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November 13, 2009
Action and Reaction
Activated RHPs Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara and CF-R Adam Jones from the 60-day DL. [11/6]
Claimed RHP Armando Gabino off of waivers from the Twins. [11/9]
Take the decision to claim Gabino as a reflection that, as much progress has been made as far as assembling worthwhile prospects, when it comes to depth the Orioles' system is sort of a baseball equivalent to a crème brulée made with caramel and paste-sure, that top crust is appetizing, but crack the pane and dig down, and you'll find plenty of reason to regret dipping in. Gabino's not a prospect as much as a guy who know has a recrudescence of big-league experience, which might make him a more appealing haul-up than a repeat of the Adam Eaton adventure.
Declined their club option on SS-R Alex Gonzalez for 2010, making him a free agent. [11/8]
Exercised their club option on C/1B-S Victor Martinez for 2010; noted that C-S Jason Varitek exercised his player option for 2010 to remain with the club; re-signed RHP Tim Wakefield to a two-year, $5 million contract instead of renewing their $4 million club option for 2010. [11/9]
Wakefield's deal is now even more of a bargain. Setting aside the fact that the dollar's lost about 20 percent of its value in the past decade, Wakefield's annual payday has remained within a very narrow range, from $3.5 million in 1998 to $4.5 million in 2000, dropping to $3 million in 2001, stabilizing around $4 million (with a few extra hundred-thousands) by 2003, and never dropping below that up to the present. As the incomparable Cot's reports, his new deal's creative yet simple, a $3.5 million base for 2010 with accelerating incentives for games started after his first 10 turns, and a 2011 commitment with a $1.5 million base that can slide up to $2 million or $3.5 million on the basis of how many innings he pitches in 2010, again with an incentives package that pays extra for every start past his first 10. So, for Wakefield, it's not really a pay cut, as much as a structured dare; if he makes more than 10 starts, he's going to get up to $4 million or more, same as ever.
Meanwhile, they're doubly set at catcher, although because Tek begs off of any Wakefield assignments, you might wonder if this creates any job security for George Kottaras as the designated Wakefield receiver. Even without getting into how Kottaras would have to contend with seven relievers, the need for infield reserves when the team's going about shortstopless, and Casey Kotchman's a virtual lock for a spot on the bench, I just wouldn't bet on it-it's interesting to note that in three of four Wakefield starts after Martinez was acquired, V-Mart got the assignment, and Josh Bard-level disasters did not ensue.
Activated RHP Joel Zumaya and 4C-L Jeff Larish from the 60-day DL; outrighted DH-R Marcus Thames, C-R Matt Treanor, and INF-S Mike Hollimon to Toledo (Triple-A), making them free agents; purchased the contract of RHP Jay Sborz from Toledo. [11/6]
Outrighted RHP John Bannister to Omaha (Triple-A). [11/9]
Outrighted LHP Lenny DiNardo to Omaha, but he didn't like that much, electing instead to become a free agent. [11/10]
Signed INF-S Wilson Betemit to a minor league contract. [11/12]
It's an interesting thing to see Betemit wind up with the organization run by a fellow former Braves employee, and more interesting still when the team just acquired spare infielders when the lineup's already pretty well stocked on that score. Add in the glaringly obvious shortage of worthwhile outfielders, added to the potential for non-tendering Mike Jacobs to undo another past mistake in Dayton Moore's increasing litany of missteps, and their being stuck with Jose Guillen at DH or an outfield corner, and you might anticipate some shuffling around from among the guys they've got. Betemit didn't do anything to shake off the doldrums of his pine time with the White Sox once he was shipped down to Charlotte, hitting a feeble .241/.294/.441. He has been swinging a hot bat of late for the Gigantes in the Dominican, and I wouldn't give up hope entirely as far as his having any value, but the greater mystery is what Moore plans to do with his truckload of infielders and relatively empty outfield.
Exercised their club option on OF/1B-R Michael Cuddyer for 2010. [11/7]
Purchased the contract of RHP Juan Morillo from Rochester (Triple-A); noted the loss of RHP Armando Gabino to the Orioles on a waiver claim; outrighted 1B-R Justin Huber to Rochester. [11/9]
Activated RHPs Boof Bonser, Pat Neshek, and Kevin Slowey from the 60-day DL. [11/10]
Outrighted OF-S Freddy Guzman and RHP Josh Towers to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); both chose free agency. [11/9]
Activated RHP Chien-Ming Wang from the 60-day DL. [11/12]
Outrighted OF-R Chris Denorfia to Sacramento (Triple-A). [11/9]
Re-signed OF-L Ken Griffey Jr. to a one-year contract. [11/11]
It might seem strange to re-up with the graying Kid given his weak production in both 2009 (.261 EqA) and 2008 (.269 combined), but he didn't cost them a ton last season, he probably still commands value in terms of the gate, and if they can help themselves out by adding a better bats at third, left, or behind the plate, they may net enough improvement to make up for this understandable decision. It's also worth noting that given the relatively meagre financial commitment, there's nothing that says they can't still afford a hitter who might also take up some of the playing time at DH, or that Griffey can't still get a few starts in the outfield corners. Even with a reported base higher than last year's $2 million, this is a market that did just see Mark Kotsay get $1.5 million for being Mark Kotsay, so any freaking out over this move should be held off until we have a full winter's worth of action to say whether or not Jack Zduriencik did enough on other fronts to field a better lineup in 2010, and whether they'll have a team capable of keeping up with the Angels and Rangers.
Declined their club options on C-S Gregg Zaun and LHP Brian Shouse; picked up their club option on OF-L Carl Crawford for 2010; claimed RHP Ramon Ramirez off of waivers from the Reds. [11/9]
Picking up Crawford's option, whatever their intentions as far as what to do with him, constitutes a non-news development. It's worth wondering whether or not it would have been worth affording Zaun for the additional $1.5 million it would have cost to keep him, but apparently a seven-figure backup backstop with their pending arbitration case with Dioner Navarro to contest (and probably win, not that it'll hurt Navarro much) was too rich for their blood. In contrast, the decision to not pay Shouse $1.9 million to be a second- or third-rank LOOGY was understandable enough. The one genuinely strange thing was the decision to pick up the wrong RamRam; this isn't the like-monikered reliever worth having employed by the Red Sox, this is the short 27-year-old Venezuelan right-hander with problems controlling his breaking stuff while throwing with merely adequate velocity. Why this team, relatively rich in young pitching talent, wanted him on its 40-man, or whether they simply want to take the opportunity to keep him if he can be slipped through waivers shortly, remains to be seen.
Outrighted LHPs Bill Murphy and Davis Romero and C-L Kyle Phillips to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [11/6]
Purchased the contract of 1B-R Brian Dopirak from Las Vegas; claimed UT-R Mike McCoy off of waivers from the Rockies. [11/9]
Adding Dopirak's interesting, because the salvage effort for the former Cubs prospect seems to have born some fruit. The 25-year-old first baseman smashed his way through the Eastern League, bopping at a .308/.374/.576 clip to earn a mid-July promotion to Triple-A, where he hit a less-exciting .330/.366/.509 for Las Vegas, one of the PCL's hitter havens. By getting his strikeout rate back under 20 percent of his PAs, he's making better contact, if still not walking all that much, and having chopped into 26 twin killings, he's certainly a lead-footed GIDP waiting to happen with a runner on first in the finest traditions of Jim Rice. His work around first base isn't going to elicit comparisons to Keith Hernandez. Still, power's power, and when you find it laying around in the discard pile, it was worth taking a look then, and it's worth protecting him from the Rule 5 draft now. Whether or not he's going to be able to replace Lyle Overbay now or ever shouldn't affect the Jays overmuch-they won't contend in 2010.
Similarly, as far as filling up the 40-man, grabbing McCoy seems like a reasonable bid to stock the bench with a multi-positional utilityman with extensive minor league experience. An eight-year pro who only just made his big-league debut with the Rockies last season (his third organization), he'll be 29 next season. So, he's a short-term placeholder, but also a guy with the ability to play short, second, or center, and help out on offense with a few walks and the odd steal; he bunts well to boot, so he's your basic little-man contributor. It's a small bit of free-talent grabbery that should provide the regular-season roster with some flexibility, while potentially getting McCoy some service time beyond the bus leagues.
Signed RHP Tim Hudson to a three-year, $27 million contract with a $9 million club option for 2013 ($1 million buyout). [11/12]
This was in the cards for a while, so for the Braves, it creates the nice problem of having plenty of starting pitching under control, and for varying lengths of time at various prices, creating options for Frank Wren if he wants to talk about making a deal for a thumpy first baseman or perhaps a quality outfield bat. Consider their options from among their four veterans plus Jair Jurrjens:
2009 Under Control 2009 Dude Age Through? For? SNWP Hudson 34 2012 at least $28 million .519 Kawakami 34 2011 at least $13.3 million .504 Lowe 36 2012 $45 million .466 Vazquez 32 2010 $11.5 million .608 Achieves arb. Jurrjens 23 2013 at least after 2010 .608
For all of last winter's assertions, by myself, colleagues, and other analysts, that Derek Lowe was the free-agent starter you wanted, suffice to say he's not quite so exciting, because that's a high price to pay for durability. Hudson's not going anywhere. Kenshin Kawakami's not hugely expensive, but he's also not exactly a commodity either, having turned out to be just a nice little fourth starter being paid at a contender's price point. So this really leaves Wren with two guys to peddle from among the non-Tommy Hansons in the rotation, offering his dance partners the opportunity to briefly employ Javier Vazquez for lots after a great year, or Jurrjens for less and longer after another fine campaign.
There are additional handicaps as far as trying to trade Vazquez. First, he has a limited no-trade clause that takes the nine teams of the Wests out of the picture. The current rumors involving Vazquez and the Rangers would require the additional consideration of enlisting Vazquez's acceptance, but as we've seen in the past, no-trade clauses aren't automatically dead ends. However, assuming that provision can't be bought off, you can probably also assume he wouldn't be headed to a division rival. Scratch non-contenders or full-up rotations from the remaining 16, and you start to get into the scope of the problem, because whoever the Braves could talk to also has to have what Atlanta needs-ideally, a power bat. That leads to the second problem with trying to move Vazquez, which is that it would have to involve a team that isn't too worried about past perceptions that Vazquez needs special care and handling (particularly in the DH league). If Wren pulls it off, everyone should be impressed, but it doesn't take a lot of exercise on the subject before you start getting into three-team scenarios to work around some of the limitations as far as where you can send the high-maintenance righty.
The alternative, dealing Jurrjens, seems more likely to serve the purpose if the goal is to get a quality bat, because getting four years of team control (one before arbitration) seems to be exactly what teams with veteran bats to peddle and no immediate playoff aspirations of their own should be in the market for. It's easy to wishcast an offer of Jurrjens to the Padres for the two very affordable years of Adrian Gonzalez that he's under contract for, probably too easy, and the Pad people did just add a small horde of arms in their various exchanges. As is, the Braves are going to have to spend to fill their hole at first, even if it's a one-year plus option deal to retain a veteran like Adam LaRoche, so why not gun for Gonzo?
Jurrjens is the player more likely to yield something more high-end, and to catch the Phillies the Braves need to avoid settling. Vazquez could wind up in an exchange of big-ticket veterans with a year to go apiece before free agency in a challenge trade of sorts, but it's also possible that the Braves merely wind up trying to shed salary so that they can afford a first baseman and perhaps a corner outfielder. The years of relative financial control would seem to be the bargaining chip you'd really want to work with in talks with non-contending teams. Admittedly, the danger exists, that Jurrjens continues to beat expectations and winds up a star, but the investments in Hudson and Lowe and the desire to squeeze one last title into Chipper Jones' career might be compelling enough to motivate a move to win in 2010, rather than simply accept that a future with Jurrjens and Hudson and Jason Heyward and Brian McCann and Jordan Schafer and Yunel Escobar already looks pretty solid in the seasons beyond 2010.
Declined their club option on C-R Ramon Hernandez for 2010, making him a free agents; outrighted RHP Justin Lehr to Louisville (Triple-A), but re-signed him to a minor league contract. [11/6]
Noted the loss of RHP Ramon Ramirez on a waiver claim by the Rays; outrighted C/UT-S Wilkin Castillo to Louisville, and re-signed him to a minor league contract. [11/9]
Activated RHPs Taylor Buchholz and Manuel Corpas and LHP Alan Embree from the 60-day DL; declined the exercise their 2010 options on the contracts of Embree and C-R Yorvit Torrealba, making them free agents. [11/6]
Outrighted C-R Paul Phillips to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); noted the loss of UT-R Mike McCoy on a waiver claim by the Blue Jays. [11/9]
Purchased the contract of RHP Hayden Penn from New Orleans (Triple-A). [11/9]
Noted that LF-R Manny Ramirez exercised his player option for 2010. [11/6]
Activated RHPs Jason Schmidt and Travis Schlichting and OF-L Xavier Paul from the 60-day DL. [11/9]
Declined their club option on RHP David Weathers, making him a free agent. [11/6]
Activated 2B-R Rickie Weeks and RHPs David Riske and Mark DiFelice from the 60-day DL. [11/7]
Purchased the contract of UT-R Adam Heether from Nashville (Triple-A)
Having just enjoyed a season in which they had the benefit of snagging a minor league veteran like Casey McGehee off of waivers, having found him to be a live bat and more than just a slick third baseman, the Brewers decided to protect an older homegrown product who, like McGehee, is a third baseman primarily, but appears to have uses elsewhere as well. Heether usually started games at third, but also made starts at second, short, and left field for the Sounds, and hit .293/.400/.501, which translated to a .277 EqA. It was also his age-27 season, so protecting him from the Rule 5 draft seems to be a precaution against losing an organizational soldier who would do McGehee-like stylings for somebody at little cost before disappearing in a puff of arbitration eligibility a few years down the road. It's perhaps also a reflection of how few protection-worthy eligible players they have in-house.
Exercised their club option on RHP Mike Pelfrey for 2010. [11/6]
Activated LHPs Oliver Perez and Jon Niese, RHP Fernando Nieve, and OF-L Fernando Martinez from the 60-day DL. [11/12]
Declined their club option on 3B-R Pedro Feliz for 2010, making him a free agent. [11/8]
Outrighted RHP John Ennis, C-R Paul Hoover, and 1B-L Andy Tracy to Lehigh Valley (Triple-A). [11/9]
Outrighted RHP Tyler Walker to Lehigh Valley. [11/10]
Just a brief endorsement here, crediting Ruben Amaro Jr. for kicking Feliz to the curb and perhaps exploiting the lesson of last winter's market, that there are bargains to be found at lower prices than those set during better financial times. While I'd be intrigued to see the Phillies do something like getting in on Chone Figgins (and how that might bump Shane Victorino or Jimmy Rollins back in the order), a one-year deal with Troy Glaus would be interesting, and hauling in Mark DeRosa to be team rover and most-regular third baseman (creating an ongoing role for Greg Dobbs) could also work nicely. How about getting in on any offers on Dan Uggla, to give the club a Double-U infield? Or settling for Feliz for less, although that's just not so much fun to talk about. We'll see, but in the meantime, this was an entirely sensible decision to discard what was on hand to afford some quality bush-beating. The Phillies may not land a bird of paradise to perch at third, but why not see what they can net when what they had was relatively unsexy fowl on hand?
Outrighted RHP Logan Kensing and INF-R Pete Orr to Syracuse (Triple-A). [11/6]
Declined their club option on OF-R Austin Kearns, making him a free agent. [11/7]
Activated C-R Jesus Flores, OF-L Roger Bernadina, RHP Jordan Zimmermann, and LHP Scott Olsen from the 60-day DL. [11/8]
There's a lesson to be taken from the Kearns/F-Lop trade, since it may well deserve to be remembered as one of those rare lose-lose trades where the deal, however much initial enthusiasm generated, proved nobody a genius, whether the GMs making it, the analysts assessing it, or the fans interested in it. Consider the outcome. The ill will created by the subsequent revelation that Gary Majewski was damaged goods reflected well on nobody. F-Lop was effectively that as a National, only to resume his utility as a Cardinal, Snake, and Brewer since. Whatever notional benefit for the Reds there was as far as employing him, Royce Clayton's lost to history already. Whatever benefit the Reds are supposed to get from Bill Bray or Daryl Thompson remains in doubt with the former recovering from elbow surgery and the latter's shoulder woes continuing to derail his career; the Nats getting Ryan Wagner didn't help the former top Bowden pick get his once-promising career back on track. Like F-Lop, Brendan Harris proved somewhat valuable-but also like F-Lop, for everyone but the team that got him in this trade, as the Reds discarded Harris to get some of what was left of Jeff Conine's career.
And of course Kearns became one of the most readily identified roster zombies in the major leagues; I may have missed the memo from the Commisioner's office requiring at least one of the undead on a team's payroll. To add indignity, Bowden's acquisition prefigured having to give Kearns $17.5 million to buy out his arbitration eligibility before the 2007 season. Jim Bowden was prone to a certain repetition in his career-too much love for some of his system's products, whether Kearns or Adam Dunn or F-Lop, was understandable, but the endless fascination in overpaying fourth starters and the need to run down and get Jose Guillen as an automatic order of business, a whole lot less so. In the end, this was the deal that may end up being the signature move of Jim Bowden's career, the literal tale-given my boosterism of it at the time-told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (I figure sorting out what accessories go with a dunce cap should make for a nice weekend errand.) In the meantime, Nats fans can breathe freely, as this particular shade from Ol' Leatherpants' era of misrule gets exorcised.