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July 3, 2006
June 30-July 2
Perhaps the 143rd anniversary of Pickett's Charge in the Slaver's War should remind us that there's nothing happy about contests that pit brother against brother. However, everybody involved is amply compensated, so where the Weaver clan's concerned, there's little more at stake than wondering who's going to be grumpy come Turkey Day.
For the Angels, on the other hand, this is every bit the overdue obvious upgrade that everyone's been anticipating for weeks. As I mentioned initially, Jeff's bid to stick depended on what he did once Jered had staked a claim, and despite throwing five quality starts in his last seven, his two-inning, six-run outing against the Rockies was a good enough excuse to make him transparently available for a pre-waiver claim deal. The Cardinals are said to be interested, and given their rotation woes and Jeff's recent run at reliable mediocrity, he might make a nifty enough patch for Walt Jocketty's crew.
Outrighted LHP Franklyn Gracesqui to Ottawa (Triple-A). [6/30]
Getting Cabrera is a flat-out steal, even with him hitting only .236/.323/.360 in Tacoma. Keep in mind that he'd skipped Double-A after getting less than a half-season at High-A last year, that he's only 20, and that he's seen as a miracle worker with leather. Whether or not he'll hit enough is the key question, but removed from the Mariners' system, you can hope he'll be like another Mariners glove-first Venezuelan product, Omar Vizquel, and blossom as a hitter. Since Ron Belliard will be a free agent and about to turn 32 next season, and with so many questions persisting about Jhonny Peralta's ability to play short every day in the big leagues, you can see where Cabrera comes in, especially as the Tribe falls out of contention.
Getting this sort of payoff for a right-handed DH/scrub might get fans' hopes up for what else Mark Shapiro might be able to procure in exchange for short-time veterans like Belliard, Aaron Boone, Jason Michaels, or Casey Blake, but beyond finding an interesting outfielder, there's not much this team really needs beyond the typical industry-wide interest in finding pitchers with promise. Andy Marte will eventually get third base, after all. Should Belliard get dealt, that might create playing time for Joe Inglett to make his case to stick as a utilityman or as a temporary solution at second (with Peralta manning short) for a season, at least until Cabrera's seen as ready. I suppose that's the other possibility--that Cabrera may never hit enough to ever be ready--so perhaps Shapiro will keep middle infielders on his shopping list, after outfielders and pitchers.
As for Garko, we'll see how long he's up. Sticking him into the short end of a platoon with Ben Broussard at first base isn't going to help his development all that much, and he was only hitting .250/.352/.472 against International League southpaws. He can't be twinned to do the same and spot for Travis Hafner at DH, and besides, there's thought that Victor Martinez will end up getting some DH and first base at-bats when he isn't catching, and that's going to create opportunities for Kelly Shoppach, not Garko. Unless and until the club deals Broussard, I guess I don't see this as a clean shot at a job for Garko.
It seems strange that Keppel's already out, considering his eight-inning effort against the Rangers on June 7 might be one of the few highlights of the season--on the field, as firing Allard Baird doesn't count. His rough performances in his last three outings involved having to start against a talented Brewers lineup and pitching in the bandboxes in Houston and Cincinnati, a pretty tough trio of assignments. It isn't like Mike Wood or Brandon Duckworth are doing anything worthwhile, but Keppel's out. The latest idea appears to be giving the next turn in the slot to Jimmy Gobble, while Hudson steps into Gobble's spot in the pen. Hudson was pitching well in Omaha, posting a 21-7 K-BB ratio in 35.1 IP, and allowing only 3.6 runs per nine while pitching in both the pen and the rotation, but he'll have to improve on his disastrous work as a Royal in the early going. Since we're talking last man in the pen, it's a lot less important how Hudson does as it is to see if Gobble makes something of this latest opportunity.
As for Guiel, it's a bit interesting to see him dispensed with so handily, especially since he's hitting in Omaha. This is a team that should be shopping Reggie Sanders and Matt Stairs, and Guiel would make for an adequate enough temp in their places once either or both are dealt. Risking losing him isn't going to radically change the club's fortunes, but why keep Joe Nelson on the 40-man ahead of Guiel?
Suddenly, the club's outfield and DH situations are in focus, and with Jason Bartlett looking every bit the starting shortstop he's been ready to be for the last eighteen months or so, and Nick Punto taking another spin into Andy Stankiewicz-style fifteen minutes of OBP utility territory, the lineup doesn't have its past problems. It's still unclear about whether or not Stewart can hit well enough to be an asset at DH or in left field, but he isn't Rondell, and that's a good thing. Now that both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are thriving in stable everyday roles, there might only be the debate over whether it makes sense to try Cuddyer at third to get another outfielder into the lineup, but if that outfielder is Lew Ford or White, sticking with Punto looks attractive enough for defensive reasons alone. However, Punto's not going to put up a .385 OBP all year, and Luis Rodriguez has been insanely good afield in his brief work at third, so it isn't like the team is without a potential defensive replacement. Now that the club has a ten-game win streak that's elevated it into the fringes of the playoff picture, Terry Ryan should pursue either a deal for an outfielder to make Cuddyer a third baseman, or a third baseman more likely to provide reliably consistent performance at the plate than Punto.
As for White, the upshot of this move is that Terry Ryan's chances for dealing him might take a hit for as long as the vet is on the DL. However, that would depend on Ryan noticing that he should sell if not outright White, and would also presume that there might be a buyer. Considering how badly White has played, you can probably expect him to be very equally attainable through the end of August, because it seems improbable that he'd be blocked on a waivers deal--most contenders probably wouldn't mind in the least if one of their rivals wanted White down the stretch. As long as the Twins recognize that he shouldn't get between Kubel and an at-bat, it's a good thing.
Getting the Big Hurt back is certainly good news, and it conveniently came after the club's last road series against those Senior Circuiters, meaning the club not only got the DH slot back, it got its DH. Thomas didn't seem to have lost anything to his latest owie either, so all seems well and good on that score. If there's a reason for A's fans to be frustrated, it isn't over Ellis's return, however much he might come short of last season's tastiness. Instead, it's the nagging persistence of Scooter that should draw Oakland's ire. Marco Scutaro can't hit, he's every bit as right-handed as Ellis and oft-overlooked Antonio Perez, and he's a utility infielder mostly in name--shortstop isn't a place he should play in anything more than an emergency or a rare off-day. But when Bobby Crosby is your shortstop, the chances that your backups will get to play some short makes this additional flaw of Scutaro's that much more noisome. By contrast, Rouse has played a lot of short in recent years at Sacramento, and he not only hits, he hits lefty. And well, even. The loyalty to Scutaro isn't the sort of luxury the team should afford itself, not when that same loyalty has helped keep Perez stale on the bench, and not when that loyalty costs them another better player's services in Rouse. The division won't be easily won, and showing loyalty to Scutaro is a luxury this team shouldn't bother itself with.
Traded INF-B Asdrubal Cabrera to the Indians for 1B-R Eduardo Perez. [6/30]
Optioned UT-R Mike Morse to Tacoma (Triple-A); added 1B-R Eduardo Perez to the active roster. [7/1]
If I had a virtual egg and a virtual frying pan, I'd show you a GM on drugs. Now, maybe a right-handed hitting half of a DH platoon is something that's so exquisitely rare that you have to pay for one in almost his weight in prospects. But I don't think so, and a player like Perez is usually very available during the winter. If you failed to get one during that stretch, you shouldn't pay handsomely for one in-season, just because he's already done some nice work. You especially don't overpay for one with an injury history as lengthy as Perez's.
The real problem is a disconnect between finding ways to put the players on the roster to work, and failing to really sort out the club's 40-man roster--is Roberto Petagine a hitter, or a season-ticket holder? How does a team that's discarding outfielders--Joe Borchard, Matt Lawton--nevertheless manage to run low on outfielders? Who signs Carl Everett in his Age 35 season for top dollar after he's failed to hit at 33 or 34? This club needs a real DH, certainly, and it needs a reserve outfielder, too. It could use a right-handed bat. Why not chase after Craig Wilson if you're going to spend prospects? If you're not, why not throw the Tigers a bone and take a flyer on Josh Phelps? Because you're dealing with a decision tree that already bites on the proposition that Everett had a purpose in the first place. See, now he's a platoon DH, but since when is.268/.336/.418 versus righties good enough to hold a job as a designated hitter against anybody?
Now, I'm sure some people will take issue and suggest that Bavasi is responsble for assembling a .500 ballclub that's contending in a weak AL West. Perhaps, but .500 seems to be this club's ceiling, and given the near-emptiness of the farm system, he just fired off a pretty good bullet to acquire a relatively minor piece, one that doesn't help the club's outfield issues, and one that doesn't take enough at-bats away from Everett. If anything, I'd suggest that the Mariners are blowing a slender opportunity on a secondary concern, without really addressing how to maximize their opportunity while it exists.
Activated RHP John Wasdin from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Nick Masset to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [7/1]
Ahhhh, now, that's as it should be. There's just something about having Wasdin soaking up innings in Texas... it's as Texas as a bland knockoff of superior Mexican cuisine. However, Wasdin will have less staying power than your average chimichanga, since both Adam Eaton and Kameron Loe are gearing up for rehab assignment work and eventual returns to the big league roster. At that point, Wasdin's spot on the roster might be endangered, because he might not make for a better pen-mate than Rick Bauer, Scott Feldman, or Bryan Corey.
An infected abrasion that lands you in the hospital is no laughing matter, so here's hoping Rios recovers fully and ducks a nosocomial infection. It does look like he'll only miss the two weeks, and the club should be able to get by with Eric Hinske and Mottola in a platoon in his absence. (Reed Johnson will have to keep fulfilling that same responsibility for Frank Catalanotto.) The well-traveled Mottola was doing about what you'd expect from him in his third Syracuse tour of duty, bopping to the tune of .278/.325/.477 for the SkyChiefs. He's 34 and has 1245 games spread between all three of the Triple-A circuits (the PCL, the International, and the old American Association), not that it counts towards his pension, but it probably makes any and every big league opportunity that much sweeter. He was smacking lefties around adequately enough down on the farm, slugging over .500 against them.
I'm a little frustrated with the decision to demote Frasor again, but they're obviously even more frustrated with him. I guess I just don't see the need: since coming back from his last demotion, Frasor had allowed three runs per nine in 23.1 innings, with 27 Ks, seven walks, and 22 hits. That four of them were home runs might seem to have meant something, but the camelback-snapping straw seemed to have been Sunday's allowing all three inherited runners to score on a spate of singles, making a two-run deficit a fiver. Despite that, he's been the club's most-effective right-handed reliever. If there's a way this makes sense beyond a self-satisfied bit of punishing a player, I don't see it.
I suppose that there's some karma thing going on, because no sooner are the Cubs' infield and catching situations finally becoming stable than the outfield gets a new and interesting way to get jumbled up. Pagan's only just turned 25, so it isn't like he's a non-prospect, but if there's one thing that seems to be consistent, it's that if you give Dusty Baker a choice, he'll take it, and then take the other side of it, and then skip back and forth between the two until he's either ducking questions or wondering why nobody under thirty's doing well. Matt Murton is very obviously out of favor, which is a pity, but not a tragedy, considering his relatively modest possibilities. With the Cubs deader than Julius Caesar, it might make sense to see what Pagan and Murton both can do, since Pagan can play a pretty good center. That would involve shopping Juan Pierre pretty aggressively, but happily, Pierre's started hitting of late, getting his OBP over .300 by reaching base nine times in the three games of this weekend's series against the White Sox. Could that be the sort of work that inspires a cross-town swap? Would it be vengeance for Matt Karchner, or was that payback for Jorge Bell? I leave it to Cubs and Sox fans to suggest which ledger is in the red, and the extent to which Pierre would help (im?)balance it.
At any rate, Cubs fans ought to exult over getting Womack off of the 40-man roster, although with their luck, he'll accept an assignment to Iowa and darken their doors again later on in the season. Who knows? Maybe he'll get to play left...
Nothing wrong with this exchange, as the Reds make a point of throwing another ineffective veteran on a one-year contract over the side after months of ugly ineffectiveness, and turn to someone probably better-equipped to help the club's pen go from inadequate to mediocre. It's not that far a distance for them to go, and Shackelford was pitching well in Louisville, striking out an even dozen batters in 16.2 innings, and allowing only four runs. He was only modestly more effective than Hammond by WXRL, and in much less important situations. However, Shackelford was useful in 2005, and it's not unreasonable to expect some minor improvement, akin to the previous decision to turn to Jason Standridge and ditch Rick White. David Weathers and Esteban Yan probably don't have that long a leash if they continue pitching as badly as they have.
See, that was easy. Exeunt the second veteran in the rotation, and safe is Anibal Sanchez in the rotation for the time being. That might not last, because Pinto's a worthwhile challenger for the fifth slot. He was doing good work in the Isotopes' rotation, allowing 3.9 runs per nine while striking out 75 in 73.1 IP, and giving up 62 hits, five home runs, and 36 walks. He's still not cut out for lefty relief work, allowing lefties to hit .296/.412/.451 while limiting righthanders to .182/.293/.273 (stats through 6/26, courtesy of Brew Crew Ball). He had that same issue last season, and bass-ackwards lefties are more than handy enough as rotation regulars in real life (however useless they seem to be in Strat-O)--Jamie Moyer or Tom Glavine, anyone? The club's found four men for up front, as Dontrelle Willis has been joined by Joshua Johnson, Scott Olsen, and Ricky Nolasco. If Pinto joins Nolasco in the rotation, it might make the Juan Pierre deal look like that much more of a bit of burglary, and if Sanchez isn't ready yet, keep in mind that he is only 22 and has yet to spend a full season above A-ball.
Getting Floyd back helps if he's back at full strength, but if he plays like his age (33) and continues to get nicked up, the Mets may have "fixed" two lineup problems (shortstop courtesy of Jose Reyes' development, second with the Chrose Valenward platoon) only to find they have two more: left field and catcher. Catcher might be fixed by swapping in Ramon Castro for Paul LoDuca down the stretch before LoDuca's scheduled swoon, but the outfield is a bit more problematic. Milledge only drew one unintentional walk in 94 plate appearances, so he obviously had a major hole in his game, one that might keep him from being able to contribute significantly down the stretch if he doesn't work on it. If Milledge doesn't progress and Floyd doesn't show past form, the Mets are in a bad spot. Enthusiasm for Endy Chavez in the early going seems to have overlooked that the object of its affection is Endy Chavez. Victor Diaz is still struggling down at Norfolk, at which point we get down to alternatives like Michael Tucker, Jacob Cruz, and hemlock.
Optioned RHP Clay Condrey to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [6/30]
Somebody had to make way for Fabio Castro's being placed on the active roster, so you know who drew the short straw.
Optioned UT-R Mike Edwards to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [7/2]
This came in the wake of Joe Randa's return from the Bereavement List, so no real news here, beyond Randa's sponging up playing time that, at best, might be a way of showing off his wares as part of a campaign to make him somebody else's problem, because as a Pirate, he's a bit too noticeable.
Having PETCO as a home park didn't hurt, but Thompson didn't embarrass himself in the rotation in Williams' place, tossing four quality starts in nine. Now that he's had direct major league experience, having him around as insurance against any injury to the front five seems a much happier scenario than it did in the absence of that experience. But now that Williams is back, the Padres can start five relatively solid starters--yes, even Chan Ho Park--and that helps a team with an equally modestly effective offense the NL West contender that it is.
Exchanging Embree for Meredith is something of an oranges to tangerines exchange--both pitchers have their situational uses, Embree for his ability to overpower lefties, Meredith for his sidearming nastiness versus righties. Although Meredith got knocked around a bit in Pawtucket before being dealt to the Pads, his combined Triple-A performance was pretty solid--45 innings, 42 hits allowed, 38 strikeouts and nine walks, three home runs, and 2.8 runs per nine. Even though the pen's now lefty-less, the Pads pen has been among baseball's best, so I suspect that Bruce Bochy will make do. Besides, when you're in Barry Bonds' division, why not just IBB the guy with a righthander instead of taking your risks?
We've been here before. At least Worrell's ineffectiveness has the dignity of an ongoing medical excuse, and Wilson remains one of the organization's more interesting minor league pitchers. Take Saturday night's combustion; it didn't scare off Felipe Alou from try-try-trying again with Wilson last night, and it worked. His combination of mid-90s velocity and a plus curve should keep him in the mix for closing opportunities, not just now, while Armando Benitez moves into and out of availability, but into the future.
So the Cards are back to thirteen pitchers, and still struggling to fill their staff with even that many bodies. Perhaps Kinney will help: he was pitching very effectively in the Redbirds' pen (I still think of Memphis as the Chicks, but that was back in the burg's Double-A days), tossing 50 frames with 51 Ks, 19 walks, 32 hits, one home run, and allowing 2.3 runs per nine. He was particularly tough on right-handed batters, limiting them to a .160/.254/.230 clip through 6/26, and keeping the ball on the ground, getting nine DPs turned behind him. He's not really a prospect, which you'd expect from an undrafted free agent out of little Quincy University who got onto the organization's radar in 2001 after three creditable starts for River City in the Frontier League. A sinker/slider guy whose sinker isn't overpowering and whose slider doesn't break sharply, he's managed to make the most of what he's got. He struggled in 2004 after injuring his shoulder in the AFL the previous winter, bounced back to have a good half-season in Double-A last year before getting torched in his intro to Triple-A. I wouldn't bet on him to stick, but it's pretty apparent that he's a remarkable survivor story already. Already 27, here's hoping he ekes out a career.
Hill gave the team three quality starts in six, encouraging hopes that he might be able to do that consistently if healthy, but with a Tommy John surgery in his past, a new bout of elbow trouble is no laughing matter, especially for a club that's seeing so many of its Plan B options melt down into season-ending surgeries. It's no sure thing that Astacio can be as effective as Hill was, especially considering that he's pitched pretty poorly during his rehab work. Although I don't think we should get really worked up about rehab work in general, because you never know if the guy's working on something, I don't think there's any reason to take solace in his striking out only six minor league hitters in 18 innings. In the meantime, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that Ramon Ortiz is still safely ensconced in the rotation.