Article first appeared 8/31/08
This is our weekly look at the free agents in each league. We have two goals for 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:
Michael Bowden - Bowden's start on Saturday was a one-time deal to replace the injured Josh Beckett, but it puts him in play in a number of keeper leagues. With his limited Triple-A experience (seven games, six starts), Bowden probably will start back there in 2009, but he's a pretty interesting prospect. He tore through Double-A Portland this year, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning, before getting off to a good start at Pawtucket. Bowden might not have the upside of teammate Clay Buchholz, with his fastball topping out at 92 mph. But he's displayed better control than Buchholz, perhaps suggesting he'll be more successful when he gets his first extended major league trial. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Dana Eveland - Eveland is back after a three-start hiatus with Triple-A Sacramento, where he showed that he belonged back in the big leagues, striking out 21 in 21 innings. He'll have his bumps and bruises with the A's, but long-term he still projects as an adequate third or fourth starter. You can do worse with that with many pitching prospects. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Chris Lambert - Lambert is a symbol of why the Cards felt the need to overhaul their front office and scouting department. A former first-round pick in 2004, he's never really been able to master the upper levels of the minors. He was sent down by the Tigers following his first start with them last week, but he'll be up for at least a couple more starts, beginning on September 2. The Tigers are unlikely to repeat their salvage job success that they had with Armando Galarraga with Lambert. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Carl Pavano - The Yankees are in the unusual position of being potential sellers for the last month of the season, if they can pull off a waiver wire deal with Pavano. Pavano has won both of his starts returning from his elbow injury, allowing four earned runs in his 11 innings of work. It would be silly for a team to trade anything remotely of value for him, given the risks and the buyout on his option season. He'll almost certainly become a free agent this offseason, given all that has happened under the duration of his contract. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Keith Foulke - Foulke is back from the DL, but don't be mislead by the big name and expect him to play a big role in the back of the bullpen. The A's are already getting good work from Brad Ziegler, Joey Devine and a resurgent Huston Street. Mixed and AL: No.
Frank Francisco - Francisco takes over for the traded Eddie Guardado as the Rangers' new closer, and he's a pretty obvious choice, given the motley collection of other relievers in the Rangers bullpen. Joaquin Benoit has been both hurt and awful this year, and Jamey Wright doesn't really profile as a closer. Francisco's ability to miss bats is pretty attractive, though his walk rate and homers allowed are a concern. Still, if you need saves and he's out there, he's probably going to be one of the better options available. Mixed: $15; AL: $40.
Kameron Loe - Loe started 23 games with the Rangers last year, but apparently he's not being considered for even a spot start with the club this year, even with Vincente Padilla on the DL. Strangely, his numbers in 20 innings of work with the big league club have been better than his work in Triple-A Oklahoma. None of this necessarily bodes for success for Loe, however. Mixed and AL: No.
Randy Messenger - Messenger got a one-out save on Saturday night in the 10th inning, after J.J. Putz had blown the lead in the ninth. Don't look at this as a changing of the guard, or even putting Messenger in as the closer in waiting. When Putz was intentionally rested earlier in the week, it was Roy Corcoran who got the save chance. Mixed and AL: No.
Victor Martinez - Martinez is back from the DL, but he's getting most of his action at first base or DH, and so far he's not playing every day. Don't expect him to return to 2007 form for this final month, but he shouldn't be that far off next year. The big decision that the Indians will have to make next year is where to play him, as Kelly Shoppach has proven to be a more than adequate substitute while he was out. The challenge will be to get both players in the lineup. Mixed: $12; AL: $25.
Kila Kaaihue - Kaaihue is a potential September callup for the Royals. It's odd to say that he's in a tough spot on a team so desperate for offense, but they do have Billy Butler (nominally) and Eric Hosmer at his position. Kaaihue boasts a 1.113 OPS to go with his 10 home runs since being called up to Triple-A Omaha 29 games ago. This comes after a strong campaign at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jeff Larish - At one point it looked as if Larish would be in line for an extended look, but instead stayed up for just 49 major league at-bats. He's been playing some third base at Toledo in his recent turn there, and with Carlos Guillen out with back spasms, Larish has gotten another chance. Strikeouts project to be a bit of a problem for him, and he'll probably not hit for great average anytime soon. If you're looking at him as a potential keeper, he projects to be a little less than a league average AL corner infielder at the plate. I'd rather gamble on Brandon Wood. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Oscar Salazar - Salazar will get some playing time in the next week with Melvin Mora sidelined with a hamstring injury, and he might even do well this final month after a good campaign at Triple-A Norfolk. But a 31-year old tearing it up at Triple-A means very little; over an extended period of time, he'd be exposed as inadequate to face major league pitching. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Brandon Wood - Wood has started the last three games since his most recent recall, in contrast to his previous callups, when he played sporadically. Because of how he's been handled, Wood's awful major league numbers can be discounted a little, though his 23 strikeouts in 74 at-bats is disturbing. On the flip side, his plate discipline started to improve in his latest stay with Triple-A Salt Lake, while he maintained his power. Don't expect to see immediate success from Wood in September, but the injuries to Howie Kendrick and Maicer Izturis will give him a valuable opportunity to play regularly against major league pitching. Mixed: $3; AL: $8.
Sean Rodriguez - Like Brandon Wood, Rodriguez is going to get a decent playing time opportunity in September thanks to their other infield injuries. Also like Wood, Rodriguez's success at Triple-A Salt Lake hasn't yet translated at the major league level, or, for that matter, anywhere else where his home field wasn't at an elevated location. The key to watch for Rodriguez is whether he can improve his currently low contact rate - it currently sits at .62, well below acceptable levels, let alone league average numbers. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Matt Tolbert - The Twins have a slew of September callups coming, with Tolbert's return from the DL headlining the list along with Matt Macri. In both cases, however, the opportunity that once existed for them to play is gone, now that Alexi Casilla and Brian Buscher have established themselves. Tolbert will hope to re-establish his timing at the plate while functioning as a utility infielder. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Travis Buck - It's been a lost season for Buck, who got off to an awful start with the A's and then has missed significant time with a concussion and an inner ear infection likely deriving from the concussion. He's back in the lineup finally and could be a September callup, though he's not guaranteed to play regularly. That said, don't write him off if you're a Buck owner in dynasty leagues. His core on-base skills have still been present in his Triple-A play, and while he was frequently hurt with the A's in his rookie year, he still managed to put up an .850 OPS in 285 at-bats. Think about targeting him as a cheap keeper if deeper leagues and simulation games. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Nelson Cruz - Cruz got called up at the beginning of the week and will play every day down the stretch for the Rangers, who really need to figure out what they have in him. In a perfect world, Cruz would have gotten a longer trial, rather than continue to rack up his minor league home run count. He has the reputation of pounding the ball in the minors, only to be exposed once he faces big league pitchers. He'll be a potential high-power, low-average hitter for you down the stretch. Mixed: $3; AL: $13.
Aaron Cunningham - Cunningham got the call on Saturday after Frank Thomas went on the DL. It's unclear just how much he'll play down the stretch. He joined the organization in the Dan Haren trade and spent most of the year with Double-A Midland, where he hit .317/.386/.507 in 347 at-bats. He's off to a blazing start at Triple-A Sacramento in 20 games. The A's have a number of young outfielders to sift through, including Travis Buck, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, Eric Patterson and Matt Murton, so Cunningham is going to have to stand out to get regular time in 2009. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Mark Kotsay - The Red Sox acted quickly to acquire Kotsay once J.D. Drew went on the DL. If there's an outfielder that's more injury prone than Drew, it's either Milton Bradley or Kotsay. That said, the Red Sox aren't looking for a long-term investment - they need someone to play right now without there being too big of a drop-off. That need has been exacerbated by Sean Casey's trip to the DL. Kotsay should get extensive playing time the next three weeks. Mixed: $5; AL: $17.
Travis Snider - After a brief trial with Triple-A Syracuse, the Jays called up Snider, presumably with the intent on playing him every day down the stretch. Make no mistake, he's one of the elite prospects in baseball still holding rookie eligibility for next year. Just don't be surprised if he struggles with the Jays in September or initially in 2009, if his experience at Double-A is any illustration. In fact, he might even have a hot first couple of weeks before pitchers adjust to him, but there will be an adjustment period of some sorts. If you're in a keeper league, though, get him and not Nelson Cruz if you're trolling for prospects. Get Cruz if you want the immediate help. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
Ryan Sweeney - Sweeney is back from his latest DL trip and playing every day in right field, and should get most of the playing time there in September as well. Though he's hit for average, his lack of power has to be considered a disappointment, particularly for an organization that has recently fallen short in that department. It seems as if he's been bouncing around as a prospect forever, but he's still just 23 years old, so there's some time still for him to develop some power. It's more of a scouting question rather than a statistical analysis to see if that power is ever coming, and one of the more important questions the A's will have to address in the offseason. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.