June 16, 2006
June 13-15, 2006
Returned OF/1B-L Jay Gibbons to the 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled INF-R Ed Rogers from Ottawa. [6/14]
For Boston, Lopez is a pretty sweet pickup. Dealing from their excess of veteran right-handed relief help, they've picked up a good lefty arm. Not that he's overpowering, but he's a side-armer with a decent assortment of junk, and if they're missing Mike Myers, this might just be their fix. In Charlotte this spring, he'd struck out 26 in 33 frames, allowing only 28 hits, six walks, a lone home run, and two runs. That was while working as the club's closer, so he wasn't merely getting to lord it over minor league lefties batting against him, and like a lefty version of Chad Bradford, he's generating some insane groundball/flyball ratios, nearly 6-1 for the Knights. Assuming that Alex Gonzalez and Mark Loretta could fulfill their end of the bargain, Lopez might be exactly the situational fix the club needs to tackle inherited runners situations, inducing a few clutch GIDPs.
As for losing Foulke, I wouldn't get too terribly worked up about it. Timlin's the better pitcher, so having him back makes for something more than a push, and if this allows the Sox to review whether or not Julian Tavarez or Rudy Seanez belong here ahead of Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen, or even Van Buren. That would be expensive--Seanez will draw only a little more than $2 million this year if the Sox don't pick up his option for next year, while Tavarez is signed to one of the worst mid-price deals of the past winter, where he's owed more than $3 million for this season and next, and close to $4 million for his 2008 option. You could always hope to convince one of them to accept an assignment to Pawtucket, because odds are the salaries are enough to deter any waiver claim, but Boston's stuck with the classic question every contender dreads: money, or performance? The money's already spent, while the performance for elder statesmen like Tavarez and Seanez gets a wee bit less likely with every passing year. Given that this is going to be an extremely tight race in the AL East this season, can the Sox afford a return to the self-immolative bullpen nonsense of 2003?
This was very much a trade that helped both teams, because the White Sox did not need a third lefty when they already had both Neal Cotts and Matt Thornton doing good stuff. Combined with the realization that they're probably never going to see Dustin Hermanson and Jeff Nelson suit up again this summer, a right-handed reliever was a must-have item, and Riske's a more than decent filler for the role. If pitching coach Don Cooper can help him learn to avoid that slightly too-frequent mistake pitch against lefty hitters, he might move up from filler to significant asset. Kenny Williams did a nifty little job here, dealing from depth to fulfill a need.
Recalled RHP Jeremy Guthrie from Buffalo (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jason Davis to Buffalo; received RHP Jeff Stevens from the Reds, and assigned him to Lake County (A-ball) to complete the 4/7 Brandon Phillips deal. [6/13]
Released LHP Scott Sauerbeck unconditionally. [6/14]
Placed OF-R Casey Blake on the 15-day DL (strained oblique). [6/15]
It's expected that Blake will be replaced by some combination of Todd Hollandsworth and Eduardo Perez, which sort of defines what I take to mean replacement-level--not some mathematical abstraction of a ballplayer, but the sort of guys you wind up with when you're sifting through the second or third rank of talent. Considering that the Indians already have to make do with what little Jason Michaels is doing in left, that's an outfield that isn't fulfilling one of its most basic missions: putting runs on the board. It isn't that a Todduardo Perendsworth platoon is so terrible, it's that it's not so easily afforded when you've got Michaels not generating power in one corner, and Ron Belliard, Aaron Boone, and Jhonny Peralta all doing disappointing things at the plate.
In contrast, swapping between Guthrie and Davis is the sort of thing you shouldn't give a fig for, because who mops up is a mostly academic question. The pen needs better work out of people higher up on the pecking order, and in the same way that what the platoon does in Blake's absence isn't really the issue, it's up to Fernando Cabrera and Guillermo Mota to step it up.
Ledezma was pitching well for the Mudhens, giving up 2.8 runs per nine while striking out striking out 8.3 per, along with a 3:1 K:BB ratio in 71.1 IP spanning a dozen starts. As I discussed this spring, Leyland has a pretty tasty track record for cultivating pitchers in a middle relief role, so you might see this as something of a godsend for Ledezma. Not only will he have a shot at the majors, he'll get the same opportunity that other young Tiger hurlers seem to be enjoying learning about their craft from Kenny Rogers. Ledezma already has the velocity to overpower people, and his touch on his change and breaking stuff is obviously improving, but a little bit of inside dope and the opportunity to contribute to a winning ballclub could be the sort of event that finally gets his big league career on track.
As for Seay, his performance was pretty miserable, but to cut him some slack, he did get into Jim Leyland's doghouse pretty early, and he buries people in there more often than he lets them out. I still think he might make a useful second lefty in somebody's bullpen, assuming that isn't an oxymoron.
Acquired OF-L Brandon Roberts from the Reds for Mistake-$ Juan Castro. [6/15]
It's a pretty good week for the Twins when they recognize two mistakes and provide one solution. The job at shortstop should have been Bartlett's out of camp, but the same rose-colored glasses that looked at Castro and saw a starting shortstop went dark when spotting Bartlett's obvious virtues. But, now having spent ten weeks in Rochester reminding the organization that he's still their best shortstop, they've grudgingly seen the light. Perhaps his impatience with his predicament was the key, because he basically hacked his way back up out of Triple-A, hitting .306/.336/.443, which boils down to drawing only ten walks in ~250 PAs. So at least that's fixed, because there really aren't many alternatives to Bartlett that Ron Gardenhire could turn to in a new effort to re-screw up at shortstop.
The other misguided notion that's finally been discarded was the nonsense involving bringing Batista back from Japan. Unfortunately, the team doesn't have an equivalent Bartlett standing by at the ready to take over at third. Luis Rodriguez can get on base and can play the position, but lacks appreciable power. Terry Tiffee can generate an empty batting average but needs a good groundskeeper to keep him from taking root wherever he's planted. And of course, there's Nick Punto. So basically, the Twins have chosen to go without a third baseman as a result of their making the mistake of trying out Batista. It's a bitter fruit, but all part of what might now be a Matt Moses Watch. He's not doing all that hot in Double-A at the moment, but he is still only 21.
In the meantime, they could move Mike Cuddyer back to the hot corner, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards now that he's finally hitting as well as he'd always been hoped to be able to, but while playing right field. Even then, that idea might have to wait for Shannon Stewart coming off of the DL by July. If Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are both hitting at that point, it's either Stewart at DH or perpetuating the current crop of crummy alternatives at the hot corner. That would mean finding someone to play the outfield or DH who can outhit Rodriguez/Tiffee/Punto, but when the best option might be Lew Ford, it becomes something of a close call, and if it involves playing Ruben Sierra, it's just a new variant on last winter's setbacks.
It's a sign of creeping mortality when Bubba goes from the latest smiling occupant of the Homer Bush/Snuffy Stirnweiss Goofy Name Roster Spot to a necessary defensive replacement for whoever starts in right field, and occasional spot-starter for Johnny Damon. Snarking aside, though, this is obviously a minor improvement that comes on the heels of the especially good news that Derek Jeter is back in the field.
The problem with the Jaha Gambit to answer your DH needs is that it can often leave you flat-footed when your massive, fragile slugger breaks down. Naturally, the A's are spin-doctoring this latest injury as something that will only take a couple of weeks to clear up, but Sox fans have more than their fair share of "Waiting for Frank" experiences, something people in the East Bay are just going to have to get used to.
Happily, the A's do have something of a creative opportunity here. Whether it's letting Milton Bradley try to play through his injuries without having to take the field or getting Bobby Kielty some at-bats, the A's might not boast enough outstanding outfielders, but they do have enough outfielders to use to soak up the DH time. However, Brown's call-up hints at a more creative solution, which would be to take an involved look-see at whether or not Adam Melhuse might go on one of his tears; Brown would fill the infrequently-used caddy for Jason Kendall role.
Randomly-assembled really bad bullpens are sort of amusing to watch from a save distance--say, beyond the trajectory of the low-orbit projectiles they generate. However, what's remarkable about the D-Rays' pen performance so far isn't just that they've been bad, it's that everyone's been so universally unimpressive. If Shawn Camp is their best, and losing Walker is seen as a setback because of his joyous return to adequacy, that's not a pen with anyone who's either truly execrable or any good. The Rays' worst reliever so far has been Miceli, and he only ranks twentieth-worst among major league relievers. Generally speaking, you need people to be really bad to make for a universally bad bullpen, but the D-Rays haven't really done that yet. At season's end, it'll be interesting to see where they wind up historically. If you use Adjusted Pitching Runs for 1960 to the present, the all-time craptastic bullpens belong to the 1993 Rockies, and in the non-Denver or non-expansion category, the 1975 Cubs. In this area of achievement, I guess I doubt the Rays have the stuff of history in them. The Royals, on the other hand...
As for who gets saves, if it's Ruddy Lugo or Camp, welcome to my world circa 1986, when I was wondering if Bill Mooneyham or Eric Plunk might work out as a closer--the point is that the answer doesn't matter, now or ever, especially since none of these guys are ever going to be as good as Plunk. The one reliever anywhere in the organization-wide fish tank who might be is Chad Orvella, and he's the one they've singled out for an exercise in "My way or Durham" pique.
Gave 2B-B D'Angelo Jimenez his outright release. [6/14]
Eating Ortiz's contract is like eating a second bullet--you've already put the hole in your head, except you can actually do something to make yourself feel better, like deciding not to do it again every year for the rest of his contract. When a pitcher gets down into Jaime Navarro territory, he's what we might refer to in this most euphemistically-endowed eras as a unique asset. Now that he's out of the way, you can safely expect a spot start from Kevin Jarvis, followed by Juan Cruz filling the slot once he comes off of the DL. For Jarvis, this might represent a particular opportunity--as John Erhardt noted yesterday, Enrique Gonzalez is something short of a sure thing in the fifth slot. If Gonzalez slumps and Jarvis looks useful enough, the Snakes might make that easy fix. Don't rail against the notion just--keep in mind, we're talking about the fifth starter. If there's a more serious problem in the rotation, it isn't about trying to pick between these guys, it's that the Snakes have to pick between them and hope that Miguel Batista and Claudio Vargas can produce quality starts with any sort of regularity.
In the pen, having Choate up is a good thing. Not that he's the cat's meow, but you can expect Bob Melvin to start purring over having a situational lefty in his relief stable. That's something Choate should prove to be better suited for than Terry Mulholland--he was striking out almost half of the lefty hitters he faced in the PCL, with both OBP and SLG in the one-hundreds--but there's always the possibility that the Snakes will keep both.
Although losing Reitsma might seem like cause for parades in the streets of Atlanta, he wasn't the Braves' most underwhelming veteran reliever this spring-both Oscar Villarreal and Mike Remlinger have been even worse. Indeed, by WXRL, the Braves boast a pen better only than those of the Marlins and Royals. That clearly isn't going to fly if Atlanta expects to contend for anything, second place, the wild card, or the division, and Reitsma's absence alone won't fix things.
Enter Stockman, a little more than two months into an incredible season for the big (6'6", 7", or 8", depending on your source), storky Aussie and former Arizona farmhand. Signed up this past winter, Stockman's struggles as a minor league starter seemed to be related to his recurring case of Ismaelitis: disabling finger blisters. Converted to the pen last season, he started showing greater promise, and anybody who can throw a low-90s sinker, mix in some decent offspeed stuff, and occasionally dial it up into the mid-90s is a tasty find on the minor league free agent market. In the Braves' system, he's been overpowering between both Double- and Triple-A, striking out 51 in 37 IP, while allowing ten hits, 12 walks, three runs, and nothing in play that's gone out of the yard. That's obviously worth looking at, even if you don't already have the worst pen of any notional contender, and seeing that Stockman's only 26, he might actually end up being one of the best free talent finds of the past offseason.
Sent RHP Jeff Stevens to the Indians to complete the 4/7 Brandon Phillips deal (in lieu of cash). [6/13]
I've been generally impressed with Wayne Krivsky's early moves, but this has to be one which leaves you scratching your head. No, not sending Stevens away, that's cleaning up after the nifty Phillips pickup. No, instead, I'm wondering why anyone would send anything to anybody to get a player so profoundly incapable of helping a club as Castro is. What's he for? Defensive replacement work? That's what this team could have gotten from Ranier Olmedo. A bat so limp that Quinton McCracken would finally have a non-pitcher he could pinch-hit for? Or is it a matter of doing his old boss in Minnesota a favor? Whatever it was, or whatever combination of those things it might be, it does absolutely nothing for the club's chances, while wasting a 40-man roster spot that could have been employed some other way.
When you're the Fish, losing Willingham isn't really devastating as much as it represents losing one opportunity and taking up another. In his absence, Joe Girardi will have plenty of opportunity to play both Cody Ross and Joe Borchard. If there are any Marlins fans left, I feel your pain, because it would be nice to see how well this team might do if it ever gets Willingham and Jeremy Hermida and Mike Jacobs all bopping at the same time, but as is, they're providing a much stronger and more entertaining team than most expected. I'm probably way premature on this, but if everyone's healthy, I think the Marlins will end up being a pretty nasty spoiler team down the stretch.
Activated RHP Roy Oswalt from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Phil Barzilla to Round Rock (Triple-A). [6/14]
Maybe things like this too often remind me of the guy with the crushed ribcage in Predator asserting that he could make it, but an ethic of death or glory often tilts a little more heavily towards the latter. Sure, Oswalt's being a trooper, something he's done in the past and will no doubt do again. Because he isn't as voluble as Curt Schilling and more durable than Cal Eldred (Phil Garner's original sin when it came to workload management), he just doesn't get the hosannas he deserves.
Let's face it, how many pitchers get reputations as gamers? Usually, they earn some sort of sobriquet like "stopper," or get described as "rubber-armed." While Tony LaRussa prattles about people with hearts like lions and determination like box turtles and spleens like tapirs, pitchers have to settle for being horses--a fine thing if you're as equine-biased as I am, but not exactly as grimly focused as a box turtle confronting a tomato plant.
Oswalt labored his way to a quality start in his first game back off of the DL, although it came against the feeble Cubs. With Roger Clemens due up in a few more days (and another minor league gig), you might see things turning Houston's way, but I guess I'm a little more cautious. There's plenty of concern about how long Oswalt can continue to pitch past his physical challenges, and there are reasonable questions about whether or not Andy Pettitte is back just because he's tossed consecutive quality starts. Can the club continue to afford Taylor Buchholz's blend of great outings and disasters? What direction is Wandy Rodriguez heading this week? There's a lot of promise, but also considerable risk that somebody's going to get broken beyond repair. The Cardinals are very vincible for the time being, so my concern basically boils down to my hope that the Astros not take any unnecessary risks that might affect their ability to field a full-strength rotation down the stretch.
Returned RHP Eric Gagne to the 15-day DL (elbow); activated 2B-R Jeff Kent from the 15-day DL; optioned 3B/LF-R Joel Guzman to Las Vegas (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Chad Billingsley from Las Vegas; transferred OF-R Jason Repko from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/14]
There isn't much breath worth wasting on the Gagne situation--if it ain't working, it's still broke. Billingsley's call-up highlights the extent to which the rotation's not in good shape either. Jae Seo joins Odalis Perez as a bullpen limogers, and a contender's reduced to counting on both Aaron Sele and Brett Tomko, in addition to Billingsley. Seo's demotion seems particularly unjust--jerked in and out of the rotation, he still managed five quality starts in ten, a solid enough clip for a guy to normally expect some sort of credit. Instead, because Sele's a "find" and Tomko's one of Colletti's creatures from the Giants, somebody gets demoted for the organization's real saving grace, the player development program of Logan White and company.
Billingsley had earned his promotion. Pitching in Vegas in the PCL is no easy task, but he's managed to allow only 57 hits while striking out 78 in 70.2 IP. However, allowing 4.1 runs per nine and walking 31 hitters in those innings aren't the hallmarks of a guy who's put everything together. His assortment of pure power plus high-velocity breaking stuff makes him a scary-awesome prospect as these things go, certainly, but this seems like a rush job to fix a problem that's as much self-generated as any product of failure by anyone on the big league staff. I guess just don't expect it to end well--even with Chavez Ravine to help him, Billingsley's going to have to pitch in places like the BOB or Coors, which could get ugly, and might create additional issues. I worry that this is a case of going a prospect too far, born of the success the Dodgers have had with so many of their young hitters, and one with much larger potential penalties if it doesn't work out.
So, in the meantime, the Dodgers can play to their greatest strength, their offense, with Kent back. This should put Willy Aybar back at third, where he'll do a convincing Pedro Guerrero impression, but considering nobody in this infield has really played together before, or in these particular positions, infield mayhem goes with the territory. As long as Kent cranks and Aybar continues to earn some consideration against Bill Mueller's eventual return, the Dodgers will reap the benefit in runs and wins.
Outrighted 1B/LF-L Brad Nelson to Huntsville (Double-A). [6/15]
So falls another one of the Brewers' non-blue chippers, highlighting the extent to which Milwaukee's minors are that unfortunate blend of a quality home-baked upper crust with goopily revolting Dolly Madison filling. As I've said before, it's a player development program that worked just fine for the Cardinals and Braves, so that's fine for the Beertown team.
Transferred RHP Julio Santana from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/14]
Just when you thought the Pirates couldn't add any more 'plain' to a plainly bad team, they get the exclusive Club Target-edition third baseman. Not that I think of Freddy Sanchez as a good idea as an everyday second baseman-heck, he'd be pretty marketable right now, given the number of teams looking for a guy who can hit and play second--but at least he isn't Randa, and he's only the club's second-best non-Randa third baseman. Jose Bautista has staked a solid claim on the position already, but he's now left waiting out another one of the team's winter mistakes. If you give Dave Littlefield the benefit of the doubt and see Randa's one-year, $4 million deal as a canny deadline deal-minded move (as well as part of the club's cynical or misguided "we're trying to get better" offseason P.R. campaign), then the club's best possible move will be showcase Randa for only as long as it takes to generate an adequate offer from anybody in any league on the planet.