The Baseball Revue
Activated OF Luis Matos from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Double-A Bowie. (06.06)
Placed RHP Calvin Maduro on the 15-day DL; activated RHP Jason Johnson from the 15-day DL. (06.07)
Matos is a good defensive center fielder with little upside as a hitter that probably has his sights set as high as being someone's fifth outfielder in the future. The fact that the Orioles carry two true center fielders in Chris Singleton and Gary Matthews Jr. doesn't help Matos' cause in the organization, and while he'll probably stick around somewhere for a full season, it's unlikely to be in Baltimore.
Johnson's return to the rotation is hard to get excited about. He's a league-average pitcher, really, it's just that amongst the Baltimore five, he looks like something to get happy over. On any good team, he's a #4 starter. Maduro pitched his way into the 2002 rotation with his good finish in 2001, but you have to wonder if he'll get back there if Rodrigo Lopez can continue being useful.
Activated RHP Carlos Zambrano from the 15-day DL. (06.07)
Is it worth having Pat Mahomes kicking around in Triple-A? Either way, it's hopefully a good talent exchange for the Cubs, though with Zambrano's up-and-down major league history (albeit a very short one), it's still hard to tell whether he's going to be a end-of-the-rotation starter, a good reliever, or a minor leaguer.
Acquired OF/3B Russell Branyan from the Cleveland Indians for minor league 1B Ben Broussard; placed RHP Jose Rijo on the 15-day DL. (06.07)
This trade makes only marginal sense for the Reds. For one thing, Russell Branyan is majorly iffy. He's the new Rob Deer. If he doesn't jack one out with his incredible power, he's going to flail away and strike out. He's still got upside at 26, but where does he fit with the Reds? The outfield is already overcrowded, and even though they've talked about it, it still seems hard for me to believe that Bob Boone will bench his kid in order to put subpar-fielding Branyan at the hot corner. The Reds' problem is not a lack of hitting, because they have three outfielders that can hit the lights out at any time, and a first baseman that carries his load. With Todd Walker hitting, they can score runs.
Aaron Boone is a much better fielder than Branyan, and a better hitter if he's hitting, which he's not. But then again, neither is Branyan. Is Boone's .210/.290/.355 (7 HR, 28 RBI) with good defense worse than Branyan's .205/.278/.379 (8 HR, 17 RBI)? I submit that it is not.
Of course, Bob Boone has said that Branyan will be used as a power-hitting pinch-hitter off the bench, which means that no one's going anywhere except perhaps Juan Encarnacion, buth with Junior being hobbled a little again, they might want to hang on to him. This is a mess, in my opinion. Branyan's not the kind of guy you want pinch-hitting. If he hits a homer every fifteen tries, he'll strike out on 11 of the other 14, only meaning anything in the role if he occasionally wins a game, and then you have to be in the right spot at the right time for that to even come into play.
Now the Indians are making a statement here. Broussard is ready for the major leagues. He has power to all fields and is right at the age where he's ready to make an impact in the major leagues at 25. The message this sends is that Jim Thome is available, and the way he's hitting right now, someone's going to take the Indians up on that offer and unload some real talent for him. Thome is hitting as well right now as anyone in the league, and when he's hot, he's one of the five most dangerous hitters in baseball. Broussard also has the ability to play a corner outfield spot, so he may take Branyan's spot in left for the time being. Either way, I think it's a good deal for Cleveland and just a deal for a deal's sake for the Reds.
Mercker has pitched shockingly well considering that, well, he's a middle-aged Kent Mercker. The Rockies are doing well since Clint Hurdle took over not so much due to anything Hurdle has done, but because they're getting amazing performances out of guys like Mercker and Todd Jones from the bullpen, and Jose Jimenez has pitched like an actual closer instead of a guy who gets save opportunities.
If Vladdy Nunez hadn't panned out, Neal could very well have become Florida's closer by now. Braden Looper showed a Mike Timlin-esque vomitous reaction to the role, and he's probably not going to get another chance, so if anything happens to Nunez, Neal is likely next in line. Neal is an interesting case, starting as a pitcher, moving to first base, and then going back to pitching, with an elbow surgery in there.
If the Astros would like to decide who their shortstop is going to be, it would likely help a bit. They have the added problem in making the decision of Craig Biggio catching an old, but the real truth is that in two or three years, Everett and Julio Lugo will either be gone or buried on the bench behind Chris Burke or Tom Whiteman.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Eventually, the Royals are going to have to do something real with Berger. He keeps getting jerked up to the show, only to sit on the bench so that the team can give Raul Ibanez playing time. Of course, maybe Tony Pena will have the sense to stop that from happening, but either way, he's probably buried behind Mark Quinn and Michael Tucker for the other two spots that aren't occupied by Carlos Beltran, which means that unless the play him and DH Quinn, he'd probably be better off swinging the bat at Omaha.
With Knoblauch, the Royals have a decision to make, being whether or not he's even worth the hassle of playing anymore. The only thing he can do anymore is run. His bat and glove are both putrid for a corner outfielder. His only value remaining is as a second baseman, which probably isn't going to happen again anytime soon, and even then, he'd have to hit significantly better than he has this season to continue warranting everyday play. There's not much to say about him anymore, really. In his prime, he was a very likable, very good baseball player. He got old quickly is all. It happens.
No shocker here.
NEW YORK METS
The usual trip for Johnson.
The A's seem to be spinning their wheels at this point, looking for immediate answers when that's probably just not going to happen barring a big trade and a turnaround from their pitching. German heading back to Sacramento makes one think of the mess with Jose Ortiz last year, where he went from Rookie of the Year candidate to Triple-A second baseman to trade bait at an alarming rate of speed. Hopefully, things will turn out better for German.
Pudge is good but will probably get hurt again. Greer is a nice guy to have around and is hurt again. Even with bigger names, sometimes there's just not a lot to say.
Optioned LHP Eddie Orospesa to Triple-A Tucson; recalled RHP Mike Koplove. (06.05)
Koplove is a better pitcher than Orospesa, which is about all that makes a difference here. Oh and he's five years younger.
BOSTON RED SOX
Placed RHP Rich Garces on the 15-day DL, retroactive to June 2; purchased the contract of LHP Chris Haney from Pawtucket. (06.03)
Getting re-treads like Willie Banks and Chris Haney into Red Sox uniforms would seem to do little for a rather mediocre bullpen, but if they can just hold down the fort while El Guapo is out and the team tries to figure out if they're ever going to really like Sunny Kim or not, things should end up being at least okay. The chances of one of them starting with Darren Oliver being wisely bumped out of the rotation seem okay, and the Sox could certainly do worse. Of course, it would help if they actually had a pitching prospect or two to try out in a time like this, but them's the breaks of bad minor league management over the Duquette years.
Farnsworth isn't going to jump-start the Cubs back into contention or anything, and his return is likely overblown by everyone who thinks he's freaking awesome, such as me. He is, in reality, a very good righty setup man that should someday be a closer, but then, Steve Karsay and Mike Timlin should have been closers. Maybe it's how poorly they've played, or maybe it's that Moises Alou is currently fifth in the All-Star voting for NL outfielders, but I'm sort of down on the Cubs right now, and it's hard to get too optimistic about what they're doing.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Parque disappointed the world by not slyly insulting the organization and their decision to send him to Charlotte this time, and here he is once more. If his velocity has returned to where it used to be, there's a good chance he could return to where he used to be, which was a viable #3 or #4 starter. If not, the White Sox have a bigger problem on their hands than they already do, and might have to go shopping for someone reliable, because "reliable" isn't what they're getting out of anyone except Mark Buehrle in their rotation.
Keeping Bill Selby around in place of Jolbert Cabrera would make sense if it didn't absolutely not make sense to me, but I suppose you can rationalize and say that Selby is the better hitter and would be more of a threat with the stick in case he has to back up Travis Fryman. It's also nice to see that Bradley's career wasn't ruined by a freak accident, because it very easily could have been.
Activated OF Benny Agbayani from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Brian Fuentes to Triple-A Colorado Springs. (06.05)
Holt was actually doing well for the SkySox, posting 6 wins and a 3.71 ERA in a tough league, but this move is contractual. Maybe the White Sox should look him up, although I wouldn't go so far as to call Chris Holt anything close to that "reliable" we were discussing earlier.
Greisinger's problem -- which will never go away -- is that he's a lot more fun to talk about and wish well than he is to watch pitch.
At the very least, they don't have to worry about this company. Everyone will always enjoy the tasty refreshments of Minute Maid.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Austin, like Grimsley, was once a starting prospect. Grimsley, at 34, has become an average middle reliever and setup man, while Austin, at 25, has the hope of someday being a closer. What I'm saying, basically, is that the Royals will hopefully figure out that they aren't really missing anything with Jason Grimsley out and will trade him to a team in desperate need of bullpen help. The Yankees traded for Jay Witasick, so there's no reason the A's or Red Sox wouldn't trade for Grimsley, probably.
Announced that RHP Mike Buddie cleared waivers and has opted for free agency. (06.04)
Stairs belongs with a team where he can actually play five games a week instead of with a team that's trying to justify Jeffrey Hammonds' contract, and, by association, actually starting wheels-man Alex Sanchez in center field. They also have a superstar-in-bloom at first base, so there's nothing for Shorty McFatstuff there, either. Stairs could be a decent pickup for the Braves at first base, though he's a very short-term solution at best. I have to think he'll be traded sometime, though, just because he's a lefty thumper with only so much thump left, and someone should feel the need to make use of it.
Rivas (finally) coming back is a blessing for the Twins. Canizaro and Denny Hocking and whomever else did okay, but Rivas adds speed and a better bat than those guys, something the Twins will need as long as Cristian Guzman hurts something every month. Canizaro is one of those guys that pops up in the majors every few years to fill a need. He'll probably make his last appearance in 2004 when someone's second baseman goes down with a big injury.
NEW YORK METS
Claimed IF Ramon Soler off waivers from the Devil Rays.
Tony Tarasco rules, but picking the bones of the Devil Rays seems very sad for the Mets.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Ice Williams is probably completely finished now, since the only team that showed any interest whatsoever last year was the Yankees, and that's only because he knows everyone. I believe the Yankees bring back guys like Williams simply because they know where the weight room and soda machines are already, and fancypants superstars like Jeter and Bernie don't have to show them if they're busy renegotiating their contract while lighting cigars with million dollar bills.
The only thing I can think about with the A's is who's safe with them right now. The big three in the rotation are obviously not going anywhere. Outside of that, you've probably got Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada and Jermaine Dye. Past that, anyone could be released or optioned or traded for a sack of pickles at any time, it would seem. You have to think about Terrence Long possibly being next if they could get a real center fielder for him. Maybe they could rob the Royals blind for Carlos Beltran.
Lincoln being back is good, but it also comes with some bad news, in that Joe Beimel will enter the rotation. Actually, I don't know if it'll be bad or not. It COULD end up being good. But I wouldn't bet my house or a box of crackers on it or anything.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Stephenson's injury isn't related to the Tommy John surgery, but I'm still of the opinion he came back way too fast. If Smith can avoid sucking and Jason Simontacchi keeps pitching well, the Cardinals will have an interesting dilemma about what to do when Stephenson is healthy again. Stephenson doesn't have the upside of either of them, but they also don't need to ruin another young pitcher like they did with Rick Ankiel. Interesting indeed.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Getting Aurilia back helps the Giants in a lot of ways, especially if he can contribute right away. Even if he's simply back to his pre-career year form (which is likely), he's the second-best shortstop in the NL, and having him in front of Bonds would hopefully lessen Bonds' walk count so that he can get to 600 homers before August and not end the year with 40 homers, 73 RBI and 190 walks.
I didn't like Kingsale when he was with the Orioles, but for a team like Seattle, he could fit well as a spare part. He's a career minor-leaguer, but if all he's asked to do is run and field, he'll fill his role with ease.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Activated RHP Bobby Seay from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Double-A Orlando; designated IF Ramon Soler for assignment. (06.03)
Announced that RHP Lee Gardner has cleared waivers and was optioned to Triple-A Durham. (06.05)
It's a hell of a thing when Bobby Seay is the biggest name in a group.
Placed RHP Rudy Seanez on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Joaquin Benoit from Oklahoma City. (06.04)
Placed OF Carl Everett on the 15-day DL, retroactive to June 3; recalled OF Ryan Ludwick from Oklahoma City.
Woodard will pop up somewhere again, either with the pitching-needy teams like the White Sox or the ones that could use a little depth like the Cardinals or Marlins or Twins or etc. etc. etc. Seanez is the imminently replaceable middle reliever that probably wouldn't even be with the Rangers if not for Jay Powell and Jeff Zimmerman still being out. Texas would likely benefit from having a rotation of Chan Ho Park, Doug Davis, Rob Bell, Joaquin Benoit and Kenny Rogers, meaning they could easily bump Dave Burba, although you'd hope they would just cut bait on that bargain bin experiment. If the pitching is going to suck, it could at least be young guys that might benefit from the experience of playing with a good lineup.
When you look at Everett's season, it's amazing to think that, production-wise, the Red Sox really came out on the better end of the Everett-for-Oliver trade. Even your basic Darren Oliver campaign is enough to top what Everett has, or has not, done for the Rangers. He's been nothing but a headache, though he gets credit for not being one in the way most of us would predict. He's still out of shape, still battling the hamstring, and he hasn't hit while he's been "healthy", and he can't play center field. The Sox aren't missing a single thing about Carl Everett right now.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Announced that pitching coach Mark Connor and bench coach Cookie Rojas have mutually agreed to leave the organization; named Gil Patterson pitching coach. (06.05)
Oddly enough, the part I care most about is Brian Lesher. Like Canizaro, he's a failed prospect that has some ability still, and does a few things well enough to be an asset as the last man on the 25-man roster, but if you have to cut someone, then hey, good luck, dude. Lesher will likely clear waivers and end up back at Syracuse, awaiting an injury to someone else that makes Dave Berg or someone an everyday replacement that needs a pinch-hitter.
With Huckaby coming back, you have to wonder where the Blue Jays' catching priorities lie right now. Either they're being respectably or overly cautious with Josh Phelps and Jayson Werth, but either way, Darrin Fletcher's time is running and Huckaby isn't someone you actually give time to. He's up to caddy for days when Tom Wilson or Fletcher will DH against righties, because Vernon Wells has given the Blue Jays no reason to play him every day.
Activated IF Benji Gil from the 15-day DL. (05.30)
Gil can play shortstop and second and first and I'd assume third, and if he can stay healthy, you have to think Jose Nieves' clock is ticking.
I know there's a logjam in the outfield, but optioning Brady Clark for Juan Castro still bothers me, even if it makes sense. Well, as much sense as it can possibly make to even have Juan Castro on your team in the first place.
Activated 2B Damion Easley from the 15-day DL; placed OF Jacob Cruz on the 15-day DL. (06.01)
Easley returning and Patterson returning is sort of the same thing. Let me try to explain what I mean.
Getting Easley back creates a problem with the way Ramon Santiago has played at shortstop (no matter what he does, it beats Shane Halter), and Damian Jackson is a perfectly capable second baseman defensively that could also hit .270-.290 and steal upwards of 30 bases. Easley, on the other hand, has been on a path straight into the toilet since his 27-homer season in '98, as his power and average have dropped rapidly every single season since. He's still good defensively and makes for a solid starter, but is it necessary? Not really.
Getting Patterson back is one of those things that an organization says is a blessing or fills a missing piece, but does it really? The Tigers have battled back from their abysmal start to play pretty decent baseball without the services of Patterson or Matt Anderson, their top two relievers from last year. Of course, Juan Acevedo has been surprisingly effective as a closer, but who knows how long that can last? Patterson certainly can't close, so if Acevedo goes downhill, does getting back a soft-tossing setup man with one good year in 31 years of his life really mean anything?
In essence, the Tigers are getting back two guys that will mean little or nothing to the success of the team for the rest of this season, and one (Easley) that is likely to be a detriment to the payroll and the roster by the end of this season, unless someone wants to trade for him.
Brewers fan Jon Streich writes to ask me: "Could you explain to me the reason that the Brewers would designate Mike Buddie for assignment instead of craptacular bench guys like Luis Lopez or somebody with minor league options like Luis Vizcaino? I personally think that they were all drunk, but that's just me."
I kind of like Mike Buddie because once during a Cubs game, one of the guest color commentators said to Chip Caray, "There's your Buddie warming up." That was funny. But, in reality, he's 31 years old and the Brewers have a glut of right-handed relievers, all of whom are as good or better, including Vizcaino. He walks too many people and doesn't strike out enough in contrast, and while solid last year, he's been nothing but subpar this year. At his age, you get discarded easily like that. But the odds are that someone will pick him up pretty quickly, and it's almost certain to be a better team than Milwaukee. I don't know if I'd call it a good move or not by the Brewers, given Chad Fox's lack of durability, but it's probably better for Buddie.
Placed RHP Brad Radke on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Johan Santana from Triple-A Edmonton. (05.31)
Hello and goodbye to Brad Radke. He's been an extremely durable pitcher over his career, so something like this was bound to happen eventually as he aged, and it did. The Twins will have to deal with that, but the White Sox are giving them no reason to panic, as easily as they should be doing just that. Minnesota has made it quite clear that they are the best team in the AL Central thus far.
Trombley is well-liked in the organization, but he was simply the odd man out after seven runs on 10 hits in four innings of relief. At 35, he's still got talent, but hasn't performed well since being traded by the Orioles to the Dodgers at the deadline last year. It wouldn't be a shock to see the O's give him his next chance, but their bullpen has been better than expected this year, and the only thing he'd be good for would be to serve as the right-handed old guy alongside lefty Buddy Groom.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets are in the thick of things in the NL East, but really, they still have no excuse to be playing the way they are. Maybe all the teams in the division are equally good, but so far they've all just seemed equally vulnerable. The Braves are getting crap offense out of three positions and praying that Tom Glavine continues what could be his last great season and the big stamp on his Hall of Fame envelope, the Mets aren't hitting or fielding worth a mouse's tit, and the rest of the teams simply aren't good enough to win a division.
Valentin comes back to give the Mets veteran flexibility, but that doesn't mean a thing until Mo Vaughn wakes up, Roberto Alomar returns to being Roberto Alomar and not whatever the hell he is right now, and Mike Piazza gets his batting average up. Of course, Vaughn could simply be too old and fat to be a productive everyday first baseman (a DH, on the other hand...), Alomar could have contracted Shea Stadium Carlos Baerga Syndrome, and Piazza might be entering that historic rapid decline of the catcher. Whatever it is, they better figure something out, because their starting staff is not durable enough to keep them in it all season long.
Recalled RHP Jeff Tam from Sacramento; optioned 1B/OF Larry Sutton to Sacramento.
So who's really been worse? Lidle is 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, while Hiljus stands at 3-3 with a 6.50 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Lidle has been consistenly bad, whereas Hiljus has had some disastrous outings since beating the Yankees with a nine-strikeout performance on May 1. That was four starts ago, and in those four outings, look at his numbers:
May 8 v. BOS: 2.1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
Those are pretty grisly numbers, and he's 0-2 with two no-decisions in there. Now that line against the Yankees, his last good start:
May 1 @ NYY: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
But, in the end, it might simply boil down to Hiljus having an option left and the team wanting to see what Aaron Harang can do, since neither of these guys are long-term options and the A's know that perfectly well. They may have gotten what good was in Lidle and Hiljus out during the stretch run last season.
Person was brutal his few starts early this season, but should be healthy and ready to contribute now. That's what the Phillies have to hope for, anyway, and I can almost feel them getting ready for a five-man rotation of Person, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Brandon Duckworth and Brett Myers. If they just play Jeremy Giambi and get rid of Travis Lee, they could get back into this thing.
Arroyo, despite having the stupidest-looking hair this side of David Segui, has four pitches and pitched decent out of relief last year. Now, I don't know if the Pirates plan to start him or not, but it would make sense since, duh, he's taking Williams' spot. It's not a good idea, probably. Pittsburgh seems to have accepted the fact that they played above their ability for the first month, and really, just having a respectable-looking win/loss record is a sign of improvement. Sort of.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Kline returns to Tony LaRussa's Bullpen Bonanza, and just in time. The Cardinals are ready to get red-hot and charge past Cincinnati any time now, and for LaRussa to have any chance to win with this team, he needs all of his relievers, Kerry Robinson and Placido Polanco available to do their things, because Tony LaRussa just can't be Tony LaRussa without his spare parts in order.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
By the time you've read this and remembered who Wilson Alvarez is (the fat guy that threw a no-hitter when he was a rookie), he'll probably have injured himself again.