July 28, 2005
Losing Marrero isn't going to help the Orioles' diminishing fortunes. Not that a platoon outfielder is a critical cog, but Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons all aren't doing much damage against lefties, and outfield reserves like Newhan and B. J. Surhoff hit lefty as well. That leaves Lee Mazzilli with a solution that involves putting Sammy Sosa in the field and getting utility infielder Chris Gomez into the lineup if he wants another right-handed hitter against the Randy Johnsons of this world. And no, someone like Keith Reed or Ramon Nivar won't fill the bill.
Presumably, Mr. Newhan did not respond to the news of his call-up by telling the people of Ottawa how much John Waters movies suck, or how much The Wire made him afraid to go out at night. Conversely, let's hope he didn't remind them what he really thinks of their city, and instead had the good sense to slip away quietly, like an Irsay in the night.
Signed RHP Craig Hansen to a major-league contract; transferred RHP Matt Mantei from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/25]
Designated LHP John Halama for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Manny Delcarmen from Pawtucket. [7/26]
Placed OF-L Trot Nixon on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled LHP Lenny DiNardo from Pawtucket; claimed RHP Luis Mendoza off of waivers from the Padres, and assigned him to Wilmington (A ball). [7/27]
The legend of Manny Delcarmen is one of those things that seems to keep happening to the Red Sox, like the long-rumored greatness of Reggie Harris or Josias Manzanillo or Andy Yount. But in Delcarmen's case, Tommy John surgery is something we understand considerably better these days, and anyone who can dial up heat into the high 90s is worth giving the time of day to. I see this as less a case of showcasing him and more one where the Sox may well just plug him in and let it ride. They've seen plenty of veteran relievers fail this season, and the only guys who deserve any job security on the basis of what they've done for Boston this year are Mike Timlin and side-arming lefty situational specialist Mike Myers. Between Double-A and Pawtucket, Delcarmen has struck out 59 hitters in 47 innings, while walking 23 and allowing 40 hits (three of which have left the park). Wild? Sure, but keep in mind, struggling through regaining your command is part of the process after surgery.
Less happy is Nixon's latest breakdown, in no small part because Kevin Millar's power is still on vacation. It's way too soon to talk about calling up Brandon Moss or David Murphy, which leaves Theo Epstein waiting on getting Nixon or Gabe Kapler back. Kapler is crushing the ball at Pawtucket, so this may finally be his big opportunity to do something for the Sox more regularly than last season's exercise in simply suiting up. Still, Nixon's a critical cog in a lineup that can't afford to lose any lefty power, so keep an eye on Will Carroll's Under the Knife columns for regular updates on his condition.
Placed DH-L Travis Hafner on the 15-day DL (concussion), retroactive to 7/17; purchased the contract of DH-L Jeff Liefer from Buffalo; recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Buffalo; optioned RHP Fernando Cabrera to Buffalo. [7/26]
As much as it sucks to have Hafner out (and here's hoping for a complete and speedy recovery for Hoss; he's expected back in another week or so), this is exactly the situation in which you want to have a guy like Liefer around. Although stretched to play any position, Liefer can at least hit well enough to earn his keep, and he was shining in Buffalo by hitting .321/.388/.595. About to turn 31, Liefer has no real career horizons, but it's still worth pondering leaving him at DH, moving Hafner to first base upon his return, and getting Ben Broussard's increasingly slack bat out of the lineup. Certainly, with both Casey Blake and Aaron Boone enduring awful seasons, and Coco Crisp providing nice pop for a center fielder who's unfortunately expected to be a left fielder, the Tribe needs all the offensive help that it can get. Blake and Boone are chaff, while Crisp seems a better choice to peddle to someone who needs a center fielder so that the Indians can make room for a bat to stick into left. Jason Dubois, perhaps? As it stands, the Indians are a middle-of-the-pack offense; they shouldn't keep settling.
Outrighted LHP Doug Creek to Toledo. [7/26]
Signed RHP Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract. [7/27]
If the Yankees are the gray lady of baseball franchises, she's fallen to the roster move equivalent of a life lived on bathtub gin and the fleeting "generosity" of a down-at-his-heels carny barker like Chuck LaMar. Turning to a Devil Rays castoff in a pennant race? Humiliating as it may be, when they're relying on Aaron Small in the interim, I guess I can't blame them for taking a flyer. Carl Pavano isn't rehabbing so well or so quickly, and the rumors about Kevin Brown's season-ending back-breakdown seem to be about to come true.
I know I've been stuck on how this season seems to convey echoes of the early '80s and their sense of foreboding for Yankeedom, but from the Pavano and Wright pickups to this, the whole thing is even more sordid than the desperate deals of 1982, when they had to swap for three starting pitchers in the first two months getting Doyle Alexander, Shane Rawley and, finally, Roger Erickson to patch up a rotation that had started falling apart the previous season. None of it worked: Alexander joined Rick Reuschel on the DL, while Erickson and Rawley were adequate for a team that needed more than that. There's even less chance that Nomo can be adequate, but at least it's a minor-league deal, and if they don't think Billy Connors or whoever can fix him, they can always cut him loose.
In the best of all possible worlds, this is a move with a shelf life of 10 days, which is how long it will take to bring Snelling back barring a swap of Randy Winn. As if the danger that Winn exercising his half of a mutual option for next season wasn't incentive enough, they're better off taking a look at Snelling to see if he has a shot at winning the job in left for '06. Hopefully, this is just a way to get Snelling at-bats before plugging him into the lineup subsequent to a Winn deal, but then I'd also like to see Jamal Strong and Shin-Soo Choo back before rosters expand. As much as I like Jeremy Reed, he hasn't earned himself that much job security, and I'd rather see an open competion among Reed, Choo and Snelling for the playing time in center and left fields in a post-Winn world.
As for Hansen, like Scott Spiezio, he's roster clutter, but unlike Spiezio, he's relatively inexpensive, and whether Bill Bavasi decides to keep him or deal him, neither would present any particular difficulty. He still has more value to a National League team hunting for a pinch-hitter than he does to the Mariners, and if it brings the Mariners cash (to help ease the burden of being stuck with Spiezio) or a live arm (to help ease the burden of scragging almost every farmhand over the years), it's a net gain. Although Greg Dobbs is no Snelling in terms of promise, the M's are better off seeing if there's some as-yet undiscovered reason that he should be on their 40-man.
Now that Koskie's back and Shea Hillenbrand is at DH, is there any chance that Hillenbrand gets moved? For the right deal, I don't see why not, but with the Jays still on the fringes of the wild-card race, there's probably a political cost with their fan base to appearing to give up and make a deal now. In that case, why not hold out for a sweet deal? Aaron Hill is riding pine, although having him around does serve as a reminder that J.P. Ricciardi is free to entertain offers for Orlando Hudson as well as Hillenbrand.
In the meantime, the lineup presumably gets a little better, which makes the Jays' shot at contention seem that much more realizable, which ups the ante on anyone asking after Hillenbrand and Hudson. Since I still don't take the Jays that seriously while Roy Halladay is on the DL, I'd end up making the move, but if the Jays stand pat, and wait to see what they can get this winter, I wouldn't blame them.
It's interesting that Joe Garagiola Jr. decided to dump Cruz, settling for perhaps getting no more back than the sliver of the minimum he'll be paid by whoever snags him, but do not mistake this as a case of the Snakes running up their skins in surrender. Anyone who struggles to keep his nose above the Mendoza line in the BOB isn't hitting the ball with much authority, and Cruz wasn't fulfilling the most basic duties in the outfield. Add in that his back problems had probably poisoned whatever interest in him that there might have been, and Arizona was better off moving on and taking their shot at contending in the increasingly feeble NL West by turning to their own. While 31 isn't considered "old" these days, Cruz is hitting like an old man, and frankly hasn't hit well for a corner outfielder since 2001 (yes, I know, his age-27 season). When you're someone who's been benched in '04 by the D-Rays, and discarded by the Snakes in '05 after losing time to Quinton McCracken, you shouldn't need to look at the bottom of your Starbucks travel mug to see if the grounds will divine your future, because you don't have one.
There is, of course, the broader question of whether the D'backs wouldn't have been better off holding onto Casey Fossum, and finding somebody who might have cost less in blood or treasure last winter to man an outfield slot until someone like Jackson or Carlos Quentin was ready. Expecting Jackson or Quentin to be ready at some point this season wouldn't have been unreasonable, and as difficult as it can be to pitch in Arizona, and however many whispers there have been about Fossum's aptitude for coachability, he seems to have gotten pretty well sorted out pitching for the D-Rays, no easy feat in itself.
So now, instead of going with their standard-issue graybeard, the Snakes are starting to turn to their own. I'm not quite so enthusiastic about Jackson as some; hitting .354/.457/.553 is nice, but it also says he wasn't hitting for all that much power. Hitting eight home runs in the PCL isn't all that special, although 38 doubles hints that he might not be far removed from doing more with his power stroke. (For the curious, among the other Sidewinders who you might expect to see up, Quentin's hitting .307/.424/.545, while last year's "top prospect" flavor Josh Kroeger is struggling along at .267/.329/.455.) As patient as Jackson has been, I guess I'm still skeptical, and want to see him hit for more power. Ideally, he won't just be the next Mike Hargrove. In his defense, he is still just 23, and he has been pushed pretty agressively, having gone from starting '04 in the Cal League to making the majors little more than a year and a half later.
So what does this do on the diamond? Jackson will take over at first, while Chad Tracy stays on the Graig Nettles career path by getting pushed even further from his best position (third base) so that he can start patrolling right field. The other half of the first-base platoon, Tony Clark, goes from platoon partner to veteran caddy, but having someone who can get the ball up and out consistently makes for a useful bench weapon in Arizona's thin air, and if Jackson struggles, it's better to have Clark in the lineup than Cruz. Will Tracy play a good right field? It's not easy to say, although the move has been rumored for months. While he's been worked out at the position, he enters the experiment without game experience. Perhaps Garagiola is being guided by his success with moving Tony Womack to right field during the Snakes' championship season. Keep in mind that Tracy is a platoon hitter, and will still need a partner, and it isn't like McCracken or Luis Terrero can fill that bill. Because of that, Jackson might not only end up playing first base, which would at least mean that the Tracy/Clark platoon would remain in the lineup, just stretched across two positions.
I'm not as worried about asking Shawn Green to patrol center. Even if he hasn't spent considerable time there since '98, this year's defensive data seems to indicate that last year's limited range was an anomaly.
Hampton's latest breakdown should not be reason to panic. Not only have the Braves been through all this before, John Thomson might be a mere 10 days to two weeks removed a return from the DL, and Kyle Davies is just a phone call away in the meantime. They could even use former starter Blaine Boyer to lead off a pen start, as a way of forestalling a decision between Thomson and Davies until they know how soon Thomson will be back. When you're the Braves, why worry? The rest of the division is finding new and interesting ways to gut themselves or melt down, as they all fret over whether they can catch the Braves, or whether they'll keep up with the Astros and Cubs in the wild-card race, and what they have to do to help themselves. In contrast, the Braves can just keep on being themselves, working homegrown goodies into the mix while keeping an eye on a veteran reliever or two to pick up before the deadline.
An injury to Todd Helton forced the Rox to rain on Dohmann's parade, and instead sucking Shealy up into the breach. Although he never pops up that highly on Rockie prospect lists, Shealy has been murdilating the PCL to the tune of .331/.392/.604, and he didn't get overlooked during his previous call-up to fulfill DH duties during the interleague portion of the schedule. Like Brad Eldred, he's another titan at first base, which helps PECOTA generate some interesting comparisons to a young Frank Howard or Andres Galarraga. If ever there was another reminder that signing aging first basemen to big contracts is a mistake, Shealy (and Brad Hawpe for that matter) serves as one, while the Rockies can kick themselves over their untradeable now-to-forever commitment to Helton. Helton's signed through to almost the end of the presidency of whoever gets elected in '08, which is another way of saying that Shealy is either going to have to try to make a move to the outfield (like Hawpe), or he's an object for barter the organization needs to capitalize on sooner rather later.
The pen has been a season-long problem for the Fish, although I wouldn't blame that on Alfonseca's absence. Beyond Todd Jones's nifty season, nobody's been good enough to bother writing home about. More was reasonably expected from Guillermo Mota, and should have been from John Riedling as well, but unlike the successful gambles on retreads in '03, very little has gone right for the Fish pen. Home-growing a supporting cast hasn't worked out either, although at least partially to blame has been the organization's unwillingness to commit to any of their own farmhands for more than week or a game or two at a time, and it's awfully hard to thrive in "Pitch or Die!" situation if you're just breaking in.
As for Alfonseca, "Pulpo" is always given bigger billing than he deserves, so while he's ridden into the rescue to offer six fingers' worth of help, the Marlins are really in a situation where no one reliever is going to fix things. Instead, perhaps the accumulation of having everyone healthy and here might finally leave them well prepped for the stretch, or ready to peddle if Jeffrey Loria prefers to retrench and think about next year.
Helling's career seems to stop and start quite a bit these days, having gone off the rails since his getting a ring with the Fish in '03. Flitting between the Rangers and Twins organizations last year, he didn't get called up when he wanted to be, and chose to walk away. Since he'd shown people he can still really help in a bullpen role down the stretch with Florida in 2003, and given the permanent perception that pitching is in short supply, I'm a little surprised that he had to lose most of the last two years, but having shown that he's in shape and still has some zip (105 Ks in 130 2/3 innings as a rotation regular at Nashville), he should be ready to step in with the Brewers and give them the set-up man that Bottalico was not.
As for Bottalico, don't be surprised when a contender picks him up. Not that the Brewers should have held out for something, because nobody would make an offer, but as a waiver claim, we are in an environment where even Nomo seems desirable.
What I'm annoyed by is the disappearance of Mike Adams, and since he's struck out 35 in 25 innings (against only seven walks), you'd think he'd shown people that he's still got his good stuff. There's always roster expansion to look forward to.
So how much ground do you think the Astros and Cubs can make up if the Cards play with one arm tied behind their back? How about two arms? How about two arms, and they have all their teeth pulled? How about two arms, no teeth, and trying to chicken fight while riding on the shoulders of Hank Hill's dad, Cotton?
Yeah, I'd still bet on the Cardinals, too, although at least it does make things interesting. But keep in mind, this team still has its rotation intact, and I do think it's fun to see the Cards maintaining their lead while relying on an organizational soldier like Gall (.272/.342/.441) and free-talent acquisitions like Scott Seabol and John Rodriguez (the man who might have been your center fielder and done quite well at it, Yankees fans). Having Walker and Scott Rolen on the DL in the meantime seems like preventive maintenance, as Walt Jocketty and Tony LaRussa avoid Leo Durocher's mistake of '69, and keep from playing everyone into the ground. Walker and Rolen should both be back before rosters expand, and the Cards can get back to building their cushion back up at that point.
Outrighted OF-R Kenny Kelly to New Orleans; announced that 1B/OF-R Wil Cordero has been released. [7/27]
Johnson's return lets Brad Wilkerson return to an outfield corner, which in turn gets the Nats back to having the luxury of having the platoon of Ryan Church/Marlon Byrd (Maryan Byrdchurch? sounds too much like a B-list British society princess) on the bench. There, they're ready for Johnson's next breakdown, or a decision that Jose Guillen isn't only mad as hell, he's also not going to take it any more. I'm not sure if there's an advantage to be accrued as far as Guillen's wrist should he get to rest two days a week, but the Nats do have the depth to do so if they decide there's something to be gained by doing so.