as casting for the open rotation spot will tell us a lot about who's in charge. I'd happily settle for Rusch in case none of the kids pan out in March, knowing that somebody else will break down, somebody else will probably be ready later on, and that Rusch will be good for plenty of work in whatever role he's called upon to fulfill.
Re-signed C-B Javier Valentin to a one-year, $450,000 contract. [11/23]
Re-signed 1B/3B-L Andy Tracy to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI; purchased the contracts of RHPs Ubaldo Jimenez, Juan Morillo and Ryan Speier, 2B-R Jayson Nix, OF-L Jeff Salazar, and 1B-R Ryan Shealy. [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of 1B-R Jason Stokes, RHPs Yorman Bazardo, Randy Messenger and Chris Resop and OF Eric Reed; signed LHP Jim Crowell to a minor league contract; re-signed OF-L Matt Padgett to a minor league contract; outrighted RHP Lincoln Holdzkom to Albuquerque. [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of OF Luke Scott, RHPs Jared Gothreaux and Juan Gutierrez and LHPs Wandy Rodriguez and Mark McLemore from Greenville; outrighted RHP Jeremy Griffiths to Round Rock (Double-A). [11/19]
Purchased the contracts of 1B/OF-L Brad Nelson, SS-R J.J. Hardy, RHPs Luis Pena and Mike Jones and LHP Jeff Housman; signed C-R Pat Borders to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [11/17]
Outrighted RHP Shawn Hill and SS-R John Labandeira to New Orleans. [11/18]
Jose Guillen? Well, what can you say, except that Jim Bowden does have his fancies, and he indulges them, especially when there's nobody around to complain about the bill. I'm not as down on this move as I am on the cynical, inept signings of Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla, but that's because Guillen's a pretty useful player. Not a decisively better player than Rivera, unfortunately, and not worth a Maicer Izturis' worth of difference, even if you can get past the added expense or your getting gulled by the team that had Guillen and wanted him gone, gone, gone. Among the few and invariably bad moves Bowden has made, this one was less bad.
But cynical and inept? The ineptitude is a matter of history: Castilla won't hit all that well, Guzman's not a shortstop you build around, and Guillen's a temperamental rental who might just be the straw that breaks the back of an equally temperamental (if more crotchety) Frank Robinson. These moves are supposed to inspire season-ticket sales, but consider that I was bruiting season ticket plans, and in discussing them with a friend, he commented that my interest in 30-40 games, although commendable, was 30 or 40 more than he'd care to watch now that the team was going to be a less-than-mediocre collection of "won'ts" instead of "maybes." Yet somehow, these moves are being foisted on an enthusiastic and credulous local media as progress.
Where's this team going to be after the twin novelties of a ballclub (and the automatic sales that meant) and a new ballpark (ditto)? What else will sustain fans? Perhaps Bowden deserves to stay, if only to watch the team he's built. The misfortune is that he won't have to pay for the privilege, and after games get played and disappointments mount, I have to wonder how many others will. Now that the cat's out of the bag about how new stadia, however nifty, do not fuel contention, the Expos will have to earn fan loyalty through… well, what? Not through growing the product, not when they claim they're hunting big game, and then bring home a couple of strays and a possum.
Purchased the contracts of OF Ambiorix Concepcion, OF-R Angel Pagan and RHP Matt Lindstrom. [11/19]
Signed RHP Kris Benson to a three-year, $22.5 million contract with a $7.5 million option for 2008. [11/22]
Signed OF-L Jason Tyner to a minor league contract. [11/24]
Joe Sheehan's already touched on this, but consider that Kris Benson's VORP last year (22.4) was in the same vicinity as Miguel Batista (22.6), Jeff Suppan (22.4) and Mark Redman (22.2). All were free agents recently, and all got considerably less than Benson's haul. Meanwhile, I doubt that Paul Wilson (2004 VORP: 24.6) is going to get anything like this sort of money. If the Mets are betting that Benson plus pitching coach Rick Peterson is going to produce a pitcher worthy of that compensation, I'd think you could get a lot more bang for your buck by signing somebody with an equally good track record for a figure far closer to the $4-5 million per that a guy like this seems to command on the market. Perhaps Minaya is thinking that this deal, so similar to the one he gave Livan Hernandez in April of 2004, will generate similar results, but at this point, I'd just chalk that up as a case where just about anything involving Livan Hernandez is remarkable for his consistently doing better than expected. Hoping for the same from Benson seems foolhardy.
Purchased the contracts of RHP Francisco Butto, Robinson Tejeda and Zach Segovia, LHP Eude Brito, C-R Carlos Ruiz, OF-R Chris Roberson. [11/18]
Purchased the contracts of RHPs Matt Peterson and Jeff Miller and Leo Nunez, 1B-R Brad Eldred, OF-B Rajai Davis, OF-Ls Chris Duffy and Nate McLouth; designated OF-Rs J.J. Davis and Tony Alvarez, 1B-L Carlos Rivera, and INF-B Abraham Nunez for assignment. [11/19]
Acquired LHP Randy Williams from the Mariners for INF-R Billy Hogan. [11/19]
Williams isn't what you'd classically refer to as a prospect: he's almost 30 and an organizational soldier. But he is left-handed, he did just get a taste of the bigs in September and he did strike out 64 in 79.1 innings at Tacoma, and the Mariners didn't want to deal with the nuisance of potentially losing him on waivers or in the Rule 5 draft. So you can understand the interest in picking him up from the Pads' perspective, since he might make for a serviceable and cheap second lefty in the pen. Since it comes in exchange for a 2003 draftee whose future seems a bit dodgy, it's a nifty little move by Kevin Towers.
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Fred Lewis, RHP Scott Munter, OF-B Dan Ortmeier, LHP Brian Burres and LHP Erick Threets from Fresno; outrighted OF-R Carlos Valderrama, IF-L Jamie Athas, IF-R Brian Dallimore outright to Fresno. [11/19]