Article first appeared 6/15/08
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:
Eddie Bonine - Even manager Jim Leyland describes Bonine as "… Not an overpowering guy. A strike-thrower. Evidently, he's a winner." Yes, Bonine has a 24-7 combined record the last two years in the minors, but along with that he had a 4.25 K/9 at Double-A last year, improving to 5.57 at Triple-A Toledo before his callup. Even his improved rate his hardly sustainable at the major league level. He'll do decently against some of the weaker lineups in baseball, but there's a pretty big blowup potential. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
R.A. Dickey - Dickey's first start after replacing Miguel Batista in the rotation was pretty ugly on Saturday, but this was still the right move for the Mariners. Batista has had abysmal control and the appropriate results have followed. Dickey is no prospect, but he at least represents some potential undeveloped upside, following his conversion to being a knuckleball pitcher. For the Mariners, they have to accept that they're well past contention in 2008, and start thinking about what their franchise is going to look like in 2009 in beyond. Figuring out if Dickey belongs there has to be one of their priorities. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Kason Gabbard - Gabbard was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma to start the second half of Sunday's doubleheader against the Mets, returning after a rough stretch before his demotion. Gabbard has been bothered by both a back injury and then leg soreness, the latter suffered in a brawl with the Mariners' Richie Sexson. His struggles can be traced back from that start. He's not particularly overpowering, but reliably induces groundballs. That's a pretty important skill to have while pitching in Texas. Still, he's fairly risky for his home starts, even with his groundball tendencies. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Eric Hurley - Hurley got the win in his major league debut, but still gave up two homers to the Royals in the effort. Looking at his upper-minor league track record, his propensity to give up the long ball has been a pretty big problem in the past. This year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, he had 72 strikeouts in 74.2 innings, but also gave up 15 homers. Putting in a flyball pitcher in the middle of the summer in Arlington is a pretty good recipe to ruin a prospect's confidence. Stay away until he corrects his flyball tendencies. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Francisco Liriano - Liriano has had four good starts at Triple-A Rochester in a row, while the Livan Hernandez Experience has just about ground to its predictable, miserable halt. In his last four starts, Liriano has a 26:6 K:BB over 25.2 innings while allowing just seven earned runs. He's not going to be the same dominant force he was pre-injury, at least not yet, but he'll be helpful now and makes for a good target in keeper leagues. Pull the trigger now if you can, before he gets the call. Mixed: $3; AL: $15.
Brandon Morrow - Any thoughts of converting Morrow back into a starter got thrown out the window once J.J. Putz went on the DL, but in fairness, the Mariners had only talked about that conversion, without taking any constructive steps in that process. Morrow has cut his walk rate in half this season while hiking his strikeout rate to 12.5 batters per nine innings. Whether they should still be looking at him as a starter is a different debate, but Morrow can help you right now as a reliever and indeed will close while Putz is out. Just be aware that Morrow has had some shoulder soreness of his own recently. Mixed: $8; AL: $25.
Troy Percival - Percival spent just the minimum 15 days on the DL with his hamstring injury and has already gotten a save on Saturday night against the Marlins. He's gone in AL leagues, but his owner in some of the thinner mixed leagues might have dumped him when he got hurt. Grab him now if he's still out there - the Rays should provide plenty of save chances for him, and his component numbers all look good except for his flyball rate. Mixed: $15.
Fernando Rodney - The Tigers are about to get reinforcements for their beleaguered bullpen, first with Rodney at the beginning of the week, and then later with Joel Zumaya as early as Friday. Both should step into their usual roles fairly quickly - there's little currently in the Tigers' bullpen holding them back. The big thing to watch with Rodney is his command; when he's been coming back from injuries in the past, he's struggled with his walk rate. Rodney - Mixed: $0; AL: $3; Zumaya - Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Carlos Rosa - Rosa is a little more than a fungible bullpen arm for the Royals. He's a real prospect, thought the Royals still have to figure out whether his future lies in the rotation or the bullpen. Rosa was off to an excellent start splitting time between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, working as a starter. He had a combined 62:11 K:BB over 70 innings. He'll begin working in middle relief with the Royals. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Kelly Shoppach - Shoppach takes over the starting catching duties for the Indians, now that Victor Martinez is on the DL with an elbow injury and will be out six-to-eight weeks. Shoppach will probably not hit for average, but he's got better-than-average power for a catcher. Mixed: $5; AL: $20.
Brian Buscher - Buscher got the call with the Twins finally going away from their ill-considered 13-pitcher roster, and there's a reasonable chance that he could take over at least part if not all of the third base job. Mike Lamb is nearing the end of his rope with manager Ron Gardenhire, and both Buscher and Matt Macri are getting chances to start in Lamb's place. Buscher isn't a premier prospect, but he's slugged over .500 at the Triple-A level both this year and last, so he could give the power-starved Twins a little bit of pop. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
German Duran - Duran gets a return engagement with the team, and he's platooning at third base with Ramon Vazquez. His callup and usage pattern is a little puzzling, given that he's a prospect of some sorts and Vazquez is not. The Rangers are probably better off letting him play every day down in Triple-A Oklahoma. He's had homers in two of his three starts this past week and is coming off of a nice Double-A power spike last year. He's still a little raw, and he might get sent back down once Hank Blalock comes back this week. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Chone Figgins - Figgins is back from his hamstring injury after multiple false starts, and he's already been able to steal a base since coming back. It appears that his hamstring woes are fully behind him finally. He's capable of going on lengthy tears where he'll give you a big boost in batting average and stolen bases. He won't hit .330 again, but he could go .300+ for the rest of the season. Mixed: $30.
Matt Macri - Like Buscher, Macri is getting playing time at third base at the expense of Mike Lamb. Macri doesn't have the same sort of power upside as Buscher, and he's on the wrong side of the platoon, so he rates as a less attractive option. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Oscar Salazar - The Orioles have already begun the process of finding out which young players are going to be a part of their future, but that's not what's going on here. Salazar turns 30 on June 27, and has bounced the upper majors since 2002. He's playing some at first base and some at third due to injuries to Kevin Millar and Melvin Mora, but he's probably not going to stick around for the duration. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Mike Aviles - In 36 at-bats, Aviles already has more extra-base hits than Tony Pena Jr. has had all season. That's not exactly a high bar to clear, but with the Royals struggling so badly to score any runs, the decision by them to give Aviles regular time at shortstop over Pena makes complete sense. We railed against the Royals' seeming inability to decide on one player at the position, but Aviles has been playing consistently over the last 10 days. We still don't view him as a likely keeper, but if you lost Asdrubal Cabrera as your middle infielder in AL league, you could do worse than use Aviles now. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Jamey Carroll - With Asdrubal Cabrera sent down to Triple-A Buffalo and Josh Barfield on the 15-day DL with a finger injury, all of a sudden Carroll has the unfettered grip on the second base job. He's responded by having multi-hit games in four of the last five days, though precious few of them have been for extra-bases. In fact, heading into Sunday, he had just four doubles and one triple in 119 at-bats. Mike Aviles probably has a little more upside potential than Carroll, if you're an owner of Cabrera needing a replacement in your middle infield slot. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Alberto Gonzalez - The Yankees decided to use Gonzalez instead of Shelley Duncan for their final roster spot, at least during interleague play. Gonzalez gives them a little bit more tactical flexibility for their road games against NL teams. He won't start more than a game or two while up, and he's bereft of any power potential. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Jorge Velandia - Velandia takes over Josh Barfield's roster spot, after Barfield injured his finger right after his callup. Velandia backs up Carroll, and unlike Barfield, isn't much of a threat to take over a piece of the second base job. Mixed and AL: No.
Rocco Baldelli - Baldelli is starting his rehab assignment this week from his rare fatigue disorder. He's not going to be a factor until after the All-Star break, but if you're looking for a speculative pickup while he's still cheap, you might be able to grab him now. He's a long way from getting back to his peak value, but in tighter leagues, he can make a difference along the margins. Mixed and AL: $0.
Ryan Sweeney - Sweeney is back from the DL and his toe injury. For now, the A's have found a way to keep both Sweeney and Carlos Gonzalez in the starting lineup, even in interleague play. Emil Brown has seen role reduced dramatically, even before Sweeney's return, and that along with the demotion of Travis Bruck have created Sweeney's playing time. Sweeney is hitting for decent average and walking at an acceptable rate, but he's continued to not hit for power, a trend that's held him back at the upper levels of the minors as well. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.