This installment: March 8-13
Previous installment: Feb. 28-March 7
We’re a week or two away from the annual spring purging, where players are released left and right, but this edition of transactions at least brings news of minor league assignments for a handful of top-shelf prospects (Yonder Alonso, Andrew Brackman, Ross Detwiler), as well as new homes for free agent stragglers (Tim Raines Jr., Chad Cordero).
Released: RHP Anthony Lerew
Boston Red Sox
Optioned to Double-A: SS Argenis Diaz
Signed: 3B Esteban German
Released: RHP Jim Henderson
Optioned to Triple-A: OF Richie Robnett
German’s on-base percentages for the Royals charted a steep decline, falling from .422 in ’06 to .351 to .303 last season, a trend that cost him his roster spot when Kansas City signed Juan Cruz. Even though the Cubs are short Mark DeRosa and Ronny Cedeno this year, they still have enough infield depth (Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot) so that German may not be a shoo-in for Opening Day.
Chicago White Sox
Signed: RHP Stuart Pomeranz, OF Tim Raines Jr.
Optioned to Double-A: RHP Lucas Harrell
Raines, 29, enjoyed his time with Triple-A Tucson in ’08, batting .311/.346/.530 in 502 at-bats, with 30 doubles, 13 triples, 18 homers and a 28-for-36 showing on the bases. It didn’t stop there, however. The switch-hitter showed near-perfect symmetry in compiling an OPS of .880 from the right side of the plate and a .874 figure from the left. Raines then batted .310/.341/.512 in a 21-game tour of the Venezuelan League. He’s at the point in his career now where he’s annually one of the better middle-of-the-diamond minor league free agents available, and the White Sox may represent one of the better landing places for a player in his situation. (Hey, it worked for Dewayne "ALDS starter" Wise last offseason.) If Raines hits even a bit, he could be attractive to a Chicago team consigned to sorting through Brian Anderson and Jerry Owens in center field.
In honor of Raines, we present his scouting report (with the Orioles) from the 2004 Prospect Handbook, which turned out to be his final appearance:
No. 27 • Tim Raines Jr., of
Born: Aug. 31, 1979. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 189. Bats: B. Throws: R. School: Seminole HS, Sanford, Fla. Career Transactions: Selected by Orioles in sixth round of 1998 draft; signed June 15, 1998.
Raines completed a remarkable turnaround in 2003, going off the Orioles’ 40-man roster and getting back on within a year. Raines, who debuted in the big leagues in 2001 and got the opportunity to play with his father Tim Sr., was sent back to Double-A in 2002 and performed poorly. His attitude also didn’t endear him to the organization, and he was designated for assignment in January 2003. He returned to Bowie and got back on track, earning promotions to Triple-A and then to the majors. Baltimore kept him on the 40-man roster after the season. As it was for his father, speed is Raines’ best tool. He’s a basestealing threat and an outstanding defender in center field. He has improved his approach at the plate and made better contact last year, though he has to prove he can do the same in the big leagues. He looked overmatched by major league pitching at times. Raines still doesn’t hustle all the time, failing to run after a ball that went over his head in a game against the Blue Jays, for instance. Still, his speed and defense give him a chance to make the Baltimore roster as a backup outfielder. If his offense contineus to progress, he eventually could be a starter.
Optioned to Double-A: 1B Yonder Alonso
Alonso, the seventh overall pick last year, batted .316/.440/.368 in a weeklong tour of the Florida State League last summer, but proved his Double-A worthiness by hitting .308/.419/.510 in Hawaii Winter Baseball. The impending 22-year-old chipped in a characteristic 20 walks and 23 strikeouts in 104 winter-ball at-bats, and that batting eye (carried over from his days at Miami) prompted the Reds to take Alonso ahead of other standout college first basemen, most notably Justin Smoak and David Cooper.
Released: RHP Joe Ness
Signed: RHP Ken Ray, LHP Damian Moss, SS Tomas Perez
Voluntarily retired: SS Eduardo Cornejo
Optioned to Double-A: RHP Esmil Rogers
Signed: RHP Levale Speigner
Released: OF Jay Gibbons
Optioned to Triple-A: OF Jai Miller
The 28-year-old Speigner sports a sturdy 3.51 ERA in 438 minor league innings, but his status as a transactions hero is more notable for our purposes. Let’s take a look . . . The Twins selected him out of Auburn in the 14th round of the ’03 draft. That part’s easy. But before he could make it out of Double-A, the Nationals nabbed him in the ’06 big league Rule 5 draft. Despite Speigner’s 8.78 ERA through 40 big league innings, the Nationals sought to keep the 5-foot-11 righthander, then 26, rather than offer him back to the Twins . . . if only they could send him to the minors. The Twins were all ears, sending full custody of Speigner to Washington while accepting only journeyman outfielder Darnell McDonald in return. The righthander finished the year by going 3-4, 4.96 for Triple-A Columbus, allowing 63 hits and 20 walks in 49 innings. Speigner pitched well in his return to the International League in ’08, posted a 36-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 2/3 innings, which was good enough only for garbage-time September innings for Washington. When the Nationals outrighted him to the minors last October, Speigner opted for free agency instead.
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Brad James
Los Angeles Dodgers
Released: OF Jake New
Released: RHP Eric Gagne
That didn’t last long. One week after signing the combustible reliever, the Brewers cut Gagne, 33, who had been unable to pitch because of labrum and rotator cuff damage in his right shoulder.
New York Mets
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Eddie Kunz
New York Yankees
Optioned to low Class A: RHP Andrew Brackman
Brackman, 23, won’t spend too long in Charleston if he pitches well. The 30th overall pick in ’07 signed too late to pitch in his draft year, and then Tommy John surgery knocked him out for all of ’08. The 6-foot-10 righthander returned to show flashes of dominance in Hawaii Winter Baseball, striking out 36 in 34 innings—but also extreme wildness, in the form of 25 walks and 13 wild pitches.
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Jeff Gray
Signed: RHP Francisco Butto, RHP Mike Thompson
Released: SS Brett Bartles, OF Victor Sanchez
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Romulo Sanchez
San Diego Padres
Signed: C Josh Johnson
Outrighted to Triple-A and removed from 40-man: RHP Chad Reineke
Nobody knows exactly who will slot in behind Jake Peavy and Chris Young in the Padres’ rotation, but we know now that Reineke, a 26-year-old refugee from the Astros system, is out of the running. In 1 2/3 innings this spring, he has given up four runs on four hits to go with one strikeout and one walk. It didn’t help that he struck out 13 and walked 12 in 18 innings during his August ’08 debut after coming over from Houston for Randy Wolf. Offseason waiver claim J.K. Ryu has pitched reasonably well in five appearances (6 IP, 5 SO, 0 BB, 1 HR) and could make the team, along with Korean countryman Cha Seung Baek, who figures to have at least a toehold on a rotation spot because of his mediocre work last year.
Signed: RHP Chad Cordero
Cut loose by the Nationals last October, Cordero could find work in the Mariners’ in-transition bullpen. The 27-year-old has compiled 128 career saves, all of them coming prior to surgery last summer to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
San Francisco Giants
Optioned to Triple-A: LHP Patrick Misch
Tampa Bay Rays
Released: RHP Cole Smith, SS Guillermo Peralta
Optioned to Triple-A: LHP James Houser
Houser, a Rays’ second-round pick in ’03, heads to Triple-A Durham on the second of his three minor league options. Tampa Bay infamously added the 24-year-old lefthander to the 40-man roster in February ’08, effectively repealing the balance of his 50-game minor league suspension for amphetamines . . . at least for the time being. Houser, who went 3-3, 2.86 in 20 starts for Double-A Montgomery last season, while stifling lefthanded batters (.561 OPS), had been 25 games into his penalty.
Toronto Blue Jays
Signed: RHP Wade Miller
Released: RHP Billy Carnline, LHP Reid Santos
Outrighted to Triple-A and removed from 40-man: RHP T.J. Beam, OF Buck Coats
With Coats’ excision, the Blue Jays have just four outfielders (Adam Lind, Alex Rios, Travis Snider, Vernon Wells—though Joe Inglett has dabbled) and one catcher (Rod Barajas) on the 40-man roster. Yes, things are looking good for the 21-year-old Snider, who’s hitting .375 through 32 at-bats this spring with three doubles and two homers, and also for a catcher to be named later, whether that’s veteran Michael Barrett or one of the prospects in camp, J.P. Arencibia or Brian Jeroloman. Catching is tough, though, as this trio proves by its cumulative 3-for-39 (.077) showing thus far. I can hit better than that!, Tony Pena Jr. says to himself.
Miller, 32, tossed 39 1/3 pro innings in ’07 (and none in ’08) as he weaved his way through more injuries. Like 34-year-old Matt Clement, who also is in camp and who also has precious little mound time the past two seasons, Miller has a few impressive seasons on his résumé, but the duo would have to be considered long shots to make even the injury-depleted Jays’ rotation.
Signed: LHP Mike O’Connor
Released: OF Dee Brown
Optioned to Double-A: LHP Ross Detwiler, LHP Mike O’Connor
The No. 6 overall pick in the ’07 draft, Detwiler didn’t exactly light the pitcher-friendly Carolina League on fire last year in his full-season debut, not with an ERA approaching five as well as four free passes per nine innings. But a closer look reveals a few encouraging signs for the 23-year-old lefty: he allowed just eight home runs in 26 starts, he kept the ball on the ground (1.61 ground/fly) and he improved in the second half, going 3-4, 4.08 with 56-25 K-BB in 64 innings.
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