Comings and Goings (7/1-7/4)

Arizona Diamondbacks – Fired manager Bob Brenly and pitching coach Chuck Kniffin. Named Al Pedrique manager for the rest of the season; named Mark Davis pitching coach.

I’ve used the old phrase, “Oh how the mighty have fallen” in minor transactions like J.C. Romero’s demotion, but never has it been as fitting as now. Brenly is only years removed from beating the New York Yankees for the World Championship, but the Diamondbacks aren’t necessarily looking in that direction anymore. That was evident before the season, when in a flurry of moves, the Diamondbacks dumped Curt Schilling to Boston, and traded for Richie Sexson from Milwaukee only days later. Yes, eliminating some extra dollars from the payroll was the main reasoning for this, but it just made little sense to go from seller to buyer within days.

That decision backfired in a big way this season, as Curt Schilling is possibly the AL Cy Young, Lyle Overbay is considered an All-Star snub, and Richie Sexson will not play another game this season. Trading Overbay displayed the Diamondbacks willingness to trade prospects that has followed Joe Garagiola Jr. since the team started. Not every prospect is going to reach his ceiling like Brandon Webb did, and expecting Overbay to do that in 2003 was a big mistake. Things would be drastically different if the D-Backs had not made those two trades, and I can say with great certainty that Bob Brenly would still be in the dugout.

But, hindsight is 20-20, and ownership cannot objectively evaluate a manager by saying “What if?” Instead, the Diamondbacks had to chart a direction, and seeing as though their best three players are 35+, it was obvious rebuilding was the right move to make. Then, they had to ask, is Bob Brenly the right manager to use when starting over? And the answer to this is why Bob Brenly will add to the July unemployment number. Brenly was always slow realizing strengths in players like Overbay, Junior Spivey and Alex Cintron, not giving them the proper at-bats until they were very aged. The Diamondbacks are going to need a manager ready to field a young team, and learn to take the hits that come with that. Alan Trammell did that for a year, and I don’t doubt it was partly his managing that convinced Tiger ownership to open up their pocketbooks.

So, I agree with the idea of trading Steve Finley, Robbie Alomar and Matt Mantei. Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez are different scenarios, since the two shape the face of the Diamondbacks, and trading either would be a terrible public relations move. Because of that, I would not advise trading either unless overwhelmed by an offer. The Diamondbacks showed last year that they have a lot of youth in their system, and this and last year’s draft (college heavy) should only add to that. We’ll see if the 44-year-old Pedrique is the right man for the job, but if he’s like fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen, it won’t be a bad move.

Boston Red Sox – Activated third baseman Bill Mueller from the 15-day disabled list; placed pitcher Scott Williamson on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 1, with a nerve impingement of his right forearm; recalled pitcher Anastacio Martinez from Pawtucket of the International League (AAA); designated infielder Cesar Crespo for assignment. Purchased the contract of pitcher Jimmy Anderson from Pawtucket of the International League (AAA); optioned pitcher Anastacio Martinez to Pawtucket.

All in all, this is a long way of saying the Red Sox replaced Crespo and Williamson with Bill Mueller and Jimmy Anderson on the active roster. The signing of Curt Leskanic, going well thus far, enables the Sox to lose Williamson without too much pain, and Anderson provides help in the long relief role. I’ll talk about the Jimmy Anderson and Brandon Puffer trades a little later here, but I’ll say now that adding depth at low costs is seldom a bad thing.

Mueller’s return means we big the Greek God of Walks goodbye as an everyday player, if just for three months. Youkilis had an .852 OPS in 33 games at third base, a number I doubt a rehabbing Mueller can best, if not match. In fact, I’d bet more on the .720-.800 OPS that has been custom for Mueller in much of his career. I’m sure the club could find a contender with a third base problem, and in return, land something that might help their Wild Card run. Because, let’s face it, the Red Sox now are much more focused on the AL West than the hated Yankees.

Chicago Cubs – Acquired pitcher Andrew Shipman and a player to be named later from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Jimmy Anderson. Placed outfielder Todd Hollandsworth on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 28, with a right shin contusion; recalled infielder Brendan Harris from Iowa of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Hollandsworth’s exit will be hard for the Cubs, who are now left with this bench: Paul Bako, Mark Grudzielanek, Rey Ordonez, Tom Goodwin, Jose Macias, Brendan Harris. That is terribly bad, especially when considering the group hit all of 11 home runs last year. Without Todd the bench is completely devoid of power, meaning Grudzielanek might play a bit more to leave the powerful left-handed Todd Walker on the bench. Since the middle of the infield has a lot of depth, I was surprised to see Harris, who actually should see some time with Aramis Ramirez day-to-day with a sore groin. Harris hit .400 in June (40/100), cementing a spot as one of the Cubs’ top five prospects. Walker and Grudzi are free agents at season’s end, and Jim Hendry will have to consider leaving second open for Harris, a favorite prospect of his. With that being said, I’m still shocked that veteran players like Bill Selby or Calvin Murray were ignored here.

I said in the Red Sox analysis that adding depth at a low cost was always a good thing, in reference to the Jimmy Anderson trade. But, the Cubs already had immense depth at that position, so taking a flyer on a young reliever like Shipman is probably a good thing. When Kerry Wood returns from injury, Glendon Rusch will move to the bullpen, filling the exact role that Anderson had. And for the time being, the team would rather use young Jon Leicester anyway. Speaking of Rusch, even after seeing him pitch eight scoreless innings on Sunday, I am going to actively support the team trade him. I read somewhere that the Cleveland Indians were interested in Shawn Estes, making me drool at the thought of what they might give up for the more favorable Glendon Rusch. He didn’t pitch great out of the bullpen early in the season, and I’d rather Leicester or Todd Wellemeyer later in the season anyway. So, whaddya think?

San Diego Padres – Traded pitcher Brandon Puffer to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named or cash; activated pitcher Jake Peavy from the 15-day disabled list. Recalled pitcher Ricky Stone from Portland of the Pacific Coast League; signed outfielder Darren Bragg; optioned infielder Ramon Vazquez to Portland; sent outright outfielder Kerry Robinson to Portland.

I thought awhile for a good Puffer going to Boston joke, but I guess instead, I’ll offer the good ol’, “if a Puffer can’t make it in SoCal, he can’t make it anywhere.” Still, at the cost of nothing, it’s not a bad idea to see if Puffer can better his 2002 season and be this year’s Scott Linebrink. It’s doubtful that he’ll see Beantown before September anyway, but adding depth will be good so the BoSox don’t have to see Anastacio Martinez give up another game-ending home run soon. And for the Padres, there is no risk here, and only the small, minuscule hope for a reward.

The Padres will now see if Stone can be what Boston is seeing in Puffer, a potential flash-in-the-pan reliever for a couple of weeks. He was very good for the Astros in 2002 and 2003, so I have a lot more hope for him than Brandon Puffer, who was merely replacement level talent in 2002. I also like signing Darren Bragg, who was hitting .282/.367/.469 in the International League, and is better than Kerry Robinson with one arm and one leg. I’m sure Matthew would prefer them trying Jon Knott here, but Bragg can do a little bit of everything, and had enough experience with some good Braves teams to satisfy any GM.

From a Padres standpoint, the best transaction here is the activation of Jake Peavy, their ace through his first nine starts. San Diego has struggled getting their rotation as much as the highly publicized Cubs, but they now finally have the group they wanted to break camp with. Peavy, who put his ERA below 2.00 after a successful return, still has a chance at making 25 starts in what looks like a breakout season. It was yesterday that the Padres lost Phil Nevin for a couple weeks (more in the next C+G), but getting back Peavy is a great consolation.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Placed pitcher Hideo Nomo on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation of his right rotator cuff; purchased the contract of pitcher Giovanni Carrara from Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). Placed pitcher Odalis Perez on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed rotator cuff; recalled pitcher Edwin Jackson from Las Vegas.

In a flash, the Dodgers lose two-fifths of their rotation, not a good thing as the Giants are starting to get hot, and the Padres just get their ace back. Losing Nomo might just be a blessing in disguise, seeing as though he’s been the worst Dodger starter this season. Actually, look for the Dodgers to make that stint last a little longer than fifteen days. The same can’t be true for Odalis Perez, the club’s ace, and the arm they must raise if serious about a playoff run. Paul DePodesta has yet to decide if the team is a buyer or a seller, but how the offense reacts to a major pitching hit will largely determine that.

Another bad sign came when Edwin Jackson, one of many prized jewels from the Dodger system, hurt his elbow in what was his second start this season. Jackson joins Greg Miller, another pitching prospect, on the prospect DL, and leaves DePodesta praying to the baseball gods. And now it’s the Dodgers, who three months ago we thought had so much rotation depth, that might be left to trade for a starter by month’s end.

Seattle Mariners – Purchased the contract of pitcher Travis Blackley from Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned pitcher Clint Nageotte to Tacoma; placed catcher Miguel Olivo on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 30, with kidney stones; recalled infielder Justin Leone from Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Blackley, who was 25th on my recent prospect update, finally gets a start though he was probably more deserving than Nageotte a month ago. Blackley has pitched fantastically this year, and even better when considering he gave up ten runs in his first two starts. In fact, if eliminating those April 11 and 16 starts, his ERA drops from 2.63 to 1.78, and his H/9 goes from 7.14 to 5.80. Those are insane numbers, and it’s great the Mariners are finally honoring that with a promotion. Nageotte won’t spend a lot of time in Tacoma, joining Blackley in the rotation before long. It’s quite possible that Blackley and Nageotte will join Joel Pineiro, Jamie Moyer, and the game’s top pitching prospect, Felix Hernandez, in next year’s rotation.

Olivo goes down about as quickly as he was dealt, leaving Dan Wilson a few more weeks with an everyday job. Bill Bavasi said he had no plans to trade Wilson, who will serve as a sort of mentor for Olivo the rest of the season. With Scott Spezio’s horrible troubles, I really hope that Bob Melvin takes the hint and starts trying Justin Leone everyday, because while old for a prospect at 26, the kid can do more than Spezio or Willie Bloomquist at this point.

Cincinnati Reds – Placed pitcher Mike Matthews on the 15-day disabled list with bone chips in his left elbow. Placed first baseman Sean Casey on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 28, with a strained right calf; recalled pitcher Ryan Wagner and catcher Corky Miller from Louisville of the International League (AAA).

Casey’s injury wouldn’t hurt so much if Austin Kearns wasn’t hurt as well, since the Reds could easily move Dunn to first and give Wily Mo Pena the couple of weeks of playing time. While Pena’s OPS has dropped in each month so far, few people would have believed Pena would already have seven home runs and an OPS above .750. The Reds are stuck with their outfield for a while though, meaning Pena might have to suffer the Jason Lane disease of waiting. But, if there is a good thing about this trade, it’s that Cincinnati sees the return of a man named Corky.

I’m not always bold with predictions here, that’s just not in the job requirement, but I’ll give you one: Ryan Wagner will be Cincinnati’s best reliever in the second half. Of course, I would have said that in the first half, shortly before Wagner was demoted and Danny Graves stole the league’s lead in saves. But, Wagner pitched well for the Louisville Bats, striking out 19 in just over sixteen innings of work, while not allowing a home run. Continuing that performance in the Majors would be great for a tiring Reds bullpen, and it will definitely all but replace Matthews’ 8.84 ERA.

Kansas City Royals – Acquired outfielder Ruben Mateo from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash.

And again, Allard Baird impresses us with another small move. It is these unseen moves that make me think that sooner or later, Baird might just be the guy to turn this franchise around. He is the guy that put them in so much trouble, yes, but I also think he’s matured as a GM, and is ready to build a winner in a weak division.

Mateo is just one of many reasons that I say that, because while he may not work out, it’s definitely worth the risk of a few extra dollars. Mateo showed great discipline in April that led to his .117 isolated patience in Pittsburgh, and hopefully the Royals will preach that notion further with them. For now, Stairs will be part of some sort of platoon in the outfield, giving Dee Brown, David DeJesus or Matt Stairs the day off against a southpaw.

Houston Astros – Optioned pitcher Jeremy Griffiths to New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled infielder Chris Burke from New Orleans.

Jeff Kent pulled up a bit limp against Chicago, and since he’ll be out a couple of days, the Astros thought it time to try out Burke. Now, Kent is a free agent at year’s end, and I don’t doubt that Gerry Hunsicker will decide to bring up Burke, rather focusing on Carlos Beltran in the outfield. This security has been caused by Burke’s .325/.403/.513 line in New Orleans, including ten home runs, 33 walks and 21 stolen bases. This is more than Craig Biggio provides in the leadoff slot, so hopefully Hunsicker will also replace Biggio with Jason Lane in left field. Burke is a very good prospect, battling with Josh Anderson and Fernando Nieve for the club’s first spot. Hopefully Jimy Williams will give the kid a couple of days to prove himself, but if not, he won’t be the first manager to pull such a stunt. I mean, hey, can’t Jose Vizcaino play second?

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