Article first appeared 5/25/08
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:
Armando Galarraga - Galarraga got a reprieve from losing his spot in the starting rotation when the Tigers decided to put Dontrelle Willis in the bullpen for now. His poor outing on Friday against the Twins (five runs on seven hits and five walks over five innings) could be a harbinger of some tougher times to come. Galarraga has had problems with his walk rate in the past, and entered the game with a .192 BABIP against. That's not to say that he doesn't belong in the rotation - you could certainly make the case that either Kenny Rogers or Willis should be replaced first. Just keep your expectations in check. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Aaron Laffey - Fausto Carmona's hip injury brings Laffey a reprieve in the Indians' starting rotation. Carmona is expected to miss about four weeks, with what is being described as a moderate strain to the exterior muscle in his hip. Laffey has pitched well in his five starts, though his low strikeout rate and BABIP against indicate that his 1.60 ERA is too low. He hasn't yet allowed a homer, which is part of the reason he's been able to keep the ERA so low. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Kevin Millwood - Millwood was able to throw 65 pitches in a simulated game this weekend and will return directly to the rotation, eschewing any minor league rehab starts. While it's true that he's been a little unlucky on balls in play (.349 BABIP against), he's also putting a lot of balls in play, striking out only 29 in 48 innings. He's in the wrong ballpark with the wrong defense behind him to be a "pitch-to-contact" pitcher - you'll have to carefully pick your spots when you use him. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jake Westbrook - Westbrook returns from an extended DL stint on Wednesday, and the timing is perfect, with Fausto Carmona going on the DL. Westbrook won't threaten any strikeout titles, but reliably induces ground balls and also usually limits his walks. His spot in the rotation is far more secure than Laffey's. Mixed: $7; AL: $15.
Joe Borowski - Borowski is back from the DL and has immediately been re-installed as the closer, picking up a save on Saturday. Even though he pitched poorly before his injury and never has had great peripherals, his job is pretty secure if he can avoid re-injury. Rafael Betancourt spit the bit on his opportunity to close while Borowski was out. Mixed: $15; AL: $25.
Dallas Braden - Braden has been starting at Triple-A Sacramento, but working in relief in the A's bullpen, with far better results at the major league level than he had last year. This is a common refrain from us - it's certainly not a bad idea to break in a rookie pitcher in the bullpen before moving him to the rotation. If the A's trade any of their veterans this summer, Braden could be a candidate to move back to starting. Otherwise, he'll keep shuffling back-and-forth between Oakland and Sacramento. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
R.A. Dickey - Knuckleball pitchers are fun to watch, but pretty impossible to predict, especially when they have so little of a track record as a knuckleballer as Dickey. So consider any potential starts from Dickey as just a treat to view, but don't bother stocking him on your team. Mixed and AL: No.
Scott Elarton - Elarton has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this year at Triple-A Buffalo, where he had a 2.45 ERA over 25.2 innings. The key for Elarton is his ability to pound the strike zone. In the past, he's gotten into trouble with his walks. He'll work in long relief, barring a string of injuries for the Tribe. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Kameron Loe - Other than a consistently good ground ball rate, there's little to recommend about Loe, particularly when looking at his middle relief role. Mixed and AL: No.
Brandon Morrow - The Mariners are talking about transitioning Morrow into starting, which is a concept they dabbled with this offseason. This is something that should have happened long, long ago, albeit not at the major league level. We're all about breaking in top prospects in the bullpen - Earl Weaver did a great job of it, as did Larry Dierker. But before you do that, the pitcher has to be ready for major league hitters to begin with, and Morrow arguably wasn't, with only three innings above Rookie-level ball before he made the team out of spring training last year. He managed to pitch just 63.1 innings last year, when he should have been stretched out to pitch at least twice as much. His control has been all over the place, not just last year (50 walks) but also this year (six walks in 11 innings). This process is going to take awhile before it has a chance to be successful, especially given how limited Morrow has been this year. Mariners GM Bill Bavasi has made worse personnel moves, but his track record in advancing prospects too quickly and then giving up on them (Asdrubal Cabrera, Jeff Clement and Morrow) is pretty appalling. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Edward Mujica - Mujica was the last part of the Indians' bullpen shuffle this week. His component numbers are fairly nice, though he's tended to elevate the ball too much at the major league level in his brief trials. The big problem with him is job security. He replaces Jensen Lewis, who recently had hit a rough patch but otherwise has been pretty good. It wouldn't be surprising to see Mujica reprise the Cleveland-Buffalo shuffle he did so often last year. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Dontrelle Willis - For all the talk about how Barry Zito has fallen apart and what a bad signing the Giants made (and both are accurate observations), the same attention hasn't been paid to Willis. Why exactly did the Tigers feel compelled to give Willis a three-year, $29 million contract extension without seeing any evidence that he'd improve over last season's disappointing year? Even before this season, his strikeout rate was just mediocre, his walk rate was up, and so was his homers allowed. Fast forward to this season, and while acknowledging we have precious little data, Willis has been disastrous. The 0:11 K:BB in six innings is downright disturbing. Any investment in him for this year is a leap of faith. Mixed and AL: $0, if you're feeling lucky.
Kelly Shoppach - Victor Martinez is back from his finger injury, but Shoppach gets more play than your average backup catcher. Not only has Martinez had a couple of nagging injuries, but the Indians occasionally use him at first base or DH, creating that opportunity for Shoppach. Shoppach is off to a slow start (what Indians batter isn't?), but he has a decent amount of power for a second catcher. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Eric Chavez - Chavez is pounding the ball (.417/.440/.667) during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento, as he recovers from his back injury, but he's not going to be activated when first eligible on Tuesday. Just be aware that he's on his way - if not this week, then the following week. We don't expect to see vintage form Chavez when he comes back, but if you've been using the likes of Jack Hannahan or the fill-in Texas third basemen lately, he'll almost certainly be a significant improvement. Mixed: $4; AL: $12.
Mike Lamb - With Adam Everett going back on the DL this week, Lamb got a bit of a reprieve from losing a significant portion of his playing time. He finally hit his first homer of the season on Friday, leaving Delmon Young the loser in the "first homer" pool between him, Lamb and Michael Cuddyer. While nobody expected Lamb to be an All-Star, a reasonable expectation could have been for him to hit about .270 while on a 10-12 homer pace. If he keeps up his playing time, he could achieve that on a pro-rated basis. Nick Punto could be back from the DL this week, and Punto could take away some of Lamb's time. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Matt Macri - Macri's stay with the Twins might be short, depending upon what they do once Nick Punto comes back. Macri was once a decent prospect in the Rockies' system, but he's now more of a fungible part, turning 26 at the end of May. A strained left calf sidelined him earlier this season at Triple-A Rochester. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Alexi Casilla - We covered Casilla last week, but since then he's been taking away a lot more playing time from Brendan Harris at second base. He hasn't swiped any bases yet, but the speed is there, and so far, he's showing more patience at the plate. If you need steals, he's worth the gamble. Nick Punto's return from the DL could cut into his playing time. Mixed: $3; AL: $11.
Nick Punto - We've seen this movie before, and absolutely hate the ending. Nonetheless, when Punto comes off the DL, possibly as early as Wednesday, he could grab a big share of playing time because manager Ron Gardenhire loves his defense, and has been unhappy with the defensive work that he's getting from regulars Brendan Harris and Mike Lamb. Looking at what Punto does at the plate, he can take a walk and steal an occasional base, while providing absolutely no power. Somehow he managed to get 472 at-bats while hitting .210 and slugging just .271 last year - go figure that the Twins had trouble scoring runs. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
Brian Anderson - With Paul Konerko nursing a sore hand, Anderson is getting more playing time, with Nick Swisher switching to first base. Anderson isn't lighting the world on fire, but he's well enough and played good defense to keep Jerry Owens at Triple-A Charlotte. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
David Murphy - Murphy is on another hot streak, similar to how he opened the season. Coming into the year, I viewed him as more of a platoon outfielder or fourth outfielder, but he's risen beyond that expectation, playing virtually every day in right field. He's long gone in AL leagues, but there might be a handful of mixed leagues where's available. His .346 BABIP indicates that he's still running a little lucky in terms of hitting for average, but Murphy will give you some power and a few steals, making him useable in mixed leagues with 10 or more teams. Mixed: $5.
Jeremy Reed - Reed has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. This is fish-or-cut-bait time for him and the Rangers. Right now he's in the mix at both the corner spots, giving Raul Ibanez and Wladimir Balentien the occasional day off. Mariners' manager John McLaren said that he wouldn't use Reed as a defensive replacement for Ibanez, however, for reasons defy explanation. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
DeWayne Wise - The White Sox chose Wise over Jerry Owens mostly because his turn up in the majors will be a quick one. They needed an additional hitter with Paul Konerko hurting and Juan Uribe on the DL, but they plan on sending Wise back down later this week. If he somehow were to get an extended run of playing time, he could be a stolen base source, but that's about it. Mixed and AL: No.