Finding themselves four games above .500 (17-13) as May wound to a close, the St. Francis Friars mulled various possible moves as they attempt to make the transition from division doormat to contender!
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.