April 16, 2009
NL Roster Roundup
Placed SS-S Jed Lowrie on the 15-day DL (sprained wrist), retroactive to 4/12; recalled INF-R Gil Velazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket (Triple-A). [4/13]
Here I was thinking that it would be the Yankees' problems with injuries that would be their great handicap this season, and the Red Sox are already down a top starter and both shortstops. Perhaps paradoxically, they can replace Dice-K readily enough in the immediate future; whether they run with Justin Masterson for a turn or two, or haul back Clay Buchholz, they've got people worth plugging in, and until we learn more about how long Matsuzaka's going to be missing, we can't know the full impact. In contrast, with Lowrie out at least a month, the danger at short is bad-Velazquez can't hit, and Nick Green is stretched at short, assuming he can hit well enough to replace one-but it also isn't that bad, since Julio Lugo's rehab should involve his being back in Boston before the end of the month. Given that Green and Velazquez aren't good enough to warrant keeping over something interesting that crosses the wire, I wouldn't be surprised if the Sox started nosing around to see if there's someone worth claiming.
It's easy to get hysterical, because a Podzilla comeback might be seen as some great disaster, but Wise was a perfectly solid representation of the kind of talent you can scare up from the free-talent pool, and as long as you're willing to fish your starting center fielder out of central casting, it doesn't make that much sense to get upset over whether you got a bluegill, a catfish, or a crappie, it's catch of the day until you land something worth bragging about. Wise had the virtue of more pop than Owens or Podsednik, but not so much that this strikes some sort of mortal blow to Soxdom on the South Side. Instead, it's just another bad break for a journeyman who's had his share, and while this represents a golden opportunity for Brian Anderson to redeem himself or for Owens to get back in favor, you can effectively count on the Sox being willing to keep an eye peeled on whatever else might come free in the days and weeks to come.
Placed LHP Scott Lewis on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Vinnie Chulk from Columbus (Triple-A). [4/11]
With Lewis out of action, the Tribe gets to review the options in the rotation that they've already spent all spring sorting out. To some extent, I don't see this as Laffey vs. Lewis vs. Zach Jackson; it's still fundamentally an audition for who gets to replace Carl Pavano once Jake Westbrook's ready to get back in action later this season. Perhaps the greater source of horror is that, in their desperation for pitching help that pitches well, they've lurched over to 13 pitchers, meaning that the bench is down to Kelly Shoppach behind the plate, Tony Graffanino for the infield, and Trevor Crowe in the outfield, and while that's not the end of the world, I guess the more basic problem is whether or not they can spread the innings around enough to keep eight relievers sharp. Of course, if all of their starters keep struggling to get through five frames, that might not be their worst problem.
Catching last Friday night's Sox game, I got to see Duensing's big-league debut. It wasn't especially remarkable, except in the usage-he got to toss three full innings, entering an initially tight game in a tandem-type assignment with R.A. Dickey, but then getting a true middle relief performance after the Twins exploded for seven runs off of Chicago's pen in the top of the seventh. He did pretty much what you expect a Twins pitcher to do, throwing strikes and working relatively quickly, with a Carlos Quentin jack to live down, but all in all, a nice way to be brought into a ballgame that wasn't just a mop-up situation, however much it ended up one. With Baker back in action, Dickey's bumped back to long relief, where he'll ideally do little harm, but with the lineup predictably struggling to plate anybody, technically speaking almost every pitcher's on the hook.
Optioned OF-L Matt Joyce to Durham (Triple-A). [4/12]
Acquired the rights to Rule 5 pick C-L James Skelton from the Tigers for RHP Brooks Brown; outrighted Skelton to Mobile (Double-A). [4/2]
Initial Roster Shape: 13 hitters, 12 pitchers
Unhappy Roster Situation: Well, losing Webb isn't good news, of course, but it also isn't a disaster. They're being reasonably cautious with their ace, and with Scherzer coming off of the DL, this gets designated fill-in starter Yusmeiro Petit a pair of starts (one already made, last weekend) during that portion of the schedule when there are some convenient additional off days. Add in the virtue of the back-dating, and Webb could either take the mound on the 22nd against the Rockies, or get another two days off and face the Giants on Friday night on the 24th during their next homestand. Over the full-season marathon, sensible adaptations to a player's unique in-season needs make plenty of sense, and it's good to keep Petit sharp in case somebody suffers something worse than Webb's wing has. If there's anything to keep an eye on, it's whether the Snakes decide to play matchup games with Petit and use him on-turn against the Giants next weekend, or if they instead elect to take advantage of the off days and kick him to long relief in that series and then start him against the Rockies.
Beyond that, it's still a pen stocked with men waiting around to see who loses his job to Tom Gordon once the veteran's ready to come back at the end of the month. Korecky lasted more than 24 hours courtesy of his relative absence of failure by virtue of just getting here; his two chief rivals for a roster spot in camp, Juan Gutierrez and Billy Buckner, both weren't earning their keep, but Gutierrez is out of options where Buckner is not. Regardless, with Flash and Webb both on the way back, two more somebodies will end up going back to Reno at some point in May, pending the next injury, of course.
The fun thing to follow concerning the Snakes' roster is how they're distributing playing time in the corners. They're going to be very stable in terms of starts and starters up the middle-at least until or unless direct experience with Felipe Lopez wears out his charms as a second baseman-but in the four corners they've been alternating without strictly platooning. Consider the spread: Conor Jackson, six starts in left, one at first; Mark Reynolds, six starts, all at third; Chad Tracy, four starts at first, one at third; Justin Upton, four starts in right; Eric Byrnes, three starts in right and one in left; and Tony Clark's two starts at first. As much as one start against one left-hander tells you anything, they aren't initially strictly platooning Tracy (or Clark), but that's probably the near-natural outcome, as well as spotting Tracy at third for Reynolds against really tough right-handers to get the switch-hitting Clark in the lineup. While it's a reflection of the fact that the team lacks a superstar slugger at any of the four positions-and no, not Jackson or Upton, since the one has to deliver a repeat and the other has yet to develop-it's a series of overlaps and adaptations that might compensate well enough, even without getting into fanciful notions of moving Reynolds back to second. The real question is whether they'll end up shortening it up some to let Upton flower and reduce Byrnes to more of a platoon role and perhaps Clark to more of a spot-starting and pinch-hitting kind of gig. That would be the easy bit of reductionism, of course, but the additionally interesting element in play is the collection of parks the Snakes get to play in within their division, with their home mallpark and Planet Coors both representing great places to favor power strokes, where San Diego or San Francisco may be better places to play Byrnes.
It makes for a number of roles in which people will stay sharp with plenty of playing time, especially when backup backstop Miguel Montero's good enough to rotate in relatively regularly as well. The guys who might receive the least work are utility infielder Augie Ojeda and Ryan Roberts, an unexpected camp star (well, sort of, it was the Cactus League). As something of a defensively challenged second baseman, Roberts could have a difficult time sticking as somebody's utilityman, but he has experience with playing third (if not well), and limited exposure to short, first, and the outfield, and he covers the strike zone adequately with modest sock. Maybe something happens that helps him become an Augie-style fan fave; maybe the hitter-friendly park helps him stick as the early-game pinch-hitter and garbage-time guy. In the meantime, the more likely outcome is that he gets bumped as soon as something or somebody else captures the Snakes' fancy.
Optioned RHP Manny Acosta, LHP Boone Logan, OF-S Gregor Blanco, and OF-L Brandon Jones to Gwinnett (Triple-A); placed LHP Tom Glavine and C-R David Ross on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/2 and 4/1 respectively; purchased the contract of CF-L Jordan Schafer from Gwinnett; recalled C-R Clint Sammons from Gwinnett. [4/3]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Roster Situation Snapshot: One of the lovely things about the Braves is that when they commit, it's not just a fling; they virtually swear blood oaths on the bodies of their prospects. Schafer's talent was, of course, obvious; the drama of his Opening Day homer, a nice touch. By sending down Blanco, they've worked their way down to a bench featuring Matt Diaz (as Garret Anderson's platoon partner), the hope that Martin Prado's singlerifficness has some staying power, Greg Norton's standard offer to stand in any corner and deliver modest amounts of sock from either side of the plate, and Omar Infante's equal willingness to play second, short, or center in a pinch among the up-the-middle positions (and probably third, under orders). It's not a bad set-up, though there was the horror of a Prado start at first base to engender concern that somebody is mistaking him for the second coming of Pat Tabler or something.
On the pitching side of the slate, the news that Tom Glavine is probably done appears to put Jo-Jo Reyes on the spot as the team's new fifth starter. That might seem a bit odd, given that they have Jorge Campillo and Buddy Carlyle knocking around in the pen, and both would probably be fine stepping into the rotation, but since this isn't just a matter of awaiting Glavine's return, but of replacing him entirely, giving the job to Reyes makes sense as a matter of upside, and that's without getting into his also replacing Glavine as the one lefty in the starting five.
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Odd Roster Situation: I've banged on anybody relying too much on Aaron Miles for anything often enough, so let's set that aside for now; they did keep Micah Hoffpauir, after all, and while he'll be hard-pressed to get at-bats when they've also kept Joey Gathright, that's an excellent power source to have lying around on your bench. No, the fun stuff involves the pitching. I'm more than a little surprised that they just flat-out ditched Gaudin; keeping a journeyman reliever like Luis Vizcaino, plus the injury-plagued Angel Guzman (who was out of options), and Rule 5 pick David Patton might seem more than a little risky. Add in that they're counting on Neal Cotts as the pen's token lefty, and that really begins to sound like a scary unit, and that's without getting into the drama over who gets saves this particular week. Not everything involved is mere wishcasting, of course; Sean Marshall should be a good big-league starter, after all, so committing to him makes sense. Aaron Heilman's capable of much more than he'd given the Mets recently. Guzman might finally enjoy some success and stay healthy left in a relief role, and Vizcaino could be a completely adequate filler reliever. It'll be fun to see if a division favorite can carry a Rule 5 pick on the active roster for most or all of the season; off the top of my head, I remember the A's doing so with Doug Jennings, and the Blue Jays did it with William Canate, and the Reds' selection of Tim Layana in December of '89 got him a World Series ring, so it isn't inconceivable.
Outrighted OF-R Norris Hopper to Louisville (Triple-A). [4/2]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Unhappy Roster Situation: It's not necessarily unhappy, just a little weird to see a team with Jerry Hairson Jr. and McDonald and Nix, look at your scorecard, look around again, and remind yourself that you're not in Oklahoma City or something. This makes for a virtual college of outfielders, where only Jay Bruce should get everyday play, and where it will be fun to see if Dusty Baker can spread enough playing time around to Hairston, McDonald, Nix, Chris Dickerson, and even Willy Taveras to take advantage of the virtues of each. Yes, I know, I'd rather have a Dickerson/McDonald or even Dickerson/Taveras platoon in center, and a left fielder with some sock, but we'll see what Walt Jocketty does in-season if there's enough offense in this outfit to support a pretty good rotation. They're trusting in Alex Gonzalez's relative readiness to play at short, but this may well turn into a situation where Hairston and Paul Janish end up getting chunks of playing time at his expense.
Nothing we didn't already know was coming, of course, and Morillo's career-long problem with finding home plate might be enough to deter almost any team. Still, in light of his occasional flirtation with triple digits on speed guns, it's worth remembering that this was how Bobby Jenks was sprung from the Angels; it will be interesting to see if Morillo winds up in Colorado Springs.
Optioned RHP Carlos Martinez to New Orleans (Triple-A); placed UT-S Alfredo Amezaga and RHP Scott Proctor on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/27; placed RHP Rick VandenHurk on 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/29. [4/3]
Roster Shape: 13-12
Weird Roster Situation: It's almost like a Honus Wagner team or something, where the best player in the game's at short, and then everything else isn't quite the way you expect them to be on a modern ballclub. A speed-and-defense guy at third in Emilio Bonifacio? A slugger at second? A first baseman who isn't close to being one of the team's best hitters? The decision to flip their starting outfielders in the corners, with Jeremy Hermida going to left and Cody Ross to right for random grits and shiggles? A solid, honest-to-goodness catching platoon? Maybe it's just me, but those are all things you would expect from the game before World War II, not after. Add in hanging-around veterans like Ross Gload, Wes Helms, and Calero littering the back end of the roster, and it's just a strange, interesting collection of talent beyond the big-name ballplayers.
Purchased the contracts of RHP Russ Ortiz and INF-L Jason Smith from Round Rock (Triple-A). [4/4]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Unhappy Roster Situation: Let's face it, any team that's going to make space for Russ Ortiz, start Geoff Blum, or trade for Jeff Keppinger is probably also exactly the kind of team that ought to fish minor league veteran Jason Smith out of the minors.
Optioned LHP Eric Stults, C-R A.J. Ellis, SS-R Chin-lung Hu, OF-L Xavier Paul, and OF-R Jason Repko to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [4/4]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Unhappy Roster Situation: Joe Torre's something of a set lineup guy who likes his scrubs extra-scrubby, so discarding DeWitt in the name of "more playing time" so that this team might boast Juan Pierre, Brad Ausmus, Minky, and Castro, among the worst-hitting players of the last decade in the outfield, behind the plate, at first base, and at shortstop makes for something special. More fundamentally, this was the logical outcome of the commitments to Orlando Hudson and Casey Blake, neither of which I'd consider all that regrettable, so putting DeWitt somewhere he might actually not waste away-again, given Torre's preferences-makes some sense. Swapping in Stults for Kuroda is a reflection of the reality that depth in the rotation only goes so far, but Stults is a solid sixth starter who affords the team the opportunity to be conservative with Kuroda.
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Unhappy Roster Situation: I wouldn't begrudge them their choosing Duffy over Kid Gwynn. If anything, I'm surprised the Pads didn't claim Tony Sr.'s son, but another outfielder was probably the one thing San Diego didn't need. At any rate, if Duffy's healthy, he can provide a better OBP, run well, and chip in with early-inning pinch-hitting effectively enough to be a fine reserve. As much as the Brewers' lineup leans right, adding Duffy to Craig Counsell and Brad Nelson gives the bench a nice leftwards counterlean. I was glad to see Casey McGehee stick, because while he's not a great prospect or anything, he can seriously pick it over at third, to the point that he's genuinely fun to watch.
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Amazin' Roster Situation: It's fun to think they've got 13 position players when one of them is a DH, and we're talking what's left of Sheff, not Rusty Staub. However, with Fernando Tatis able to play all four corners and hit well enough to merit the work, Alex Cora representing a decent backup in the middle infield, and Daniel Murphy a former infielder for emergencies, they didn't really need another infielder. Considering that between Murphy and Ryan Church their starters in the outfield corners both bat lefty, taking a spin with the former Yankee isn't the worst idea in the world. If you want to be extra-generous, you might even liken it to those late-career spins that Rickey Henderson or Bobby Bonilla made with the Mets in '99. Sadly, Sheff's in danger of being more Bonilla than Rickey in terms of playability; beyond his past rejection of first base and his near immobility in the outfield, you've got a slower bat to work with as well. Like Henderson, though, I can believe that Sheffield's going to be a good guy to have around on the team, and if he chips in with spot starts in either outfield corner, usually against lefties, and since the Tigers are footing the bill beyond the minimum, it's not the worst pickup to make, as long as little more than that is expected.
Placed LHP J.C. Romero on the Restricted List; placed LHP Michael Zagurski on the 15-day DL (TJ surgery recovery), retroactive to 3/27; purchased the contract of INF-S Miguel Cairo from Lehigh Valley (Triple-A. [4/4]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Unhappy Roster Situation: No point in huffing and puffing, we knew Cairo was going to stick for weeks, so now that he's here, as long as he collects dust or handles garbage time or low-leverage situation pinch-hitting chores, there's little harm done.
Purchased the contract of OF-R Craig Monroe from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [4/2]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12
Odd Roster Situation: I suppose the dispatch of Meek to the minors leaves the question as to when inheriting the Earth becomes part of the program; after so much hype over his opportunity this winter-and how many Pirates get hyped, ever, at all, for anything?-I'm sure there are a few people feeling moderately silly right around now. As much as I was prepared to like this bench because it started out with Eric Hinske and Ramon Vazquez, and involves a developmental role for Jason Jaramillo as Ryan Doumit's understudy behind the plate, there's something about a team carrying both Monroe and Luis Cruz that sort of sticks in the craw. I'm glad to see that they made a point of keeping Donnie Veal after picking him in last December's Rule 5 draft; the mystery is what sort of role will be fashioned for him, because he's the third lefty in a seven-man pen, behind veterans John Grabow and Sean Burnett. Suffice to say that those rumors about Grabow's availability can't be overstated, not so much for what it says for Veal's future, but because it's just as well that, by August, the Pirates are at least taking an extended look at what they've got and what they might be able to expect.
Claimed RHP Luis Perdomo off of waivers from the Giants; optioned OF-R Drew Macias to Portland (Triple-A); designated 2B-R Travis Denker for assignment (and lost him on a waiver claim by the Red Sox). [4/10]
Initial Roster Shape: It was 13-12, but now with Perdomo picked up, they're at 12-13, because some like to be special in that extra-special way, and because some people like pitching the way Mikey likes cereal-available, cheap, and easy to pour. So much for exploiting the home-field advantage; in Petco, every pitcher can look a little better, but when you're scraping up Perdomo, Duaner Sanchez, Edward Mujica, Kevin Correia, and Eulogio De La Cruz, it's clear that you're an organization that took the Cha Seung Baek experience to heart-replacement-level pitching is more easily found than necessarily paid top dollar for. I'm not put out by the grabbery as much as the nondiscriminating palate. Adding Mexican Leaguers like Walter Silva and Edwin Moreno can be considered a nice example of aggressive scouting, as can taking a chance on the ever-injured Shawn Hill, a valid risk for a team whose home park can forgive mistakes, shorten innings, and lower workloads. However, turning to Dessens or Correia is a symptom of an organization whose player-development problems cross over from problematic to downright illin'. Good thing they were talking up Wade LeBlanc just a few short weeks ago, I suppose, but what else are they supposed to do?
Unhappy Roster Situation: Wait, I just ranted on that, I guess. Hrm... well, to be fair, the Pads are compensating for Nick Hundley's inexperience by using Henry Blanco plenty-interestingly enough, not in either start by the perpetually baserunner-indifferent Chris Young-while they've also elected to keep Rule 5 pick Everth Cabrera as Luis Rodriguez's backup at short, rather than return him to the Rockies. Here again, that's the sort of thing a franchise like the Pads can afford; hot start or no, they won't be winning the NL West. Add in Cabrera's good-glove rep, and it makes that much more sense. It will be interesting to see how long they go with 13 pitchers; are they going to just to be a storehouse for other people's discarded moundsmen, or will they also be willing to nab the odd position player?
Optioned C-R Steve Holm to Fresno (Triple-A); designated RHP Luis Perdomo for assignment; placed LHP Noah Lowry on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); placed RHP Sergio Romo on the 15-day DL (sprained elbow); purchased the contracts of RHP Brandon Medders, 1B/3B-R Rich Aurilia, INF-R Juan Uribe, and OF-S Andres Torres from Fresno. [4/4]
Initial Roster Shape: 13-12, with the decision to forgo carrying an additional catcher beyond starter Bengie Molina and starting third baseman/former catcher Pablo Sandoval; let us all bow down and honor what might be some form of institutional memory for the multipositional virtues of Bob Brenly in the '80s.
Unhappy Roster Situation: Losing Martinez the way they did points to what Will Carroll has identified as an industry-wide problem; replacing him-a homegrown product-with Miller illustrates the pluses and minuses of being an organization without a lot of upper-level talent. On the plus side, you can make space for veteran talent; on the minus, there's the matter of some of the talent made space for. Uribe as a defensive replacement for Sandoval at third, or Renteria at short? OK, sure. Aurilia as Travis Ishikawa's platoon partner at first? Cringe, OK, whatever. Miller and Medders? Well, some relievers go through the wash enough times, and every once in a while you get all the wrinkles out and have something you can work with. It's sort of cool that the well-traveled Torres-a near-miss for my list of Quad-A guys-landed a gig as the fifth outfielder, but if they're not getting at-bats to Nate Shierholtz, I fail to see why they might have enough to give Torres a chance to contribute much. That said, it's an amusing predicament to see the lineup with Aaron Rowand batting seventh more often that not, because it isn't as if the Giants are the '61 Yankees.
Optioned OF-R Joe Mather to Memphis (Triple-A). [4/2]
Roster Shape: 13-12
Resolved Roster Situation: John Perrotto touched on this yesterday, but effectively this adds up to a four-man rotation in the outfield where all four-the highly touted Rasmus and the recuperating Chris Duncan no less than Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel-have been getting serious playing time, while they also run out a platoons of sorts at both second and third bases, where Brian Barden and Joe Thurston get spotted at both positions, Freese plays a goodly amount of third base, and Brendan Ryan filches a few starts at both middle infield positions, mostly second, but some shortstop on Khalil Greene's rare day off. For sheer creativity, it's hard to beat the solution to the twin roster pressures creates by Rasmus' arrival and Troy Glaus's absence. No wonder Mather was crowded out, though with only one righty-swinging outfielder (Ludwick) in the mix, you can understand how he might be back should the Cardinals elect to get less creative and lower the body count in the infield. For better or for worse-and insert a pro forma complaint about the relevance of spring stats here-that's going to have to involve his overcoming a cold camp by slugging some in Memphis.
The contrast with the pitching staff's situation couldn't be much more dramatic. Losing Carpenter is an obvious blow, and if it's mitigated somewhat by a better gaggle of alternatives than they had the last time they could really count on him-what with Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer going from discards to workhorses, courtesy of whatever tricks Dave Duncan dispenses, and Adam Wainwright settling in-there's still a slot that needs filling at some very near point. Turning to Boggs wouldn't be the ideal scenario, but maybe by the time the slot comes around, Thompson will be rested enough from pitching on Tuesday to step back up and into the rotation. Regardless, getting Carpenter back in short order remains a necessity for the Cardinals to keep up with the Cubs for any extended period of time, let alone stay in the mix for the NL Wild Card.
Placed MI-S Anderson Hernandez on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 3/27; placed 1B-S Dmitri Young on the 15-day DL (hip, back), retroactive to 4/1; outrighted LHP Michael O'Connor to Syracuse (Triple-A). [4/2]
Initial Roster Shape: 14-11, bless their hearts, though how much of that is a matter of the mass spillover in the outfield as opposed to any genuine conviction that a half-dozen relievers will do is more simply resolved by the fact that they don't have their fifth starter-almost certainly Jordan Zimmerman-on the roster yet, and soon enough, they will.
Unhappy Roster Situation: The crowd in the outfield is the real issue, with the need to keep Austin Kearns on the field to find a potential buyer making him something of the major leagues' answer to that unwanted condo that'll sit on the market for the next decade or so, waiting for a buyer to be born, suckled, weaned, and handed enough money to embark upon some rash venture more complicated than getting too many gumballs. Milledge is the early loser in that press, but at least they've held onto Nick Johnson and played him, with Adam Dunn starting in the outfield after all. This might be Elijah Dukes' great opportunity, and a lineup with Dukes, Dunn, and Nick the Stick should deliver plenty of walks and power, however many runs employing Kearns might cost them. Carrying three catchers is a bit odd; Wil Nieves is a 31-year-old career backup with little offensive value, and really isn't a necessity when you have Jesus Flores to place your faith in, and Josh Bard to provide a younger, better veteran backup.
Carrying three lefty relievers may seem excessive, but they're three very different kinds of pitchers: Ledezma cooks with gas and can go multiple innings, which matters on a staff shy a few workhorses of any kind of stability; Joe Beimel is a relatively reliable asset late in the game; and there's no time like the present to see if Michael Hinckley's going to recapture a career by at least sticking around as a situational lefty. Add in that Manny Acta's a rather aggressive in-game manager when it comes to trying to milk as much value as he can from replacement-level pitching-nobody else found a way to get so much out of Saul Rivera, after all-and I can see him finding a way to use all of them. It's just that, at season's end, Hinckley could be the guy who's pitched 45 innings in 70 games, Ledezma will have thrown 65 in 50, and Beimel 70 in 65.