August 26, 2007
All-Around Catch-Up Edition
Optioned 3B-R Matt Brown to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled RHP Ervin Santana from Salt Lake. [8/17]
So the Angels endure more injuries, and yet they happen in just the right combination that they're able to shore themselves up from within through recalls and reactivations.
I'm frankly convinced it makes no sense for the Angels to go out of their way to accommodate Bartolo Colon--Santana is the better bet to deliver winnable ballgames, before his demotion and since, and while he did get knocked around in two of his five starts for Salt Lake, he still has the stuff and he is still working with a fine coaching staff and a sharp manager, in a pitcher's park, and with a reasonably sound defense behind him. In contrast, Colon has issues with his health, his conditioning, and invites the question "how good would he be healthy, anyway?"
Balanced against that, you have the injuries to Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman, and plugging in first Kendrick and then Morales in their places in the lineup but not the roster. This meant another bit of Maicer Izturis fulfilling his floater's role by moving over from second to third. There was some necessary caution with Kendrick, as Will Carroll has wisely noted that hand injuries are no laughing matter, but Kendrick seems to have initially squelched those considerations by delivering multi-hit games in four of his first five starts back in action. Morales might also be better-prepared to actually contribute this time around, because he's finally started to do everything right at the plate, hitting .438/.488/.753 in August while cranking out four homers and even drawing six walks on his own in 82 PA (not great, but hey, it's progress). That shouldn't be enough to give Kotchman any concern over his job, but it might represent a corner turned for Morales that could make him a reasonable fall-back position against injuries to Kotchman or Garret Anderson, as well as improving his status as a bargaining chip this winter.
Signed RF-R Jermaine Dye to a two-year, $22 million contract extension through 2009 with a $12 million mutual option for 2010. [8/18]
For all of the bold talk and even bolder investments, it might seem as if the Sox are trying to keep up with the more properly realized old-school Tigers and the much more modern Indians with little more than a Pollyanna mindset that if they just keep the old band together, they'll rock! Nevertheless, the money for Dye makes sense if you're operating on the assumption that he deserves a pass for what's happened this year, and that he'll otherwise deliver on what you might have expected from him before this year's weaker production. PECOTA expected he'd drop back down from his 2006 heights to a season more like his 2005, and what's interesting is that it's actually turned out to be something like that. He's actually walking even more often in 2007 (8.1 percent of all PA) as he did in 2005 (6.2 percent), and he's hitting for as much power as ever (.234 ISO now versus .238 then). It's his batting average that's different, as he's hitting about 30 points lower, with corresponding drops in his OBP and SLG, but he's also been much, much better since the All-Star break, hitting .309/.386/.632. That's enough to make you think that a reprise of his 2006 might yet be within his realm of possibility. Like the Buehrle deal, it's just not that bad an idea, and given the range of his potential performance over the life of the contract, one that has some potential to pay off as well as the initial three-year deal did.
Sold 4C-L Russell Branyan to the Phillies; claimed INF-R Chris Gomez off of waivers from the Orioles; outrighted INF-L Mike Rouse to Buffalo (Triple-A); released RHP Fernando Cabrera. [8/9]
Gomez winds up as the club's primary infield reserve, which is reasonable enough given Rouse's failure to hold onto the job, with the truly interesting development being that he might actually represent the right-handed spotter for the team's starting second baseman--middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. As I noted at the time last year, Cabrera was flat-out stolen from the Mariners for a couple of months of platoon DH Eduardo Perez's time, and now he's got an outstanding opportunity to filch Josh Barfield's job. That isn't to say that Barfield hasn't abdicated his initial claim to the job--whodathunk that what seemed like a win-win trade back in November would turn out to be lose-lose?--but the Tribe has a title to take, and even back then, they knew they had options if the deal didn't work out, like Cabrera. Cabrera's breakthrough as a hitter this year isn't that surprising, considering that he is only 21 and in his second full season out of A-ball. Nevertheless, that he was at .310/.380/.448 on the season between Akron and Buffalo probably exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. This might be a sad thing if you're a Barfield fan, but to their credit, the Tribe accumulated depth after falling out of last year's race, and are exploiting that foresight now.
Meanwhile, although Laffey's demotion and recall might seem inexplicable, it's entirely the product of the schedule. Consecutive off-days on Monday plus a game-less Thursday meant that they didn't need a fifth starter until right now. Where might Cliff Lee be, you ask? Still struggling, having initially been seen as the likely call-up as the fifth starter, and even having his schedule re-jiggered two weeks ago to make sure he'd be available to start this weekend. Then he put up a pair of starts where he allowed almost two baserunners per inning, and Laffey moved back to the head of the queue. Since Jake Westbrook has finally gotten ironed out and is pitching well enough to give the Indians a third quality starter, Lee's opportunities to contribute much more this season are increasingly at risk; if Paul Byrd can avoid getting bombed every other time out, and if Laffey earns his keep, there might not be any reason to have Lee as anything more than an innings sponge in mop-up situations in September, which means there'd be next to no reason to put him on the postseason roster. That has to be seen as a setback for both him and the organization, considering the major investment the club made in him just a year ago.
Claimed LHP Paul Mildren off of waivers from the Marlins, and optioned him to Omaha (Triple-A). [8/17]
Swapping out Teahen for Costa isn't exactly a straight swap; the Royals are giving the playing time to Emil Brown, for a reason known only to themselves. Costa has had a solid season with Omaha, hitting .326/.402/.502, good for a .278 Equivalent Average. It's one of those funky things about the club's lineup of late, like alternating Alex Gordon between the infield corners to create playing time for Esteban German in a platoon with Ross Gload. It's not really the end of the world; you'd rather see German playing than Brown, but a simple "best bats available" lineup might involve Billy Butler in the outfield--an unkind thing to do to the pitching staff. German in the outfield isn't really a great idea either, so if there's really something to be frustrated with, it's that Costa is up but Brown is getting a chance to play out his last few weeks as a Royal before he presumably gets non-tendered in November.
In the rotation, Perez's departure for all but the season's last week or two (if that) creates a nice opportunity to return Zack Greinke to the rotation. Yesterday's pen start was even a nice bit of ramping up, as Greinke retired seven batters for nine outs on two days' rest in Perez's slot; there should be longer outings in the future, with this representing the next great opportunity for Greinke to get back to where he was at the end of the 2004 season. That's simply a solid step in the right direction.
I'm really very curious about what this might mean for Perez's future in the organization. Will Dayton Moore pick up the club's $9 million option on Perez for 2008, anticipating that it won't be easy to find even a below-average starter like Perez for whatever portion of the contract they're on the hook for (depending on whether some portion the Dodgers' $8 million cash payment dating back to when the deal was made was dedicated for that express purpose), or if they'd rather just pay their half of his $1.5 million buyout and take their chances this winter. Even if they'd like to keep him around, it might make sense to buy out the deal, then try to re-sign him for some lower amount, but at this rate, I'd rather see them invest next year's rotation time in someone with a more likely shot at actually improving, like Jorge De La Rosa, or someone like Leo Nunez, who might actually keep up what he's done.
Which isn't exactly where Buckner comes in, because he's gone from opening the year in a Double-A rotation to throwing middle relief in Omaha to getting pressed into the O-Royals' rotation. Results have been mixed--a hit per inning pitched and 15 homers allowed in 124 IP, and he delivered only seven quality starts in 18 between the two levels. However, he did generate a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (96 to 32), and as a finesse right-hander with a solid curveball, a tendency to generate groundball outs and a good move to first base, he has his uses. At best, he's a far-distant stalking horse for next spring's battle for the fifth slot in the rotation, and more likely someone who might fulfill the club's need for a long reliever who can help an unsteady but increasingly talented rotation deliver leads later on in ballgames.
Placed 3B-L Brian Buscher on the 15-day DL (leg infection), retroactive to 8/7; purchased the contract of UT-R Tommy Watkins from Rochester (Triple-A). [8/8]
I'm sort of sad for someone like Watkins, a 38th-rounder who's given the organization ten seasons since signing out of high school, but no matter--he's that rare organizational soldier who actually made it up. He'll still have value as a back of the bench type, a guy who can play second, short third or the outfield in a pinch, and who runs moderately well. It might not be what he dreamed of, but it worked for a guy like Bill Almon, the top overall pick in the draft out of Brown University in 1974. Almon managed to overcome being a disappointment to enjoy a 15-year career in the bigs. Watkins is certainly good enough to get something more than what he's earned so far.
Getting Jones back up really only helps in that he has more power than Jason Tyner, and as a first baseman willing to be planted in right or left if it gets him playing time, I suppose he makes a better claimant for the honorary Randy Bush roster spot. Nevertheless, he's not really a prospect, not even after raising his average a few ticks down at Rochester by cutting down his stroke. When a DH type ends up hitting .280/.334/.473 in his third year at the level, at the age of 26, and that's his first good year since his otherwise lonesome breakout season at Double-A in 2004, you can be reasonably confident that he's not about to become the new Ken Phelps.
Released LHP Mike Myers. [8/14]
There are a number of things here to like--going younger in the pen, plus picking up a reasonable bit of veteran insurance against any injuries in the outfield by inking Cruz at this late date. It'll be easy to add Cruz to the active roster just before roster expansion at some extra reliever's expense, thereby making him eligible for the postseason roster, while the collection of young relief talent now in the pen almost dares Joe Torre to find a way to avoid using it.
Optioned LHP Dallas Braden to Sacramento (Triple-A); recalled LHP Dan Meyer from Sacramento. [8/13]
Getting Loaiza back in time to see where he stands as part of the team's 2008 rotation--in retrospect, his deal is looking pretty down-market--will help give Billy Beane some idea over whether or not he has an extra moving part that might make for some interesting hot stove league negotiations, because the A's might be one of the only teams with enough starting pitching depth to make a deal using it. This certainly isn't the end for Kotsay, as he's under contract for 2008, so barring a determination that his back problems are so chronic that he might retire, you can anticipate that $8 million owed him next season still going up in smoke.
Dave Dombrowski was generous enough to give the A's a helping hand by liberating Hannahan perhaps a couple of months before they might have let him slip away as a minor-league free agent. He's a plus defender at the hot corner with modest offensive ability, a patient hitter with a career minor-league walk rate of 11.4 percent, some line-drive power. He's useful enough filler, and perhaps a better indication of how meaningless a term like "replacement level" is, given that he's nobody's first choice for a third-base job, but an entirely adequate fill-in when you lose a starter for the balance of the season. His upside's pretty low, and his utility perhaps even lower after the Tigers' experiment with trying to make him a second baseman died a slow death, as too many wormkillers became base hits. I expect the A's will hold onto him, since he has options and there's the now-ubiquitous concern over whether Eric Chavez will ever stay healthy enough to produce regularly, let alone approach his past greatness.
Designated LHP Casey Fossum for assignment; recalled LHP Jon Switzer from Durham (Triple-A). [8/8]
Placed 2B/OF-R Jerry Hairston Jr. on the 15-day DL (sore lower back). [8/8]
The interesting thing to note here is that Melhuse might actually command some value in trade or a cash transaction before his ten days in roster limbo are up-there are contenders that need catching, and as much as Melhuse's bat might be used up, he's been on a playoff team before.
Placed RHP Brandon League on the 15-day disabled DL (oblique strain); activated RHP A.J. Burnett from the 15-day DL. [8/12]
Placed LHP Chuck James on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Jo-Jo Reyes from Richmond (Triple-A); released RHP Tanyon Sturtze. [8/21]
Whatever really happened with Renteria's being hurt--hurt badly, or not so badly, or getting reinjured--the gist of it is that he's back on the DL, and the upshot is that they'll keep on playing Yunel Escobar and not really taking that much of a hit in the lineup or on the field. What's hurt by Renteria's absence is the team's depth, because Chris Woodward is just not going to inspire much fear in the opposition.
The really dramatic decision here was to delete Wickman. I think his unwillingness to work in non-save situations and his descent from being a well-regarded pitcher in a pinch to one of the noisier clubhouse cranks on a fragmented team is sort of sad, but then I remember when he was coming up in the White Sox system as a kid with a banged-up index finger (courtesy of a childhood farming accident) who threw a nifty sinker because of it. It's interesting to me that the incredulity that followed Wickman's release in the Fourth Estate is sort of akin to the sympathy Kelvim Escobar received from those same scribes when he was going all tantrum-y over having to enter games in the eighth to help win ballgames. It's as if the guys on the beat are almost as conditioned as the players to believe in the all-consuming importance of being that capital-c "Closer," but also observe a mystical faith that the closer is supposed to work in the Eckersley usage pattern that was created as an adaptation to Eck's limitations, not to engender some extra advantage. Wickman wasn't earning his keep, not as a closer, and not as a reliever, and if he had a problem with people noticing that, he might want to choose a career where results are a little more subjective, like figure skating, or beer-tasting.
Placed LHP Bobby Livingston on the 15-day DL (labrum tear - shoulder); recalled RHP Todd Coffey from Louisville (Triple-A). [8/24]
There's danger here that Livingston may need surgery, which would derail his bid to stick in the Reds' rotation, which is really something of a shame. He'd had his moments, throwing four quality starts in his first eight. His workload wasn't especially heavy, so any pitch-count conspiracies ought to die a quick death. He might make a solid left-handed third starter behind the front duo of Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Instead, now the club is back to having to take another spin with Matt Belisle, and then sifting through Elizardo Ramirez, Phil Dumatrait and maybe even Kirk Saarloos in an emergency. I think nobody's going to be surprised when I say that I'd rather see this unhappy contretemps used as an opportunity to evaluate Ramirez and Dumatrait, rather than bring back Homer Bailey in September once he wraps up his rehab work, or flushing any starts on Saarloos. If the Reds might see something from the hard-throwing lefty or Easy E, it'll help them start sketching out not just their winter 40-man, but also see how much money they might have to commit to shoring up the rotation with one flavor of veteran dreck or another.
Activated RHP Ricky Nolasco from the 15-day DL, and optioned to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [8/21]
Placed Jason Jennings on the 15-day DL (torn flexor tendon - elbow); activated OF-R Hunter Pence from the 15-day DL. [8/21]
Losing Jennings for the season closes the book on what's turned out to be a disastrously bad deal for the Astros, but in the here and now, there's a rotation to field and a season to finish. To their credit, the last-place Astros aren't doing something like plugging Scuffy Moehler into the rotation to field an appropriately uncompetitive veteran team against the teams with something still at stake. Instead, behind Roy Oswalt, Woody Williams and Wandy Rodriguez, they're sticking with rookies Matt Albers and Patton, at least until Chris Sampson comes off of the DL in the next week or so.
Patton's somebody I'd be a lot more excited about if he wasn't trying to stick coming up in the Astros organization-a lefty with a tendency to tip his curve and spotty mechanics might seem that much more hard-pressed to succeed with the Crawford Boxes looming over his right shoulder. However, he's little more than a week away from his 22nd birthday, and in a season split between Double- and Triple-A rotations, he's posted a 3.51 ERA while giving up 140 hits in 151 1/3 IP, with 15 leaving the park, and 93 strikeouts against 43 unintentional walks. The walk rate's nice enough, but I'm a little concerned about how much up-side a starting pitcher has with only 5.5 Ks per nine, but again, his youth is the sort of thing that might make for his raising that with continued experience. More happily, he didn't embarrass himself in his debut.
As for the outfield, Pence certainly makes the lineup a little more interesting, and renews his bid for the National League's Rookie of the Year award. Lane didn't do anything to keep his spot on the 40-man roster safe, so at least there's the benefit of knowing that they can probably punt on offering him arbitration.
Designated RHP Brett Tomko for assignment; signed LHP David Wells to a one-year contract for the remainder of 2007. [8/24]
This is a reasonable enough gamble, and as much as it had to mean that Ned Colletti had to give up on yet another one of his Giants transplants, Jumbo's performance with the Pads, however weak it was, was still
Optioned RHP Carlos Villanueva to Nashville (Triple-A); recalled RHP Seth McClung from Nashville. [8/21]
Villanueva had allowed 25 runs in his 22 1/3 innings since the All-Star break, including seven homers, so he'd certainly fallen pretty far from his initially critical importance to the club's pen. That in-season collapse certainly contributed to the panicked pick-up of Scott Linebrink, and with essentially everyone in the pen not named Brian Shouse having a bad month, you can understand this latest symptom of that same panic. Even so, the initial suggestion seems to be that they're willing to try to go the silk purse route, rather than settling for a sow's ear, by getting Villanueva into a start or two before they run out of Nashville ballgames. If that helps Villanueva get back on track and puts him in the running for a rotation slot before the run out of Milwaukee ballgames-should they need him-then so much the better, although that's obviously a few too many interdependent "if"s.
Calling up McClung in his place is an interesting gamble to take. He's just 26, he still throws hard, and he's provided a more than strong enough reminder that he's nothing if not interesting by striking out 93 in 77 2/3 innings pitched at Durham and then Nashville. While he's been a spectacular, repeated failure as a Devil Ray, the career of any Rays hurler from the LaMar/Piniella years probably deserves a mulligan.
Placed C-R Ramon Castro on the 15-day DL (back), retroactive to 8/13; purchased the contract of C-R Sandy Alomar Jr. from New Orleans (Triple-A); transferred OF-R Carlos Gomez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/18]
Sorry gang, I missed this one on Friday, but obviously it has some significance, since it reduces the Mets to the execrable situation of relying on Mike Difelice as their reliable catcher, and with Alomar as the occasionally available weak-kneed senior statesman. There's hope that Paul Lo Duca will back at some point early next week, but as far as his status and Castro's, we'll have to follow the news and Will Carroll's tidbits as we can get them. Perhaps the twin losses of their catchers have helped the Mets make the already obvious choice to make Lastings Milledge their regular right fielder, with an eye towards keeping this month's offensive explosion going before it gets overly sapped by injuries and weak-bat veterans.
Placed LHP Mike Zagurski on the 15-day DL (pulled hamstring); recalled RHP Yoel Hernandez from Ottawa (Triple-A). [8/19]
With Hamels on the DL for an unknown length of time, the desperation of the Phillies' plight can't be understated. They're down to trying to take some relief from Adam Eaton's announcement that he's ready to come off of the DL, something that under normal circumstances might elicit comparisons to Carl Pavano's next comeback, Pat Schroeder's re-announcing that she's still not going to run for President, or the every-ready status of so many other pretenders. When a rotation is reduced to Kyle Lohse as its best starter (2.9 SNLVAR combined between the Reds and Phillies), it's simply not a good thing, and with Jamie Moyer and Eaton providing no guarantee that they can deliver winnable starts on days the Phillies aren't scoring six or seven runs, I have to think that even a bid for the wild card just took a death blow. Similarly, getting Victorino back is nice, but not a major move; Jayson Werth has been hot since being plugged into the lineup, so it isn't like that's one of their problems.
Placed RHP Salomon Torres on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled RHP Romulo Sanchez from Altoona (Double-A). [8/25]
Placed 2B-R Marcus Giles on 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled 2B-R Craig Stansberry from Portland (Triple-A). 8/25]
The margin in the NL West between the Pads and Snakes remains sufficiently slim that excusing a player as completely ineffective as Giles has been this year is automatically a bit of addition by subtraction. Whether they turn to Geoff Blum, Stansberry, perhaps paste in utilityman Rob Mackowiak, or some combination thereof, it would be hard for any of them to do worse. Stansberry has had a decent season for Portland, hitting .273/.370/.447, which boils down to 50 extra-base hits and 70 walks in 548 PA, which translates to a .251 Equivalent Average, not great, but better than Giles' .229. While neither Stansberry or Mackowiak would make anyone forget Bill Mazeroski--well, except by the legions of Millard Fillmore-level fans who knew enough to vote for Joe Morgan-presumably Blum's greatest value is in his glovework, which makes for some offense/defense platoon possibilities.
Placed RHP Russ Ortiz on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); activated RHP Tim Lincecum from the Bereavement List. [8/21]
Optioned RHP Brad Thompson to Memphis (Triple-A); activated RHP Todd Wellemeyer from the 15-day DL. [8/24]
Initially, this struck me as a wee bit strange. Thompson and Wellemeyer were basically competing for the last spot in the pen now that Joel Pineiro--yes, we still have to get used to that--is a reliable contributor to a big-league rotation. Neither player has been that effective overall, and Wellemeyer has been especially awful in a relief role this season, posting a 7.71 ERA between the Royals and Cardinals, although he had allowed just three runs in 6 2/3 IP as a reliever for St. Louis. Perhaps the really frightening thing about Thompson is his 20 homers allowed in 110 IP, a major drop-off from 2006. Add in that Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan might be expected to favor a veteran while they're still in it, and I guess it works, but if Wellemeyer goes back to being the gas can Royals fans might remember only too well, it will represent an error of judgment and of scouting.