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August 9, 2009
Assorted AL Additions
Optioned RHP Kam Mickolio to Norfolk (Triple-A); recalled LHP Brian Matusz from Bowie (Double-A). [8/4]
Traded C-S Gregg Zaun to the Rays for a PTBNL or a cash settlement TBDL; purchased the contract of C-R Chad Moeller from Norfolk (Triple-A). [8/7]
Promoting Matusz might seem bold to some people's way of thinking, since this is his first year as a pro (having signed too late to pitch last year after getting tabbed in the first round), but he was a top prospect out of a top college program, he went straight to High-A and was outstanding for two months, and then did even better upon a June promotion to Double-A. Combined across the two levels, he'd struck out 121 against just 32 walks in 113 IP, and allowing a mere seven homers. That said, two starts into his big-league career, he struggled against a thinly-manned Tigers lineup before getting lit up by the Blue Jays today. It would be easy to expect that's about what we'll see from him between now and the end of the season, barring the odd good outing against another non-contender as things wind down, but it will be interesting to watch and see how well and whether he adapts. Keep in mind that the exercise with Matusz-as with so many of the new hatchlings-will be to get him used to the environment so that next spring isn't too much a matter of conjecture. Any bit of seasoning will help spare the 2010 Orioles from being too much of a na´fs' crusade. Armed with fine velocity for a lefty and a plus curve, however many bumps he suffers now, he's going to be a part of the landscape for a long time to come.
Workload worriers should take some solace in the fact that the Orioles will be in a happy position as far as how they spread starts around; with Chris Tillman already up and Brad Bergesen due back from the DL in another week or so, and possibly Koji Uehara capable of taking a turn or two in September upon roster expansion and his own reactivation, it's not going to be all that shocking if the Orioles go with a seven-man rotation in the last month, with those four plus Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Berken, and David Hernandez taking turns. And if they need to shut anyone else down besides Rich Hill before the season's done, between staff space-filling veterans like Brian Bass and Mark Hendrickson or the question of whether or not they should be keeping organizational soldier Chris Waters on the 40-man over the winter to come, they have bodies that they can employ without adding Jake Arrieta early.
Optioned RHP Jhonny Nunez to Charlotte (Triple-A); recalled RHP Carlos Torres from Charlotte. [8/8]
Designated RHP Jose Veras for assignment; recalled RHP Jess Todd from Columbus (Triple-A); outrighted LHP Mike Gosling and RHP Winston Abreu to Columbus (with Abreu refusing the assignment and preferring free agency). [8/5]
Traded RHP Carl Pavano to the Twins for a PTBNL; recalled LHP Rafael Perez from Columbus. [8/7]
Dealing Pavano's interesting for other reasons which I'll touch on in the Twins' segment, so to deal with the Pavano-less present as far as Indians pitching is concerned, the slow transition of Justin Masterson to the rotation has been brought into turn, leaving the Tribe with a quintet made up of Masterson, Fausto Carmona, and three of the spring southpaws who were once fighting for just one slot: David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, and Aaron Laffey. That's not as grim as that sounds; at least there's a developmental purpose involved, Laffey's looked good, and nobody should be asking for seconds of whatever Tomo Ohka's dishing out, not unless they're employed to hit for a living. And while the early-season results were ugly, if you just write down the relievers the Indians have active beyond Ohka and closer Kerry Wood, it still somehow seems like it should add up to something good: Jess Todd and Chris Perez from the Cardinals, Joe Smith from the Mets, plus homegrown products Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis, and Tony Sipp... in the abstract, that's a good group of talent, perhaps better-again, in the abstract-than any collection of arms they've staffed a pen with in recent seasons. The question is whether or not Eric Wedge and Carl Willis can deliver with a young group of relievers, and that pitchfork-wielding mob on the shores of Lake Erie seems to think not.
As for Abreu, the nerve of the man! The Indians traded for him! Oh, woe! And he promptly defected to those big-market Rays! The horror, the dream has died, boohoohoo, etc. While I think it is interesting to talk about whether or not the achievements of the so-called Moneyball mindset were transitory phenomena crushed by the expanded intelligence of the so-called big-market franchises, I'd also suggest that, in listening to one or another Dolan blabbering the death of hope and faith in any city smaller than Boston and bigger than Bakersfield, we've been on this particular hamster wheel for a couple of decades now, with luminaries like paid-off Blue Ribbon fact-finders or Bill James himself prattling on about canaries, coal mines, and parsed language to define failure, play Cassandra for its own benefit, and/or to serve assorted policy agendas. While some may even rail about the way the Marlins are operated (cheaply), others take inspiration in the addition of Orlando Cabrera-no, really! I guess I land on the side of those willing to stick to a dogged consistency, that competitive balance ain't dead yet, and certainly not when we've had 13 different teams win the last 16 pennants.
Designated RHP Sidney Ponson for assignment; recalled Kyle Davies from Omaha (Triple-A). [8/2]
Activated OF-L Josh Anderson; designated UT-R Ryan Freel for assignment. [8/5]
Placed RHP Juan Cruz on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); activated RHP Doug Waechter from the 15-day DL. [8/6]
No more Ponson, no more Freel? Maybe it's too-easy as sympathy goes that this feels like progress, but then Davies takes the ball his first big-league start in six weeks and gets lit up like its Christmas in August to provide vibekill. One start doesn't mean that much, though, and better to resemble a young team with future hopes than a holding tank for other people's unwanteds when .
In the meantime, Bruce Chen's managed back-to-back quality starts, so they have one productive veteran placeholder to balance against their young trio of Greinke, Bannister, and Hochevar. Davies wound up doing well enough in his punitive assignment to Omaha, allowing 3.7 runs per nine while posting a 44/14 K/UBB ratio in 46
I suppose it's no cause for consolation that losing Cruz seems timed to work out well if reports on Kyle Farnsworth's comeback are true. That's good news, right? They spent a lot on this Farnsworth guy, after all, and if you follow the old up-brand rule that cost equals quality, they've got quality a-comin'. Of course, the less savory topic is that, for all of the hue and cry over how signing Farnsworth early for too much or Cruz late for so little was an indictable overlap, it's important to remember that both have been pretty bad, with both "contributing" in the negative, WXRL-wise.
Acquired RHP Carl Pavano from the Indians for a PTBNL; optioned RHP R.A. Dickey to Rochester (Triple-A); transferred RHP Boof Bonser from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/7]
In light of their losing Kevin Slowey for the balance of the season and the difficulties they seem to be having keeping Glen Perkins in working order, there was a clear need to do something to shore up the rotation. It's just interesting that they lighted upon Pavano as their solution, because it's not a cheap decision, not by the Twins' lights or anybody, because of the unique structure of his deal. The stakes go up with almost every Pavano start, courtesy of his elaborate incentive-based deal. Having made his 22nd start and passed 130 IP on the season for the Twins in his first turn with his new team, that was an additional $200,000 for him, just in that one game, for reaching those two playing-time thresholds. If he reaches 24, 26, or 28, he'll get another $200,000 for each milepost, $250,000 more for reaching 30, and $300,000 for 32; more than that seems unlikely. Similarly, he gets $100,000 for reaching 140 and 150 IP, and it accelerates from there. If, for the sake of argument, he makes it to 32 starts and continues to average six innings per, that'll be another $2.3 million beyond his base compensation the Twins will have to spend for the right to employ him for two months.
Me, I think that's kind of cool, and it's certainly worthwhile if Pavano can be an improvement. That's not that much of a sure thing; even setting aside his checkered record for health, Pavano's SNWP with the Indians was just .475, while worthies such Anthony Swarzak (.507) and Francisco Liriano (.414) were aready at risk for losing starts to Brian Duensing, and Perkins' performance wasn't all that special either (.453). It's a reflective of relative desperation that the Twins would need to bet on Pavano's near-adequacy instead of holding to their traditional position of betting on the development of their own; it might have been more predictable for them to turn to Duensing or call up Kevin Mulvey, or even add finesse right-hander Jeff Manship to the picture by purchasing his contract. Consecutive shellings from Swarzak has certainly put his slot at risk, with the only thing giving him any additional job security being the even more persistent frustrations they've endured with Liriano. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Duensing gets a turn in the next week, especially with the Twins' odds of keeping up with the Sox and Tigers owing so little to their own performance.
Designated INF-R Cody Ransom for assignment; recalled RHP Anthony Claggett from Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Triple-A). [8/5]
Signed RHP Russ Ortiz. [8/6]
Acquired RHP Chad Gaudin from the Padres for a PTBNL; optioned RHP Anthony Claggett to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; outrighted INF-R Cody Ransom to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; recalled MI-S Ramiro Pena from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/7]
Optioned RHP Mark Melancon to Scranton-Wilkes Barre; purchased the contract of RHP Josh Towers from Scranton-Wilkes; transferred LHP Damaso Marte from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/8]
Designated RHP Josh Towers for assignment; activated RHP Chad Gaudin. [8/9]
Have the Yankees potentially solved their fifth-starter problem? We know that Chad Gaudin's initially going into the pinstriped pen, and we also know that his .456 SNWP with the Padres isn't anything special. On the other hand, Sergio Mitre's performance is coming off as an impromptu homage to Chien-Ming Wang's 2009, and Mitre's career high point, the thing that has Joltless Joe Girardi thinking highly of him fondly, was a 2007 season for the Fish that involved a .451 SNWP. Gaudin's mark this year is bad by his own lights; he did manage to post a .497 SNWP in 2007 during what was his last full-time stint in a rotation, and he followed that up with a .513 mark in 2008 before getting dealt to the Cubs. And Ortiz, deservingly discarded by the Astros? His SNWP in 13 turns in his "comeback" season was .407, which only looks good compared to Mitre's work with the Yankees (.332).
Basically, I would take such numbers where Gaudin and Mitre are concerned as broad yet pointed suggestions that, even allowing for injuries, at worst Gaudin's a slightly better pitcher in a rotational role, to the extent that he might even be an above-average fifth starter on any team, not just the Bombers, and certainly a better person to employ than Sergio Mitre. Whereas Mitre would have a hard time sticking in anybody's rotation, whatever his brief notoriety from his association with better players in various trades or in other organizations might add up to. I mean, we don't even have to get into Kevin Bacon territory to get into who we know who's cool, right? Who's the coolest person you ever met, snogged, or partied with? In the age of celebritology, there are certainly people more famous than Sergio Mitre who have crossed my path, not to mention better ballplayers who have bounced down the waiver wire. If the Yankees wind up with Mitre starting, it won't be because of his track record; he's Sergio Mitre, and his track record is miserable. Instead, it will be because he had the good fortune to be on the only other team that Girardi managed, and while you'd think participation on the 2006 Marlins wouldn't be the sort of thing that gets you entree with a playoff aspirant, apparently the Yankees cling to lower standards.
Optioned UT-L Eric Patterson to Sacramento (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Chad Reineke from Sacramento. [8/5]
Optioned RHP Chad Reineke to Sacramento; recalled RHP Jeff Gray from Sacramento. [8/6]
Released 1B-L Jason Giambi. [8/7]
Placed LHP Dallas Braden on the 15-day DL (foot/rash), retroactive to 8/1; lost RHP Russ Springer on a waiver claim by the Rays; recalled OF-R Aaron Cunningham and RHP Clayton Mortensen from Sacramento. [8/8]
Optioned Clayton Mortensen to Sacramento; purchased the contract of LHP Jay Marshall from Sacramento. [8/9]
In the litany of frustrations worthy of enumeration in 2009, perhaps none rank so highly as the indecision involving Eric Patterson. The team was without a second baseman... and it didn't turn to Patterson as a potential solution. The outfield production has been nothing short of ghastly... and still no Patterson. The latest in-house inspiration was that Patterson would "become" a multi-positional supersub, a la Chone Figgins. It sounded like a great idea for a team short of start-worthy talent at too many slots in the lineup, but no sooner did they need an emergency starter for Braden than they bumped Patterson, rather than doing something like, oh, say... cutting Bobby Crosby, who's marking time to little point, waiting to part ways with the organization that's as disenchanted with him as he is with them. Getting Patterson back for the ten days or whatever is OK for Sacramento, I guess, but they're going to win the PCL's Pac South Division anyway, and unless the A's decide to invert their priorities and contribute to the RiverCats' bid for another forever-flying PCL championship banner, what happened to that Patterson-related brainstorm?
I guess my fixation with Patterson is related to my desire to just see the A's front a better lineup, and my expectation that he can e a part of that. An outfield that has Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney starting might not compete in the PCL, let alone the majors. I don't want to see Tommy Everidge grow up to be the green-and-gold's version of Ron Coomer, but here he is, getting talked up as cover for the decision to releast Giambi, which doesn't really provide much window dressing for that particular necessity. Does this make Daric Barton the new Scott Stahoviak? I suppose I might have more to say about Giambi at some point, but between the fact that his re-upping with Oakland was cause for so much puffery about the dimly projected echoes of former glory, I figure tha man's had his viking funeral already, and there's always the chance he latches on with some other, extra-desperate squad.
Signed RHP Winston Abreu to a minor league contract. [8/6]
Acquired C-S Gregg Zaun from the Orioles for a PTBNL (or perhaps Stax O'Kash); designated RHP John Meloan for assignment. [8/7]
Acquired RHP Russ Springer off of a waiver claim from the Athletics; activated C-S Gregg Zaun; designated UT-R Joe Dillon and C-R Michel Hernandez for assignment. [8/8]
Credit the Rays for doing as they did last year, and sweating the small stuff as far as the back end of their roster. Adding veterans like Zaun and Springer can be seen to some extent as an exercise of (limited) financial muscle enervated perhaps by last season's playoff appearance, with Springer apparently being a straightforward bit of grabbery without compensation beyond the willingness to pay him.
Springer's utility as a situational right-hander isn't quite what it was (they're hitting him at an obviously touchable .260/.276/.385 clip), and he'd only contributed a -0.3 WXRL for the A's. However, the Rays' pen can perhaps be lumped into three groups. There shouldn't be cause for complaint about two of them: the late-game trio of J.P. Howell, Dan Wheeler, and Grant Balfour is doing good stuff collectively (6.1 WXRL as a group), and the handy middle-innings relief they've gotten from Lance Cormier (group population: one) should have the club comfortable with four of its seven relievers. It's sorting out the Other Guys that Springer's a partial patch for, but Springer's ROOGYism hocks up as tidily as the perceived LOOGY contributions from Brian Shouse and/or Randy Choate, and the recent addition of Jeff Bennett gives them another right-hander to square the quartet. Ditching Shouse would mean getting a head start on buying out his 2010 option, but he and Choate have been about equally effective, Choate more so in less important situations, as reflected in their respective Leverage scores.
Bouncing Bennett seems the obvious choice, of course, but this should be a far from final solution to how the Rays' pen shakes out; there's still the chance Joe Nelson pitches his way back into the picture, and Chad Bradford should be back from the DL before the calendar flips to September. If anything, the problem isn't having useful arms, it's going to instead be a tough call as far as resolving which ones get carried on the post-season roster. Carrying both Shouse and Choate in October seems unlikely, but would they leave Springer off, having picked up the expense of employing him?
I don't want to go nuts over the acquisition of the so-called Practically Perfect Backup Catcher, but Zaun is clearly something the Rays needed, in the same way that around this time of year the presumed quality backup they had on hand, Shawn Riggans, was on the DL, forcing them to go out and get Hernandez. Riggans is hurt yet again, having suffered a setback during his rehab work in the minors that figures to shelve him until September, at which point there's a question of how they would get him in gear in time to contribute to the push for a playoff slot.
Enter Zaun to make the matter somewhat irrelevant; rather than go low-end, as they did with Hernandez, they decided to make a quality addition by giving the Orioles more than mere payroll relief. Although his modest power remains a late-career apology for what he once had going for him, he gets on base well enough (as ever), and he was registering baserunner kills a quarter of the time on opponents' stolen-base attempts. Perhaps inevitably, some will start calling for Zaun to displace Dioner Navarro, and while Navarro hasn't helped himself any by struggling in the first week of August after having a big of a rebound in July (.275/.309/.471), I'd worry how well Zaun's performance would last in anything more expansive than a job-sharing arrangement. However, the additional benefit to be found in the pickup is that Zaun's already under contract for 2010, at least at his owning club's discretion, thanks to an option that costs $2 million to pick up or $500,000 to reject. Given the slim pickings on the backstop shelves on the winter market place, that's an option the Rays can give real thought to picking up.
As for Abreu and Meloan, I'm not sure if this latest contretemps regarding the pair is cause for satisfaction or picayune despair among Indians fans, but if there was reason to want Meloan back and effectively hit 'reset' on the obscure proposition, the opportunity's there. Me, I'd just take satisfaction on how well Carlos Santana's turning out, and continue to grade that Casey Blake trade a big win where giving up on yesteryear's expectations were concerned; no need to add troubles to unhappy present.