Friday, May 20, 2011

Red Sox Roster Reshuffle

The Red Sox have made quite a few roster moves in the last few hours.

1. Signed Kevin Millwood to a minor league contract.
This is probably the biggest news, but it will have the least immediate impact. Millwood opted out of his Yankees contract on May 1 when he hadn't yet made it to the majors, despite their lack of pitching. People are making a big deal about his ERA of 8.00 in Scranton, but it is the scouting report saying that he topped out at 86. Provided he passes his physical, Millwood will report to Pawtucket to get himself straightened out. Last year, Millwood had a 5.10 ERA for the Orioles, giving up 30 home runs in 190 IP. With both stuff and results lacking in recent years, Millwood is an emergency move - in place in case Tim Wakefield is washed up, Alfredo Aceves can't handle starting, and both Matsuzaka and Lackey are unable to return quickly. Expectations should be minimal.

2. Designated Hideki Okajima for asignment.
It's about over for Okie-Dokie. In an interview, Theo said he hopes Okajima can clear waivers if he's unable to trade him, but with Rich Hill having passed him as the available lefty out of the bullpen and Franklin Morales on his way from Colorado, there's no clear role for him. Since the start of last year, Okajima has a 4.47 ERA in 54.1 IP. With 39 strikeouts to 25 walks, indicators are that both his command and control have suffered. Okajima averaged 2.1 WAR out of the bullpen in his first three years with Boston. So, while this is probably the end of the line, fans should be happy with the role he played as the prominent setup man on three playoff teams.

3. Traded a player to be named later to the Colorado Rockies for reliever Franlin Morales.
Morales was a prospect at one point, but he just walks too many people. Before the 2008 season, he was rated the #8 prospect in the game by Baseball America, but he responded by walking twice as many hitters as he struck out in five starts since them. Moved to the bullpen, Morales has continued to walk the park, to the exasperation of Rockies' management. His ERA has improved this year, but he still had 8 walks in 14 innings.

Instead of going the Andrew Miller route, and sending Morales to the minors to get his confidence, control, mechanics and value back, Morales will go to the major league bullpen. While Rich Hill has shown ability to get both lefties and righties out (he got Jose Batista in a big moment on Monday), Morales will be used as a more specific Lefty-One-Out-Guy. It makes sense, as lefties have hit only .185/.291/.333 lifetime off Morales.

4. Activated Dan Wheeler from 15-day Disabled List. Optioned Michael Bowden to AAA Pawtucket.
Wheeler was signed in the offseason to stabilize the shaky bullpen. He responded by allowing home runs to 4 of the first 49 batters he saw. The league was hitting .375/.388/.688 when he was shut down for an injury to his calf. In the Rays bullpen from 2008 through 2010, Wheeler had a 3.24 ERA in 172.1 innings, albeit with 28 HR allowed, a reason why he never was able to stick in the closer role.

I'm not sure what to say about Bowden. A 2005 first round pick, he has pitched very well in the minors for stretches, but he seemingly has never gotten the confidence of management because of his middling stuff. They hoped that the deceptive arm action on his delivery would make him a quality reliever, and he's done nothing to prove that incorrect. Through 22.2 innings at Pawtucket, Bowden has a 1.59 ERA, 28 strikeouts, 4 walks and only one homer allowed. Even though he's been a prospect forever, Bowden is still only 24, so it's not like he's running out of opportunities, but it seems more and more like he'll need to go to another organization to get the chance he deserves.

5. Recalled IF/OF Drew Sutton from AAA Pawtucket. Optioned SS Jose Iglesias to Pawtucket.
This is a sensible move that gives the Red Sox more roster flexibility, and meanwhile gives Iglesias the chance to play every day. Sutton had a .304/.385/.522 line at Pawtucket while playing 3B, SS, 2B and LF. A .277/.381/.432 hitter in 800 AAA plate appearances, Sutton provides both some patience and pop to go with his flexibility. At 28 he is not considered a prospect, and he did not produce in limited opportunities with Cincinnati and Cleveland the last two years, but he brings enough to the table to be a serviceable 25th man.

Iglesias is still the long-term plan at SS, and the demotion does not have any bearing on that. He simply has not yet gotten to where he needs to be with the bat to be a full time contributor.

No comments: