Comings and Goings (5/10-5/12)

Pittsburgh Pirates – Placed outfielder Raul Mondesi on Major League Baseball’s restricted list; purchased the contract of first baseman-outfielder Daryle Ward from Nashville of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

What a mess this is for Mondesi. To summarize, Mario Guerrero, a former major league player & mentor to Mondesi, has won a judgement in the Domincan Republic for $640,000 against Mondesi. Guerrero won the judgement for helping Mondesi get to the big leagues. This type of verbal agreement is apparently commonplace in the DR.

There have allegedly been threats against his family (who are located in the DR) as well, police have said his wife could go to jail if the judgement isn’t paid – which is why Mondesi left the club. Let’s hope he can work things out; I’m confident this has nothing to do with the Pirates placing Mondesi’s pay in escrow (a mechanism designed to protect him) and is not the result of any animosity towards the club. There was an interesting discussion of this at Baseball Think Factory.

From a baseball perspective, it looks like the Pirates are playing Rob Mackowiak instead of J.J. Davis in Mondesi’s place; this is obvious lunacy. Mackowiak has been hitting fairly well, but he can play 3B. Chris Stynes, the incumbent 3B is a black hole offensively. The Pirates are 13-17 and heading nowhere fast, you’d think a 25-year old that hit .342/.525 in AAA in 2003 – in addtion to 23-for-29 base stealing – would warrant a position in the lineup more than a 31-year old 3B hitting .266/.307.

I used to think Dave Littlefield had a solid plan and it would just take time; after all, he was saddled with several albatross contracts and a limited budget. I can understand signing Mondesi cheap with the hopes of flipping him in July; though I disagree with it (giving playing time to the kids is more important). But when an opportunity like this comes along, a team in the Bucs’ position must give a J.J. Davis playing time over a Chris Stynes.

I once thought Ward was going to be a solid regular. The chance of that ever happening is probably toast at this point; but he can still put up .320/.440 (he was hitting .328/.613 in 62 AB at Nashville). That makes him a useful PH/1B/LF and not a bad guy to have around if your regular gets hurt. He has no place on a team like the Pirates – they can’t find room to play guys like Davis and Craig Wilson everyday. He would be a useful bench player on a good team, he’s basically Tony Clark.

Minnesota Twins – Placed third baseman Corey Koskie on the 15-day disabled list with a strained sternum; activated pitcher Grant Balfour from the 15-day disabled list. Activated catcher-designated hitter Matthew LeCroy from the 15-day disabled list; placed infielder Nick Punto on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 9, with a strained left oblique muscle; purchased the contract of infielder Alex Prieto from Rochester of the International League (AAA); designated pitcher Carlos Pulido for assignment.

It looks like Michael Cuddyer will get another chance to show he deserves to play everyday as Koskie makes his annual pilgrimage to the DL. Koskie has only played more than 146 games once in his career. This time Koskie gets time off for a strained sternum, with a little bit of back stiffness for kicks. I’ve had a strained sternum, and you definitely cannot swing a baseball bat correctly with that bothering you. Throwing wouldn’t exactly be painless either. Actually, you can’t do much of anything that requires you to move. He was day-to-day originally, so I don’t think he’ll be out more than the 15 days, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Balfour pitched as well as could be expected in his rehab work at Carolina (AA), fanning 9 of the 16 batters he faced. The others were 5-for-6 with a BB, a pretty strange split.

The Twins were 15-12 in LeCroy’s absence, which unfortunately coincided with the loss of Joe Mauer. Another example of how losing one player, even a potential star, for a month just doesn’t impact the W-L all that much. A star makes the difference of only one or two wins per month.

I read the following on Yahoo Sports: “Gardenhire doesn’t want to use him (LeCroy) as the DH when Henry Blanco catches, if possible. Gardenhire wants LeCroy to be available in case Blanco gets hurt. So LeCroy might not resume his regular DH duties until injured catcher Joe Mauer returns.”

That’s terribly flawed strategy. What is the worst case scenario? Blanco gets hurt, so you have to move LeCroy from DH to catcher and your pitcher has to hit 2 or 3 times, assuming you don’t pinch-hit for the spot at all. Assuming LeCroy is your best option at DH, why would you give up 4 of his PA every night on the off chance Blanco gets hurt once? I know the Twins have other options at DH, but that’s not why Gardenhire said LeCroy would sit.

Boston Red Sox – Optioned pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim to Pawtucket of the International League (AAA). Recalled pitcher Jamie Brown from Pawtucket.

As I mentioned last time, I love B.K. Kim. He looked great in his first outing after returning from an inflamed shoulder. But Cleveland knocked him around twice last week (combined 6.7 IP, 8 R, 11 H, 4 BB, 2 K) and now he’s headed to Pawtucket. From a statistical perspective, those two starts are not enough to warrant concern from me. He pitched badly twice, but it’s not like he got hammered. He does only have four strikeouts in 11 2/3 IP since returning, which is troublesome (he’s average 9.9/9 IP over his career); but it’s 12 innings, small sample size indeed.

I haven’t heard that he’s still hurting, but it’s entirely possible that he’s not fully recovered. If that’s that case, sending him to Pawtucket while he builds up strength makes sense. Bronson Arroyo is a reasonable alternative in the meantime.

But if this is simply a reaction to two bad starts (after one great one), I think it’s an extreme overreaction. Kim has proven that he can pitch, show some confidence in him. Without full information it’s impossible to give this move a thumbs up or down.

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

Brown came to the Red Sox from Cleveland for minor league infielder Angel Santos last June. He’s 27, and has amazing control, evidenced by just two walks and 27 strikeouts in 38 innings at Pawtucket. For his minor league career, he’s walked just 148 in 667 innings (486 strikeouts). Brown graduated with the Class of 2001 from Tommy John Surgery University. When healthy he’s pitched well. He’ll be used in long relief for now, but if Arroyo falters, it wouldn’t shock me to see Brown in the rotation at some point. Call me crazy, but if things break right I think this guy could be a major surprise story this summer, though he’s unlikely to get the chance.

Kansas City Royals – Optioned pitcher Mike MacDougal and outfielder David DeJesus to Omaha of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Justin Huisman and purchased the contract of outfielder Adrian Brown from Omaha; transferred pitcher Kyle Snyder to the 60-day disabled list.

MacDougal has had trouble getting it together this spring after battling a stomach ailment. I assume he’ll be back once he builds some strength.

I discussed Huisman last week, I really like him – because he throws strikes. It looks like a closer by committee now (with Curtis Leskanic chairing the Committee), he won’t be on the panel, but Huisman might actually be the best of the bunch.

DeJesus is the future in Kansas City, but he got off to a rough start (1-for-23) and he’s back in Omaha. Normally, I’d say, “the teams stinks, so let the kid play.” But the Royals have Aaron Guiel blocking the way, and they can’t just stop playing him – even if he’s been pretty bad this year. Both Guiel and DeJesus are left-handed too, so you can’t platoon them. Ideally, Guiel (who is 31) would start to hit, and the Royals could move him to a contender with a hole in the outfield. This would free up a spot for DeJesus; letting him play every day in Omaha makes sense for now.

Baltimore Orioles – Activated second baseman Jerry Hairston from the 15-day disabled list; placed pitcher Matt Riley on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 10, with left shoulder tightness; recalled pitcher Daniel Cabrera from Bowie of the Eastern League (AA).

Brian Roberts has been very good so far this year (.366 OBP, 15/17 SB), so Hairston will be DHing for the time-being. Orioles fans are prevalent where I live, and they all seem to love Roberts. They may be lucky, he might actually be as good as some fans thought Bo Hart and Joe McEwing were.

Hairston made some progress last year, posting a .353 OBP in 58 games before he went down – I’m curious to see if it was real improvement. I’d imagine B.J. Surhoff will probably get some starts vs. righties at DH too. Lee Mazzilli should be careful with Roberts, even if he is the regular 2B for now, he should still get a day off here and there to avoid burnout.

Riley was off to a rough start, and now we know why – after the fact, injuries quite often explain pitcher ineffectivess. Cabrera turns 23 this month and was dominating (35 K, 11 H; 27.3 IP) in Bowie, his first exposure above A ball. He has some issues with his control, so I don’t expect much yet; but he’s definitely one for the O’s fans to keep an eye on. He started the second game of Thursday’s double-header in Chicago, which unfortunately was after this writing.

San Diego Padres – Activated infielder Jeff Cirillo from the 15-day disabled list; returned pitcher Jason Szuminski to the Chicago Cubs. Placed pitcher Antonio Osuna on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin; purchased the contract of pitcher Brandon Puffer from Portland of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Cirillo is 34 and is coming off two terrible years. I think it’s safe to say that he’s playing for his career at this point.

Osuna missed 3 weeks last year with a similar injury, so there’s definitely reason to be concerned. With injuries it’s easy to forget that these guys are actual people and these injuries really hurt . . . I can’t imagine have a groin strain so bad that I couldn’t pitch, let alone having that as a recurring injury! My condolences Antonio.

Szuminski was a Rule 5 pickup who looks like a decent pitcher, but was off to a rough start in San Diego. With Osuna going down and Puffer pitching very well in Portland it’s understandable that a contender can’t wait any longer for Szuminski to get it together. Someone had to go to make room for Cirillo (although I question the acquisition of Cirillo to begin with . . . ); Szuminski was the obvious choice.

Seattle Mariners – Placed pitcher Rafael Soriano on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 10, with a mild sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow; recalled infielder Ramon Santiago from Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Soriano is one of my favorite young pitchers, but this isn’t good. He started the year with a strained oblique, was rushed back and hit hard in three appearances (7 hits, 4 runs in 2 innings) before being sent to the minors to build strength. Now it’s a sprained elbow – who knows if that was caused by his compensating for the oblique? They are only expecting him to be out for three weeks, hopefully they let him take his time and work his way back to 100% this time around.

Santiago, 24, was hitting .180/.220/.284 for Tacoma, this coming off a .225/.284/.292 2003 in Detroit. Enrique Wilson is doing the Dance of Joy, as he is no longer the worst player in the major leagues! Santiago is also the worst defensive shortstop in baseball not named Derek Jeter; based on a weighted average of 2002/03 he costs his team about 20 runs per 162 games with his fielding.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Placed pitcher Oscar Villarreal on the 15-day disabled list with a right flexor strain; recalled pitcher Andrew Good from Tucson of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Villareal is one of the top young relievers in the game. He pitched in 86 games as a 21-year old in 2003 and was on pace for 86 more this year when he went down. Note to Bob Brenly – take it easy on the kid!

Detroit Tigers – Placed second baseman Fernando Vina on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring; purchased the contract of infielder Jason Smith from Toledo of the International League (AAA); transferred pitcher Lino Urdaneta to 60-day disabled list.

Who could have seen this coming? Vina is 35 and he did miss 3-months with a torn hamstring last year. The Tigers made some good moves in the off-season, but this one didn’t make any sense (unless the Tigers could trade him for something this summer). Vina hasn’t been a good player since 2001, and he was coming off a major injury.

Omar Infante will take over at 2B. He’s just 22 and off to a nice start in limited playing time – if he can maintain it, Vina should be Wally Pipped. The Yankee fan in me dreads a trade for Vina to ‘solve’ the 2B problem, but it could happen.

Toronto Blue Jays – Acquired infielder Frank Menechino from the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations or a player to be named. Placed pitcher Justin Speier on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness; recalled pitcher Aquilino Lopez from Syracuse of the International League (AAA).

It’s not apparent at this writing whether Menechino will report to Toronto or Syracuse, but I don’t get this one either way. Menechino is 33 and hasn’t hit since 2001 (he’s 3-for-33 this year). Orlando Hudson and Chris Woodward are both hitting really well. Howie Clark and Dave Berg are capable backups. More capable than Menechino anyway, which is all that matters. Dominic Rich, the Jays’ 24-year old AA 2B is probably a better player than Menechino at this point. If I were in Toronto, I wouldn’t give up a 12-pack for Menechino. Well maybe a 12-pack of light beer, but no way I’m giving up the good stuff.

Despite his early struggles, Lopez is a good pitcher, he was pitching well at Syracuse and there shouldn’t be any dropoff with Speier out. The Jays have put together a deep, solid if unspectacular bullpen; Jason Kershner needs to come around or he could be the odd man out when Speier returns.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Placed infielder-outfielder Eduardo Perez on the 15-day disabled list with a torn left Achilles tendon;
recalled infielder-outfielder Damian Rolls from Durham of the International League (AAA).

This is a bummer on a personal level. Eduardo Perez crushes left-handed pitching (.418/.657 over 2002/03). He’s on my main Diamond-Mind team, and he’s basically Albert Pujols when a lefty is on the hill. As for the Devil Rays, it really doesn’t matter since they are terrible – he was wasted there. Perez would have been a perfect platoon outfielder/firstbaseman (Perez can also play some 3B too in a pinch too) for a contender with a hole and now the Devil Rays won’t be able to trade him in July. As for the injury I can’t imagine the odds of a successful recovery for a 34-year old with a torn achilles is very good.

Rolls, a first round pick of the Dodgers in 1996, is 26 and is a career .296/.350 hitter; it’s fair to call him a disappointment at this point.

Chicago Cubs – Agreed to terms with shortstop Rey Ordonez on a minor league contract.

Wow. Who’dve thought it would come to this – that Cub fans would miss Alex Gonzalez? Gonzalez is nothing special, but he did have 57 extra-base hits last year. Over the course of his career Rey-Rey gets 57 every 1130 AB.

Oakland Athletics – Activated infielder Mark McLemore from the 15-day disabled list; optioned infielder Frank Menechino to Sacramento of Pacific Coast League (AAA) (later traded to Toronto).

McLemore will be 40 in October. He suffered a huge decline last year, so obviously he needs to get off to a hot start if he wants to extend his career.

We covered Menechino earlier, needless to say, but I think Billy Beane made the correct move here – assuming the cash considerations will cover a couple of those 4-packs of Guiness cans with the co2 balls . . .

Texas Rangers – Placed pitcher Doug Brocail on the 15-day disabled list following an appendectomy; recalled pitcher Frank Francisco from Frisco of the Texas League (AA).

Did anyone else realize Doug Brocail was back in the majors (for the first time since 2000)? I missed that one, wow!

Try saying: “Frank Francisco from Frisco,” 5 times really fast . . .

He’s an interesting pitcher though. After posting an 8.41 ERA in 6 starts Frisco last year, Francisco was moved to the bullpen for 2004 with exciting results so far: 30 strikeouts and 7 hits allowed in 17 2/3 IP for a 2.55 ERA. I think it’s crazy to bring him to the majors without ever having thrown a pitch in AAA, but let’s see how it goes.

In the interest of completeness, here are the other moves – about which I don’t have anything particularly interesting to say:

Atlanta Braves – Announced that outfielder Damon Hollins cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Richmond of the International League (AAA). Activated pitcher Armando Almanza from the 15-day disabled list; designated pitcher Will Cunnane for assignment.

Cincinnati Reds – Purchased the contract of pitcher Mike Matthews from Louisville of the International League (AAA).

Florida Marlins – Optioned pitcher Franklyn Gracesqui to Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); purchased the contract of pitcher Toby Borland from Albuquerque; transferred pitcher A.J. Burnett from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.

Milwaukee Brewers – Purchased the contract of pitcher Matt Wise from Indianapolis of the International League (AAA); designated pitcher Adrian Hernandez for assignment. Signed outfielder Joel Rivera.

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