Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Traded away.....LHP Mike Montgomery, 3B Josh Vitters
Designated for assignment....OF Aaron Cunningham and Donovan Tate
Granted their immediate release.....RHP Jason Frasor, OF Felix Pie
Signed as a free agent....1B/3B Mark Reynolds
Returned to the minors....RHP Matt Guerrier, LHP Zach Britton
Likely future promotions....rookies Randall Delgado, Todd Frazier and Jesus Montero
The possibilities for any playoff roster, at a glance (but this could still change if Kevin Youkilis is unable to play in the final weeks):
ST. FRANCIS FRIARS
C AJ Pierzynski 3.38
C Jason Varitek 1.50
C Jesus Montero 1.20
1B Paul Konerko 12.00
1B/3B Kevin Youkilis 9.13
3B Jose Bautista 2.40
2B Kelly Johnson 2.35
SS Alexei Ramirez 0.88 FP
2B/3B Neil Walker 0.40
IF/OF Todd Frazier 1.20
OF Vernon Wells 5.25
OF Chris B. Young 3.25
OF Johnny Damon 2.00
U Mark Reynolds 0.40
RHP Roy Oswalt 12.00 FP
RHP Bronson Arroyo 8.80 K
RHP Brett Myers 6.20R
HP Heath Bell 4.00
RHP Rickey Nolasco 1.90
RHP Joaquin Benoit 1.50
RHP Matt Guerrier 0.79
RHP Rafael Betancourt 0.40
RHP Randall Delgado 1.20
LHP Scott Downs 4.00
LHP Joe Saunders 0.93
LHP Franklin Morales 1.20
"In case anyone has forgotten," growled GM "Trader" Jack McKeon, "This is what we started with, all those years ago:
C Ronnie Paulino
C/IF Brandon Inge
IF Felipe Lopez
IF Nick Punto
SS Cesar Izturis
IF/OF Ryan Freel
IF/OF Casey Blake
IF/OF Ben Zobrist
OF Johnny Damon
RHP Kyle Davies
RHP Gavin Floyd
RHP Frank Francisco
RHP Freddy Garcia
RHP Edwin Jackson
RHP Yusmeiro Petit
RHP Chris Ray
RHP Juan Salas
LHP Jamie Moyer
LHP George Sherrill
LHP Jason Vargas
The only player still remaining from that original roster is Cesar Izturis, and that after only signing him as a minor-league free agent as insurance. Wecashed in Inge, Zobrist, Floyd, Jackson and Vargas in trades that were favorable and allowed me to accumulate prospects. In our first draft, we added Shin Soo-Choo and Alexei Ramirez. We turned Carlos Quentin and some prospect depth into the draft pick that was Jose Bautista, easily our best move. We signed a lot of unwanted players off the scrap heap, including the eventually-expensive Paul Konerko. Throw-in players in some deals (Kelly Johnson, Neil Walker, Jason Varitek) and another major trade on draft day (Kevin Youkilis) rounded out our lineup, and about a month back the club finally got the legitimate closer, Heath Bell.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
In other words, barring an historic collapse, the Friars will finally achieve the goal of every expansion team, win a division and make the playoffs.
But problems remain on the horizon. Despite acquiring Heath Bell to close, and adding LHP Joe Saunders off the free-agent scrap heap, there can be no doubt that St. Francis's pitching staff is a notch behind the other major contenders for the playoffs. While each starter is capable of winning on any given day, and all but Roy Oswalt can be counted on as inning-eaters, the fact remains that Brooklyn, Frostbite Falls and Yuma have better rotations, with comparable (or superior) bullpens. That puts a great deal of pressure on the Friars lineup to score early and often.
Further, the avenue to trade for pitching is closing, and good starting pitching appears to be all but impossible to pick up, given the limits imposed by the salary cap, unless St. Francis is willing to completely gut their farm system.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
So it was that in late June, the St. Francis Friars confirmed that Jack McKeon, who had been serving as defacto GM for the organization, was named not only acting GM, but (in an interesting arrangement) the club's "co-field manager". As part of his increased responsibilities, McKeon will receive no additional salary but, as he assured reporters, "I will be getting an allowance for any additional Havanas I have to light up."
McKeon wasted no time in shaking things up, engaging in the rare 'Challenge Trade' with a team in his own division. Frustrated with the slow learning curve of Pedro Alvarez, "Trader" Jack dealt the second player selected in the 2008 amateur draft to division rival Philadelphia, along with minor-league OF Blake Smith.
"We don't think the kid's ready," said McKeon bluntly. "He's still a work in progress, swings at too many pitcher's pitches when he doesn't have to, still airmails throws on routine plays. He's got a guaranteed major-league contract ready to kick in, though, and it would be hard on the kid to have him up here and basically warm the pine. So, we think this is the best thing for him. He'll go to an organization where the player in front of him---A-Rod----is getting long in the tooth and will likely spend a lot of time in the future as a DH. We think a lot of him, and he's obviously the most talented player in this deal. But you can't make an egg without breaking a few omelettes."
"The big question is," McKeon continued, "is whether getting Nolasco, who has struggled, is going to help us. The sense I get is that Philadelphia thinks he won't help us all that much, because he's underachieved with them, and they would like to clear a roster spot for some talent that they see over the horizon. It's an unusual situation, dealing with a division rival. I asked GM Melkonian whether or not he understood that I was trying to steal his lunch money---which I am----and whether or not it made sense to basically sit down in the cafeteria and have lunch with me. Well, he has a different perspective, in which his organization has the pitching depth to make this deal. So, you know, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. We think having Nolasco helps us, even if he doesn't put up especially good numbers, because he is a young, affordable starting pitcher who can pile up K's in short stretches. If it doesn't work out with him in the rotation, perhaps he can fill a long relief role and we can give Correia more work. The bottom line is that we've had a lot of injuries to our pitching staff, and getting any arm at this point gives us a little breathing room. We'll know more about this trade by August."
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Offense is not an issue: new additions like 1B Paul Konerko, 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis and 3B/OF Jose Bautista had provided improved pop, the team is strong up-the-middle defensively, and the bench (Neil Walker, Felix Pie, Jason Varitek, Juan Uribe) has already contributed.
Pitching, on the other hand, shows signs of strain. Season-ending injuries (Jorge De La Rosa, Joel Zumaya, Dallas Braden) to several hurlers have put pressures on the entire pitching staff, but especially on a rotation that was already regarded as more workmanlike than stellar.
"Every club needs pitching, even if they say they don't," claimed acting GM "Trader Jack" McKeon. "The question is, do we want to make a deal now, or should we wait until there are more 'sellers' on the market, and hope the price for a veteran starter comes down? There are arguments to be made on both sides of that equation."
Part of the caution stems from the realization that LHP Zach Britton appears ready to contribute to the rotation now, while another pair of prospects (Randall Delgado, Mike Montgomery) seem likely to earn callups in August, potentially bolstering the roster again. There is also the versatile Kevin Correia, back at AAA, but available to make a spot start or even move into the rotation should St. Francis lose another veteran to injury.
The recent actions of division rivals may be urging against caution, however. On the one hand, the willingness of division rival Philadelphia to make a bold move to acquire another starter (Shawn Marcum) from last year's Central Division winner (Casselton) further leverages that club's perceived advantage in the starting rotation....but at the cost of helping the Horned Toads pick up some quality bats (Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Scott Rolen) who will presumably bring Landon Bolt's underachieving club back to the middle of the pack, offensively.
"Bottom line: our rivals in the division aren't sitting on their hands," said a cigar-chomping McKeon. They aren't going to let us run away with anything. So we are open to dealing prospects to acquire pitching."
CLUB RELEASES ZUMAYA, DORRELL
In a surprising move, the Friars have released oft-injured RHP Joel Zumaya and stymied minor-league batting prospect Wes Dorrell, moves that will cost them nearly $2 million on the open market.
Zumaya has an electric arm that can touch triple digits when healthy, but has always been more of a thrower than a pitcher. His latest bout on the disabled list convinced management that even if healthy sometime this season, he was unlikely to do much of anything other than take up a roster spot for a more durable hurler.
As for Dorrell, once a coveted college bat, insiders speculate that he may have lost the desire to compete at a higher level. "We've heard retirement talk," said one family member, "and we don't see anything about his recent performance to lead us he was going to do anything but quit chasing the dream. We thought the organization should know."
Management hinted that the struggles of the injured Brandon Lyon could also mean that the club's "franchise pitcher" tag was premature, and that the versatile swing man could face release rather than guaranteeing a $4 million salary in 2012.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
He was referring to the blockbuster series of moves from division rival Arizona, which has bolstered its rotation to elite status by adding Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Matt Garza. "They are clearly in a go-for-it, win-now mentality," commented Varitek, "because they moved most of their good young arms in order to get these guys. Latos, Hanson, Bailey, Shields and a bunch of picks."
"Well, we are also attempting to win now," said Varitek. "We think we have a solid group of veterans in our rotation, and we think our bullpen is much improved. We don't have Casselton's outfield. We don't have the star power that's in Arizona right now. We don't have as many young players ready to contribute out of spring training as Los Angeles. What we do have, however, is a good balance throughout.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
McKeon confirmed that RHP Leo Nunez, who spent most of 2010 languishing in Arizona's minor-league system, was added to the club's roster. Nunez compiled a 9.56 ERA in 15 games with the Thunder last season, and was the proverbial "player to be named" in a late-season trade that sent RHP Gavin Floyd to Arizona.
Nunez, who has proven in the past that he can collect 30 or more saves in a season, will compete with RHP Francisco Cordero (1-2, 3.21 ERA and 6 saves) and former closer Frank Francisco (2-5, 5.47, 15 saves) for the role of St. Francis's closer in 2011. But to open that roster spot.....
"EL CABALLO" RELEASED
Carlos Lee, a former Oakland United star making nearly $10 million a year, has been granted his unconditional release by the Friars, which acquired him in a mid-season deal for versatile utility man Ben Zobrist. Lee hit .299 in limited duty for Oakland before being traded to St. Francis last season, and hit .261 overall with 6 HR and 25 RBI in 176 at-bats.
Pretty decent production, but as McKeon explained, this was irrelevant. Lee's usefulness in the trade was to facilitate a deal with a club that had too much salary. "When I helped set up these rosters last spring," McKeon remarked, "I left lots of cap room to either assume salary in trade, or else eat contracts. Unlike some of the other clubs, which had very little wiggle on their cap, I didn't care much about Mr. Lee's contract at the time, and that allowed us to add some pretty fair prospects in the deal."
"But now," McKeon concluded with a smile, "I'm afraid we have no interest in paying a plodding outfielder better suited to first base over $18 million a year, who is coming off his least productive year ever. He's been a talented guy...would you believe he was a minor-league third baseman, with a throwing arm that was at one point described as the best in all of baseball by some scouts? But now, he's just a bat, and not a good enough bat to justify the salary. The Friars are going to let someone else ride 'El Caballo'. That means 'horse', by the way."
Another mid-season acquisition, veteran C Jason Varitek, has been named the first player-manager in BARB history. Varitek won high marks for his leadership after being acquired in a mid-season deal with the Pottsylvania Creepers, and hit .368 in 22 games, often off the bench. "We see Jason as someone that players respect and will play hard for," said McKeon. "We don't expect that he'll hit .368 or even .268 again. That's not the way we assess his value. We see him as being a great role model for our young catchers (J.P. Areceibia, Jesus Montero and Tony Sanchez), and a voice of authority for our young pitchers (Kyle Drabek, Zack Britton, Shelby Miller). As a switch-hitter, he provides interesting options for us late in a ballgame, but we we also plan on keeping both Pyrzinski and Barajas, giving us three catchers, so that we won't work Jason too much.