September 14, 2005
The Snakes are slowly curling up for winter, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that part of their endgame involves going to a six-man rotation intended less to look at next year's best bets than it is to give guys like Russ Ortiz a chance to do something right, let Estes take a derisive victory lap before wandering away, and take an initial peek at Dustin Nippert. Claudio Vargas seems like an odd choice to leave out there, but whether he starts or relieves, I think we can count on his being a D'back in some sort of role next season. The minor surprise is that, with the six-man rotation, they're actually pitching Estes, while shutting down Admiral Halsey. I guess it's not a bad idea: Halsey may not have set a single-season career high for innings pitched or for batters faced this year, but pitching in the BOB's cramped spaces with men on base probably didn't help take any of the pressure of his first full year in the majors off.
Activated LHP Mike Hampton from the 15-day DL. [9/11]
The Braves' rotation problems are lingering for longer than anyone would like. A front three of John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, and Horacio Ramirez seem pretty cut and dried. But who's the fourth starter in a seven-game postseason series? It does not look like Hampton can be relied upon. John Thomson's lone quality start in the five games since his return from the DL involved giving up 10 baserunners in six innings against the flailing Nats. Since replacing Hampton, Jorge Sosa has two good starts in four, one against those same hapless Nats, the other against the sun-bleached bones of the Cubs and their ambitions. On the other hand, Sosa did torch the Cardinals in early August. Much as I think we should all look forward to his future, and as outspokenly enthusiastic as I've been about him all summer, Kyle Davies hasn't had a good start against a good team all year; he got experience and he was a helpful fill-in, but expecting more than that would probably be a bit much.
Given those choices and those considerations, Sosa would seem to be the easy obvious answer, but with Chris Reitsma's hammy giving him a hard time, the pen is short-handed too. Without Reitsma, you've got a useful threesome of Kyle Farnsworth, John Foster, and Blaine Boyer. Oh, and Danny Kolb, a gas can in sheep's clothing. So that's three, four if you have Reitsma, and perhaps only Reitsma can handle two innings at a time, and he hasn't done it since mid-June. So we're still left with the same decision tree we had a month ago: if Sosa has to help shore up the pen, you have to choose between Thomson or Hampton, and if you have to choose between Thomson or Hampton, you're gambling. Should help make October interesting, though, right?
Re-signed INF-R Chris Gomez to a one-year contract for 2006. [9/13]
There's considerable use for infielders who can play all four positions pretty well, who also don't need help running the bases, and who can handle the bat well enough to fulfill any manager's most involved small-ball fantasies. Add in that Mr. Gomez has cranked out a lefty-wounding season (.337/.404/.424), and that's a heck of a bench player. It isn't often you can use your platoon first baseman as your utility infielder and vice versa, but that's what the Orioles should be able to do with Gomez and perhaps Jay Gibbons next year.
Activated 3B-R Joe Crede from the 15-day DL. [9/10]
Crede hasn't looked too rusty in his first couple of games back, and the Sox are already saying they're going to be careful with him so that he's ready for postseason play. The nicest thing you can say about Geoff Blum's three-week stint as a regular Sock is that he kept himself ready to play; his average, OBP and slugging all dropped ten points each. At this point, I wouldn't automatically bet on Blum to get an October start if a starter broke down, not with Pablo Ozuna and Willie Harris around as alternatives. As a result, I'd watch for what Ozuna, Harris and Blum do in the next three weeks, while not worrying much about Crede. Crede will play, but it's worth sorting out who's gaining favor with the Ozzeroo. Certainly, Harris could be this year's October hero for a moment, a la Dave Roberts.
Recalled OF-L Ben Grieve from Iowa. [9/13]
Theriot's call-up has less to do with a return of the former LSU star to the organization's good graces than it does with Ronny Cedeno's broken hand. However, Theriot did hit well enough to regain some measure of status: .304/.365/.391, plus 24 steals in 34 attempts. Although a bit of a disappointment for a third-round pick from the '01 draft, he is a switch-hitter, has generally gotten high marks from scouts for his defense, and he can run. I can imagine that he could still stick for some time somewhere as a utility infielder. He is already 26, but it was clear he wasn't on a track for stardom when he moved up the chain as slowly as he has.
As for Grieve, he's up to give Dusty some reassuring offense, which means a hitter with gray in his stubble. Dusty'll be damned before he'll do anything so simple as just playing Matt Murton already. It's all somebody else's fault, see.
Announced that LHP Arthur Rhodes has left the team for the remainder of the season for personal reasons. [9/13]
Rhodes is going to be tending to an illness in his family for the remainder of the regular season, as well as whatever postseason games the Indians make it to. I think I speak for us all that this could not have been an easy decision for him as a professional, but it was clearly a necessary one, and it's to Cleveland's credit that they were willing to accept this. It does put them on the spot, however, since they now only have Scott Sauerbeck to turn to for lefty situational work. Although he's been a nifty retreading project, he's an extreme situational reliever, and he can still get beaten by a good lefty power hitter. Having him on a postseason roster basically forces you to use him early, lest your opponent pinch-hit just about any right-hander to get you to take him right back out of the game. I suppose he'll come in handy against lefty-heavy lineups like the A's or Angels, but I just don't see him having all that many applications against either of the offensive monster teams out of the East, and there isn't really anyone in the White Sox lineup you need a lefty situational artist to wipe out. We'll see if it matters.
As for the Bisons who've come to town, it was definitely not a great season for Davis. The demotion to Buffalo didn't see him regain his prospect-y sheen, not when he was allowing more than six runs per nine. He did strike out 77 in 95 2/3 IP, so maybe a return to the bullpen is really where he's going to add value. I suspect that if the many injured arms in the organization heal well, and Mark Shapiro enjoys his winter shopping, Davis will be reduced to a chip for trade. Everyone loves mid-90s heat, after all.
In contrast, Carmona is a prospect of a different stripe, a lanky Dominican string bean and strike-thrower. Only 21, he whipped through Double-A before helping pitch Buffalo into the International League's postseason. Relying on a fast sinker, he still needs to figure out how to use his offspeed stuff to get people to miss pitches, but a 106-35 strikeout-walk ratio in 173.2 IP is an interesting starting point for someone so young. I wouldn't suggest he's ready, but amidst the gaggle of good arms the Indians have in their system, he's the one who's still healthy, very young, and who might just be a big-league starter when all is said and done.
Activated RHP Blaine Neal from the 60-day DL and outrighted him to Colorado Springs. [9/8]
Recalled RHP Chris Resop from Carolina (Double-A). [9/10]
Quantrill's a good claim, not simply because the Marlins are once again needy when it comes to finding adequate major-league relief help, but because he actually did some modestly good work with the Padres once he'd gotten the Big Apple out of his hair. Just on the basis of his Padres work, Quantrill would be the fifth-most effective reliever the Fish have. Their problem is finding a way to snooker MLB's offices into letting them slip him onto their postseason roster, which begs the question of why they didn't claim him off of waivers on August 31, when their need was equally obvious. If they'd claimed him then, they wouldn't have this problem, but happily, there is the K-Rod precedent of lax postseason-roster rule application, and maybe they'll just luck out.
The Mordecai thing, if it's just about making sure he qualifies for a certain level of pension, that's a good deed. If I remember correctly, something similar happened to Steve Ontiveros's benefit at the very end. But more basically, with Alex Gonzalez still hurting, it isn't like they couldn't use a spare infielder. Damion Easley's hitting well enough in his absence, but Easley's fielding numbers aren't good, and at this late date, every play is under a microscope. I'd still rather see them play Josh Wilson, but let's face it, does anybody really want the Lorians to win?
Activated 1B-R Jeff Bagwell from the 15-day DL. [9/9]
The man, the myth, the legend... well, wait a minute, he hasn't been dead for all that long, so I guess it's well and good to have him around to pinch-hit during the Astros' rush on the wild-card spot. It beats having to ask Mike Lamb or Jose Vizcaino to rise to any particular occasion. I mean, sure, it is fun when an Eric Bruntlett home run wins you a game in extra innings; there are some Giants fans who will never forget John Patterson's game-winning September 1 blast against the Braves back in '93, and the Giants still blew it that year. I'm just wondering if, as a pinch-hitter, Bagwell will also have to be pinch-run for, rather than risk injury to the bum shoulder.
Signed 1B/OF-L Matt Stairs to a one-year, $1.35 million contract extension. [9/9]
If anyone's looking for a Kruk high that doesn't involve tripping out by drinking whatever Kool-Aid he's dishing out on the boob tube, and prefers to remember how much fun it is to watch a stubby white guy play, there's always Matt Stairs. I love watching Matt Stairs hit, love watching the man play the field, basically, I love watching Stairs play baseball. But I'm frankly baffled by his decision to stay in Kansas City. How many times can you take the kids to the Negro League Baseball Museum? How much local barbecue can one man eat? I prefer the North Carolina variant, but either way, I'd get tired of it. And why wouldn't he want to go someplace where, I don't know, the games matter, perhaps? It's an adult choice, I guess, and there's nothing wrong with a little bit of certainty. But to choose Royalty, that's gotta be some form of madness.
Recalled LHP Dae-Sung Koo from Norfolk. [9/13]
So Piazza's back, except he's not now that he's had his bean creased in his first game, and the Mets are effectively dead anyway, and it's all just a matter of marking off the days until his free agency arrives, and whether or not the Mets will offer arbitration first, and whether he'll take it, and so on in the usual big market dance between an expensive star player and his diffident general manager. Between the happy things that have happened with Ramon Castro in the lineup, and the recent results of putting Mike Jacobs at first, the Mets seem to have filled out their lineup nicely enough without Piazza. Free agency awaits.
I really have no idea what the Mets are thinking in claiming Self. He'll be 27 in November, he hit .298/.407/.460 in Round Rock's bandbox of rocks, so not for very much power, so he's no prospect. If they don't keep him on their 40-man, as 2000 draftee, he'll be eligible for minor league free agency. Although the Mets have all sorts of major league bottom feeders cluttering up their 40-man who won't be missed this winter, is Self worth keeping? Also keep in mind that they're going to have to add Mike Cameron and perhaps Tyler Yates back onto it, not to mention the cream of their 2003 draft class (or players signed as teens before then) to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. I guess there's some satisfaction to be taken that it wasn't a great draft class beyond Lastings Milledge, but I'm just not convinced that Self's a good choice. He certainly fulfill their crying need for a real first baseman.
Recalled LHP Ron Flores from Sacramento. [9/9]
Spare right-handed hitting outfielder, spare lefty reliever, fine, fine, but I think we're all more interested in Garcia, ever since last season's rush job. Who isn't tantalized by the idea of giving Huston Street a co-closer or a set-up man who can dial up triple-digit heat? His combined stats between Midland and Sacramento might seem nice enough: 65 IP and 103 strikeouts have a way of impressing even the most jaded prospect maven. It's the 29 walks, 54 hits, seven home runs, and the run allowed every other inning that makes it clear he's not quite ready to make the jump that Bobby Jenks did this season, becoming more than a volcano and something more closely resembling a pitcher. But that vision, of a Street and Garcia tag-team, that's still worth holding onto in the meantime.
Activated RHP Cory Lidle from the 15-day DL. [9/9]
However dire are the straights in this part of Pennsylvania--and where Rick Santorum's concerned, that's dire dialed up all the way to 11--I suppose the Phillies still seem to be able to desperately patch up a rotation. Although Vicente Padilla's missing a start, Gavin Floyd was there to take his place last night. Robinson Tejeda's shoulder is sore, and he may only be able to relieve when he does come back, but Lidle's back just in time to perhaps dish out some adequacy once in a while. The standards in play are pretty feeble: as long as you're giving up less than a run per inning, you're probably helping by their standards. When they're really cornered, they can always go back to Eude Brito, who seems determined to win the Mason prize for important and necessary contributions at moments of team-wide terror. (There's something appropriate about trusting Masons in the cradle of the Revolution, no?) If everyone was healthy, I wonder if Charlie Manuel would pick his spots with them down the stretch, but with only five home games left and a big road trip to Florida and Atlanta to look forward to, asking for a master plan is probably a bit too much.
Recalled RHP Ian Snell from Indianapolis. [9/12]
Recalled SS-R J.J. Furmaniak from Indianapolis. [9/13]
Well, it's a mixed bag, but it's more of the good stuff that the farm system is ready to offer up to the parent Pirates. Furmaniak's just a utility infielder in the making, one with a little more pop than your standard issue, but your otherwise normal, presumably scrappy European-American. The guy to see how they'll squeeze him in going forward is Snell. He's still short for a right-hander, but he showed good velocity in Indy, striking out 104 in 112 IP, while walking only 23 and allowing 90 hits. It's the 14 homeruns that aren't quite so happy, but the team has the good sense to finally bump Josh Fogg from the rotation and apparently let Snell take the last few turns, not that a first turn back against the Cardinals is a major favor. But he'll be in the fringes of the rotation picture this winter, as the club first sorts out what to do with Fogg, Kip Wells, Oliver Perez, and Mark Redman. It seems clear that Zach Duke and Paul Maholm will get two slots, David Williams has done well enough, so if David Littlefield keeps only two of the veterans, that would put Snell back in Indy or in the pen, and hoping to keep ahead of guys like Bryan Bullington and Tom Gorzelanny. I guess I'm not going to get tired of saying the Pirates are a team to watch, not only for their own sake, but also because if your team's looking for a veteran hurler, you might end up with an ex-Pirate.
Activated RHP Pedro Astacio from the 15-day DL. [9/13]
Will he go back into the rotation for what might become a desperate stretch drive? That's the Padres' problem: they're desperate, but there are no easy solutions. Astacio's coming back from injury, and I doubt they're willing to just push him back into the rotation. Chan Ho Park is the obvious, easy subtraction, but it'll still take some nerves to do it, and it isn't like everything else is ducky, not with Jake Peavy's shoulder giving him trouble. Adam Eaton has cranked out two useful starts in four since he's been able to throw his full repertoire again, enough to tantalize you but also keep you worried, since it's involved facing three bad lineups (including the Rockies twice).
Having lost Strong as well as Chris Snelling in what should have been ideal opportunities to look at each of them, the Mariners' paucity of plausibly useful organizational soldiers now gets to be shown off for everyone's benefit. Bubela is worth bupkus, a 27 year-old with no power, modest contact hitting skills (.292/.340/.402), and enough speed to be useful as a pinch-runner (40 steals in 46 attempts). He's outrightable when the time comes, whereas someone might think of Gary Harris or Jon Nelson as a prospect.
Activated OF-R Reggie Sanders from the 15-day DL. [9/12]
As strange as it might seem, I'm going to suggest that losing Sanders and Larry Walker has been a very good thing for the Cardinals. Not only did it shake them out of their willingness to just rely on John Mabry for most of their outfield reserve needs, it forced them to take a look at John Rodriguez, and it put So Taguchi on the spot. Now, instead of all Mabry all the time, and perhaps a willingness to give Roger Cedeno the benefit of the doubt, instead the Cardinals have an outstanding collection of choices to turn to for postseason usage. Assuming Tony LaRussa learned anything from his screwing up and putting Jose Canseco on the field in the World Series in '90 (or, worse yet, not being willing to accept responsibility for the consequences of his decision), should the Cardinals be put on the spot with either Walker or Sanders breaking down or needing to come out, they have players on the bench worth turning to.
Recalled OF-B Jason Botts and RHPs Josh Rupe and R.A. Dickey from Oklahoma; purchased the contract of 2B-R Esteban German from Oklahoma; transferred RHP Nick Regilio from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/12]
Although Botts was behind Adrian Gonzalez on my list of the young and aggrieved in Texas, even moreso than Gonzalez, it would have taken a bit to get him into the lineup. Even with Richard Hidalgo out of the picture, there was the team's decision to get Phil Nevin for a chance to show he's baked twice-over in the Texas sun, proving to any doubters that he's really done. And beyond that, there's also their reluctance to put David Dellucci in the field. So Botts got to put the hurt on the PCL, bashing it at a .286/.375/.522 clip, and although it isn't exactly clear what opportunities he'll have next season, he shouldn't have too much more to learn in Triple-A.
A little more troubling is the decision to push Rupe up onto the big league roster. Rupe is one of the prizes snagged from the White Sox in the Carl Everett deal (the initial 2003 deal, not his subsequent re-acquisition by the White Sox in 2004). And at least in the first half, at Double-A, it looked like Rupe was finally establishing himself as a prospect, using his decent four-pitch assortment to do well enough at Frisco: four runs allowed per nine, a 55/26 K/BB in 65 IP. Then came his promotion to Triple-A, where he's been awful, allowing a little more than seven runs allowed per nine, although a glimmer of hope can be found in his 62 Ks in 93 2/3 IP. Hopefully this is just a taste test for him, and not a last look before making a determination on his status on the 40-man, the way it should be with Dickey.
Activated OF-L Ryan Church from the 15-day DL. [9/9]
Sometimes, when it comes to youth, it's better to have faith, instead of searching out what's comfortable and easy, like spending money on an indulgence like Preston Wilson. Anyone want to join me in nailing up a copy of this season's TAs on the doors of the Nats front offices? Okay, so that's a bad idea, not to mention a wee bit self-important, but the team has gone 21-35 since acquiring the squirrelly Rockie, and they were 52-36 when they were going to Church on time. Admittedly, that's gotten more difficult to do these days, because Church has been on the DL twice since July, and my rough estimate is that he's only made 18 starts since the All-Star Break, and they won only six of those games. But I would have rather taken my chances with Church (and Marlon Byrd) than ever think that a deflated Coors creation was going to lead you somewhere other than down in the standings. Hell, I would have rather brought J.J. Davis back. If you take the opportunity to noodle through the links and look at the defensive performances of Byrd, Wilson, Church, and Brad Wilkerson, you'll find that where the other three have been useful afield, Wilson's been as awful on the stat page as he's appeared on the diamond. At least Wilson's a rental, unlike the despair-inducing pickup of Ryan Drese.