February 14, 2007
February 6-13, 2007
Agreed to terms with CF-L Corey Patterson on a one-year, $4.3 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/8]
Signed 1B-R Eduardo Perez to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/12]
While I've never been a huge fan of Perez, that's on me, and no doubt is an unfair reflection on his being overhyped back when he was coming up as a prospect in the Angels' organization. That was a long, long time ago, and he's become a perfectly serviceable four-corners utilityman and platoon masher in the years since. He's 37 now, and no solid bet to be able to play anywhere but first in an emergency, and his bat went slack when he was traded to Safeco last summer. Nevertheless, the Cell's a good place for a right-handed pull hitter, and as a bit of a subsequent platoon solution should something bad happen to Paul Konerko or Jim Thome, he's not a bad guy to bring in on these terms.
In this exchange of disappointing former prospects, I think the Tigers came out ahead. Although Bazardo's fastball impresses the gun, it doesn't have a lot of movement, and he doesn't have a great group of secondary pitches. However, he's only 23, and hasn't sucked in two years' experience at Double-A, so if the Tigers turn him into a reliever or help him polish up some good off-speed stuff, I can see this being a case of getting something for nothing.
Agreed to terms with C-R Joe Mauer on a four-year, $33 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/11]
It's always a happy thing to see the Twins settle up with one of their building blocks for contention now and into the future. Ideally, he won't forget all the little people, the way some celebrities do.
Signed LHP Ron Villone to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/13]
Add Villone to a growing pile of people fighting for that sixth spot in the bullpen. The first five slots seem set: Mariano Rivera, with Kyle Farnsworth and lefty Mike Myers in setup roles, and Luis Vizcaino and Scott Proctor in middle relief. After that, you've got Villone's bid to be the second lefty, but he'll have to outpitch guys like Brian Bruney, Chris Britton, and Jose Veras. To his credit, Villone scotched lefties pretty nicely last season (.179/.281/.330, with a 37/10 K/UIBB ratio in 122 lefty PAs) and unlike most situational types, he can pitch a couple of innings if needed. Perhaps the easiest way to get him on the 40-man will be Carl Pavano's seemingly annual migration to the 60-day DL, but Pavano's claiming health. Wil Nieves seems a likely bet to be outrighted, but that might only be to make way for Todd Pratt or Raul Chavez in a Hobson's choice for backup backstop. That leaves some more problematic alternatives if Villone wins a job in camp-Kevin Thompson? Kevin Reese? Josh Phelps? Andy Phillips? (Perish the thought.) It's doable, but you can see where I'm going-there's a lot more at stake for the guys fighting for a piece of the first base or fifth outfielder roles than just a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Signed LF-R Shannon Stewart to an incentive-laden, one-year, $1 million contract; designated OF-L Charles Thomas for assignment. [2/8]
Maybe this move is a nice bit of arbitrage on some notional level, but I'm not going to get worked up about this, even if getting Thomas off of the 40-man is just an overdue acknowledgment that the Tim Hudson deal didn't work out so well. To be charitable, Stewart might be able to stump around well enough in left field to provide an adequate part-time player who lets Nick Swisher move back to first should Dan Johnson continue to struggle and Erubiel Durazo's comeback sputter. Maybe signing Stewart gives the club the adequate insurance against the fragility of Milton Bradley and Mark Kotsay-Bobby Kielty's career rates of .230/.333/.350 against RHPs don't suggest he's a good everyday option. You can understand the motivation from the A's perspective: the outfield reserve pile isn't a great-looking bunch. Kielty has his uses, but in a platoon role, and behind him, you've got to pick from among Rule 5 pick Ryan Goleski and journeymen Hiram Bocachica and Ricky Ledee. I suppose if Goleski and Stewart have good camps, that might make Kielty available, and if Stewart doesn't have a good camp, it's really just a relatively small investment. Consider this a matter of a jaded palate: it's just not a move as intriguing as bringing in Frank Thomas, and like my low expectations for Mike Piazza, just seems like another pickup short on spice.
Acquired OF-R Jeff Frazier from the Tigers for RHP Yorman Bazardo. [2/7]
Bazardo had to be dealt once the Mariners signed Jeff Weaver; he was the man moved off of the full 40-man. That said, Bill Bavasi didn't get value. Frazier doesn't have anything left as far as prospect status-he was squashed by the Florida State League (.228/.279/.346), and he's already 24. He's got a decent arm that plays well enough in right, and while an assignment to infamously hitter-friendly High Desert (Seattle's new Cal League affiliate) might get some people excited, Eddie Gaedel would probably have slugged better than his weight in High Desert.
Announced their arbitration victory over C-R Josh Paul, setting his 2007 compensation at $625,000. [2/9]
Traded OF-R Andrew Lopez and RHP Gregory Reinhard to the Cubs for RHP Jae Kuk Ryu; designated RHP Marcos Carvajal for assignment. [2/13]
Getting Ryu is a nifty little pickup, especially considering it didn't cost the club anything in terms of notable talent. He still has options, he's got a solid assortment of pitches, and he's a plausible challenger for a spot in the rotation this spring. It's more likely that he'll initially be teamed up with countryman, Hee Seop Choi down in Durham, instead of joining Jae Seo in the rotation, but either way, it might prove a moderating influence for a guy with a short fuse. Technically, he's in a fight for the fifth slot, since the first four starters are Scott Kazmir, Seo, James Shields, and Casey Fossum, but I wouldn't bet that Fossum fends off competition all season long, not if he pitches the way he did last year. That aside, Ryu's competition is pretty steep: J.P. Howell might be ready, and Jason Hammell, Brian Stokes, and Mitch Talbot all have their virtues. However that plays out at the major league level, that makes for a pretty tasty rotation for the Bulls, where we can add Jeff Niemann to the mix. Add in the maddening Edwin Jackson and the perpetual mystery as to what role he'll find success in, and it makes for excellent depth as the Rays look to build a better rotation.
Signed RHP Pete Walker to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/12]
Walker's going to be 38, and his utility's slipped considerably, but there's a larger-than-zero chance that he might wind up as the team's 11th or 12th pitcher, earning the right to mop up blowouts and hold down long relief duties in case guys like Dustin McGowan and Brandon League find new and exciting ways to blow their latest opportunities.
Agreed to terms with RHP Oscar Villarreal on a one-year, $960,000 contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/11]
While the Cubs can play up that they got players that Scouting Director Tim Wilken's familiar with from his days with the D-Rays, this was an unfortunate bit of dumping forced by the club's full 40-man, not a value-based exchange. After signing Jeff Samardzija to a major league contract, the Cubs had to bring in players who didn't need to be added to their 40-man roster, and they had to deal Ryu before he went on waivers. Both new bodies were drafted in 2005, but Reinhard's a college pitcher out of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, while Lopez was a high school outfielder from the greater Sacramento metropolitan area. Neither are on anybody's top prospect lists; Reinhard will no doubt wind up at Daytona, while the 20-year-old Lopez will probably make his full-season debut at Peoria. Reinhard throws in the low 90s, so you never know, he might turn up in The Show someday. Lopez is athletic but has problems with the strike zone, and he isn't athletic enough to play center.
The real issue here isn't the small fry, it's whether or not the Cubs really have the rotation depth they think they have. They have bodies, but they're also counting on Jason Marquis, on health from Mark Prior or Wade Miller, and failing that, on the odd prospects of Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Marmol. From among the latter trio, I like Ryu more than any of them. Guzman's health seems to be a permanent issue, and as a former outfielder, Marmol's still very rough around the edges and has a lot to prove. Picking someone to DFA after signing Samardzija wasn't easy-Geovany Soto would have been claimed for sure, given the shortage of catching, while a no-namer like Clay Rapada might seem anonymous, he's actually a pretty interesting side-arming lefty situational type somebody probably would have snagged. Angel Pagan or Buck Coats, maybe? Like I said, a tough decision, and one where I'm not sure Ryu was the right choice.
Announced the retirement of 3B-R Vinny Castilla. [2/7]
Signed RHP Matt Herges to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/13]
I've flogged decisions to go get Castilla for a significant portion of my adult life, but I'm nevertheless sorry to see him go. He was an excellent expansion draft pick out of the Braves' organization by the Rockies' Bob Gebhard back in the day, a time when Castilla was a shortstop with power potential. Their regular shortstop in the franchise's inaugural season-anyone else remember Freddie Benavides, their Opening Day shortstop?-Castilla eventually moved to the corner and settled in after Charlie Hayes left as a free agent after 1994. Castilla almost always played a great third base, and there's no shame in his fully exploiting the benefits of hitting at altitude. He's probably the Blake Street Bomber who will be remembered best, in no small part because he was a durable good all-around ballplayer, and not just a freak-show exhibit on extreme environments and suddenly-viable careers (like, say, Dante Bichette). Not that I'm trying to give him a left-handed compliment or slight Larry Walker or Ellis Burks, two more good ballplayers, but Castilla's late-in-life return in 2004 probably cemented it. Even with 320 home runs, it wasn't a Hall of Fame career, but if Jeff Conine gets to be Mr. Marlin despite a lot of moving around, Castilla's my choice for all-time Rocky, non-squirrel division.
Announced their arbitration victory over RHP Kevin Gregg, setting his 2007 compensation at $575,000. [2/13]
Signed RHP Joe Mays to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/6]
Announced their arbitration victory over LHP Joe Beimel, setting his 2007 compensation at $925,000. [2/9]
Joe Mays? As much as the Dodgers got passable work out of Aaron Sele and Brett Tomko last year in swing roles, I think Mr. Colletti might be taking the dare of trying to retread anybody to extremes. I guess the happy few in the stands in Cashman Field will have the pleasure of seeing Year Six of Mays' as-yet-uncompleted comeback, and while Mays' effort is admirable, I think we can safely it isn't working out very well.
Agreed to terms with RHP Geoff Geary on a one-year, $837,500 contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/13]
Announced the retirement of LHP Jeff Fassero. [2/9]
Fassero did a great job of hanging on the last five years, but that's the benefit of being left-handed and doing just about anything for a manager. The transition from rubber-armed reliever coming up in Montreal to rotation workhorse with the Expos and Mariners to rubber-armed journeyman utility pitcher was impressive-he was very much a survivor. As the third starter on the great might-have-been Expos team of 1994, I guess losing him marks another little event. Although we have plenty of former Expos hanging around (and will for years yet), we're down to five guys from the team whose division title might have kept Montreal in the majors: Cliff Floyd, Rondell White, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, and Joey Eischen.
Announced their arbitration victory over RHP John Patterson, setting his 2007 compensation at $850,000. [2/13]