Lost in Transactions 5/4-5/10/09: Manny suspended, the future arrives

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Manny Ramirez (Icon/SMI)

Well, that was an interesting week. Manny Ramirez was suspended, the Orioles and Cubs made a trade and two teams called up players integral to their future. The Yankees lost their catching tandem while the Athletics made a ton of roster shuffles. Enough with it, let’s dive in:

5/4/09

New York Yankees recalled RHP Alfredo Aceves from Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees.

Aceves, 26, posted a 2.40 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances for the Yankees last year. That was rather lucky given his 10 walks and 16 strikeouts. He got the call after shutting down the Lehigh-Valley Pigs (Phillies) for eight innings. He’ll be their first option in the rotation if anything should befall one of their starters. He’ll also see time in the bullpen as the Yankees desperately try throwing gunk on the wall and seeing what sticks. Given the volatility of bullpens, it’s not a bad strategy—but the Red Sox followed a similar philosophy in recent years and have already abandoned it, preferring to stock quality arms in the majors with viable options in the minors instead of just amassing low-cost, low-reward options as the Yankees seem to be doing.

Chicago Cubs called up 2B Bobby Scales from Iowa Cubs.

This was 11 years in the waiting for Scales. He’s been becoming a solid hitter at the Triple-A level for the last few years, so the versatile 31-year-old could have a couple more years of major league action in him.

Houston Astros placed RHP Doug Brocail on the 15-day disabled list. Left hamstring strain.
Arizona Diamondbacks placed RHP Tom Gordon on the 15-day disabled list. Left hamstring strain.
Chicago Cubs placed RHP Carlos Zambrano on the 15-day disabled list. Strained left hamstring.
Detroit Tigers transferred C Matt Treanor from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.
Minnesota Twins activated RHP Jesse Crain from the 15-day disabled list.
Los Angeles Angels activated LHP Darren Oliver from the 15-day disabled list.
Houston Astros activated RHP Brian Moehler from the 15-day disabled list.
Texas Rangers optioned Max Ramirez to Oklahoma City RedHawks.
C Shawn Riggans assigned to Montgomery Biscuits from Tampa Bay Rays.
Ervin Santana assigned to Rancho Cucamonga Quakes from Los Angeles Angels.
RHP Walter Silva assigned to Portland Beavers from San Diego Padres.
RHP Doug Waechter assigned to Omaha Royals from Kansas City Royals.
RF Rocco Baldelli assigned to Pawtucket Red Sox from Boston Red Sox.
Oakland Athletics optioned 2B Eric Patterson to Sacramento River Cats.
Oakland Athletics optioned LHP Gio Gonzalez to Sacramento River Cats.
Los Angeles Angels optioned RHP Kevin Jepsen to Salt Lake Bees.
Los Angeles Angels optioned RHP Fernando Rodriguez to Salt Lake Bees.
St. Louis Cardinals optioned RHP P.J. Walters to Memphis Redbirds.
New York Yankees optioned Anthony Claggett to Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees.
Texas Rangers recalled Greg Golson from Oklahoma City RedHawks.
Arizona Diamondbacks recalled RHP Leo Rosales from Reno Aces.
Oakland Athletics recalled LHP Jerry Blevins from Sacramento River Cats.
Oakland Athletics recalled RHP Sean Gallagher from Sacramento River Cats.
St. Louis Cardinals recalled RHP Brad Thompson from Memphis Redbirds.

5/5/09

Oakland Athletics optioned LHP Dana Eveland to Sacramento River Cats.

25, Eveland had gotten off to a brutal start (7.40 ERA) for the Athletics after spending last year in the rotation of the A’s. Eveland was extremely unlucky, as his FIP was only 5.00. I say only despite the still-high FIP because that’s an extreme FIP differential. He gave up 41 hits in only 24.1 innings, an unsustainable ratio of 15.2. Even Carlos Silva only posted a 12.5 H/9 last year. He’ll be back soon, even if it’s just as a lefty option out of the bullpen.

New York Yankees activated, recalled C Francisco Cervelli from Trenton Thunder.

Tough luck for the Yankees, who lose both major league catchers in short order. Both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina were lost this week, leaving the Yankees with a ragtag combination of Francisco Cervelli and Kevin Cash.

Cervelli will get most of the time behind the plate, and at 23, he looks to have a promising career ahead of him. He doesn’t hit for much power, but he has a solid eye. He’s gotten off to a cold start offensively but earned rave reviews from CC Sabathia in Cervelli’s first start behind the dish. Also tabbed a defensive standout, Cervelli should at worst have a long career as a backup. He could get away with starting for a subpar team during the prime of his years. He could easily be used as trade bait, but I can see him being a longtime backup catcher for the Yankees. Catchers also tend to develop later than their peers, so if he can add some power to his frame, could eventually morph into a viable starter.

New York Yankees placed C Jorge Posada on the 15-day disabled list. Strained right hamstring.
Oakland Athletics activated RF Ben Copeland from the 15-day disabled list.
Detroit Tigers placed LF Carlos Guillen on the 15-day disabled list. Right shoulder inflammation.
Atlanta Braves activated LF Garret Anderson from the 15-day disabled list.
RHP Tim Redding assigned to Buffalo Bisons from New York Mets.
Daisuke Matsuzaka assigned to Pawtucket Red Sox from Boston Red Sox.
RHP John Lackey assigned to Salt Lake Bees from Los Angeles Angels.
John Bale assigned to Northwest Arkansas Naturals from Kansas City Royals.
Atlanta Braves optioned LF Brandon Jones to Gwinnett Braves.
Detroit Tigers optioned Clay Rapada to Toledo Mud Hens.
Detroit Tigers recalled 1B Jeff Larish from Toledo Mud Hens.
Detroit Tigers recalled CF Clete Thomas from Toledo Mud Hens.

5/6/09

Chicago Cubs optioned RHP Jeff Samardzija to Iowa Cubs.

I don’t understand this move at all, at least for the short term. The Cubs are desperate for relief pitching, so they option their best power reliever behind Carlos Marmol? Manager Lou Pinella called on Samardzija to develop pitches other than his fastball, but that didn’t seem to bug Pinella last year as Samardzija posted a 2.28 ERA in 27.2 innings, whiffing 25 while relying on his fastball. A reliever only really needs two pitches too, if his fastball is dominant enough, as Samardzija’s seems to be. With a splitter, slider and change-up to go along with his fastball, if the Cubs wanted him to just focus on one of these secondary pitches, he could quickly solidify the Cubs’ bullpen.

He’s gone back to starting in Triple-A, which is probably the better long-term move for the club. If Carlos Zambrano suffers any setbacks in his rehabilitation from a strained left hamstring, Samardzija could get the call to replace Randy Wells.

If he can develop his secondary pitches, he could turn into a very good starter. The only reason I’m lukewarm about this move is because with his shaky command and underdeveloped secondary pitches at this stage of his career, it seems as if it’s inevitable for him to be a career reliever.

Arizona Diamondbacks recalled 1B Josh Whitesell from Reno Aces.

Whitesell is getting every shot to show he belongs. He’s pushed Chad Tracy to the bench. He can rake, as his minor league numbers indicate. With the Diamondbacks’ woeful offense, Whitesell will be given every opportunity to attempt to right the ship. Assuming the Diamondbacks are serious about giving Whitesell playing time, he should eventually pay dividends.

It’s a shame the stage of career Tracy finds himself in though. Right now he’s a man without a definitive position and has had setbacks in a recovery from his right knee injury. Prior to the injury, in 2005-6, he was a burgeoning power hitter with the potential to knock 30 home runs to go along with a .300 batting average. It seems as if he’s better off with a change of scenery as Mark Reynolds has passed him to become the permanent third baseman.

These last couple years, Tracy has become decidedly more impatient at the plate. After posting a career high 11.3 percent ratio in 2007 (8.3 percent in 2006), he slipped to 5.5 percent in 2008. This year, that’s slipped even more to 4.8 percent. My extremely unscientific calculations theorize that Tracy may be feeling the pressure to get up there and hit home runs in an attempt to get playing time. He lost playing time late last year to Adam Dunn and now Whitesell. A .221 BABIP (career .313) marks him as very unlucky in 2009 though, and he should bust out soon—if given the chance.

Of course, this could all be rendered moot if Whitesell doesn’t hit when Tony Clark comes back from a 15-day DL stint. Whitesell would be optioned down, with Tracy and Clark splitting time.

Arizona Diamondbacks placed 1B Tony Clark on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 5, 2009. Sprained right hand.
Washington Nationals activated LHP Joe Beimel from the 15-day disabled list.
Los Angeles Angels optioned Brandon Wood to Salt Lake Bees.
Texas Rangers activated RHP Kris Benson from the 15-day disabled list.
Seattle Mariners placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 15-day disabled list. Strained left oblique.
Andrew Miller roster status changed by Jupiter Hammerheads.
C Brian McCann assigned to Gwinnett Braves from Atlanta Braves.
Houston Astros designated 2B Jason Smith for assignment.
Washington Nationals optioned Saul Rivera to Syracuse Chiefs.
Cleveland Indians optioned LHP Rafael Perez to Columbus Clippers.
Texas Rangers optioned RHP Luis Mendoza to Oklahoma City RedHawks.
Minnesota Twins optioned Alexi Casilla to Rochester Red Wings.
Seattle Mariners outrighted Jamie Burke to Tacoma Rainiers.
Toronto Blue Jays outrighted Brian Burres to Las Vegas 51s.
Kansas City Royals outrighted C Brayan Pena to Omaha Royals.
Seattle Mariners outrighted C Jamie Burke to Tacoma Rainiers.
Cleveland Indians released RHP Juan Salas.
Cleveland Indians called up Matt Herges from Columbus Clippers.
Chicago Cubs called up RHP Chad Fox from Iowa Cubs.
Houston Astros recalled RHP Alberto Arias from Round Rock Express.
Los Angeles Angels recalled RF Reggie Willits from Salt Lake Bees.
Seattle Mariners recalled LHP Garrett Olson from Tacoma Rainiers.
Minnesota Twins recalled 2B Matt Tolbert from Rochester Red Wings
.

5/7/09

Los Angeles Dodgers placed LF Manny Ramirez on the restricted list.

There’s been enough written on the topic, so I’ll be brief:

I’m not surprised at this news. The overall consensus seems to be that most people are surprised—not at a major league star being suspended for steroids, but at it being Manny Ramirez of all people, who exhibits a happy-go-lucky, carefree attitude. This is a guy who would get up early in the morning while in high school and run hills, dragging a tire behind him. He may exhibit a carefree attitude and run the bases lazily, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he coasted through his life to this point. This is someone who works extremely hard at staying fit and being the best hitter he can be. It stands to reason that he would experiment with steroids as well, given he was one of the bigger stars of the game at the height of the Steroid Era.

I’m not outraged in the least; the sooner we all accept that it was the Steroid Era and appropriately adjust our standards therein, the sooner we can all move on. What this does do is severely restrict Manny’s earning power, making it all but a certainty that he will pick up his player option for 2010 to return to Los Angeles.

I’ll leave you with this: I feel that no records should be expunged or players blackballed from the Hall of Fame. Cheating is a part of baseball from corked bats to spitballs. Even legal cheating is part of the game—greenies were abolished not a short time ago, and there have been some interesting rehabilitation treatments that border on suspicion. For example, why are steroids cheating but not injecting plasma into an injured body part?

Change has also been part of the game, with the dead/live ball and mound lowering. Statistics change and evolve, and while I give every amount of respect to those who stayed clean during this era, the sad fact is that the vast majority were not clean. We can say that the majority are clean in this day and game, with only a test for human growth hormone standing between that statement and absolute certainty. Is Manny a Hall of Famer? In the steroid era, yes, he was. In this era, no, he is not—but he did most of his work in the previous era. It does beg the question: if Jordan Scherzer has a Hall of Fame career, does he get in?

There are no easy answers.

Cleveland Indians recalled Jeremy Sowers from Columbus Clippers.

Sowers was impressive in Triple-A, but he got lit up in his debut against the Red Sox. After impressing in 2006 at the age of 23, he’s been a liability since. You can’t say he’s been unlucky either, as he’s trended around a .300 BABIP in 2007-8 after a low .259 BABIP in 2006. For some reason, he hasn’t been able to pitch with the same authority he has in the minors.

His career isn’t over, especially as a left-hander. But he likely will be in another organization come next April or even later this year, as he’s run out of option years.

I know that the Indians have bullpen issues (what team doesn’t?) but was the answer really to start Sowers and move undefeated starter Aaron Laffey to the bullpen? Laffey had struggled with his command, walking 15 and striking out 11 in 25 innings, but this was only a momentary lapse for him, and he has been a solid starter the last two seasons. The Indians knew what they had in Sowers and made the move anyways. It makes you wonder if they planned on Laffey contributing out of the bullpen for the majority of the year no matter what.

New York Mets recalled Jonathon Niese from Buffalo Bisons.

Niese takes the spot of Oliver Perez, who has been horrid this year. He got off to a great start, striking out five in six innings, walking none and allowing only two runs. He had been gasoline on fire in Triple-A, but turned it around in the majors. If he can keep it up, he could stick in the rotation all year. More than likely, he’ll soon be replaced by Tim Redding and then when Perez returns, that could spell the end of Livan Hernandez.

Just 22, Niese figures to be a long-term member of the rotation in due time.

New York Mets placed LHP Oliver Perez on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 3, 2009. Right knee tendinitis.
Boston Red Sox activated RF Rocco Baldelli from the 15-day disabled list.
St. Louis Cardinals placed CF Rick Ankiel on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 5, 2009. Bruised right shoulder
B.J. Ryan assigned to Dunedin Blue Jays from Toronto Blue Jays.
Cleveland Indians designated RHP Vinnie Chulk for assignment.
Washington Nationals designated LHP Mike Hinckley for assignment.
Florida Marlins optioned Graham Taylor to Jacksonville Suns.
Boston Red Sox optioned Jonathan Van Every to Pawtucket Red Sox.
Toronto Blue Jays outrighted Bryan Bullington to Las Vegas 51s.
Cleveland Indians outrighted 2B Tony Graffanino to Columbus Clippers.
Florida Marlins recalled RHP Carlos Martinez from New Orleans Zephyrs.
St. Louis Cardinals called up CF Shane Robinson from Memphis Redbirds.
Washington Nationals called up LHP Ron Villone from Syracuse Chiefs.
Los Angeles Dodgers recalled CF Xavier Paul from Albuquerque Isotopes.

5/8/09

Baltimore Orioles traded 3B Ryan Freel to Chicago Cubs and Iowa Cubs traded CF Joey Gathright to Norfolk Tides.

When the Orioles first traded for Freel (sending catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Reds), I thought it was a great move for the Orioles. They would be able to play Freel virtually anywhere and get him plenty of at-bats. Perhaps his hard-nosed style would rub off on the Orioles too, as they were losing an important voice in Kevin Millar.

It wasn’t to be, as the Orioles (rightly so) brought in Felix Pie and Ty Wigginton, pushing Freel to the end of the bench. While Pie holds more long-term promise and Wigginton more short-term value, it was a shame to see Freel get shafted the way he did.

Of course, a player of Freel’s abilities belongs in the National League, anyways. He heads to the Cubs (where he immediately was held of out of the lineup with a day-to-day injury) and should play all over the diamond. He should see significant action these next two months at third base as Aramis Ramirez has been knocked out of commission for eight weeks given his dislocated left shoulder. It’s a blow to the Cubs, who really needed Ramirez’s bat in the lineup now that Derrek Lee has lost all semblance of his prodigious power and now simply serves as a solid first baseman.

Florida Marlins called up 2B Chris Coghlan from New Orleans Zephyrs.

Coghlan is apparently up to stay at the expense of Cameron Maybin, who has sat three straight games and now reportedly has been demoted to the minors. Of course, it hasn’t helped that Maybin hasn’t hit.

Coghlan at the moment is a man without a position and will roam far and free in an attempt to get his bat into the lineup. Last year for Triple-A, the 23-year-old (24 next year) hit .298/.396/.429 with seven home runs and 32 doubles in 483 at-bats. This year, the home run stroke the Marlins had been waiting for finally came. He crushed nine doubles and three home runs in 96 at-bats for a .552 slugging percentage to go along with a .344 batting average.

It’s a hot start, especially the power, but he probably won’t have consistent 20-home run potential. He could top out a couple years at 20, but should hover around 15 home runs a year. While he doesn’t have blazing speed, he stole 34 bases in 2008′s campaign at Double-A and could match those numbers in the bigs in a couple years.

He makes sense as a third baseman for the rest of this year, possibly next, but it stands to reason he will be their long-term second baseman (his natural position) once the team jettisons Dan Uggla (a seeming inevitability as his price tag rises past his true value).

Chicago Cubs recalled RHP Randy Wells from Iowa Cubs.

Wells was impressive enough in his first start for the Cubs that Lou Pinella is already talking about him sticking around after Carlos Zambrano returns.

Wells, 26, saw some time with the Blue Jays last year as a Rule 5 pick. He was returned to the Cubs a few weeks into the 2008 season and spent the majority of the year in Triple-A where he posted a 4.02 ERA in 118.2 innings and an intriguing 2.58 K/BB ratio.

Wells throws a fastball in the 90-mph range and mixes in a slider and change. He threw a cutter and curveball last year, but seems to have abandoned it this year although it is possible he brings it back. Wells has the potential to stick as either a starter or reliever over the course of his career. The Cubs will likely settle on him in the bullpen for the remainder of the year. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he posts peripherals solid enough to be a fine back of the rotation starter/middle reliever.

New York Yankees activated 3B Alex Rodriguez from the 15-day disabled list.

A-Rod’s gotten so much attention this year I don’t feel like giving him more.

Atlanta Braves activated C Brian McCann from the 15-day disabled list.
Florida Marlins placed RHP Anibal Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list. Right shoulder strain.
New York Yankees placed C Jose Molina on the 15-day disabled list. Strained left quad.
RHP Cha Seung Baek assigned to Portland Beavers from San Diego Padres.
SS Jack Wilson assigned to Indianapolis Indians from Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ricky Romero assigned to Dunedin Blue Jays from Toronto Blue Jays.
C Humberto Quintero assigned to Round Rock Express from Houston Astros.
2B Jamey Carroll assigned to Columbus Clippers from Cleveland Indians.
New York Yankees designated RHP Steven Jackson for assignment.
Atlanta Braves optioned C Clint Sammons to Gwinnett Braves.
New York Yankees optioned Mark Melancon to Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees.
Chicago Cubs outrighted CF Joey Gathright to Iowa Cubs.
Indianapolis Indians signed free agent Adam Melhuse.
New York Yankees called up Kevin Cash from Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees.

5/9/09

New York Yankees called up Brett Tomko from Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees.

With the Yankees’ inestimable history of turning journeymen into valid contributors (circa Aaron Small, 2005) it won’t come as a surprise if Tomko contributes.

To be fair to Tomko, his conversion to a reliever has only been recent and it’s paying immediate dividends. He didn’t allow a run in 6.1 (sample size alert!) innings for the Padres after leaving the Royals. He continued his conversion in Triple-A of the Yankees this year, where he struck 17 out in 14 at-bats, allowing a scant eight hits, one run and four walks.

Of course, upon his promotion he immediately gave up a run in an inning’s work along with three hits, so we shall see which performance this year is the mirage. The Yankees would love Tomko to become a weapon out of the bullpen. He can strike out a fair number of batters and throws in the mid-90s, so the potential is there.

Oakland Athletics recalled RHP Jeff Gray from Sacramento River Cats.

Gray debuted last year, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing eight hits against four strikeouts. At 26, Gray was drafted in 2004 and relies on the defense to scoop up the ground balls he induces. The A’s have recently shuffled their pitching, sending out Santiago Casilla, Dana Eveland and Gio Gonzalez in favor of Gray, Jerry Blevins and Sean Gallagher. They’ve also done quite a bit of shuffling position players as they try to shake their offense awake. Matt Holliday proving the Coors Effect so far isn’t helping matters, either.

Seattle Mariners activated RHP Brandon Morrow from the 15-day disabled list.
Arizona Diamondbacks placed RHP Yusmeiro Petit on the 15-day disabled list. Right Shoulder strain.
Chicago Cubs placed 3B Aramis Ramirez on the 15-day disabled list. Dislocated left shoulder.
Seattle Mariners placed RHP Carlos Silva on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 7, 2009. Right shoulder inflammation.
RHP Ervin Santana assigned to Salt Lake Bees from Los Angeles Angels.
Santiago Casilla assigned to Stockton Ports from Oakland Athletics.
Oakland Athletics designated RF Ben Copeland for assignment.
New York Yankees designated RHP Eric Hacker for assignment.
New York Yankees optioned David Robertson to Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees.
Texas Rangers optioned CF Greg Golson to Oklahoma City RedHawks.
Oakland Athletics optioned Gregorio Petit to Sacramento River Cats.
Houston Astros outrighted Jason Smith to Round Rock Express.
Oakland Athletics called up 2B Adam Kennedy from Sacramento River Cats.
Texas Rangers recalled 2B Joaquin Arias from Oklahoma City RedHawks.
Arizona Diamondbacks recalled Bobby Korecky from Reno Aces.

5/10/09

Chicago Cubs recalled RHP Jose Ascanio from Iowa Cubs.

Ascanio, acquired from the Marlins last year for Will Ohman and Omar Infante will likely end up as a long-term setup man for the Cubs. Ascanio had a 1.01 ERA in 26 2/3 innings as a starter, striking out 26 and walking seven in the minors after a recent conversion from the bullpen that likely was mostly to have him work on his secondary pitches, a la Jeff Samardzija. If he can solidify his hold on the rotation, both he and Wells could stick in the bullpen when Zambrano returns, probably at the expense of Neal Cotts.

Boston Red Sox recalled RHP Daniel Bard from Pawtucket Red Sox.

He arrives.

Bard took a short but circuitous rout to the major leagues, being drafted in the first round only to struggle in the high winds of Lancaster, California and walking significantly more than he struck out. Working with Bard’s mechanics and confidence out of the bullpen, he has been filthy since.

As Bard said yesterday to Fire Brand of the American League, what was holding him back last year was developing his slider, which he has worked on this year:

“I made some big strides with [the slider] toward the end of last year as far as throwing it more consistently for strikes,” said Bard. “It was a sharper pitch. I got more swings and misses with it later in the year.

“I was able to throw it when I was behind in the count … 1-0 or 2-0. You definitely need to be able to do that to pitch at this level (i.e. Triple-A) and the big league level. It’s something I can do at times but I need to be able to do it all of the time.”

Bard has a 29/5 K/BB ratio and has posted a 1.13 ERA for Pawtucket as their closer. He should provide immediate dividends out of a Boston bullpen that as of late has been ineffective. It’s unlikely he sticks the entire year, but only time stands between him and the setup role for Boston, if not the closer’s role.

Chicago Cubs placed RHP Chad Fox on the 15-day disabled list. Right elbow inflammation.
Boston Red Sox designated LHP Javier Lopez for assignment.
Jason Smith assigned to Houston Astros from Round Rock Express.
Josh Hamilton assigned to Oklahoma City RedHawks from Texas Rangers.
Stephen Drew assigned to Reno Aces from Arizona Diamondbacks.
Houston Astros optioned Jeff Fulchino to Round Rock Express.

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