Cubs land reliable contributor in Lawton
July 31: Deadline Day was fairly uneventful, with just four trades, none of them monumental. The Cubs made the biggest pickup on Sunday, getting Matt Lawton from the Pirates for Jody Gerut in an exchange of outfielders who played together on the Indians in 2004.
Cleveland traded Lawton to Pittsburgh in December for Arthur Rhodes. He was having a typical Matt Lawton season for the Pirates, hitting .276/.382/.438 with 10 homers, 44 RBIs and 16 steals in 100 games. A two-time All-Star, Lawton has solid power, speed and plate discipline. He has slipped defensively after knee and shoulder surgeries in recent years. A pending free agent, Lawton is making $7.25 million in 2005, the final season in a four-year, $27 million contract. In 1,282 career games, he has batted .269/.371/.422 with 135 homers, 621 RBIs and 163 steals.
Gerut, 27, had joined the Cubs just 13 days earlier in a trade with the Indians for another outfielder, Jason Dubois. Gerut went just 1-for-12 with Chicago, dropping his season totals to .260/.345/.360 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 54 games. He broke into the majors with an impressive .279/.336/.494 rookie season in 2003 but hasn't shown the same power since. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last September, and didn't return to Cleveland's lineup until mid-May. He's a line-drive hitter who's going to have to find a way to incorporate more power or walks in his game to be productive offensively. He has average speed and arm strength, and he's capable of playing all three outfield positions. Gerut likely will be eligible for arbitration after this season with two-plus years of service time. He's a career .265/.336/.437 hitter with 34 homers and 138 RBIs in 315 games.
Braves reinforce bullpen with Farnsworth
July 31: The Braves opted for experience over youth in their bullpen Sunday, picking up Kyle Farnsworth from the Tigers for two right-handers, big league rookie Roman Colon and Triple-A prospect Zach Miner.
Farnsworth, a 29-year-old right-hander, came to Detroit in a February trade with the Cubs for three prospects. He had worn out his welcome in Chicago with his inconsistent pitching and immature behavior. He fit in nicely with the Tigers, however, going 1-1, 2.32 with six saves in 46 games. He had a 55-20 strikeout-walk ratio in 43 innings, and had shackled hitters to the tune of a .192 average and one homer. Farnsworth throws harder than most big leaguers, sitting in the high 90s with his fastball and reaching the 90s with his slider. He doesn't have a lot of movement or deception on his pitches, and he can be vulnerable if he falls behind in the count. He makes $1.975 million this season and will be eligible for free agency for the first time in his career after the season. Farnsworth has a lifetime record of 23-38, 4.57 with 10 saves in 389 games.
Colon, 25, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1995. He finally reached the majors in 2004, going 2-1, 3.32 in 18 appearances, and had spent most of this year in Atlanta, with a 1-5, 5.28 record in 23 games. His biggest problem in 2005 has been home runs, as he has allowed 10 in 44 innings while putting together a 30-14 K-BB ratio and giving up a .272 opponent average. Colon has a low-90s fastball, and also throws a slider and a splitter.
Miner, 23, got a fourth-round-record $1.25 million bonus in 2000 when he signed out of a Florida high school. He hasn't quite lived up to expecations but he has made it up to Triple-A Richmond this season. Between Richmond and Double-A Greenville in 2005, he has gone 2-8, 4.25 in 21 games (19 starts). He has a 81-50 K-BB ratio in 106 innings, while opponents have hit .281 with six homers against him. Miner has two solid pitches -- a low-90s fastball and slider -- but he needs to be more aggressive and refine his changeup.
Marlins grab Villone for bullpen
July 31: On a Sunday devoid of splashy trades, the Marlins settled for making a bullpen addition. Florida got Ron Villone from the Mariners for a pair of hard-throwing Double-A right-handers, Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery.
Villone, a 35-year-old left-hander, joins the ninth major league club of his career. He's in the midst of posting the best ERA of his 11 big league seasons (2.45) to go with a 2-3 record and one save in 52 appearances. He has a 41-23 strikeout-walk ratio in 40 innings, and has held opponents to a .226 average and two homers. Villone's main pitch is a cut fastball that usually arrives in the high 80s, and he also throws a hard slider and a changeup. He's making $1.7 million in 2005 and is due $2 million in 2006 as part of a two-year, $4.6 million contract he signed in the offseason. He has a 49-52, 4.70 record and six saves in 446 career games (93 starts).
Bazardo, 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2000. He had the best arm in the Marlins system, consistently delivering fastballs in the low to mid-90s and peaking at 98 mph. Despite his velocity and good control, he doesn't strike out as many batters as might be expected because he still needs to refine his changeup and slider. He made his big league debut in May against the Mets, allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings. He has spent the rest of the season at Double-A Carolina, going 8-6, 3.79 in 18 starts. In 107 innings, he had a 72-35 K-BB ratio with a .257 opponent average and 12 homers allowed.
Flannery, 26, was pushing for his first big league promotion as well. A 33rd-round pick in 1999, he signed as a draft-and-follow the next year out of Gloucester County (N.J.) JC. He also can light up a radar gun, reaching 94-95 mph with regularity. His slider also has its moments. He has divided 2005 between Triple-A Albuquerque and Carolina, with a 2-3, 3.21 record and 13 saves in 45 games. He has a 50-17 K-BB ratio in 53 innings, while opponents have batted .231 with five homers against him.
White Sox make small move for Blum
July 31: The first trade on the final day for deals without waivers was a small one. The White Sox picked up Geoff Blum from the Padres for Double-A left-hander Ryan Meaux.
Blum, 32, has hit .241/.321/.375 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 78 games this season after signing a one-year, $575,000 contract. He's a utilityman who has more pop than most players in that role. He has become less disciplined at the plate in recent years, reducing his ability to hit for average. His speed is average at best, and his hands are his best defensive tool. He has played all four infield positions for the Padres this year, and has played the outfield in the past. Blum is a career .253/.317/.396 hitter with 61 homers and 274 RBIs in 760 games.
Meaux, 26, signed with Giants as a 25th-round pick out of Lamar (Colo.) CC in 2001 and joined the White Sox in a July 2002 trade for Kenny Lofton. He impresses scouts more with his command and his makeup than his stuff. He works mainly with a mid-80s fastball and a curveball, and he'll throw an occasional changeup. He has gone 5-2, 2.96 with three saves in 38 games this year at Double-A Birmingham. He has a 64-18 strikeout-walk ratio in 67 innings, with opponents batting .291 with two homers against him.
Red Sox hit Cruz control
July 30: While the baseball world waits to see if the Red Sox will trade Manny Ramirez, Boston made a different outfield-related move on Saturday. The Red Sox got Jose Cruz Jr. from the Diamondbacks for a pair of minor leaguers, right-hander Kyle Bono and infielder Kenny Perez. Arizona also will contribute cash toward the remainder of Cruz's $3.5 million salary for 2005.
Cruz, 31, will team with Gabe Kapler to play right field for Boston in the absence of Trot Nixon, who's out indefinitely with a strained left oblique muscle. Cruz joins his third team this year, having opened 2005 as property of the Devil Rays, who traded him in February for Casey Fossum. He hit .213/.347/.436 with 12 homers and 28 RBIs in 64 games for the Diamondbacks, who designated him for assignment to make room for elite prospect Conor Jackson. Cruz doesn't hit for average, but he contributes offensively with power and speed (he was a 30-30 man in 2001, though he has no steals in 2005) and by drawing lots of walks. A Gold Glove winner in 2003, he has a solid arm and more range than most corner outfielders. He'll become a free agent at the end of this season, when his two-year, $6 million contract expires. He's a career .248/.336/.454 hitter with 187 homers, 563 RBIs and 102 steals in 1,122 games.
Bono, 22, signed out of Central Florida last year for $432,000, a record bonus (since broken) for an eighth-rounder. Bono doesn't have a single dominant pitch, but he keeps hitters off balance by mixing his sinker, changeup and slider. Projected as a reliever, he pitched in that role at high Class A Wilmington this year, going 2-2, 4.07 in 24 games. He had a 56-32 strikeout-walk ratio in 49 innings, while opponents hit .222 with five homers against him. Throwing strikes had been one of his strong suits before 2005, but his control has been off this year.
Perez, 23, was a 2000 sixth-round pick out of a Miami high school. Best suited to be a utility infielder, he has seen time at second base, third base and shortstop in the minors this season. He has good hands, a solid arm and adequate range. A switch-hitter, he doesn't provide much offense. He's a contact hitter with little power and just average speed. In 80 games between Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland this year, Perez has batted .268/.323/.363 with five homers, 33 RBIs and seven steals.
Giants decide to add Winn despite their struggles
July 30: At 45-58 and in fourth place in the hapless National League West, the Giants don't exactly fit the definition of a contender. But they acted like a buyer and not a seller on Saturday, trading Jesse Foppert and Yorvit Torrealba to the Mariners for Randy Winn.
Winn, 31, will become San Francisco's regular center fielder, but he's not a significant upgrade over incumbent Jason Ellison. Winn hits for a solid average but not with an abundance of power or walks. While he has good speed, he's not a very effective basestealer. And while he has good range, he doesn't take good routes on fly balls and is a below-average center fielder. His arm is mediocre. In 102 games this year, Winn has batted .275/.342/.391 with six homers, 37 RBIs and 12 steals (in 18 attempts). He's making $3.75 million in 2005, the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $7.25 million contract. The Giants can trigger a $5 million option and Winn can exercise a $3.75 million player option for 2006; if neither elects to do so, he'll become a free agent. Winn is a lifetime .283/.343/.408 hitter with 55 homers, 375 RBIs and 136 steals in 935 games.
Foppert, a 25-year-old righthander, ranked as baseball's best pitching prospect after the 2002 season. But he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery as a rookie with the Giants in 2003, and his stuff hasn't come all the way back since. Before he got hurt, Foppert had a mid-90s fastball, a hard slider and a nasty splitter. Two years after the operation, his stuff isn't nearly as crisp, though he has been clocked in the low 90s this year, and his command isn't as sharp. If he can bounce back, it would be a coup for the Mariners. Foppert has spent much of 2005 at Triple-A Fresno, going 3-1, 4.50 in 10 games (nine starts). He has a 41-27 strikeout-walk ratio in 44 innings there, with opponents batting .250 with five homers against him. He has an 8-9, 5.00 record in 27 big league games (23 starts).
Torrealba, 27, should become the starting catcher for the Mariners, who lost Dan Wilson to a knee injury and traded slumping Miguel Olivo to the Padres on Saturday. Torrealba had established himself as one of the better backup catchers in the NL, though he has played more sparingly since the Giants signed Mike Matheny in the offseason. Torrealba has batted .226/.301/.344 with one homers and seven RBIs in 34 games this year. Though he won't hit for much of an average, he has decent power and draws his share of walks. A solid defender, he has thrown out seven of 17 (41 percent) basestealers in 2005. He makes $715,000 and will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason. He's a career .251/.318/.393 hitter with 13 homers and 75 RBIs in 220 games.
Padres stay active, land another catcher
July 30: For the second time in three days, the Padres picked up a catcher to tide them over until Ramon Hernandez recovers from a left wrist injury. San Diego acquired Miguel Olivo from Seattle for two minor leaguers, catcher Miguel Ojeda and righthander Nathanel Mateo.
The Mariners got the 27-year-old Olivo in the June 2004 Freddy Garcia trade, hoping he could become their starting catcher. But Olivo never hit for Seattle, including a .151/.172/.276 performance with five homers and 18 RBIs in 54 games this year. He has fine tools for a catcher, including power, good speed for his position and a very strong arm. But he's erratic at the plate, as his plate discipline has disappeared in the majors, and behind it as well. The Mariners even sent Olivo to Triple-A Tacoma for a month this year in hopes of getting him going, but that didn't work either. He now becomes part of San Diego's catching mix with Robert Fick and recent acquisition David Ross. Olivo likely will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the season. He's a career .218/.265/.375 hitter with 25 homers and 90 RBIs in 270 games.
Ojeda, 30, has slipped markedly at the plate after two solid seasons as a backup for San Diego. Ojeda had established himself as a decent hitter for average and power, but this year he batted just .137/.232/.205 with six RBIs in 73 at-bats before the Padres demoted him to Triple-A Portland in early July—and he struggled mightily there as well. He doesn't have a strong arm and has failed to throw out a big league basestealer in nine attempts this year. The Mariners, who have a muddled catching situation after losing Dan Wilson to a knee injury and dealing Olivo, initially plan on keeping Ojeda on their active big league roster. He'll compete for playing time against Yorvit Torrealba, who joined Seattle in Saturday's Randy Winn trade with San Francisco, and Wiki Gonzalez. Olivo has hit .224/.308/.359 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs in 166 big league games.
Mateo, 25, signed with the Phillies in 1998 out of the Dominican Republic. He spent one year in Philadelphia's system before being released, and then spent time in the minors with Japan's Hiroshima Carp before signing with the Padres in 2003. He has a low-90s fastball, and this year he has made improvements with his curveball. Mateo was 3-4, 3.08 with one save in 48 games at Double-A Mobile this year. He had a 39-15 strikeout-walk ratio in 53 innings, while opponents hit .275 with two homers against him.
Padres, Rangers dump Nevin, Park on each other
July 29: The Padres had completed trades for Phil Nevin twice before, only to have him veto moves that would have sent him to the Reds for Ken Griffey Jr. and to the Orioles for Sidney Ponson. The Rangers regretted signing Chan Ho Park to a five-year, $65 million contract shortly after he began pitching for them in 2002. On Saturday, both clubs finally jettisoned their unwanted players by sending them to each other.
Texas also sent cash to San Diego to help cover the difference in the salaries remaining for Nevin and Park, but reportedly will save $1 million in the deal. Nevin is making $9 million this year and is due $10 million in 2006 as his four-year, $34 million contract comes to an end. Park had $13 million salaries both this year and next.
Nevin, 34, is in the midst of easily his worst season since he became a big league regular in 1999, hitting .256/.301/.399 with nine homers and 47 RBI in 73 games. He had produced for power and average since coming to San Diego six years ago, but his bat seemingly has slowed this year. Originally a third baseman, he has better reactions and arm strength than most first basemen, and he can catch in a pinch. He's a below-average runner. The Rangers plan on DH-ing Nevin against left-handers and working him into the lineup against righties in a variety of positions. He's a career .276/.347/.479 hitter with 183 homers and 667 RBI in 1,059 games.
Park, a 32-year-old right-hander, was a disaster in Texas, going 22-23, 5.78 in 68 starts after posting an 80-54, 3.80 mark with the Dodgers. For the first time as a Ranger he didn't spend any time on the disabled list this year, but he continued to pitch poorly, going 8-5, 5.66 in 20 starts. He had an 80-54 strikeout-walk ratio in 110 innings, while opponents battered him for a .299 average and eight homers. Park had a fastball that could reach 95 mph and a sharp curveball when he was with Los Angeles, but his stuff deteriorated into mediocrity almost as soon as he became a Ranger. Owner of a lifetime 102-77/4.29 record, Park will enter a struggling San Diego rotation.
Rockies get Bigbie, may deal him again
July 29: Barely two weeks after acquiring Eric Byrnes from the Athletics, the Rockies sent him to the Orioles on Friday in exchange for Larry Bigbie. Bigbie may not remain with Colorado as long as Byrnes did, as there are reports that he may be headed to the Red Sox or another club in a follow-up deal before Sunday's 4 p.m. ET deadline for trades without waivers.
Bigbie, 28, regressed in each of his last two seasons in Baltimore and was hitting just .248/.314/.374 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 67 games this year. He has average power and speed, but he strikes out too much and is weak against lefthanders (.633 OPS in 2005, .666 lifetime). He has a solid arm and covers a good amount of ground for a corner outfielder, though he doesn't always get good jumps on fly balls. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season. Bigbie is a career .271/.335/.406 hitter with 31 homers and 134 RBIs in 352 games.
Byrnes, 29, hadn't done much since arriving in Colorado, batting .189 in 15 games. Overall this season, he's hitting .249/.325/.420 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 74 contests. He's an extremely aggressive player, sometimes too much so at the plate. He has some pop, mostly against lefthanders (.903 OPS in 2005, .896 for his career). He runs well and plays with reckless abandon in the outfield. He makes $2.2 million this year and will be eligible for arbitration again this offseason. He's a career .267/.334/.453 hitter with 45 homers and 169 RBIs in 457 games.
The Rockies reportedly had agreed to send Bigbie to the Red Sox, who seek a lefthanded-hitting corner outfielder to fill in for the injured Trot Nixon. Boston would have sent catching prospect Kelly Shoppach and outfielder Adam Stern to Colorado, but pulled out of the deal.
Yankees add Chacon to rotation
July 28: Baseball's first $200 million-plus payroll still couldn't give the Yankees any rotation depth. With injuries striking an aging staff, New York recently has added past-his-prime Al Leiter and journeyman Aaron Small to its starting corps, and signed fading Hideo Nomo to a Triple-A contract. The Yankees weren't sure who they would start on Saturday until they pulled off a trade Thursday, acquiring Shawn Chacon from the Rockies for Double-A right-handers Eduardo Sierra and Ramon Ramirez.
New York had been inquiring about the 27-year-old Chacon for a few weeks, resisting Colorado's request for the likes of big-league righty Scott Proctor and Triple-A lefty Sean Henn. After leading the Rockies with 35 saves despite a 7.11 ERA in 2004, Chacon has returned to the rotation this year and has the lowest ERA (4.09) of his big-league career. His record was just 1-7 in 13 games (12 starts) for the hapless Rockies. In 73 innings, he had a 39-36 strikeout-walk ratio while opponents were hitting .260 with seven homers. Chacon has good stuff, as his fastball and curveball can be above-average pitches, but he doesn't locate them particularly well or miss many bats. He's making $2.35 million this year and will be eligible for arbitration again during the offseason. Chacon has gone 24-45, 5.20 with 35 saves in 150 career games.
Sierra, 23, came to the Yankees from the Athletics in a December 2003 deal for Chris Hammond. Sierra throws hard, reaching the mid-90s with ease and topping out at 98 mph with his fastball. He also has an 81-86 mph slider and an 87-91 mph splitter, but he lacks consistency with those pitches as well as with his control. Projected as a setup man, he has gone 3-1, 3.28 with two saves in 33 games at Double-A Trenton. He has a 50-38 K-BB ratio in 58 innings, and opponents had batted just .187 with four homers against him.
Ramirez, 23, first signed with the Rangers as an outfielder in 1996, then spent four years out of baseball before pitching briefly in Japan in 2002. The Yankees paid $350,000 to the Hiroshima Carp for his rights and gave him a $175,000 bonus in March 2003, but Ramirez has done little to justify that investment. He has been shelled in stints at Triple-A Columbus in 2004 and 2005, and has gone 7-8, 4.19 in 21 starts between Columbus and Trenton this year. In 116 innings, he has a 108-44 K-BB ratio and has allowed opponents a .252 average and 13 homers. Ramirez has a 90-92 mph fastball and a hard slider, but he needs to continue to refine his changeup and do a better job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone.
Padres address catching need with Ross
July 28: Unlike most .500 clubs, the Padres have a realistic chance at the postseason because they play in (and lead) the dismal National League West. Trying to protect their first-place standing after losing starting catcher Ramon Hernandez for 3-6 weeks to wrist surgery, San Diego found another backstop on Thursday. The Padres acquired David Ross from the Pirates for Triple-A infielder J.J. Furmaniak.
Now joining Robert Fick and Phil Nevin in San Diego's catching mix, the 28-year-old Ross is the best defender in that group. He's no Gold Glover, but he has thrown out seven of 12 basestealers (58 percent) and 34 percent during his big-league career. While he has some pop at the plate, he's an undisciplined hitter who strikes out too frequently. He has little speed, typical of a catcher. Sold by the Dodgers to the Pirates in March, Ross has hit .222/.263/.380 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 108 at-bats this year. A career .211/.284/.403 hitter with 19 homers and 50 RBIs in 158 games, Ross will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season.
Furmaniak, 25, steadily has climbed the minor-league ladder since signing as a 22nd-round pick out of Lewis (Ill.) in 2000. Projected as a utilityman, Furmaniak has played mostly third base and shortstop at Triple-A Portland this year, hitting .266/.324/.437 with 14 homers, 47 RBIs and nine steals in 99 games. He has more power than most middle infielders and a solid arm. His speed, hands and plate discipline are nothing special, but he's a versatile player who can help a big-league club off the bench.
Padres can't wait on Burroughs, turn to Randa
July 23: After waiting three years for Sean Burroughs' bat to come around, the National League West-leading Padres decided they couldn't waste any more time. On Saturday, they picked up a new third baseman, Joe Randa, from the Reds in exchange for a pair of minor league right-handers, Travis Chick and Justin Germano.
Randa, 35, isn't spectacular but usually hits in the .280 range with 12-15 homers per year. That's more production than San Diego has gotten out of Burroughs, a former first-round pick who excelled in the minors but hasn't hit for any power in the majors. While Burroughs has slumped to .255/.327/.302 in 2005, Randa has hit .289/.356/.491 with 13 homers (three off his career high) and 48 RBI in 92 games. His speed is below average, but Randa is a heady baserunner and a steady defender at the hot corner. Randa, who signed a one-year, $2.15 million deal with the Reds in December, will become a free agent again after the season. He has batted .286/.342/.429 with 115 homers and 691 RBI in 1,375 career games.
Chick, 21, joined the Padres last July in a trade for Ismael Valdez. Originally signed by the Marlins as a 14th-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2002, Chick's prospect status skyrocketed after the deal. At times he'll show the full arsenal to be a big-league starter, with a low-90s fastball, a hard slider and a changeup. But his command has regressed and he has struggled this year in Double-A, going 2-9, 5.27 in 19 starts at Double-A Mobile. He had a 92-40 strikeout-walk ratio in 97 innings, while opponents were batting .279 with 12 homers against him.
Germano, 22, has better feel but less stuff than Chick. A 13th-round pick out of a California high school in 2000, Germano throws strikes with a curveball (his best pitch), a changeup and an 87-89 mph fastball. When the Padres promoted him to the majors in 2004, he didn't go after hitters as aggressively as he did in the minors, and went 1-2, 8.86 in seven appearances. He has regained his confidence at Triple-A Portland this year, going 7-6, 3.70 in 19 starts. He sported a 100-32 K-BB ratio in 112 innings and had limited hitters to a .259 average and 13 homers.
Besides netting them two more pitching prospects, the Randa trade also allows the Reds to give regular big-league playing time to their best position prospect, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion, who appeared in his third straight Futures Game earlier this month, hit .314/.388/.548 with 15 homers and 54 RBI in 78 games at Triple-A Louisville.
Polanco injury leads Tigers to pick up McDonald
July 22: With Placido Polanco out with a hamstring injury, the Tigers needed a short-term solution to boost their infield depth. They found one Friday, acquiring John McDonald from the Blue Jays for a player to be named later.
The 30-year-old McDonald is a classic good-field, no-hit utility infielder. He has the defensive skills to play every day, including arm strength, range and quick hands. But he offers nothing at the plate, hitting for neither average nor power and drawing few walks. Acquired by the Blue Jays from the Indians in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Tom Mastny, McDonald hit .289/.336/.320 with no homers and 12 RBI in 93 at-bats for Toronto. He makes $400,000 this year and will be arbitration-eligible again after the season. He's a career .239/.279/.310 hitter in 324 games.
Once the player to be named has been identified, we'll analyze him as well.
Phillies deal reliever ... but it's Worrell
July 21: The Phillies traded a reliever Thursday, but it wasn't closer Billy Wagner, around whom trade rumors continue to swirl. Instead, Philadelphia shipped Tim Worrell to Arizona for Matt Kata. The Phillies also will pay part of the remainder of Worrell's $2.75 million salary this season.
Worrell, a 38-year-old righthander, spent two months on the disabled list with undisclosed personal issues before rejoining the Phillies at the beginning of July. Worrell, who has four kids and lives in Arizona, had asked Philadelphia to pursue a trade that would allow him to pitch closer to his home. At this point in his career, he relies as much on guile and command as he does on his stuff, which includes a high-80s fastball, a curveball and a splitter. He has gone 0-1 with a career-high 7.41 ERA in 19 games this year, though he does have a 3.00 ERA in five appearances since coming off the DL. Control hasn't been a problem, as he owns a 17-3 strikeout-walk ratio in 17 innings, but location has; opponents have crushed him for a .377 average and four homers. Worrell is in the final year of a two-year, $5.5 million contract. He has a 44-56, 3.95 record and 65 saves in 623 career appearances.
Kata, 27, opened 2005 in the majors but was demoted to Triple-A Tucson in early May and had resurfaced in Arizona just twice for brief stints. He has gone 6-for-31 (.194) in the big leagues this year, and has hit .249/.310/.395 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 150 career games. He was the Diamondbacks' starting second baseman in 2004 until he tore his left labrum that May. Kata, who played second base, third base, shortstop, center field and right field at Tucson (where he batted .310/.329/.435 in 46 games), will play a utility role for the Phillies. He has decent pop for a middle infielder but won't hit for a solid average unless he makes more contact. He has above-average speed, though his arm isn't really up to par for shortstop or third base.
Rangers make minor pitching move
July 21: With the third-worst ERA (4.89) in the American League, the Rangers need pitching as they look to reverse a recent 2-6 slide that has dropped them to third place in the AL West and fifth in the wild-card race. They made a small trade on that front Thursday, acquiring Kevin Gryboski from the Braves for minor league righthander Matt Lorenzo.
Gryboski, a 31-year-old righthander, excels at inducing groundball outs when he can spot his low-90s sinker. Since Atlanta acquired him in a January 2002 deal for righty Elvis Perez, Gryboski has gone 11-7, 3.32 with two saves in 221 big-league appearances. He has a 0-0, 2.95 record in 31 games this year and missed two weeks in May with a viral infection. Gryboski's ERA is misleading, however, as his strikeout-walk ratio is a poor 8-12 in 21 innings and opponents are batting .300 against him (albeit with no homers). He's making $877,500 this year and will be eligible for arbitration again after the season. Rookie Macay McBride will replace Gryboski in the Atlanta bullpen.
Lorenzo, 23, signed as a 2003 fifth-round pick out of Kent State. He has struggled this year, going 4-9, 5.42 in 19 games (18 starts) between high Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco. He has an 83-43 K-BB ratio in 100 innings, while opponents have hit .316 with 17 homers against him. His best fit probably is in relief, a role in which his fastball jumped from 88-92 to 93-95 mph in the Arizona Fall League in 2004. His curveball is an effective second pitch, but he needs a better command overall and a better changeup to combat lefthanders.
Red Sox acquire Graffanino from Royals
July 19: While Boston fans clamor for a major trade to rejuvenate a team that has stumbled through July, the Red Sox have been content to rework their bench. Their latest move came Tuesday, when they acquired Tony Graffanino from the Royals for a pair of minor leaguers, outfielder Chip Ambres and lefthander Juan Cedeno.
Boston now has made four bench-related trades in the last two weeks. The Red Sox changed utility infielders by swapping Ramon Vazquez for Alex Cora with Cleveland on July 7, and sent disgruntled Jay Payton to Oakland last Wednesday. Earlier on Tuesday, Boston replaced Payton in the outfield by sending righthander Scott Cassidy to San Diego for Adam Hyzdu. The Red Sox had dealt Hyzdu to the Padres in March for righty Blaine Neal, one of several relievers to underachieve in Boston this year.
Graffanino, 33, will get a lot of playing time at second base while Mark Bellhorn is on the disabled list and also is capable of backing up the other three infield positions. Recovered from knee problems that bothered him throughout 2004, Graffanino has hit .298/.377/.393 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 59 games this year. He doesn't have a standout tool but finds a way to get the job done. He's a line-drive hitter with gap power, good control of the strike zone and more baserunning savvy than speed. Defensively, he doesn't wow anyone with his range or arm strength but has very sure hands. A free agent after the season, he's making $1.1 million in the final season of a two-year, $2.2 million contract that also provided him with a $400,000 bonus when he was traded. Graffanino has batted .263/.335/.388 with 38 homers and 193 RBIs in 708 career games.
Ambres, 25, was a top quarterback recruit headed to Texas A&M before signing with the Marlins after they took him 27th overall in the 1998 draft out of a Texas high school. A series of injuries stalled his progress with Florida, and he signed with the Red Sox as a six-year minor-league free agent in the offseason. Ambres got off to a hot start in the first six weeks this year at Triple-A Pawtucket, and though he has cooled off he's still enjoying the best season of his pro career. He's hitting .294/.401/.495 with 10 homers, 50 RBIs and 19 steals in 84 games. He has solid all-around tools as well as a willingness to draw walks, though he has struck out more often as he has shown more power the last two seasons. He has split time between left and center field this year and projects more as a corner outfielder in the majors. Ambres is a late bloomer who draws mixed reviews, with some scouts projecting him as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues and others wondering if he might be able to play on a regular basis.
Cedeno, 21, opened some eyes when he blew away Joe Mauer in two matchups in instructional league in 2002, but he has stalled after a promising first full season in 2003. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Cedeno was the hardest-throwing lefthander in the Red Sox system (his fastball ranged from 92-96 mph) but hasn't consistently missed bats the last two years. He was demoted to the bullpen at high Class A Wilmington in June, and that's his best long-term fit because he doesn't have effective secondary pitches. In 22 games (12 starts) at Wilmington, he went 2-6, 5.49. He had a 71-37 strikeout-walk ratio in 80 innings, while opponents batted .267 with 11 homers against him.
Cubs, Indians swap outfielders
July 18: Though they exchanged players who play the same position, the Cubs and Indians both filled needs with a Monday trade. Cleveland added some power with Jason Dubois while Chicago picked up an outfielder capable of playing in center in Jody Gerut.
Dubois, 26, led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with a .629 slugging percentage, but neither that nor that Cubs' hole in left field garnered Dubois regular playing time under Cubs manager Dusty Baker. In 52 games this season, Dubois hit .239/.289/.472 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 142 at-bats, his first extended chance to play in the majors. He was demoted to Triple-A Iowa on July 7. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, he can generate impressive power, but his impatience can get the best of him at the plate. A former two-way star at Virginia Commonwealth, he has a strong arm but not much range in the outfield or speed on the basepaths. He also has experience at first base.
Gerut, 27, could take some center-field playing time from Jerry Hairston Jr. An Illinois native, Gerut broke into the majors with an impressive .279/.336/.494 rookie season in 2003 but hasn't shown the same power since. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last September, and didn't return to Cleveland's lineup until mid-May. He hit .275/.357/.377 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 44 games before the trade. He's a line-drive hitter who's going to have to find a way to incorporate more power or walks in his game to be productive offensively. He has average speed and arm strength, and he's capable of playing all three outfield positions. Gerut likely will be eligible for arbitration after this season with two-plus years of service time. He's a career .267/.338/.440 hitter with 34 homers and 138 RBIs in 305 games.
A's, Rockies make further adjustments
July 13: One trade wasn't enough for the Athletics and Rockies on Wednesday, so they consummated a second deal between themselves later that day. Colorado got Eric Byrnes and infield prospect Omar Quintanilla for Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick.
Byrnes, 29, became expendable when Oakland added Jay Payton to its outfield and fills the void the Rockies created when they dealt Preston Wilson to Washington, both transactions coming earlier Wednesday. Byrnes is a high-energy player who can get overly aggressive at the plate. He has some power, but does much more damage against left-handers (.913 career OPS, .999 in 2005) than against righties (.738 career; .671 this year). This year, he has hit .266/.336/.474 with seven homers and 24 RBI in 59 games. He runs well and goes all out for any fly ball he can possibly catch. Byrnes is making $2.2 million in 2005 and will be arbitration-eligible again this offseason. He's a career .270/.336/.462 hitter with 45 homers and 164 RBI.
Quintanilla, 23, was a supplemental first-round pick in 2003 after starring at Texas. Though he's having the worst season of his pro career this year -- batting .293/.347/.395 with four homers and 24 RBI in 78 games at Double-A Midland -- he entered the season with a career .330 average as a pro and is considered an advanced hitter with line-drive pop. He has played shortstop throughout his pro career, but he lacks traditional range and speed for the position and probably will move to second base at some point. The Rockies assigned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs, and he should challenge for the big-league second-base job in the near future.
Kennedy, a 26-year-old left-hander, set a record for Rockies starters last year with a 3.66 ERA. But he hasn't been nearly as effective in 2005, going 4-8, 7.04 in 16 starts. He has a 52-44 strikeout-walk ratio in 92 innings, and opponents have crushed him for a .334 average and 12 homers. Colorado was about to pull him from the rotation spot anyway, and can use Wednesday's trade acquisition, Zach Day, to eventually fill his spot. Kennedy hasn't fooled as many hitters this year with the life on his fastball, which is his out pitch despite rarely topping 90 mph. He throws across his body, making it tough for lefties to pick up his pitches, but his mechanics affect his consistency with his entire repertoire, which also includes a curveball and changeup. He'll begin his Oakland career as a reliever. Like Byrnes, Kennedy makes $2.2 million and will be eligible for arbitration again after the season. His career record is 31-46, 4.95 in 125 games.
Witasick, a 32-year-old righty, will join Kennedy in the Oakland bullpen. He signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles, who released him late in spring training, then rewarded the Rockies for picking him up. Witasick is in the midst of the best season of his 10-year big-league career, going 0-4, 2.52 in 32 appearances. He has a sterling 40-12 K-BB ratio in 36 innings and has held opponents to a .209 average and two homers. Witasick goes right after hitters with a 92-94 mph fastball and a hard curveball. This will be his second tour of duty in Oakland, where he made his major-league debut after being part of the Todd Stottlemyre trade with the Cardinals in 1996. He has gone 29-40, 4.60 in 421 big league games.
Nationals make biggest in-season addition yet with Wilson
July 13: With more than two weeks remaining until the deadline for trades without waivers, transaction action is just starting to heat up. The Nationals moved to strengthen their chances of continuing their surprising success on Wednesday, when they acquired the best player to change teams this season. Washington picked up Preston Wilson from the Rockies for Zach Day, minor-league outfielder J.J. Davis and either a player to be named later or cash. Colorado also will contribute $3.58 million of the $5.58 million remaining on Wilson's $12 million salary for 2005.
The 30-year-old Wilson's job is to boost a Nationals offense that ranks last in the majors in runs (359) and last in the National League in homers (66). Wilson led the NL with 141 RBI in 2003 before missing much of last year following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He has bounced back to hit .258/.322/.491 with 15 homers and 47 RBI in 71 games this year, though much of that damage was done at Coors Field (.281/.350/.544 with 10 homers and 34 RBI in 42 games). Wilson has legitimate power in any park, though he doesn't make consistent contact (77 strikeouts this year) and won't hit for a high average. He's not the base-stealing threat he was before knee surgery, but he's still able to play center field and has a good arm for the position. Wilson will allow Brad Wilkerson to move from center field to first base to fill in for the injured Nick Johnson. In the final year of a five-season, $32 million contract, Wilson will become a free agent after the season. He's a career .265/.333/.481 hitter with 161 homers, 548 RBI and 107 steals in 880 games. His departure will allow the Rockies to give rookie Cory Sullivan more playing time in center field.
Day, a 27-year-old right-hander, drew the ire of Washington manager Frank Robinson when he turned his back on Robinson during a pitching change May 3. The Nationals pulled him from the rotation afterward, and he sustained a hairline fracture in his pitching wrist when he was hit by a Ken Griffey Jr. liner on May 23. He was 1-2, 6.75 in 12 games (five starts), with a 16-25 strikeout-walk ratio in 36 innings. Opponents have hit .289 with four homers against him this year. Day, who was on a rehab assignment to Double-A Harrisburg at the time of the trade, has struggled to locate his sinker in 2005, much more so than he has in the past. His secondary pitches (curveball, slider, changeup) also have been less consistent. Neither his velocity (88-92 mph) nor his backup offerings are above average, so he doesn't have much margin for error. The Rockies initially will use Day in their bullpen but project him as a member of their future rotation. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the season. He has gone 19-21, 4.31 in 73 big-league games.
Davis, 26, was the eighth overall pick by the Pirates in 1997 out of a California high school but has yet to find his niche in the majors. Acquired from Pittsburgh in November for minor-league outfielder Antonio Sucre, Davis went 6-for-26 with the Nationals this year, pushing his big league totals to .179/.248/.217 with one homer and nine RBI in 106 at-bats. He has spent most of this year at Triple-A New Orleans, batting .282/.359/.546 with 12 homers and 31 RBI in 51 games. Davis possesses plus power, speed and arm strength, but he lacks discipline and doesn't fare well against breaking pitches. He also can look awkward in right field at times.
When the player to be named has been identified, we'll analyze him as well.
Red Sox dump unhappy Payton, bolster bullpen
July 13: With Jay Payton pointedly unhappy about his part-time role, the Red Sox went the addition-by-subtraction route when they designated him for assignment last Thursday. On Wednesday they found a taker for him, sending him to the Athletics for some much-needed bullpen help in Chad Bradford. Boston also included cash toward the remainder of Payton's $3.5 million salary this year.
Payton, 32, may not want to acknowledge it, but he's best suited for part-time play. The only time during his eight-year major-league career that he posted big numbers came when he was a Rockie aided by Coors Field. After joining the Red Sox in the Dave Roberts trade with the Padres in December, he hit .263/.313/.429 with five homers and 21 RBI in 55 games. Payton has average hitting ability and power, though he doesn't walk much. While he runs well and shows good range in the outfield, he sometimes takes awkward routes on fly balls. His arm is a plus. He'll replace Eric Byrnes in Oakland's outfield rotation. Payton is in the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $5.5 million contract, and Oakland likely will buy him out for $600,000 rather than pay him $4 million in 2006. He's a career .283/.333/.442 hitter with 82 homers and 321 RBI in 770 games.
Bradford, a 30-year-old right-hander, came off the disabled list after missing the first half of the season recovering from back surgery. He has made nine rehab appearances in the minors this year after going 5-7, 4.42 in 68 big-league games in 2004. He posted a 34-24 strikeout-walk ratio in 59 innings, while opponents batted .234 with five homers. A submariner, Bradford uses an upper-80s sinker, changeup and curveball. He's a groundball pitcher whose unorthodox style is typically much more effective against right-handers than left-handers. The Red Sox hope he'll shore up a relief corps that has been their weakest link this year, as Boston's 5.64 bullpen ERA is the third-worst in baseball. Bradford makes $1.4 million this year and will be arbitration-eligible again after the season. He has gone 21-15, 3.47 with seven saves in 294 big-league games.
Red Sox shuffle bench, add Cora
July 7: Though they're the defending World Series champs and have a four-game lead in the American League East, the Red Sox aren't above some fine-tuning. After designating reserve outfielder Jay Payton for assignment early Thursday -- amid rumors it already has worked out a yet-to-be-announced deal for him -- Boston made another move with its bench by picking up Alex Cora from Cleveland in exchange for Ramon Vazquez.
Cora, 29, signed with the Indians after the Dodgers nontendered him during the offseason. He served as a backup with Cleveland and will do the same for Boston, capable of playing both middle-infield positions and sticking out more with his glove than with his bat. He has good range and arm strength to go with average speed, but as a hitter he doesn't produce for average or power and doesn't draw many walks.
He batted .205/.250/.288 with one homer, eight RBIs and six steals in 49 games for the Indians, and has career averages of .243/.310/.347 with 28 homers, 181 RBIs and 24 swipes in 733 contests. Cora will be eligible for free agency after the season.
Cora will play the role Boston had hoped Vazquez would fill after acquiring him in a trade with the Padres centering around Dave Roberts in December. But Vazquez, 28, hurt a quad muscle in April and was of little use to the Red Sox, hitting .197/.234/.230 in 61 at-bats before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday.
Vazquez was a regular for San Diego in 2002-03 before losing the second-base job to Mark Loretta and the shortstop job to Khalil Greene, and he hasn't played well as a reserve the last two years. He's more versatile than effective. He can play second, third and short, but he's not much of a threat using an inside-out swing at the plate. He has good speed and instincts on the bases, and he's more steady than spectacular in the field. Arbitration-eligible after the season, Vazquez is a career .259/.329/.337 hitter with six homers and 83 RBIs in 340 games.
Yankees deal Quantrill to Padres
July 2: Hoping that a change of scenery can turn around disappointing seasons for three pitchers, the Padres and Yankees engineered a trade on Saturday. San Diego received Paul Quantrill in exchange for Tim Redding and Darrell May, both of whom New York immediately demoted to Triple-A Columbus. The Padres also sent cash to the Yankees to help cover the difference in salaries exchanged.
A 36-year-old right-hander, Quantrill had been designated for assignment along with Mike Stanton on Thursday. Quantrill had been one of baseball's top setup men from 2001-03 before signing a two-year, $6.4 million free-agent contract with the Yankees.
He continued to excel in the first half of 2004, but was worked so hard that he collapsed in the second half (7.09 ERA) and hasn't recovered. He took the loss in Game Four of the American League Championship Series last October when he served up a two-run homer to David Ortiz in the 12th inning.
In 2005, Quantrill has gone 1-0, 6.75 in 22 appearances. His strikeout-walk ratio is just 11-7 in 32 innings, while opponents have tattooed him for a .361 average and five homers.
He relies heavily on his sinker, and it hasn't fooled anyone since declining into the mid-80s. He'll make $3 million this year before becoming a free agent again. His career record is 67-76, 3.82 with 21 saves in 813 games.
Redding, a 27-year-old righty, has been dealt twice in four months. He asked for a trade if he couldn't win a job in Houston's rotation during spring training, and the Astros obliged on March 28, shipping him to San Diego for catcher Humberto Quinitero.
Redding has a plus fastball and a big-breaking curve, but he hasn't located his pitches well since winning 10 games with a 3.68 ERA in 2003, his first full season as a major league starter.
He has been a disaster this year, going 0-5, 9.10 in nine games (six starts) and missing six weeks with a shoulder strain. He has a 17-13 K-BB ratio in 30 innings, and opponents have batted .328 with seven homers against him.
Redding, who will be arbitration-eligible again after making $750,000 in 2005, owns a career mark of 21-33, 5.04 in 100 games.
May, a 33-year-old lefty, also changed addresses during the offseason. The Royals sent him to the Padres last November in a four-player trade that brought Terrence Long to Kansas City. The Royals foolishly gave May a two-year, $4.95 million conract after he went 10-8, 3.77 in 2003 an aberration he never has come close to repeating.
This year, he has gone 1-3, 5.61 in 22 games (eight starts). Like Quantrill and Redding, May hasn't been missing bats. He has a 32-20 K-BB ratio in 59 innings, and has given up a .303 average and 10 homers to opponents.
His best pitch is his changeup, and he tries to keep hitters off balance by moving the rest of his below-average arsenal around the strike zone. May, who makes $3.225 million this year, has a career record of 26-42, 5.04 in 159 contests.