Lost in Transactions 2/16-2/22/09: Junior comes home

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Ken Griffey Jr. (Icon/SMI)

With the first week of spring training out of the way, Ken Griffey Junior returned home to his former stomping grounds while the Orioles locked up the face of their franchise through 2013. All that, and more, in this week’s edition of Lost in Transactions.

2/16/09

Boston Red Sox signed OF Brad Wilkerson to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Wilkerson will likely claim the final bench spot for the Red Sox after the team learned that 25th man Mark Kotsay will be out until May with a back injury. Wilkerson was one of the better players for the Montreal/Washington Expos/Nationals but was moved to the Texas Rangers in the Alfonso Soriano trade of 2006. He posted a .222 average, struggling to make solid contact, connecting for only 15.4 percent of line drives as opposed to the mid 20s the previous two years.

Attempting to return to normalcy in 2007, he slightly improved his power output but otherwise remained largely unchanged. He moved on to the Seattle Mariners last year and was cut after just 19 games. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him up on a lark that returning to Canada could do some good. 208 at-bats later and a line of .216/.297/.332, even Canada was hopeless. As an outfielder and first baseman, he will fill exactly the role Kotsay was projected to. He’s always had a solid eye, but there’s only so much you can do with that with a batting average in the low .200s. He also has decent power. In other words, he’s another Eric Hinske.

Unless he gets off to a hot start, Wilkerson will likely be released upon Kotsay’s return; the Red Sox value Kotsay’s athleticism far more and project better things out of him than his .226/.286/.345 line in 84 at-bats after joining the Sox. Indeed, Kotsay’s line drive percentage was 23.3 percent, the highest since 2005 when he hit .280/.325/.421 for the Oakland Athletics.

Los Angeles Angels invited RHP Eddie McKiernan to spring training.

Seattle Mariners signed C Jason Phillips to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Signed 2008 draft pick RHP Joshua Fields to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

The Mariners signed Fields at the midpoint between what they were offering and what Fields wanted. Which begs the question: what took so long?

2/17/09

Milwaukee Brewers re-signed RHP Eric Gagne to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

One thing you can’t say about Gagne is that he’s egotistical. Several months after donating his salary so that fans could attend a Brewers game for free, Gagne returns, intent on making up for his disastrous 2008 in which he earned $10 million. Ask any Red Sox fan if they’re surprised how his 2008 turned out.

He posted a 5.44 ERA, walking 22 and whiffing 38 in 46.1 innings. He’s clearly not your 2002-4 Gagne, is he? Gagne’s FIP was even worse at 6.07, but his xFIP is kinder, saying Gagne was responsible for 4.77 ERA; the rest was out of his hands. Maybe so, but when you post your worst K/BB ratio since your sophomore year in 2000 (age 24 as a starter), odds are you won’t be faring well.

San Diego Padres signed OF Emil Brown to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

For such a terrible team, the Padres suddenly find themselves with a glut of outfielders. Doesn’t mean those outfielders are any good though, especially Brown. After struggling as a kid for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he disappeared from major league ball for several years, resurfacing in Kansas City and providing above-average offense in 2005 and 2006. Since then, however, he’s been anything but, struggling just to reach a .300 OBP and losing what power he commanded although he regained that power last year. For his career, Brown is an outstanding defensive left-fielder, which may grab him a job in the cavernous Petco Park.

Florida Marlins extended manager Fredi Gonzalez’s contract through 2011.

It’s hard to argue with the job Gonzalez has done since taking over for Joe Girardi. After Girardi steered the team to a 78-84 record, arguably destroying some young pitchers in the process, Gonzalez took over and sent the Marlins to a 71-91 finish in 2007. In 2008, as the pitchers continued to recover, the Marlins finished over .500 at 84-77. A lot of insiders are predicting the Marlins have an outside chance at making the playoffs due to their pitching staff, which may be the best in the division. Sure, but their hitting is one gigantic question mark.

2/18/09


Arizona Diamondbacks claimed RHP Bobby Korecky off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Designated RHP Jailen Peguero for assignment.

Minnesota Twins signed RHP Luis Ayala to a one-year contract.

Seattle Mariners signed OF Ken Griffey Jr. to a one-year contract. Invited C Israel Nunez to spring training.

Look, the idea behind Griffey returning to the Mariners has virtually nothing to do with statistics. We all know this. It’s the right thing for Griffey and the Mariners to do; the Mariners are in a phase where they can afford to take on Griffey and give him playing time and it serves as a nice bookend to Junior’s career. He’ll see time at DH and left field, perhaps even spot duty in center or right if the park dictates it. He still has a little bit of juice left and shouldn’t embarrass himself.

As for the contention that while Griffey may tack on a win or two this year but at the possible expense of future wins via young players, I’m not buying it. First of all, Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement will still find plenty of at-bats. Secondly, don’t discount the intangible (“Aarrrgh”, you scream) assets Junior brings: leadership and a role model for young ballplayers to look up to in an era where virtually every other role model from their childhood has been stained.

2/19/09

Cleveland Indians acquired RHP Juan Salas from the Tampa Bay Rays for INF Isaias Velasquez. Salas had been designated for assignment on February 12. Designated 3B Andy Marte for assignment.

Salas is a fringe-average reliever: if he ever got his control under wraps, he’d be very good. The real story is the designation of Andy Marte for assignment. Marte was the key to the Edgar Renteria trade; he is considered one of the best prospects in baseball. After being flipped to the Indians for Coco Crisp, he’s out of options and chances. If he hopes to realize his potential, he’ll have to latch on somewhere and fight for a job. San Francisco, maybe?

Kansas City Royals claimed INF Tug Hulett off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. He had been designated for assignment on February 15. Designated LHP Neal Musser for assignment.

Tampa Bay Rays signed 2B Adam Kennedy to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Toronto Blue Jays sent LHP Brian Burres and LHP Reid Santos outright to Triple-A Las Vegas.

2/20/09


Arizona Diamondbacks sent RHP Jailen Peguero outright to Triple-A Reno and invited him to spring training.

Atlanta Braves re-signed LHP Tom Glavine to a one-year contract.

Really nothing to say here. Glavine’s coming off injury and clearly has seen better days. The sentimentalist in me wants to say he’ll be just as good as he was for the Mets, but the reality is that he probably won’t be. If he can, however, return to his stingy ways of issuing walks (something he was not last year: 5.1 BB/G in 63.1 innings) he can at least be a solid back of the rotation starter for the Braves.

Chicago Cubs released LHP Bill White. Invited RHP Brian Schlitter to spring training.

Baltimore Orioles signed 2B Brian Roberts to a four-year extension beginning in 2010.

Is it possible the Orioles might trade Roberts now that they’ve locked him up? Sure. Is it possible that he stays with the Orioles through 2013? Absolutely.

Roberts is one of the premier second basemen in the game and although he’ll be 36 at the end of the contract, odds are that he will still be productive. Roberts had a career-high 51 doubles last year, so the power is there. Roberts used to be a good defensive second baseman but has posted back-to-back years of negative single digit UZRs, so this bears keeping an eye on although there has been no indication he has lost speed. Indeed, he swiped 40 bags last year. Roberts said that he wouldn’t have signed the contract if he didn’t believe that the Orioles could contend at some point in the contract. While it’s true that the Orioles would contend in any other division, it’s hard to see the Orioles ever breaking through their glass ceiling in the AL East. For their fans’ sake, I hope so, but I harbor doubts it will happen on or before 2013.

Tampa Bay Rays signed RHP Jason Isringhausen to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

2/21/09

Minnesota Twins agreed to terms with 3B Joe Crede on a one-year contract. Placed RHP Pat Neshek on the 60-day disabled list.

Crede still remains an outstanding defensive third-baseman, despite his back issues. He stole 39 balls away out of his zone last year and posted a 6.4 UZR. He can also hit 25-30 home runs, although it’s unlikely he reaches the high end of that projection after leaving the homer-happy Cell that the Chicago White Sox reside in.

It’s a great move for the Twins, because relying on a Brendan Harris/Brian Buscher platoon probably was going to end badly. They definitely improved their playoff chances.

Seattle Mariners released OF Mike Wilson.

Texas Rangers signed SP Kris Benson to a minor league contract.

Cleveland Indians signed C Martin Cervenka to a Minor League contract.

Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to terms with 2B Orlando Hudson on a one-year contract.

Hudson is probably the only remaining free agent in which it made sense for the Dodgers to push Blake Dewitt to the bench or Triple-A. (Notwithstanding the fact, of course, that he’d be better off starting at third with Casey Blake coming off the bench, but that’s not happening.) Hudson will give the Dodgers a great middle infield defense He’ll probably lose some offensive value going forward after moving from Chase Park to Chavez Ravine, but should still approximate his career numbers of .282/.346/.433.

The Dodgers have a solid offense that is one offensive playmaker away from being the team to beat in the NL West. Who could they sign that could be—oh, wait…

2/22/09

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