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November 23, 2005
Purchased the contracts of SS-B Erick Aybar, 2B-R Howie Kendrick, C-R Mike Napoli, OF-R Nick Gorneault, OF-Bs Tommy Murphy and Reggie Willits and RHP Jose Arredondo; outrighted RHP Dustin Moseley to Salt Lake; gave RHP Matt Hensley his unconditional release. [11/18]
Among the many lessons a conqueror and champion of no less merit than Napoleon himself chose to ignore was that it doesn't always pay to reward everyone in your posse when you win big. Not that I'm suggesting that Kenny Williams would make the mistake of making a particularly dim brother-in-law the King of Naples, but some people are fundamentally important to your success, and some people, not so much. While many noted the determination with which the Sox collectively turned up an organizational nose at the suggestion of deadline deals to improve their hand in-season as some sort of statement of character, I'm not quite so sanguine on the subject of self-improvement. I'm certainly not sold on the absolute necessity to have Pablo Ozuna as the team's primary utility infielder, but in his defense, he can run, make contact at the plate and play the left side of the infield well, and all that has some value.
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Brad Snyder, 1B-L Michael Aubrey, RHPs Brian Slocum and Edward Mujica, and LHP Rafael Perez. [11/18]
Purchased the contracts of INF-L Don Kelly, RHPs Joel Zumaya, Humberto Sanchez, Kyle Sleeth, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Jordan Tata, 3B-R Kody Kirkland, and OF-R Brent Clevlen; outrighted RHPs Adam Peterson and Colby Lewis to Toledo. [11/18]
Signed SS-R Wilson Valdez, OF-L Kerry Robinson, 1B-L Chris Richard, 3B-R Mike Coolbaugh, and RHPs Joe Nelson and Victor Santos to minor-league contracts; purchased the contract of SS-R Angel Sanchez. [11/18]
Wow, Mike Coolbaugh. Sort of like Scott McClain, he's a guy I always hoped would catch a break, but Coolbaugh's going to be 34 in June, and when you're almost old enough to be a Ken Phelps All-Star for the SPBA, you're not really a Ken Phelps All-Star any more.
I guess it's a sign of my wasted youth that I miss it, the true Senior circuit, especially since the Arizona Fall League just seems to be extended batting practice designed to get people revved up on the next James Mouton. Heck, it even gave me my favorite Peter Golenbock book, The Forever Boys. Still, I suspect that Coolbaugh is right to rage against the dying of the light, and avoid leagues where they let the fans play shuffleboard from home plate after the game.
As for the rest, it's slightly better than just a group of guys to pitch to Omaha season-ticket holders. Santos will probably wind up in the Opening Day rotation, which qualifies him as a bargain-bin find for a club that needs a few, and Wilson Valdez might be just plausible enough to threaten Angel Berroa with. Robinson and Richard both might make adequate reserves, or at least slightly less loathsome ones than Terrence Long. Richard will be 32 next year, so he's not an asset or anything close to the adequate regular he was in 2000-2001, but he is finally back from his injuries, having hit .301/.379/.489 at Oklahoma in '05.
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Alex Romero, RHPs Adam Harben and Pat Neshek, and LHPs Justin Jones, Jose Mijares and Errol Simonitsch. [11/18]
Purchased the contracts of OF-R Kevin Thompson, RHPs T.J. Beam, Matt Desalvo, Jeffrey Karstens and LHP Matt Smith. [11/18]
Signed C-R Kenji Johjima to a three-year, $16.5 million contract; signed C-R Corky Miller to a minor league contract. [11/21]
I'm impressed. Talk about breaking with the past, it's as if the team wanted to dispel memories of both Dan Wilson and Pat Borders on a single day. Johjima may well be the prize of the winter's crop of catchers, not that there were many catches worth making, but he's hit for power, is reputed to be an outstanding defender, and if he's not exactly a patient hitter, he's Varitek-like in his willingness to take a pitch and help his OBP towards respectability. Maybe it'll work out. Working against the move is the fact that he'll be 30 in his "rookie" season, not a good age for a catcher or any hitter, and the unknown extent to which language or culture might represent a particular problem for a catcher who doesn't speak either English or Spanish, and whether or not that power he's hit for in Japan will translate at all well into Safeco. I wouldn't consider the descriptions of his being a "gap" power source as all that promising, so I'd ratchet down any expectations that the Mariners have imported the next Mike Piazza. At least the broken leg that ended his '05 early isn't supposed to be a problem this spring.
That language consideration may well influence the club's choice of backup catcher. Unfortunately, I don't know if Miller is bilingual, but since he can catch, and he's not a complete zero behind the plate, he wouldn't be a bad choice. The alternative is Yorvit Torrealba, who does speak Spanish, and if his expiration date as interesting trade bait is closer than you think, he's a more solid reserve to rely upon in the big leagues than Miller is. Basically, a Johjima and Torrealba combo in the majors, plus Miller in Tacoma, is probably about as good as it could get as a solution for the Mariners' perpetually awful catching situation, so credit Bill Bavasi and company for doing something about it instead of observing a mourning period of unseemly length for Dan Wilson. I mean, let's face it, four years is a bit long to miss a guy's bat, especially when it was only Wilson's.
(To pre-empt Wilson defenders, just keep in mind that when I compared him unfavorably to Dave Valle, it was for good reason: adjusted for all time, Valle's career Equivalent Average was .255, Wilson's .246, and both were good defenders in their day. Wilson might be able to afford cloning a few Dave Valles, though, not that I'd consider that a real bragging right.)
Outrighted OF-L Josh Hamilton to Durham; designated C-L Pete LaForest for assignment; purchased the contracts of 1B-R Wes Bankston, C-R Shawn Riggans and RHP Jamie Shields. [11/18]
I suppose that I've long since gotten off of the admittedly Smart Car-sized Harville bandwagon, but Tampa is as good a place as any to re-acquire an element of desirability, and where better than in the organization where fellow Oakland discard Jesus Colome looked useful? Having pitched in Fruit Drink Ballpark West over in Houston, Harville's even used to getting drubbed in places where the juice is a product of the box you're in, so that aspect of the Tropicana experience won't be unfamiliar.
Purchased the contracts of RHP Jose Ascanio, 2B-R Martin Prado, 1B/OF-R James Jurries, and OF-R Josh Burrus. [11/18]
Signed OF-L Mike Ryan to a minor league contract. [11/21]
Okay, I know these aren't the moves that in themselves win you a pennant, but I definitely like the decisions to look at Baker and Ryan. Baker is not your standard relief prospect (if you're one to believe in such an animal), relying heavily on a change-up, but he can still dial it up around 90 now and again. I certainly think that if Doug Jones could throw 90 once in a while to complement his change, he'd still be pitching.
Baker did have a rough intro to the PCL this year, so after allowing nine home runs, a hit per inning, and a walk every other in his 65 1/3 innings, there probably wasn't a lot of demand for him. I guess I consider his 74 strikeouts and his coming over to Atlanta as reasons to think that, at the least, he could be as temporarily handy as Wil Cunnane was in '03. That's at the least; with or without Leo Mazzone, I like the possibility that the Braves might make him into something.
Besides, the former Red Sock first rounder ('99) had the good sense to be born on November 6, like me, so that's reason enough for a rooting interest (except in Chad Curtis, but the rest of us in the Walter Johnson Club try to forget about him).
As for Ryan, he's no prospect, but a lefty bat with a little bit of pop and reasonably solid skill at staying on top of fastballs might have its uses in a pinch-hitting role. Better than a Darren Bragg resurrection, certainly.
Purchased the contracts of CF-L Felix Pie, 1B-R Brian Dopirak, 3B-L Scott Moore, C-B Jose Reyes, LHP Sean Marshall and RHPs Carlos Marmol, Ricky Nolasco and Jae Kuk Ryu; designated OF-L Adam Greenberg for assignment; outrighted LHP Russ Rohlicek, 2B-L Mike Fontenot, and 2B-R Richard Lewis to Iowa. [11/18]
While I'm pleased to see last week's odd trio come back off of the 40-man, I don't think I'm contradicting myself when I also comment that all three might make nifty pickups in the Rule 5 draft. Not great players, not the next George Bell certainly, but if you need a lefty reliever or a second baseman better than what you have (paging the Mets, Rockies and Twins), Fontenot or Lewis would be worth taking a look at. While both Lewis and Fontenot serve as reminders that "second base prospect" is usually an oxymoron, and Lewis should remind everyone that people named Richard Lewis aren't funny, each has his virtues. Lewis is a year removed from being the MVP of the Southern League, so while much of this year seemed lost to recovering from a broken leg and flailing at the plate, he has some promise. Fontenot continued to get on base at a steady clip, posting a .377 OBP in his first year in the Cubs organization, but his defense has never gotten especially high marks, so it's going to take a team that knows what it wants and knows what Fontenot can deliver for him to get any real opportunity.
Outrighted LHP Ben Kozlowski to Louisville. [11/21]
Purchased the contract of RHP Manuel Corpas; designated LHP Randy Williams for assignment. [11/18]
Purchased the contracts of LHP Adam Bostick, and RHPs Jose Garcia, Carlos Martinez, and Allen Baxter. [11/18]
Signed 2B/SS-R Alfredo Amezaga to a minor-league contract. [11/22]
Outrighted RHP Jared Gothreaux to Round Rock. [11/18]
Claimed UT-B Zach Sorensen off of waivers from the Angels; re-signed RHP Rick Helling to a one-year, $850,000 contract; purchased the contracts of LHP Manny Parra, RHP Carlos Villanueva, 2B-L Hernan Iribarren and CF-L Anthony Gwynn. [11/18]
Re-signed 1B/3B-R Jeff Cirillo to a one-year, $850,000 contract. [11/21]
Signed UT-R Brian Dallimore, 2B-R Brent Abernathy, C-L Mark Johnson, C-R Mike Rivera, and RHPs Jerome Gamble and Jared Fernandez to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs; released RHP Gary Glover after he cleared waivers. [11/22]
Most of these are nice moves, equally defensible and sensible, so let's get the bad idea out of the way up front. There's no way, particularly at this time of year, that Sorensen is worth a spot on the 40-man, so hopefully, he'll get designated for assignment, pass through waivers, and create a spot for adding another potentially useful arm to the organization via Rule 5. If someone's still thinking of Sorensen as the guy who was briefly touted in A ball, they need to shelve that memory.
But on to the good stuff. Helling is an easy favorite for the fifth slot in the rotation. Jose Capellan may get left in the pen, and after a front four of Ben Sheets, Doug Davis, Chris Capuano and Tomo Ohka, the final slot is wide open. The notional contenders are Wes Obermueller and perhaps Ben Hendrickson, should he conquer his reputation for stage fright in the big leagues. Against that, Helling is a very nice hedge, someone who could be an asset as a temp in the rotation, or an effective set-up man in the pen, and finally trade bait at the end of July. As long as they don't skip over that last service he might provide, and as long as he earns that final consideration, it's a win-win situation for player and organization.
I'm also pleased to see Johnson and Rivera turn up here. This is the organization that made the mistake of giving Damian Miller a multi-year deal that cost them cash and a Jack Zduriencik draft pick. It doesn't help that they're also stuck with Chad Moeller as their backup backstop, when he's yet to hit outside of the BOB's confines. So from the perspective of Johnson or Rivera, it's a great place to be, and happily for the Brewers, they shouldn't be in a situation where they need a Pat Borders pickup again.
Finally, I also like the decision to re-ink Cirillo. It's only a year, and for however many times he's been burnt in effigy in Seattle or Denver, he mashed lefties and may yet make a nifty platoon partner for Russell Branyan at third base. If that scenario doesn't pan out, or if the Brewers just decide that Bill Hall has to be their everyday third baseman unless or until Corey Hart's latest spin at the hot corner works out, Cirillo might still have value as a spot starter at first for either Lyle Overbay or Prince Fielder, both of whom hit lefty.
Outrighted 1B/OF-L Todd Self to Norfolk; purchased the
contracts of RHPs Yusmeiro Petit, Brian
Bannister, Anderson Garcia, and
So, young guy for veteran, and the Mets look pretty bright, right? Well, not exactly. While I can understand the desire to move Cameron to a team that wants him for center field, and the risk that Cameron might be less than a reliable quanitity, I'm not sure that Nady really fills any particular bill. He's already 27, wasn't particularly handicapped by Petco in '05, and he covers the outfield sward with all of the supple grace of a three-legged wildebeest. He's certainly not enough of a hitter to really resolve the Mets' continuing lack of a first baseman.
If anything, this is a deal about making room for salary, because it looks like the Pads didn't get any of Cameron's cost absorbed by the big-market ballclub. However, if this, plus letting go of Mike Piazza, all gets thrown at the quest to bring Billy Wagner to town, I guess I don't see it adding up. Even if Ramon Castro and Mike Jacobs cover nicely for Piazza, and if Nady hits well enough, and if Willie Randolph finally just plugs Victor Diaz into the lineup, I don't see this as a lineup that's getting better as much as one that's struggling to remain adequate. The Mets were middle of the pack in 2005, and that wasn't good enough. I think they're still at least one quality bat short, no different than last year. We'll have to see if Omar Minaya feels the same way, or thinks whatever he does on the pitching side of the ledger more than makes up for it.
Activated 2B-R Jose Castillo, LHP Sean Burnett, RHP John Van Benschoten, and OF-L Chris Duffy from the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of SS-R Javier Guzman, UT-R Yurendell De Caster, RHP Josh Sharpless and 2B-R Craig Stansberry; signed RHPs Britt Reames and Terry Adams to minor league contracts; designated 2B/3B-B Bobby Hill, RHP Jeff Miller, OF-R Michael Restovich, and CF-L Tike Redman for assignment. [11/18]
Traded 2B/3B-B Bobby Hill to the Padres for a PTBNL. [11/21]
Signed RHP Scott Strickland to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [11/22]
Color me unenthused about the signing of Strickland. He's Chad Fox, only more so in the wrong ways, and less so in the right ones. His last full season in the majors was 2002, so as signing go, this may not even be a cut above trolling the Arizona Penal League. At least the Bucs only gave him a split contract, worth $850,000 if he makes the team. Nevertheless, I suppose it's a better gamble than signing either Adams (who retired after pitching badly everywhere, major or minor, that would have him) or Reames (the early leader in polling over which pitcher is least likely to need a nomme de guerre to describe his contributions).
Ditching Redman might seem harsh, but I have to think that he'll wind up somewhere. Guys with a modicum of power who can play center have value, and if Redman is something short of a major-league regular, he's not the worst choice for a fifth outfielder if you have three solid, healthy regulars. Or a bad case of the Corey Patterson blues.
I'm impressed that the Pads have done something about their long desire for a center fielder, and in Cameron, they've certainly acquired a player who should give them their best since the departure of Steve Finley. I'm not especially worried about his ability to play center, even if he never did seem to adapt to playing right all that well during his time spent flanking Carlos Beltran. The more basic question is what sort of hitter the Padres will be getting, and there, they've clearly accepted a big hunk of risk. If you look at Cameron's '05 PECOTA card, you'll see that his best comps were Eric Davis, Reggie Sanders, Greg Vaughn and Ellis Burks. And while Harry Caray might remind us that Ellis Burks backwards spells "silly scrub," beyond the unhappy propensity for injury, all were very good to great hitters who retained value relatively late.
Can Cameron do likewise at 33, and be more durable? I'll defer to our own Will Carroll on the injuries and to the question of whether or not Cameron is going to have any problems from last season's collision or whether the vision problems that started cropping up in '02 are gone, but I'm an optimist, and think that if Cameron passed his physical, the Pads are in the clear. (For the curious, it was because the deal had not yet been consummated, pending the outcome of a physical, that I didn't comment on it last week; same approach covers why I'm not commenting on the Beckett-to-Boston move, without even bringing up last summer's Larry Bigbie imbroglio.)
Which takes us to where his career arc as a hitter was taking him. Consider this spread, covering the last six years:
Year Age EqA 2000 27 .288 2001 28 .301 2002 29 .286 2003 30 .278 2004 31 .271 2005 32 .285Now sure, the injury-shortened '05 blurs an otherwise pretty standard-looking decline, even with the wrist injury that hampered him in '04, and even with corrected vision, he never does seem to have gotten anything back. So if I had to hazard a guess, I'm thinking the Pads are probably only going to get something like the hitter who the Mariners let go after '03, and perhaps something less. Will the defense make up for it? I'm inclined to believe that it will, but in a lineup that's going to be handicapped with the arrival of Vinny Castilla, and still short a corner outfielder and a first baseman, there's a lot of work to be done, and Cameron isn't going to fix those shortcomings by himself.
As far as squeaking runs out of the margins and how that may become that much more necessary in 2006, the Padres have paid attention to how they stock their bench in the past, usually making a point to have handy pinch-hitting weapons from both sides of the plate, and sometimes going out of their way to find a particular platoon mate for a hitter like Ryan Klesko. But I'm not so sure about the wisdom of adding Hill and Young on top of a bench already manned by Geoff Blum. That's three infielder reserves who can't really play either middle-infield position, and while Hill has a good rep as a pinch-hitter and Young has done some damage against lefties and offers speed, I'm not sure this is really the bunch for the bench that I'd make a point of going out and getting at this early stage of the shopping season.
Purchased the contracts of SS-R Brendan Ryan and 3B-L Travis Hanson. [11/22]
Signed 2B/OF-L Marlon Anderson to a two-year contract. [11/18]
If Jim Bowden goes to Boston, shouldn't he be obligated to take some of his current bad ideas with him? Anderson? He's a step up from Carlos Baerga, I suppose, if that's a metric of taste or talent anyone should be using, but to blow a 40-man roster spot on him or someone like Tyrell Godwin, when you could make a Rule 5 pick or two, just strikes me as a complete disconnect from this team's needs. He's not the worst guy from the Lenny Harris class of professional pinch-hitters, but he's not a defensive asset, and is someone who slugged .391 really who you want to consider your thunder on the bench? Hitting .321 as a pinch-hitter this year certainly zotzed up his resume, but hitting three home runs in the season's final week off of equally dead Phillies and Rockies squads are what got him up to that whopping .391 SLG. And to give him a two-year deal? Sure, having people around to pinch-hit for Cristian Guzman is a three-year job for this organization, but Anderson's not the guy I'd pay nearly $2 million over two years to do it. Certainly, if you're going to poor-mouth, you really shouldn't be spending your money this way. If you're Nats fan, you should ask that Anderson be handcuffed to the man who signed him.