|IN THIS ISSUE|
|ANAHEIM ANGELS||Return to Top|
The staff was only briefly back at full strength, but now that Santana left a nice initial calling card, the Angels have that much more of a comfort zone when it comes to making a decision about what to do with Escobar. Surgery, or rest? As Will Carroll has pointed out, recovery from cleaning out his elbow will cost Escobar six to eight weeks. It’s a decision that should be made quickly, so that they can make a move before the end of July in case Santana struggles, or should they get dissatisfied with Paul Byrd, or perhaps if Bartolo Colon feels the need to personally empty out an ice cream truck.
Less promising was Kotchman’s call-up, since it didn’t herald a useful decision on who to play when. Spattering playing time between Juan Rivera and Jeff DaVanon hasn’t seen either of them pick it up, and Kotchman was doomed while the Angels kept settling for more Darin Erstad than even the Erstads might find socially acceptable. Happily, Vladi’s arrival makes life on the offensive side of the ledger easier, and with Dallas McPherson slowly heating up, Adam Kennedy apparently up to speed, and even Erstad and Steve Finley finally contributing some hitting, the Angels might be gearing up to make tracks between themselves and the Rangers.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||Return to Top|
Placed C-R Javy Lopez on the 15-day DL (broken hand); re-signed C-R Sal Fasano; transferred OF-R Val Majewski from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/25]
Acquired UT-R Eli Marrero and cash from the Royals for 2B/3B-B Pete Maestrales. [6/8]
Optioned OF-R Napoleon Calzado to Ottawa. [6/10]
Purchased the contract of RHP Chris Ray from Bowie (Double-A); activated OF-L Larry Bigbie from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Ramon Nivar to Ottawa; designated OF-R Napoleon Calzado for assignment. [6/12]
Sammy’s return doesn’t exactly fix the Orioles’ outfield issues, not when they don’t really have someone who can really play center now that Fiorentino has been sent back to the Carolina League. Bigbie might eventually move back in, but in the interim, the team’s relying on an impromptu platoon of David Newhan and Marrero, which in turn has left the catching duties to Fasano and Geronimo Gil. Under those circumstances, it might have made sense to keep Nivar around, but at least Fasano seems to be capitalizing on what might very well have been his last opportunity.
The Orioles’ willingness to dispense with the standard industry practices when it comes to promotions might not be working, but it must be a little bit of a thrill to be a farmhand in a system that seems willing to turn to anyone at a moment of need. Rushing up Penn and hauling up Ray might work out well enough in the interim, while also giving them some small measure of experience, but the cautionary example of Fiorentino’s call-up, hauled up from A-ball and propelled into a role he wasn’t ready for, then demoted, should give everyone pause. This is the sort of stuff you have minor league veterans around for, or ought to be plugging in guys like Little Rock Raines or Nivar for. I don’t think Fiorentino’s career will suffer any damage, but I am a little concerned about Penn, who hasn’t had a really good start yet in his first four big league gigs after coming up to fill in for Bedard. A 20-year-old with only 13 starts above A-ball under his belt, the Orioles seem to be not working him too hard, although without having a good start with which to tempt them, there hasn’t been all that much temptation either. Hopefully, when Bedard returns in a couple of weeks, Ray can go back to mowing down the Eastern League and working on getting his fastball consistently into the low 90s and his curve over for strikes.
I’m a lot more optimistic about what Ray brings to the pen. Since moving there this season, he’s been dominating, giving up only 20 hits and walks combined in 32.2 IP, and striking out 37. That’s appropriate for a guy who hasn’t really mastered off-speed stuff but routinely dials into the mid-90s; if the move to the rotation was in part made out of concern for his mechanics, it’s a place where he might be ready to help out. He definitely makes for a pen now notable for the nice contrast between its hard-throwers (Ray, Jorge Julio, and the blossoming B.J. Ryan) and the three retreads the team is relying on in setup roles: minor league vet Todd Williams, situational best Steve Reed, and a resurrected James Baldwin, relying as ever on a big yakker. It’s a nice blend of scrapheap and homegrown talent, and a reminder that good bullpens don’t have to cost top dollar on the open market.
|BOSTON RED SOX||Return to Top|
Optioned C-R Kelly Shoppach to Pawtucket; activated C-R Doug Mirabelli from the 15-day DL. [6/11]
In some ways, a roster creates roles, or an expectation that you have to have a certain sort of spare part. Win with those expectations, and they become reinforced, going from mere wishes to downright preferences. So with Kevin Millar off to a slow start, Jay Payton not exactly earning his keep as Trot Nixon‘s platoon partner, and nobody capable of filling in Doug Mientkiewicz‘s supporting role as slick-gloved lefty bat to fill in at first, the Sox could be forgiven for breaking out the old rationales for adding Minky, and hauling up Olerud. It’s a defensible use of a roster spot, since it does keep Millar available to play some outfield, and it does leave David Ortiz in the DH role to which he’s more suited. Olerud won’t see many lefties, and he’ll probably be good for a .350 OBP in the tail end of the lineup. On a roster like this, you can get away with playing a first baseman without a whole lot of power, as long as he’s doing other things that help; Olerud can do that much.
I like the idea that the Sox stopped fidgeting over who has to be Tim Wakefield‘s personal catcher during Mirabelli’s absence, and instead let this serve as an opportunity for Shoppach to cut his teeth, perhaps pick up a thing or two from Jason Varitek, and be that much more ready should the really bad transpire, and Varitek has to go onto the DL for any length of time. Shoppach went back to Pawtucket without having had to lose too much of his season to the observer’s role, and the Sox gave him a brief, relatively stress-free trial.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Brandon McCarthy to Charlotte. [5/28]
Activated DH-RFrank Thomas from the 15-day DL. [5/30]
Optioned LHP Kevin Walker to Charlotte. [6/1]
Activated RHP Orlando Hernandez from the 15-day DL. [6/3]
Outrighted RHP Kris Honel to Birmingham (Double-A). [6/10]
Thomas is back, and if his ankle remains a sore spot, his insistence that he should be restricted to DHing will no doubt be for the best, however much needling it might generate from his manager. As is, considering the Big Hurt’s status as the Sox franchise player who’s far more deserving than Luke Appling for the title of “Old Aches and Pains,” he’ll probably be in and out of the lineup often enough that the playing time of the four outfielders-Carl Everett, Scott Podsednik, Jermaine Dye, and Aaron Rowand-might not suffer all that much. Among those four, a switch-hitter, a lefty, and two right-handed hitters, the Sox can get very different types of contributions, allowing Ozzie Guillen to tailor his lineups to the opposing starter if everyone’s healthy, or plausibly ride a hot hand if any one of them is hitting especially well, all while potentially keeping healthy a group where just about everyone but Podsednik has had durability issues.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||Return to Top|
Recalled RHP Jason Davis from Buffalo. [6/4]
Claimed RHP Jose Diaz off of waivers from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and optioned him to Akron (Double-A). [6/7]
Something here surprised me. No, it wasn’t JuanGone going away again, although he did it with the sort of panache that only the truly fragile roster boondoggle can boast, reinjuring his hammy in his first at-bat. No, it wasn’t Jason Davis slipping into the rotation while Millwood misses a couple of weeks; his dispatch to Buffalo to get in a turn or two turns out to have been fortuitously timed. Millwood will be back this week, and Scott Elarton has been less than execrable recently enough to probably not have to worry about losing his job to Davis, so as contretemps go, it’s of the brief variety.
No, what I’m surprised by is that Ludwick slipped through waivers, especially in a season where a similar player, Mike Restovich, has been a roster hot potato. Admittedly, Ludwick will probably never become a regular center fielder, but he’s got right-handed pop and a good arm, and for as long as it seems he’s been around, he’ll be turning 27 next month, only six months older than Restovich. Worse players are getting regular playing time in outfield corner slots in the big leagues. Besides Tony Womack.
|DETROIT TIGERS||Return to Top|
Outrighted INF-L Jason Smith to Toledo. [6/3]
Optioned LHP Wilfredo Ledezma to Toledo. [6/4]
Activated RHP Troy Percival from the 15-day DL. [6/5]
Activated RHP Fernando Rodney from the 15-day DL. [6/9]
|KANSAS CITY ROYALS||Return to Top|
Outrighted RHP Shawn Camp to Omaha. [6/2]
Purchased the contract of LHP J.P. Howell from Omaha; transferred LHP Brian Anderson from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed OF-R Matt Diaz on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); placed RHP Steve Stemle on the 15-day DL (back). [6/11]
|MINNESOTA TWINS||Return to Top|
Placed 2B-R Luis Rivas on the 15-day DL (back injury); optioned 1B/3B-B Terry Tiffee to Rochester; purchased the contract of 2B-R Brent Abernathy from Rochester; recalled OF-L Michael Ryan from Rochester. [5/31]
Purchased the contract of INF-B Glenn Williams from Rochester. [6/7]
|NEW YORK YANKEES||Return to Top|
Claimed 1B-L Eric Crozier off of waivers from the Blue Jays, and optioned him to Trenton (Double-A). [5/24]
|OAKLAND ATHLETICS||Return to Top|
Purchased the contract of RHP Britt Reames from Sacramento; activated OF-B Nick Swisher from the 15-day DL; designated UT-L Jermaine Clark for assignment; optioned OF-L Matt Watson to Sacramento. [5/25]
Placed DH-L Erubiel Durazo on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis), retroactive to 5/25; recalled 1B-L Dan Johnson from Sacramento. [5/27]
I guess some of this doesn’t surprise me. The years of stocking Sacramento with veteran journeymen was all well and good, but this is the year that the team needed to have found the next Cory Lidle on the margins of a deal, not have to rely on the likes of guys like Reames or Glynn or Etherton. As for shipping out Ginter, I like to think I wasn’t one of the ones in the stathead community who drank all that deeply from that particular cup of Kool-Aid, not when his defense at second, his OBP, and his power away from Miller Park were all questions. Besides, at the time, when I was being cautious about Ginter, I was happily singing Charles Thomas’s praises, and look where that got me.
At least the news isn’t all bad. Swisher’s back, even if it’s now obvious that his Rookie of the Year campaign is stillborn, and he should fit in with Bobby Kielty and Eric Byrnes in the outfield corners. Kielty and Swisher aren’t slugging particularly well, but hopefully Swisher can pick it up. Byrnes might yet fetch something of value, what with so many contenders looking for offensive help. Also, now that Crosby is finally back, that lets Mark Ellis win this month’s edition of midget wrestling with Marco Scutaro over who gets second base. And I’m glad to see Johnson get a look, even if he’s still stuck behind the Hatteberg-Durazo logjam once Durazo comes back. Hatteberg’s undealable, after all, and if Durazo’s hurt so badly that he still can’t hit as of today, who’s going to take that much of an interest for the move to add up to anything more than a dump? At least it might make space for Johnson to play every day, but consider this further fall-out of a slagged season.
|SEATTLE MARINERS||Return to Top|
Recalled RHP Joel Pineiro from Tacoma. [5/24]
Designated SS-R Wilson Valdez for assignment; recalled SS-R Mike Morse from Tacoma. [5/31]
Outrighted SS-R Wilson Valdez to Tacoma. [6/3]
Acquired RHPs Michael Bumstead and R.D. Spiehs from the Padres for SS-R Wilson Valdez. [6/9]
|TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS||Return to Top|
Activated RHP Franklin Nunez from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Durham. [5/28]
Optioned LHP Jon Switzer to Durham. [5/29]
Recalled RHP Chad Orvella from Montgomery (Double-A). [5/30]
Reinstated RHP Dewon Brazelton from the restricted list. [6/2]
Released C-R Charles Johnson; purchased the contract of RHP Tim Corcoran from Durham; designated OF-L Alex Sanchez for assignment; placed LHP Trever Miller on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled OF-R Jonny Gomes from Durham; recalled C-R Kevin Cash from Durham. [6/12]
Now that the Nationals are a going concern, are the Devil Rays being converted into baseball’s dumping ground for bad contracts? Johnson and Sanchez, both added to no obvious point, and then ditched? I guess when we’re left with hoping that the Rays are devious instead of clueless, it illustrates the depths to which baseball’s most hopeless franchise can dig down to. Take that, Marianas Trench, you’ve got nothing on Chuck LaMar.
Less explicable are decisions like the one to cut loose Phelps, while sticking with a guy like Travis Lee. Maybe defense at first base is an organizational priority, but there’s less reason to believe that Lee will ever help a team than there is to believe that about Phelps. And to bring up a professional zero like Taylor? What’s the difference between having him or Sanchez or Chris Singleton? What kind of team has all of them, at least at some point? You can’t blame this entirely on losing Rocco Baldelli for the season; you could play somebody with a future or present value or just minty-fresh breath in left, move Carl Crawford to center, and still turn out better than what the D-Rays have been doing. Building a platoon of Reggie Taylor and Damon Hollins isn’t progress, it’s an active demonstration that the franchise barely notices its own existence.
There are two small signs of progress, so don’t get too lost in the impressionist blur of failure that generally coats everything this team does. First, by bringing back Gomes, the Rays may finally have that bat for the outfield or the DH slot or wherever it is that Aubrey Huff ain’t. Gomes’ reputation in the field is pretty execrable, but it isn’t like being loose with their leather is going to cost Tampa a title. The other name of note is Orvella’s; perhaps uncharacteristically for this scout-driven organization, Orvella is a short right-handed relief ace in the making. They’ve almost certainly called him up too soon; 33 career innings above A-ball seems a bit short. Speculation that if he looks good, the Rays might move Danys Baez or perhaps Lance Carter, seems even more premature. The Rays being the Rays, they should feel free to move Baez or Carter whenever they get an offer to their liking. What’s the downside? Finishing in last place? Losing 90 games again? What will that do, annoy one of their three or four season ticket holders? Drive the beat writers assigned to cover them to seppuku? Lead to a planned deep-frying of Vince Naimoli, to keep the apparently indifferent natives from lapsing into abject apathy?
|TEXAS RANGERS||Return to Top|
Activated RHP R.A. Dickey from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Oklahoma. [5/25]
Transferred RHP Carlos Almanzar from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of INF-R Marshall McDougall from Oklahoma; designated OF-R Chad Allen for assignment; recalled LHP Michael Tejera from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Nick Regilio to Oklahoma. [6/7]
Optioned LHP Michael Tejera to Oklahoma; recalled RHP Juan Dominguez from Frisco (Double-A); placed RHP Nick Regilio on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis); purchased the contract of LHP C.J. Wilson from Frisco (Double-A). [6/10]
Designated OF-B Andres Torres for assignment; recalled RHP Ricardo Rodriguez from Oklahoma; placed RHP Joaquin Benoit on the 15-day DL (elbow tendonitis); purchased the contract of RHP John Wasdin from Oklahoma. [6/11]
Some destinies seem impossible to avoid. That can be about what kind of jobs you have, what kinds of friends you make, what kind of people you wind up dating, or the fact that you just can’t seem to keep John Wasdin out of your life. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for being a fry cook or playing Lovecraft-inspired role-playing games or winding up having dinner with the latest neurotic equivalent to Woody Allen. (For the curious, that would be time spent with a bad Value Over Replacement Date; comparables include Pig Vomit, Art Garfunkel, and Wilford Brimley the 99.9% of the time in his life when he wasn’t playing Pop Fisher.)
But like having to turn to Wasdin, it doesn’t have to be that way. You only wind up with John Wasdin because you helped create the circumstances that put him there, and in this, the Rangers need only take part of the blame, because the latest rash of injuries was what it took to bring him back, however briefly. Happily, it’s only in a mop-up role, which might be one way to get fans home early considering he was giving up a homerun every seven innings in the PCL, and Arlington won’t be any kinder.
More happily, Dominguez and Rodriguez are the call-ups to really pay attention to. Dominguez has thrived since being moved to the bullpen, striking out 31 in 37.2 IP at Double-A, and if, at 25, he’s not too young to give up on as an eventual starter, his limited assortment might make this the career move he needed to finally stick. I like his chances of becoming the setup man this team needs. Similarly, I’m optimistic about Rodriguez in the bottom slot of the rotation. Finally back from last season’s broken elbow, he’s been effective in Oklahoma, allowing only 64 hits in 80.1 IP, and giving up only 3.4 runs per nine. His 48:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t as exciting, but given that he’s been coming back from the injury, and the hope is that he simply fills the staff’s need for a fifth starter, he might be up to that. He’s replacing the extremely hittable Drese, after all, and it isn’t like he’s John Wasdin. The Rangers are in much better shape now, and if Kameron Loe starts finishing hitters off, they might have fixed their staff without having to make any significant deals.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||Return to Top|
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Mike Koplove to Tucson; recalled RHP Edgar Gonzalez from Tucson. [6/9]
The Snake pen has been a sore spot all season, but if they think that bringing in Herges, or activating Aquino after pitching in live games for less than a week, then it’s probably no wonder that they also demoted Koplove, one of their few relievers who’s actually been effective. Vargas might help, but that will depend on his getting some measure of his command, and doing that in long relief on a team that’s expecting to contend won’t make that any easier. All in all, it looks like a pen where overlapping frustrations will lead Bob Melvin to continue to use his struggling relievers inconsistently, thereby helping them remain inconsistent.
As for the catching situation and the reappearance of Stinnett, there really isn’t much to say; the two-kids tandem behind the plate didn’t really work out, and if Chris Snyder isn’t doing all that hot, Hill was even more frigid. Not just cold, but with a .231 slugging percentage, more like Phyllis Schlafly frosty. Heck, I suspect even Phyllis still hammers her way around the bases at a better clip than that. Being 26 and not hitting in the BOB is no way to fill a prospect’s billing, but as I’ve kibitzed before, Hill was overhyped.
Losing Terrero also doesn’t help, and even with Jose Cruz Jr. playing every day, his back problems put the Snakes in danger of going back to putting Quinton McCracken in the lineup. Melvin’s an everyday lineup sort of guy, so neither McCracken nor Hairston will play much, even with Cruz and Shawn Green struggling to help put runs on the board. Given that McCracken can’t, and Hairston’s not as much of a prospect as some believed, the bench isn’t about to help turn around a lineup that is one of baseball’s weakest.
|ATLANTA BRAVES||Return to Top|
Designated RHP Matt Childers for assignment. [5/28]
Recalled OF-L Kelly Johnson from Richmond. [5/29]
It’s beginning to look like this isn’t the Braves’ year, which could make this the first year the Braves don’t win the division since 1994. Losing Chipper for any length of time certainly sounds like a recipe for disaster, while losing Hampton might fire up some wailing because of his hot start. Having to plug in Greisinger in his absence of uncertain length hardly helps matters, especially since John Thomson is already missing from the rotation until August.
There is a bit of the old Braves spirit, however. Deciding to let the Buffalo roam without a whole lot of doleful hand-wringing was a classic Schuerholz bit of bait-cutting, even if it wasn’t like Mondesi was going to be useful in the first place, regardless of whether you think he’s his printed age. Turning to Johnson and Marte now resembles the bold Bravery of years past, like their turning to a young Andruw Jones down the stretch in 1996. High hope can be held out for Johnson and Marte, considering their youth, and both were off to good starts (Johnson .310/.438/.581, Marte .277/.365/.500). Major patchwork like this is supplemented with swapping in Ryan Langerhans and Johnson, while reducing Brian Jordan to part-time work. Certainly, nobody expects Langerhans to be an Andruw Jones, and a team relying as heavily as it has to on him or Adam LaRoche or Wilson Betemit or now Marte, as fun as it is, looks a lot more like a rebuilding project than a contender.
Still, the Braves are in the running, because nobody in the division is going to run away from the pack. Chipper’s return in a month could easily eliminate the need for the Braves to feel obligated to go outfielder shopping, should Marte or Betemit earn Bobby Cox’s trust as the everyday answer at third. In that scenario, Jones would move to left, while Langerhans and Jordan would split right, and Schuerholz could instead focus on patching a different hole (like the pitching staff) with his organization’s depth. Unfortunately, even that scenario is dependent on Jones’s quick recovery; if he requires surgery, he’ll be out two months, or beyond the deadline, which pushes the Braves into waiver-deal dependency.
|CHICAGO CUBS||Return to Top|
Recalled RHP Jon Leicester from Iowa. [5/29]
Recalled RHP John Koronka from Iowa; optioned RHP Jon Leicester to Iowa. [6/1]
Activated LHP Mike Remlinger from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Roberto Novoa to Iowa. [6/5]
Prior and Wood both? Discarding Hawkins after losing Remlinger? Keeping three lefties in a six-man pen? Welcome to Year Two of the post-honeymoon phase of Dusty’s Cubby reign, where anything goes, and caprice is the watchword of every day. I’m admittedly exasperated with how Hawkins was handled, but at least he’s in a happier place. What are we supposed to expect? The Cubs pretended that they knew what they were doing when they had Ryan Dempster and Glendon Rusch in each other’s spots in the rotation and pen, respectively, and that predictably flopped. Once they got those two sorted out, things got better for each. But the team’s convictions about Hawkins were not so easily dispelled. At least they did get some value. I’m not so confident about Aardsma’s command ever really coming around, especially if it ever has to happen at the big league level on Dusty’s watch. But Williams should be a quality big league starter, and has done well in his three starts since getting out of the Giants’ system. On that level, the deal was sort of an exchange of one manager’s headache for another’s, with Aardsma being thrown in because out-of-favor famous relievers seem to command more than out-of-favor young starters. Williams is only 23, has almost 50 big league starts under his belt, and he hasn’t been overworked (yet). As much as I think how Hawkins was handled was pretty rotten, the Cubs got good value.
There has to be some other good news, right? Walker’s return is a positive, pushing Jerry Hairston Jr. into a platoon role where he might not hurt himself, or become more readily available for pinch-hitting duties. Besides which, Walker helps leaven a lineup that’s leaning pretty far right as far as productivity goes, as Jeromy Burnitz, Todd Hollandsworth, and Corey Patterson haven’t been doing so well. Mitre’s looked sharp in his stint, and might get to stick in a rotation where Prior, Wood, and Carlos Zambrano seem to be teetering on the brink of worse things. With Wood’s likely return before the end of the month and Prior’s perhaps falling somewhere around the All-Star break, the Cubs are going to need Mitre to keep it up.
|CINCINNATI REDS||Return to Top|
Transferred RHP Josh Hancock from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed RHP Paul Wilson on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 5/17; purchased the contract of OF-R Jason Romano from Louisville. [5/25]
Announced that 2B-B D’Angelo Jimenez has accepted his outright assignment and will report to Chattanooga (Double-A). [5/26]
Activated SS-R Rich Aurilia from the 15-day DL; optioned INF-R William Bergolla to Louisville. [5/29]
Requested unconditional release waivers on RHP Danny Graves. [5/31]
Announced that RHP Danny Graves cleared waivers and is now a free agent. [6/2]
Placed C-R Jason LaRue on the bereavement list; purchased the contract of OF-R Kenny Kelly from Louisville; recalled C-R Dane Sardinha from Louisville; optioned OF-R Austin Kearns to Louisville. [6/11]
Why pile on? When madness reigns and you don’t even have porphyria to blame, what’s left to say? The organization needs to conduct a bit of triage to sort out who’s actually good, bad, destined for better things, or hopeless; instead, they’re just lost. It’ll be interesting to see whether anybody gets brought in to bring some sense of order, or whether Carl Lindner actually likes things this way.
|COLORADO ROCKIES||Return to Top|
Purchased the contract of UT-R Tim Olson from Colorado Springs; designated LHP Randy Williams for assignment; placed C-R Todd Greene on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of C-R Danny Ardoin from Colorado Springs; placed SS-R Clint Barmes on the 60-day DL (fractured clavicle). [6/5]
A starting pitcher, starting left fielder, middle infield combo, and even the backup catcher, all biting the dust? What, did a crack parachute squad of Al-Qaeda black cats meant for the Air Force Academy land on an undisclosed location in LoDo instead? Hmmm, maybe they hit both spots, considering how things have been going at the Air Force Academy, now as well as over the last couple of years.
Chipper up, folks-when you’re moribund, there’s still no place to go but up. I guess I’m just not sold on the concept that these are desperate losses for an already desperate franchise. Barmes might be out for the rest of the year, or back briefly in September, but I see him as something like a latter-day Kevin Stocker, a shortstop teasing us with a great (altitude-aided, of course) start, but not all that likely to give us a long, good career. To be fair, he’s an obvious improvement on Royce Clayton, but the standard in play needs to be whether he’s someone you get by with, or build around; however hot the start, Barmes is not a franchise player in the making, but instead a 26-year-old whose future is now. Similarly, however worked up the organization wants to be about Holliday, he still hasn’t hit well enough to justify the plugs. Losing him for six weeks or two months might be bad for him, but again, the odds that he might be a middle-of-the-order threat are limited to start off with, and Piedra might actually do more good in the here and now. And Miles? Haven’t we already gotten used to the idea that this one of Kenny Williams’ few really good deals? Miles remains aspiring filler, and at 28, that’s and anyone who can’t see that really shouldn’t be running a franchise.
So the Rox are instead talking about finding fixes, but that’s what Desi Relaford and Luis Gonzalez are here for. What’s the point of speculating about replacements? These are your replacements, and while it makes sense to keep a toe in the proverbial pool to see if there’s something you want in it that’s worth getting wet for, it isn’t worth a franchise in mid-meltdown to deal young talent to get more filler, not unless the goal is to show how active management is being to address the team’s problems of the moment. As we all know, that never, ever, ever happens on Dan O’Dowd’s watch, right? Ahem.
No, the loss here that hurts is Chacon, but since his hamstring may not keep him out for a really long stretch, I guess the u-side is that his absence gives Byung-Hyun Kim an opportunity to log some innings and (ideally) get a grip. After two consecutive quality starts, maybe the Rockies will have an alternative to watching Jamey Wright, Joe Kennedy, or Jason Jennings take beatings often enough to make Amnesty International sit up and notice.
|FLORIDA MARLINS||Return to Top|
Purchased the contract of RHP Frank Castillo from Albuquerque; optioned OF-R Chris Aguila to Albuquerque; optioned RHP Logan Kensing to Carolina (Double-A); purchased the contract of RHP Yorman Bazardo from Carolina (Double-A). [5/25]
Designated LHP Matt Perisho for assignment; purchased the contract of LHP Valerio de los Santos from Jupiter (A-ball); optioned RHP Nate Bump to Albuquerque; purchased the contract of LHP Chad Bentz from Albuquerque. [6/7]
|HOUSTON ASTROS||Return to Top|
Some of this really looks like progress. Chavez, one of the game’s worst backup catchers, finally dug out of his sinecure? What’s next, a recognition of Jose Vizcaino‘s limitations? Unfortunately, progress isn’t always linear; at times, it might zag as much as zig. As sensible as it may be to have Burke up and commit to playing him every day, it’s to be the team’s left fielder. As nice as it might be to give Craig Biggio the all expenses paid full Viking funeral at his time-honored position and all that, I guess I’d rather see Burke playing at the position that will be his in the future. Burke’s in a awkward spot; this isn’t like Danny Tartabull or Ron Gant, in that he can’t play second; his minor league data and scouting reports all seem to say that he can, and well. As unhappy as Biggio may have been in the outfield, his defensive numbers at second base have been predictably awful.
If anything, the situation sort of reminds me of Graig Nettles at the start of his career; the young Nettles couldn’t get third base for himself on a Twins team that had a star like Harmon Killebrew trying to play third. Ideally, the Astros won’t make the mistake the Twins did in subsequently dealing Nettles so that Rich Reese could fizzle out at first base, all while Killebrew kept kicking chances at the hot corner. Reese’s age-27 peak in 1969 wasn’t something to bank on, and if getting Luis Tiant in the six-player trade that made Nettles an everyday third baseman in Cleveland seemed initially bold by the standards of the day (Tiant had lost 20 games in 1969, and had been worked hard), the Twins threw away any chance to benefit by the risk taken by letting Tiant go at the end of spring training in 1971. Which is not to say that Burke could end up being a borderline Hall of Famer the way that Nettles and Tiant both became. I simply put a bit of faith in the concept that good organizations, like good managers, ask their players to do what they do best. Biggio can’t play second well, and Burke can. This isn’t an after-school theater program, where the graduating seniors get dibs; it’s big league baseball, and there’s on-field success and the immediate future of the team to think about, both of which will generate more money than the warm fuzzies that another slow-rolling single allowed to right field might give to Astros season ticket holders.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||Return to Top|
Placed LHP Odalis Perez on the 15-day DL (inflamed shoulder), retroactive to 5/15; purchased the contract of RHP Buddy Carlyle from Las Vegas; transferred 3B/SS-B Jose Valentin from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/24]
Optioned OF-R Jason Repko to Las Vegas; activated OF-R Jayson Werth from the 15-day DL. [5/25]
Placed C-L Paul Bako on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); optioned RHP Buddy Carlyle to Las Vegas; recalled LHP Derek Thompson from Jacksonville (Double-A); recalled C-B Dioner Navarro from Las Vegas. [5/27]
Recalled OF-R Jason Repko from Las Vegas; placed CF-B Milton Bradley on the 15-day DL (torn ligament – hand), retroactive to 5/30. [6/3]
Recalled RHP Franquelis Osoria from Las Vegas; placed LHP Wilson Alvarez on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 5/31. [6/6]
Signed RHP Brad Penny to a three-year, $25.5 million extension with a club option for 2009.
Well, serves me right for ever wishing the Dodgers well, and pegging them to be the NL’s best team. Could things get any worse? The rotation has to rely on Thompson and D.J. Houlton, which isn’t good, but at least Scott Erickson has been sent to the pen, where he might do less harm. But still, losing both Perez and Alvarez leaves a club you can reasonably expect to contend struggling with prospect auditions and Rule 5 picks. They’re certainly not dead, not yet, and not when the Snakes and Padres each have their fair shares of problems, but Perez really has to be taking his turn every fifth day for the Dodgers to succeed. He should be back at month’s end, creating an opportunity for Thompson to challenge Houlton for the last slot in the rotation.
There are things to like about each of them. Thompson’s the tough-luck case, having missed 2003 to having his elbow Tommy John’d, and he’s also had to receive cartilage transplants to patch a permanently bad right knee (the one he has to plant with). But anybody who can pump gas in the mid-90s is going to be taken seriously, and if Thompson’s wild as well as wounded, here’s hoping he manages to put together some sort of career. Houlton’s an equally worthwhile choice if it’s for the fifth slot, an experienced Rule 5 pick out of an Astros organization that has no idea what it’s doing. The problem is simply one of having to use them both to cover for Perez’s absence, but once Perez returns, the Dodgers have the happier decision of tabbing one or the other for the rotation time previously wasted on the Erickson experiment. Hmmm, the Erickson Experiment, that sounds like a bad art rock band… wait, were there any good art rock bands?
Some things do less damage, of course. Grabowski and Werth helped take the sting out of losing Bradley and Ledee. Since Bradley might be back this weekend, the Dodgers should be back to Bradley and J.D. Drew holding down two spots, while Grabowski and Werth split left. Losing Bako and replacing him with Rose isn’t really a setback; Rose is more likely to match Bako’s .360iah OBP than Bako is going forward, and with Jason Phillips doing more than enough to keep his job, it’s a minor consideration.
Finally, I guess I’m with a lot of the lilly-livered types wondering if paying that sort of money for Brad Penny makes sense. I guess it’s defensible through the logic that “everybody’s doing it,” but the Kris Benson/Jaret Wright defense isn’t a bragging right if it only leaves you with as much egg on your face as the next guy. However, if Benson’s worked out well (and Wright… not so much), I guess my concern is that it means that a useful starter with a spotty injury history is commanding that sort of guaranteed money these days, and nobody expects the market to go down. It’s best to stop wailing about the money; this is where the market is, and it isn’t my money or yours, and this does lock Penny in. The Dodgers are aware of the risks, and took them anyways, rather than worry about how much the market on starting pitching spirals out of control next winter. I can’t say I blame them.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||Return to Top|
Recalled CF-R Dave Krynzel from Nashville; placed 3B-L Russell Branyan on the 15-day DL (fractured finger). [6/2]
Acquired RHP Tomo Ohka from the Nationals for 2B-R Junior Spivey; announced that RHP Gary Glover has cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Nashville; recalled 2B-R Rickie Weeks from Nashville. [6/10]
Wow, this team went from fun last year to boring initially to fun all over again, and now they’re among the first box scores I turn to every morning. It’s curiosity, but in several flavors. What will Fielder and Weeks do? When are Bill Hall and Jeff Cirillo going to stop doing what they’re doing? When will Brady Clark stop trashing a friend’s HACKING MASS team? When will Branyan, the godling of Three True Outcomes, get back (he was at 54.7% in his walking, homering, or striking out in his plate appearances so far)? When will J.J. Hardy start hitting? Admittedly, there’s a lot about it that’s transient: Fielder’s only up to get the at-bats that appear in the DH slot, courtesy of the atrocity of interleague play. Having bopped 15 bombs in less than a half-season at Triple-A, the power is never going to be in doubt, but hitting .253 is going to force the team to be patient if they ever do turn to him, and with Lyle Overbay doing everything that people like Sean Casey or Todd Helton are supposed to do, it’ll be tough for the organization to make that commitment.
The particularly sweet turn of events was to get Ohka after already getting Sheets back, fixing the rotation while creating an opportunity for Weeks. Weeks has certainly hit well enough (.320/.435/.655) to override the concerns I had over the winter about his continuing success, and if there are still questions about his defense, I guess this is where bench/infield coach Rich Dauer is going to get to earn his paycheck. And anyways, going young and improving? You know I’m a big fan of that combination. It’s enough to make me think that a wild-card run isn’t all that implausible, if still unlikely. Hopefully, the Brewers can ignore that temptation if they haven’t made a move in the standings by the end of July. If they’re still futzing around in the middle of the pack, hoping that they’re this year’s Astros would be foolhardy, and they’d be better off seeing what they might fetch for Geoff Jenkins.
|NEW YORK METS||Return to Top|
Outrighted 1B/OF-L Eric Valent to Norfolk. [6/7]
Signed PH-B Jose Offerman to a minor league contract. [6/8]
Signed RHP Danny Graves to a one-year contract with an option for 2006; designated RHP Manny Aybar for assignment. [6/11]
OK, it’s probably easy to flog Omar Minaya yet again, but I don’t really begrudge him the decision to pick up Graves. He’s getting the bulk of his money from the hapless Reds, after all, and it’s expected that the option they tantalized him with won’t get picked up, meaning the Mets may have only tossed an extra half-million into the wood chipper to see what they can do with Graves. Perhaps predictably, they’ve stated that they identified a flaw in his delivery that was tipping his curve, and hopefully, Graves might be somebody that actually gets turned around by working with Rick Peterson in New York, instead of just being somebody they say they’ll turn around, and then don’t. If Graves thrives and gives them a good reliever, it was done cheaply, and if he does so and they fall further out of contention, then maybe they get to flip a resurrected reliever with closing experience to a suitably desperate contender at the deadline. There’s really very little risk here, and if it doesn’t work, it’s not really a problem.
|PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES||Return to Top|
Designated RHP Amaury Telemaco for assignment. [6/9]
Purchased the contract of RHP Amaury Telemaco from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; placed LHP Randy Wolf on the 15-day DL (sore elbow); signed SS-B Jimmy Rollins to a five-year, $40 million contract with an option for 2011. [6/12]
In terms of total team Support Neutral Value Added, the Phillies are in great shape, so losing Wolf for a good stretch isn’t good news. As is, the rotation is left with Brett Myers as staff ace, which is fine, but with Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber filing merely workmanlike results, and with Vicente Padilla still struggling (hey, he looked good against the Reds, though, right? That counts…), it isn’t going to be easy for the Phillies to keep streaking up through the standings. The next week’s worth of play won’t be so bad, not when you’re facing the Mariners and A’s, but drawing the Mets and Red Sox for the rest of the month is going to put the rotation on the spot against two teams that can score runs.
As for the Rollins signing, I’m at an uncharacteristic loss for words. That much, for a player whose hitting seems to have been stalled when he was supposed to be sailing into his prime? Hell, it isn’t like he’s turning into Ozzie Smith in the field. I didn’t think there was this much nostalgia for a new and improved edition of Ivan DeJesus.
|PITTSBURGH PIRATES||Return to Top|
I guess the Pirates can take some solace in that Wigginton was optionable as well as objectionable, but this is the sort of footnote to last season’s unfortunate Benson deal that we all should have expected. As commented upon at the time, David Littlefield made the mistake of seeing Wigginton’s hot couple of weeks in July as somehow indicative of an unexpected turn in his career; the deal done, he got Ty Wigginton. The silly thing about the current state of the Pirates is that Wiggy’s absence does make space for two of their second basemen in the lineup, although neither of them are named Bobby Hill. Of course, Rob Mackowiak will continue to rove around the diamond and the outfield sward, starting at third or center field, depending on who’s managed to annoy Lloyd McClendon most recently, Tike Redman or some non-Tike person.
As for the catching situation, nobody doubts that Doumit can hit, but whether he sticks at catcher is a bit more questionable. For him, it’s tough to have a future in the organization that already has one former catcher playing at first or an outfield corner, and Craig Wilson is generally more durable than Doumit has shown in his career so far. Still if the Bucs decide to swap out Wilson and take the ensuing firestorm of local criticism, they do have a probable replacement for him in Doumit. He’s up after having hit .345/.415/.630 at Indy, and will no doubt soak up some of the DH time that comes with interleague play, but the Pirates seem relatively pleased with how well Humberto Cota is hitting, and David Ross seems to be doing well enough as a catch-and-throw reserve with occasional sock.
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||Return to Top|
Acquired SS-R Wilson Valdez from the Mariners for RHPs Michael Bumstead and R.D. Spiehs, and assigned Valdez to Portland. [6/9]
I guess the good news is that Loretta will be back some time around the break next month, so the Pads can perhaps settle for using the next month or so to see if Sean Burroughs is going to convincingly outhit Geoff Blum. I wouldn’t advise any high-stakes gambling on the outcome, not when this particular battle royale is about as compelling as a cage match between Brent Musberger and Len Berman. Besides, San Diego’s actually been pretty fortunate, as the injury to Williams created an opportunity to look at Tim Stauffer, who has cinched a spot in the rotation for the duration, which might just give them the league’s best rotation, top to bottom. Assuming everyone stays healthy, naturally, but that’s the weasel’s rider you can stick on just about any bold statement involving pitching.
|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Jeremy Accardo to Fresno; activated RHP Jason Schmidt from the 15-day DL. [5/24]
Designated RHP Matt Herges for assignment. [5/29]
Designated RHP Al Levine for assignment; purchased the contract of LHP Jack Taschner from Fresno. [6/11]
Recalled OF-B Todd Linden from Fresno; purchased the contract of OF-L Adam Shabala from Fresno; placed CF-R Marquis Grissom on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); placed 2B-R Edgardo Alfonzo on the 15-day DL (strained quad). [6/12]
I guess I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Linden as some, considering that he’s been at Fresno since July of ’02. The guy’s going to be 25 in a couple of weeks, which leaves plenty of time in which to have a career, but since the season’s in the dumper and they’ve gotten good work from both Jason Ellison and Lance Niekro, why not look at Linden and see what you get? However much Fresno is a bandbox, he was hitting .326/.446/.692, with 19 home runs, and with Alfonzo going onto the DL, an outfield slot came free with the roving Pedro Feliz‘s shift over to third base. Heck, Niekro’s wildly exceeding expectations, why not take this particular chance now that Grissom’s alternating between being buried and simply undead? Of course, hot starts have a way of not really representing an escape from past history, so excuse me if I see this as a case of Indian summer coming in June, with an organizational Ice Age in the offing.
What’s less explicable is the decision to bring in Hawkins, and ditch two of the organization’s most highly-regarded young hurlers for the privilege. Don’t misunderstand, I like Hawkins a lot, but since he was being run out of Chicago on a rail, why offer so much, when Hawkins has next to no chance to radically alter the Giants season? Talk about taking the press clippings of Noah Lowry and Brad Hennessey way, way, wayyyyy too seriously. And even if the pen has been inexcusably awful, that just means opportunities for young pitchers abound, and yet this is what they do? Coming on top of the decision to rush Schmidt back from the DL, it isn’t clear that the Giants know who they plan on rely on in 2006, or even just next month.
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS||Return to Top|
Placed OF-B Roger Cedeno on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of OF-L Skip Schumaker from Memphis. [6/5]
|WASHINGTON NATIONALS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP John Patterson on the 15-day DL (back spasms), retroactive to 5/16. [5/25]
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Tyrell Godwin and RHP Sun Woo Kim from New Orleans from New Orleans; signed LHP C.J. Nitkowski; activated pitcher T.J. Tucker from the DL; optioned RHP Zach Day to New Orleans; placed RHP Jon Rauch on the 15-day DL (torn labrum); designated RHP Claudio Vargas for assignment; transferred OF-L Terrmel Sledge from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]
Voided the option of RHP Zach Day and placed him on 15-day DL (fractured right wrist), retroactive to 5/26. [5/31]
Outrighted LHP C.J. Nitkowski to New Orleans; purchased the contract of UT-R Rick Short from New Orleans. [6/9]
Acquired 2B-R Junior Spivey from the Brewers for RHP Tomo Ohka; claimed RHP Ryan Drese off of waivers from the Rangers; claimed RHP Jacobo Sequea off of waivers from the Orioles; announced the retirement of OF-R Jeffrey Hammonds. [6/10]
A busy stretch, to be sure, but the real misfortunes are the ways in which some pitching talent seems to have been shed while Jim Bowden scrambles to do whatever it takes on a day-to-day basis to keep the Nats in first in the immediate moment. That can end up being a bit self-destructive, since the losses of Rauch and Day in addition to seeing Vargas disappear on waivers leaves the staff a bit threadbare. Sunny Kim’s up because there wasn’t much of an alternative: the entire staff at New Orleans is struggling or unpromising retreads or both, and while the talent at Harrisburg is a little more promising, the only starter really pitching well is Rich Rundles, although the pen boasts worthwhile contributions from minor league vet Saul Rivera, a resurrected David Gil, and homegrown ’02 pick Jason Bergmann, who’s thriving since last year’s switch from starting. Snagging Sequea gives them an alternative with plenty of Double-A experience, but he’s been allowing almost two baserunners per inning in his fourth season with time spent at the level, so even if he’s still only 23, he’s a project, not somebody likely to help fix the organization’s upper-level shortage of big league-worthy staff filler.
Usually, I try to say something nice about a player whose career ends as publicly as it has for Hammonds, but that’s if it’s news. Hammonds’ playing days seemed to take forever without generating all that much payoff for the expectations that were placed upon him. If that seems unfair to him, keep in mind that he had fewer good seasons than Ethan Hawke has had good movies, while being talked up equally overmuch.