Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
September 1, 2006
August 28-31, 2006
Activated UT-L David Newhan from the 60-day DL. [8/29]
Acquired SS-R Angel Chavez from the Phillies as the PTBNL in the Jeff Conine trade; claimed C-R Danny Ardoin off of waivers from the Rockies; designated LHP Tim Byrdak and INF-R Ed Rogers for assignment. [8/30]
Chavez is a cipher at best, a teaser for those poor few of you hankering for the second coming of Kim Batiste, and at 27, he's not even a good bet to be that much. I'm always happy to see the Cajun catcher catch on somewhere, and who knows, maybe Ardoin can stick around and make a cute commercial about the virtues of crawdads versus crab cakes as part of the winter season ticket renewal drive.
I'm also happy to see Newhan back and active, and not just because one discriminating friend considers him the cutest Oriole. Newhan's career has been, for the most part, a litany of bad breaks, and last summer's anti-Ottawa tantrum aside, he's always been seen as a solid citizen. Lefty hitters with a little bit of sock who can handle the four corners (and center in a pinch) are useful enough to have on the bench, and it isn't like there's any danger that he's going to crowd Nick Markakis out of the lineup. Between ten years in the minors and a couple of career-threatening injuries, I'm glad to see the guy get whatever chances he gets.
Acquired RHP Mike Burns from the Reds for RHP Tim Bausher; placed LHP Jon Lester on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 8/24; purchased the contract of 1B-L Carlos Pena from Pawtucket (Triple-A); placed OF-L Adam Stern on the 60-day DL. [8/28]
Traded LHP David Wells to the Padres for a PTBNL or cash; acquired RHP Kevin Jarvis from the Diamondbacks for a PTBNL, and assigned him to Pawtucket (Triple-A); activated LHP Lenny DiNardo from the 60-day DL. [8/31]
There's not a lot of point in admiring technique in what is ultimately an exercise in futility. I've already touched on how nice it was to get Pena, and Burns is a nice enough righty situational guy to take a flyer on, but these are moves in the wake of a season that's already done for all intents and purposes. There's no better sign of having jumped the shark than winding up with Kevin Jarvis, because no, he isn't here to help Pawtucket in the playoffs-the PawSox are as postseason-free as the Sox will be. At this point, you're left hoping that Pena does something, or that Kevin Towers made an ugly mistake and is committed to giving the Red Sox George Kottaras for Jumbo Wells' waddle into the sunset.
Even if Dave Dombrowski made the mistake of going out and getting Neifi Perez, you can't say that he doesn't know how to game the system. Gomez gives los Tigres their lefty-hitting outfield reserve who can double up as Magglio Ordonez's legs. It isn't every day that I get to give Sammy Byrd a tip o' the cap, but I guess that's an oblique reference to Babe Ruth's backup that entertains Steven Goldman and a very few others who love the Bubba Crosbys of days long past. At any rate, to Gomez's credit, he had a second strong season with the Mudhens, topping last season's .307/.348/.450 with a .288/.343/.540 clip this year, and while he's 28 and not a prospect, you could do worse for your fifth outfielder.
So, Nevin skips to his fourth team in less than two years, which is sort of the way things work out when you're a slowing veteran bat without a position beyond first base. Sure, Nevin could catch or play third or either outfield corner in an emergency, but heaven help you if you have to break the glass and put him to use anywhere but first. On the season, he's hit .245/.321/.456, and happily showed some power against right-handed pitchers during his time with the Cubs (slugging .564 against them), so I wouldn't chalk this up as just a matter of adding a platoon bat. Nevin can spot for Justin Morneau at first, potentially platoon with Jason Kubel at DH, and thereby free up Rondell White to do likewise with Jason Tyner, and basically give manager Ron Gardenhire someone with sock as a potential pinch-hitter for any of the non-Morneau infielders. A nice little move by GM Terry Ryan, one that might get put in the spotlight down the stretch if Nevin does something significant to help push the Twins past the White Sox.
Johnson's back, but I'm not really worked up about it and wondering how much better life might be with Johnson at first, Nick Swisher back in left, and Jay Payton and Bobby Kielty back on the bench. Even though Johnson hit an impressive-looking .304/.415/.509 in Sacramento during his six-week stint, a lot of that was in his first two weeks-in August, he hit a pathetic .204/.344/.314. It's nice to have him up to give Ken Macha the tactical flexibility to switch Swisher to the outfield and have someone who can handle fielding duties at first on the bench. Beyond the possibility that Johnson was in a funk once it looked like nothing he did in Sacramento would get him back up to Oakland quickly as a way to explain his weak August, I see this as a pretty minor move.
Placed RHP Julio Mateo on the 60-day DL (broken hand); purchased the contract of RHP Jon Huber from Triple-A Tacoma (Triple-A). [8/28]
Young's much-anticipated arrival comes with playing time available now that Gomes is on the shelf for the remainder of the season. If Young's year at Durham disappointed many prospect mavens-even if he's still two weeks shy of his 21st birthday, more power was expected from him than the .316/.341/.474 season he put up-he's an angry young man with a world of potential. The question is whether or not Young's potentially as dysfunctional as Milton Bradley, especially after his bat-hurling incident. There's room enough in the lineup for the team to keep Young up for the next six seasons in right (at Damon Hollins' expense), with Rocco Baldelli in center, and Gomes at DH and filling in as the de facto fourth outfielder. While the Rays are doing all of the right sort of public handwringing over how to encourage Young to be a better citizen, let's face it, if you like'm young, and you want to follow a team with all sorts of talent on the rise, get on the first D-Rays bandwagon ever. If things work out, they'll start scaring the other four teams in the AL East next season-and if they don't, they'll sort of be like the mid-80s Mariners, talented and hopeless, and helpfully seeding other lucky teams with talent the way the Mariners did with Danny Tartabull, Ivan Calderon, Mike Moore, and even Phil Bradley. They eventually ironed that out, with moves like the payoff for Ken Phelps and Mark Langston, but I don't know if D-Rays fans want to endure the mistakes to get to the really tasty trades, especially since the team's already got Young's service time clock ticking away, no differently than the Mariners did with Alex Rodriguez back in the day.
I have no idea how Diaz fits into the organization's plans, but this was a pretty nifty pickup, adding an interesting power prospect while his stock was low. Diaz struggled most of the year, failing to hit at Norfolk this summer (.224/.276/.330) after slugging .541 there last year, not to mention slugging .468 in The Show in 313 PA. He will turn 25 this winter, but getting him for a spare catch-and-throw guy could be a major steal. Should the Rangers lose Carlos Lee to free agency and decide to play for other stakes in their winter shopping, they'd still have Diaz, Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts, and Brad Wilkerson (if they offer him arbitration) for their corner outfield slots. That's a group that has the potential to be both cheap and effective, and sort of presents them with an interesting choice, either going full-bore after Lee or settling for retaining Wilkerson and hoping he's healthy next spring-the other three hitters afford them the choice, instead of requiring that they keep both. If that frees Jon Daniels to shop for pitching, so much the better for Texas.
Recalled 2B/SS-L Russ Adams from Syracuse (Triple-A). [8/28]
Regardless of Adams being up or not, the Jays' middle infield problem remains the same: neither Adams nor Aaron Hill can play short, and John McDonald's bat has no business being in the lineup every day. Since Sergio Santos-as-prospect is still in flatline status (.211/.252/.298 at Syracuse), barring something exciting falling into their laps during their winter shopping, the Jays are left hoping that former Vanderbilt shortstop Ryan Klosterman gets ready in a hurry. He's seen as a steady defender, and it would be hard to hit worse than McDonald's Oyleresque stylings, so next summer should be interesting for all concerned.
Acquired 1B/OF-L Daryle Ward from the Nationals for RHP Luis Atilano. [8/31]
A pretty reasonable pickup at a pretty reasonable price. Atilano the Hun has been homer-prone and inconsistent at best since being picked in the first round in 2003, and now that he's been shelved with elbow surgery, it isn't like he's going to haunt future John Schuerholz naps to be named later. Ward's a nice weapon to have on a big league bench, either as a spot starter against right-handed pitching or as a pinch-hitter, and as much as I deride the Braves' shot at getting into the postseason, they do need the help, and to his credit, Schuerholz didn't just let it ride.
Optioned UT-L Buck Coats to Iowa (Triple-A); activated 1B-R Derrek Lee from the 15-day DL. [8/28]
Traded 1B/OF-R Phil Nevin and cash to the Twins for a PTBNL. [8/31]
So, Lee's healthy, again, maybe. He's making contact and not feeling pain, and that's certainly progress, but the goal here is to make sure he's fine for next season. Whatever future the Cubs have in the immediate future depends greatly on Lee being an MVP-caliber hitter, so I'd forgive them considerable caution with how they handle the slugger.
As far as the Nevin swap, the Cubs and Twins have a semi-cozy relationship that seems to source by way of Cubs President and former Twins GM Andy MacPhail, so as small favors go within certain "trading circles" within the games front offices, it's a small good turn that might help the Cubs get something they need sometime in the future. It has the added benefit of making life more difficult for those guys on the South Side, and a player to be named from the Twins' organization stands a pretty good chance of being somebody worth taking a flyer on, considering their talent base.
Signed RHP Jason Johnson to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Louisville (Triple-A). [8/30]
Most of this is pretty minor niggling, and while Johnson has been horrendous all season, the alternative for the fifth starter's slot is Michalak, after all. Johnson probably won't wind up on the postseason roster, but then you really wouldn't want him to, and the club more basically needs people who can plausibly be asked to start games in the meantime. Who knows, maybe pitching coach Vern Ruhle will see something and fix him-Kyle Lohse is going pretty good, after all. Elsewhere, Harris and Denorfia are good players to have on the bench, but I expect they won't get much opportunity to play; the Reds will live and die with whatever they can get out of Rich Aurilia as their primary infield reserve, and Ryan Freel probably won't come out of right field no matter how badly he hits down the stretch after hitting only .219/.328/.267 over the last thirty days.
The only portent of possible things to come is Valentin's being rewarded for a relatively hot August, relative being in contrast to Jason LaRue. LaRue's under contract for next season, but I wouldn't be surprised if Wayne Krivsky shops him to any potential taker and gives the all of the receiving chores to Valentin and David Ross in 2007.
The future is now for the kid who may now be the organization's top prospect-that's not meant as a slight against Ian Stewart, but is instead is an acknowledgment that Tulowitzki's season at Tulsa was that impressive. In his first full season, the shortstop hit .291/.370/.473, and the former Long Beach State star isn't about to move off of short-he's got the range to cover the ground, and the arm to handle throws from the hole. Whatever taste he gets during the current cup of coffee isn't the point-he'll very probably struggle, but the question is whether he looks almost-ready enough to encourage the club to push Clint Barmes across the keystone to make the three-way fight between Kazuo Matsui, Omar Quintanilla, and Jamey Carroll into a four-way free-for-all. Since all four of them can play short, any two of them would do nicely as the answers at second and for their primary utility infielder next season, so they really can afford to let whoever thrives simply win their jobs. At any rate, although Stewart probably doesn't get the call, Tulowitzki's promotion gives the big league roster the second of the organization's trinity of outstanding prospects, and like the already-arrived Chris Iannetta, gives Rockies fans yet another reason to feel good about how this season's turned out, and why 2007 promises to be better still.
Signed RHP Roy Oswalt to a five-year contract extension. [8/29]
Tipping my cap to Joe for touching on this first, but the real effect of the Oswalt contract will be measured by its impact on the winter free agent season. The question is whether it will do for staff aces what the Kris Benson deal that he signed with Omar Minaya before the 2005 season did for third starters everywhere. Me, I expect the answer's yes, because monkey see, monkey do, even with the potentially chilling effect of unconsummated CBA negotiations in play.
As for the playoff roster considerations, let's face it, whether the backup catcher was House, Eric Munson, Quintero, or Alan Ashby, it all represents a ticket to watch Brad Ausmus play. Phil Garner didn't pinch-hit for Ausmus even once in last year's postseason, so while Quintero's arguably the best catch-and-throw guy of all of the Astros' options, those are talents that probably won't be deployed anywhere outside of the bullpen, should the Astros even get to play any games past October 1. Naturally, I'd rather they gave House a real shot, or kept Munson, but Quintero isn't useless as backup backstops go. Bruntlett's definitely handy, of course, since he's a six-position utility guy with some Crawford Box sock against lefties, and that's useful enough for a last man on the bench.
Acquired 2B/OF-L Marlon Anderson and cash from the Nationals for RHP Jhonny Nunez. [8/31]
Not that Anderson's the worst lefty pinch-hitter and spare part to have on your bench, but this represents a pretty major roster boo-boo by GM Ned Colletti. He already had a veteran lefty pinch-hitter of Anderson's caliber in Ricky Ledee, but lost him on waviers to the Mets when the roster got crowded by Nomar Garciaparra's return from the DL. Losing Ledee instead of moving Ramon Martinez out of the way after they'd added Julio Lugo and Wilson Betemit wound up being pretty expensive-it isn't that Martinez hasn't been solid enough, but the odds that he'll get to do anything now that Betemit and Lugo and Garciaparra and Kent are all here is pretty remote. Dumping Ledee and (now) replacing him with Anderson is an upgrade, but mostly a cosmetic one-there's not a lot of difference between them in what they can do, and if Ledee was hurt much of the season, it isn't like a healthy Anderson is so much better that it was worth giving up a prospect as promising as Nunez to get him. As Joe Sheehan warned, Colletti's become something of an organizational digger wasp, hollowing out a healthy organization to give birth to the legend of his own genius. Flags do fly forever, but it'll be years before we get a sense of the full cost of Ned's quest for greatness to the organization. Certainly, discarding Nunez looks gratuitous, and the product of particularly poor planning.
At least there's some good news, in that Kuo's up. He'd been starting games of late in Las Vegas, and while it's taken an injury to Mark Hendrickson to get Grady Little to ponder life without the overly gentle giant lefty, a pitcher with Kuo's promise wouldn't be the worst alternative. They also have Brett Tomko and Aaron Sele around, however, so it isn't like the Dodgers lack for alternatives. I guess I just like the suggestion that the Dodgers might make a point of keeping Kuo on their postseason roster. His stuff's sufficiently nasty that he should be given the same opportunity to contribute that fellow prospects Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton have gotten.
Acquired C-R Mike Nickeas from the Rangers for OF-R Victor Diaz. [8/30]
Nickeas is a decent enough catch-and-throw type drafted out of Georgia Tech in 2004, but he's not really a prospect. He'll be 24 next season, he's lost a lot of time to injury, has never really hit for much power, and has yet to show that he can hit at Double-A. Getting him for Diaz has to be considered a pretty disappointing return. As for the Williams/Hernandez exchange, as I touch on in the Phillies' section, it's more about the fact that, ideally, Williams won't be on the postseason roster, than it represents a confirmation that Hernandez will be.
Optioned INF-B Danny Sandoval to Reading (Double-A). [8/28]
Ruiz isn't guaranteed a spot on the postseason roster if it comes to that. This should really be more about making sure that the team has a 14-11 split between hitters and pitchers in terms of postseason roster eligibility, and exchanging Smith for Ruiz gives them that. Smith could still be slipped onto the postseason roster in a slot notionally assigned to Julio Santana, who's done for the year and on the DL, while Tom Gordon could crowd out Rule 5 guy Fabio Castro once Flash is reactivated from the DL. Assuming the club would rather have Smith than Castro, of course, even if Castro's done good stuff in mop-up time.
Placed LHPs Tom Gorzelanny (elbow tendonitis), retroactive to 8/18, and Mike Gonzalez (elbow tendonitis too), retroactive to 8/24, on the 15-day DL; designated RHP Britt Reames for assignment; recalled RHP Jonah Bayliss and purchased the contracts of RHPs Marty McLeary and Brian Rogers from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [8/28]
Although Gorzelanny and Gonzalez may well be shut down for the season, don't lose hope-there are still a couple of people worth following on the team in the interim, and all of the young pitchers this team has to choose from will be back next spring. Both Bayliss and Rogers are worth watching in the last month's action. Bayliss throws hard, and Rogers (the payoff for their dumping Sean Casey on the Tigers) throws strikes with a decent fastball/slider mix, and both will contend with Josh Sharpless next spring to join Matt Capps in an increasingly homegrown and talented pen.
Optioned RHP Mike Thompson to Portland (Triple-A); recalled OF-L Terrmel Sledge from Portland; acquired LHP David Wells from the Red Sox for a PTBNL or cash; signed RHP Rudy Seanez; designated C-L Pete LaForest and 3B-R Justin Leone for assignment. [8/31]
So Jumbo hits the beach in his sunset scenario, and ideally the Pads won't have to call in Whale Rescue to cart him off at season's end, or have to pay as much as George Kottaras for the privilege of letting the big fella finish up his career pitching in five or six meaningful regular season games-and potentially the playoffs, of course. Now, I know, flags fly forever and all that, but there's little guarantee that Wells will actually make those five or six starts, or pitch all that much better than Thompson. Happily, Wells does have three quality starts in his last four since arguably taking his first two off of the DL to work himself back into game shape. Turn a blind eye towards the fact that two of those games were against the hapless Orioles and Mariners, and you're sold on the Pads getting the beefy clutch tattooed goodness for their stretch run. I'm willing to give the Pads some benefit of the doubt-Wells is always fun, and not just because it's fun to make fun of him, and he has risen to some pretty big occasions in the past. I just don't think it's worth Kottaras, who has the bat and sufficient catching skills to be a starting backstop in the big leagues.
As for Seanez and Sledge, that's the rest of your Pads postseason roster. Sledge did put the hurt on the PCL this summer, hitting .311/.402/.583 in 434 PA, and I'd rather take my chances that he can contribute off of the bench as a lefty pinch-hitter and spot starter in the outfield corners than invest too much hope in Ryan Klesko's ending his final season in San Diego doing something more constructive than taking up space on the 40-man roster all year. As for Traction Action, like Jumbo we're talking about another shot at sports Valhalla-not everybody can be Jose Lima and find your own valkyrie before achieving immortality, and if Seanez has anything left in the tank, it'll be nice to see it come in his fourth go-round as a Pad person.
Cards fans are already on the edge of their seats, so setting Mulder's comeback aside has to be something of a relief. Jeff Suppan's been the only non-Carpenter among the veteran quartet to do much good in the rotation in August, making the decision to jerk Anthony Reyes up and down all the more regrettable, even allowing for the fact that his having options afforded the Cards roster flexibility. They should be able to put Reyes on the postseason roster in Ricardo Rincon's place, so no permanent harm's been done, and they now have a third catcher around for the postseason roster. Rose managed to earn his release from the D-Rays with a bad start at Durham, but the Cards gave yet another former Athletic a look-see, and got an excellent half-season-plus from him at Memphis: .262/.361/.498 in 316 PA. Since both Yadier Molina and Gary Bennett are a bit banged up as well as eminently pinch-hittable for, it's not a bad idea to have Rose around, even if there's next to no chance that he's going to do something like slug .498 in The Show.
Textbook execution in the dumping of a pair of veteran rentals, where GM Jim Bowden adds live arms for an organization short of them, with the added benefit that he gets the club out from under that particuarly odious second year of Anderson's two-year deal. (Not that it's a major issue-consider me impressed with Anderson's agent for getting him that sort of security last November.) Atilano's a risk, in that he's recovering from recently getting his elbow reconstructed, but if he comes back still throwing in the low 90s, he may still have the potential to live up to the promise he had as a first-round pick out of a Puerto Rico high school in 2003. Nunez is more interesting, but that's only because of his performance-he was third in the Gulf Coast League in ERA (1.58), wins (six), and was second in strikeouts (56 in 57 innings). He's a 20-year-old Dominican in his third season as a pro, and while he hadn't really registered on Dodger prospect lists, you can take it for granted that he'll rank among the best Nats prospects.