July 27, 2006
July 25-26, 2006
Optioned LHP Kason Gabbard to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [7/26]
Flirting with moxie only goes so far, apparently, as it looks like Terry Francona got over his brief crush on this particular fresh face. The latest solution seems to involve rushing back David Wells before a rehab assignment, which probably makes sense if you buy an argument that Jumbo knows his own body, down to every fold.
It isn't all that often that I like a trade for both teams, but this is one of those deals. Between coping with his arbitration case and the more general question of how much longer you want a solid placeholder at first base for any great length of time, moving Broussard now--when his value was at its highest--makes all sorts of sense. The guy will be 30 at season's end, and is about to get significantly expensive at a point at which the likelihood that his production will start dropping gets pretty high. Getting a young outstanding platoon outfielder for an aging platoon first baseman is a particularly tasty addition for the Indians, but what this deal does force you to do is recognize how many of the Tribe's outfield prospects have completely tanked this season. Other than Franklin Gutierrez, just about everybody else above A-ball has fallen on his face, and with the major league team relying on righty-hitting placeholders like Casey Blake and Jason Michaels in the corners, getting a left-handed hitter with Choo's promise to put in right is quite promising. Against PCL right-handers, Choo was hitting .362/.433/.580, as well as shining in just about every situation you could wish for. He's got the arm and range to play a good right, so the eventual possibility of an outfield with Gutierrez in center, Choo and a platoon partner (Michaels, perhaps) in right, and Grady Sizemore in left would offer a nice combination of offense and glovework, as well as a group better-suited for helping the Tribe score runs for years into the future.
The aspect of this that I don't like is the suggestion that the Indians will be using Victor Martinez that much less often at catcher, using him instead at first now that Broussard is gone so that they can let Kelly Shoppach handle more of the backstopping chores. But in the same way that picking up Choo is a recognition that hitters like Jason Cooper and Bryan Snyder aren't panning out as well as they might like, there's probably also a glum acceptance that Ryan Garko and Michael Aubrey have stumbled badly, to the point of taking themselves out of realistic consideration for ever challenging for a big league job. I suppose there's also the hope that Shoppach's value behind the plate relative to Martinez's might translate into runs saved. But there, I'd worry that they're being overly optimistic about Shoppach's ability to hit well enough to be an asset, giving away some of the ground gained if they've upgraded in the outfield.
All in all, a very good deal for Mark Shapiro, and that's without even figuring out who the PTBNL will be. Getting Broussard in 2002 for Russ Branyan more than paid off--although the Reds' failure to play Branyan was their choice, not a guaranteed result--and now flipping Broussard for Choo represents a pretty nifty way of keeping a quality lefty bat in the lineup while not having to go out and have to pay for one. However, getting Choo serves as a reminder that there's a lot more to be done as far as retooling this team for next year's AL Central race, and that there's also a lot of rebuilding to be done within the farm system.
To a certain extent, Lewis is only up to justify his presence in the organization after the Tigers snagged him after shoulder surgery on the Rangers' watch in the spring of 2004 encouraged Texas to try to waive him. He missed all of 2005, then shined as a Mudhen this season. In 20 Toledo starts, he's tossed 121 innings, struck out 90 while walking only 30, significantly better control than his stint in the Rangers' rotation in 2003, and more closely resembling the former prospect who shined as a 22-year-old in Triple-A in 2002. He's been able to throw curves, sliders, splitters, and a changeup in the past, so while surgery might have taken his mid-90s fastball from him, he might pan out as a fourth or fifth starter somewhere. It won't be here, of course, not when he's merely keeping a roster spot warm for Mike Maroth. But as an investment goes, this one has been worthwhile for the Tigers' organization, and amidst all of the larger moves that Dave Dombrowski deserves credit for, this was a nice low-end risk that seems to have panned out.
Acquired LHP Jorge de la Rosa from the Brewers for INF-R Tony Graffanino; recalled RHP Leo Nunez from Omaha (Triple-A); acquired LHP Odalis Perez, RHPs Blake Johnson and Julio Pimentel, and cash from the Dodgers for RHP Elmer Dessens. [7/25]
Recalled SS-B Andres Blanco from Omaha. [7/26]
At long last, we finally get to see something that really inspires from Dayton Moore. Or do we? Getting Perez is exactly the sort of risk a team like the Royals should be taking, and it's notable that Perez is a pitcher Moore is familiar with from their days in the Braves organization. It's an opportunity for Perez to get a fresh start in a place where there's anything but pressure. However, he's also a lefty coming to the DH league and leaving Chavez Ravine, and I'm not particularly sold on Perez's ability to bounce back from what appears to be his increasing fragility. All told, I don't really expect he'll become anything more than a league-average starter if things work out. Is that really a source of inspiration?
Happily, the financial aspects of the deal aren't bad for the Royals, sort of: the Dodgers will apparently pay most of what Perez is owed through 2007, and will pay half of the $1.5 million buyout of the club option for 2008 if the Royals (perhaps predictably) decide not to pay the $9 million it would take to keep him. If the Royals trade Perez before the end of 2007, they have to return $750K to the Dodgers. Since Perez can demand a trade this winter for being the owner of a multi-year contract who's been dealt during the lifetime of the deal, that's not an insignificant consideration. Those factors seem to indicate that the Royals have little or no interest in picking up Perez's option. If Perez bounces back now, the Royals have to pay an additional $750K to convert him into prospects as is, and who's going to give up top talent for a guy with Perez's track record for failure and injury of late, if he demands a trade after this season? If they hang onto him into 2007, and he continues to pitch well, and they then deal him then for prospects, they're still out the $750K; if they hold onto him, they can settle for whatever draft choices the Elias Sports Bureau semi-arbitrarily decides that he's worth--but that would only be if they offered him arbitration for 2008, and then only if that isn't prohibited as a condition of their rejecting to pick up the option.
So that looks like a deal of an effectively worthless middle reliever/spot starter--who the Royals will have to pay for during his days as a Dodger, by the way--for a flyer on Perez that might involve his having to be dealt (on his demand), or accepting that he'll defect as a free agent after 2007, which sort of takes some of the starch out of this trade if you're desperate for good news involving the Royals. At least notionally there is the morale-boosting aspect of this deal, which is that some see this as a case of Moore managing to convince the Glass clan to take on salary, but if the Dodgers are paying $8 million, or much of what Perez is owed (something like a third of his $7.25 million salary this season, and the $7.75 million he's due next year), that isn't really all that much money that's been taken on, and that aspect of things becomes mostly symbolic. There's always the possibility that Perez rockets back up to his 2002 breakout in 2007 after not demanding a trade, and then the Royals pick up his 2008 option, figuring that once they've got lightning in a bottle, they can keep it in the cupboard. I think you already know what I think the chances of that are.
So where's the real payoff in this deal? The young pitchers, and while neither is a sure thing, this is an organization that needs every sort of depth--taking some of Logan White's less-successful picks still represents a major improvement for the Royals stock of prospects. Pimentel throws hard, but lacks all of the other things that might make him a great pitcher, while Johnson lacks the fastball but does everything else effectively. Throw them into Jeff Goldblum's scrambler from The Fly, and you've got yourself one heck of a pitcher. Or a guy who can't chew his own donuts.
In terms of stats, neither has been all that great down in Vero Beach:
Pitcher G GS IP H BB K HR R/9 GB/FB Pimentel 30 9 74.1 85 45 77 4 6.8 1.7 Johnson 20 18 106.0 121 19 73 11 5.9 1.2
Now, for the Florida State League, Vero Beach is a tough place to pitch, and it's been particularly tough for a finesse righthander like Johnson, but those are not exactly inspired performances. You could argue that both have been hit-unlucky--Pimentel's allowing a .379 BABIP, and Johnson a .326. A former outfielder, Pimentel's flopped in his second go-round in the FSL, and has been pushed into relief work. Although he gets into the low 90s, there's a lot of work to be done, so he's raw material. A former 2004 2nd rounder out of a Louisiana high school, Johnson might bulk up and add velocity to a fastball that currently tops out at 90, which would complement a nice curve. Neither pitcher is a sure thing, but both are very young and are worth taking a flyer on. Given the Royals' shortage of homegrown pitching talent, Johnson and Pimentel definitely represent worthwhile additions.
The other deal, getting de la Rosa for Graffy, isn't a bad exchange either. Although the complaints about the lefty are legion--he has bad mechanics, spotty command, and persistent blister problems--you're still talking about a lefty who can throw into the 90s. The Brewers tried to make him a situational lefty for the longest time before tossing him into the rotation out of desperation (and with little in the way of preparation), so coming to Kansas City might be the right place for de la Rosa to find out what role he can fulfill. If that's as a Ron Villone-like swingman, that would be solid. Thinking big, the Royals are trying to see if he'll stick in their rotation, and more power to them. As a payoff for their having claimed Graffanino off waivers in March, this isn't a bad risk to take. If you were left wanting more, be practical: what sort of haul would you expect for a 34-year-old utility infielder?
As for bringing up Blanco to replace Graffy as an infield reserve, I like it well enough. Few players more perfectly symbolize the inadequacies of the Baird/Glass era than Angel Berroa: someone with promise who can't learn from his mistakes, a source of hope subsequently curdled by repetitive failure. It makes sense to let Blanco hang around and potentially challenge Berroa, even if he only improves the team's defense, because Moore has to be thinking in terms of who's on his 40-man roster and why, and whether or not to cut bait on several people come winter. Taking a direct look at Blanco can help determine if he's part of the future. True, he and Esteban German don't exactly give the Royals a utility infielder with the offensive punch that Graffanino provides, but they still boast a decent pair of spares.
Yep, this is the sort of stuff that makes one's heart beat faster among those of us who live for this time of year. The trade deadline, the pressure, the ticking clock, the desperate needs, and we give you... why, another ex-Royal in pinstripes, of course. Between his helplessness against the running game (nabbing only 5 of 25 base thieves) and at the plate, Stinnett created this particular need. However, Fasano wasn't doing all that well against the running game in the NL himself, throwing out only 21.6% on attempted stolen bases. What Fasano might offer is a modestly better stick to put into the lineup on Jorge Posada's off days, but being better than Stinnett is not the same thing as being able to replace Posada should he get any more run down during the stretch drive.
Recalled LHP Randy Keisler from Sacramento (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jason Windsor to Sacramento. [7/26]
The way the A's schedule works out, the fifth starter's slot will be skippable after Sunday, and then bumped back a couple of timies because of off-days. Where things get ugly is how they handle a double-header against the Royals on the 18th of August. Having looked at Windsor and deciding he wasn't ready, it looks like the alternatives for these extra starts will be Kirk Saarloos and perhaps Brad Halsey should Joe Kennedy be able to come off of the DL sometime in the next three weeks. That would squeeze Keisler back out of the second lefty role in the pen, but that's no big deal either way, and with Chad Gaudin and Justin Duchscherer both doing well in middle relief roles, Saarloos is readily available to handle rotation work.
Setting aside my frustration that the Mariners wouldn't give Choo a clean shot at a job, when they could have done that and simply offed Everett weeks ago, I guess I understand the motivation here. The problem is that they've now dealt another top prospect to get the other half of a DH platoon in place, and while I like Broussard well enough, and like the fact that the Mariners recognize that the division's wide open and flags fly forever and all that, they've given up an awful lot to get bats that don't significantly improve their chances as much as they just paper over last winter's mistakes. Broussard comes over hitting .322/.363/.523, and while that's outstanding, it's also well into the higher ranges of his predicted performance, and betting on him staying in this range when so much of his performance seems to be the product of getting a lot of breaks on putting a lot more balls in play is a bit of a wishcast if you ask me.
I could bring up that the Mariners sliced a lot of baloney this past winter talking about what Everett would add to the team, and predictably, their claims that he'd hit, lead, or inspire because he was wearing a ring turned out to be just so much offseason bunk. So, with that particular souffle deflated, why would you really think that Bill Bavasi's got it right this time around? There's an element of cowardice here, as far as the team's unwillingness to give genuine opportunities to guys like Joe Borchard or Choo, while sorting out that they didn't actually have the right idea with either Everett or Matt Lawton. Even with Broussard, they're still short of outfield depth, and Snelling's temporary call-up doesn't change that--he's going straight back down to Tacoma, leaving Adam Jones to continue to sink more than swim in center.
In short, while adding Broussard is a worthwhile move considering the club's strange reluctance to use Choo, and because he'll be an instant upgrade on Everett, it's an expensive pickup fraught with a large potential to disappoint, and it doesn't fix this club's every problem. While reaching the playoffs as the AL West champ is a realizable goal, it's also worth asking if anybody would favor the Mariners over any other team in the AL playoff picture. Almost certainly not, at which point I begin to suspect that this move is just as much about achieving a better measure of job security as it is chasing a tri-pennant.
It's early days, so let's not get too high or low over Eaton's first start back from time spent on the DL waiting for his finger to heal. Seven baserunners in 3.2 innings is ugly, but at least the guy struck out four hitters, and it isn't like plugging John Wasdin into the rotation would do much for the Rangers' bid for the AL West title.
Transferred RHP Chris Reitsma from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/26]
Although I was lukewarm on the initial decision to sign Hatteberg, I did defend the move, and he's given them a lot more than what they expected for their $750K. There's no really obvious gotcha in his data--you might think it's the benefit of being platooned, but his season isn't all a GABP illusion, not when he's hitting .299/.395/.478 on the road. Maybe you chalk this up as another indicator that the NL is the weaker circuit, and maybe you just stop short of checking this particular gift horse's choppers and opt out of the winter free agent market for first basemen. Finding a right-handed platoon partner isn't that difficult--as long as you're not the Braves and playing make-believe with Brian Jordan--and if it's all a matter of building a sustainable holding pattern until Joey Votto is ready, that might only be until sometime next year. It's a solid decision, and another benefit of not having to worry about Sean Casey's feelings any more.
Ross's return might cause joy among the ranks of those who sign onto the belief that letting a pitcher have a "personal catcher" can generate better performance, since Ross has been batteried up with Bronson Arroyo. However, Ross didn't save Arroyo from getting rocked last night, nor did he in his previous game calling signals for Arroyo on July 4th, before he went onto the DL. Arroyo also seemed to get over any attachment during the absence, pitching two quality starts out of three. I'd suggest that whatever benefit Arroyo gets from having his own designated catcher is that he's getting Ross's bat (.309/.380/.675) in the lineup instead of Javier Valentin's (.221/.287/.320) or Jason LaRue's (.201/.333/.333).
As for dumping Mays, although it does leave the team short a starter for a game this weekend, it wasn't like there was that much reason to hope that Mays would become somebody besides Joe Mays. After a quality start against the Mets in his first start as a Red, he'd gone back to being drubbable, giving up 35 baserunners and 19 runs in 14 innings across three starts. Brandon Claussen is supposed to come off of the DL shortly, but in the meantime, I think we'll probably see either Justin Germano or Phil Dumatrait up for a spot start. Dumatrait might be the easiest fit, since he wouldn't be out of turn from his work in Louisville's rotation. I suppose Mike Gosling is an option as well, and with a space free on the 40-man, there's also the odd chance that Krivsky might purchase Homer Bailey's contract, but I sort of doubt that they'll rush him up into a wild card chase.
Lane wasn't helping himself all that much as far as trying to bop his way back to Pulped Orb Park down at Round Rock, slugging only .425, so expect his return to be of the brief sort. Considering that Preston Wilson still isn't doing much to help the Astros score runs, there's still an opportunity, of course, but Lane would first have to make enough noise to make something happen.
That's a pretty steep price to pay to get back the use of the roster spot that had been wasted on Perez. Not only do the Dodgers have to pay the Royals for the privilege of employing Odalis, and had to throw in a pair of middling-ish prospects, they're stuck filling the roster spot with Dessens, who really seems sort of redundant when you've already got Giovanni Carrara. I'm not sure the Dodgers wouldn't have been better off just cutting Perez outright, because at least they'd still have Johnson and Pimentel, and they'd get that roster spot back anyway and still have to pay Perez to be somebody else's problem. While the Royals will at least be covering Dessens' salary, the only real upside for Ned Colletti's side of the exchange is that it isn't unreasonable to hope that the journeyman middle reliever will improve on his performance as a Royal now that he's back in Dodger Stadium. But why bother? Why not just bring back Franquelis Osoria or Lance Carter? They're about as likely to do well as Dessens, and employing either wouldn't have cost the club Johnson or Pimentel. Unlike the earlier deal with the Devil Rays, where Colletti decided to pretend that Mark Hendrickson was a worthwhile starting pitcher in the face of all available evidence, I don't hate this deal as much as I just don't see it as all that useful. It doesn't really help the Dodgers' shot at the NL West, since it involves giving up prospects and money to get back a dead roster spot which then has to be used on Dessens. If Dessens has a great stretch run, that mitigates the damage, but that's a pretty worm-eaten peg to have to hang your hat on.
I like the deal for the Brewers as well as for the Royals, in that they could clearly use an infielder who helps replace Bill Hall on the bench now that Hall is the club's starting shortstop. Add in the concern over when Corey Koskie might be back from a concussion, and you can see how this team needed somebody who could play second, short, or third in a pinch. Since Graffanino can hit well enough to start at third should Jeff Cirillo's bat go entirely slack, this was a desperately needed addition. However, keep in mind that if the Brewers go into a deep funk over the next couple of days and fall further back in the wild card chase, they can bundle Graffanino in the right deal if it helps them get some contender's blue chip prospect. Graffy's definitely worth something in that sort of exchange, while de la Rosa was just as obviously not, so consider the trade a nice bit of dual-purpose hedging, where Doug Melvin helps his team's depth now, and adds something he can peddle later. It also isn't inconceivable that Graffanino might make it through on a waivers deal in August, so there's no end of opportunities for the Brewers to help themselves even if fortune doesn't end up smiling on them in the standings.
Acquired 2B-R Hector Made from the Yankees for C-R Sal Fasano. [7/26]
Not a bad return on an aging backup catcher. Made isn't really a prospect, having been unable to stick at short because of his glove, but the Dominican is only 21, and he was hitting .286/.312/.397 in the Florida State League. He might make it up as a slower edition of Miguel Cairo, but there's the off chance that Made will develop more power and become the next Kevin Jordan. A break or two, and you've got a useful spare part for a temporarily rented useful spare part.
Well, shazbat. If you're a Brendan Harris, his opportunity to start at second just came and went, and he's already been shipped out of Dodge. While Vidro's on the DL, the keystone starts will go to Marlon Anderson, an indecent sort of thing to do to paying customers, and naturally this plus Vidro's always-cranky knees pretty much kibosh any opportunity to deal the portly second baseman. It really wasn't that likely anyway, not when he's got $16 million coming to him over the next two seasons, not to mention a limited no-trade clause. That Omar Minaya, what a cut-up. Meanwhile, Castro's slender opportunity to make himself into somebody's low-cost second base solution hasn't gotten any better. When you're 27, you should be hitting a lot better than .284/.329/.347 in Triple-A, but at least he's nabbed 22 bags in 24 attempts.