Article first appeared 8/17/08
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:
Paul Byrd - Don't knock yourself out trying to grab Byrd on the basis of his last few starts with the Tribe or the change in potential run support. At his very core, he's still just an innings-eater with a really low strikeout rate, now pitching in a park that won't be as friendly. He's worth the gamble if you're trolling for wins but don't care about ERA or WHIP. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Ryan Feierabend - The Mariners called up Feierabend and are giving him a rotation slot for the rest of the season, with Carlos Silva on the DL. He got pounded by the Twins on Sunday in his first start. Feierabend, who was mediocre in 13 appearances for Seattle last year, posted a 2.16 ERA in 13 Triple-A starts this year. This is essentially a tryout for 2009. Even if Feierabend pitches well, he'll be a long shot for the 2009 rotation because of too few available spots. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Freddy Garcia - Garcia signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, but don't be fooled by the name value. He's coming back from a shoulder injury, and doesn't yet have the full velocity on his fastball. He'll perhaps get into game action for High-A Lakeland by the end of the week, but the likelihood of him being able to help you at all this year is remote. Mixed and AL: No.
Zach Jackson - Jackson has been called up to replace Paul Byrd in the Indians' rotation, but consider this more as a closer look to see if anything's there than an actual audition for 2009. His struggles in Triple-A this year indicate that Jackson is pretty far away from being a reliable option. Yes, he got the win in his start, but it wasn't dominant - eight hits and three runs over five innings, with only one strikeout. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Jesse Litsch - Litsch pitched well in his return to the rotation on Thursday against the Tigers, and while he's capable of doing that here-and-there, he's also very capable of getting torched. When a pitcher strikes out only 62 in 122 innings, there's a lot of balls in play, so he's somewhat beholden to good fortune. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Kameron Loe - Loe will work out of the bullpen, but the Rangers wanted an extra long arm available in case Dustin Nippert struggles in his spot start on Sunday against the Rays. With Brandon McCarthy finally on the way back, there's probably no room in the rotation for Loe at this point. Mixed and AL: No.
Kevin Millwood - Oof, that's one ugly return from the DL. Between Millwood and Aaron Harang, a lot of fantasy owners have been punished for bringing their starter from the DL into their active lineup right away. What's funny about Millwood's four homer-outing is that he still managed to strike out seven batters in his 4.2 innings. He's another pitcher in the Paul Byrd mode - use only if you're cavalier about torching your ERA and WHIP. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Clayton Richard - Lance Broadway didn't pitch badly in getting the win over the Royals earlier this week, but got sent down nonetheless, and the White Sox recalled Richard again. It might be more likely that D.J. Carrasco starts in the spot vacated by Jose Contreras' injury rather than Richard, who was cuffed around in his last trip with the White Sox, when he made three starts. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Grant Balfour - Troy Percival is back on the DL, and Balfour is at the head of the Rays' committee now. Even though he allowed the tying run to score in the game that Percival got hurt, he's been fantastic this year, posting a 1.21 ERA and 55:15 K:BB in 37.1 innings. We'd like to see a lower walk rate, but given the cost of acquisition both for you and for the Rays, he's been quite a find. Mixed: $5; AL: $15.
Chris Britton - Britton showed decent potential in his rookie 2006 season with the Orioles, but hasn't gotten much of a chance with the Yankees, despite solid Triple-A relief numbers. The Yankees got him essentially for free (Jaret Wright), but haven't given their gift much of a test drive. He's back from the Scranton shuffle for now - if given a chance, he might be useful for them, if not for fantasy owners. Mixed and AL: No.
Gary Glover - This is how baseball has been getting turned on its ear this year - the Tigers are now claiming the Rays' bullpen castoffs. Glover had a mediocre showing in Tampa, posting a 5.82 ERA and 22:18 K:BB in 34 innings. He's up now with the Tigers thanks to Todd Jones going back to the DL. The back of the Tigers' bullpen is a mess, but Glover isn't going to be a factor here. Mixed and AL: No.
Fernando Rodney - Ever since his meltdown in Tampa two weeks ago, Rodney has quietly pitched well despite the Tigers' fall from relevance. In five outings since then, he's thrown 7.2 scoreless innings, posting an 11:1 K:BB while saving three games in that span. The other contenders for the closing job have fallen off the map, leaving Rodney as the last man standing in Detroit. Caveats about his control and health risk still apply. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Juan Salas - Called up when Troy Percival went on the DL, Salas lost a chance to make the Rays' Opening Day roster when he was delayed due to visa problems in the Dominican Republic, and he was sent to Triple-A Durham shortly after he arrived. Salas has posted a 2.62 ERA and an 0.96 WHIP in 28 relief outings (one save) at Durham (53-11 K:BB ratio in 44.2 innings) and was fairly effective in an extended trial with the Rays in 2007 before a midseason drug use suspension. He'll pitch in middle relief for now. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Dan Wheeler - Even though Wheeler's ERA and WHIP are nice, he's dropped off overall in his performance this year, seeing his strikeout rate crater from over 9.00 per nine innings last year to 5.92 per nine this year. That drop might explain a little bit why he's been bypassed by Grant Balfour as Troy Percival's ninth inning replacement. When evaluating relievers, remember that they often have a short window of effectiveness, and any look at their numbers necessarily means using a small sample size. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Victor Martinez - Martinez (elbow) has started his rehab assignment and could rejoin the Indians by the weekend, just in time for a juicy trip to Arlington. He probably won't be behind the plate every night, instead DH'ing and occasionally playing first as well. The Indians will probably want to find a way to allow Kelly Shoppach regular time while getting Martinez out there. Don't expect Martinez to return his pre-2007 form, but he should at least recover some of the power that was missing over the first half of the season. Mixed: $15; AL: $50.
Jeff Bailey - Bailey is up with the Red Sox with Mike Lowell on the DL, with another cup of coffee with the big league club. Bailey is pounding the ball for Triple-A Pawtucket this year, but he's a Triple-A lifer, not a prospect. You might see him pick up a spare start or two at first base against a tough lefty in place of Sean Casey. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Kendry Morales - For all the hand-wringing I've done about Brandon Wood being blocked, it's that much worse for Morales. He's older and more limited defensively, so the chances for him to move in are sparse, especially on a team where Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr. are locked with long-term deals. Their presence almost necessitates that an outfielder fills the DH slot on most nights. Circling towards his usage this year, even on a day like Sunday, when Garret Anderson gets the day off, it's Robb Quinlan and not Morales that got the start. It's hard to criticize the Angels given their results, but their handling of Morales and Wood could be better. Morales has nothing left to prove at Salt Lake, hitting .330/.365/.519 there this year. He just won't get much of a chance, short of an injury to Mark Teixeira. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Brandon Wood - Don't look now, but he's on a tear for Triple-A Salt Lake, and Maicer Izturis is out for the year. The Angels haven't called Wood up yet, but he's capable of playing shortstop, so if Erick Aybar struggles at the plate, Wood could smell an opportunity here. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Erick Aybar - Maicer Izturis' thumb injury has created the opportunity for Aybar to play every day. We've covered him previously, so we won't belabor his virtues. He'll run some and hit for decent average, but offers little power. Mixed: $2; AL: $12.
Alexi Casilla - After first thought to be out for the season, Casilla instead was able to rehab his thumb injury instead of opting for surgery. He'll start a rehab assignment this week and could be activated later in the week. It's easy to see why the Twins would push for this option - before his injury, Casilla was hitting .313/.351/.424 in 243 at-bats, albeit with only four stolen bases. If Casilla does come back this week, be careful not to expect the same level of production - there's usually a lag between the time a player comes back from such an injury and the time he's productive, particularly when, like in this case, he's returning earlier than expected. Mixed: $1; AL: $8.
Cliff Pennington - Pennington was leading the minor leagues with 93 walks at the time of his promotion, which isn't a surprise considering the premium Oakland puts on on-base-percentage. Don't be surprised if Pennington gets a decent number of starts at third base, with Eric Chavez out for the year. He's a former first-round draft pick, so the A's have some motivation to give him a good amount of playing time. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.
Cody Ransom - When Derek Jeter had to miss a game earlier this week, the Yankees were forced to turn to Wilson Betemit at shortstop. Ransom gives them someone a little more capable of fielding the position. At 32, he's no prospect, just a spare glove. Mixed and AL: No.
Brett Gardner - The Yankees tired of Melky Cabrera's struggles at the plate and sent him down, replacing him with Gardner. Gardner is capable of a few walks, but he's not often going to drive the ball. The big thing for him to watch is his contact rate - if he can cut down on his strikeouts and get on-base at .335 OBP or better, there's a good chance he'll turn his chances into a decent number of stolen bases. Just be prepared for him to hurt your average. Mixed: $1; AL: $8.
Justin Ruggiano - Ruggiano was called up when Evan Longoria went on the DL, but he's up there to give the Rays another right-handed option in the outfield, now that Carl Crawford is hurt. Ruggiano was once again raking at Triple-A Durham this year, but it doesn't look like he'll get much of opportunity to display his ability at the major league level. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Eric Patterson - Ryan Sweeney's latest injury has created another opportunity for Patterson, whose last trial with the A's lasted just 10 at-bats. This go-around should last a little longer, especially now that the A's have bottomed out in the AL West and wild card races. Patterson started at second base on Sunday, giving him three games played there - check out your league's eligibility rules. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.