October 30, 2009
Minor Moves, AL
Outrighted RHPs Jim Miller and Chris Lambert, C-R Guillermo Rodriguez, and OF-L Jeff Fiorentino to Norfolk (Triple-A); noted the loss of LHP Sean Henn on a waiver claim by the Blue Jays. [10/29]
Outrighted RHP Takashi Saito to Pawtucket (Triple-A); he refused the assignment to become a free agent. [10/19]
We can credit Theo Epstein for doing a great job in assembling a bullpen this year, as the Sox finished second in the league and sixth overall in Fair Run Average. He started off with a good hand, of course, since he had Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and Justin Masterson to start off with, but the Sox snagged Ramon Ramirez from the Royals for a year or two of Coco Crisp (or less, as injuries cropped up), Daniel Bard has some sort of promise-despite his uneven performance record in key situations-and later on in-season, while they'd dealt Masterson, they added Billy Wagner from the Mets relatively cheaply in terms of talent.
It wasn't all perfection, considering that Delcarmen struggled, but one of the interesting risks they took before the year was giving former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito an incentive-laden one-year-plus-option deal on the off chance he'd contribute. It wasn't all that different from the risks taken with John Smoltz or Brad Penny, and it paid off, sort of. Saito had a pretty good year by some measures, posting a 3.30 FRA that trailed only Papelbon and RamRam. He had a bass-ackwards season, winding up much more effective against lefties than righties, a sort of unusual development given his previous track record. Whatever his elbow issues, his velocity wasn't down that steeply (perhaps half an mph), but he was handled extremely carefully, making appearing on consecutive days just five times all season. His proportion of fastballs to off-speed pitches was pretty much the same (66/34), although he changed the proportion of curves to sliders after heavily relying on the latter in years past.
As it turned out, he also wasn't really very cheap to have around. He was healthy enough to achieve his roster bonuses and two of his appearances incentives, so he wound up costing the Sox at least $6 million, which is an awful lot for a guy who wound up being used in low-leverage situations (0.62 LEV). As risks go, you can still consider this something of a success, since they got a full season of sorts from Saito; it wasn't as valuable as you might think just looking at his traditional stats or FRA, but with Papelbon and Okajima and RamRam getting used in the more important game situations, opportunity scarcity combined with concerns for Saito's workload probably helped define his usage pattern-not every inning for every team is going to be in a critical situation, after all.
At any rate, the Sox decided they weren't wild about employing Saito at these sorts of prices, but he's reportedly amenable to coming back as a free agent. Given that he might at least continue to be a moderately useful high-maintenance asset, even in the era of seven-man pens that makes a potential career like this even possible, he's obviously an objet d'art only the very few and the very wealthy or those with a yen for risk might elect to afford.
Claimed OF-L Alejandro De Aza off of waivers from the Marlins. [10/21]
An interesting little grab, because while De Aza has a reputation for getting hurt and losing out on his opportunities to claim clear shots at starting jobs in his past, he did only just complete his age-25 season by hitting .300/.370/.506 for the Zephyrs, belying his former speed guy rep. (He further undermined it by stealing just 11 bags in 16 attempts, but that's another matter.) Could he be the new and improved DeWayne Wise, something better, or something worse? The bad news is that his fielding numbers per Clay Davenport's translations are reliably awful, especially in center, so he's not the answer there. Ideally, Alex Rios is, but perhaps De Aza has some sleeper potential as an option in the corners, since his summer in the Big Easy translates to a .275 EqA, and if his power spike can persist in the power-friendly Cell in his age-26 season, he might be a modest steal in the best-case scenario.
Announced the departure of C-R Kenji Johjima as a free agent after he declined his last two years of his three-year contract. [10/19]
Outrighted LHP Cesar Jimenez, RHPs Randy Messenger and Marwin Vega, and 1B-L Bryan LaHair to Tacoma (Triple-A); noted the loss of LHP Justin Thomas on a waiver claim by the Pirates. [10/29]
Well, talk about happy contretemps, because by doing so, Johjima's thus saving the Mariners $16 million between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, as well as getting the hell out of the way for better alternatives. Johjima subsequently signed a four-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers, following in the path back to the mother country blazed by Kaz Sasaki. Sasaki's return to Japan was more regrettable, but this was a godsend. Not that Adam Moore is a blue-chip prospect or that Rob Johnson figures to be anything more than a serviceable backup, but the balance of expense of value hardly favored Johjima in any way. Moore's headed into his age-26 season, so he's not really one of the better catching prospects out there, but he has modest pop and a walk rate above 10 percent of his PA. If he's improved his receiving skills, he'll merit consideration next season, but with the financial savings realized by Johjima's departure, they could easily afford one of the veteran catch-and-throw types who will be available via free agency this winter, should they decide that the combination of Moore's spotty receiving and Johnson's slack bat don't really fill the bill.
As for the unhappy few removed from the 40-man, Jimenez lost much of the year to injury, the Colombian Vega's wildness isn't for the faint of heart, Thomas' conversion to situational lefty-dom at Tacoma didn't yield encouraging results, Messenger's note politely informs you he's a journeyman, and LaHair's another example of what happens to the middling talents among notional first-base prospects. LaHair slugged a career-best .530 for the Rainiers this season, and hit an even more impressive .313/.386/.598 against right-handers, but he's about to turn 27, and aging platoon types with only Triple-A credentials for first base or DH aren't exactly famous for catching a break at a premium offensive position. He got an extended spin in left field this year, which isn't all about him-the Rainiers had a crowded left end of the defensive spectrum, especially with the DH at-bats mostly going to Jeff Clement, so Chris Shelton was trying out third base, and Mike Carp gave the outfield a spin too. Translating LaHair's overall performance gets you to a .253 EqA, which isn't very exciting, and only employable in situations like Baltimore's or Cleveland's, where there isn't an established first baseman or a good prospect lined up.
Outrighted RHP Jason Grilli and C-R Kevin Richardson to Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [10/21]
Re-signed C-R Kevin Richardson to a minor league contract. [10/29]
Designated C-R Michael Barrett for assignment; claimed LHP Sean Henn off of waivers from the Orioles. [10/29]
Nabbing Henn's the sort of modestly worthwhile bit of grabbery you can expect on the waiver wire at this time of year. His actual eventual role remains something of a question mark, but he's left-handed, and he throws hard for a lefty... and sometimes, that's enough to make you interesting.