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June 20, 2006
June 16-19, 2006
It's a non-event, in that the Angels have to deal with having a Weaver too many, and like a less angelic figure from ages past, Jered's play for unseating brother Jeff will have to wait for better circumstances, no matter how just his complaints may be, and no matter how much more obvious his abilities. These Angels may be known by many names, but I think A's fans would be content if they were best known as "the basement." To be fair to Jeff, in his last five starts, he's produced three quality starts, plus a fourth he blew in the seventh inning against the D-Rays, so he's done his share of pitching in the last month to keep his place. Again, that's a happy development if you want the Angels to do badly-better they get their hopes up and Jeff disappoint than he pitch well enough to be dealt for goodies by the deadline, or well enough to get the Angels off on a hot streak of their own.
Although it's a minor fix, it's a good idea to come down from thirteen pitchers. Halama had no real use, regardless of whether the O's leave Bruce Chen in the pen or bump Adam Loewen back into it, and Chen's done good work in three of his four outings in the relief since his demotion. In contrast, Halama coughed up a half-dozen homers and 51 baserunners in 29.1 IP. Even the Orioles had to acknowledge that they only call it 'garbage time' because of the situation, not the production. Loewen hasn't had anything resembling a good start yet in four tries, but maybe this is a bit of Mazzone myth-making in progress, where we're supposed to pretend Loewen's on the Tom Glavine career track, instead of cycling through the Pete Smith circle. Halama was a thirteenth pitcher on a team that's already wasting bench space on Ed Rogers, so bringing in Clark--who can notionally play anywhere but shortstop--makes sense. You're still left with an O's bench of Clark, Rogers, Brandon Fahey, and one of Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, or Luis Matos (the bum to be named later, or BTBNL), and that's frankly terrible.
Purchased the contract of OF-R Gabe Kapler from Pawtucket (Triple-A); placed RHP Matt Clement on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 6/15; claimed RHP Kyle Snyder off of waivers from the Royals; designated LHP Mike Holtz and OF-R Dustan Mohr for assignment. [6/16]
Familiarity seems to have bred familiar solutions instead of contempt, because how else can you describe the latest reincarnation of Gabe the Babe? A quick rehab hasn't really given that much of a baseline from which to infer he's really going to contribute. I suppose there's the hope that he's fine in a reserve role, at most spotting for Trot Nixon against the odd lefty or two, but we're talking about a guy without a ton of big league playing time since 2004--and he wasn't any good then. It might seem incredible to some that he's "only" 30, but expectations should be kept low, and should something bad happen to any of the front three in the outfield, he's not an adequate replacement any more than Mohr was. With Wily Mo Pena out for six to eight weeks, though, the Sox have no other alternative.
Similarly, Snyder isn't really a solution to the team's rotation woes now that Clement has broken down. Beating the Nationals isn't the stuff of legend, and Snyder's chief assets are his former fame as a first rounder and that big body (6'8") that scouts go sloe-eyed over. The better news is that he might only temporarily have to be the skippable fifth man, since Jon Lester had a good start against the Braves, and Clement might be back within a month. I'd rather have Abe Alvarez up or bring back David Pauley to fill the slot in Snyder's place, but that's because there's no real reason to expect good things from Snyder: his superficiallly impressive ERA in Omaha looks pretty terrible when you see that he's allowed 36 runs in 60.1 IP.
As for Snow, don't get slushy about his fate. There's talk that he'll be dealt, and handing him to the Giants seems a pretty likely outcome given San Fran's failure to procure a first baseman on their own. It would give Snow a nice death ride to glory or fourth place in a situation where his past work has been appreciated, and the Giants' need seems blatantly obvious. However, if you're hoping this means that a Hee Seop Choi callup is in the offing, be still thy breath, because he's only hitting .222/.370/.394 with the PawSox. The opportunity is there, certainly, but he'll have to earn it, and so far, he hasn't. In the meantime, there shouldn't be anything for Kevin Youkilis to worry about in the playing time department.
If there's a happier note to strike in this tune, it's that Hansen might get a chance to stick this time around. The frustrations that have come with watching Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez seem to have mounted to the point that the Sox are becoming more and more curious about Hansen's readiness. If the Sox win with significant contributions from Lester and Hansen as well as Jonathan Papelbon, that's going to be pretty encouraging about the shape of things to come on a staff that needs some encouragement about its near-term future. Whether you use relief performance metrics like WXRL or APR, the Red Sox pen hasn't been that terrible, but with a three-way duel in the AL East, why settle for less? As I've said before, if there's a guy at risk, it's Traction Action, not Tavarez, because of their contracts, but Theo Epstein's creative, and who knows what sort of deal he might try to swing between now and August 1?
Recalled CF-R Franklin Gutierrez from Buffalo (Triple-A). [6/16]
If there's a happy development in Cleveland of late, it's that Gutierrez might be up to play, not watch Todd Hollandsworth. His playing time over this past weekend might in part be the product of his being healthy while Jason Michaels was not, but now that it's apparent that Blake will miss more than two weeks with his strained oblique, and with the team in a general freefall, it would be time well spent if the Indians investigated if Gutierrez is ready to stick. Only 23, he was hitting .288/.374/.415 with Buffalo, no great shakes for a corner, but Gutierrez has the range and tools in center to be the player who pushes Grady Sizemore to a corner. There's some hope that Gutierrez will hit for more power as he ages, but it looks like his 2003 at Vero Beach led people to a premature expectation of stardom. At any rate, with so many expectations that the Indians would contend this year looking as premature as those of 1987 (call it the seamhead twist on the old Sports Illustrated cover curse), the Tribe would be better off seeing what Gutierrez is capable of. Playing Hollandsworth is worse than a Dutch treat, but is rather more like the doubtful guest you'd rather not have to ask to carry a social event in the absence of one of the evening's more talented entertainers.
Bringing back Robinson comes in conjunction with the club's forthcoming sponsorship deal with Velveeta, under the inspiring shared motto of "Resembles the real thing!" However, to be fair, Costa's prospect status wasn't getting any favors from premature promotion, and with David DeJesus back from the DL, there wasn't even regular work for Costa in KC. This may well be a situation where Dayton Moore's trying to get everyone off of the roster he wants to have around before planting a bomb in the clubhouse on the day he takes DeJesus and Ambiorix Burgos out for lunch-you invite too many of the kids out at once, and the old men might start asking questions much too soon to make a file a major insurance claim, and the pre-game performance of "Springtime for Allard" in an otherwise empty stadium might be a bit of a dead giveaway to the rest of the cast.
Activated DH-B Ruben Sierra from the 15-day DL. [6/16]
Released 3B-R Tony Batista outright. [6/19]
... thereby giving Lew Ford and Rondell White a rival for playing time in what looks to be a competition for playing time only slightly less pathetic than the wrasslin' match over at third base. Whoever "wins" these fights hardly matters-when the team has already said it favors Nick Punto over the alternatives, the problem isn't simply the talent, it's with the decision-making process in place.
Purchased the contract of RHP T.J. Beam from Columbus (Triple-A); designated RHP Aaron Small for assignment. [6/17]
Recalled RHP Jose Veras from Columbus; optioned OF-R Kevin Thompson to Columbus. [6/18]
Yes, that's right--thirteen pitchers for the Pinstriped Menace. Although this means a three-man bench of Miguel Cairo, Bubba Crosby, and Kelly Stinnett--"Unequal to all challenges"--it does give the Yankee pen an interesting assortment of homegrown goodies. That's a strange choice to make, considering the Yankees are into the interleague portion of the schedule, but perhaps that pinch-hitting part of the program sneaks up on some people.
In the meantime, Beam becomes the latest product of the farm system to make it to the big league team, and the latest improvement on the likes of Erickson or Small. Previous complaints that his fastball was a little on the overly straight side or that his slider wasn't sharp enough both seem to have been answered by this spring's performance, as Beam has struck out 47 in 51.2 relief innings, while allowing only 33 hits and 14 walks. Veras is a minor league free agent pickup, having spent his career knocking around first the D-Ray and then the Ranger organization. He can dial it up into the nineties, so he's a potential find, and struck out 35 in 33 Columbus innings. Veras's splits are a bit funky, in that he's entirely bass-ackwards, but that could be the lack of anything to fool people with when he isn't overpowering them. You can consider both the products of some good scouting: Beam's a tenth-round pick from the 2003 draft, and Veras a good free-talent find in the offseason. A good player development program features both of these kinds of pickups.
We're still left with the question of why, because while these are definitely improvements on past stiffs, going to eight relievers seems excessive, even for a manager who favors such a set lineup. Unfortunately, this seems to be a symptom of the logic that says that relievers don't pitch complete innings, that bullpens need to be managed with obsessive care for tactical considerations, and that if you're stuck with two starting pitchers who can barely make it through the fifth inning, the answer isn't longer outings for fewer relievers, it's more relievers, more warming up, more standing up and sitting down, and more wasted effort, all so that they can avoid coming to terms with something really radical, like reverting to usage patterns that worked back in hoary ancient times, like the Eighties.
I suppose Kyle Farnsworth's back problems might be considered a mitigating factor, but come on, this is ridiculous. Scott Proctor is being melted down through this sort of chicanery and over-frequent use, and there seems to be a complete blindness to the difference between a situational lefty like Mike Myers and a middle man who happens to be a lefty, Ron Villone. Farnsworth's owie does exacerbate the question of who provides right-handed relief help, a question that Octavio Dotel might help answer soon, but this seems more than a little reactive, instead of being part of a more considered design. Although separating Jaret Wright and Shawn Chacon might improve matters by not creating the expectation that the pen will have to throw eight or nine innings across back-to-back games, I'm not sure things will really get any better.
Optioned LHP Randy Keisler to Sacramento (Triple-A); recalled SS/2B-L Mike Rouse from Sacramento. [6/9]
Signed LHP Scott Sauerbeck to a one-year contract. [6/19]
Okay, shame on me, I missed one, and more embarrassing still, it was on my own team of preference. But Rouse has been on the team for more than a week, and here I'd see his name in boxscores, and somnambulistically incorporate that without pondering for a moment whether I'd said anything about it. Part of the problem is the absence of a comprehensive list of published transactions--that's one of the things this column aims to do, because even between the wires and MLB.com, everything doesn't get automatically get listed in any single source. Teams have this material distributed to them daily, of course, but baseball doesn't act the way the other major sports do when it comes to reporting transactions, and some teams have been historically sloppy about such things. That doesn't excuse my oversight, because that's my problem, not yours, but I offer it by way of explanation. The multiplication of new news sources has not produced better accuracy in the media or greater accountability from MLB.
So, does Rouse offer an adequate alternative to Marco Scutaro? That's setting the bar awfully low, but Rouse isn't really a major prospect. Although he was hitting .277/.377/.409 against RHPs in Sacramento (and .274/.363/.399 overall), keep in mind he's already 26, and he's repeating the PCL. That said, he makes for a solid enough alternative to Scooter, since we're talking about people who should bat no higher than ninth, even with most of the outfield seemingly on the shelf. Unfortunately, Rouse doesn't have a nickname capable of blinding his manager to all on-field suckitude the way his chief rival does. Grouse? Rabble-Rouse? Pampel-Rouse? Shooty? Nothing so cute as "Scooter," unfortunately. Hopefully, Ken Macha will show some flexibility, or pull a W and call Rouse something incongruous and endearing, like "Mikey-boy."
I'm a little non-plussed by the decision to ink Sauerbeck to a major-league deal. Hasn't a guy with a track record this flaky--and I'm not talking about the off-field stuff--earned less consideration? Is he really that demonstrably better than Keisler or Ron Flores? Maybe, but it seems a bit redundant, and adds a fourth situationally-challenged pitcher to a seven-man pen. You know who I think makes an easy choice to designate for assignment once Joe Kennedy or Justin Duchscherer comes off of the DL.
As for Karsay's retirement, I don't think there's much to say. Beyond simple health, durability is a skill, and it's one Karsay lacked, undermining whatever wonders he might have worked on a diamond. That he nevertheless milked his frequently banged-up body for an eleven-year career in the big leagues is just as much a testament to the off-field heroics of the training staffs that Will Carroll writes about as it is to Karsay's desire. Maybe he was great, but he never showed it in a big league rotation, and a three-year stretch of seventy-plus games in a season scragged his shoulder. The guy's got a pension but no ring. Let's not throw a pity party.
Castro remains the unready Rule 5 pick, but after six games in the minors, he had to come back up at some point. In his extended rehab assignment--what, another Rule 5er who needed the full thirty days? I'm shocked, shocked--he pitched in five starts and a relief appearance, tossing 17.1 frames while allowing 28 baserunners and nine runs. He did strike out fifteen, but that's what's expected from the little lefty flamethrower. It's going to be tough for Texas to afford the roster space for a clearly unready A-ball pitcher if they're trying to remain in contention. Certainly, finally getting some worthwhile performances from Francisco Cordero and Joaquin Benoit would make a huge difference in Castro's affordability roster-wise.
Towers is up to step back into the rotation, so Chulk has lost out to Ty Taubenheim for that last slot in the pen. You can take that as a continuing indictment of Chulk, or as a statement of ambivalence on how solid the Jays feel about Towers. In four starts with Syracuse, Towers allowed 33 hits in 29 innings pitched, and 3.7 runs per nine, so he wasn't exactly dominating, just better than what he'd been in Toronto, a handy candidate for Worst Starter in Baseball. We'll see how well he does tonight, but with A.J. Burnett due back soon, and Gustavo Chacin expected back sometime in July, he may only get a half-dozen starts before he gets turned into deadline trade bait.
Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in how Chulk's been treated, because it isn't like Taubenheim or Francisco Rosario or Brian Tallet have done all that well. Since his recall, Chulk had tossed five innings, allowed only six baserunners and a lone run while striking out four. He was an asset last year, and I find it hard to believe he isn't handier to have around than a third lefty like Tallet, or a better option than the waffling over what Rosario is here for. All three of these non-Chulks are capable of starting games--isn't that a wee bit redundant as insurance policies against Towers failure go?
Hairston's prospectdom has basically only gone down over time, but he is still only 26, and he was mashing in Tucson: .340/.422/.624, with 18 home runs. Ostensibly called up for interleague play and the creation of DH playing time, he might get to stick around for more than that if last night's shoulder injury--incurred when he was asked to play the field instead of sticking to his one skill, hitting--isn't too serious. Neither Shawn Green nor Luis Gonzalez are hitting all that well for formerly famous corner outfielders, and since both hit lefty, Hairston would make for a nice alternative. However, unless the club decides to move down from seven to six relievers, it won't happen. It would make all sorts of sense come time to set the playoff roster in August.
There's also an equally galling minor problem at first base, where Conor Jackson has fallen short of expectations, and where Tony Clark has been flailing. If Jackson earned a demotion, both Green and Gonzalez have experience at first--demoting Jackson would create space for Hairston in left, with Gonzalez (probably) moving to first. I wouldn't do it, because Jackson's the better prospect than Hairston at this point of their careers, and it looks as if that's the way the Snakes feel about it as well. However, a cold spell for Jackson and continued slugging by Hairston could change that.
As for Jarvis, what can you say? Fifteen runs allowed in 11.1 IP does not the next Mike Morgan make. It's expected that Juan Cruz will be back off of the DL shortly, although not in time to take the next open turn on Thursday. That means a spot start for Edgar Gonzalez or another spin with Dustin Nippert, neither of which make for a terrible idea. Nippert isn't close to sticking, but it's a matchup with the D-Rays, not the '27 Yankees, and if either show something, it would give the Snakes some measure of confidence in replacing Enrique Gonzalez in the rotation should the need arise.
With Thomson on the DL and Horacio Ramirez trying to come back from a concussion, you wind up with a formula that provides for an emergency start for Cormier and a question about Zane Smith's whereabouts. The expectation is that Chuck James will be up towards the end of the week, which was sort of the plan all along, but the additional drama of Ramirez's pelting against a backdrop of Brave failure makes it all the more exotic for those of us who might not remember the Ken Oberkfell era.
As for losing Jordan, this isn't any more disappointing than it was last year, when he was half of a tag team of bad ideas in the outfield. I'm not all that worked up about Thorman, however. Whatever his other failings, Adam LaRoche is doing the one really important thing he does do (slug around .500 against RHPs), and one major fielding snafu aside, seems to be playing a pretty good first base. LaRoche is only 26, and Thorman's 24, so it isn't like making a change would be an indictment signature piece of a major youth movement as much as a statement of frustration. Since they're both lefties, a straight platoon isn't exactly an option, but a job-sharing arrangement might not be all that kinky. Thorman hit .324/.394/.570 at Richmond, and doesn't seem to have LaRoche's platoon issues, and there are the questions of arbitration eligibility to consider--LaRoche will probably qualify as a Super-Two after this season. Both have comparables with upside, but I guess I'm just less enthusiastic about Thorman because his performance seems so much better than what he'd done in previous seasons. Maybe it's a legitimate big step forward, but I'm going to be suspicious of anyone who struggles to get to ball four the way Thorman consistently has so far.
As if Sunday's humiliating performance wasn't bad enough, Prior's stuff looked simply awful, with little snap or break on anything offspeed, and no movement on fastballs that labored to get over 90. That isn't a savior, that's batting practice. Now, perhaps this is a one-off, and Prior's really back on track and wasn't like this in his rehab work. To give the professionals their due, it isn't like I've seen Prior's rehab starts. But if he looked like this, and they reactivated him nevertheless, then there's something potentially either cynical or dumb about the move. After all, if Prior struggles, it could be on him and not the manager or general manager, right? Admittedly, this would reignite the age-old debate over whether the Cubs are evil, stupid, unfortunate, or some combination of the three, but I think in the same way it's become obvious they rushed Kerry Wood back, there's a question of accountability as far as whether or not Prior's really ready, or merely somewhat functional.
Optioned 2B/SS-B Rainer Olmedo to Louisville (Triple-A). [6/16]
Placed LHP Brandon Claussen on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff tendinitis). [6/17]
Recalled RHP Mike Burns from Louisville. [6/18]
The Reds' reconfiguration takes another permutation, making this probably my favorite team to follow where transactions are concerned. This isn't a case where Wayne Krivsky is watching his new charges win games and leaving the team that Dan O'Brien built alone. Instead, Krivsky's operating with a pleasant amount of freedom, ditching mediocrities who can't reach even that high and doing whatever it takes to keep the team's slender bid at contention in play. Maybe I'm too much the transactions junkie, but where most teams are reshuffling because of an injury or to extend their roster to 27 or 28 players over a week's time, the Reds are honestly cutting bait. True, guys like Dave Williams and Tony Womack and White are among the definitions of cutability, but rather than sit back and take stock, Krivsky's working the margins of the talent pool instead of getting overly attached. If I'm Kent Mercker or Chris Hammond, I'd start thinking about going month-to-month on my apartment, or start looking around for subletting candidates.
Standridge is a recovering Devil Ray (the MLBPA may well have to sponsor DRAY-Anon to help clean up), and did solid enough work in a middle relief role with the Reds last season. In Louisville, he was pitching well, striking out 33 in 34.1 IP while allowing 28 hits and 13 walks, posting a 2.62 ERA while generating more than twice as many groundball outs than on flyballs. He was also particularly tough on right-handers, and in a pen that needs some of everything, he should prove handy.
I'm less sanguine about losing Claussen, but that's because Krivsky's giving the first shot at replacing him in the rotation to Joe Mays. He did have his moments with the Twins last season, which was his first back from Tommy John surgery, and there's a theory that he's been fixed by minor league pitching coach Ted Power. The latter might lend credence to the suggestion of how non-major league everything involving the Royals might be, because if other people's instructors are fixing your major league castoffs, what's your major league pitching coach doing? But I digress, and that's probably just another thing you can add to Dayton Moore's "To Be Addressed" list in KC. In Cincy, beyond Mays, the alternatives aren't that tasty. Justin Germano hasn't really done all that well (4.7 R/9, plus ten home runs in 76.1 IP), Mike Gosling hasn't been much better, and do you really want Darrell May up? Phil Dumatrait is looking interesting (at last), having earned a promotion to the Bats. Between Double- and Triple-A, he's tossed a combined 67.1 IP, with 57 Ks, 25 walks, 60 hits, and seven bombs allowed. He's probably the best potential fallback should Mays explode. Whenever Claussen comes back, he'll have hopefully learned that keeping mum about when his shoulder's aching--it was apparently a problem since April--isn't just dumb, it borders on betraying your employer as well as your own career.
Optioned RHP Yusmeiro Petit to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [6/18]
Placed OF-L Cliff Floyd on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 6/7. [6/17]
Activated OF-R Xavier Nady from the 15-day DL. [6/18]
I suppose this depends on your point of view, but you could be of two minds about this. Normally, you wouldn't consider this a straight plug-out/plug-in exchange, because Nady's normally not nearly as dangerous as Floyd. However, Floyd's struggled with injuries to his left leg for weeks after soldiering through a shoulder injury, and hasn't been quite as dangerous as you might like. While I expect Nady to cool off with more playing time, the real benefit here is that this creates a continuing opportunity for Lastings Milledge to play, as he moves from right to left to accomodate Nady. It should all still add up to runs enough to spare to maintain the Mets' lead in the division, and if they get the double benefit of a relatively healthy Floyd while also giving Milledge enough experience to stick with the team all the way through down the stretch, so much the better. You might fret that Milledge might not get enough regular play, but spot duty for Carlos Beltran in center plus a couple of starts per week for both Floyd and Nady would add up to a significant role, and keep him from getting stale as a reserve.
Santos' breakdown spares the Pirates the difficult decision over what to do with Oliver Perez now that Wells is back. The My Three Sons trio of Zach Duke, Ian Snell, and Paul Maholm should be left alone, since they're part of a better future. Eventually, Tom Gorzelanny will be up to join them, but it makes sense to showcase Wells and Perez now, in the six weeks before the trade deadline. Unlike stiffs like Jeromy Burnitz, Sean Casey, or Joe Randa, Wells and Perez have some small measures of upside, as disappointing as each have been. By way of contrast, Santos has little or none, and thus has little value beyond what he's done in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, which is function as a placeholder. Consider their likely ranges of possible production in terms of WARP at three major hashmarks in PECOTAs' ranges for projected performance:
Pitcher 25% 50% 75% Wells 2.1 3.7 5.2 Santos 0.4 2.4 3.4 Perez -0.5 1.4 3.7
That basically conforms to what we expect from these guys: that Perez is damaged goods, somebody who if things really go his way, might turn into something slightly better than mediocre--he'll still be very wild, after all--while Wells remains the guy who could be, might be, and too often a biscuit-for-breakfast short of real quality. Somebody might remember that Perez was the guy who used to overpower people, and some well-timed good work might make him worth something too. Wells might only have to demonstrate that he's healthy, because as frustrating as he's been, he's been much less flaky than Perez. Wells also gets the benefit of starting off with the Royals, courtesy of interleague nonsense, so he's effectively getting another rehab start, perhaps a step down from the ones he's already made-there are some pretty solid minor league ballclubs out there, after all. Either way, they're both pitchers that Dave Littlefield should be trying to move between now and the end of July, and if he can toss in any of the veteran hitters as well, he might even be able to spare the club some ill-spent cash while picking up a prospect or two.
Outrighted RHP Jim Brower to Portland (Triple-A). [6/16]