March 27, 2006
Optioned OF-R Nick Gorneault to Salt Lake. [3/17]
I owe an apology to everyone for last week's "disappearance," but between the limitations of having access while on the road, and the hurly-burly of long train rides to Boston and Philly, in the end, I got a lot less done than I expected. That said, I know that we're all extremely grateful to everyone who turned up to the events in Boston and Philadelphia, and also happy to have found that we didn't have to deal with nearly as many steroids questions in either city as we did in New York. So, as we gear up for daily TAs through the final cutdowns for Opening Day, here's my quick run-through on most of the teams' moves in the past week...
Nothing wrong with the Angels' group of send-downs. Don't get me wrong--I wishcast fab futures for Aybar and Kendrick as much as the next fan--but basically, these were all players who weren't going to make the team. If, later on, there's enough interest in Adam Kennedy, or if Dallas McPherson flops, perhaps even if it's a matter of the Angels accepting the inevitable and making Darin Erstad into glue, if that then pushes Chone Figgins into center field, even if it's a matter of swapping in Kendrick for Erstad, that's an in-house upgrade. It'll bear watching, not because these are the things the Angels want to do, but because they may finally have to.
Released RHP Ricky Bottalico and 1B/3B-R Luis Lopez; optioned OF-L Val Majewski, SS-L Brandon Fahey, and RHP Hayden Penn to Ottawa (Triple-A); optioned OF-L Jeff Fiorentino to Bowie (Double-A); reassigned RHP Winston Abreu, LHP Scott Rice, 1B-R Alejandro Freire, and 1B/3B-L Andy Tracy to their minor league camp. [3/22]
Bottalico obliged the team by demonstrating that they'd be better off considering other alternatives, but beyond that sort of good news, who's left standing in the pen? Both John Halama and Sendy Rleal, permanent projects like Eddy Rodriguez and Eric DuBose, and possibly Andy Mitchell. But even with Bottalico gone, there's still the likely veteran horror of having Jim Brower still hanging over the club's collective head.
Reassigned RHP Matt Ginter, LHPs Craig Breslow, Mike Bumatay, and Phil Seibel, 2B/SS-B Jed Lowrie, and OF-L Luke Allen to their minor league camp; optioned RHP Cla Meredith to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/17]
Signed DH-R Juan Gonzalez to a minor league contract. [3/19]
Claimed 1B-L Hee Seop Choi off of waivers from the Dodgers. [3/24]
It's easy to write off the Red Sox as some sort of push-button front office, as Johnny Damon has, but that misses the point. As assemblages of skills go, it isn't like Choi and Pena have all that much in common superficially. Pena hacks, and Choi waits, after all, and either one can bug most of the people much of the time because of those qualities. But the more basic fact, what Theo Epstein and company recognize, is that both are hitters who might really bust out, and both were available at ridiculously cheap prices. As moves go, nabbing Pena for a fifth starter (aspiring to be a fourth, yeee-ha), or swiping Choi off of waivers, aren't really that different from the decision to grab David Ortiz because he was there. Epstein's picking people for their upside potential, and that's what inspired the decisions that added Papi or Kevin Millar alike.
Which is not to say that they're perfect; they're not, and each has issues that need to be addressed. Pena has OBP and strike-zone command issues that might keep him in the Glenn Braggs, "prodigious power - batting practice displays" category of Olympic Demonstration Sports. Similarly, Choi needs to beat his rap as a patient hitter who has slid into passivity. With playing time, both can answer those questions this year. What both players share is that they're both actually pretty athletic for players on the left side of the defensive spectrum, Pena because he can run and throw, and Choi because he's pretty nimble around the bag and on the bases.
Both also have different ranges of possible success. Partially, that's because Pena's only 24 while Choi is already 27. But also, that's because Pena's locked in for three more years and the hope is that he'll claim right field for himself after Trot Nixon's contract runs out after this season, while Choi will have to beat out J.T. Snow and make a good impression quickly. Finding useful first basemen isn't really that hard, so if Choi doesn't shine quickly, he could be as quickly thrown over the side or overlooked as Roberto Petagine was last year. But where Pena's a necessity forced on a club that can't count on Nixon and which would rather have Manny Ramirez off of the field with a late lead, Choi creates additional possibilities in the lineup. Now that Boston has Choi, manager Terry Francona can consider pushing Kevin Youkilis back over to third base, making the Sox that much less dependent on Mike Lowell successfully coming back from a career-crippling 2005 season. Heck, if it winds up that Lowell serves as the defensive replacement at third, and offensive platoon partner with Choi, with Youkilis flipping between the corners depending on which of the Heke Choiwell platoon is starting, that's pretty tasty. But there is the danger that Lowell's going to get more time than he'll earn, courtesy of his past fame and the salary that reflects it, placing the Sox instead in the position of platooning Choi and Youkilis. That can work, of course, but that means Lowell must hit, and I'm pretty doubtful on that score.
Optioned OF-L Jerry Owens and LHP Paulino Reynoso to Charlotte (Triple-A). [3/17]
Reassigned 3B-R Josh Fields, OF-B Darren Blakeley, and RHP Agustin Montero to their minor league camp. [3/21]
Optioned RHP Sean Tracey to Charlotte (Triple-A); reassigned LHP Armando Almanza, 2B/SS-R Angel Gonzalez, SS-R Robert Valido, C-R Gustavo Molina, and OF-L Ryan Sweeney to their minor league camp. [3/26]
I'm not inclined to judge Kenny Williams too harshly on his decision to dump Borchard for a token lefty. If anyone had kept a candle lit for Borchard's prospect status, it was Williams, and if he's willing to cut bait because the former Stanford wunderkind was out of options and seemed unlikely to help the team as a major league reserve, I'm willing to believe that nobody was better placed to make that call. Still, Sox fans shouldn't work themselves up over what they're getting in Thornton. Maybe pitching coach Don Cooper can help fix Thornton's control issues, but he'll be 30 before the postseason, and he completely flopped in the situational lefty role as a Mariner last season: .262/.372/.485, not to mention seven bombs in 103 lefty hitter at-bats.
The interesting wrinkle is that the paired decisions to swap Borchard and demote Owens do not in turn make Ross Gload a lock. With Dustin Hermanson certain to open the season on the DL, the Sox seem inclined to make the compensation mistake of carrying a twelfth pitcher. But keep in mind that one of the two guys crammed into the Hermanson substitution set-up will be Thornton, who might generously be termed a work in progress. The other might be Tim Redding, a pitcher similarly hoping to get his act together at the back end of the world champion's pen. Javier Lopez seems to have already won the second lefty job, but there's also camp phenom Boone Logan to consider. Maybe it's just me, but a seven-man pen where there are three guys you aren't afraid of (Bobby Jenks, Cliff Politte, and Neal Cotts), and four you can't be quite so sure about (Brandon McCarthy, Lopez, Thornton, and Redding), I don't see potentially not making a choice between Redding and Thornton as a decision where going with strength in numbers erases the questions about how good this pen will be.
Reassigned OF-R Ryan Mulhern to their minor league camp. [3/17]
Optioned RHP Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo (Triple-A). [3/25]
The names might surprise you, but this is the way it's going to be in the early going. I'm less disappointed about the decisions to send down Garko and Marte than I am about Carmona. Not that having Carmona pitch every fifth day in Buffalo is a bad idea. But consider their individual competition. Garko has to deal with waiting for the loyalty to Ben Broussard to wear thin, and Jason Dubois' latest bid for a major league job. Marte might get the job at third sooner rather than later, but again, the team has Aaron Boone making real money, and they've been convinced from the start that he's going to continue to turn things around. Where I'm frustrated by the decision to demote Carmona, or Kaz Tadano or probably Jason Davis, is that it's being done to hand that last spot in the pen to Danny Graves. Digger's already managed to bury other people's hopes for him, having flopped as a starter, a closer, and as a person who throws baseballs for cash in 2003, '04, and '05 respectively. I'd be much happier about a decision to give the last slot in the pen to someone like Tadano or Davis or Carmona, to have them prepped for the rotation through seeing major league hitters and reading major league scouting reports, instead of repeating their experiences with what it takes to beat those league champion Mudhens. But again, I harbor no real hopes that Graves or Steve Karsay have anything left. If anyone could use time in Triple-A to prove that they do, it should be those two, and not guys like Carmona.
Optioned RHPs Eulogio De La Cruz, Preston Larrison, Humberto Sanchez, and Jordan Tata, SS-B Tony Giarratano, 3B-R Kody Kirkland, and OF-R Brent Clevlen to Erie (Double-A); reassigned RHPs Tim Crabtree and Colby Lewis, C-B Mike Rabelo, C-R Danilo Sanchez, and 2B/SS-R Kevin Hooper to their minor league camp; released RHP Matt Mantei from his minor league contract. [3/17]
Optioned LHP Wil Ledezma to Toledo (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Chad Durbin, Lee Gardner, and Kevin Hodge, C-Rs Brian Peterson and Max St. Pierre, 1B-R Josh Phelps, OF-R Ryan Ludwick, and OF-L Reggie Taylor to minor league camp. [3/23]
Released 1B-L Carlos Pena. [3/26]
So, the real question here is who's going to pick Pena up? The Reds would be a pretty sweet fit, assuming they can get over their mancrush on Scott Hatteberg, but so would the Devil Rays, stuck as they are with the ever-replaceable Travis Lee. Even the Yankees could use a slick-fielding first baseman, with Pena perhaps fulfilling the role that Lee could not in 2004. Houston, perhaps, so that Lance Berkman could play an outfield corner? The Brewers, as insurance in case something goes terribly amiss with Prince Fielder? (Nah, they should just play Corey Hart if that happened.) But if there's a team that I think Pena would be a really good fit for, it would be the Giants. I don't think anyone should be drinking too deeply from Lance Niekro-brand Kool-Aid, but a Pena-Niekro platoon might provide everything that last season's J.T. Snow-Niekro platoon was supposed to. Pena is only just about to turn 28, and as disappointing as he's been to so many teams as a player only too ready to believe his own hype, there's still the chance that he could turn around his career and give people a good season or two.
Reassigned RHPs Kyle Snyder, Adam Bernero, David Elder, Bob Keppel, and Joe Nelson, OF-R Chad Allen, and OF-L Kerry Robinson to Omaha (Triple-A); reassigned C-L Mark Tupman to Wichita (Double-A); optioned LHP J.P Howell, SS-B Andres Blanco, 2B-B Ruben Gotay, and 1B-R Justin Huber to Omaha (Triple-A). [3/20]
Reassigned LHP Ricky Barrett and RHP Kevin Cameron to their minor league camp. [3/17]
Now Boof's out of the running, which reduces the race for the fifth slot to the two men it was supposed to be between all along, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker. It's a lovely choice to have, of course. Baker's having a good camp, though, despite four home runs allowed in 17 IP, and the job was his to lose, something he didn't do; as much as all of us might be excited to see the best pitching prospect in the game make it, it isn't the Twins' fault that they have some good pitching depth. If something's truly odd here, it's Heintz. There's no rational explanation for why a past-30 Triple-A lifer backstop is on the 40-man, but that's the Twins for you. Still, consider that a potential asset, in that they should be able to safely outright Heintz this week, when the time comes for them to purchase the contracts of Ruben Sierra (ick) or Jason Tyner (ack). Okay, so maybe that isn't exactly reassuring.
Optioned RHP T.J. Beam to Trenton (Double-A); optioned OF-B Melky Cabrera and LHP Sean Henn to Columbus (Triple-A); reassigned LHP Frank Brooks, RHP J. Brent Cox, C-R David Parrish, 3B/SS-B Marcos Vechionacci, SS-B Ramiro Pena, 1B/3B-L Eric Duncan, and 1B-R Mitch Jones to their minor league camp; announced the retirement of LHP Al Leiter. [3/19]
There really isn't that much to say about the Yankees' demotions: as a matter of habit, they don't really look all that closely at their own. The one news item of note might be the overly maudlin note of Leiter's retirement, which seemed to take on a "I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow" note. Who knew there was this much burgeoning nostalgia for the Mets of the last ten years? That said, Leiter did manage to survive some early career arm trouble, not to mention coming up with the Yankees at a time when it was a rough thing to be young, talented, and working for the last Billy Martin ballclub, right before things really fell apart in the Bronx. What's remarkable is that after spending much of his career in New York, he's maintained his reputation as a good egg, and he even managed to make a good impression in the booth. I doubt this is the last we'll see of him.
Optioned RHP Chris Mabeus to Sacramento (Triple-A); reassigned 1B-L Daric Barton and SS-B Cliff Pennington to their minor league camp. [3/17]
Reassigned OF-L Doug Clark to their minor league camp. [3/20]
Optioned LHP Dan Meyer to Sacramento. [3/25]
Acquired LHP Brad Halsey from the Diamondbacks for RHP Juan Cruz; optioned RHP Chad Gaudin, LHP John Rheinecker, C-R Jeremy Brown, SS-L Mike Rouse, and OF-Ls Charles Thomas and Matt Watson to Sacramento (Triple-A). [3/26]
Unless the master plan is to make the Admiral a situational lefty, I don't really get the decision to discard Cruz like this. Even then, Halsey was hardly dominant against lefties last season (.267/.308/.393), although those numbers get better if you let a bit of the Banker's Ballpark out of them. That's just about all that might be in the cards, because the rotation is already jam-packed (jellied, even), so Halsey's got next to no chance to make it as a starter. But then why make a point of getting him when you've got lefties Meyer and John Rheinecker similarly damned and doomed to a Sacramento summer? I'd rather have Cruz than Chad Gaudin or Kirk Saarloos, and is there really that much reason to suspect that Halsey can outpitch Meyer or Rheinecker in the second lefty's role that neither Ron Flores nor Randy Keisler managed to seize in camp?
Optioned OF-R T.J. Bohn to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/17]
Optioned OF-L Shin-Soo Choo to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/23]
Optioned RHP Jesse Foppert to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/26]
Some things, if not exactly settled, are close to it. The decision to cut Vina should make Jose Lopez the starting second baseman. I say only 'should' because anything that might involve the name 'Willie Bloomquist' involves irrational decision-making in this neck of the woods.
What's cool is the decision to pick up Borchard. Now, that might be a case of Bill Bavasi going back to the same well that gave them Jeremy Reed, and some Mariners fans might still be bitter about how little Reed has done for them in his first two years in the organization. But this is a case of dealing from depth, swapping out another one of the Mariners' dodgy mighta-coulda-shoulda-been hurlers for some needed outfield depth. And as much as Borchard has yet to really pan out as a prospect, it isn't really a problem for Seattle that he's out of options. They have no real alternatives, and once Carl Everett tanks, they're going to have playing time to spare, just as they do now with Reed out. Better still for Borchard, he's getting a look-see in center field because of Reed's injury. Not that Borchard might be a good center fielder, but he's gotten some work there in his multiple engagements in Charlotte, his advocates have always cited his athleticism, and having a slot open where he might get some at-bats make whatever likelihood exists that he might finally stick as a major leaguer that much more tangible.
Now, do I wish the team would take Choo a little more seriously? Yes, but that they aren't says more about them than it depended on whether or not they pulled the trigger on the Borchard deal. After all, it didn't cost them anything to get Borchard, and even if it was a case where Borchard had to compete with Choo, it was worth getting Borchard. Besides, they are giving Roberto Petagine serious consideration, and it's hard to get too down on them when he's among their possibilities. Now, if they make Petagine a Rainier and keep Greg Dobbs instead, that's a flavor of disappointment that might be new, ever for M's fans.
Outrighted LHP Jon Switzer to Durham (Triple-A). [3/18]
Interesting that the Rays gave Reyes just a one-year deal, instead of the more standard "you're hurt, you're probably not going to pitch until September, and we want you for next year" two-year deals, like those given to Jon Lieber by the Yankees or Scott Williamson by the Cubs. Maybe this will buy them some goodwill, in which case, it could turn out pretty nicely.
Reassigned C-R Nick Trzesniak and 3B-R Travis Metcalf to their minor league camp; optioned SS-R Joaquin Arias to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [3/17]
Reassigned RHP Rick Bauer to their minor league camp. [3/18]
Reassigned LHP Ron Mahay to their minor league camp. [3/26]
Optioned RHP Dustin McGowan to Syracuse (Triple-A). [3/18]
Reassigned RHP Ben Weber to their minor league camp. [3/22]
Reassigned LHP Matt Blank to their minor league camp. [3/26]
Not that McGowan or Marcum aren't already effectively ready for the major leagues, but the pitching staff is crowded by the decisions to retain old-timers like Pete Walker while also importing this winter's big-ticket pickups, A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan. If they don't have room for these guys, you can imagine how difficult it is for NRIs like James Baldwin, Brian Tallet, or Adrian Burnside. Tallet's having an especially good camp (12 baserunners and no runs allowed in 10.1 IP), which is why he's still in the running, but it hasn't been easy. The Jays simply have a lot of ready or nearly-ready pitching talent, which makes it dangerous for guys like League or Rosario if they fail to impress.
The decision to bring in Cruz might strike some as odd--is there really that much sense to having Cruz and Luis Vizcaino?--but I like it. Whereas Halsey might never have had a decisive advantage over Claudio Vargas in the fight for the fifth spot, and neither Halsey nor Vargas would probably ever perform well enough to push past Russ Ortiz on the rotation depth chart, Cruz could. However, if he doesn't get that opportunity, he might still be able to become a dominant reliever, something that, as talented a group as the Snakes seem to be putting together in their pen, you can never quite have too many of. Halsey wasn't going to be any of those things, not now, not ever, so this is a slam-dunk good deal for Josh Byrnes and company.
Optioned RHP Anthony Lerew to Richmond (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Chad Paronto, Wes Obermueller, and Travis Smith, UT-B Cesar Crespo, 1B/OF-R David Kelton, and OF-L Michael Ryan to Richmond (Triple-A); RHP Sean White and C-B Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Mississippi (Double-A); and C-R Steve Pyzik to Myrtle Beach (A-ball). [3/23]
If there's a surprise here, it might only be the decision to cut Ryan a week early, but when you consider that the last thing the Braves need to worry about is finding a lefty-hitting reserve outfielder to back up lefty-hitting outfielders like Kelly Johnson and Ryan Langerhans, it really doesn't wind up being all that surprising. Certainly, nobody should have been wondering if Crespo was going to push past Pete Orr, and Kelton's failure to outshine James Jurries in a bid for platooning with Adam LaRoche is just the latest bad break in a prospectdom long since gone sour.
Reassigned C-R Jake Fox and C-B Dennis Anderson to their minor league camp. [3/21]
Optioned C-R Geovany Soto to Iowa (Triple-A); optioned C-B Jose Reyes and 1B-R Brian Dopirak to West Tenn (Double-A); reassigned 3B-R Casey McGehee and INF-B Augie Ojeda to their minor league camp; received Rule 5 pick RHP Juan Mateo back from the Cardinals. [3/23]
Acquired C-R David Ross from the Padres for RHP Bobby Basham; designated RHP Jason Standridge for assignment. [3/21]
Wayne Krivsky's opening weeks as general manager have been nothing if not decisive. He's been more than willing to shake up his 40-man roster, particularly concerning some of the pitchers, and sure enough, nobody else really wants guys like Bong or Standridge or Howington or Basham, the detritus of years of mismanagement. The real question is whether or not that shortage of pitching talent in particular makes for an acceptable motivation to go out and get a merely adequate starting pitcher in exchange for one of the team's few actual commodities. There's no tin badge for finishing fourth in the NL Central, so why Krivsky feels that his team is better off going out and getting a starting pitcher who, on a good team, might rate as a fourth or fifth starter, and giving up one of his coveted quartet of outfielders to do it, defies explanation.
Now, yes, a rotation that has to count on Dave Williams and Eric Milton, one with Aaron Harang as its putative "ace," obviously needs help. Maybe there's something to be said for having people who can give you six innings per outing, quality start or no, because it's going to be a long, hard summer for the Reds' pen. But is Arroyo really going to help? Other than being able to handle a larger workload last year, is he really somebody you want to rely on? His strikeout rate was in the dumper, he's a flyball pitcher with problems against lefties coming into a lefty-friendly power park. All because he's affordable, having been signed to a three-year deal? That's a Minnesota way of seeing things, acquiring cheap players to achieve cheap goals, except unlike the Twins, Pena was something of value, one of the very few players on this roster with a future, and he was also relatively affordable.
Dealing Pena for somebody else's fifth starter doesn't just give you a fifth starter, it may also cripple up your opportunities to swing other possible deals with the outfielders you've got left. Can the Reds afford to move Ken Griffey Jr. now? Even with Pena out of the way, they're not creating an opportunity for Denorfia, they're making it that much easier to give significant playing time to Scott Hatteberg, or perhaps to play Ryan Freel in the outfield a little more often, just to make sure they have Tony Womack in the lineup. As much as Krivsky inherited a weak hand, this was a deal that did nothing to make it any better, with the best possible outcome being that perhaps they'll flip Arroyo to a contender looking for a fifth man in July. Failing that, this is a reconstruction project that will really have to start from scratch, reliant on the draft's slowly-delivered gifts, and without the benefit of adding near-ready prospects from other systems through a needed tear-down.
There might be some head-scratching over the decision to pick up Ross, but even if Jason LaRue's knee wasn't an issue (he might miss a month), it makes sense for the Reds to have a fallback option in case they wanted to shop LaRue for a top prospect later on this spring. And if, instead, they wanted to peddle either Ross or Javier Valentin to somebody who needs a useful backup catcher, and get a second-tier prospect, again, that's a play that the Reds should have on their menu of in-season options. It isn't like Dane Sardinha is useful, and I would like to think his days on the 40-man will be coming to an end.
Finally, while I believe in second chances, and while I believe in the utility of slumming for the occasionally viable retread, there comes a point where you really need to check out what you might be getting yourself into, because if you don't dig up a bit of history, it doesn't repeat itself, it tap-dances on your present and expects you to foot the bill. Alex Sanchez isn't asking for a second chance, he's asking for his fourth or fifth, and there are several reasons for it. Like his hitting, like brainless baserunning, like his Wrongway Corrigan routine in the outfield or his throwing arm, or like his studiously developed reputation for surliness.
And just like that, the Rockies are essentially down to five pitchers fighting for three spots in a seven-man pen: righthanders Miguel Asencio, David Cortes, and Scott Dohmann, and lefties Tom Martin and Jamie Cerda. (The "Big Four" are Brian Fuentes, Ray King, Jose Mesa, and Mike DeJean.) There is also the possibility that one of the losers in the three-way fight for the fifth slot in the rotation, either Sun-Woo Kim, Zach Day, or Josh Fogg, will get bumped to the pen. Ideally, you'd like to see the pen include some few who might be useful Rockie hurlers in two years, but all of these guys are young vets: Cortes is 32, Dohmann 28, Cerda 27. Only Asencio really qualifies as a guy with a potentially notable future at 25, which makes for a staff with which GM Dan O'Dowd can merely endure, and not even really use as stretch drive components for other clubs in a bid to add other people's farm talent. That's about as grim as things get. Okay, it would be worse if the club really wants to find out whether King or Mesa would win an egg-eating contest, but sort of like Cool Hand Luke and the rest of the gang, there isn't much else to do to pass the time. Let's face it, when you're pitching on Planet Coors, you're serving time.
Optioned RHP Yusmeiro Petit to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [3/22]
So, shortstop is settled, and the job's going to Hanley Ramirez, as it really should. And the closer won't be Bowyer, as the Fish learned--as they will learn all summer--that no matter how many kid pitchers you pick up, most of them don't live up to your fondest hope for them. As for the decision to demote Stokes, if there's one to regret, it is perhaps that one. The pity (or the irony) is that this is the franchise that did not make the mistake that the Royals did when they saw Jeff Conine as someone who couldn't cut it in left field. Instead, the Fish went ahead and made him one. Now that they're every bit as much in need of a left fielder as they were in 1994, it's a pity that they didn't give Stokes more of a shot. However, before getting really worked up over the Chris Aguila Era, keep in mind that Stokes isn't out of the running yet. Left looks like it'll be manned by Josh Willingham now and again, to keep his bat in the lineup as well as to get Miguel Olivo a few PAs, and Stokes needs to make up for time lost to last season's injury. If Stokes has a hot start, even if Willingham's going strong, there's still a possibility for him, since manager Joe Girardi has made it plain that he takes Willingham seriously as a catcher.
Optioned RHPs Matt Albers and Felipe Paulino to Round Rock (Triple-A). [3/19]
Reassigned RHPs Ezequiel Astacio, Joe Valentine, and Dave Borkowski, OF-Ls Josh Anderson and Luke Scott, OF-R Charlton Jimerson, INF-R Danny Klassen, and C-B Hector Gimenez to their minor league camp. [3/25]
The only news of note in conjunction with these cuts is that Astacio's demotion confirms that Wandy Rodriguez is set as the fourth starter, and that Astacio doesn't have that much room for maneuver now that both Taylor Buchholz and Fernando Nieve are nearly ready. That's not bad news, other than the Rodriguez part, since you can safely infer from that comment that Brandon Backe is the #3 starter, which in turn means that the Astros don't have a rotation that can really keep up with the better teams in the division, and perhaps not even one substantively better than the Reds' after you get past Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte.
Optioned OF-L Andre Ethier to Las Vegas (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Takashi Saito to their minor league camp. [3/23]
Ethier just wasn't going to beat out Joel Guzman this spring, let alone make the team wonder about its commitment to Jose Cruz Jr., so it's just as well that he's going to get his hacks playing in the PCL, to see if he can build on last season's success in the Texas League and the Arizona Fall League. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out in future seasons, because J.D. Drew is under contract through 2009, and neither he nor Ethier are likely to play center for any extended period during the intervening time. Of course, as a DePodesta legacy contract, I think we all expect Drew to be dealt before the end of that deal, which becomes something of a necessity if the Dodgers are ever going to have Guzman and Ethier in their outfield corners simultaneously.
Optioned RHP Carlos Villanueva to Huntsville (Double-A). [3/21]
To paraphrase Slim Pickens in Doctor Strangelove, you could have a pretty good weekend in Nashville with all that good stuff. Cruz had to be a particularly tough send-down, but with Gabe Gross and Corey Hart on hand, the Brewers have all sorts of tasty options for outfield reserves. Gross certainly helped his cause by heating up at the right time. But as for the rest, Hendrickson and Sarfate certainly bear watching, since each will be pitching for the opportunity to be the club's first call-up after somebody in the rotation breaks down, while Krynzel needs to see if he can refresh his prospect status by posting his first really good season since 2002. Barring that, he'd be a great center fielder for the Marlins right now, but the Brewers would have to feel charitable to make it so. Turning back to Hendrickson and Sarfate, however, neither had really stellar camps, and with Zach Jackson wowing people, and with Rick Helling in reserve, it's up to them to actually impress people, and not just take their turns.
Placed RHP Juan Padilla on the 60-day DL. [3/23]
Optioned LHPs Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny, UT-R Yurendell De Caster, 1B-R Brad Eldred, and OF-R Rajai Davis to Indianapolis (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Ron Chiavacci, Nerio Rodriguez, and Matt Whiteside, C-R Carlos Maldonado, INF-R Jason Alfaro, and SS-R Gookie Dawkins to their minor league camp. [3/21]
Sort of like the Indians, you might be slightly surprised by some of the names, but again, these were guys who were bound to be demoted given the ballclub's alternatives. Eldred was boxed out by Sean Casey, Burnett and Gorzelanny by ... well, okay, Brandon Duckworth or Victor Santos. That sounds more disappointing than it is, however: Gorzelanny could have shown better control, and Burnett's still recuperating from surgery. I would have liked seeing De Caster get a better shot at the job that seems likely to be handed to Mike Edwards, but Edwards is a favorite of manager Jim Tracy's from last season in L.A., but that wasn't going to be in the cards, not when De Caster was off galavanting about in the WBC for Team Netherlands. So instead, Edwards is contending with J.J. Furmaniak and Jose Hernandez (another former Dodger). If there's a guy I'm really disappointed for, it's Davis, but in queue for the center field job, his number's lower than Chris Duffy's or Nate McLouth's. Since it remains to be seen how well McLouth can play center, and whether or not Duffy will pan out, I suspect we'll see Davis again. He can handle center, gets on base at a decent clip, and if base-stealing really does come back in vogue, he can run.
Optioned RHP Tim Stauffer to Portland (Triple-A); reassigned C/1B-R Jason Hill to their minor league camp. [3/17]
Optioned CF-B Freddy Guzman to Portland (Triple-A). [3/18]
Acquired RHP Bobby Basham from the Reds for C-R David Ross. [3/21]
Purchased the contract of LHP Alan Embree from Portland (Triple-A). [3/22]
Outrighted RHP Seth Etherton to Portland (Triple-A) after the Royals declined to take the Rule 5 pick back. [3/24]
With the demotions of Stauffer and Etherton, the question over the last slot in the rotation boils down to an epic choice between Dewon Brazelton and Shawn Estes, not exactly the stuff champions are made of, not that both of them won't look better pitching in Petco. Add in that this team is counting on Embree as its situational lefty, and that many of the pen's considered first choices, guys like Scott Linebrink, Clayton Hensley, and Japanese League re-import Brian Sikorski, are all looking bad in camp, and the pitching staff has very much become a source of concern. If there's been a bright spot, it's how well Steve Andrade has pitched in camp, striking out 15 in eight innings, and allowing only three hits.
As for picking up Basham, he's damaged goods trying to work his way back from shoulder surgery, so it isn't like the Pads got something they can use for Ross. The point was that they didn't need Ross now that they have both Mike Piazza, Doug Mirabelli, and Pete Laforest all hanging around. Basham's not on the 40-man, so he's a flyer picked up as a matter of doing the Reds a small favor.
Reassigned LHP Michael Tejera, RHPs Matt Anderson, Brian Cooper, and Matt Kinney, INF-R Tomas de la Rosa, and C-R Yamid Haad to their minor league camp; optioned C-R Justin Knoedler and OF-L Nate Schierholtz to Fresno (Triple-A). [3/19]
Reassigned RHP Pedro Liriano to their minor league camp. [3/26]
Returned Rule 5 pick RHP Juan Mateo to the Cubs. [3/23]
Okay, as much as I know that Reyes losing out to Sidney Ponson might inspire some panicking in the streets, I'm just not that disappointed about this. First, it does take whatever Opening Day jitters might come with Reyes winning the job in camp off of the table--some people in the game like working rookies into things after the season's started, and after they've taken the edge off with a little bit of initial work in Triple-A, and no, that's not all about manipulating service time. Second, as I stated earlier this winter, if anybody's likely to successfully retread Ponson, it's pitching coach Dave Duncan. Third, it's only the fifth slot that we're talking about, and given how weak the rest of the division looks, the Cardinals can afford to experiment to see if they've got something for nothing here. As long as they don't get too carried away, and are willing to cut bait on Ponson if he has a bad first month, there's really not a lot of initial downside, just some prospect maven heartbreak.
Optioned OF-L Tyrell Godwin and 2B-B Bernie Castro to New Orleans. [3/19]
Optioned LHP Billy Traber to New Orleans (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Kyle Denney, Saul Rivera, and Steve Watkins, C-R Mike DiFelice, OF-R Kenny Kelly, and OF-L George Lombard to their minor league camp; released LHP Valerio de los Santos per the terms of his contract. [3/23]
Where's William Randolph Hearst when you need him? Now that the Nats have lost Luis Ayala for the season, I'd figure that would rank as a casus belli for old Mr. Go-Jingo. There is the question of where he's want the Marines sent, to the Halls of Montezuma or the shores of Milwaukee, against either Mexico or Bud Selig, but since we don't really know why the Great Lakes Naval Base exists (Canadian piracy not being what it used to be), I'd figure it'd be easy enough to scrape up a strike force and remove the odium of the last representatives of dynastic absolutism, and send the Seligs to the same dustbin that the Spanish Habsburgs, and perhaps even a Portuguese Braganza to be named later, are already consigned to.
What losing Ayala highlights is the extent to which both Ramirez and Martinez might be a bit disappointed to have been shipped out already, because both have four years of experience at Double-A or higher, and they couldn't make the cut. That's less an indictment of either of them--with luck, both could wind up as big league middle relievers--than a comment on some pretty decent depth in the pen, with or without Ayala. After closer Chad Cordero, the Nats still have right-handers Gary Majewski, Jason Bergmann, Travis Hughes, and Felix Rodriguez. On the lefty side of the equation, it's Mike Stanton and Joey Eischen. That's just on the 40-man roster--NRIs shouldn't lose hope, because with Ayala and Brian Lawrence bound to wind up on the 60-day DL, at least two slots on the 40-man will open up. So Kevin Gryboski can hope his camp means something. Regardless, that's enough talent to put together a functional big league bullpen.
In news on vaguely related to Ian Desmond's status as the club's shortstop of the future--and whether or not that future, if not now, is going to be real soon--it's hard to know how seriously to take Cristian Guzman self-excusification about how his shoulder's been aching for years. After the last couple of seasons, any alibi will do, but when the high end of expectations for what Guzman might give you is in the U.L. Washington class of ballplayer, this sort of explanation ranks with a press conference explaining the lack of progress of the Albanian space program.