Thursday, September 07, 2006

Roster Moves Coming

Sorry for the delay in posting; I've been away on yet another vacation.

As many local blogs have discussed, the M's expanded roster allows a number of farmhands the opportunity to sit on an MLB bench, or perhaps play in the most glamorous of all garbage-time settings. For most, the expanded roster means no corresponding 40 man roster cuts need to be made - guys like Oswaldo Navarro, Cesar Jimenez, TJ Bohn, Emiliano Fruto, Greg Dobbs - they're already on the 40 man. But the M's are picking two pitchers who *will* force roster cuts: Francisco Cruceta and Ryan Feierabend.

I went to Cruceta's last start in Tacoma's last home game, and he put together one of his better outings. 6 innings, 10Ks, 2BBs and one run on one rather fluky looking HR from Donnie Sadler (no HR's all year in Tucson, and he gets his first at Cheney? Tells you something about Cruceta's gopheritis, but his amazing K rate makes up for that flaw). While everyone who has insider info suggests the M's are still looking at Cruceta as a relief arm, his solid AAA season (and the desire to limit Felix's workload) may allow him to get a start or two for Seattle and keep hope alive that he can compete for the #5 spot next spring. He's clearly been working on keeping his splitter down, and he piled up a number of Ks on 58 foot pitches that day. It's an empirical fact that 58 foot splitters are difficult to hit homers off of, especially in comparison to those that break down to about belt high (the latter variety was Cruceta's weapon of choice early in the year).

Feierabend's probably the M's best pitching prospect that started the year in the organization (Tony Butler or Brandon Morrow might outrank him on most lists now), a lefty with a great pick-off move and a bit more pure stuff than, say, Travis Blackley - he's never had Travis's results, however, thanks to a pronounced inability to miss a lot of bats. Still, he's a promising kid who, like many in the org, is young for his league.

So: who's dropped from the M's 40 man to make room for the two new guys? Mateo and Reed are both on the 60-day DL already; does Raffy Soriano join them? What else? Get your thoughts in the comments quick; the M's announce the moves tomorrow.

My fear is that one or both of Clint Nageotte and Jesse Foppert might see the end of their tenure as M's pitchers. I think the M's would be loath to lose either, which is why the promotion of Feierabend over, say, Yorman Bazardo, is a bit puzzling. Either Bavasi is downright eager to jettison Foppert for perceived poor work habits in his rehab (the same thing that led him to DFA Bobby Madritsch and talk s*** about him when he announced the move), or they've simply given up on the two as reclamation projects.

I know Paul has mentioned the possibility of a Cha Seung Baek-like resurgence for Nageotte next year, which is certainly possible. With Baek starting for the M's tomorrow and coming off a very solid year in AAA, it's easy to forget just how atrocious he was last year. Check it out. His H/9 of 11.64 is nasty, his K rate of under 6 is putrid, and his HR/9 ratio was even worse (1.5 over 113 innings). I think most pudits had him dead and buried, but he bounced back with improvements in all categories (especially hits allowed), and put together a fine year.

Could Nageotte/Foppert do that? I think Nageotte's in line for a big drop in hits allowed; his GB tendencies should cause a lot of volatility in that stat - it's Baek's FB tendencies that made his resurgence all the more unexpected. In a number of games I've seen, Nageotte's been the victim of 5 straight GB singles. It makes the numbers look horrible, but it may not be entirely his fault. Look at his HR's allowed - just 6 in 88 innings (0.61/9) - that's some sign that his new MO of pitching to contact and using a sinker may be working.

What can't continue is his obscene walk rate. Even 'Bad' Baek kept his walks low (although after another homer, I kept hoping he'd pitch a bit more carefully), and Clint's now running a sub01:1 K/BB ratio. It's interesting that he didn't have this problem in the 2005 Arizona fall league; either everything Dave Cameron says about the worthlessness of those stats is true, or he really worked well with a particular pitching coach AND worked well on short starts. Try him in the bullpen and have Brad Holman and Raffy Chaves really work on improving his command. The time isn't yet right to just give up on him.

Foppert? Sheesh. What can we say about a guy who pitched under 11 innings this year? His K rate is still high despite his high 80s 'heat' but he walks a lot of guys too, and can't seem to stay healthy. If either's gone, it's probably Foppert; he was absolutely worth the gamble, but you can't expect to win every time.

What would YOU do? DFA Mike Morse or the Dobber instead? Put Lowe on the 60 day? DFA both Nageotte and Foppert and start coming the wire to see who else gets cut?


At 9/07/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

Using the 60-day DL is just a stop gap. At some point after the WS ends, the DL disappears and the players on the DL must be either added to the 40-man roster or released. I don't recall the exact date.

At 9/07/2006 4:33 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

MAAAAAARC! Good to see ya back 'round these parts. I was wond'rin' what was up...

Here's what I'd do to clear the roster space:

1) 60-day DL Soriano. If you want him to pitch in a game environment again (to get back on that proverbial horse), then send him to a winter league somewhere. His shoulder badly needs the rest, as does, of course, his brain.

2) DFA Greg Dobbs. He has no future here, and has cleared waivers before if you REAAALLY want to give him shot at a bench spot next year. They've got his defensive positions covered, and he's as hacktastic as the rest of the hitters we have, so he doesn't bring anything the M's don't have already.

That gives you room, temporarily, for Cruceta and Feierabend (though, like pretty much everyone, I'm baffled as to why they want to add him this early). Once the 60-day DL goes away, and you have to free up roster space, then you can decide what further moves you want to make. I believe the timing of that roster-trimming coincides with the Rule 5 draft roster protection stuff anyway.

One more move I'd make, too: DFA Foppert and give Hunter Brown a nice pat on the back. There's no harm in losing Foppert. I don't see him as being able to bounce back any time soon. As you're aware, too, Churchill hints at some cuts coming that may seem a bit strange to some of us. I think he believes Blackley would be one of these. I personally would rather cut Foppert, although I wouldn't be surprised if they both were axed from the 40-man.

Marc, you bring up some very good points about Cruceta that only someone who frequented Cheney would observe. If Cruceta indeed was throwing more splitters, you could look at the game logs at to see if there's any reduction in his HR rate later in the season.

And, indeed, Nageotte's tenure with the M's is probably over. I'd hate to see this, too, as I also believe he could bounce back as a reliever. He just is so freakin' hittable right now, and his control has disappeared. With a decreased ability to miss bats, Nageotte will get pounded by decent hitters, and lotsa walks vs. patient hitters. That's just not going to fly, especially in the starting rotation. A change of scenery, unfortunately, is probably what's best for him...


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