August 14, 2008
Activated C-R Mike Napoli from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Ryan Budde to Salt Lake (Triple-A). [8/8]
A pair of improvements, which might surprise people expecting me to belabor Willits' sorry predicament. He wasn't playing, and wasn't going to get to; let's face it, getting Juan Rivera into the outfield/DH rotation for regular playing time and getting Gary Matthews Jr. out of it was a pretty big deal, one that gives the team an exceptionally expensive fourth outfielder, but let's not grieve for Arte Moreno's expenses. Generally speaking, the right people are being used the right way, and it's a good thing that Mike Scioscia's rotating Garret Anderson, Rivera, and Vladi Guerrero through the outfield corners and the DH slot instead of assigning just one guy to DH duties. I know, that involves Anderson, but in his defense, he's been raking the last four weeks (.386/.407/.625, and thank you B-Ref), and again, they're stuck with him. Like Anderson, Rivera's really only adding pop but not OBP, but that beats what Little Sarge was doing, and there's at least some upside involved. Willits still has obvious use on a postseason roster, of course, because his speed is the sort of thing it's easy to envision Scioscia putting to use in a late-game bit of pinch-running, but he doesn't have to be active at month's end to be eligible.
In his place, as much as I like the idea of their having Rodriguez around, this is not really an opportunity for him. I don't envision Rodriguez getting a shot to push past Maicer Izturis for the utility role, and with Erick Aybar doing his thing about as well as you could realistically wish for from him, the starting shortstop job is totally out of reach.
The big move here really is getting Napoli back, not that the Angels need to worry about flicking on their afterburners, but because having him back in action behind the plate addresses a problem position in the lineup by pushing Jeff Mathis to the bench. Not that Mathis doesn't have his uses, but there's really only so far you can go with the Mark Parent skill set, and this is a lineup that needs as many quality contributors as it can get to help make up for the general adequacy they're getting from so many different slots.
Activated RHP David Aardsma from the 15-day DL. [8/8]
To suggest that the Sox are smarter than most of us wouldn't be too shocking; they're the ones wearing rings after all, and no blushing brides are they. In losing two regulars, I guess I see the rotation as the more pressing matter. With Wakefield absent for an unknown length of time, Clay Buchholz failing to demonstrate any consistency, and Bartolo Colon perhaps another rehab start away from coming back to the team at some point next week at the earliest, the Red Sox rotation has gotten rickety enough to elicit some concern, so grabbing a functional back-end starter like Byrd at this time of year makes perfectly good sense. It's also important not to overstate the importance of adding Byrd-this is a regular-season, get-to-October move, not a case of adding someone you want starting a playoff game. His nice little run of three good starts aside-calling his July 21 start against the Angels, involving 11 baserunners in 5
Not to be too much the killjoy, but where Zink's concerned, people should be careful what they wish for. He was giving up 3.8 runs per nine for the PawSox; that eye-catching 2.89 ERA obscures 15 unearned runs. So he wasn't greatness personified in PawSox doubleknits, he was simply durable and decent. However, he also wasn't coming up with a hot hand; before Tuesday night's disaster, he'd given up 39 hits and 23 runs in 25
Let me stress that that's not Zink's fault. In the baseball coverage racket, everyone wants to be the smartest of the smart, and everyone likes shaking a fist at the man keeping us all down, just because that old-timer likes fastballs and normal off-speed stuff and a little bit of predictability in pitch trajectories. Heck, skip backwards or forwards a few paragraphs or sentences, and you'll see me do my share of smarty-ness and fist-shaking. However, with Zink, or Charlie Haeger, or R.A. Dickey, I've consistently suggested a bit of caution before getting worked up over the guy just because he's different and that's so keen, even if that caution means not being "right" about some bold endorsement and lacks a certain pizzazz. So be it; I'll stand by "show me" until I've been shown.
As for absenting Lowell, I don't see it as quite as much an item of concern, not that losing their third baseman for two or three weeks might not be rough on them, especially when they face lefties. That isn't quite the same thing as endorsing Sean Casey, who will slide into the lineup at first base (with Bailey stepping in now and again as well, especially against lefties), with Kevin Youkilis moving across the diamond to third. The greater hit will be on defense, but even then, it's not a disaster. The Sox have already picked up runs and been fine defensively with Jed Lowrie playing short in Julio Lugo's place, so beyond Lowell, they really have two far more pressing issues in the lineup. First is getting David Ortiz going-his recent raking of the Rangers is swell, but it is the Rangers, and it will be nice to see what he might do against major league pitching. The Sox may also have to change horses and ride the hot hand in center, because Coco Crisp's bat is going slack, while Jacoby Ellsbury finally seems to be bouncing back. Picking correctly between the two and getting Papi back to boppery will more than make up for Lowell's absence, and if the Sox get the added benefit of a rested Lowell in the season's final month, they should be able to continue to outscore Byrd's opponents, or Colon's.
Finally, the decision to nab McBeth off of waivers is of a piece with the previous claim on Aardsma; he's a live arm who throws hard, and while the converted position player's struggled when he's been active, a good fastball is always going to draw some attention. Any more than with Aardsma or Kyle Snyder, there are no guarantees that he'll ever be anything more than a back-end bullpen arm, but it's always worth snapping one up just in case he becomes something more, should you have the space on your 40-man.
Acquired LHP Horacio Ramirez from the Royals for CF-R Paulo Orlando; activated RHP Jose Contreras from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Ehren Wassermann and 3B-R Josh Fields to Charlotte (Triple-A). [8/9]
Revolution at three different spots on the roster seems pretty major this late in the year, but with Joe Crede's slow recovery, Contreras' season-ending injury, and some obvious frustration with a talented, struggling southpaw, it's interesting to see how Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen have shaken things up.
To start with the positive, swapping out Fields for Getz isn't as bad as you might think; while Fields still has considerable upside as somebody's everyday third baseman, if the Sox aren't going to play him in Crede's absence, there was no reason to have him here. In contrast, Getz could be the sort of utilityman who fits in rather neatly in terms of this lineup's needs. A career second baseman before this season, Getz started playing a lot of short and left in May, and then added some work at the hot corner for the Knights in July. He's not a great fielder at the other infield spots, but if he's at least playable, he'd give the Sox a lefty-swinging alternative to Juan Uribe as their primary infield reserve, Rob Mackowiak style. At the plate, Getz was hitting for more power in Charlotte than was expected, and while some of that's Knights Stadium (where he's hit all 11 of his homers), it's also something that will play well in the Cell. His overall line of .306/.367/.455 reflects both the power spike and his plate coverage; he's not a platoon player, having hit .298/.359/.467 against right-handers and .319/.380/.433 against lefties. That projects to a guy who might peak in the .270s in terms of his EqA, very Mackowiak-like indeed.
From getting Getz, let's turn to the decision to swap around who their second lefty in the pen is. Logan's performance as the situational guy left a lot to be desired, as he was the worst performer in the Sox pen, struggling to master pitching from the stretch-a must for a situational lefty-and he was only getting worse. Ramirez didn't really cost all that much; Orlando's interesting to those of us who find such things interesting, but unlikely to haunt the Sox. More fundamentally, Ramirez is a relatively young veteran with a few years of experience pitching for division-winning Braves teams, and he's had a relatively good recent performance record against lefties. This is less about Ramirez's virtues than Logan's failure to make the job his own, forcing the Sox to adapt on the fly.
Similarly, Contreras's combustion in the midst of his latest return to action really leaves them in the market for a Byrd-like acquisition. Initial talk that they might press D.J. Carrasco into action only reflects the depth of their desperation having already tried and lost with Clayton Richard; Carrasco did a good turn as the best starter in an awful Royals rotation in 2005, which made him enough of a commodity to get him sold off to the Japanese leagues, where he was briefly awful in 2006, followed by a 2007 spent in Tucson's rotation being awful there as well (a 6.68 ERA overall doesn't sound so bad compared to his 8.3 RA/9 as a starter, or the 1.8 baserunners per inning he allowed in the role). So, in their moment of need they've lurched towards Broadway, whose Charlotte performance has been no great shakes, but is at least better than Carrasco's '07 Sidewinders campaign. Broadway was allowing 5.5 runs per nine, and while he does a semi-decent job of generating ground-ball outs (with a G/F ratio of 1.6), I can't see any good coming from taking a guy whose finesse assortment gets pasted for 1.8 HR/9 in his hitter-friendly home park getting a shot at regular rotation work for a team that calls the Cell home. The nicest thing you can say about Broadway is that he does a good job of holding runners; the problem is that he's got a wee bit too much experience at it.
Dealt RHP Paul Byrd to the Red Sox for a PTBNL or cash. [8/12]
Jackson is one of the bodies acquired in the Sabathia deal. He was initially slotted into the Bisons bullpen, where he the change of scenery seemed to do him some good, as he struck out six in 6
Signed RHP Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract. [8/12]
Talk about much ado about nothing. For all of the frenetic interest in Chief's comeback, he didn't crack 90 in his workout, and he signed on with a sinking ship slightly after the water's already pouring over the gunwales. Add in that Zach Miner's given the team four quality starts in the five he's had since being pressed into action, and there's not even an obvious need to have signed the veteran in the first place for all the good it'll do the team. If his goal was to wind up pitching in the majors as a showcase for this winter's free agency, Garcia and his advisors may have chosen very unwisely.
Acquired CF-R Paulo Orlando from the White Sox for LHP Horacio Ramirez. [8/9]
Not a bad little pickup by Dayton Moore. Not that Orlando's a blue-chip prospect, but he's only 22, is an excellent center fielder, and he's also one of the rarest types of Latin prospects, a Brazilian. (Nobody's forgotten Carnival country's Jose Pett already, have they? To refresh, the Jays gave him $700,000, he debuted in the Gulf Coast League in '93, and he was never really a news item ever again.) In exchange for having taken the time to take out a flyer on Ramirez, Moore's gotten a flier on the basepaths. Orlando was hitting .262/.308/.408 in the Carolina League when he was acquired, with a dozen triples and nine homers in 489 PA, plus 28 steals in 37 attempts. Even if his prospective peak at a .239 EqA seems a bit dubious (he is also repeating the level, having spent 2007 there), I guess the interesting part of the proposition is whether or not his background will contribute to his being a late bloomer. Certainly, speed, defense, and more power than you'd expect from a speed guy seems to have some sort of promise, and if at worst it just means that Royals pitching prospects have a good glove man behind them at a few affiliates in the next few years, even that's worth something. Getting something for Horacio Ramirez is more than Bill Bavasi can say for himself, after all.
Signed OF-S Bobby Kielty to a minor league contract. [8/11]
The game's great golden arches role player extraordinaire originally started the season in the Red Sox organization, but Kielty was handicapped with a bone spur in his left hand in the early going that then required surgery and cost him six weeks. By the time he'd come back, David Ortiz's injury and Jacoby Ellsbury's slump pretty much precluded any talk of the Red Sox making room for a reserve as specialized as Kielty. He asked for and got his release in mid-July, but then had to cool his heels for almost a month before getting this opportunity to rejoin his original organization, in no small part because of Michael Cuddyer's breaking his foot while on his minor league rehab stint. In terms of performance, considering that we're only talking about Kielty's 112 PA at Pawtucket, there isn't a whole lot to say, as he did in that brief time what he's famous for doing-bash lefties a bit, go away against right-handers, and take walks. Those are things the Twins should be able to put to use, between Jason Kubel's need for a platoon partner, and the possibility they'd want to sit Denard Span against certain lefties, so this is a decent little pickup, and certainly better than doing something like picking up the now-available Shannon Stewart.
Optioned RHP Chris Britton to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes/Barre (Triple-A); recalled RHP Ian Kennedy from Scranton Wilkes/Barre. [8/8]
Just like that, Kennedy's effectively excused himself from the stretch-run rotation, and if a single start seems like a pretty short audition, when it's even worse than the stylings of Darrell Rasner, it's pretty hard to stomach. At least Dan Giese and Sidney Ponson have risen to the challenge so far, and Rasner even delivered a winnable start on Wednesday, so the situation isn't quite so dire, just annoyingly fluid in light of Kennedy's failure. Between a pair of offdays wrapped around this weekend's series against the Royals, the Yankees won't have to resolve whether to start both Giese or Rasner until the end of next week, and another offday on the 25th means that they'll have that much more time to let Joba Chamberlain heal up and ideally be set to return in time for their home series against the Red Sox in the month's final week.
Optioned LHP Lenny DiNardo to Sacramento (Triple-A); purchased the contract of MI-S Cliff Pennington from Sacramento; designated INF-S Brooks Conrad for assignment. [8/12]
Well, thank goodness for little things, because at least the A's now have a reserve infielder. Pennington's sort of the latter-day incarnation of Lance Blankenship (or Glenn Gulliver, or camera-eyed Max Bishop, if you prefer, in picking among your OBP posterboys), having drawn 91 unintentional walks this season in 538 PA that were split pretty evenly between Double- and Triple-A. His overall rates are suggestive of his offensive value, as he's hit a combined .280/.401/.352, and although a switch-hitter, he's a bit more patient against right-handers. He's also split between leading off and the two hole, and mostly starting at short but getting a wee bit of time at second, and also adds a dose of speed, having stolen 31 bases in 37 tries, although he's simply a plus runner, not a whippet. At the plate, this year represents a huge step forward for him; it appears that the key was getting him to give up on trying to match his college power production, and instead play within his limits, working counts and slashing at his pitch instead of loading up and trying to pull. Afield, he's a grinder at short, with a plus arm but not necessarily the range or instincts to be a plus defender. Basically, a very interesting player, perhaps the kind of guy that only the A's would take seriously (as a matter of prospecting but also need), and not one you'll find many analogs to. Whether he ends up getting playing time at third (in the absence of a worthwhile regular) or gets real work spotting for the starters up the middle or has to settle for a quick visit and a return to Sacramento, it's going to be worth seeing if they've got something here.
Similarly, I'm glad to see that they've got Patterson up, because let's face it, if you were asked which you'd want six months or six days ago, you'd probably pick Patterson for his demonstrated power and better track record. While Sweeney's potential has long been a subject for debate-and is obviously something the A's proved willing to take a chance on-at this point I'd like the club to just settle into playing Patterson regularly somewhere in the lineup, and if it has to come in this circumstance and as a left fielder, so be it.
I've been singing Hulett's praises since December, and was glad when he got his initial shot this summer, and he's done nothing since to discourage my enthusiasm for him. Middle infielders who can paste right-handed pitching as well as Hulett has this season (.329/.409/.575) in Tacoma should be employable by anybody, and a Mariners team enduring the tepid contributions of Jose Lopez against right-handers and the misery of Yuniesky Betancourt's batsmanship is overqualified for the "any." You can hope that losing Wee Willie will also discourage any further thought of getting Jeremy Reed playing time by having him play some first base, since they should be fine just alternating him with Wladimir Balentien, Raul Ibanez, and Ichiro Suzuki through the DH and outfield slots. (This is assuming that Ibanez doesn't get dealt later today, as has been rumored to be in the works.) That would get a lot better if Suzuki would agree to play center again, of course, but as the alacrity with which they responded to Willie's tantrum over playing time demonstrated, this isn't the kind of organization that tells people to do their jobs.
Designated RHP Al Reyes for assignment. [8/9]
Getting worked up over potentially losing Crawford for the season has more to do with his perceived value than his actual performance; take the man's name out of the equation, and it's simply a matter of replacing a corner outfielder who's hitting .273/.319/.400 (or delivering a .259 EqA), and that's just not that hard to do, especially when you've got someone on the bench hitting .254/.345/.498 with a .292 EqA (for the sake of argument, let's say that his name's Eric Hinske), and who in a platoon will shine that much more brightly, as he's pasting right-handers at a .278/.364/.551 clip. Enter a right-handed batter (this guy named Ruggiano) with better defensive skills to play Roenicke to Hinske's Lowenstein, and he's hitting .315/.374/.537 for Durham (translates to a .279 EqA), and he even adds a dose of speed on the bases. Maybe it's just me, but now you've got an in-house upgrade on the now-absent, unproductive famous person. Admittedly, that's in the abstract, and it's easy to deal with the abstractions, especially when you can shut your ears to the stolen-base category concerns of wailing fantheads. There's no way to know if the two men in a Hinskiano platoon will suddenly press because they're now on the spot; if either slip during this stretch, I'm sure somebody's going to infer that kind of causation, and more's the pity.
That said, the playing time won't be quite that neatly distributed; between the fragility of Cliff Floyd, the now-permanent questions about what we're ever going to get out of Baldelli in light of his unusual affliction, and their having Gabe Gross, the corner outfield and DH slots have plenty of bodies worth putting into the lineup, and not necessarily a lot of guarantees. However, I'd take the strength of those numbers-both the performance records and the head count-and say that it won't be Crawford's performance that they'll end up missing.
Who they will miss is Longoria. As much as I remain an optimist that Willy Aybar's capable of contributing something around his 60th-percentile PECOTA projection, and if his average ticks upward with regular play, they'll get that, it's still well short of the impact bat that Longoria's .305 EqA describes. If he really "only" misses the remainder of the month, that's not the end of the world, not in the way it would be if it were he whose season was in doubt, and Crawford the one coming back, but it doesn't hurt that the Rays have been in a soft part of the schedule so far during Longoria's absence, as the Mariners and A's hardly represent the league's best, and scoring runs off of the Rangers this weekend shouldn't be in doubt. However, next week they'll be facing two potential playoff opponents, and while neither the Angels or White Sox rate among the league's offensive powerhouses, they're arguably stronger than a Longoria-light lineup, and both clubs feature pitching that rates with the Rays'. A month-ending homestand against the Jays and Orioles isn't exactly a respite, either, and then things get nasty, as they'll face the Yankees and Red Sox in 12 of their first 15 games in September. Getting Longoria back for that is clearly critical, because the Rays aren't in this to achieve a moral victory, but to permanently bust up the AL East's balance of power.
Activated CF-R Vernon Wells from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Kevin Mench to Syracuse (Triple-A); placed 3B-R Scott Rolen on the 15-day DL, and canceled Mench's option. [8/10]
For those of you keeping score at home:
Dude PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG EqA VORP WARP3 Glaus 503 .275/.374/.493 .302 29.7 8.7 Rolen 364 .252/.349/.401 .265 8.5 4.7
At the time, I noted the upside risk, but also the very great likelihood that Glaus' relative reliability was the thing worth having in this deal, a call which parted company with a lot of other analysts and a few colleagues. Now, I've made my share of mistakes and incorrect calls, but I hope you can forgive me if I merely suggest that what was at risk was very apparent at the time, and that the greatness Rolen once possessed appears to be as much of a going concern as the dodo, the Whig Party, or Jays competitiveness. Here's hoping Mr. Ricciardi does indeed get that Christmas card from John Mozeliak.
Turning to those who are actually playing, Litsch's promotion is straight back into the rotation, as the team decided a three-start punitive assignment to upstate New York was good enough, and lessons presumably learned, Litsch should be ready to resume fooling people with some improved off-speed offerings today. Losing his spot in the rotation is Scott Richmond, who as you may recall, was on his general manager's word of honor not coming up for "just one start," because it might jeopardize his ability to contribute to Team Canada's bid for Olympic glory. I don't know who's reassured that it wound up being three starts, or that they could just as easily have given the additional start or two to Parrish, but what they heck, veracity's so overrated. What matters is that it does seem that Richmond's happy enough to have made his debut, delivered a trio of winnable games, and if he's not really a prospect, he's at least shown that he can contribute, and that's certainly worth knowing.
As for Stewart's release, while you might initially think he'll be a Met before the week is out, keep in mind that he's really only a bad-fielding left fielder with little power, and ask yourself if there's anything he can do that they aren't more likely to get out of what they've already got. If they make the mistake of picking him up, I'd worry that he'd encourage Omar and the gang to think they've found their extra outfielder, and to pass up better possibilities that might be popping up on waivers this month.