|IN THIS ISSUE|
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS||Return to Top|
Talk about refreshing, the Snakes are actually allowing themselves to get caught up in the enthusiasm that young talent can generate. Of course, it helps that the Snakelings are playing well, but when given the opportunity to allow Matt Mantei to make another one of his brief sojourns on the active roster, they didn’t demote one of the kids, they designated the very designate-able Ricky Bottalico instead, which in turn means no banishment to Tucson for erstwhile closer Jose Valverde or even Brady Raggio. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it means Valverde’s out for the time being as the team’s closer, as they make the obligatory surrender of the role to Mantei during this interlude from his career as a professional occupant of the DL. Even that potentially has a silver lining, however, since Mantei’s not exactly reliable enough to be the sort of guy you use for multiple innings or non-save high-leverage situations. He’s more cut out for the aging Eck role, which saves Valverde for the arguably much more important spots that get you to that last frame in the first place.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||Return to Top|
Acquired INF-B Luis Lopez from the Rockies for a PTBNL. [7/1]
The best you can say is that this simplifies the whole dilemma as to what to do with a rotation stocked with one effective starter (the still-standing Sidney Ponson) and one adequate one (Jason Johnson) and four equally galling choices. You can cut Rodrigo Lopez some slack, since he was the rotation’s best thing going last year, and since coming off of the DL, he’s given them three quality starts in his last five. But given an interlocking choice between Rick Helling, Omar Daal, and Pat Hentgen, it’s hard to argue that Daal was the obvious odd man out. Now, Mike Hargrove doesn’t have to choose at all, which means he can comfortably avoid deciding, and leave the Hentgen and Helling to keep fail on the strength of their own merits. Plus, Bauer gets to make frequent mop-up appearances, which should give him some job security once the Orioles come to terms with the scope of their rotation mistakes.
If there’s a reflection on an organization with depth troubles, it’s the need to go out of their way to haul in the likes of Luis Lopez and Ruben Rivera. The Orioles have been fielding the game’s worst farm system for a few years running, and the need to stock the upper levels with this sort of chaff reflects how poorly they’ve done developing even plain old organizational soldiers (or, in the case of a guy like Howie Clark, retaining them). That’s not a criticism of the Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie duocracy, just a comment on how much they have to do in the years to come. That there are some in the organization who seem to think this team is close to contention is a little more troubling. If this organization is still seeing orange elephants, who’s to say life after Syd Thrift is really any better than life with him?
|BOSTON RED SOX||Return to Top|
The combinations keep changing, on the off chance that at some point the Red Sox will actually build a working bullpen. I’ve never been a big Todd Jones fan, since even in his better recent moments, he was essentially a weak variant on a Reardonesque theme. We’ve discussed Mendoza’s limitations and warning signs in the past, so the Red Sox will just have to hope he’s healthy enough to at least contribute more to them than he has to the Yankees in this season. As long as the rotation doesn’t get any better, the Red Sox bullpen will continue to be a problem no matter who’s in it, as they’ll keep getting called on into fluid slugfests with alarming frequency. Sadly, Grady Little’s frustration has to be an additional consideration. Nobody’s being given a chance to settle in, nobody’s settling in, and everyone’s upset. It isn’t a situation conducive for clear-headed decisions and real solutions to problems that go beyond the “failure” of a worthwhile experiment.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||Return to Top|
Acquired 2B-B Roberto Alomar from the Mets for RHP Edwin Almonte, LHP Royce Ring and INF-L Andrew Salvo; acquired OF-B Carl Everett from the Rangers for two minor leaguers and future considerations. [7/1]
Traded Jimenez to the Reds for RHP Scott Dunn. [7/6]
It’s easy to pick on Kenny Williams, because in two years, he’s achieved nothing beyond marking time, overpaying a couple of ill-considered free agents, and contribute to faith and hope throughout the AL Central. But staring at a third season of disappointments, to his credit, he rose to the occasion, fixing two glaringly obvious holes a month before the trade deadline, and doing it without adding all that much salary or giving up that much in the way of prospects. It’s too early to say that the deals will save his job, or that he was worth saving in the first place, but the Sox’s problems in center field and their overall lack of solid bats from the left side of the plate created a pair of needs, and Williams addressed both well.
Roberto Alomar’s defensive issues and recent history aside, he certainly can be an effective on-base threat, particularly from the left side of the plate, and if he has to take a day off or two against lefties, the Sox have Tony Graffanino to spot him for exactly those types of moments. Offensively, Alomar’s value may be less about whether or not his final numbers are really all that much better than D’Angelo Jimenez’s (presuming full-time play for both), but that brings us to the less-knowable questions of lineup synergies, as the Sox add a good bat from the left side against right-handed pitching to an otherwise heavily right-handed lineup. Similarly, bringing in Carl Everett patches over the worst lineup hole on any contender in baseball, finally giving the Sox a hitter in center who can hold his job. Everett’s defensive value is another question altogether, since a Lee-Everett-Ordonez alignment is more likely to wish death upon all flying things than reinvent one of the game’s most famous nicknames.
That leaves the other question, which is the cost. The Sox didn’t really give up that much talent in the Alomar deal, and took on no salary. The Everett deal might actually cost them something, but again, the need there was even greater than whatever Alomar was supposed to add. There’s the more general question about whether it was worth dumping Jimenez so readily, but this would be his third worn-out welcome in pretty short order, helping to breathe new life into a whispering campaign that suddenly doesn’t make the New Age Birchers in San Diego look quite so unreformed in their Cro-Magnondom. But if Jimenez is supposed to be a bad sort, what can the Sox say about Everett, whose off-field horrors have been vile enough, even setting aside his boldly ignorant worldview, or Alomar, as generally an unpopular player as you’ll find?
In short, these deals were masterstrokes, outstanding in their conception, cheap in their price, and exactly what this team needed. If the Sox win the AL Central, Kenny Williams will deserve full credit for doing what he needed to do, this year, to keep his job for next year. And isn’t that the name of the game?
|CHICAGO CUBS||Return to Top|
Hey, this here team is competing, so why give them damned kids another day in the sun? We need the aged and expensive, but quick. And not that Rod Beck fella, he was sort of on the cheap end, not to mention equipped with an expressive personality. I was firing on the sort of overwrought fussery Jim Hendry’s bullpen shopping spree represented this past winter, comparable as it was to both Boston’s simultaneous haphazard mass acquisition program, or the spectacularly ineffective program of Ed Wade in recent years. Bullpens can be put together just fine through scouting and doing your homework. Signing the likes of Dave Veres to big money isn’t part of that, although it does make an already pliant local media a bit chirpier in its appreciative off-season noises.
|CINCINNATI REDS||Return to Top|
Announced that LHP Jimmy Anderson refused his assignment to Louisville, and elected to become a free agent. [7/1]
Optioned OF-R Stephen Smitherman to Louisville; purchased the contract of RHP Todd Van Poppel from Louisville. [7/2]
Activated UT-R Ryan Freel from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Louisville. [7/4]
Placed OF-R Wily Mo Pena on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring, broken bat, inappropriate presence, whatever). [7/5]
First, the really big news, and no, it’s not whether or not you’re the winner in your “When Will Wily Go?” office pool. No, the really cool news is that the Reds got a solid starting second baseman for a minor league arm. D’Angelo Jimenez arrives with people in more than a few organizations grousing about him, but he’s an underrated defender and a useful hitter at either second or short. Since the Reds have what’s left of Barry Larkin at short most days, and nobody at all at second, Jimenez gets to plug that hole, potentially re-gild his rep with full-time play (a la Todd Walker), help the Reds win some games right now, and potentially have some value when other teams perk up and notice that whatever Ryan Klesko’s bitching about, Jimenez can play. That it cost a moderately effective minor league reliever is that much sweeter. Kudos to the Reds for jumping on this, and addressing a clear need as aggressively and even more cheaply than the White Sox did their own needs.
Otherwise, this is the usual Cincy shuffle, with various drifters and the nearly-famous making their inevitable trips to and from Louisville. Jimmy Anderson ditched his bus and said ‘enough,’ but the Reds have a bulk deal with Greyhound, and can’t really be overly concerned about the desertion. After all, you may remember Todd Van Poppel from such successful seasons as 1995 (as a reliever) or 2000 or 2001, and such unsuccessful seasons as 1995 (as a starter) or 2002 or a few others we could mention. But he’s still got good breaking stuff, and I guess this is where the obligatory “see what Don Gullett can do with him” comment goes.
As for Wily Mo Pena, the roster equivalent of the monorail, I’m sure he’ll be Sammy Sosa in somebody’s daydreams in the meantime. He really has no one to thank for his lot beyond his agent, since the contract that has him in the majors will probably make him an even less-successful version of Jose Guillen, which sounds good right about now, except when you remember how many other years Guillen has had besides this one.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||Return to Top|
Optioned LHP Cliff Lee to Buffalo; recalled RHP Jose Santiago and SS/3B-R Jhonny Peralta from Buffalo; placed INF-R John McDonald on the 15-day DL (back spasms). [6/30]
Optioned RHP Jose Santiago to Buffalo; recalled LHP Alex Herrera from Buffalo. [7/1]
Optioned RHP Ricardo Rodriguez to Buffalo. [7/2]
Purchased the contracts of LHP Jason Stanford and RHP Jose Santiago from Buffalo; designated LHP Nick Bierbrodt for assignment. [7/5]
Most of this reshuffling isn’t much to read into, as the Indians were sorting through having to play 14 games in 13 days, but it also reflects the way the Indians are using their season, which is take long looks at everything they’ve got, and see who they really want to keep around. So when a prospect like Ricardo Rodriguez struggles, that means they’re willing to look at an organizational soldier like Stanford. When somebody like Nick Bierbrodt pops up on waivers, they take a gander. When Alex Herrera shows something over a couple of months because of improved mechanics, why not see how that’ll work out in the majors? It might resemble a mess, but the happier news is that people are making the most of their opportunities. Cliff Lee has a good start? He’ll be back. Rodriguez is struggling with leg and hip problems? Let him sort them out elsewhere, those starts are primo evaluation time that can’t be spent on seeing talent at less than its best. The game here isn’t to win with the 2003 Indians as much as it is to help Mark Shapiro and his staff sort out who the Indians will be in 2004 and beyond. Perhaps it’s easier to be less critical here of the constant reshuffling than I am about Texas, but the expectations here are lower, and the potential returns for all of the expended energy a little more obvious.
|COLORADO ROCKIES||Return to Top|
Traded INF-B Luis Lopez to the Orioles for a PTBNL. [7/1]
Courtesy of Shawn Chacon’s tweak, past elbow trouble, and the organization’s appropriate caution, Aaron Cook is getting a temporary reprieve in the rotation. However, it’s a brief window, since Dennys Neagle and Stark are both back and in the rotation alongside Jason Jennings and a fully operable Darren Oliver. That isn’t as hopeless for Cook as it sounds. Oliver might have run off four consecutive quality starts, but that was by facing the Padres twice and the Brewers. The double Dennys may not be fully healthy, leaving Jennings as the only guy whose job Cook can’t realistically covet for the time being. So while Chacon should be back by the end of next week, Cook should get two or three starts with which to make a bit more of a positive impression this time around.
A little more odd was the decision to replace Matt Miller with Joe Roa. Roa’s a control artist of modest note, a useful spot starter and a viable long reliever, while Miller’s got a good track record in terms of getting people out. Why pick one over the other on a team that’s employing Nelson Cruz?
|DETROIT TIGERS||Return to Top|
Announced that OF-B Gene Kingsale cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Toledo. [7/2]
There are two really productive offensive players in Detroit, and Bobby Higginson isn’t one of them. Because of his contract and experience, he can’t be dealt, he isn’t helping, and he isn’t a great bet to shake his way out of his problems, so the DL’s as good a place as any for him for now. Meanwhile, the Tigers get to look at one of their non-happy slappy outfielders, Cody Ross. In this organization, Ross gets noted for some prospecty sorts of things (modest power, modest speed, relative youth), but he arrives hitting only .258/.295/.447 in his debut season in Triple-A. He’s not exactly a savior as much as somebody more likely to have a future in this organization than Gene Kingsale or Alex Sanchez. Or Pat Sheridan.
Where Ross plays isn’t that problematic, since he’ll get time in an outfield corner as soon as a minor tailbone injury heals. The question is who will sit. Kevin Witt, with Dmitri Young going back to DH? That should work against lefties. Against right-handed pitching, they could leave Witt at DH and Young in left, and bench Craig Monroe. A Witt-Monroe platoon isn’t such a bad thing, since it’s almost certainly the third-best hitter in this lineup, behind only Young and Eric Munson. Plus, they’d get to look at Ross. However, given that they’re not going out their way to look at Andres Torres while wasting time with Sanchez, there’s really no guarantee that anything’s getting better. It’s just getting different.
|FLORIDA MARLINS||Return to Top|
This is sort of a nice development, since it rounds out the Marlins’ rotation, giving them everyone they wanted to open save a swap of phenom Dontrelle Wills for former phenom A.J. Burnett, which worked out well. And since they placed Ryan Dempster in parts elsewhere, there’s really nothing ill to say about where they’re at in terms of starting pitching. What they want to do at first base, on the other hand…
|HOUSTON ASTROS||Return to Top|
Signed LHP Mike Venafro to a minor league contract, and assigned him to New Orleans. [7/3]
Effectively, this works to Rosario going down at the right time to allow the Astros to plug Oswalt back in at the same slot, so it doesn’t even rise up to the level of a logistical nuisance. The problem is one of whether or not Rosario’s going to be available in the future, when the Astros aren’t getting a good four-start run from Ron Villone. The rotation isn’t really as illing at the moment as it has been at other points, but this is still an aceless staff when Oswalt’s down, and they can’t afford to dink around with his health on any level if it means risking him making repeat visits to the DL. Wade Miller’s been wildly inconsistent, while Tim Redding hasn’t really had a top-notch start since his first game of the year against the Cardinals. That forces them to rely on the likes of Jeriome Robertson or Villone when Oswalt’s down, which is a desperate little problem that helps make the NL Central so much fun.
Elsewhere, it’s nice to see the Astros nab Mike Venafro. They’re still short of lefty relief help, both in the majors and organizationally, so this is a good place for Venafro to get another shot. That way, if Mike Gallo can’t cut it, they can turn to someone else besides Nate Bland.
|KANSAS CITY ROYALS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP Kyle Snyder on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 7/1; optioned 2B-R Brent Abernathy and LHP Les Walrond to Omaha; designated 1B-B Morgan Burkhart for assignment; purchased the contracts of INF-R Julius Matos and 3B-L Jarrod Patterson from Omaha; recalled Voyles from Omaha. [7/3]
There is no gesture more meaningless and overtly political in nature within the game than the acquisition of somebody with saves. However, in this situation, the Royals really do need an arm that can help them in the pen, afflicted as they’ve been a wee bit too often with injuries and ineffectiveness. When the only pen in the league doing worse than your own is Boston’s, you know you’ve had problems. Leskanic didn’t come over at a steep cost, and he allows the Royals to stop relying quite so heavily on Jason Grimsley, who hasn’t been especially great beyond his superiority to most of the rest of the choices Tony Pena has had to work with so far. So Leskanic provides a boost. At this point, it’w worth continuing to try everything, because they haven’t really seen anybody stick beyond Mike MacDougal. That’s perhaps the happiest aspect of the decision to trade for Leskanic, which is that they aren’t going to push MacDougal into some other role. They need Leskanic earlier in games, and MacDougal hasn’t done anything that should cost him his job.
Leskanic’s arrival might not help what’s starting to become an even more galling problem, which is the trouble the Royals have had in cobbling together a rotation to last more than a week or two at a time. Losing Kyle Snyder is a huge setback, not because he’s been all that great, as much as the Royals want for alternatives at the moment. For the time being, Voyles will be pushed into the rotation, behind Lima Time’s unstable event horizon, Darrell May, Jeremy Affeldt and Chris George, and the continuing experimentation with Brad Voyles. Lima’s excitement aside, that’s a staff that’s relying on Darrell May as its best starter, and it’s for a team in first place. The Royals should keep laughing, neither Chicago or Minnesota should feel warm and fuzzy about themselves with this sort of thing happening.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||Return to Top|
Placed CF-L Dave Roberts on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/2; optioned 2B/OF-R Jason Romano to Las Vegas; transferred RHP Darren Dreifort from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of OF-R Chad Hermansen from Las Vegas; recalled CF-R Wilkin Ruan from Las Vegas. [7/3]
Returned 1B-L Fred McGriff to the 15-day DL (strained abductor), retroactive to 7/5; recalled LHP Steve Colyer from Las Vegas; acquired 2B/SS-R Victor Rodriguez and LHP Scott Mullen from the Royals for SS-R Gookie Dawkins. [7/6]
I really don’t have much to add beyond Joe Sheehan’s grim dissection of a team that’s watching what little offense it had disappear in a welter of injuries and front office indifference.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||Return to Top|
Voided the outright assignment of RHP Ruben Quevedo to Indianapolis and placed him on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 6/27. [7/1]
Recalled LHP Shane Nance from Indianapolis. [7/3]
Beggars can’t be choosers, so when somebody pitches you for your creaky closer, and all they have to offer is a pitching conversion with low 90s velocity and mixed results, and a low-wattage mid-infield walker, you take the deal. The Brewers organization is so desperately in need of talent of every stripe, they have to take what they can get. In this case, it’s two guys who will probably be Brewers faster than you can say Jaime Cocanower. Obermueller has only been superficially effective in Omaha, posting a 4.40 ERA and a 10-5 record; more troubling, he’s 61 runs in 106.1 IP, 108 hits, and a 62-41 strikeout to walk ratio, none of which screams out talent, unless you’re the Brewers. When that’s you, you make allowances for the fact that this is a converted outfielder with velocity that sometimes hops into the 90s, and a guy still learning his art. Maybe he’ll amount to something, and maybe not, but it’s worth finding out.
As for Machado, he’s mostly played at second this season, and comes over after hitting .287/.368/.377 in his debut at Double-A. That might not sound like much, but he has already thwacked a career-high 19 extra-base hits, and they couldn’t all be Texas League whistlers. In the Brewers’ organization, Machado career potential as a shortstop is over, since he’s at the same level as J.J. Hardy, and Hardy’s earning his keep. Machado can also run a bit, and he’s a bat control type, so he may well fit in with whatever happens to be the organizational philosophy of the moment. He’s well-suited to be a foot soldier in the revanchist claims of slap-hitting second basemen hitting second, with the redeeming feature that he’ll take a walk and covers ground well. Not much more than Obermueller, he’s not really a top prospect as much as somebody who could be useful to an organization whose needs are many.
As for Glendon Rusch, he’s back. Those of you who haven’t learned the error of your ways, and still think of him as a poster boy for some handy theory, bid manfully. Those of you who realize he’s a Brewer dug in to the level of his environment, smile and move on.
|MINNESOTA TWINS||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Mike Nakamura to Rochester; recalled RHP Grant Balfour from Rochester. [7/3]
The Twins’ depth might seem impossible, but nothing about this really hurts. Jacque Jones has to take a couple of weeks? So what, when it takes something like this to let them plug Bobby Kielty into the everyday lineup? Heck, they might even get some playing time to spend on Lew Ford, letting him split time with Dustan Mohr while Kielty slips into the everyday lineup. Heck, by getting Chris Gomez back, Ron Gardenhire even has that much more freedom to pinch-hit for either of his starting middle infielders (while still having a reserve infielder like Denny Hocking) in high-leverage mid-game at-bats, using whoever isn’t starting in the outfield or either Justin Morneau or Matt LeCroy (whichever one isn’t DHing). Well, you could hope, at least.
As for the pitching side of the turnover, replacing the organization’s Australian right-handed reliever with the great changeup with the Australian right-handed reliever with the even better fastball is a hardship? If anything adding a good arm to the pen might help even more if it encourages the Twins to give more thought to returning Johan Santana to the rotation. Sure, it’s not necessarily off the table for the postseason, but they might not get there if they don’t have Santana starting down the stretch, and so far, there’s a bit of front office somnambulism when it comes to getting around to noticing that this team has problems, very correctable problems, but problems nevertheless.
|MONTREAL EXPOS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP Dan Smith on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 6/26. [7/3]
Purchased the contract of RHP Bryan Hebson from Edmonton. [7/4]
When you exchange a journeyman for an organizational soldier, it won’t add up to a hill of beans either way. Smith hasn’t been particularly effective this season, while Hebson’s gone from being another one of Jim Beattie’s overtall underachievers as a former top pick to a moderately effective minor league reliever.
|NEW YORK YANKEES||Return to Top|
Placed OF-R Bubba Trammell on the restricted list; recalled RHP Jason Anderson from Columbus. [6/30]
There isn’t much to say about Trammell’s situation. Clearly, he never got to be a ‘Torre guy,’ but we don’t know if that was it. What did happen was Trammell didn’t get to play much as a Yankee, and this on a team wasting time on old Torre fave Todd Zeile. If that was because of basic favoritism, or because Trammell didn’t win friends and influence people on his new team, that’s not known. But given the repetitive nature of the Yankees’ failures to construct useful benches during Torre’s bench, it has be an item of concern, especially when Trammell came over as a player with a good reputation as an effective spare part when put to work. On the Yankees, he spent more time on splinters than grass.
Two people profited from Trammell’s meltdown: Curtis Pride, obviously, since he got a return engagement to the majors, for however briefly, and Jeff Weaver, since he slipped into the rotation after Brandon Claussen got sent down to make space for Price. Claussen certainly earned consideration for the fifth slot in the near future, should the Yankees want to shop Weaver for the right deal, but he was optionable, and the Yankees had a temporary roster need pending Bernie Williams’s return from the DL.
|NEW YORK METS||Return to Top|
The Mets are done, even if they are baseball’s best last place team, so when they could score a deal where they managed to get talent for the tail end of Alomar’s contract, even if they had to eat that contract, it was almost certainly worth it, because beyond the talent, they can that much more easily commit themselves to letting Jose Reyes stay up for the remainder of the season. It would be nice if they had kept Marcos Scutaro around, if only because they would have been fine for the rest of the season offensively, while reducing Rey Sanchez to glovely utility role (or better yet, trade bait), and pushing Joe McEwing and Jay Bell even deeper onto the bench. Instead, all of the crowd of guys who need the job more than the Mets need them filling it are still here, and a worthwhile minor league journeyman won’t play, but that’s the least of the ills afflicting this team.
Of course, it would have been even better if they’d got a better package. Royce Ring’s a hard-throwing lefty with a highly-publicized career in college as San Diego State’s closer, and he’s shown improved control in his first full season as a pro, even with the jump to Double-A, but he’s the signature player in the deal, and it speaks volumes that the Sox parted with him so soon after picking him in the first round last year. As for the rest, Ed Almonte’s a nifty enough control artist, except that he was getting pasted this year, and Andrew Salvo provides a third warm body to flesh out the deal. So it really boils down to a Ring and two prayers from an organization that has some good talent to choose from. The interesting thing is that the Rangers may get better stuff from the Sox for Carl Everett, but that’s to their credit. Considering the Mets are eating the money on this deal, I’m a little surprised they didn’t get a second prospect of even modest notoriety.
|PITTSBURGH PIRATES||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Brian Meadows to Nashville. [6/0]
Recalled RHP Mike Lincoln from Nashville, and activated him from the 60-day DL. [7/1]
There’s already been plenty of happy commentary on how it’s nice to see Mike Lincoln make his comeback from an injury caused by a golfball, and it is. What’s been lost is the more important message about the omnipresent evil that golf represents, in terms of wasted land, time, and effort. I mean, who cares about competitive gardening? Does the grass ever win? And it hurts innocent bystanders too? Why, the only thing more dangerous might be shoveling snow. Or AARPsters in the left lane. Or an unsupervised Lloyd McClendon alone with a pot of full caf. It’s a perilous world out there, folks.
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS||Return to Top|
Placed C-R Joe Girardi on the 15-day DL (strained back); optioned RHP Jimmy Journell to Memphis; transferred RHP Kiko Calero from the 15- to the 60-day DL; activated C-R Chris Widger from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Dan Haren from Memphis. [6/30]
The bad news here is that the Cardinals’ bid to win is threatened by concerns for Matt Morris’s health, which are serious enough that they’ve pushed Dan Haren up without his actually succeeding at Triple-A since his promotion from Double-A. Now sure, they’re saying all the right happy things about how Morris looks great in his side work, and how he’s going to be fine, but what are they supposed to say? “Oh man, Morris looks bad, we are so hard up for another starter, I hope this doesn’t hurt us in trade negotiations.” We’ll just have to see, on that front, because the Cardinals are one of the four pushy pygmies trying to harrumph their way to a title.
Meanwhile, they’re pitching Haren. While he got off to a great start in the Southern League, going 6-0 with a 0.82 ERA in eight starts, allowing only 43 baserunners in 55 IP, upon his promotion to the PCL, he gave up 62 baserunners in 45.2 IP, with a 4.93 ERA, so it isn’t as if his ascent was entirely built on merit as opposed to need. Nevertheless, his total strikeout to walk ratio of 84-14 in 100.2 IP is impressive, and reflects how he’s a 2001 pick out of a top program (2nd round, Pepperdine) with a good four-pitch assortment that features velocity and movement. So he isn’t exactly another Simontacchi-style hardscrabble success story, although he’s clearly being thrown into the fire. He’s pushed Simontacchi aside, not that that represents much. With Brett Tomko and Garrett Stephenson both struggling to earn their keep, Haren could wind up in the rotation to stay, even if Morris is fine, so this represents a great opportunity for him to pitch and stick if he can simply crank out a quality start half of his times out.
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||Return to Top|
The good news here is that while losing Lockhart costs the Pads their lefty-hitting alternative to Mark Loretta at second, with Merloni back, they’ve got half of their productive semi-platoon at short back, admittedly the lesser partner, but Ramon Vazquez isn’t that far behind, spelling an end to what should be Donaldo Mendez’s final spin. Combined with being able to carry the nice lefty-righty pinch-hitting alternatives of Dave Hansen and Brian Buchanan, at least the Pads have plenty of in-game gambits for Bruce Bochy to turn to. And with the catcher’s slot to worry about above and beyond the usual tactical chicanery revolving around avoiding pitcher at-bats, he’ll need them.
|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS||Return to Top|
Recalled LF-L Tony Torcato from Fresno; optioned 1B/OF-L Francisco Santos to Fresno. [7/4]
Purchased the contract of C-R Alberto Castillo from Fresno; optioned LF-L Tony Torcato to Fresno. [7/6]
Most of this is minor bookkeeping, as the Giants bring Snow back on schedule, rebuilding their first base platoon, while hauling up Alberto Castillo to handle the backup backstop duties behind Yorvit Torrealba until Benito Santiago’s bum pinky heals up. Castillo’s easily outrightable later on, so it isn’t as if they have to worry about losing him. If either Santiago or Torrealba got hurt, they’d have to go shopping regardless, so if they lose Castillo on waivers when they have to send him back to Fresno, it won’t matter in terms of future possibilities.
|SEATTLE MARINERS||Return to Top|
Recalled RHP Aaron Taylor from Tacoma; returned LHP Matt White to the Indians. [6/30]
Depending on your point of view, you can take this as a simply positive development, or wonder aloud what took Pat Gillick so long to get to this point. With Kaz Sasaki out for awhile, the Mariners could have used a talented arm in the pen to help take care of some of those tight spots Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes couldn’t when they had been propelled towards the back end of ballgames. Taylor has high-90s heat and a nice curve, he’s been an effective minor league closer for all that that means (not bloody much), and the Mariners need the help. But given that it’s the Mariners, and they have this maddening tendency of doing some really bright things and some things that make you wonder, they’ve now decided to return Rhodes and Nelson to set-up roles, all so that Shiggy Hasegawa can close. On the one hand, that’s a great indicator of what the closer role is, which is sort of a game footnote, because as good as Hasegawa has been, it isn’t like he’s going to be this good forever, but in the closer’s role, his opportunities to pitch (and to hurt his season totals) go down. The frustration is that it means that some really talented pitchers, like Rafael Soriano or Julio Mateo or Taylor, will all continue to languish in subsidiary roles. Depth is a nice thing, of course, and you could argue that it creates the opportunity to showcase talent to peddle it to fix this team’s problems at third or in left field, but that would require an uncommonly active Pat Gillick, and that sort of strains credulity.
|TEXAS RANGERS||Return to Top|
Trading Dinosaur Man couldn’t come too soon, especially on a team with some concerns about its outfield defense even if Everett wasn’t in center, but still, replacing him with Ryan Ludwick, even if Ludwick isn’t ready to play center on an everyday basis, is good news. Ludwick’s back after murdilating the PCL, thwacking it to the tune of .303/.372/.558, which translates to a .269 big league Equivalent Average, so it isn’t like the Rangers have to stiffen their upper lips and plug Doug Glanville into the lineup for . And in terms of organizations from which Grady Fuson and company will get to pick some good talent to fill the Everett bill, the White Sox are a particularly good trading partner. They generally get good marks for their mass acquisition of live arms, which the Rangers can’t get enough of at this rate. Buy in bulk, and some of the fry will get through the gulls, the surgeons, the minor league mis-managers, and live to actually become full-grown Rangers, right?
On the other hand, if Buck Showalter doesn’t settle down, pick a staff, and try and let it ride, will things ever go right? Mario Ramos got a whopping three-start trial. Sure, Dickey had served his ten days in the minors, hadn’t really earned a demotion in the first place, and was ready to come back, but at what point will the Rangers ever make an effort to take a real look at their guys, instead of running a multi-month free-form tryout camp?
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||Return to Top|
Reactivated RHP Juan Acevedo from his bereavement leave; optioned RHP Mike Smith to Syracuse. [7/4]
Certain themes are going to get repeated in this space from time to time, which probably reflects my lack of mental agility as much as anything else. But here, it bears repeating that while they’ve lost Dave Berg and Berg has value, courtesy of the Ricciardi regime, the organization now has the depth to fix its problems in-season. They’ve got Mike Bordick to handle the duties of backing up Chris Woodward at short, and Howie Clark can handle the other three infield positions well, as well as spot in the outfield. If anything, by adding a lefty bat to the bench, they might even be a little stronger in Berg’s absence, because they have Reed Johnson from the right side and Clark from the left to use to pinch-hit for either of the middle infielders, neither of whom is that much of a slouch. It’s a nice situation, and a reflection of what you get for your troubles if you take the time to shop well in December.