Teams begin Tweaking their Rosters
Some people think this is one of the most important weeks of the year for a baseball club. Most of the team has already been decided, but now a small percentage of the team has to be assembled to make the trip north to begin the season. Some times it is a rookie who has been sweating it out in the minor league system for a few years, and then you have the veteran who is still trying to hold onto a 25-man roster spot after years and years in the league. This week will decide both of their futures, and especially, where they are going to play for the next several months.
Now every team right now has those decision to make on their roster. It has nothing to do with skill and talent, but sometimes it has to do with polish or even control that just needs to be tweaked in the minors for a month or so, then the rookie can come up and be a valuable part of their team for the next 5-10 years. But as I mentioned before, you also have the veteran who has been in the league for awhile who is fighting tooth and nail to stay up in the big leagues. they know what it takes, and hope that they have done enough this year to merit another shot on the 25-man roster.
And some veterans have already gotten the word, or know by their spring performances that they are not going to be selected for the 25-man roster, and already making plans for their future. This weekend, the Boston Red Sox saw outfielder Brad Wilkerson leave their Fort Meyers, Florida clubhouse knowing he will not get a shot with the team, even before his April 1st opt date he set in his contract. He already knew that he did not do enough to keep fellow Red Sox players Chris Carter and Jeff Bailey. Wilkerson knew that the . 119 average he has sustained during his 42 at bats will not transfer into a 25-man bid, and decided to leave camp on March 29th.
Other teams in the American League East besides the Tampa Bay Rays have huge decisions to make before the final roster is submitted this Sunday to the league. New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi have decisions that have been made, and a few that are being mulled by himself and the Yankee front office. They have already given the center field job to Brett Gardner based on his spring performances, but what does this mean for Melky Cabrera? Will they seek to trade him maybe to the Chicago White Sox who are not set on Brian Anderson in their center field spot. Or could they keep him for depth knowing that Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady will need days off and he is a capable short term guy.
But that is not the only questions concerning the Yankees right now. Girardi is also thinking about if he needs a long-relief spot in his Bullpen to begin the year, which could effect pitchers Brett Tomko, Dan Giese, and Alfredo Aceves. I mean the Yankees also have to consider if Cody Ransom is playing every day at third base for the team, then will they need a stop-gap at third base in case of an injury to Ransom, or just take their chances right now. But then you have good stories like Brett Anderson and Kevin Cahill who might have cemented the last two rotation spot on the Oakland A’s roster for the upcoming season.
I know of one trade that has fallen through in the last few days between the New York Mets and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are seeking some Bullpen Insurance after the Disabled List claimed Joel Yumaya this weekend along with starter Dontrelle Willis. They were going to send maybe infielder/outfielder Ryan Rayburn and maybe Marcus Thames to the Mets in exchange for ex-Rays reliever Brian Stokes. But now the deal has fallen through because Stokes might actually make the Met’s roster and would not need to be traded. Tons of decisions are coming in the next few days. Player are being told they are not part of the final roster and teams are giving some of them time to find other options before team’s set their rosters for the Opening Day.
It is that time of the year where players have to make decisions, like Seattle Mariners ex-starter Brandon Morrow, who after seeing that he will have no option in the starting rotation, might be considered the team’s closer in 2009. With Morrow’s decision, that will also mean that the team will be releasing their current closer Tyler Walker, who has only thrown 5.2 inning this spring and has not been impressive at all. But then we still have players like reliever Will Ohman who priced himself out of a job with the Philadelphia Phillies this week, and gotten more interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates and L A Dodgers in recent days.
Today a lot of quality major leaguers will be seeking employment because the teams are fine tuning the rosters and trying to give them a chance to maybe get another shot before the finalization this weekend. The Houston Astros released David Newhan today. but a lot of that strife came from the fact that Newhan heard about his not making
the team’s back-up shortstop or utility role from MLB.com and not from the team’s management. At this point in the season, some things fall through the cracks and become larger than they are, but that is the business of baseball, it is a predictable as the tides and as surprising as a sudden rain shower.nothing is written in stone.
Today a lot of veterans will be seeking new digs, like Marcus Giles, who was released by the Phillies after competing for a utility position all spring that came down to him or Miguel Cairo. But considering that Giles sat out the 2008 season, his .197 average did not impress anyone, especially the Phillies. The Rays also released Morgan Ensberg today, who might not be on the market long considering his past with the Yankees as insurance behind A Rod. But Ensberg did play great this spring defensively, but considering he would have to suplant super utility man Willy Aybar to even get a chance to play behind 2008 ROY winner Evan Longoria was just too much.
But then you have the position of former Rays reliever Chad Gaudin, who is out of options and getting tons of feelers from around the league for his services. But will the Chicago Cubs find a good fit for Gaudin, or will he just be traded for a needed piece to the Cub puzzle for 2009. But then you have the facts that the Cubs have also just recently released catcher Paul Bako and reliever Mike Stanton. This would make Koyie Hill the Cubbies choice for their back-up catcher this season. But then you have someone like pitcher Pedro Martinez who is setting into stone his $5 million a year demands and is willing to even wait until during the season to sign a contract.
But then you have the trade that is in a stalemate concerning Rays reliever/starter Jeff Niemann. He was being considered for a trade to the San Diego Padres, who are desperately seeking both starters and relievers for the upcoming season. But the Rays have been consistently asking for multiple prospects, and considering Neimann is out of options, his trade value is reduced a bit. The main figure in those talks have been Simon Castro who is the 14th best prospect in the Padres system right now. These talks might be a good indicator of Jason Hammel maybe being the front runner for the Rays fifth rotation spot. the Rays have said that they plan to announce their fifth starter in the next few days, but if this trade did formalize, the cat would be out of the bag.
As I reported above, the White Sox outfield situation in center field might be becoming a bit unclouded after the team has just released Jerry Owens who was in a battle with Brian Anderson and DeWayne Wise for the spot. This might be a precursor to White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen announcing that Wise has won the job to start on Opening Day in center field for the White Sox. For the rest of today and throughout the week, names will be flying off the computer screen as teams touch-up their rosters and decide on their 2009 goals. Some people like former Royal Jimmy Gobble had only been in the Texas Rangers camp for about 9 days and is already going to be released again this spring. Surprises will come out of nowhere in the next few days before the clouds begin to part and we see what kind of teams each of us will have in 2009.
Over 90 percent of the MLB’s rosters are already set or will be set in the coming days. Certain players hitting the waiver wires or being considered for trades might change their concept, but the end result will be that teams have their basic core of players they want to go into the first games of the year. Fine tuning and chatter will go on until the final minutes on Sunday. But you can be sure that even your team is not set in stone yet, and an attractive free agent or trade might even come up and surprise you. This is one of the three times of a year that teams can change almost overnight, and that is what makes baseball fun………change.