Comings and Goings (5/3-5/6)by Bryan Smith
May 09, 2004
New York Yankees- Optioned pitcher Jose Contreras to Tampa of the Florida State League (A); Recalled Bret Prinz from Columbus of the International League (AAA).
After five appearances last year, Yankee hurler Jose Contreras was struggling. After allowing 11 hits in five innings, Jose Contreras was sent to Tampa to work with pitching coach Billy Connors. Contreras worked on his delivery, and after a four-inning start, was moved up to Columbus for three great starts. Things were much better when he returned, and Contreras was on his way to the starting rotation and later, a 2.56ERA in the second half.
Contereas’ great finish led him to be ranked #23 on Ben Jacobs’ preseason fantasy starting pitcher rankings, and Jose was drafted in the top ten rounds of virtually every fantasy draft. Yes, I realize that Conteras currently has a 9.47ERA and a WHIP over 2.00, but remember last year. I’m hardly the fantasy guru here at THT, but if you want some advice: see if Conteras’ owner wants to dump him in your league. Jose is a good pitcher, as an amazing September 23 start against the White Sox showed last year.
Look for Jose to be back in about three weeks, and look for him to start dominating come July. Jon Lieber is back in the meantime, so while it’s not true to call the Yankee rotation stabilized, there aren’t warning lights going off. Well, maybe in George’s office...
Seattle Mariners- Recalled pitcher Rafael Soriano from AA; Placed infielder Willie Bloomquist on the 15-day DL; Released pitcher Kevin Jarvis. Recalled catcher Pat Borders from Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned catcher Ben Davis to Tacoma.
Seattle beat the Yankees to the ‘send the power pitcher down to work on mechanics’ move, and Rafael Soriano showed exactly why he belongs in the Major Leagues. In four appearances in both low-A and AA, Soriano threw 16 innings, allowing eleven hits and one walk, while striking out nineteen. Soriano returns to a Seattle bullpen that has a 4.63 cumulative ERA, largely thanks to an underachieving Shigetoshi Hasegawa (5.68) and the now-released Kevin Jarvis (8.31).
When the Mariners designated Jarvis for assignment last week, they assumed that no one would be interested in the $4.75M that Jarvis is owed in the next year. Jarvis was never that good, so you really wonder why he was offered a three-year deal the year following a 4.80ERA. In a sense this move reminds me of the Angels release of Kevin Appier last year, an expensive veteran being released because he was once vastly overrated. Jarvis will catch on elsewhere, but believe me, there’s nothing of value here.
Consider the names of players that have made it from the first round of the 1995 draft: Jose Cruz, Kerry Wood, Todd Helton, Geoff Jenkins, Matt Morris, Mark Redman, Roy Halladay, and Michael Barrett. Ben Davis was chosen in front of all of them. In fact, Davis was chosen second overall, one pick after Darin Erstad was chosen by the Angels. Davis has ridden that #2 choice to a long Major League career, confusing front office men that there really is potential somewhere in his body. But Davis has hit .241/.313/.368 in more than 1300 career AB, and still below .270 at the minor league level. Borders is out to a tough start at AAA, but this is following a .899OPS last year, and a September that significantly helped Freddy Garcia. But the fact is that Borders is now the 23rd catcher of all-time to get time behind the plate older than 40, and the previous 22 have an aggregate average of .257, over Davis’ lifetime .241.
New York Mets- Designated pitcher Grant Roberts for assignment; purchased the contract of pitcher Ricky Bottalico from Newark of the International League (AAA).
This move seems a little hasty. Remember, this is the same Grant Roberts that threw 90 innings of 3.00ERA ball between 2001-2003. This is the same Grant Roberts that had a 2.20ERA in 2002, starring in the Mets bullpen. But ever since marijuana allegations erupted last season, Roberts has had a target on his back, and his disastrous 17.36ERA start was enough for the Mets to strike. There will be a team that takes advantage of this move, whether it be by trade or waiver claim, likely before the next Comings and Goings. Roberts is better than the pitcher he’s been in four appearances, and I would hope that some team is willing to test that statement.
In Bottalico, the New York front office is happy they landed a veteran. I see Dan Wheeler and Orber Moreno as the hated members of that bullpen, violating the Mets policy of five years experience, no matter what the career ERA is. I see them ready to call up James Baldwin from AAA at any moment, as well as outfielder Gerald Williams, just to go with an all-veteran bullpen. While Bottalico had earned the spot with seven scoreless innings at AAA, I’ll remain a skeptic on any pitcher clinging to the memories of 1995-1996.
Detroit Tigers- Placed pitcher Nate Cornejo on 15-day DL; recalled pitcher Craig Dingman from Toledo of the International League (AAA).
Fitting, how shoulder pain is complained about only hours after a demotion, huh? No, I’m not doubting that Cornejo is hurt, but rather the timing of his complaints. Alan Trammell was fresh off his decision to bench the 8.42ERA Cornejo when Nate said his shoulder has been hurting for some time. Luckily, the Tigers can use a four-man rotation until the fifteenth, so Trammell has yet to announce his replacement. The team could use last year’s Rule V pitchers Matt Roney or Will Ledezma, AAA veterans Pat Ahearne or Ariel Prieto, or a prospect in the Kenny Baugh or Preston Larrison mold. We’ll see.
I’m not sure about the Dingman move, this just seems like a good two-week period for Franklyn German to try and re-establish himself with the club. German has a 0.82ERA in 11 AAA innings, while Dingman’s is 3.48. Craig is the safe choice, and I doubt you’ll see him pitch five innings before he is sent back to become a Mud Hen. Bad sign: Dingman has given up four dingers in only 10.2 AAA innings.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Designated catcher Bobby Estalella for assignment; Recalled second basemen Scott Hairston from Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).
With Robby Hammock back and hitting somewhat decently with the Major League team, there was simply no room for three catchers. Estalella was only 2/14 for the season, although both of his hits had gone for home runs. With Donnie Sadler day-to-day with a hamstring problem, the Diamondbacks needed infield insurance, and that’s where the top prospect comes in. Matt Kata and Chad Tracy are hitting well enough to deserve everyday jobs, so Hairston won’t get a lot of time while up. I criticized the Rangers for the same thing with Adrian Gonzalez a couple weeks ago, mainly because I don’t understand why you waste the option. I know there are 40-man roster disputes, but Andy Green, a 27-year-old utility infielder with a .292 career minor league average, seems like the better choice. This will in no way halt Hairston’s development, but the more AB the better, especially for your top prospect.
Philadelphia Phillies- Placed pitcher Roberto Hernandez on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of pitcher Jim Crowell from Scranton Wilkes-Barre of the International League (AAA).
Nothing has been more valuable for the Phillies than their bullpen, which is currently sporting a 2.21ERA in 81.1 innings. Roberto Hernandez has exceeded the expectations of many skeptics, keeping his ERA ‘down’ to 4.15. He’s still way too hittable for a short reliever, so you can hold your breath every time he’s on the mound. But, Hernandez has quickly dropped below Ryan Madson and Amaury Telemaco on Bowa’s trust list, so losing him won’t do a ton of damage to the bullpen.
For his replacement, Ed Wade saw Crowell as the best right-handed reliever at AAA. Sure, Josh Hancock, Brian Powell, or Ed Yarnall might be better, but Wade obviously didn’t want to disrupt the Scranton rotation. Crowell’s given up one solo shot in twelve AAA innings, but hasn’t worn a Major League uniform since a six-inning stint with the Reds in 1997. Crowell has pitched just short of eighty innings in the last five years, so I wouldn’t be too excited to see him on my favorite team’s mound, but ya never know.
Bryan Smith, co-founder of Baseball Analysts, is a freelance writer with work appearing at SI.com, BaseballProspectus.com and Baseball America. Feel free to e-mail Bryan here, and look for his annual prospect list at SI.com next week.