Comings and Goings (5/24-5/30: Part One)

In the next two days I will comment in detail on 20 transactions, but since I don’t want to throw 5,000 words in one article, we’ll split it into two. So, here’s part one of this week’s Comings and Goings …

Tampa Bay Devil Rays- Purchased the contract of first baseman Fred McGriff from Durham of the International League (AAA); optioned outfielder Jonny Gomes to Durham.

Well, Gomes was just not doing it for Lou Piniella, ya know with his .205 OPS, so they decided to make headlines for a day. With Geoff Blum’s OPS at .531 and Damian Rolls at .498, the team decided Aubrey Huff would move back to his old stomping grounds at the hot corner. So, who would replace Huff in the designated hitter spot? None other than the Crime Dog himself.

While Greg Maddux and Ken Griffey Jr. will each flirt with historic milestones this season, few thought it possible for Fred McGriff, only nine home runs shy of 500 at year’s start, to reach the famed plateau. The Devil Rays have nothing to live for, so why not waste a roster spot on a guy that is simply going to swing for the fences and attract a few extra media credentials? Well, McGriff has played in two games since joining the Devil Rays, and in that time, already hit one home run. Sure, it was his only hit, but I think even Chuck LaMar would have nine hits in 300 at-bats if they all were home runs.

Boston Red Sox- Placed third baseman Bill Mueller on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 20, with right knee patella tendinitis; recalled catcher-designated hitter Andy Dominique from Pawtucket of the International League (AAA).

Mr. Gleeman mentioned it on THT Live this last week, but Mueller’s injury means that Kevin Youkilis will have a chance at an everyday job. Chad Tracy is busy trying to make a career out of Richie Sexson’s injury, and Boston fans everywhere are praying from the same work by Youkilis. While he hadn’t been walking at the same pace in AAA before his call-up (.347 OBP), he’s back to his old self, with a .446 OBP in his first twelve games.

Nomar just started his rehab stint, and his imminent return will create a small controversy at second base: Pokey Reese or Mark Bellhorn? Peter Gammons says that Reese will get most of the playing time, with Bellhorn splitting time with Youkilis at third. I think this is the wrong decision, and say that Youkilis should be given every opportunity to earn a 2005 starting spot, which would make one of Mr. Epstein’s many off season decisions easier.

Chicago Cubs- Purchased the contracts of pitcher Jimmy Anderson and infielder Rey Ordonez from Iowa of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled outfielder David Kelton from Iowa; placed pitcher Todd Wellemeyer on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 22, with a right shoulder strain; placed outfielder Tom Goodwin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 24, with a right groin strain.

Few other things can symbolize a lost season as well as purchasing the contracts of Jimmy Anderson and Rey Ordonez from AAA can. But, don’t tell the Cubs, who remain within three games of the first place Reds, waiting for the arrivals of heroes Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Sammy Sosa. With his latest start, Prior will pitch this Friday, sending Jimmy Anderson back out to Des Moines. Wood and Sosa will come a bit later down the road, but amazingly enough, both Glendon Rusch and Todd Hollandsworth are filling in fine thus far.

And well, there is really no defense for a team having Rey Ordonez on their roster at this point. According to Gammons, the team decided not to acquire Rich Aurilia, instead mixing in Ordonez with Ramon Martinez until Alex Gonzalez can return. While people have mentioned Carlos Beltran and Freddy Garcia as potential midseason Cub acquisitions, is there any better fit than Orlando Cabrera?

Toronto Blue Jays- Placed outfielder Frank Catalanotto on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain; placed catcher Kevin Cash on the 15-day disabled list with a rib cage bone bruise; recalled outfielder Alexis Rios and righthander Vinnie Chulk from Syracuse of the International League (AAA); purchased the contract of catcher Bobby Estalella from Syracuse; optioned pitcher Micheal Nakamura to Syracuse. Placed second baseman Orlando Hudson on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 24, with tightness in his left hamstring; recalled infielder Howie Clark from Syracuse of the International League (AAA).

Wow, here’s my take on sorting this out:

Position	  Old Player	New Player
RF	  Catlanotto	Rios
C	  Cash	         Estalella
2B	  Hudson	         Clark
Relief	  Nakamura	Chulk

I’ve said this many times before: if the Blue Jays simply called up Rios to get him Major League exposure, they’re doing the wrong thing. If they are going to play him everyday and give him a chance to claim a job, I don’t mind the move. Rios was slumping in AAA, with his OBP dipping below .300, so maybe the team thought it was best to remove him from Syracuse for a couple of weeks. For that, I can’t really argue.

It wasn’t long ago that Kevin Cash and Greg Myers were supposed to platoon the everyday Blue Jays catching job, now Carlos Tosca is left to decide between Estalella, and the red-hot Gregg Zaun. Though Myers 2003 contradicts this, I wouldn’t bet on a 33-year-old catcher like Zaun hitting this well all season. Guillermo Quiroz isn’t too far off, and he might be more ready than Rios.

Texas Rangers- Placed outfielder Brian Jordan on the 15-day disabled list with left knee inflammation; placed right fielder Kevin Mench on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain; purchased the contracts of outfielders Gary Matthews Jr. and Chad Allen from Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). Placed pitcher Chan Ho Park on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back; recalled pitcher Rosman Garcia from Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). Recalled pitcher Juan Dominguez from Oklahoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned pitcher Rosman Garcia to Oklahoma.

OK, let me try and sort this out. Brian Jordan, fresh returning from a previous injury, joins everyday right fielder Kevin Mench on the 15-day DL. With them is the expensive, the terrible, Chan Ho Park. In their spots, the team is using Gary Matthews Jr, Chad Allen, and Juan Dominguez. It seems as if the baseball gods do not want the Rangers to win, but they keep doing it anyway.

So, for the time being, the Rangers will go with an outfield of Young-Nix-Delucci, with Matthews stepping in occasionally. If Adrian Gonzalez was hitting better at AAA, the Rangers might consider this the time to send Mark Teixeira to right, but for now, he stays at first base. Juan Dominguez will step into the rotation for the time being, and I find it hard to believe he’ll be much worse than Sowers.

I’ll never forget the Allan Barra quote that goes along the lines, “The Red Sox are the team God hates; the Cubs are the team God merely forgot about.” If so, Tom Hicks must have angered God, because they are getting eerily close to Beantown territory.

San Francisco Giants- Placed first baseman J.T. Snow on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 21, due to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee; placed second baseman Ray Durham on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 22, with strained left hamstring; called infielder Brian Dallimore from Fresno of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); purchased the contract of first baseman Damon Minor from Fresno; designated pitcher Kevin Walker for assignment.

Well, I’m not sure if losing the right side of the infield is going to seriously effect this team or not. While being forced to have Neifi Perez and Brian Dallimore up the middle is a bad thing, getting J.T. Snow out of the lineup is positive. In his spot should be Pedro Feliz, who is reminding me of Melvin Mora of old, and who should hit given the everyday opportunity. Playing just one position should be beneficial, and I expect Feliz to continue on his thirty home run pace.

As for Durham, I don’t know what to say about him. His quickness has been gone this season, and since he was never that good on defense, he’s almost deadweight at second. Put it this way, in the last twelve games that Durham has started, the Giants are 3-9. No one could actually point a finger at Durham for this, the quickness that once made him such a dynamic player has been lost. I just don’t understand why it’s not time to bring up Cody Ransom, who is currently hitting .325/.409/.625 in AAA.

Something to take note of: during the Giants nine-game winning streak, Durham and Snow have one combined at-bat.

Montreal Expos- Activated outfielder Peter Bergeron from the 15-day disabled list and sent him outright to Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); sent shortstop Luis Lopez outright to Edmonton. Activated first baseman Nick Johnson from the 15-day disabled list; optioned outfielder Valentino Pascucci to Edmonton of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Tony Armas Jr. from his rehabilitation assignment.

From an offensive standpoint, this helps significantly. Lopez and Pascucci had a combined nine hits in 49AB, and Val just wasn’t playing enough to get as hot as he was in AAA. Pascucci is a fine Major League player, but without playing everyday, it’s hard to get a read on anyone. Montreal first basemen have a .625 OPS this season, so Johnson does not have a lot to live up to. Sooner or later this offense will be rolling, but if the Expos have a summer month like the 2003 Brewers’ August, will anyone care?

Armas should help further stabilize the rotation, which is really the club’s only strength at this point. The starter’s ERA is only 3.82, led by Tomo Ohka (3.05), Livan Hernandez (3.15) and Zach Day (3.56). Claudio Vargas has the rotation-high ERA, and has already allowed twelve home runs, in just 52.1 innings. So, Frank Robinson is left with a decision: stick with Vargas and boot Sun-Woo Kim to the bullpen, or send Claudio to AAA to work on becoming the next Carlos Zambrano?

St. Louis Cardinals- Purchased the contract of outfielder John Mabry from Memphis of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned outfielder Colin Porter to Memphis.

Colin Porter did about everything that was asked of him as the Cardinals fourth outfielder the last couple of weeks. He played left, right, and even some centerfield. He hit all over the lineup, including sixth in the Sunday Night Game of the Week against Matt Clement and the Cubs. He hit .314 during his stay, and was everything that Orlando Palmiero was during his stay. But, the freight train that is John Mabry was just coming a little too strong to stop.

While John Mabry has played for a ton of different organizations in his storied Major League career, I just can’t imagine him anywhere else but St. Louis. It’s where he played from 1994-1998, and he loved it so much that he came back in 2001. After his successful 2002 season, the Mariners paid Mabry a bunch of money, and he paid them back with all of 22 hits last year. So with no one wanting to pay him anything, Mabry went back to his first home, Memphis.

And it was there where Mabry’s explosion has been recreated. He hit .338/.406/.654 in 136 AB in AAA, including twelve home runs during that time. His call-up is well-deserved, and it’s good to know that organizations are willing to give a 33-year-old with a career .406 SLG a chance. He’s already started to repay the team, collecting six hits in his first sixteen chances, half of which for extra bases.

New York Mets- Purchased the contract of pitcher Pedro Feliciano from Norfolk of the International League (AAA); optioned pitcher Tyler Yates to Norfolk.

First of all, let me say that you know things are bad when you are bringing up a pitcher with a 6.30 ERA in AAA. The Mets could make a run at the 2001 Padres record of most pitchers used in one season. To put this into contrast, this is similar to the New York City Opera House deciding to try to hire more strippers than Scores. Plain and simple, a $90M team should not have this kind of a problem.

But, they do. Luckily, the National League East doesn’t have one great team, and it’s too early to say the Mets are out of the race. The Carlos Beltran rumors really don’t make sense, but the Freddy Garcia rumors do. If the Mets can acquire Garcia without having to trade David Wright or Justin Huber, they should do it. Otherwise, go at a .500 season with Glavine, Trachsel, Seo, Leiter and Ginter. No one really ever believed 2004 was the Mets year anyway.

Cleveland Indians- Signed pitcher Scott Elarton to a minor league contract and assigned him to Buffalo of the International League (AAA). Acquired pitcher Lou Pote from the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations. Recalled pitcher Joe Dawley from Buffalo of the International League (AAA); designated pitcher Chad Durbin for assignment.

Well, not the normal midweek transactions. Elarton is literally making a career out of the 1999-2000 seasons, and the latter wasn’t even all that great, despite the overshadowing 17 wins. In the 5/7-5/10 Comings and Goings, Kevin Jarvis, Jimmy Haynes and James Baldwin all caused me to write about the overshadowing club, which is an elite group of pitchers that make millions out of one overrated season. Well, if you already hadn’t, add Scott Elarton to that club.

The Indians bullpen has been disastrous, so Lou Pote’s extreme availability was all but too tempting for Mark Shaprio. Pote had a nice career with the Angels from 1999-2002, and had 26.2 solid Pacific Coast League innings to his name, making him a desirable bullpen candidate. If this works, Shapiro looks like a genius for getting something for nothing, if not, well he paid nothing.

Back tomorrow with the second half of the week’s transactions…

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