|Kameron Loe (Icon/SMI)|
Welcome to the newest column on The Hardball Times, Lost in Transactions. You can read more about the man behind the column by checking out the biography.
These next two weeks portend to be very busy times: the deadline for teams to offer arbitration comes up today, which means we’ll be seeing which players will definitely not return to their clubs (unless they wish to wait until May 1), which clubs are willing to take back on a one-year gamble, and more importantly in this economy, which will fetch draft picks and which will not. The economy will dictate whether or not such luminaries as Adam Dunn get offered arbitration. The deadline for players to accept or reject the offer comes Saturday, then the winter meetings start, where free agent signings and trades should start pouring in.
Let’s get past this week first, though, and look back at what transactions occurred. It was a rather slow week but it wasn’t without interesting plot lines. In order of date:
Arizona Diamondbacks released INF Jamie D’Antona.
D’Antona is long on power potential and is known for his exploits during the Cape Cod League. After hitting for a sterling .365/.405/.604 line in Triple-A, he received 17 at-bats in the majors, most as a September call up. Earning a single in his first major-league at-bat, he now heads to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
At just 26, he still has the possibility to return stateside and fashion a MLB career for himself, but given his limited defensive capabilities (playing first and third base) and his less than stellar plate discipline, he was never afforded an extended shot in the bigs. He could give Tuffy Rhodes a run for his money as America’s best power hitter in Japan.
Houston Astros acquired LHP Tyler Lumsden from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named or cash.
Lumsden, who just completed his age-25 season, was a former first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox. He was dealt to the Royals along with Daniel Cortes for reliever Mike MacDougal in 2006. Lumsden, who had a 2.69 ERA in 20 starts for the White Sox’s Double-A team at the time, quickly fell apart in Kansas City. He earned a promotion to Omaha of Triple-A in 2007 and posted a 5.88 ERA in 24 starts and one relief appearance. 2008 was even worse, starting 18 games and relieving in 10, totaling 107.1 innings of an abominable 7.21 ERA in Triple-A. Ouch.
He may not amount to much, but the Houston Astros are short on pitching depth and may not bring back starter Randy Wolf due to money problems of their owner, Drayton McLane. Left-handed, Lumsden will be afforded every chance possible to make a contribution through the next few years.
Pittsburgh Pirates signed Ps Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh to minor league contracts.
Patel and Singh are new to the game of baseball, having never picked up a ball before entering a contest in India last year. After winning the contest, they traded with pitching guru Tom House before being made available for signing. The Pirates snapped the two up despite long odds that they will see the major leagues. They can reach the high-80s with their fastball and are the first Indian-born players to sign a professional sports contract out of India. This is most likely simply a move to get the Pirates situated in India, which may be an untapped market much like Japan was a decade ago and China currently.
Milwaukee Brewers signed LHP R.J. Swindle to a one-year contract and OF/INF Jason Bourgeois to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Swindle, a former Red Sox and Phillies prospect, has a poor fastball but a slow curveball that allows me to go grab a beer and frank at the ballpark between the time he winds up and the time the ball gets to the plate. He posted an outstanding 1.53 ERA and 67/8 K/BB ratio between Double- and Triple-A last year. He gave up four earned runs in 4.2 innings for the Phillies, earning himself a World Series ring in the process.
Swindle, 25, will attempt to replace the void left by departing Brian Shouse. He can fashion a solid career for himself as a LOOGY, but won’t by any stretch of the imagination be a late-inning piece for the Brewers.
Bourgeois last year got his first major league hit (in three total at-bats) for the Chicago White Sox at age 26. He hit .285/.335/.404 in Triple-A and can play almost anywhere defensively. He may bounce around for a few years as a team’s 25th man.
Atlanta Braves claimed RHP Jairo Cuevas off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.
Cuevas was originally a Brave, but the Royals nabbed him off waivers in late October. The Braves have snagged him back and will likely place him right back on waivers. Arm problems limited Cuevas to 21 innings last year, split between rookie ball and Double-A. In 2007, he started 25 games and posted a 3.55 ERA for Atlanta’s Single-A advanced team. He could surface someday as a reliever, but odds are he won’t see the major leagues.
Texas Rangers placed RHP Kameron Loe on irrevocable waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.
Loe deserved better than this. He got on the map in 2005 as a 23-year-old and posted a 3.48 ERA in 92 total innings, starting eight games and relieving in 40. The next two years would see him struggle at the big leagues, posting respective ERAs of 5.86 and 5.36, replete with brief appearances in the minors. His stay in the minors would be anything but brief in 2008, as he spent the majority of the year getting knocked around in Triple-A, but held his own with a 3.23 ERA in 30.2 relief appearances in Texas.
Loe keeps the ball on the ground but gives up too many hits (likely a product of the Rangers’ poor infield defense) and could have done some damage on a team that has good defense. Unless a team is willing to go through the Kevin Millar saga the Boston Red Sox did in 2003, however, Loe will instead head to Japan on a two-year, $2 million contract. Don’t be surprised to see his name pop up in this transaction column come 2011.
Cleveland Indians sign RP Greg Aquino to a minor league contract.
Aquino, bandied about as a possible closer candidate for the Baltimore Orioles last spring instead posted a 12.54 ERA in nine innings before being mercifully sent to Triple-A. He finished the year with a 2.45 ERA in 25.2 innings for Norfolk, whiffing 10.17 batters per nine innings. He has long been able to blow the ball past batters but hasn’t been able to keep his hit and walk numbers down in the major leagues. At 31, his window is quickly running out but has the potential to contribute a fluke season of success.
Kansas City Royals sign SS Luis Hernandez to a minor league contract.
It took just 79 at-bats for the Orioles to quickly realize that Luis Hernandez was not going to be an option at short for them. Hitting .241/.295/.253, he was even worse as a starter in Triple-A, hitting .185/.216/.220 in 205 at-bats. The mind trembles at the thought of a Tony Pena-Luis Hernandez duo.
New York Mets sign Rene Rivera to a minor league contract.
Rivera debuted in the major leagues at age 20 in 2004 with the Seattle Mariners and grabbed some playing time the next two years before being sent to Double-A in 2007 and splitting 2008 between Double- and Triple-A in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system. Just entering his age-25 season, there is plenty of time for Rivera to develop into a career-long major league backup catcher. Catchers, like left-handed pitchers, tend to develop slower than their counterparts. He’ll provide depth for a Mets team that has Raul Castro and Brian Schneider at the big league leve.
Boston Red Sox acquire RP Wes Littleton from Texas Rangers for two players to be named later or cash.
I surmised at Fire Brand that the Littleton acquisition may mean the Red Sox are looking towards having Justin Masterson be their No. 5 starter as opposed to dropping millions of dollars on a starter. Littleton, a 26-year-old sidearmer, has experienced success at the major-league level, albeit briefly and could prove to be a solid back of the bullpen pitcher for the Sox. The Rangers gain additional 40-man roster flexibility with the move.
San Diego Padres SP Justin Germano signs to play in Japan.
Germano looked like he might have panned out in 2007 when he posted a 4.46 ERA in 133.1 innings for the San Diego Padres, mostly as a starter. A disastrous 2008 between the bigs and Triple-A has sent his bags packing to Japan. There is no aspect to his game that indicates he can pitch effectively in the major leagues as he lives and dies by his command. A 3.07 K/BB at the major league level will not work for someone like him.
Philadelphia Phillies sign RP Mike Koplove to a minor league contract.
Koplove, holding a career 3.06 ERA in the minor leagues and 3.82 ERA in the majors (254.2 innings) has bounced around these last few years due to losing strikeout ability and command. He recovered enough in 2008 with the Dodgers’ Triple-A ballclub that he should be given a shot to make the Phillies’ bullpen out of spring training.
Kansas City Royals sign C J.R. House to a minor league contract.
House, 29, was supposed to be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher of the future. Now he looks like a Quad-A player at best, although he did sign with the right team to give him an extended shot in the bigs. Capable of playing multiple positions, he can fill in as a third catcher and pinch-hitter if he makes the club out of spring training. The Royals have also been offering catcher John Buck to several teams and may yet deal him, which would open up a spot for House.