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.