Brewers trade Spivey for Ohka
June 10: The Brewers have found a new member for the back of their rotation in Tomo Ohka, while the Nationals picked up a short-term replacement at second base in Junior Spivey.
But the most interesting aspect of the Friday swap of the two players is that it creates a natural opening in Milwaukee for Rickie Weeks, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2003 draft.
Though Bill Hall is expected to take over as the Brewers' second baseman for now, Weeks is batting .320 with 12 homers at Triple-A Nashville and can't be held off for much longer.
Ohka, a 29-year-old righthander, doesn't have a plus pitch and doesn't miss many bats, but he manages to survive on craftiness. He relies on keeping hitters off balance with a willingness to throw his fastball, curveball, slider or changeup in any location or count.
Though his control has slipped this year (he has a 17-27 strikeout-walk ratio in 54 innings), he has managed to go 4-3, 3.33 in 10 games (nine starts) as opponents have batted just .224 with six homers against him.
Ohka, who makes $2.75 million this year, won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2006 season. He owns a career 37-47, 3.88 record in 134 games.
Spivey, 30, never has been able to live up to the promise he showed in his first full season, 2002, when he batted .301/.389/.476 with 16 homers and 78 RBIs. He's having the worst season of his five-year career in 2005, hitting .236/.308/.374 with five homers, 17 RBIs and seven steals in 49 games.
He hasn't changed a power-hitting approach that doesn't suit his strength as much as a gap-to-gap style would. He's a good defender and has above-average speed, but he's not much of a basestealing threat.
Spivey has a $2.125 million salary plus a possibly $475,000 in incentives in 2005, and like Ohka he can't become a free agent until after the 2006 season. He's a career .272/.355/.438 hitter with 46 homers, 194 RBIs and 30 steals in 429 games.
-- Jim Callis
Tigers solve second-base dilemma with Polanco
June 8: With the Phillies needing a second dependable righty reliever and the Tigers seeking a more productive second baseman, the teams were able to solve each other's problem with a Wednesday trade. Detroit picked up Placido Polanco from Philadelphia in exchange for Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez.
Polanco, 29, has hit .316/.376/.418 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 43 games, an upgrade on the production second baseman Omar Infante (.211/.255/.343) has given the Tigers. Though Polanco is mainly a line-drive hitter, he has set career highs in homers in each of the previous three years, progressing from nine to 14 to 17. He makes very good contact, is versatile enough to have played five positions in the majors (four this year) and can steal an occasional base.
Eligible for free agency following the 2004 season, Polanco shocked the Phillies by accepting arbitration and eventually agreed on a one-year, $4.6 million contract with another $500,000 in incentives. He's a career .296/.341/.410 hitter with 53 homers and 294 RBIs in 833 games.
Urbina, a 31-year-old righthander, rejoined the Tigers this spring after leaving last September to deal with his mother's kidnapping in Venezuela. He was supposed to set up for free-agent acquisition Troy Percival but resumed the closer's role when Percival went on the disabled list with a forearm injury. Urbina went 1-3, 2.63 with nine saves in 25 games for Detroit, posting a 31-14 strikeout-walk ratio in 27 innings.
Opponents have batted .221 with five homers against him. He used to rely on plus velocity, but now he paints the corners with an 88-90 mph fastball to set up his slider and changeup. Urbina, who's making $4 million in 2005 after the Tigers picked up the option on the final season of a two-year deal, will work in front of closer Billy Wagner in Philadelphia. He has a lifetime record of 40-46, 3.39 with 236 saves in 527 games.
Martinez, 32, will serve his usual utility role with the Phillies. He doesn't have a standout tool or excel in any phase of the game, but he's decent to solid across the board. After missing the first month of the season with a sprained left thumb, he hit .268/.300/.286 with no homers and five RBIs in 19 games. Martinez signed a one-year, $1.025 million contract as a free agent in the offseason. He has batted .268/.329/.383 with 26 homers and 175 RBIs in 598 career games.
-- Jim Callis