April 16, 2005
April 5-14, 2005
So now the big guy is back, no doubt carried in on his shield. These days, I suspect Schilling would have volunteers to transport him by palanquin to wherever he wanted to go in Beantown, sparing his ankle any of the pressures you and I take for granted.
As frustrating as it might be that Youkilis has been sent down, the man has an option, and the Red Sox are right to use it. Ramon Vazquez is the better choice as the utility infielder and as a lefty alternative to Dave McCarty's bat; depth like this means the Sox have no problems with having weapons they can use in-game from the deepest reaches of the bench. McCarty might seem an unlikely retention, but let's face it, this is his career at this point, filling out a roster while people with futures or presents play everyday in the Fens or with the PawSox. If almost anybody gets hurt, Youkilis will be back, and he'll have the benefit of having kept sharp in the meantime.
Should you be ready to launch a "Free the Greek God of Walks" campaign, don't. What do the Red Sox need? In the lineup, nothing. With Wade Miller's arrival onto the active roster in the offing, the Sox won't need starting pitching. You might want to have more reliable veterans in the pen than John Halama or Matt Mantei, but nobody worth a Youkilis is available, and Boston is better off finding out if Halama or Mantei or Blaine Neal can contribute. As is, they'll have to bump back one of the starters once Miller is activated. If the pen is struggling, I wouldn't be surprised if it was Tim Wakefield, but it isn't like moving Bronson Arroyo wouldn't help the pen. If there's a potential problem, it's David Wells, but that's a problem that, with a healthy Miller, you trade away, because you're already covered for it.
Signed DH-L Travis Hafner to a three-year, $7 million contract, with a club option for 2008. [4/13]
You might think there isn't a lot to add to what Joe Sheehan has said about this particular move. Having locked Hafner in at a relatively modest salary, should a cost-certainty-minded contender need a first baseman or a DH, and should the Indians need to consider it, he'll be eminently dealable. Sensible enough.
However, even with Michael Aubrey, Ryan Garko, and outfield prospects Franklin Gutierrez and eventually Brad Snyder on the way up, the only body really on the bubble (and whose rights they control beyond this year) is 1B/DH Ben Broussard. Aaron Boone isn't locked in for 2006, and he'll have to hit well enough to earn the playing time to guarantee next season. If he's gone, Casey Blake can move back to third base, at which point you've got the kids fighting with Broussard and a damaged and already 27 Jody Gerut for two lineup spots by next spring. PECOTA isn't Coco Crisp's biggest fan; factor in his replaceability by either Gutierrez or right fielder Grady Sizemore, and you've got another outfield slot in the mix.
Hafner might never repeat last season, but Mark Shapiro's got a lot of play in this roster, and a lot of potential combinations with which to stock the outfield, first and third bases, and the DH slot. Six lineup positions aren't really in question, but there are enough variants and enough questions on who's going to be ready to make the financial elements of this move simply gravy for a straightforward enough bit of modest risk.
Released DH-R Dean Palmer. [4/7]
Voided the outright assignment of RHP Gary Knotts and placed him on the 15-day DL (sore shoulder), retroactive to 4/1. [4/8]
Beyond the appreciation of how bad the bad news of the Ordonez contract is, I guess I'm disappointed on a more academic level that we didn't get another season of a platoon of Thames and Bobby Higginson. Although it was just about 60 games, Thames showed he can hit in the big leagues, and while Higgy's .346 OBP against right-handed pitching the last three years isn't a huge asset, it makes for a player you can use to spot Thames against the tougher righties. Yes, it wouldn't have been very ambitious, but I guess I'm not sold on the idea that the Tigers can do any better than third in their best of all possible worlds.
I guess the real problem is there being too many vaguely similar hitters around to do the same sorts of things. Thames and Craig Monroe are both right-handed sluggers who don't walk much, making the signing of Ordonez--another right-handed slugger who doesn't walk much--that much more strange. If Thames shines, odds are they'll cut Higgy, and while that's sensible in light of whose rights they'll want to control in the years to come, it would be a move that, like the Ordonez add, didn't have to happen.
Well, rats. As someone who keeps championing Teahen as something more than a Dickensian name in your morning boxscore, it's a little disappointing to see him hit the DL so early. Since it won't cost the Royals their shot at a World Series title, I think we can afford to wait. Meanwhile, McEwing and Tony Graffanino can hold down third base without radically altering the team's fortunes.
Placed RHP Carlos Silva on the 15-day DL (torn meniscus - knee). [4/9]
Signed LHP Jimmy Anderson to a minor league contract. [4/13]
The news for both Morneau and Silva seems good, but considering that the Twins have spent an entire winter spreading sunshine about Joe Mauer's knee, I'll believe it when the activations are made. As is, the replacements, however temporary, are pretty good, and seeing Gassner and Tiffee play in games that count might even push the Twins into shaking things up on the roster.
In Gassner's case, he's not a bad prospect as guys who might grow up to be fourth starters go, and neither Joe Mays nor Kyle Lohse have earned strangleholds on their jobs. In Tiffee's case, a couple of good spot starts in the first-base mix (most will go to Matt LeCroy) might help endanger second baseman Luis Rivas' job in the starting lineup, and by extension, perhaps Juan Castro's spot on the bench. If you're willing to indulge me this bit of wishcasting, in such a circumstance, Tiffee would play a lot of third, and either Michael Cuddyer could play second, or Nick Punto could soak up a lot of starts at second with Cuddyer resuming last year's roving role.
Just pray that Anderson was signed to replace Gassner in Rochester, and nothing more.
Purchased the contract of RHP Kirk Saarloos from Sacramento. [4/6]
Losing Madritsch for anything between a month and a season might seem like rough going, but the rotation isn't understaffed, not yet at any rate. Joel Pineiro came off of the DL on Tax Day, so they still have a fivesome, not to mention well-travelled swingman Ron Villone knocking around in the bullpen. Until we know how long Madritsch is out, this will be less of a setback for the team than it is for Madritsch; as Will Carroll notes, the real source of concern for the Mariners should be Gil Meche's elbow.
All of this makes Ryan Franklin a necessary evil.
To their credit, the Jays saw it was April, used the off days, and avoided burning a spot on a one-time-use fifth starter prior to Lilly's return from the DL. As the solid second fiddle in a rotation boasting Roy Halladay, the two kids (David Bush and Gustavo Chacin), and an improving Josh Towers, the Jays' rotation might end up being a pretty good story as the season progresses.
Still, Gross' demotion provides us with a disgruntling conclusion to one particularly sunny spring story. Anyone who wants to be regruntled will probably have to take it up with Mr. Ricciardi. Really, there wasn't a whole lot of alternative. Right field belongs to Alexis Rios for the time being by dint of getting here first, and the left-field platoon of Frank Catalanotto and Reed Johnson is an understated asset. No, if Gross is going to get his shot, it'll have to be because Rios tanks badly or one of Eric Hinske, Corey Koskie or Shea Hillenbrand gets hurt, opening up the DH slot. If that doesn't happen, there's always the hope that Hillenbrand might be dealt in July.
Signed LHP Darren Oliver to a minor league contract. [4/10]
Re-signed C/UT-R Robby Hammock to a minor league contract. [4/13]
There isn't a lot of excitement here, but there is an attritional grind. After having to rush up Cormier in addition to keeping an unready Mike Gosling around, the injuries to Villareal and Jose Valverde are beginning to hurt. Happily, both pitchers should be back by early May, which leaves Greg Aquino's elbow to drive the Snakes--and our own Will Carroll--to distraction.
In light of these losses, however temporary, Oliver has been added because the organization isn't really as deep in pitching talent as it has been reputed to be. Beyond Edgar Gonzalez, Tucson is already relying on guys like Chris Michalak in its rotation, and Double-A Tennessee isn't stocked with guys who are very close to the bigs. While Oliver may be as overripe as a sandwich you left in the car over a hot weekend, his ability to keep hanging around is proof that some people will eat anything.
Claimed LHP Frank Brooks off of waivers from the Dodgers. [4/12]
A nifty enough snag; the odds are good that Brooks will spare the Braves the indignity of having to summon C.J. Nitkowski again. Of course, I've been singing Brooks' praises as a cheap solution for a club's situational lefty needs for more than a year, so who knows, maybe he'll finally get an extended opportunity to prove me right.
It's mid-month, and whatever drama there is the pen, what's important is that Prior is back in operating condition. If the Cubs are going to challenge the Cardinals at all--and I'm one of the people who doesn't think it's all that improbable--it'll be because of the rotation's big four. The concern, as ever, is that Baker understands that too, but acts on it differently, going to the whip early and trying to catch the Cards and win the pennant by the All-Star break.
The Cubs don't have a deep lineup to begin with, so losing Walker for any stretch isn't good news, even if it looks like he'll only miss a month or two instead of the entire season. In his place, the Cubs might rely on Jerry Hairston, Jr. as a near-everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter, and drop Corey Patterson down in the order, where his power might replace Walker's missing wattage. The danger is that DBaker might instead do as he did last year in the first half, after Alex Gonzalez broke down. He lurched from Ramon Martinez to Rey Ordonez and back again, never really picking between them because neither was up for the job. If Baker dithers with Neifi Perez or Jose Macias because Hairston is the new guy, he stands a great chance of wasting an awful lot of at-bats proving what's already pretty well understood, that Perez and Macias can't play.
Which is not to say that fortune favors the future; not here, not on a Baker ballclub. Fontenot can expect the usual dry results of being an object of Dusty love: lots of time on the bench with the old man himself, lots of witnessing baseball being played, and maybe the occasional spot start against the toughest right-hander in the league on a particularly cold night.
Announced that MLB suspended OF-L Jorge Piedra for 10 days for violating the substance abuse policy. [4/11]
There's an awful lot of little--but good--stuff here, although I am annoyed with the demotion of Lopez (who has since been claimed off waivers by Arizona). Snagging Restovich off of waivers and picking up Seay for scrap were both sweet pickups. Restovich has been plugged into a right-field platoon with Brad Hawpe, while Seay stepped directly into a pen already being shored up by Tsao's return. While Relaford is best employed as a utilityman, it looks like he'll horn in on Jeff Baker's playing time, not that they aren't both going to lose out to Garrett Atkins once he returns.
More directly, I'm interested in seeing how Restovich does in an ideal hitting environment. As Rany Jazayerli has argued, Coors Field inflates run scoring not just because of how well the ball travels, but because playing at altitude cuts down on strikeouts. Enter Restovich, a player whose biggest weakness is his command of the strike zone. Like Fonzie Bichette or Jeffrey Hammonds (or Jerald Clark) before him, Restovich might be the sort of guy who gets an outsized benefit from playing in Denver's thin air. That might be bad news for Hawpe, a converted first baseman who looks it in the outfield, because Restovich gets generally good marks for his arm and athleticism in right.
As for the pen, with Scott Dohmann torching scoreboards and both Brian Fuentes and Byung-Hyun Kim struggling with their command, the opportunities are there for Seay and Tsao to quickly claim primary roles. However they do, I'm just bemused by the fun combination of names, sure to trip up broadcast crews all season long to become savior: Seay, Tsao. Add in Kim, and a name like Dohmann sticks out like John Saxon in a kung fu movie.
Claimed OF-R Reggie Abercrombie off of waivers from the Diamondbacks and optioned him to Jupiter (A-ball). [4/6]
Placed RHP Ismael Valdez on the 15-day DL (fractured fibula). [4/14]
Valdez's latest breakdown is just further proof that some of us are born made of softer clay. However many barbs get tossed his way from within the game about what this means as far as his toughness, they're all unfair. Valdez struggles to keep healthy under the day-to-day grind of being a professional athlete; most people would. In the same way that various media doofuses and ex-players might cite The Babe or Jumbo Wells or the Krukker, all on the road to yammering about Nolan Ryan regularly throwing 200 pitches on rollerskates into a typhoon's headwind, you can discard the criticism. The difference between Valdez or someone like Juan Gonzalez on the one hand, and Joe Carter or Terry Mulholland on the other, serves as an important reminder that the 'G' column on the spreadsheet represents an underrated skill: being able to play.
In Valdez's absence, the Fish will get to trot out the Scuffy Moehler comeback. I'm not as critical of that as some. Not that he was ever a great pitcher, but we're talking about a fifth starter's slot, pitching in Miami's muggy bottomland. There are worse things they could have wound up with.
Signed RHP/PH-L Brooks Kieschnick to a minor league contract. [4/7]
I'm willing to bet that a dual-purpose ballplayer like Kieschnick is that much more useful in a ballpark where runs come cheaply. Most managers seem to favor carrying a 12th pitcher however many times they can afford to, and if he can also fulfill most of the job responsibilities of a professional pinch-hitter as well, so much the better. It will be interesting to see whether Garner calls on Kieschnick, and if so, whether he'll use him as a mid-inning pinch-hitter for the pitcher (or Brad Ausmus, or Adam Everett), and then puts him out on the mound.
Designated LHP Frank Brooks for assignment. [4/11]
With the panicked tocsins getting sounded much too quickly in Flushing, losing Cameron almost gets lost as a footnote in what's already being treated as some sort of disaster. But things really aren't that bad. Not only are none of the other teams in the division looking like they're about to run off and hide, the Mets have already lurched from a losing streak to a winning streak, and that with a few stand-ins.
Heilman's opportunity only exists because of Kris Benson's injury, so he won't be here for long. There's a silver lining to Cameron's absence (expected to end before the month's out), because combined with Eric Valent limping along, an opportunity for Victor Diaz to get in a few at-bats has been created. With a team counting on Cliff Floyd's health and Doug Mientkiewicz's bat, knowing your options is a good thing. Since Diaz can hit more than well enough to stick, this could be a situation where Willie Randolph skips the Torre playbook and creates a role for a kid who can play.
The best possible spin? Well, as much as I've come to respect last year's decision to prefer Castillo's up-side over the presumably safer choices of Bobby Hill or the occasionally present Freddy Sanchez, I guess this does give David Littlefield an opportunity to see what Sanchez is good for. If the Bucs wind up having Sanchez looking good and Castillo fully healed up by June, Littlefield might even have stuff to barter with beyond the usual rented retreads. Meanwhile, Duffy gets a little taste of the bigs. Eventually, Duffy and Nate McLouth will need to be taken seriously, and not just because this is the team that calls Tike Redman a starter.
Signed OF-L Kerry Robinson to a minor league contract. [4/7]
The good news in losing first Dave Roberts for two weeks and Young forů well, perhaps forever, is that it has created extra time for Xavier Nady to make the case for why he's useful. The not-so-good news is that these losses have put the Pads in the predicament of having dubious fill-ins like Garcia and Adam Hyzdu on the roster. I suppose Garcia gives them a notional backup for Khalil Greene at short, since Geoff Blum's utility at that particular spot within a utility infielder's job description would be sort of ad lib. When Roberts comes back, at least the bench will then have Nady to frighten people with, but basically, it's not a good unit. An injury in the infield could particularly handicap their shot at contention.
Signed RHP Al Levine to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Fresno. [4/7]
Okay, losing the lineup's other purported star in addition to Barry Bonds really sort of cements Pedro Feliz in the outfield. I guess the upside is that it gives Jason Ellison a clear shot at some playing time. With Feliz now a regular, there was need for somebody to step in as J.T. Snow's platoon partner, and what better way to see if Niekro is ever going to be anything more than a weak echo of a famous name, cluttering up the 40-man? Admittedly, I have no expectations for the Giants being in the playoff race, so evaluating what some people here are for doesn't seem like time wasted. Season ticket holders used to getting their disappointments down the stretch or in October might disagree.
Re-signed OF-L Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract. [4/6]
Pulsipher, breaking down? This is one of those non-news news items, like the continuing collapse of civilization through deadly diseases from Africa, the teaching of creationism is public schools, or the latest military appropriations scandal. What's more interesting is how this actually helps the Cards, because Cali can pitch. Long-term, he's really just an extra situational lefty on a team that already has Ray King. Fellow lefty Randy Flores is filling a different role, since he's here as a long reliever, and that's a bit handy as long as the durability of guys like Chris Carpenter (and eventually Matt Morris) is in question. Still, Cali could come in handy if King breaks down, or as a guy to have on the postseason roster instead of the fifth starter.
Purchased the contract of INF-B Carlos Baerga from New Orleans; placed 1B-R Wil Cordero on the 15-day DL (knee); claimed RHP Travis Hughes off of waivers from the Rangers, and optioned him to New Orleans. [4/7]
Even in ordinary circumstances, the disappearance of the noisome Cordero would be worth celebrating, but for the Nats, it's better still since it gives Frank Robinson a choice of just leaving Nick Johnson alone, and starting him against righties and lefties both. If he absolutely has to sit Johnson down some day when he's healthy and a lefty is on the mound, it might make for a useful time to spot Tony Blanco. If that comes at the price of a few pinch-hitting appearances squandered on the temporarily present Baerga, so be it.