Article first appeared 8/10/08
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:
Lance Broadway - Jose Contreras is probably out for the season after rupturing his Achilles' tendon. The White Sox called up Broadway to replace Contreras on the roster, but judging by the words of manager Ozzie Guillen, D.J. Carrasco might get the nod first to replace Contreras instead of Broadway. Broadway's numbers at Triple-A Charlotte aren't that inspiring - he's repeating at the level and hasn't shown really any sort of improvement. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Dan Giese - Giese replaces Darrell Rasner in the starting rotation, and now that Ian Kennedy has been sent back down to Triple-A Scranton, he has a measure of security even when Joba Chamberlain returns from the DL. The Yankees are lacking good options for the back end of their rotation, and that includes Giese, even though he pitched well on Saturday. Don't confuse Giese for a prospect - the 31 year-old essentially is this year's Aaron Small. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Gio Gonzalez - Gonzalez made his major league debut on Wednesday against the Jays and stabilized nicely after a rough first inning, retiring 15 of his last 16 batters. He's in the rotation in place of Dana Eveland and likely will stick there, rather than Dan Meyer. Gonzalez led the minors in strikeouts in the Double-A Southern League last year, but it's because of his curveball, not because he's blowing away opposing hitters. That could make his results pretty variable, but then again, when is that not the case with starting pitchers. Still, there's a nagging vibe that he could be like Rich Hill, with all the pluses and minuses that have come with his career. Mixed: $3; AL: $11.
Anthony Reyes - The phrase "change of scenery" has been used with nearly every outfit when describing the Indians' pickup of Reyes, and we're going to invoke it as well. It was pretty clear that Reyes had used up all of his chances with the Cardinals, and it's also pretty clear that they could have done a better job of developing him. He's flyball-prone, but when he's on, he can give you a decent number of strikeouts while pitching in a reasonably good pitcher's park. Mixed: $1; AL: $10.
Ryan Rowland-Smith - Rowland-Smith has displaced Miguel Batista for good in the Mariners' starting rotation, as they continue their purge of players that aren't going to help them in the future. Will Rowland-Smith help them? At best, there are going to be growing pains. His strikeout rate isn't anything special, nor is his G/F ratio. You might get away with spotting him for his home starts, but there's not a lot to get excited about here. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Chris Waters - Waters' successful debut was one of the least expected big performances of the year. After posting a 5.70 ERA with Triple-A Norfolk, he threw eight shutout innings against the Angels, allowing just one hit. Outings like this illustrate the principal in baseball that anything can happen in one sample, but don't overvalue what he did here. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Joaquin Benoit - Benoit is back from the DL, but he's moved down in the Rangers' bullpen pecking order. Both Frank Francisco and Jamey Wright are ahead of him in set-up duties behind new closer Eddie Guardado. This has been a lost season for Benoit's owners, who were expecting him to build off of the progress from last year. Mixed and AL: No.
D.J. Carrasco - Carrasco has had a number fine long relief outings for the White Sox this year, and now that Jose Contreras is out for the season, he might get a chance to finally start. Keep in mind that he's probably got a suspension forthcoming for his part in the brawl with the Royals last Sunday. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Rocky Cherry - With Chad Bradford dealt to the Rays, Cherry is up with the O's and will slot into a middle relief role. The O's essentially picked him up for free last year in the Steve Trachsel trade. He won't get a chance to close now, with George Sherrill sticking with the club at the trade deadline, but he might get a shot if everything breaks right someday. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Frank Francisco - C.J. Wilson is out for the foreseeable future with bone spurs in his elbow, and Eddie Guardado has taken over the closing duties, bumping up Francisco to share the set-up duties with Jamey Wright. Francisco still gives up too many flyballs (and thus, in Arlington, homers), but it's hard to ignore his 58 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. Guardado is a pretty risky closer right now - if you own him, you might want to also pick up Francisco as insurance. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.
Eddie Guardado - Guardado is the new closer for the Rangers, following C.J. Wilson's trip to the DL. He's a different pitcher than he was before his multiple arm injuries. He strikes out few batters and offers up more flyballs, yet has managed to take a 3.02 ERA into Sunday's game. I'm still not confident in his ability or his health, but he has the role. Mixed: $6; AL: $15.
Jensen Lewis - Lewis picked up the save on Friday night for the Tribe, and it appears that manager Eric Wedge is going to use a number of different pitchers in the role for the rest of the season. Rafael Perez had a two-inning save earlier in the week, and Edward Mujica began the ninth with a three-run lead against the Rays on Wednesday before giving up a three-run homer. Masa Kobayashi also gave up a three-run homer in that game to get the loss. Lewis struggled earlier in the season, with a drop in his velocity, but has stabilized recently. The Indians will almost certainly address the role of closer over the offseason, so don't expect Lewis to keep the job heading into next season, barring him being absolutely dominant down the stretch. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Jamey Wright - Wright is sharing the set-up duties with Frank Francisco, and while his stats are clearly inferior, he's also been put into some key late-inning situations by manager Ron Washington, perhaps because of his experience in the majors. I'd rather have Francisco, but consider Wright to be Guarado-insurance. Mixed and AL: $0.
Brad Ziegler - Huston Street blew another save earlier in the week, so Ziegler picked up a two-inning save on Friday. Ziegler has caught the attention of us earlier, and since then he's continued his scoreless streak to continue his major league debut. We'll just adjust the bid here to reflect the reality of his role. Mixed: $6; AL: $17.
Joel Zumaya - Zumaya was named as part of the Tigers' closer committee before Tuesday's game against the White Sox, and promptly gave up four runs while protecting a two-run lead in extra-innings, getting the loss on Nick Swisher's homer. After the game, manager Jim Leyland said that Zumaya wouldn't be the sole closer because he couldn't pitch on consecutive games. Todd Jones is coming off the DL soon, and he might also be part of the picture. Any investment in Zumaya should be with 2009 in mind, if possible. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Michael Napoli - Napoli is the Adam Dunn of catchers. He'll take a walk and he'll hit for power, but he'll also slog through horrific slumps that will absolutely torpedo your batting average. He's more interesting in simulation games or leagues that use on-base percentage as a category. Jeff Mathis had an extended opportunity to be the full-time starter behind the plate and did very little at the plate with the chance, so Napoli should figure to take about half the playing time. Mixed: $3; AL: $13.
Sean Casey - Both Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell have been banged up lately, creating a few more opportunities for Casey to play. Casey has been pretty useful to the Red Sox while being spotted perfectly by manager Terry Francona, hitting .352/.413/.441 in 145 at-bats before Sunday's action. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Chris Getz - Getz profiles as a utility infielder for the White Sox, though if Joe Crede's return continues to get delayed, he might pick up a spare start at third base, now that Josh Fields has been sent back down. He's been able to hit for average at Triple-A Charlotte, though with just middling power at a fairly power-friendly ballpark. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Sean Rodriguez - After a pretty disappointing 2007 minor league campaign, Rodriguez has been on a tear at Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .309/.396/.650 with 21 homers in 246 at-bats. The Angels are in a tricky situation with their hitting prospects. They have extreme hitters parks at Triple-A and High-A, making it difficult to evaluate their prospects in context. While it's easy to say that they should consider finding a more neutral environment, it's not that easy to find worthy markets that can qualify as such while still being able to fit into the PCL and California League, respectively. For now, his value is limited by a lack of opportunity to play regularly. He'll probably get sent back down as soon as Reggie Willits returns from the DL. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Ben Zobrist - Jason Bartlett is out until at least Tuesday and probably longer, and the Rays have spent the last three days without Evan Longoria as well. As soon as one of the two returns, Zobrist will probably go to the bench in favor of Willy Aybar. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Rocco Baldelli - Carl Crawford's hand injury creates a huge void for the Rays, and will prompt them to ask a lot of Baldelli down the stretch. With both Crawford and Evan Longoria out, Baldelli was batting fourth in his first game back. Plenty has been written about Baldelli's durability - we won't belabor that issue. Instead, we wonder if even when healthy he'll ever achieve the expectations set for him, due to the lack of his batting eye. During his last significant stretch of major league playing time, he had a paltry 14:70 BB:K ratio, regressing a little from his first two major league seasons. Still, if you're in a bind with your outfield slots and need to gamble a little bit to get into the money, he's worth a chance. The alternatives out there in deeper leagues probably aren't much better. Mixed: $8; AL: $22.
Wladimir Balentien - The Mariners *finally* cut bait on Jose Vidro and called Balentien back up, with the intention of playing him every day. This is a move that should have been done in June, but instead they gave him more time in Triple-A Tacoma. The report on Balentien remains the same - he'll hit for power, but he's going to strike out frequently while he learns to hit major league pitching. At least those strikeouts have been accompanied by some walks at the major league level and a very good Triple-A walk rate. Mixed: $3; AL: $15.
Brandon Boggs - David Murphy's knee injury has created more playing time opportunities for Boggs. He got his major league career off to a nice start but has since leveled off, which is more in line with the extent of his professional career. Don't look at him as a potential keeper, but rather someone you can add if you're in desperate need for at-bats. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Jason Ellison - Ellison has been a fringe fantasy player for the last few years and wasn't doing much at Triple-A Oklahoma prior to his promotion. Don't look for him to play often. When he does, he'll offer some speed but little else. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Gabe Gross - With Crawford out, Gross should get more playing time as well. The Rays took away one threat from the other side of the platoon by demoting Jonny Gomes, and Gross is a pretty good defensive option out there. He hasn't hit all that well for average, but can at least get on-base reasonably well and can hit a few homers. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Eric Hinske - Hinske had already been playing regularly this week, as Crawford has missed a lot of time earlier with a hamstring injury. Now that Crawford is out for a while, Hinkse could play nearly every day down the stretch. He's cooled off some since the first two months, but he'll good power, surprisingly decent speed, and qualifies at both first and the outfield.
Luis Montanez - The gut reaction here is that the O's should be playing Montanez more than Jay Payton, now that Adam Jones is out with a broken foot. But it's important to remember that Montanez isn't really one of their top prospects, so it's tough to build up any sort of righteous indignation. Montanez was tearing it up at Bowie, but keep in mind that he's already 26, after being the third overall pick in the 2000 draft by the Cubs. He moved back down to Double-A Bowie this year after spending most of 2007 in Triple-A. He'll offer some power, but doesn't run much or walk all that often. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Jay Payton - Adam Jones' broken foot has provided an opportunity for Payton to play regularly in center field. There's really no upside for the O's to play him regularly - especially with Payton's very weak numbers against righties. This is one player whose value doesn't necessarily increase with the added playing time. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.