August 1, 2010
Deadline Day Outcomes in the AL
CK: This was actually a fairly nifty exchange. Ohman was a non-roster invite who delivered, and converting four months of nice rental veteran work for a fully enserfed potential back-end rotation piece is worthwhile work, even in a system as overstocked with young pitching as the Orioles. VandenHurk's currently on one of the upswings of his up-and-down career, having just spun a complete-game win over Memphis (9 7 1 1 1 1 8). That capped a great July for the Dutchman: four wins in five starts, 29 Ks and nine walks in 33 IP, and just seven runs allowed—on five homers. He's still struggling with finding a consistent off-speed pitch that works against lefties, but with the Orioles' long list of better rotation options, he may find a home in the bullpen.
Traded RHP Ramon Ramirez to the Giants for RHP Dan Turpen; traded 1B-L Christopher McGuiness and RHP Roman Mendez to the Rangers for C-S Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and optioned Saltalamacchia to Pawtucket (Triple-A); designated OF-L Jeremy Hermida for assignment; purchased the contract of OF-L Ryan Kalish from Pawtucket; recalled Dustin Richardson from Pawtucket. [7/31]
CK: There's a lot to like here, because while the Red Sox didn't make the monster move, they did find ways to tweak and improve. With the efficiency you come to expect with them when it comes to pruning non-contributors or disappointing players in-season, they punted Ramirez and Hermida to clear space for better alternatives. That isn't to say that Ramirez and Hermida weren't good ideas coming into the season, but four months in, results matter. Ramirez and Hermida were also both already arbitration-eligible, so keeping them beyond this season had the potential to get expensive on the payroll as well as in the standings.
Swapping Ramirez out for a second lefty in the pen made sense, especially with Ramirez struggling to contribute almost as badly as the pen's primary southpaw, Hideki Okajima. But it was also a decision made easier by the organization's relative depth in right-handed relief—at some point, Michael Bowden is going to deserve an invitation back, putting Manny Delcarmen and Scott Atchison and Tim Wakefield in tough spots to produce or else. Richardson combines a deceptive delivery with heat he can dial up into the low 90s, but he has not yet overcome the wildness that has been cause for concern in the past, walking 28 in 36
That same gauntlet has obviously been thrown down for the outfield, because Kalish's promotion isn't just some passing fancy, it's a matter of auditioning the organization's fourth-best prospect. Snuffing Hermida's time on the roster isn't the only potential casualty of promoting—this could just as much become a threat to Jacoby Ellsbury's future as a Red Sock, because with Mike Cameron signed through 2011, it's still effectively left field or bust for Ellsbury, and standards for good hitting there are necessarily higher. Add in that Kalish is four years younger than Ellsbury. And he hits for power. And he draws walks at a better clip. And he runs well, having stolen 25 bases in 28 attempts. At this rate, I may as well say that Kalish could be a trained sommalier, a renowned painter, a world explorer, and have whiter teeth than Ellsbury, but you get the point.
Even so, Kalish did just get here, while Ellsbury's rehab campaign just hit its latest whistle stop in Pawtucket—where he played center last night. So, unless Kalish really lights up the scoreboard in short order, this may just be an audition that also pointedly puts the slow-healing Ellsbury on notice. In the big picture, Kalish has already leapfrogged Josh Reddick despite losing time this year to a hip injury. His combined tally for slash stats between Double- and Triple-A comes in at .294/.382/.502, with his playing time almost evenly split between center, right, and left. At the plate, he's been heavily bass-ackward, hammering the same-handed to silence concerns that he might be a platoon hitter, but an unintentional walk rate pushing 12 percent shows up much more against right-handers. (For more on Kalish, check out David Laurila's interview with him from last November.)
Finally, in keeping with this relentless quest for self-improvement, Theo Epstein finally landed a player who'd become something of a white whale, the catcher he's been chasing for years: Salty. It's rumored that he's over his Mackey Sasser-like yips getting the ball back to the pitcher, which is good news. Less happy is the fact that the former blue-chip receiver's hitting just .244/.326/.445 at Triple-A, although with repeated interruptions, although he's had a nice couple of weeks since the All-Star break. He's struggled throwing to the bases as well as the mound, nabbing just 15 percent of stolen-base attempts, and not because he's deterring the running game to the point the opponents are only taking high-percentage opportunities. For all that, and for all of the disappointment associated with his name from the last three years, it's important to note that he is just 25 years old. The up side is obviously that Boston may have finally found its long-term answer for who's going to move Victor Martinez out from behind the plate to stay. The down side is that they get to be Salty's latest frustrated employer.
Traded OF-R Austin Kearns to the Yankees for a PTBNL; activated RHP Kerry Wood from the 15-day DL, and traded him to the Yankees for a PTBNL; traded RHP Jake Westbrook and cash to the Cardinals in a three-way deal, receiving RHP Corey Kluber from the Padres; recalled 1B-L Jordan Brown from Columbus (Triple-A). [7/31]
CK: The Indians are long since done with 2010, so anything they recoup by way of real prospects is a good turn of events for them. Kearns was just a scrapheap rental, so depositing him on the Yankees probably won't lead to a noteworthy bit of candy. At least Kluber's interesting.
KG: A fourth-round pick in 2007 out of Stetson, Kluber has had his best year at a pro in 2010, putting up a 3.45 ERA in Double-A with an impressive 136-to-40 strikeout-to-walk rate in 122
CK: Of course, the other thing is what this leaves the Indians with. Jordan Brown may get to be in the rotation with now that Westbrook is gone and both Mitch Talbot and Aaron Laffey are on the DL. Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, and Josh Tomlin are all still here, and journeyman Justin Germano has been added to the roster after gearing up for rotation work with three turns in the Clippers' rotation—relying on him wouldn't be cause for much more than placeholding excitement. As a result, you can probably expect Carlos Carrasco and David Huff to be brought up at some point in the near future, with Jeanmar Gomez also in the picture. You could always hope for an Alex White call-up, since the 2009 first-rounder is pitching well in Double-A...
CK: ... leaving the Indians with really just those three options or Germano from their 40-man, without much else in the way of upper level talent they could really turn to. In the outfield, Shelley Duncan got the start in left, but Brown's worth keeping in the picture after he hit .309/.344/.474 for the Clippers.
As for dealing Kerry Wood to the Yankees, I wouldn't hold out much hope that it'll add much more than the cash that's been saved, at least $1.5 million right now, apparently with another 500,000 clams to be named later if Wood stays healthy for them down the stretch. They were already better served using the present to evaluate whether or not Chris Perez is the club's closer, not just of the immediate present, but the immediate future. I can't say that I'm optimistic about who the PTBNL winds up being, although with the Yankees' backlog of second basemen, you can always hope that someone like David Adams or Corban Joseph somehow magically showed up in the Tribe's system.
Traded OF-R Wilkin Ramirez to the Braves for future considerations. [7/31]
CK: As a matter of recycling, I suppose you can sort of derive some enthusiasm for what happened here on the major-league level. Blanco might represent a Podzillesque speed guy if you squint really hard and prefer a smattering of walks to a spattering of singles, but he's filler. He's already 26, and his ability to play center on a regular basis is basically as dubious as Podsednik's, or David DeJesus, or Rick Ankiel. In short, he's not the guy who flat-out takes a job away from Mitch Maier.
Chavez is little better. He has gone from being a hard-throwing bit of bad news with the Pirates to an unmitigated disaster with the Braves, as his FRA has gone from 4.98 in '09 to 5.89 this year. However hard he throws, he's been useless in a low-leverage role, and he's coming up on his 27th birthday without demonstrating the capacity to improve or do anything with some nice speed-gun readings. You might try to compare Chavez to Kyle Farnsworth as an exchange of an old, expensive, inconsistent right-hander for a cheap, inexpensive, inconsistent right-hander, but if Chavez winds up being more than filler, we'll credit Royals scouting for doing something two other teams could not.
In the meantime, it's a matter of adding four-plus years of service time from a pair of warm bodies. Where the real value for handing their step-brother system a pair of stretch-drive mercs comes is in the third name in the deal.
KG: With Collins, we were just here, since he moved from the Jays to the Braves in the Gonzalez deal, but here's what I said about the little lefty then:
While he's not the best prospect in the minors, little lefty Tim Collins is certainly many scouts' favorite. Undrafted out of high school, former GM J.P. Ricciardi signed Collins out of a tryout camp (they're from the same hometown), and three-and-a-half seasons later he's in Double-A as a 20-year-old (he turns 21 in August) with 294 career strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings. It's obvious why he wasn't drafted, as even his listed height of 5-foot-7 is kind, but he has not only gotten it done at every level, he's downright dominated, with career rates of 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings against just 5.9 hits allowed. With arm action that is reminiscent of Tim Lincecum (how else could a kid this small throw this hard?), he sits at 90-92 mph and can touch 94, while his over-the-top delivery gives him deception, as well as a true 12-to-6 curveball that's a plus pitch, plus a solid-average changeup that provides a weapon against righties.
The only thing to add to that is that in his couple weeks as a Double-A Braves farmhand, he struck out 14 of 29 batters faced, so he's still every bit as interesting and worth having now as he was then.
CK: Since Ankiel and Farnsworth were both playing out seasons after which it seems unlikely the Royals were going to pick up their options for 2011, and just buying those two deals out was going to run them another $1 million in expenses, you could see how they decided to just re-stock and play out the string with a pair of placeholders while adding one of the more interesting prospects around. The money was already gone, and the markets for Farnsworth or Ankiel weren't exactly a-swarm with bidders. I'd credit Dayton Moore with helping himself by sinking his sunk costs and adding one—just one—prospect, as well as a pair of guys known for doing things that involve feats of strength or speed, but not performance.
Acquired 1B-S Lance Berkman from the Astros for RHP Mark Melancon and INF-S Jimmy Paredes; acquired OF-R Austin Kearns from the Indians for a PTBNL; acquired RHP Kerry Wood and cash for a PTBNL; designated RHP Chan Ho Park for assignment; optioned 1B-L Juan Miranda and OF-L Colin Curtis to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); transferred RHP Alfredo Aceves from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/31]
CK: It would be easy to credit Brian Cashman with pulling off a series of embarrassingly good deals, not because of money, but because he used the system to his advantage. Because of Berkman's no-trade clause, the player had considerable power—but so too does the attraction of playing on a seemingly guaranteed playoff team. The fact that Berkman could be added for a laughably puny package was just as much about Cashman exploiting the fact that the Yankees are the Yankees as it has anything to do with payroll inequities.
Certainly, nobody in New York had to flex much financial muscle to make these deals work for them. Counting the contributions from their former employers, Wood is initially only costing them $1.5 million (which might become $2 million if Wood stays healthy), while Berkman's pinstriped price tag for the balance of this season is just $3 million, with the 2011 club option being dispensed with outright as part of getting Berkman to agree to the exchange. Wood's 2011 option won't vest because of the injuries that kept him from attaining 55 games finished in 2009 or 2010, making it a club option for $11 million the Yankees will probably elect to spend some other way, kicking the former Cubs phenom to the curb after they're done with him.
However, the real question is whether or not the Yankees really fixed the problems in the lineup and the bullpen that they understandably decided to address. Bold moves involving bold-print names aren't automatically solutions.
Two months of Lance Berkman should seem like an uncomplicated good thing, but it's important to remember that this isn't the Puma in full-clawed glory who's now being featured in this much more tame Bronx Zoo. Instead, it's more like they're getting a new incarnation of Jason Giambi, just with some other pelt. Berkman is having another one of his breakdown seasons as far as batting right-handed, but his line against right-handers (.261/.395/.479) looks great as an alternative to Juan Miranda or Francisco Cervelli. A willingness to fix the problem, however, does not mean they've fixed it.
Among a legion of problems with seeing Berkman as a big-time addition and not just this ex-famous person is the fact that his numbers have all been coming in Houston's Fruit Beverage Ballpark. He's at .194/.357/.343 overall on the road, and against right-handers on the road he's hitting an enfeebled .224/.402/.398, or an awful lot like a poor man's Nick Johnson. Not that the Yankees wouldn't take it, but it's not what Berkman is being billed as.
Second, if it wasn't for the Pittsburgh Pirates, against whom Berkman has hit five homers in 33 PAs against just eight in the 324 plate appearances against everybody else, we might be asking whether or not Berkman is done, and not just done as an Astro. Which brings us to the whole quality-of-competition question, since he's coming over to the tougher league to play in the toughest division. Per Baseball-Reference, against teams above .500—you know, generally the teams with good pitching—he's hitting just .199/.332/.364.
Now, think on how that's going to go for him now, facing the AL East, home to some of the best pitching on the planet. He's striking out more often, popping up more often... in short, he's just not the same guy, and it deserves to be asked whether or not he'll be that much of an improvement on Miranda. If the Yankees were looking for a major improvement, instead they may only have added a bold-print suspect to hang the problem on, to rank behind Nick Johnson's easily-broken moving parts.
As for the bullpen solution, does Wood give them an instant solution to the burgeoning quandary of who pitches the eighth inning? Probably, but that's assuming he stays healthy, which is always a risk with Wood. But beyond fulfilling the role himself, you can also hope that he provides the other men in the pen an example of somebody who has dealt with crushing expectations and setbacks, and succeeded in the face of both. He's never really pitched in a set-up role before—his stint in non-closing relief work for the Cubs in 2007 was a matter of getting his Dusty-derailed career back on track—but having gone through the challenge of converting from top starting pitcher prospect to quality fireman ought to give him plenty of things to talk about if anybody wants to sit Joba Chamberlain right down next to him.
Kearns is just the latest instance of a classic Cashman act, the addition of a key component to his stretch bench after essentially ignoring any need on this score until the end of July. It's invariably a matter of seeing who's dead and doesn't want some short-time veteran clogging their roster in the season's final third. Kearns was a BABIP-fluke hero in the early going, which combined with a few injuries garnered him enough playing time to kill off the fluke. Along with Marcus Thames, he gives the Yankees some true right-handed options as an alternative to the starters in the outfield and DH, who are all lefties or switch-hitters.
CK: How bad has Qualls' campaign in 2010 gone so far? Per ARP, he's running neck-in-neck with George Sherrill to notch a worse season than Brad Lidge had last year. Switch over to WXRL, and he'd have had a clear shot at unseating Lidge from his perch as all-time worst reliever with two more months of sporadic closing opportunities in Arizona.
Now, such negative possibilities are lost to the realm of what might have been, and Qualls can try and get back to being a quality reliever for a contender. The odds of his doing so aren't as bad as you might think for a guy with an 8.29 ERA. A three-to-one strikeout to walk ratio and twice as many ground-ball outs as caught flies suggest he's still a guy who can beat people with a good defense behind him, and that the Rays have, ranking first in Defensive Efficiency and third in PADE. His overall strikeout percentage has dropped to his lowest mark since 2006, but pitching in front of a bad defense in a hitter's park doesn't do any pitcher any favors, and facing more batters in part because of that defense is going to hit a guy in his overall rates.
As a result, it's easy to see why SIERA suggests he'll do better, with a 3.79 mark that, if he can deliver on it, would certainly make Qualls an excellent stretch-run addition to the bullpen. Beyond the obvious factor of his being injury insurance, if it comes down to picking between Andrew Sonnanstine, Lance Cormier, or Qualls as this pen's fifth or sixth reliever, I like Qualls' chances of delivering on the ~$1.4 million bet the Rays made on his delivering
Optioned RHP Doug Mathis to Oklahoma City (Triple-A); activated RHP Rich Harden from the 15-day DL; placed 2B-R Joaquin Arias on the 15-day DL (strained back); activated 1B/3B-R Jorge Cantu; traded C-S Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Red Sox for RHP Roman Mendez and 1B-L Christopher McGuiness. [7/31]
CK: Color me slightly amused that the choice between Salty and Taylor Teagarden wound up being one of those great showdowns that never was, like Ewoks versus Munchkins, but with more body armor. Now that they have Harden back to round out the rotation (bumping Scott Feldman to the pen), they boast an impressive quintet of starting pitchers, good enough to make the proposition of who to drop from the post-season rotation difficult, and something the next two months can help determine. The Mitch Moreland/Cantu job-sharing arrangement at first base looks like a step in the right direction as far as punting any pretty parsing over defensive value and just running with the best bats they have available. Credit Arias for taking one for the team, presumably without anyone having to do what it took to get Sylvester Stallone to be the Allies' keeper in Victory.
KG: The Rangers do it again by acquiring a high-ceiling talent for a catcher that had a limited future in their system. A long, loose Dominican who just turned 20 a week ago, Mendez is all about projection, as his fastball consistently gets into the mid-90s with a lightning-fast, whippy arm action. The projection and the velocity are Mendez's greatest strengths, as he's still working on finding more consistency with his slider, and he has trouble throwing strikes. Huge ceiling, huge risk, but a great pickup in a trade like this.
As for McGuiness, he was a 13th-round selection last year. He's one of those numbers-heavy guys that the Red Sox like to select with later picks. He filled up the stat sheet at The Citadel, and has had an excellent full-season debut, batting .298/.416/.504 in 78 games for Low-A Greenville. He's a bulky athlete and thus limited to first base, but his approach is big-league quality, as evidenced by 53 walks against just 282 at-bats. He projects for average power down the road, but at 22 and unproven, he has a long way to go before being seen as a top prospect.
Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.