In the past couple days, there have a couple moves involving ex-Indians or players that could have been Indians.
Obviously the one that piqued my interest was the trade involving Placido Polanco and Ugueth Urbina. Yeah, Detroit threw in a utility infielder, but to me that’s neither here nor there. Urbina is a better prize than Howry is now, but still the difference between Urbina and Howry isn’t that much. Detroit can stick Polanco at second base, and shift Omar Infante, who hasn’t been hitting this year, to the bench. Now obviously their bullpen gets weaker, especially considering Troy Percival’s health, but by the same stretch they improve their offense, and it’s a low-risk trade for them; both Urbina and Polanco are free agents at the end of the year, and the Tigers can still flip him for a prospect or two by the end of July if they remain out of the race.
I’m less disappointed that the Indians didn’t the trade now that Aaron Boone has started to hit. Granted, he’s still hitting below the Mendoza Line, but no longer are his at-bats futile attempts to hit the ball. Aaron is not chasing pitches down and away as much as he did before, which may pay dividends in the form of pitchers going to the inner half of the plate. Am I pronouncing him cured? Of course not; the damage he’s inflicted upon the lineup isn’t going to go away in the span of a week. But there’s finally hope. Now that Casey Blake has been relegated to bench duty and Boone is starting to resemble a major-league position player, the lineup sickens me less and less every day now.
Another interesting move involved former Indian Ryan Drese; the Rangers designated him a couple days ago, and the Washington Nationals have just claimed him on waivers. Last year Drese was one of the better starters in the American League, relying on his sinker and low walk rates to get hitters out. Sound familiar? While Jake Westbrook has fallen off a bit from last year, Drese’s numbers completely collapsed; he’s walked (24) more than he’s struck out (20), and his hit rate has been awful (96 in just about 70 innings pitched). So even though the Rangers signed him to a multi-year deal last offseason, they put him on waivers. Now there’s a chance Drese can still be a useful pitcher, but his tale is cautionary one; you can’t succeed forever without meeting minimum standards. Note that Jake Westbrook hasn’t pitched as badly as his 2-9 record might indicate; a 5.00 ERA in the American League will keep you employed, and his peripherals haven’t changed all that much versus last year. In fact, the only real difference is that Jake is giving up a greater amount of home runs; other than that, his ratios haven’t changed that much.
Finally, the Devil Rays have DFAd former Indian Josh Phelps. I was wrong about Ryan Ludwick, but Phelps has been relatively healthy, and even though he’s essentially a platoon DH, he’s hit .286/.341/.464 against left-handed pitching so far this year, so someone is going to claim him. The interesting side of this transaction was that the Devil Rays had DFA Phelps to make room for Reggie Taylor, he of the lifetime .233/.275/.386 line. Meanwhile Jonny Gomes continues to obliberate AAA pitching.
The Indians did make a roster move recently, though it’s not a huge one. They claimed RHP Jose Diaz off waivers from Tampa. Diaz is 25 years old, and had been pitching for the AA Montgomery Biscuits (what a great team name). Judging by his numbers, he has great stuff, but little idea where his pitches are going. It looks like the Indians may see some flaw in his mechanics, and with a couple roster spots to play with, took a chance on a live arm.
Breaking news: Milwaukee just flipped 2B Junior Spivey to the Nationals for RHP Tomo Ohka. The Brewers don’t need Spivey anymore, with Bill Hall playing well and Rickie Weeks knocking on the door, so Brewers GM Doug Melvin (who I think is one of the more underrated GMs in the game) got a fifth starter in Ohka for Spivey. Spivey will fill in at second base until Jose Vidro is off the Disabled List, and after that would probably become some sort of super-sub. I don’t believe Spivey can play shortstop, because that’s where the Nats really need an upgrade thanks to Cristian Guzman’s abysmal 2005 campaign
Update: Alex Cora’s in the lineup for the fourth straight game?! What the &^%^#$&^!