July 11, 2006
This might seem premature, since it's Terrero we're talking about, and there's Matos' former status as a prospect to ponder, but Terrero's a year and a half younger, he's got adequate range and a better arm, and he's present and accounted for with some greater measure of reliability than the oft-injured Matos. In contrast, Matos has that prospect status, better range, and a capacity to break with use akin to a balsa-wood playground. I don't invest a lot of faith in Terrero's Ottawa numbers (.321/.373/.594 in 206 PA) proving some new level of ability, just that he's swinging a hot bat. With runners on, the bat was getting knocked out of his hands (.256/.293/.430), and what little OBP he had outside of his batting average was just as much a product of getting in front of seven pitches. PECOTA projected Matos to a .256 EqA, Terrero to a .254, so offensively, you could expect a push, except that Matos has to be healthy enough to sustain his bid, and that never seems to happen long enough to make it so. With the center field job now firmly in Corey Patterson's possession, why not just cut bait on his spring rival and go with the healthier alternative for your fifth outfielder?
Claimed RHP Mike Adams off of waivers from the Mets, and have optioned him to Buffalo (Triple-A). [7/7]
Not a bad little claim, in that Adams has a fastball, and has occasionally demonstrated an ability to use it to good effect. There's still the question of whether or not he can throw his slider for strikes, or master his command with any consistency, but as a flyer, he's worth taking, and if he flops, he can be added to the other high-velocity, low results former prospects currently knocking around in the Bisons bullpen. The question isn't whether or not Adams and Jason Davis and Jeremy Guthrie and Andrew Brown all make it-if an organization can crank out just one effective reliever from among those four, they can call that success.
Bako wasn't hitting, but he wasn't really expected to, and Phillips won't, not at 29, and not when he's someone who hit .251/.296/.376 at Omaha, but again, he isn't really expected to hit either. He has a decent enough rep as a catch-and-throw guy, What Taxy Phillips-born on the 15th of April would probably make for a really glum, Brazil-ish sort of movie-might offer that Bako cannot is some measure of familiarity with some of the pitchers who might get to be Royals for extended periods of time. Bako's presence was merely symptomatic of Allard Baird's final desperate quest for mediocrity through middle-aged acquisitions, and with that particular Quixotic quest predictably on the blink, there isn't much reason to keep Bako around. You can deal people on the DL, and contenders generally love to have an extra veteran catcher around in case something happens to either of their own pair, so perhaps new GM Dayton Moore will end up tossing Bako into some of the dumps that should come at the end of the month.
Recalled RHP Pat Neshek from Rochester (Triple-A). [7/6]
A homegrown sidearmer, Neshek makes a nifty fill-in for Boof Bonser or whoever else will be used to stock the rotation's fifth slot after the break. At Rochester, Neshek was doing what you expect sidearmers to do, mowing down righties (.168/.218/.285), and pitching against lefties in a way that encourages careful management (.238/.282/.425, although interestingly, all four of his walks to lefties were intentional). Overall, he's struck out 87 in 60 innings, allowing 41 hits (seven bombs) and walking ten unintentionally. I wouldn't consider this to be just a bit of roster jiggering to take advantage of the All-Star break. Neshek's got promise, as a situational righthander at the very least but perhaps more than that, while both Jesse Crain and Willie Eyre are struggling and optionable. With the Tigers and White Sox far out in front, the pressure's off in Minnesota, so Terry Ryan can afford to break in someone like Neshek as well as Jason Bartlett, Francisco Liriano, and Jason Kubel. Twins fans have probably had to wait till next year long enough already, but the considerable promise within the organization finally seems to be showing up.
Optioned RHP T.J. Beam to Columbus (Triple-A); recalled OF-R Kevin Thompson from Columbus. [7/8]
Coming all the way down to eleven pitchers might seem miraculous, but with Johnny Damon hurting and the D-Rays throwing a pair of lefties at the Yankees over the weekend, adding a right-handed hitter to the outfield mix made sense. Thompson's never going to be a useful regular, but as a fourth man in a lefty-leaning outfield mix, he can provide some small measures of OBP and power if given the opportunity.
The more basic question is how the Yankees design their roster between now and the return of Damon to full health and Hideki Matsui to the active roster, because they're going to need their crew of outfield substitutes to cover the gaps in the meantime. Happily (I guess), they've been able to plug Bernie Williams back into the outfield rotation now that Jason Giambi has done a pretty good job of silencing critics who were ready to claim he couldn't hit while DHing, but whatever defensive benefits Andy Phillips provides at first probably don't compensate for his sub-.300 OBP and Williams' glove in the field.
They're also short a fifth starter now that Shawn Chacon is out of favor. The other four rotation regulars seem to have settled in, but Chacon and Aaron Small were both ineffective, and Kris Wilson shouldn't last any longer than Small's three-start gig. Unfortunately, the Yankees might still need that seventh reliever, because Joe Torre seems to be burning out Scott Proctor the way he did Paul Quantrill in 2004, so even if they make a one-for-one swap, exchanging out Wilson for whoever they choose to be their fifth starter for the subsequent few turns, they may still need to ponder swapping out Thompson or Bubba Crosby.
I suppose they could always swallow hard and designate Chacon for assignment and demote Wilson, to bring up a sixth reliever and a fifth starter, but for who? Purchase the contract of Jorge De Paula? Calling up Steven White? Rush up Philip Hughes, just weeks after his twentieth birthday? There's something to say in favor of each alternative, but I can respect being cautious with Hughes and leaving it to a choice between De Paula or White, pending some sort of scrapheap deal for somebody else's deadline discard.
Acquired RHP Travis Chick from the Reds for LHP Eddie Guardado and cash, and assigned Chick to Tacoma (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Mark Lowe from San Antonio (Double-A); transferred CF-L Jeremy Reed from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/6]
Purchased the contract of C-R Luis Oliveros from San Antonio; designated DH-L Roberto Petagine for assignment. [7/8]
For the Mariners, this just isn't really a happy exchange. Between getting very little value from their odd decision to give Guardado a three-year deal in the first place, this ended up being an association that hurt the Mariners coming and going, costing them plenty of money, the 22nd pick of the 2004 draft (the Twins picked University of Minnesota lefty Glen Perkins, and he's doing reasonably well at Double-A), and then only getting a lone, somewhat iffy prospect from a contender for the final three months of his contract? Maybe that's the penalty of Guardado's obvious mopery since losing the closer's job a bare month into the season, at least to some people's thinking, but I'd suggest that it's more properly the penalty of Bill Bavasi not exploiting the opportunity to deal Guardado at the deadline last season, when he had the benefit of an unquestioned reputation as a closer. The club picked up his option after 2005, and this is all they get for it? Spending close to $14 million (counting the cash sent to Cincy), plus Chick, instead of a draft pick that could have been used on Perkins or Taylor Tankersley or Philip Hughes or Zach Jackson or Huston Street, and money that could have been better spent to address other major problems? Looks like a worthwhile full-blown cause for regret to me.
Not that Chick's a terrible prospect, as young pitchers go. At 22, he's come far fast, moving from Texas high school diamonds to the Marlins 14th round choice in 2002 to a 2004 deal to the Padres (for Ismael Valdez/Valdes) to being dealt to the Reds last summer for Joe Randa. Despite all of that bouncing around, Chick hasn't exactly been handled gently by any of his prospective parent organizations, skipping High-A last year to go straight up to Double-A. Chick has a decent fastball-slider combo, and he has managed to be a survivor, but that's about it in terms of strengths. In Double-A Chattanooga this season, he'd allowed a dozen home runs in 84 IP, 4.8 runs per nine, while posting a 77-36 K-BB ratio. Now, considering that he's been pushed up aggressively despite his age, that's all intriguing enough, but I guess I'm far from sanguine about his chances of surviving in Seattle's organizational charnel house, site of so many flame-outs of so many young hurlers. They tend to like their victims tender if not downright rare, which might make Chick a pretty tasty morsel for whoever it is who runs this farm system like he was shorting Mariners futures. Maybe Chick pans out, but how many young hurlers dealt every July do you hear that about?
One of Walker's purported virtues was his reliability as an extra guy in the pen, but his season has been a mess so far. In his absence, the Jays are tabbing Ty Taubenheim for the long relief role that Walker was supposed to fill, with Shaun Marcum taking Taubenheim's place in the rotation. Marcum may or may not succeed in the role, but a spot in the pen may not be waiting for him once they get Gustavo Chacin back. That's because League may be ready to stick now that he's mastered a splitter to complement his high-90s heat. (Thanks to our own Kevin Goldstein for the tip.) Down in Syracuse, League's been ridiculously dominant in terms of making hitters look like Little Leaguers when it comes to getting the ball out of the infield. League's produced an absurd 10-1 groundball-flyball ratio (120-12), inducing 14 double-plays while not allowing a single home run in his 52.2 IP. Add in a solid 41-13 K-BB ratio, and you've got somebody who could do pretty well as a mid-inning fireman in front of a big-league defense, killing scoring opps with an induced deuce. There's the rub, of course: can Aaron Hill play short? Can Russ Adams hit enough to stick at all? Will the Jays trade for a shortstop and move Hill back to second? It'll be fun to see what they do, because both the Yankees and Red Sox can be had, and the wild card doesn't look like it's going to wind up coming out of the AL East.
Acquired LHP Eddie Guardado and cash from the Mariners for RHP Travis Chick; recalled LHP Mike Gosling from Louisville (Triple-A); purchased the contract of OF-L Dewayne Wise from Louisville; activated 3B-R Edwin Encarnacion from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Brian Shackelford to Louisville; designated OF-B Quinton McCracken for assignment; optioned RHP Elizardo Ramirez to Dayton (Low-A). [7/6]
Optioned LHP Michael Gosling to Louisville (Triple-A); added LHP Eddie Guardado to the active roster. [7/7]
Generally speaking, I'm impressed again, because at least the Reds aren't settling. To deal with the little stuff first, getting Encarnacion back is obviously a good thing, even if it pushes Ryan Freel back into the outfield rotation, and even if it forces Rich Aurilia back into a role where he spot-starts around the diamond. Certainly, having Freel available for outfield play made it that much easier to simply discard the still-done QMcC, although I'm not really pleased to see them re-stock the roster slot with the equally execrable Wise. Then there's the question about what the Reds are thinking as far an apparently punitive benching of Encarnacion after an error in his first game back, since that's a case of just asking for a self-spiting nose-cutting. As for shipping out both Ramirez and Shackelford, those are acknowledgments of where we are: at the All-Star break in the former case, and in middle America in the latter. Ramirez will be back to reclaim his fifth slot in the rotation once it comes up again on the schedule after the break, while Shackelford has some issues to work out with John Law.
Which leaves us with the big deal, which was getting Guardado and something like $2.5 million to pay him with. Now, sure, he was a morose ex-closer moping his way through two months in middle relief. And yes, he's not the Everyday Eddie of years past. But when you're still in the running at the break, and your team's worst problem is its bullpen, you try to fix it and see if you catch lightning in a bottle with one or two guys. Chick's promising, but he's not a no-doubt-about-it blue-chip prospect, and he's very much the sort of arm you throw at somebody to make a deal. I'm not really wild about Guardado's prospects as a lefty flyball pitcher trying to make his living in the GABP. He was getting pasted by right-handed hitters this season, even with Safeco as his home park, and right-handed hitters in Cincy tend to deposit more than their share of cookies into the porch.
However, the alternatives were struggling pretty terribly, and if Guardado can handle closing effectively enough, the real benefit to getting him is that it pushes Todd Coffey forward to the seventh and eighth innings, making it that much more likely that Guardado will have leads to protect. All of this assumes that Guardado has something left, but I'm willing to accept the argument that he'll be better off now that he's out of Seattle, and that he has something left, especially if the price is only Chick. The only other reliever who has anything like a firm grip on his job is situational lefty Kent Mercker, although if Dave Weathers can get back to at least mowing down righties with some consistency, he'll become an asset again.
What I really like about going out and getting Guardado and cutting McCracken are that both moves reflect that GM Wayne Krivsky's not stuck on simply keeping people because they're experienced-these aren't his guys, and the opportunity here is to do something in the standings, not worry about who's on next winter's Christmas card list. The Reds farm system isn't burgeoning with prospects, so he won't be able to acquire help as easily as he did earlier on, when he picked up Brandon Phillips on the cheap. Especially now that he's in the running, you shouldn't expect people to make the transactions equivalent of a housewarming gift.
A pretty straightforward exchange, in that Pinto had tossed three innings to close out the club's 18-9 rout of the Nats on Wednesday, and probably wouldn't have been available until Saturday. With a double-header on that day plus no off day in the two days beforehand, bringing up Vargas to give him a shot at some pen-saving innings in case of a blowout made sense. That very thing happened, as Vargas got to close out a game that Ricky Nolasco had effectively already lost by the second inning (or the Mets offense had won, depending on your point of view). Vargas hadn't pitched all that well in Albuquerque, allowing seven home runs and 5.3 runs per nine in seven starts and 37.2 IP, although his 28-9 K-BB ratio gives some hope that he'll be able to get his act together. Certainly, he didn't help himself on Saturday, turning a seven-run second-inning deficit into thirteen runs by the sixth. Expect a return to Isotopery for Vargas, probably with Pinto back up in his place.
Designated RHP Jose Lima for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Mike Pelfrey from Binghamton (Double-A). [7/7]
Certainly, the big lead in the standings affords a team all sorts of little tweaks, hiccups, rest breaks, and glory shots for various contributors. Well, okay, we're using the term "contributor" loosely, because Lima's only managed to go a perfect four-for-four in bringing the Mets back to the pack. But for Pelfrey (as it was for Alay Soler bain de soleil), it's an opportunity for him to audition as a fifth starter during a relative cake walk. He may not be entirely ready for the major leagues workload-wise, but this shouldn't be a situation like Alan Fowlkes or John Hoover, where he's going to be slagged in short order before we ever really get to find out who he is-whether you loathe pitch counts or love them, Pelfrey's going to be watched carefully. He was in good shape pitching in Double-A, striking out 77 in 66.1 IP, allowing 3.1 runs per nine, and surrendering 60 hits and 25 walks, and the mid-90s heat he was picked for has been a reliable staple. We'll see if he has as rude an adjustment period as Soler did, but if not, he might get the pleasure of breaking in on the margins of a playoff run. If he comes up short, no harm done, he'll just lose out to John Maine once Pedro's ready to come back.
That's the area of real concern, because if this starts becoming something other than a bit of caution with the aging great, then Omar Minaya's in real trouble, because not only will he lack a suitable replacement to fill out a staff that's already got issues in a short series, he'll be confronted with 29 peers who will hold out for the best possible deal for a potential replacement, all armed with the knowledge that Minaya almost has to make the deal if he's going to realize that playoff bid, let alone capitalize on it. If Pedro can only crank out one quality start in five, the way he did in June, that hardly makes matters any better, no matter how good the club's offense might be.
Getting Lieber back at least helps the club get back up to four plausible starting pitchers, as he joins Cory Lidle, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Madson. I know, that's a stretch, considering Madson's wildly inconsistent, and Lidle and Lieber are no better than adequate, but it's a front four you can pencil in without embarrassment. Who gets to play fifth wheel would be the question we'll have to wonder about until early next week. It could be Brett Myers, but that would involve the club's turning a blind eye to his off-field issues. It probably won't be Gavin Floyd, as he's struggling in Scranton. Mathieson certainly helped his bid to hold the job by throwing eight good frames in his third start, and that combined with his quality power assortment makes him a worthwhile homegrown second to Hamels. However, barring a decision to bring Mathieson back, I'd like to see the Phillies give Ryan Franklin a look, if only as part of an effort to showcase Pat Gillick's offseason albatross as a handy utility pitcher for a contender. They can always bring Mathieson back on August 1 after they've dealt Franklin (and perhaps Lidle as well, since his contract is up after the year).
Announced that RHP Ryan Vogelsong has cleared waivers, and accepted an assignment to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [7/7]
Optioned RHP Jonah Bayliss to Indianapolis. [7/9]
Getting Alou back naturally gets the Giants back to their outfield rotation, where they can compensate for the limitations of the two aging sluggers (you might have heard of the other guy) by relying on Randy Winn every day and Steve Finley as needed. On a practical level, it's a source strength for a team that's also getting surprisingly good stuff out of Eliezer Alfonzo and Todd Greene in Mike Matheny's absence, really leaving only first base as an area of major concern. Since it looks like this could be another last-chance shot at getting as far as they can with a team with Barry Bonds as the lineup's centerpiece, I'd be interested to see what GM Brian Sabean does about his first base problem. Make a pitch for Doug Mientkiewicz? Sean Casey or Craig Wilson? The stakes are pretty high, this isn't a team with a future given its weak farm system and its well-aged core talent, and the Padres are catchable, again.
If I'm Ponson, I give real thought to accepting the assignment. Why not take your chances that Mark Mulder won't be right, or that Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis continue to struggle? You've got a pretty good chance at a playoff share, and if you prove yourself a good sport with a winning ballclub in any capacity, it might sprinkle some fairy dust on that free agency campaign in the coming winter. Besides, I hear Memphis is lovely at this time of year. Well, okay, maybe not so much.
Mike O'Connor to New Orleans (Triple-A); purchased the contract of LHP Micah Bowie from New Orleans; transferred RHP Felix Rodriguez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; activated OF-R Alex Escobar from the 15-day DL. [7/6]
Sensibly enough, Frank Robinson has handled O'Connor pretty gingerly for a guy in his first year above A-ball, and produced six quality starts in fourteen. With the Nats getting a four-day break, he should only be going down to make a start for the Zephyrs to avoid getting stale for the second half, but the Nats might be in something of a quandary if Tony Armas Jr. is ready to come off of the DL and rejoin the rotation after the break. Can they bring both back? Sure, if John Patterson's broken down again, or if the team works up the nerve to bench either Pedro Astacio or Ramon Ortiz or, heaven forbid, cranky-kneed staff ace Livan Hernandez. And where does Shawn Hill fit in once he's ready to come off of the DL? As much as the team's rotation has always seemed like a confection held together by snot and duct tape over the entire course of its short history, the Nats might actually have a surfeit of starting pitching going into the end of July. You'd expect there to be some dealing of the veteran help, but how much would someone like Ortiz or Astacio or the permanently unreliable Armas fetch in barter? Not bloody much.
Since his reactivation, Escobar has been every bit as electric at the plate as he was before his latest injury, going 7-for-15 with four extra-base hits. More importantly, he's stepping back into the job in center field, a job that Marlon Byrd has proven incapable of holding onto. Although he'll be 28 in September and I'm not exactly wild about him, Escobar's promise was such back in the day that it's worth seeing if he'll at least pan out better than Byrd, a fellow former prospect-turned-washout (and due for a birthday himself, his 29th, at the end of August). As long as Ryan Church continues to flail at New Orleans (.228/.331/.338), the Nats need to use somebody, what with the rulebook requiring their fielding someone, and if they've permanently screwed up Church, that still doesn't change things as far as what to do in the meantime.
In another pickup to the Nats' credit, Bowie might end up being a successful retread. In his first full season since having a Tommy John ligament transplant, he's struck out 57 hitters in 42.1 innings, against 24 walks, and he's not allowed a home run yet. He was pitching only in relief in New Orleans, but Joey Eischen is done for the year, and if he pitches well enough to draw attention himself or makes it easier for Jim Bowden to feel comfortable about trying to move Mike Stanton someplace else before September 1, there's no harm in that. If Bowie thrives, he'd give the club a veteran alternative to homegrown prospect Bill Bray, while saving the club some cash to employ in other areas next winter.