May 15, 2007
May 10-14, 2007
Placed RHP Jon Leicester to the 15-day DL; activated RHP Scott Williamson from the 15-day DL. [5/13]
Optioned RHP Devern Hansack to Pawtucket (Triple-A); recalled LHP Javier Lopez from Pawtucket.
Placed INF-S Alex Cintron on the Bereavement List; recalled MI-R Andy Gonzalez from Charlotte (Triple-A). [5/12]
Traded RHP Jason Davis to the Mariners for a PTBNL. [5/13]
Optioned RHP Brian Bannister to Omaha (Triple-A); designated RHP Todd Wellemeyer for assignment; re-purchased the contract of RHP Jason Standridge from Omaha; activated RHP Luke Hudson from the 15-day DL. [5/10]
What this really means is that they've got Bannister and Elarton in the rotation, Standridge back in the pen (with Zack Greinke, in one of the most depressing developments in the early going), and one less excuse to not give the starting job behind the plate to John Buck. It's hard to say if that's really all progress, but what with the Royals ever is? I'm in favor of taking good looks at Bannister and Buck, and if this means that the chances of their flipping LaRue for something good at the deadline just got that much smaller, he'd already done much of the work for them already by getting off to such a ghastly start. Still, he's a strong-armed catcher, and there's a decent chance some contender's going to want one down the stretch, rather than daring fate with nothing but someone like Wil Nieves and a prayer behind their starting catcher. Elarton might even be the throw-in on such a deal, and if Dayton Moore can get someone else to pay even a fraction of the money still owed to him over the balance of the season, that would be a feat almost as worthy of celebration as any talent acquired.
Optioned OF-L Danny Putnam to Sacramento (Triple-A); activated OF-S Milton Bradley from the 15-day DL. [5/11]
And just like that, the A's start to look like they have an outfield, an offense, and maybe even a contending ballclub. There's no way I think Jack Cust can slug even half of the 1.077 he's at now, but with Dan Johnson at first, Bradley in center, and Nick Swisher in left or at DH, that's a good start towards being able to score some runs. Admittedly, Chris Snelling got into the spirit of the thing a little quickly by already hurting himself, and Travis Buck is still trying to play his way through a bum wrist. Still, in a scenario where Bob Geren gets to spread the playing time at first, DH, and the three outfield slots among Johnson, Bradley, Swisher, Cust, Snelling, and Buck, that looks like a team that can score a little bit. Am I forgetting somebody? Well, yes, Shannon Stewart, but as the example of cutting loose Walker demonstrates, this is still a team willing to make a summary judgment on a veteran player now and again.
Placed RHP Jeff Weaver on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith from Tacoma (Triple-A). [5/11]
The timing was impeccable, as Weaver exited the rotation at just the right time, right before Felix Hernandez is supposed to come off of the DL. It works out even more neatly still, in that Cha Seung Baek has definitely earned his keep in the meantime, to the point that the Mariners should be wondering about whether or not Horacio Ramirez is the last man not named Weaver in the starting quintet's pecking order. What will be really interesting is to see if Bill Bavasi has it in him to just cut Weaver outright if the Mariners get solid enough work from Baek, Ramirez, and Miguel Batista in the meantime.
That's the upside for a spectacular failure from a one-year free agent-you can always afford to cut bait, and the only thing you've lost is money. Ramirez cost them more in blood, and Batista more in treasure, but if Bavasi wants to give himself a thrill and punish somebody for their not being part of the rotation upon which the Mariners could base a run at the AL West, there'd certainly be little in the way of regret. And as long as the Angels don't gun the engine and run away from the pack, there's still a measure of hope, which is why I like their snagging Davis. Not that he's a great pitcher, but he does throw hard, and on a team that's already had to banish Julio Mateo, is getting used to disappointment from Chris Reitsma, and has no really good explanation for what Sean White is here to do, an extra right-hander should come in handy. Where he fits in is another question-at White's expense makes plenty of sense, but ditching a third lefty like Rowland-Smith or a journeyman like Sean Green would too. It's clear that there's enough slack in the roster that they have the room.
A pretty stunning reversal of fortunes, as the D-Rays not only turn over the shortstop job to Brendan Harris, they forego carrying his rival, the notionally better shortstop. But then that's really probably why Zobrist lost the job-not simply because he's been stone-cold awful at the plate, but because he's also been error-prone in the field, and that's just no way to achieve any kind of job security, no matter that he was part of the payoff from one of their larger deals last season. It's just as well that Zobrist is out of the way-he was never so good a prospect that he could afford six week-long bad stretches, and Harris can actually hit a little. Add in that Wilson, no slouch with the glove at short, was freely available, and you can understand the how and why of their making this particular move. The interesting thing is that this might actually be a springboard for Wilson-Harris' limited range at short is going to be counted against him, but if Wilson has a good week at the right time, he might end up getting far more playing time than you would have expected for a frequent visitor to the waiver wire.
Optioned RHP Mike Wood to Oklahoma (Triple-A); activated RHP Kevin Millwood from the 15-day DL. [5/14]
No sooner does Millwood come back than he seems to break down all over again in yesterday's start, so the Rangers may have to go back to using Wood and not switching gears and reaching a point where they can ask themselves whether they want Wood or Kameron Loe in the rotation. Loe's given them one quality start in five, and gave them a winnable fiver in his first, and if you really want to get into excusification, the five innings he pitched after surrending five runs in the first two frames his last time out was a nice bit of pen-saving labor. Wood threw a quality start against the Yankees his first time out, but got mauled by them the next time around, and got pasted by the Angels in his third and last before his demotion; it would be unusual to expect him to improve at his age and given his limitations. But who can they turn to next? Looking at who's with the RedHawks, John Koronka's had his moments for Oklahoma, and while you might remember Ezequiel Astacio from Game Three of the 2005 World Series, he was actually thriving in a relief role, throwing 15.2 innings without an earned run (two unearned, though) with 20 K's and two walks before being asked to start on May 9; he got smacked around, but if the alternatives are Wood or Koronka, you can reasonably wonder whether or not Zeke's nevertheless on the short list for Millwood replacement plans.
Placed RHP Victor Zambrano on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Jamie Vermilyea from Syracuse (Triple-A). [5/10]
Do ballclubs get cool implosions the way casinos do? No, I'm not talking about life after Victor Zambrano after a pair of disaster starts, but instead how the Jays are going to replace Doc Halladay, out at least four to six weeks after having an emergency appendectomy. Gustavo Chacin is still out until June, and J.P. Ricciardi has indicated that Casey Janssen's going to stay in the pen for the time being, for as much as you can take that at face value. Turning to Josh Towers seems improbable as well, and while fellow pen pal Brian Tallet has starting experience, there hasn't been much talk of turning to him either. John Thomson's extended rehab has been given an extension, as the blisters on his pitching hand haven't gotten any better. Ricciardi anticipated "some young kids that are going to get an opportunity now... we've got some guys pitching well in Syracuse," but that's a list really just limited to Geremi Gonzalez-no kid he-and Josh Banks. Michael MacDonald only recently got promoted, and he hasn't done well in his two starts with the SkyChiefs. Ricciardi also mentioned Double-A, which adds David Purcey and Jesse Litsch to the conversation, and added to Banks, those are all more cheery prospects than a Gonzalez resurrection. So, things are admittedly ugly, but the silver lining is that if they do turn to Purcey or Litsch or Banks, they'll be getting a first look at some of the homegrown talent that might spare them having to sign guys like Zambrano or Thomson or even Tomo Ohka next winter. Add in that they should also learn whether or not Dustin McGowan's ever going to turn the corner, and it's all time well-spent, unless of course you were one of those people who bought into the contention fantasy before the season.
Optioned RHP Dustin Nippert to Tucson (Triple-A); placed MI-S Alberto Callaspo on the Restricted List; purchased the contract of UT-R Donnie Sadler from Tuscon; activated RHP Juan Cruz from the 15-day DL. [5/11]
There isn't much to say here that hasn't already been said, by myself and by others. The Snakes seem to be taking a very interesting active yet positive stance, suspending Callaspo yet making it clear they want him to seek counseling to get beyond being an accused wife-beater. We'll see how much that adds up to, or if they'll be ditching him faster than you can say "Wil Cordero." Here's hoping that he gets his life straightened out; considering that the guy's only 24, there's plenty of time for him to figure out this isn't what he should be doing with his life, or how he should treat women, especially the woman in his life. It stands as an interesting contrast to the Brett Myers situation last year, but also can be contrasted to the Mariners' handling of their similar situation with Julio Mateo. Where the Mariners zotzed up a fig leaf and talked about their decision to demote Mateo being a simple baseball decision, the Snakes just flat-out called a spade a spade and said they weren't going to tolerate this sort of thing. In both cases, while arrests were made, neither Callaspo nor Mateo have been convicted of anything-yet-and in both cases, the example of how the Myers situation played out (with charges not being pressed) serve as a reminder that a rush to condemn carries penalties as well. Here's hoping that Arizona's approach-condemnation, but with an offer to help the player find steady counsel-becomes a bit more of a model than the Phillies' indifference or the Mariners' tapdancing around the issue.
Meanwhile, on the plain old baseball front, the D'backs get the benefit of having Cruz back in action as their long reliever of choice, and the more dubious benefit of being the home organization to the latest incarnaction of Donnie Sadler. With career rates of .202/.262/.284, I don't know who's clamoring for his inclusion among their own ranks more, Jay Jaffe's personal Hall of Inability, or the unholy order of St. Neifi of the Wounded Wood, but now that he's back in big league action, you can bet that opponents are hoping to see as much of him as possible.
Optioned CF-L Felix Pie to Iowa (Triple-A); recalled OF-S Angel Pagan from Iowa. [5/10]
I don't find this really tragic as much as reflecting the sort of ill-fitting collection of choices the Cubs have when Pie's not on the roster. Jacque Jones becomes the club's regular center fielder, which isn't great news for the pitching staff, but the number of seams that line-drives and flyballs can take for extra bases seems to multiply when you've got Matt Murton or Cliff Floyd in right. Is that the way it has to be? In the scenario that puts Jones in center and Pie in Iowa, unfortunately yes. For all of his runner-gunning in 2006, Alfonso Soriano's not a latter-day Jesse Barfield or some other cannon-armed archetypical right fielder as much as he's an accurate and aggressive thrower, which isn't the same thing, and even if he was 100 percent physically, I'm not sure he could really hack it in right any better than he could in center.
In this crowded outfield, Piniella was using Pie as a defensive replacement, which really doesn't do him any favors when he's still as rough around the edges as he is in almost every phase of the game. Which is why I semi/sorta like the decision to call up Pagan. Not that he's going to hit much, but he can run a bit and play a good center, and sticking him in the fifth outfielder role gives you a better match of talent to duty than wasting Pie in a job that barely lets him work on becoming the polished blue chipper who should be the club's center fielder by 2008, if not perhaps August.
Optioned 3B-R Edwin Encarnacion to Louisville (Triple-A); recalled INF-R Jeff Keppinger from Louisville. [5/10]
You can almost understand it. Encarnacion hasn't produced at the plate, and he's been awful in the field, and with Josh Hamilton's arrival on the scene crowding the outfield, the Reds have their everyday center fielder now, right? They've got to play Ryan Freel somewhere, so by banishing Encarnacion to Kentucky, they get the double-edged psychic benefit of a punitive demotion for their young third baseman who's managed to not be the new Pujols while playing their Rhineland-friendly scrapper at third, Freel. It's a lovely narrative, but it's complete malarkey. Freel's been struggling through "flu-like symptoms" for a while now, and the Reds got the feel-good rush of making Encarnacion go away without actually having someone around to play third in his place, which just highlights how dumb the move was. So, instead of Freel doing something he's not very good at (play third), Reds fans have been treated to Juan Castro and Keppinger starting at the hot corner, which ought to please no one, because each is the definition of an emergency starter at third, and after a day or two, it ceases to be an emergency, and becomes instead an example of weird mismanagement. The organization threw a similar tantrum over Encarnacion's fielding problems last year, and nobody was impressed when they punished him and themselves by sitting him down. It's just not very bright to make yourself worse because you're unwilling to accept one of the prices of playing someone who's an offensive asset. You run the risk of giving yourself a complete zero in the lineup (a desultory 'mission accomplished' there when the likes of Keppinger or Castro are penciled into starting roles), and scapegoating Encarnacion because he had the misfortune of being the only everyday player to get off to a slow start seems juvenile. Last I checked, Encarnacion didn't spend the better part of a year obsessed with the intricacies of building the league's worst bullpen, but then I guess a five-week slump on the field is more expensive than a multi-month bad run in the front office. Except in the standings, of course, but that's all Encarnacion's fault too, right?
Julio's only half of the latest preliminary shoring up of the club's pen, as they should also be reactivating Ramon Ramirez from the DL. I think they've made a mistake here, in that I'd much rather have Kim than Julio, but Kim had worn out his welcome, and for whatever reason, the Rockies seem convinced that they just have some sort of obligation to Josh Fogg to observe in the rotation. Julio's probably the last guy you'd really want to see head to Denver, a jacktastic flyballer with a penchant for the well-staged meltdown, but this was an exchange of famous people turned infamous problem pitchers, and if the Rockies get a good couple of months out of Julio, they'll feel they've gotten something for the nothing they seemed to almost activately cultivate from Kim. In all of this, getting Ramirez back-and Bautista gone, because man-o-man whatever he's throwing from whatever angle, it ain't working-is the big move. Julio's latest movement really only excites curiosity insofar as it gives him a shot at a four-team season. Remember, kids, spring stats with the Snakes don't really count in this game, so he's got to move two more times, but if you're like me, you're beginning to think he's got the stuff, and between his plus-90 heat and his plus-plus souvenir-generating ability, thought begins to border on faith.
Placed RHP Henry Owens on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff tendonitis), retroactive 5/9; purchased the contract of 1B/OF-R John Gall from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [5/11]
While there's no initial commitment to making Kim the club's closer, there doesn't have to be. Once he's ready to come off of the DL, he could be put into the rotation, used as a setup man for Taylor Tankersley, maybe even as the rare ROOGY (or situational righthander, in English). Maybe Miami's thick air helps him more easily survive being the sidearmer who gives up a lot of flyballs, maybe it makes him more effective against left-handed hitters, and maybe the Fish spend so much time flipping him back and forth between possibly good roles that they never sort out what to do with him any more successfully than Arizona or Boston or Colorado did. Still, I'd rather have Kim than Julio, and I'd probably have been more likely to pull the trigger on Yusmeiro Petit for Kim than I would Petit for Julio. Given the equally fluid situations in the pen and the rotation, as disgruntled veterans looking for regruntlement go, Kim has the flexibility to possibly fill any of their needs. Kim should be just about ready to come off of the DL from his thumb problem right now, and in two weeks, they'll have Owens back. Top it all off with getting Hermida into a lineup that needs him, and it might just all add up to... well, an 80-win season or something. That'll be enough to drum up enthusiasm for a stadium, won't it?
My problem here isn't that Burke's lost his job to Hunter Pence in center-the Astros have brought up their best prospect, and the guy's a better center fielder and a better hitter, so no problem, by all means, choose merit. The real problem is that Burke has the misfortune of not living up to the organization's demand that he become a center fielder, and the added misfortune of only really being able to play other positions where the Astros have either have a better and massively more expensive player (or perhaps just more massive), like Carlos Lee in left field, or a hollow legacy to observe as they let Craig Biggio play out the string and wave at groundballs at second. I'm sure there's something guttily inspirational about the Biggio story, but it really seems to be about playing the guy who's famous, and not playing the guy who isn't after he failed to do something-play center-that Biggio also couldn't do. Biggio isn't hitting well on the road, and isn't hitting right-handers, but hey, slugging .450 overall looks close enough to useful in that ballpark, so why complain?
Optioned RHP Mike Pelfrey to New Orleans (Triple-A); recalled OF-R Carlos Gomez from New Orleans. [5/12]
So, this brings the Phillies to Coste and Greg Dobbs with a first base platoon that has one foot in the Mariners' Hall of Shame, and another in the Northern League. Oh, and let's not forget Wes Helms, because his play at third has made Abraham Nunez a regular once again. While you could always wishcast a fanciful notion or two, like Edwin Encarnacion magically becomes a Phillie for Tom Gordon and a box of petits fours (no laughing matter, some people really like their petits fours), this really just unmasks how thin the deck was from the start. Admittedly, it isn't all Pat Gillick's fault-the relatively weak farm system was here first-but the lack of real depth at the infield corners is something he didn't aggressively address this past winter, settling on guys like Helms and retaining somone like Nunez, and not really landing one of the better minor league sluggers, instead making a point of getting Dobbs. The one thing the club really had going for it, starting pitching depth, is in tatters, as the decisions to get Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia look ripe for second-guessing. But of all of the moves, the obviously temporary solution that Helms represents at third should be the one compromise that Gillick really deserves to be questioned about. Maybe he could have spent the money to land a guy like Aubrey Huff, but I don't think that would have been a good fix. Trying to trade for someone like Scott Moore would be swell to try now, but it isn't like the Phillies have much to offer. Maybe they get lucky, and Dallas McPherson falls into their laps, but Gillick really didn't have a lot of choices, and the agony of the present seems to be a product of his relative indifference in the past.
So the situation's not good, but I really like the solution. Now, I know it looks like a cruel injustice, that Linden's an innocent bystander who gets wiped out in all this, but as another figment of Fresno's hitter-friendly fences, the Giants decided to go with the better-fielding combination of ready-now organizational soldiers to make up for losing Roberts for six weeks or so. It's not a bad move, and not just because Lewis should be an asset to them in center, or that Lewis, Ortmeier, and Randy Winn might help keep the area of Barry Bonds' responsibilities in left down around the order of sub-shagging. There's a pretty solid chance that a platoon-like setup involving Lewis and Ortmeier might provide enough OBP to help make up for Roberts' absence in the lineup, with Lewis probably representing the club's fourth outfielder of the future once he returns from the DL. You might be surprised by this reversal of fortunes for Linden and Ortmeier in particular, since they've never been entirely in or out of favor, but I suspect that it boils down to a matter of Bruce Bochy's preferences, and with Mark Sweeney, Pedro Feliz, and Ryan Klesko all available to spot for Bonds in left, Linden's list of virtues wound up pretty slender indeed.
Placed RHP Shawn Hill on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 5/12; optioned OF-L Kory Casto to Columbus (Triple-A); reactivated RHP Chad Cordero from the Bereavement List; activated RHP Jerome Williams from the 15-day DL. [5/14]
Haven't we been here before? We mapped out the possibilities for replacing John Patterson last week, and that after they'd already had to put Jerome Williams on the DL, but with Hill down, they're back on the same branch of this particularly unhappy decision tree. Williams is coming off of the DL for tonight's start, however, and while they're hoping Hill won't be gone for long, the temporary solution is that they're slotting in Levale Speigner for a spot start on Wednesday night. Again, I talked about that possibility last time around, and it seems sensible enough. If Speigner gets bombed, they can always hope that Joel Hanrahan's groin has healed up enough to be called up from Columbus in time for next Monday's start against the Reds. We're still dangerously close to wrestling with questions like whether Tim Redding becomes a piece of Nats history or no.