April 14, 2006
Recalled RHP Chris Britton from Bowie (Double-A); optioned RHP Cory Morris to Ottawa (Triple-A). [4/12]
Riding the hot hand is a time-honored tradition in the game, but managing your roster to bring up a minor league hot hand on less than a week's work seems like a bit of an overreaction. But Britton is the reigning organization Pitcher of the Year after his nifty work in High-A Frederick last season, he does have a nice power mix of good heat and a hard slider, and let's face it, the Orioles are hard up for some relief help.
Activated LHP David Wells from the 15-day DL; placed RHP David Riske on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 4/5; signed CF-B Coco Crisp to a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension, with a club option for 2010. [4/12]
Crisp's deal breaks down into a million dollar signing bonus, then $3.5, $4.75, and $5.75 million per year, with the option running $8 million (or a $500K buyout). (He's under contract for $2.75 million this year.) That adds up to $17.75 million he's due through 2009, while his Marginal Value Over Replacement Player (or MORP) over that time is projected to be $28.7 million. Contrast that with Johnny Damon at $13 million per for the next four, of $52 million actual dollars (three times as expensive as Crisp), and a prospective $26.05 million of value projected through MORP. That's all offense, setting aside Damon's declining play afield and Crisp's solid rep. You're damn right I think the Sox wound up with the better center field situation through 2009 or 2010, even with the injury to Crisp notionally dampening people's enthusiasm. Better now than later, I suppose, in that if the Sox have to get by without Crisp for an extended period of time, you may as well see how much it's going to cost you now, when you can still do something about it, than if he'd gotten hurt in September.
I'm just not that enthusiastic about Mohr, who seems destined for little better than enshrinement in the Bob Zupcic Wing of the Boston Sports Hall of Moderate Repute. (Better known as the guys who aren't as cool as Mosi Tatupu.) Nevertheless, it looks like he's to be the default center fielder, while Adam Stern awaits the Guillotine of Rule 5 Service Time to drop on April 19. I guess the nice thing about Pawtucket is that it isn't that big a deal to throw your stuff in the car and move down, but still, it's a bit of a bitter pill. If, eventually, the Sox bring Willie Harris up to play a little bit of outfield, get on base now and again, and run, I guess that's a viable enough alternative to Mohr. And there's always Wily Mo Pena, if the Sox elect to go that route (and if Trot Nixon is ever healthy for a long enough stretch during Crisp's absence).
Finally, Jumbo's return to the rotation seems a bit hurried, but he'll be in the fifth slot, and no doubt throwing on the side and whatever else it takes away from live action to get ramped up for better work than what he showed against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. Besides, Riske really only had the benefit of not being Keith Foulke, keeping his neverending struggles since being swapped over to Boston from becoming a focus of angry mob attention. Hopefully he'll be shipshape by the time Rudy Seanez's scheduled return to Traction Action comes up.
Announced that C-R Wil Nieves cleared waivers, and outrighted him to Columbus (Triple-A). [4/13]
I don't know if Quiroz finished the pot of coffee without making a fresh one or what, but the best you can say about this is that either he gave the Mariners a reason to just say no, or this is the period of time that GM Bill Bavasi thinks he can squeak Quiroz through waivers to get him down to Tacoma and pile up the playing time that he really needs if he's going to jump-start his career. Either would be defensible. There's always the possibility that the Mariners just simply prefer Rivera, given his age and his glovework, but his future's relatively limited.
As for the decision to swap out Harris upon Lawton's return, instead of risking Joe Borchard on waivers or designating Roberto Petagine for assignment, I'm glad they made the sensible choice and came down to eleven pitchers. They were going to need all the hitters they could get once they made that coyote-ugly decision to bring Carl Everett home in December, and they can't afford to lose either player lest they be reduced to another go-round with that nice young man, the safe, dull, dependably awful Willie Bloomquist.
Recalled RHP Jason Hammel from Durham (Triple-A). [4/11]
Placed 3B/OF-L Aubrey Huff on the 15-day DL (sprained knee). [4/12]
Nick Green collided with Huff on a foul pop, as nobody bothered to call for the ball. You can consider that a ripple effect of losing Julio Lugo, I suppose, and this wouldn't be the only situation where Green playing someplace other than second hasn't caused a bit of regret already.
It's interesting that, in replacing Mark Hendrickson, the Rays took the opposite approach from their position player dilemma. Where the Rays say that they can't call up B.J. Upton just yet, even with Huff out, because they want him to gain consistency at Triple-A and be ready to stick once he comes up, they're doing the exact opposite with Hammel. It's a risk, of course, especially when the kid in question has less than a full season above A-ball, however hard the kid throws. It seems especially odd when Edwin Jackson is cooling his heels in Durham, but Jackson's responsibility is to improve his control and settle into a consistent delivery, and jerking him around probably isn't the best way to help. In point of fact, Hammel's actually a year older than Jackson, so it isn't like Jackson's being oversloughed for a stripling. So a little bit of Hammel, a lot of Ty Wigginton, possibly an early return from the DL for Sean Burroughs, and perhaps a situation where Russell Branyan gets a shot to stick as a four corners bopper.
Placed 2B-R Ian Kinsler on the 15-day DL (dislocated thumb); activated OF-B Gary Matthews, Jr. from the 15-day DL; activated INF-R Marshall McDougall from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [4/12]
Well, crud. I'm far from being mistaken as having Texas sympathies in any way, shape, or form, but I harbor high hopes for what Kinsler can do on a diamond. Happily, his thumb should only shelve him for three weeks, during which time the Rangers can see what's to be done with D'Angelo Jimenez. Will he do good stuff? Will he just tantalize those of us in the seamhead community, the same way he always has, before somehow going terribly wrong? Maybe The Butterfly Effect would have been tolerable if Ashton Kutcher was trying to fix Jimenez's life, to give him the career that we all kept expecting him to have. Would Jimenez have been okay if he'd never been in the car accident? Would he not be the guy who annoys his teammates if he, I don't know, had gotten a pony instead of a pony sandwich back in the day? If he didn't start wearing a hat two sizes too small? I don't think we'll ever really understand why Jimenez became the occasionally excellent and suddenly disposable roster gypsy he's turned out to be, but something's up when teammates are emptying buckshot into you on your way out the door, as happened last season in Cincy. I'm always hopeful that a guy can capitalize on a second chance, but Jimenez is probably on his fourth or fifth by now.
Meanwhile, Matthews' return has generated bold talk that the Rangers might have their leadoff man. This would also probably involve throwing Laynce Nix in a woodchipper, because it isn't like they're going to cut bait on Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench. It would be easy to jeer this turn of events, but Matthews is the best they've got, and better to get to it and play the man than pretend that Nix is ever going to turn it around. Who knows, if they get that far, they might even have Gerald Laird and Rod Barajas exchange roles. Whatever their complaints about their leadoff problems, Jimenez and Matthews at the top of the order isn't the worst possible outcome.
Outrighted C/1B-R Jason Phillips to Syracuse (Triple-A); announced that they lost RHP Vince Perkins on a waiver claim by the Brewers. [4/12]
So, barely a week of Jason Phillips was worth... what again? Was there something Phillips did in that time that justified purchasing his contract on April 1, a move that essentially cost them Perkins? You can look at losing Guillermo Quiroz as an eventuality that would have come by now (once Gregg Zaun was ready to come off of the DL), but to discard Perkins as well, just because you wanted to have Phillips instead of Quiroz as your catching reserve for four games? That's just plain old bad management of your 40-man, made worse when you have to realize that your old GM is a front office flunky in Milwaukee these days. Given Gord Ash's past critiques of the Ricciardi regime, it also appears he's itching to trump the Jays at any turn. As having an arch-enemy goes, this is probably no more threatening than the classic question of Canadian filmcraft, but still, the Jays might have to worry that somebody out there wants to have their number.
Terry Mulholland is not the Mechanical Man? Who knew? The interesting wrinkle is that, in his absence, the Snakes decided to forego finding a token lefty, and instead made a point of bringing in Daigle, arguably their best available pitcher and one of their last camp cuts. (The alternative would have been Jeff Bajenaru, I suppose.) Sadly, he's also one of the guys we overlooked doing in this year's book, but he won't get a lot of opportunities to pitch with both Juan Cruz, Luis Vizcaino, and Greg Aquino all doing well in the middle innings. Having re-launched his career as a reliever last season at Double-A, Daigle can at least plausibly stick in a pen that shouldn't try to get by with Jason Grimsley and Brandon Lyon all season.
Recalled SS-R Tony Pena Jr. from Richmond (Triple-A). [4/12]
That nattering you hear is probably coming from Beantown, along with a few sniggers of welcome about what life might be like with a post-famous Edgar Renteria. But on a practical level, this is more about giving the roster an extra infield reserve behind Pete Orr now that Wilson Betemit is playing third pretty much every day. Pena has little offensive value: he runs more often than he should, doesn't walk, and has just enough power to avoid being mistaken for Rafael Belliard. He does arrive with enough of a defensive reputation that if the Braves really do start fretting about Renteria's leather play, they can always employ something more slick and whip out their Pena.
Signed 1B-R Derrek Lee to a five-year, $65 million contract through 2010. [4/11]
I guess it's hard to frame the concept of how good a player Lee is relative to other recent Cubs greats. I know, it's early to get too worked up, but let's try to put his 2005 in Wrigleyville-specific context. Last season, Lee's performance rated .347 in all-time adjusted Equivalent Average. Andre Dawson couldn't touch that, only getting up to .308 and .304 in his two best Cubs seasons (1990 and 1988, respectively). Sammy Sosa topped Lee's figure only once, in his 2001 season (with a .368), but to give Lee his due in other departments, he's a useful first baseman, and by then, Sammy was a waddling circus strongman in right field. Rick Wilkins? (Sorry, Cubs fans, that scab needed picking.) His single season in the sun, 1993, saw him crank at a .316 clip.
Let's skip over to the VORP family of stats for a second. (If you're a do-it-yourself type, play with this.) Consider where Lee's 2005 rates among Cub greats from 1960 to the present in Marginal Lineup Value, which is position-neutral, and so handy to use when just talking about what the guy did with the stick:
Player Year MLV Sammy Sosa 2000 109.5 Derrek Lee 2005 87.2 Sammy Sosa 2001 77.1 Sammy Sosa 1998 69.8 Billy Williams 1972 68.8 Ron Santo 1964 62.8 Billy Williams 1970 61.2 Billy Williams 1965 60.9 Sammy Sosa 2002 59.2 Jim Hickman 1970 55.2Always a good thing to be reminded of Billy Williams' greatness, and yes, that really is Piano Legs Jim Hickman in the tenth slot. And no, no Andre Dawson to be found. Ryne Sandberg's best season, 1990, ranks 15th, and Mark Grace's 1995 ranks 20th. To get to the Hawk's 1990 season, you have to get past some choice cuts from Bill Madlock, and the best years of Leon Durham (1982), Dave Kingman (1979), and even Aramis Ramirez's 2004.
He's certainly that occasional genuinely athletic first baseman--a gifted fielder who can run the bases--but in franchise history, he's keeping company with the oft-salaam'd one, and achieved something far better than the other routine recipient of Bleacher Creature worship.
That said, that was yesterday, and what's he going to do for the money going forward? It's interesting that PECOTA has trouble identifying meaningful comparables for him. That isn't PECOTA's fault: the guy's combination of skills is pretty rare, which is why a mid-career Dave Winfield is about as close as you get. That doesn't make Jim Hendry's job any easier, of course, but since Lee seems to be the sort who really only had that proverbial extra biscuit for breakfast (as Harry always put it), and has been able to crank pretty consistently, if not at last year's level, it's an interesting, defensible risk.
Placed RHP Mike DeJean on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 4/8. [4/11]
Recalled RHP Ramon Ramirez from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [4/12]
DeJean's never really a loss, although I think his career-long ability to avoid too much humiliation and pain on Planet Coors probably has him prepped for a gig as a pitching coach or roving pitching instructor in one particular organization. But in the meantime, the curiosity should be about Ramirez, a converted outfielder who represents a significant chunk of the initially lupin-like bounty of the Chacon trade. Ramirez is certainly interesting, apparently having picked up some nasty breaking stuff during a stint in Japan, as well as having good heat. He's really only here for the proverbial cup of coffee, keeping a seat warm for Byung-Hyun Kim, or perhaps Scott Dohmann once he beats whatever virus it is that's making his life miserable at the moment.
Recalled LHP Scott Olsen from Albuquerque (Triple-A); optioned RHP Chris Resop to Albuquerque. [4/13]
It's the portion of the program where the Marlins add their fifth to this year's Fishfinger Surprise special. Olsen got one start with the Isotopes, and didn't allow a run, so there's no second-guessing, and no real news. He'd won the fifth slot in March, and while it might seem a bit doofish to have had him in the Pacific Coast League while Scuffy Moehler takes his lumps, that's the nature of big league life when you have options: they may not be yours, but you can hopefully make other people not avail themselves of them. Olsen's prepped for what should be an interesting rookie year, the sort of season that should remind people that the Marlins actually still do develop a few pitchers of their own, instead of having to deal for everyone else's leavings.
Claimed RHP Vince Perkins off of waivers from the Blue Jays. [4/12]
So, you have a guy who throws in the mid-90s, has a career record of being tough to hit, pretty good at keeping the ball in the park and on the ground, and he's available as a waiver claim? Even if his breaking stuff remains an only-promising work in progress, this is somebody who might make for a pretty tasty reliever, let alone a relative roster freebie. Assistant GM Gord Ash was the front man in a Jays organization that picked him as a draft-and-follow in 2000 and signed him in 2001, so of course the Brewers are a wee bit familiar with Perkins. As they were with Gabe Gross for that matter, although to be fair, both David Bush and Zach Jackson were Ricciardi picks, so it isn't like Ash is truffling for only his own Jays leavings. Not that there's anything wrong with this: people act on what they know, and it's fair to say that Ash is a wee bit familiar with the Blue Jays. In terms of worthwhile or interesting young talent, that's bad taste to acquire when it comes to keeping an eye on the waiver wire.
I will not thank any particular deity for a wrong made right. But in saying that, I should also state that we cannot thank reason either. Instead, we can all be grateful to man's capacity for exasperation, courtesy of the caprices of Nats GM Jim Bowden. It was he who can take the credit for raising Watson on high, he who drank the Ozzieball-brand Kool-Aid that told him that success goes to the swift and not the strong, and then he who, shaking off that particular hangover and panic-stricken over a 2-8 start, cast Watson down. You'd a thunk a man who worshipped at the altar of Freon Deion as long as he did would have long since figured out the penalties of praying to false idols.
If you don't think this was both a bit of scapegoating (to paraphrase Casey, they couldn'a dunnit without a Watson), why does Gonzalez get sent to the wall as well? Well, actually, that might have more to do with the eventual return of Robert Fick, because it doesn't look like Harris is going to play all that much. Think about that bench for a second, once Fick is ready to be reactivated. At least notionally, that gives you a lefty-righty tandem in Fick and Matt LeCroy as pinch-hitters who can bop a bit, catch, and play first. You also already have Daryle Ward and Marlon Byrd sort of offering that same combination in the outfield. And for utilitymen who can play six or seven positions apiece, you've got a lefty-righty pairing of Marlon Anderson and Damian Jackson. No, it's not a great group of players, but that's why it's a bench, and it's an interesting and useful enough group, a combination of people who can run, sort of, or hit for power, sort of, or hit for average. Sort of.
Finally, as far as center field, where does this leave the Nats? Happily, where they should have been all along. I'm glad that the club has made a choice that's all about getting results on the field, instead of playing make-believe that Watson's going to be... what, the next Vince Coleman? For the curious, Church didn't hit during his week in Triple-A. So what? Like getting worked up about a bad week or two in spring training, a good team is supposed to be able to assess the difference between data and talent. From an analysis perspective, Church is the same guy who's mashed in the minors for years. From a player development perspective, you're supposed to be able to see that sort of thing, instead of getting all worked up like some fantasy leaguer over a dry spell. Here's hoping Church hits the bejeebus out of the ball, not just on Easter weekend, but for a few seasons' worth of weekends to come.