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March 1, 2007
February 21-28, 2007
Signed RHP Jesse Crain to a three-year, $3.25 million contract extension. [2/27]
Crain remains something of a mystery, in that there's been a basic disconnect between his talent and his performance. As far as helping his team and rising to the occasion in high-leverage situations, he pitched better in 2005, when he wasn't striking people out, than he did in 2006, when he was. It's a strange thing indeed, because he was also generating more groundball outs last year, and was being used more precisely in a more traditional setup role, as opposed to getting employed in more of a fireman's middle relief job, and helping shut the door by cleaning up other people's messes. That's reflected in his WXRL-stranding runners is more valuable than not inheriting as many of them in the first place. As a result, his Fair Runs Allowed end up being radically different than his ERA split:
Season ERA FRA WXRL APR ARP K/9 2005 2.71 2.93 3.832 13.8 18.1 2.8 2006 3.52 4.58 0.589 10.6 4.2 6.5
All of which sort of indicates that while we're supposed to expect him to have gotten better, he didn't, except in delivering strikeouts. Normally, that's a prescription for better days ahead, but Crain's managed to stand that sort of conventional wisdom on its head so far. He was the team's second-most valuable reliever in 2005 (behind only Joe Nathan), and last year, he was just another guy in the Twins' dominating pen, not even outpitching middleman Matt Guerrier. The Twins aren't shelling out significant money, so that aspect of things is relatively trivial, but they have to hope that he starts doing all of the good things at once-stranding runners, fooling people at the plate, and finally providing them with a more plausible eighth inning alternative to Juan Rincon. Of course, his newly acquired cost certainty might make him particularly attractive in trade, should Terry Ryan decide to make a deal from depth to shore up another area of the club-left field or third base, take your pick.
Released OF-R Hiram Bocachica. [2/22]
Signed OF-R Hiram Bocachica to a minor league contract. [2/25]
Where oh where did my Bocachica go?
Signed LHP Jo Matumoto to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/23]
You might find it unsurprising that the organization that gave us Jose Pett as the first 'name' prospect out of Brazil has trolled those waters again to give us a new import from the land of nuts and Carnival. However, Matumoto is less a scouting find than a guy who came to the States looking for work. After pitching for the Brazilian national team (and knocking around the Japanese minors-he's ethnically Japanese but a Brazilian), the 36-year-old decided to take a shot at MLB and agent Randy Hendricks set up a workout. The Jays won out on the subsequent low-stakes bidding. He should start the year in the upper minors, and has some potential as a lefty situational specialist. Matumoto comes at hitters from a three-quarters delivery, firing high 80s heat and a solid slider, but his out pitch is probably a scroogie. At any rate, a nice little pickup with no real downside-if he makes it and everything works out, he's a low-cost exotic solution for a team's quest for situational dominance. If not, there are other fish in those waters.
Signed RHP Mike DeJean to a minor league contract. [2/22]
Signed OF-L Steve Finley to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/24]
I really like the deal for Finley. Setting aside whether or not he's an easy fit into the Denver brand of hope and faith, he might provide some veteran gravitas as Willy Taveras' backup, while also providing speed and defense in either corner. Jeff Baker may or may not get kept around as Brad Hawpe's sometime platoon partner, but if Clint Hurdle decides that Hawpe doesn't necessarily need one, then you've got a wide-open fight between Finley, Baker, Cory Sullivan, Ryan Spilborghs, and non-roster invite John Mabry for two roster spots. Given that nobody from that group is going to grow up to be an All-Star, there's no downside to just letting them fight it out and picking the winners with a blend of spring performance and managerial comfort. The other advantage is that if Taveras has an awful camp and center field becomes a question mark, the Rockies don't automatically have to turn to the pretty punchless Sullivan as their starter.
As for DeJean, we noted in this year's annual that his ambition was to walk that Rocky road to the mound in Coors Field. It won't be easy, so here's hoping that along the way, he stops to eat the walnuts. There's a small horde of better candidates for the back of the pen, with Manny Corpas and Ramon Ramirez both having made their bones last season, and with LaTroy Hawkins brought in with real money. Add in that the crowd of guys fighting for the last spot or two in the rotation should end up yielding up one or two of the losers for middle relief work.
Signed LHP Mike Bynum to a minor league contract. [2/22]
Remember when he was a prospect in the Padres organization? He had pretty tateriffic tendencies then, and scragged his elbow when he went to the Tigers' organization as a non-roster invite; he missed all of 2006 recuperating from Tommy John surgery. He used to have decent velocity for a lefty, dialing it up into the high 80s to help set up a pretty nifty slider, but until we see him actually pitch some live innings, there's no real way to know how much of that is still there.
Outrighted RHP Yoel Hernandez to Ottawa (Triple-A). [2/22]
This might seem early, because although Hernandez missed most of 2006 with a strained lat and was likely to have to open 2007 in Ottawa anyway, the interesting thing is that this means the Phillies now have two open spots on their 40-man. Talk about an easy source of inspiration for the non-roster invites, but what does this really mean for the ones in-house? The best of their crop of NRIs are probably journeymen like Randall Simon, Karim Garcia, Ron Calloway, or Kane Davis. Davis would probably have to beat out Rule 5 pick Jim Ed Warden, though, which would mean Warden would get offered back to the Indians, which still adds up to an extra roster spot on the 40-man. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it certainly frees up the possibility that Pat Gillick could deal Jon Lieber for two guys who'd have to come onto the 40-man, something that a team looking for starting pitching and roster spots might find irresistible.
I suspect that spending this much money on a bench player wasn't exactly what Kevin Towers had in mind when he picked him up last summer, but this was the risk they took when they hedged their bet against being able to sign Marcus Giles by offering offering Walker arbitration.
Announced that RHP Chad Cordero won his arbitration case, setting his 2007 compensation at $4.15 million. [2/21]
The acumen of Kevin Goldstein served as a source for some of the insights in this piece.