As we approach the All-Star Break, things have been starting to heat up on the transaction front. Here are some of the top moves made in major league baseball over the past week.
THURSDAY, JUNE 24
Daisuke Matsuzaka activated from the 15-day DL
The 29-year-old Japanese import went 18-3 in 2008 and has found himself dealing with injuries ever since. He started this year on the disabled list due to a strained neck, causing him to miss the first month of the season. His most recent stint on the DL was the result of a strained forearm that he suffered while warming up for a start a couple of weeks ago. Nevertheless, Dice-K is back, but with his track record, it remains to be seen for how long. He comes back to a 5-2 record with a 4.59 ERA, and looks to try to regain his form of a couple of years ago. His rotation spot was left waiting for him, as rookie Felix Doubront made one start in his place and was demoted immediately afterwards.
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2010
Doug Fister activated from the 15-day DL
Few young pitchers have done so well with so little. Fister's fastball averages only 88 miles-per-hour, and he seldomly uses his secondary pitches. He doesn't strike guys out, and his ground ball ratio is nothing fantastic either, yet he still manages to get the job done. He was 3-3 with an ERA of 2.45 and a WHIP of 0.96 in 10 starts when the Mariners placed him on the DL due to soreness in his right shoulder on June 6. After missing a couple of weeks, he's looking to pick up right where he left off. Fantasy owners looking for wins or strikeouts will want to look elsewhere, but he could be worth a look for teams in need of help in ERA or WHIP. Reliever Shawn Kelley was placed on the DL to make room for Fister. Kelley is currently 3-1 with a 3.96 ERA in 22 relief appearances this season.
SATURDAY, JUNE 26
Dustin Pedroia to the 15-day DL
The 2008 American League MVP has been a model of health and consistency over the past few seasons. Pedroia, who is just 26 years old, currently holds a career batting average of .305 in over 550 games and has a decent combination of power and speed. However, on Friday, the Red Sox lost their star second baseman when he fouled a ball off of his left foot. Tests revealed that Pedroia fractured a bone in his foot, and he is likely to be out for at least six weeks. This comes as quite a blow to the injury-plagued Red Sox, who have already lost outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida, and starters Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Infielder Angel Sanchez was promoted from Pawtucket to fill the vacant roster spot. He will back up veteran Bill Hall at second while Pedroia is out. Hall is batting a measly .230 through Friday and has seen his numbers decline drastically since 2006. The chances of him having much fantasy value are pretty slim.
Carlos Zambrano to the restricted list
Zambrano came into this season with a career 105-68 mark and a 3.51 career ERA. He had established himself as a legitimate front-of-the-rotation starter and a solid fantasy performer. All of that changed this season when he struggled early on and got bumped to the Cubs bullpen after just four starts. He managed to find himself back in the rotation at the beginning of June, but a bad first inning on Friday and the wild temper tantrum that followed has landed him on the restricted list. The Cubs have suspended the 29-year-old Zambrano until he can get some help for his issues, similar to what the Mariners did with Milton Bradley earlier this year. He is not expected to return to the club until July 15, at which point he will return to the bullpen, effectively eliminating whatever fantasy value he may have had left. Tom Gorzelanny, who has been effective for the Cubs despite a 2-5 record, now moves back into the rotation. He has an ERA of 3.41, with 60 strikeouts in 58 innings through Friday. His numbers from the past couple of seasons suggest that he may not be able to maintain those impressive numbers. The Cubs also placed lefty reliever John Grabow on the DL, and promoted relievers James Russell and Jeff Stevens from Iowa.
SUNDAY, JUNE 27
Russell Branyan traded to Seattle
The Mariners were in desperate need of some offensive help, and this move provides them with at least a little bit of a boost. Branyan clubbed 31 homers while with Seattle last season, and hit another 10 in 171 at-bats with the Indians this season before the trade. In exchange for Branyan, the Indians got a couple of prospects in outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and shortstop Juan Diaz, plus a player to be named. The move allowed the rebuilding Indians to call up 25-year old Matt LaPorta to take over the first-base duties. LaPorta hit just .218 during his stint with the club earlier this season, but has a ton of potential. The Mariners made a series of corresponding moves, calling up reliever David Pauley, sending down young backup first baseman Mike Carp and placing designated hitter Mike Sweeney on the DL.
MONDAY, JUNE 28
Jason Heyward to the 15-day DL
The 20-year-old rookie outfielder had been playing with an injured left thumb for about six weeks before the Braves made the decision to place him on the disabled list on Monday. Heyward was batting .251 with eleven home runs, 45 RBIs and 41 runs scored at the time of his DL assignment, and was second among National League outfielders in All-Star voting. His numbers had plummeted during an abysmal month of June in which he batted just .181 with one home run and seven RBIs, which probably led the Braves to make their decision. Heyward's status for the All-Star game is now uncertain, and the Braves outfield takes yet another hit. Atlanta will shift the versatile Melky Cabrera to right field in Heyward's absence. Eric Hinske, Gregor Blanco and Omar Infante should all be the recipients of some extra playing time as they man the left and center field spots. Of the three, Hinske is the most likely to have value for a fantasy team. He's batting .306 with five home runs and 29 RBIs in 147 at-bats through Sunday, but will probably sit against lefties.
Chad Billingsley activated from the 15-day DL
Billingsley was out just two weeks due to a strained right groin, and he's back and ready to build upon his solid numbers. The 25-year-old righty, who has already established himself as one of the more consistent starters in baseball over the last few seasons, was 6-4 with a 4.34 ERA at the time of his injury. He has yet to finish a season with an ERA over 4.03, so chances are good that his ERA will come down before season's end. With knuckleballer Charlie Haeger (0-4, 8.40 ERA) being designated for assignment recently, it left a spot open for Billingsley to step back into the rotation. Reliever Jon Link was sent back down to Albuquerque to make room on the roster for Billingsley. He has appeared in just four games so far this season.
TUESDAY, JUNE 29
Victor Martinez to the 15-day DL
The Red Sox offense took yet another hit when catcher Victor Martinez ended up on the disabled list with a fractured left thumb. Martinez suffered the injury on Sunday after getting hit in the thumb with a couple of foul balls. Boston is hopeful that he will miss no more than the minimum 15 days, allowing him to return just after the All-Star break. In the meantime, the Sox will turn to aging veteran Jason Varitek to fill the void. Varitek has seen his productivity drop significantly over the past few seasons, but has done well in a backup capacity so far this year. He's hitting .258 with seven home runs in just 89 at-bats through Monday. Catcher Gustavo Molina, who owns a career .118 average (4 for 34) was promoted to back him up.
Chase Utley and Placido Polanco to the 15-day DL
Just one week after shortstop Jimmy Rollins made his return to the lineup, the Phillies infield took another hit, this one a double-whammy. Second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco both found themselves on the disabled list, due to a sprained thumb and an elbow injury, respectively. Utley was hitting .277 with eleven home runs and had scored 49 runs in 72 games, while Polanco was hitting a robust .318 with 39 runs scored in 62 games. To fill the vacant roster spots, the Phillies promoted infielders Greg Dobbs and Brian Bocock from Lehigh Valley. Dobbs has struggled offensively this season, batting just .152 in 42 games, but should get some playing time at third base to try to turn things around. Bocock has a .143 average in 32 Major League games, and provides absolutely nothing in terms of offense. He will likely be used sparingly as a backup middle infielder. Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro should also see some extra playing time at second and third base due to the injuries to Utley and Polanco. Through Monday, Valdez is hitting .244, while Castro is at .212. Neither player has shown an ability to produce at the Major League level during their careers.
David Freese to the 15-day DL
The Cardinals' rookie third baseman was having quite an impressive showing before landing on the DL due to a bruised right ankle. The 27-year-old Freese was hitting .296 with four home runs and 36 RBIs, but had been hampered by the ankle injury since June 5. He continued to experience pain, so the Cards opted to give him a couple of weeks off so he can properly recover. St. Louis will use a combination of Felipe Lopez and Aaron Miles at third until Freese is ready to return. Lopez, who has been used all over the infield and even pitched in a game this year, is hitting .248 through Monday. He batted .310 last season in 151 games, and could have some value in NL-only leagues. Miles is hitting .280 (7 for 25) since his promotion on June 1. Reliever Fernando Salas was called up to take Freese's roster spot.