February 14 through February 20
Previous installment: Feb. 7-13
Signed: OF Jarred Ball
Removed from 40-man roster: RHP Jailen Peguero
Peguero, 28, lost his tenuous place on the 40-man when Arizona claimed another Triple-A righthanded reliever, Bobby Korecky, on waivers from the Twins. Peguero, who signed with the D’backs as a minor league free agent prior to the ’07 season, has been undermined by shaky control with Triple-A Tucson and in the big leagues. He’s walked 83 batters in 161 innings (4.6 per nine) in his two years in the organization.
Boston Red Sox
Signed: OF Brad Wilkerson
A quality regular in his mid-to-late 20s (and a key piece, along with Armando Galarraga, in the Rangers’ trade of Alfonso Soriano in December ’05), Wilkerson, now 31, hasn’t really been all that useful even versus righthanded pitchers since 2004, when he posted an .869 OPS against them. Working forward from ’05 to ’08, those figures have registered at .737, .760, .757 and .649. But because Wilkerson figures to be little more than Mark Kotsay (back surgery to remove fragments from a disc) insurance, he represents a worthwhile gamble for Boston.
An ode to Wilkerson, whom we ranked as the Expos’ No. 3 prospect in 2001, the same year that Montreal’s system also boasted of Brandon Phillips (No. 2), Grady Sizemore (6), Brian Schneider (13) and Cliff Lee (21). Donnie Bridges ranked No. 1 that year (d’oh!), but other vintage Expos prospects to leave faint impressions in big league soil include Justin Wayne (No. 5), T.J. Tucker (8), Wilkin Ruan (9), Matt Cepicky (11), Henry Mateo (14), Britt Reames (15), Val Pascucci (20) and Wilson Valdez (25). But back to Wilkerson . . . from our 2001 Prospect Handbook, the inaugural edition:
No. 3 Brad Wilkerson, of
Born: June 1, 1977. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Florida. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in supplemental first round (33rd overall) of 1998 draft; signed Aug. 29, 1998.
One of the top two-way players in NCAA history, Wilkerson struggled when he made his pro debut in 1999. [Note: He batted .235/.367/.355 in 422 at-bats for Double-A Harrisburg.] He returned to Double-A and flourished in 2000, earning a promotion to Triple-A and ranking second in the minors with a combined 47 doubles. He finished the season in Sydney as the center fielder on the U.S. Olympic team. Bad news came after that, though, as Wilkerson tried to play in the Arizona Fall League but succumbed to shoulder pain. He had surgery to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder in December and was expected to miss spring training. Assuming a full recovery, he has the classic tools of a right fielder. He has a smooth, compact swing from the left side, with outstanding bat speed and extension that should enable him to hit with above-average power. He’s disciplined at the plate. He’s a solid corner outfielder with a strong arm and average speed. Wilkerson’s troubles two years ago were a blessing in disguise. He realized he needed to improve and entered 2000 in much better condition. He lacks the speed to play center and with right field blocked by Vladimir Guerrero, Wilkerson could be bound for left or first base in Montreal. He’ll head to Triple-A [Ottawa] when he’s ready to play again, probably in May.
Signed: LHP Todd Moser, 2B Tony Graffanino
Traded: 2B Isaias Velasquez to Rays for RHP Juan Salas
Moser, 32, spent three of the previous four years pitching in indy ball, for Somerset (Atlantic) and Kansas City (Northern); he spent the fourth, 2007, in Taiwan, pitching for the Brother Elephants and leading the Chinese Professional Baseball League with 13 saves. A Marlins’ 14th-round pick in ’99 out of Florida Atlantic, he spent half of the ’04 season pitching for Double-A Tennessee (then a Cardinals’ affiliate) before being granted free agency that offseason and beginning his four-year odyssey away from affiliated ball. Moser compiled just 21 innings for K.C. last season, going 1-2, 3.86 in 14 games (three starts) and striking out nine and walking eight.
Signed: LHP Randy Flores, LHP Glendon Rusch, C Sal Fasano, OF Scott Podsednik
Voluntarily retired: RHP James Burok
Signed: RHP Jon Huber
Huber, 27, appeared poised to earn a place in the Mariners’ bullpen following a breakout 2006 campaign at Triple-A Tacoma. But a strained forearm—sandwiched between 44 ineffective innings in Triple-A and the majors—cut short his ’07 follow-up. Another shaky season with Tacoma in ’08 preceded his first foray into minor league free agency. The Tigers (and their flimsy bullpen) seem like a suitable landing place for Huber, who despite a lofty ERA and WHIP figures in Triple-A (5.60 and 1.55, respectively) has managed a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk (122-to-40) ratio in 144 2/3 innings. That, coupled with a four-pitch mix (his curve and change are vestiges of his early career as a starter), could spell back of the bullpen material.
Signed: RHP Russ Ortiz, LHP Mark McLemore
McLemore went into spring training 2008 with a chance to make the Astros as a lefty reliever. He pitched poorly in camp, though, and to make matters worse, he missed the entire season with an injury. Houston will give him another chance after re-signing him as a minor league free agent.
Ortiz’s big league ERA from 2005 to 2007 registers a 6.94 on the Richter scale, and after a year away from pitching, he figures to only compound the problem if the 34-year-old miraculously breaks camp with the Astros. Fun Baseball-Reference-inspired trip down memory lane: Ortiz finished fourth in NL Cy Young award voting in 2003, the year he went 21-7, 3.81 for the Braves.
Kansas City Royals
Signed: C Jin-Ho Shin
Los Angeles Angels
Released: C Alex Silversmith
Los Angeles Dodgers
Released: LHP Juan Cedeno
Removed from 40-man roster: C Vinny Rottino
Rottino, a native of Racine, Wis., and a product of Wisconsin-La Crosse, lost his hold on a 40-man spot when the Brewers signed Braden Looper. Once viewed as a super utilityman option by Milwaukee because he can serve as third-string backstop, Rottino has batted .288/.352/.426 in 1,235 Triple-A at-bats while playing all four corners in addition to his time at catcher.
Signed: RHP Ben Hendrickson
New York Mets
Signed: RHP Livan Hernandez
Acquired: RHP Luis Carlin and RHP David Reyes from Mexico City of the Mexican League
The Mets and Dodgers are doing their best to out-grizzle one another with their collection of veteran pitchers signed to minor league deals. On the N.Y. side—in addition to Hernandez, who admits to being 34—the Mets have brought Elmer Dessens, 38, and Freddy Garcia, 33, to camp. In L.A.’s case, they’re going with Shawn Estes, 36, Eric Milton, 33, and Jeff Weaver, 32. If you turn back the clock 10 years, back to 1999, you’ll find that five of the six hurlers enjoyed healthy, productive seasons. (Garcia and Weaver were rookies, while Milton was in his second year.) Dessens is the exception, as he spent the ’99 season pitching mostly in the Japanese minor leagues, appearing in just eight games for the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants.
New York Yankees
Signed: RHP Brett Tomko
Released: C Carmelo Penaloza
Signed: 2B Miguel Cairo, 2B Carlos Leon
Signed: 2B Ruben Gotay
San Diego Padres
Signed: OF Emil Brown
San Francisco Giants
Signed: OF Jackson Melian
Signed: RHP Joshua Fields, C Alexis Fonseca
The Mariners met in the middle with Fields, signing their first-round selection from last June for $1.75 million. They had been offering $1.5 million, while the Scott Boras Corp. sought $2 million for the former Georgia closer’s services. Fields, 23, now can participate in big league spring training and begin his march to the big league bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays
Signed: 2B Adam Kennedy
Released: RHP Nelson Liriano, RHP Julio Puentes
Traded: RHP Juan Salas to Indians for 2B Isaias Velasquez
Reinstated from inactive list: RHP Cole Smith
The Rays signed lefty specialist Brian Shouse to a big league deal, bumping Salas from the 40-man. A converted third baseman, Salas burst onto the scene in ’06, appearing in 50 minor league games while making it to Triple-A just two years after ditching his bat. He struck out 85 while walking 25 in 64 innings that year, but his ’07 campaign was derailed in May when he drew a 50-game suspension for failing a test for performance-enhancing substances. He irked the Rays further by not gaining entry to the U.S. until mid-April 2008 as he missed spring training while dealing with a visa issue. Tampa Bay’s frustration was evident in the player they settled for in trade, 20-year-old short-season second baseman Isaias Velasquez, a native of Panama who batted .281/.367/.338 in 242 at-bats for short-season Mahoning Valley last season, his fourth as a professional.
Smith, 25, hasn’t pitched in a game for the Rays since 2004, having spent 2005-06 on the disabled list and 2007-08 on the restricted list. And even before that, the ’02 19th-rounder from Rockwall (Texas) High had not advanced past Rookie-level Princeton in three seasons.
Signed: RHP Brendan Donnelly
Toronto Blue Jays
Signed: LHP Brian Burres
Voluntarily retired: RHP Scott Leffler
Removed from 40-man roster: LHP Brian Burres, LHP Reid Santos
Burres, like Dirk Hayhurst a week earlier, was outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas and signed to a minor league deal.
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