Article first appeared 4/27/08
This is our weekly look at the free agents in each league. We have two goals with this article:
One size doesn't fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so we have to have a set of base assumptions. Those assumptions are:
Daniel Cabrera - What's more likely to happen - will Cabrera continue to walk batters near his career 5.28 BB/9 rate, or has he acquired greater command after all these years and follow the pace of his last two starts (two walks in 14 innings)? Here's one vote for him reverting back to the mean. Cabrera has had flashes of brilliance before, often against good teams, but he's never been able to sustain any sort of success. That's unlikely to change this year. If you want to ride the hot hand anyhow, note that he has two starts this week. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Chad Gaudin - Gaudin struggled initially from his DL stint, but he's allowed just two runs (one earned) over 14 innings in his last two starts. He's not that good - the starts were against Kansas City and Minnesota - but he can help you in deeper leagues, especially with a two-start week coming up. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Aaron Laffey - Laffey is getting a spot start on Monday against the Yankees, filling in the spot that Jake Westbrook would have otherwise started in. Laffey held his own in a brief trial with the Tribe last year, but like teammate Jeremy Sowers, we'd like to see a few more strikeouts out of him before using him too confidently. Where he separates himself from Sowers is his groundball rate - his G/F last year in nine starts in the majors was 3.04. If that's a repeatable skill for Laffey, he can get by with missing fewer bats. Westbrook is going to be out for a month - Laffey's start on Monday will go a long way in determining whether it's he or Sowers that keeps the role until Westbrook is ready to return. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Justin Masterson - Masterson has already been sent back down after making a spot start earlier this week, due to the Red Sox flu bug wave. He pitched well, holding the Angels to one run over six innings, perhaps raising the chances that he'll get the call again should one of their starters get hurt. The conversion from relieving to starting worked out well for Masterson last year, and he's now honing his craft at Double-A Portland to hone his craft. If his major league appearance triggered his availability in keeper leagues, you might consider snagging him for the minimum bid for next year. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Sidney Ponson - Ponson wasn't so bad for the Rangers on Saturday night - this was one case where the four unearned runs were truly unearned, with the Rangers committing three errors behind him. But we all know his track record here, and that track record is plenty sufficient to skare away even the nerviest of thrill-seekers. Mixed and AL: No.
Nate Robertson - Robertson has a 6.91 ERA in five starts so far, but he hasn't pitched anywhere nearly as bad as that figure suggests. His K:BB is 24:7 over 28.2 innings, he has a .353 BABIP so far (as opposed to a .302 career rate), and his relievers haven't helped much either, stranding only 53 percent of the runners they've inherited from him. Watch for reports on his tight lat muscles, but improvement should be expected here. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Jeremy Sowers - Sowers' start against the Yankees on Saturday was representative of what you can expect from him in the future, if he doesn't first get sent back down to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Aaron Laffey on Monday. He gave up three runs over 5.1 innings, giving up seven hits while striking out only three. Even in his rookie year, when he had a 3.57 ERA over 88.1 innings, Sowers struck out only 35 batters, getting by on a .259 BABIP and a higher ground ball rate than he's had the last two years. There's a fairly low ceiling for a pitcher like Sowers. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Jose Arredondo - Arredondo has been superb while working as the closer at Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings. He has a fantastic fastball, but has also had anger management issues in the past. He was called up here because the Angels' bullpen has been taxed pretty heavily, so the Angels wanted to make sure that they had enough depth. He's a legitimate prospect, but now probably isn't his time. Mixed and AL: No.
Andrew Brown - Brown hasn't allowed a run in 14 innings so far and is starting to earn a little time pitching in the eighth inning, splitting those duties with Santiago Casilla and Alan Embree. Casilla and Embree probably still would get the first chance to close if something were to happen to Huston Street, but Brown is pitching his way into consideration. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Jesse Carlson - Carlson has been better than your typical lefty specialist for the Jays so far. He's put together a 15:2 K:BB and a 1.54 ERA over 11.2 innings so far, spread over nine appearances. He's well down on the depth chart for saves or even holds now, but if you're looking for a cheap good skills reliever, you could do worse than Carlson. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Bobby Korecky - Korecky was a closer for Triple-A Rochester, but that's not in his future with the Twins. He might be a guy that works his way into a vulture win or two, but he's well down on the pecking order for wins or even holds. Mixed and AL: No.
Ramon Ramirez - Ramirez has quietly been superb in a set-up role for the Royals since coming over from the Rockies. The Royals had been slumping prior to the Blue Jays coming into town, but it's not because of their bullpen. The combo of Ramirez, Ron Mahay and Leo Nunez setting up Joakim Soria was a primary reason for their success over the first two weeks. Ramirez has no chance to close, but could pick up a handful of holds and maybe a vulture win or two while providing good component numbers. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Dioner Navarro - Navarro is back from his freak injury, and while he was surely kept in pretty much all AL leagues while he was out, he might be available in a handful of mixed leagues. Navarro showed some signs of finally getting it at the plate over the second half last year, and he's still just 24 years-old. Young catchers sometimes struggle when first experiencing major league pitching and then have it come together for them. I think there's a reasonable chance of that happening with Navarro. Mixed: $5.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Saltalamacchia is back up after hitting a tidy .287/.387/.491 at Triple-A Oklahoma. He'll split time with Gerald Laird pretty much down the middle for now - at least, that's the party line given by manager Ron Washington. That won't last, though - with the Rangers already falling well behind in the AL West, the motivation for the Rangers should be squarely focused on playing their young players to further develop them, or at least see what they've go in other cases. The long-term question for Salty remains whether he'll stick behind the plate, but for this year that won't be a problem. Mixed: $4; AL: $15.
Jed Lowrie - Lowrie had a miserable spring and then an awful start at Triple-A Pawtucket, but ever since his callup after Mike Lowell's injury, he's hit .357/.406/.464 in 28 at-bats, and has qualified at third base in many leagues having already played nine games there heading into Sunday. Lowell comes back this week from the DL, but trips to the DL for Sean Casey and Alex Cora, Lowrie's time with the Red Sox has probably been extended. Julio Lugo has two more years left on his contract, so while Lowrie is a good prospect, be careful about overvaluing his short-term keeper worth. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Scott Rolen - Rolen is back from his gruesome finger injury, and just homered for the first time on Sunday, addressing concerns about his ability to hit for power due to the nature of his injury (just as Curtis Granderson has done). He'll be a nice power source, hitting in a good ballpark until his next injury. Mixed: $15.
Mike Sweeney - Sweeney might lose playing time thanks to the Frank Thomas signing, but he might also gain a new position soon and start squeezing Daric Barton out of playing time. He's picked up two games at first base already, and with Thomas getting the everyday duties at DH, Sweeney should get up to your league's qualifying threshold quickly. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Alberto Callaspo - Mark Grudzielanek is out with a back injury, and Callaspo has been getting the starts at second base, and not Esteban German. Baseball Prospectus author and noted Royals fan Rany Jazayerli has suggested that Callaspo start over Tony Pena Jr. at shortstop, going with the better hitter than fielder. It's a pretty good suggestion. Callaspo didn't hit much in a brief trial with Arizona last year, but there were plenty of excuses for him. That started with his health and his inconsistent playing time, but also with him dealing with an off-the-field issue (completely of his own making, and one that prompted Arizona to trade him this offseason). Callaspo's minor league numbers demonstrate that he has a modicum of pop (at least compared to Pena) and batting eye, though he hasn't been a big source of stolen bases since 2004. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Ramon Santiago - Placido Polanco is back from his back injuries, but given their nature of recurring, Santiago could be in line for picking up pockets of time here and there, though he's competing with Ryan Raburn for those scraps. Santiago, even with copious playing time, is a mediocrity - break glass only in the case of emergency. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Michael Cuddyer - Cuddyer is back from the DL and has already homered, albeit in Texas against the Rangers. That should be encouraging enough that there shouldn't be much in the way of lingering effects on his finger to sap his power. This one is for mixed leaguers only - I can't imagine an owner in an AL-only league dropping him because of the injury. Mixed: $5.
Rajai Davis - Davis was subject of a pretty big bidding war in AL Tout Wars this week after he was claimed off waivers by the A's. I understand the desire to find stolen bases, but I'm not sure if getting him is that wise of an investment. For him to really pay off, he has to first work his way into significant playing time - so far so good there, but keep in mind that Travis Buck is currently on the DL. When Buck returns, that playing time might not last, unless Davis hits. Even if Davis plays often and hits, then you still have to worry about the A's organizational philosophy. They've only attempted 10 steals as a team so far, less than all but three major league teams. If you can get him cheap, sure, go for it, but he's not going cheap in deeper AL leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Gabe Gross - Gross is a nice little virtually-free talent grab by the Rays. He'll replace Nathan Haynes as the Rays' right fielder against righties. He can take a walk and has a little bit of pop, but he was hopelessly blocked in Milwaukee and might have been waived there when Mike Cameron comes off his suspension. Gross might even stick in right field after Cliff Floyd returns, with most of Floyd's playing time coming as the DH. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Brandon Moss - Moss, the Red Sox Opening Day in Japan hero, was called up when Sean Casey went on the DL. In 82 at-bats in Triple-A Pawtucket, he matched that one homer in Japan. He's capable of playing a little first base, after spending time there in the Dominican Republic this winter. That said, he won't get too many chances to display those skills, with Mike Lowell coming back soon. Mixed and AL: No.
Shelley Duncan - Duncan is back up with the Yankees after pounding the ball for Triple-A Scranton (a whopping .745 slugging percentage). He was immediately inserted into the lineup on Saturday against Jeremy Sowers, and it looks like he'll get plenty of playing time against lefties. Jason Giambi is off to a slow start this year (though has hit well in the last week), so Duncan might eventually get enough games in at first base to qualify there. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
Greg Norton - Jose Vidro and Richie Sexson both are slumping, though Sexson at least has hit for some power so far. Nonetheless, until the M's are serious about using either Jeff Clement or Wladimir Balentien (currently banged up), Norton threatens to take away some of that time, especially from Vidro. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Frank Thomas - The A's get Thomas for pennies on the dollar, just as they did before, and they'll insert him as the everyday DH. He might get the odd day or two off just to make sure Mike Sweeney gets a chance to start, but they have every intention of riding out his slump and getting him his plate appearances. Jack Cust is probably the big loser in terms of playing time adjustments. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.