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

San Diego Padres – Placed pitcher Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 20, with a strained flexor tendon in his right arm; purchased the contract of pitcher Brian Sweeney from Portland of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). Placed outfielder Ryan Klesko on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 27, with a strained oblique; purchased the contract of outfielder Jon Knott from Portland of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

It’s never good to lose your ace and left fielder in the midst of a divisional race, as hurler Jake Peavy (2.01 ERA, leads MLB) and struggling slugger Ryan Klesko (.357 SLG) both go down to injury. The latter shouldn’t hurt the team too much, as they’ve been playing without the real Ryan Klesko all year. In fact, TERRENCE LONG is outslugging Klesko. Matthew Namee has covered enough on Jon Knott, so I don’t need to rant on him. But I really hope Bruce Bochy gives the kid an opportunity for a couple of weeks, although I’m shocked that the red hot Xavier Nady didn’t get the call.

Sweeney was up all of two days with no appearances before Antonio Osuna was activated from the DL, sending Sweeney back to Portland’s starting rotation. The Padres didn’t need a starter after all, as both Dennis Tankersley and Justin Germano have pitched well in Peavy’s and David Wells’ absence. The latter should return this Friday, upon which the team will make a decision on who (Germano or Tankersley) to keep in the rotation. Despite the fact that Germano’s K/BB rate is under 1.00 (minor league career K/BB rate of 4.64) since arriving to the big leagues, my guess is the club will keep him up for the next few weeks (if Tim Stauffer doesn’t get the call). Tankersley will move to the bullpen, sending Brandon Puffer packing.

If Puffer can’t make it in SoCal, he can’t make it anywhere.

Atlanta Braves – Placed pitcher Horacio Ramirez on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis; purchased the contract of pitcher Travis Smith from Richmond of the International League (AAA).

It’s just not a good time to be in the top 5 of the NL ERA rankings, is it? Tom Glavine, watch your back. Despite the fact that Mike Hampton hasn’t turned on the jets yet, and mark my words he will, the Braves have a very formidable rotation this year. It’s been led by Ramirez, who despite a 31/29 K/BB, has kept his ERA at 2.28. He really attacks hitters well, and I’m sure pitching in Turner Field makes a difference too. He wouldn’t ever find himself on my fantasy team, but with Leo Mazzone, Ramirez might just keep going.

Smith is a 31-year-old baseball lifer, with only 56 career 6.91 ERA innings to his name. But thanks to a 2.49 ERA and solid peripherals in AAA, Smith will get the 2-3 starts while Ramirez nurses his shoulder. Should that shoulder get hurt further, or any other Brave go down, I would have to think that prospect Dan Meyer is next in line. The AA southpaw currently has a 1.98 ERA in the Southern League, nearing Dontrelle Willis’ 1.49 from a year before. In fact, both Meyer and Andy Marte could have a Willis-Cabrera impact this year, beating the Marlins at their own game.

Chicago White Sox – Claimed pitcher Eduardo Villacis off waivers from the Kansas City Royals and assigned him to Birmingham of the Southern League (AA). Optioned pitcher Kelly Wunsch to Charlotte of the International League (AAA). Optioned pitcher Jon Rauch to Charlotte of the International League (AAA). Purchased the contract of infielder Kelly Dransfeldt from Charlotte.

While it’s good that Kenny Williams backed off of his original comments, Williams original explosion at Rauch shows one of his largest weaknesses as a General Manager: brashness. As a former player, I think we can understand why Williams was so mad that Rauch left a game early, but there is no place for that in the front office. A cool head is so necessary to be a good General Manager, and saying aloud that one of your top young pitchers could be had for nothing is way too brash.

My previous evidence of this flaw in Williams are two trades during his tenure: trading for Todd Ritchie and Carl Everett. In Ritchie, the White Sox decided they needed a veteran starter for their staff and quickly sent three pitching prospects to Pittsburgh for the overrated Ritchie. While the White Sox got more harm than help, the Pirates are still reaping the benefits everytime Kip Wells starts. And while it’s too early to tell if the Carl Everett trade might hurt, sending three mid-level prospects for a hothead like Everett midseason is definitely brash.

I like Kenny Williams and think the media generally underrates his talents as a General Manager. But there are a lot of factors involved in becoming a top GM, and Williams still has a long way to go.

Seattle Mariners – Recalled pitcher Clint Nageotte from Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); designated outfielder Quinton McCracken for assignment.

It’s really not a question of why the Mariners have decided to call Clint Nageotte to the Majors, it’s a question of what his role will be with the Major League team. The team is hesitant to break up their rotation, despite the fact that Ryan Franklin (4.84 ERA), Joel Pineiro (5.74) and Gil Meche (6.97) have all been shaky this season. The team wonders if it’s too early to put Nageotte into the bullpen, where he’s been rumored to be headed since his name started to appear on prospect sheets.

Two years ago, the Mariners had two great pitching prospects in Nageotte and Rafael Soriano. This spring, Soriano expressed his desire to stay as a reliever, and the Mariners apparently will not clash with him in that regard. And while it’s hard to quantify how big of a role relievers play on teams, I would think ending up with both prospects in the ‘pen would be some sort of a failure.

Anyway, nice that they are finally realizing that McCracken offers nothing to a Major League team, and that the white flag could possibly be raised soon. Rich Aurilia has reportedly been offered to the Cubs, and it sounds as if Freddy Garcia will be leaving any day now. After that, the club will entertain offers for Bret Boone and Randy Winn, possibly putting everyone despite Ichiro on the block. Paul DePodesta is in first place with the Dodgers, and Bill Bavasi is slowly watching his season diminish. Is this a coincidence? I think not.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Activated first baseman Randall Simon from the 15-day disabled list; placed catcher Humberto Cota on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique. Recalled pitcher Sean Burnett from Nashville of the Pacific Coast League ( AAA); optioned pitcher Mike Gonzalez to Nashville.

We celebrate when players like Nageotte, or Alexis Rios, or Zack Greinke make the Majors, but few realize when lesser knowns like Sean Burnett get a quick spot start in. With the Pirates rotation in shambles following a doubleheader, Pittsburgh brought up their soft-throwing southpaw from AAA. Burnett pitched well against the Cubs, allowing one run on five hits and three walks in five innings. Since then, he’s been optioned back to AAA, but something tells me that’s not the last time the Steel City will see Mr. Burnett.

Craig Wilson is hitting the cover off the ball, and the Daryle Ward gamble is paying off. Jason Bay is finally back healthy, and Rob Mackowiak is warming up. Lloyd McClendon has had a difficult time filling all these guys in one lineup the past few weeks, and now with Randall Simon back, it’s impossible. Simon’s .638 OPS looks like enough to warrant a designation for assignment by me, as the Bucs should ride these hot streaks as long as they are going. But, Dave Littlefield won’t listen, Lloyd McClendon will play Simon, and one of the four I mentioned above will sit on the bench, cooling off. It’s really unfortunate when one player’s name, even when he’s never been that good, can hold off deserving players from everyday jobs.

Philadelphia Phillies – Placed pitcher Vicente Padilla on the 15-day disabled list with right biceps tendinitis; recalled pitcher Geoff Geary from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

I guess we should have seen the signs of an overworked pitcher. I mean, just look at Padilla’s IP numbers from 2000-2003:

2000: 83.2 IP
2001: 115.2 IP
2002: 206.0 IP
2003: 208.2 IP

Increased workload each year, with over 400 innings in the 25 and 26-year-old seasons, all this just spells injury. While it’s not like Padilla’s season has been declared over, don’t be surprised to see him on and off the DL all season.

Kansas City Royals – Placed outfielder Juan Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 22, with a muscle strain in his back; recalled outfielder Byron Gettis from Omaha of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). Activated infielder Tony Graffanino from the 15-day disabled list; designated infielder Mendy Lopez for assignment.

It was only a matter of time before Juan Gonzalez got hurt, and with it being now, it’s a sort of symbol for the Royals season having ended. It won’t be long before Carlos Beltran, Joe Randa, Benito Santiago and others are members of different teams, and Kansas City can peg all their hopes on Zack Greinke’s right arm. Bret Saberhagen may have won a world title his second year, Greinke’s just praying for 63 wins in 2005.

Mendy Lopez is this week’s version of Ricky Gutierrez, a utility infielder hitting .105/.209/.184 on the season. There’s an off chance that a team will spend a waiver claim on Mendy Lopez, with the other possibility being another journey to Omaha, and not for the College World Series. Graffanino, in his limited time, has been one of the better Royal hitters this season, with his .320 batting average and all. TGraff will fill in when Joe Randa gets dealt, hopefully proving my theory that there are far worse second basemen starting in the Majors.

New York Yankees – Claimed second baseman Kevin Hooper off waivers from the Florida Marlins and optioned him to Columbus of the International League (AAA).

It’s been a long time since October 31, 2002, but I still haven’t forgotten a John Sickels Down on the Farm mailbag from that day. Here’s why:

Kevin C. writes: Are there other small players in the minor leagues that, if given the opportunity, could produce like David Eckstein? I can’t help but think of the Marlins’ Kevin Hooper (from your town, Lawrence, Kansas) when I watch Eckstein.

I like Hooper. I saw him play a lot for Wichita State, and he’s surprised a lot of people with how well he’s done in the minors. This year, he hit .288 with 17 steals for Triple-A Calgary. Like Eckstein, he is small and doesn’t wow scouts, but he works his tail off, knows baseball, and does all the little things right. Like Eckstein, he can play a decent shortstop despite his lack of great tools. Compared to Eckstein, he has a bit less speed and his walk rates haven’t been as high, but I wouldn’t underestimate Hooper. He’s been surprising people since high school.

For some reason I didn’t catch the Eckstein craze that year, just couldn’t buy into the ‘small guy makes it in a big guy’s world’ story after 2002. Eckstein’s scrapiness always rubbed me the wrong way, and while I never rooted against Hooper, let’s just say he wouldn’t have been a top choice if I had ever written this article.

I have some feeling that one member of the Yankees brass read that same quote I have above in November of 2002, shortly after the Angels and Eckstein had won the World Series. My guess is that article overshadowed Hooper’s .631 OPS from 2003 and caused that higher-up to beg Mr. Cashman to put a claim on Hooper. And with Yankees 2B currently hitting .238, Cashman thought, “Why not? What’s the worst that can happen, Hooper and Bubba Crosby become the ultimate blue collar players in Columbus?”

Cincinnati Reds – Recalled pitcher Joe Valentine from Louisville of the International League (AAA); optioned pitcher Ryan Wagner to Louisville.

Before the season, Ryan Wagner looked to be the Reds most attractive prospect. In fact, our own Aaron Gleeman had him pegged higher than anywhere else that I saw, 21st, and had this to say about him:

I struggled with where to put Ryan Wagner on this list. He is basically a major league-ready closer right now. He’s got incredible stuff and his performance in college and in his time with the Reds last year was awesome. But where do you rank a guy like that?

Well, to answer Aaron’s question in hindsight, lower than twenty-first. It appears as if Wagner has been pushed a little hard in the last twelve months or so, and he’s regressed a bit. Look for Wagner to pick it up in the minors, and become an integral member of the Reds bullpen by year’s end.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Purchased the contract of pitcher Scott Service from Tucson of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned pitcher Brian Bruney to Tucson.

First of all, let me applaud the Diamondbacks for actually giving Bruney a chance during his stay, as he pitched in ten games with the big club. While an ERA under 4.00 and a H/9 less than 7.00 is solid, Bruney walked eleven in 9.2 innings, against only eight strikeouts. Bruney started well enough, not allowing a run in his first six innings. But, in his final four appearances, Bruney allowed four runs on four hits and seven walks, spanning only 3.2 innings in total. I’d say that’s enough to warrant an option, wouldn’t you?

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