I like looking at depth charts. I think that this site is a big barrel of fun. And when a team's depth chart changes, I generally like to know within a reasonable amount of time, you know? Maybe not, I'm probably a little crazy. But that's not the point. The point is that it made me think that maybe it would be cool (and informative) to find a way to cover the majority of those changes here at BtB, with a nice numbers-based twist to put each move into a better perspective. There have been a few notable releases and DFA's (designated for assigment; player must be traded, placed on waivers or released within 10 days) in the past couple days, and I thought that it would be a good time to kick things off before we really dig into the trade season.
Astros to release 2B Kaz Matsui
GM Ed Wade announced yesterday that the Astros were placing the former everyday second baseman on waivers with the intention of releasing him. It's not surprising, the 34-year-old started the season with a .141/.197/.155 line, he's already got a -0.7 fWAR on the season. ZiPS has him finishing the season with a .271 wOBA, so it's not particularly likely that he manages to latch on with anyone this season. Matsui is pretty much the poster boy for Japanese stars who disappoint after moving to the majors. Over seven seasons, he's been paid $38.1M by the Mets, Rockies and Astros, and he's produced a total of 5.8 fWAR. You know you're overpaid when you're putting up one win for for $6.6M. Jeff Keppinger should get most of the starts at second now for Houston, and while he's had flashes of good performance over the years, he really shouldn't be hitting against right-handers. Oswaldo Navarro was called-up to replace Matsui on the roster, but in 355 games in Triple-A he has a .655 OPS, so he's nobody's idea of a solution to the problem.
According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Howry signed a $2.25M deal with Arizona over the offseason, but was released after posting a 10.67 ERA in 14 innings with peripheral statistics that weren't much better. While this could be a decent risk for the Cubs, who are apparently re-stretching out Carlos Zambrano and giving the bulk of the late-innings to Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and John Grabow, Howry's stuff has been way down in 2010. He's lost over 2 MPH on his fastball, he's struggled with his command, and hitters have teed off on his pitches when they've gotten over the plate. But Howry had some of his best years as a Cub and the right-handers in the bullpen have seriously struggled outside of Marmol, so it's not surprising that the Cubs are targeting one of their former set-up men. Still, it's hard to believe that this is really much of a solution to the team's bullpen issues.
This one isn't surprising. I know that Schoeneweis has come upon some hard times lately, but at this point it's really just about his work on the mound. He's been below replacement-level for four straight years, with a fastball that's consistently gotten slower and a groundball rate that's consistently gotten lower. He's still useful against lefties, so he may be able to latch on somewhere as a LOOGY, but his days of pitching 70+ games are probably gone. If he wants another shot I'm sure he'll get it, veteran lefties (maybe he's crafty?) always seem to stick around for a while. For now, Boston hasn't replaced Schoeneweis on the roster, that's likely to happen today though. The speculation has been that the Sox will either bring Boof Bonser off the DL to replace him in the bullpen, or call up an infielder (Tug Hulett, anyone??) for some help.
The 28-year-old came over from St. Louis last season and pitched quite well (3.34 FIP in 37 innings), but he's been a big part of Arizona's horrid relief work this season. In 12.2 innings he's got a 7.82 ERA, and his 6.58 xFIP doesn't look much nicer. His velocity is up a little, but his command has totally fallen apart, his contact rate is up, and he's inducing less swing-and-misses. He's still a good groundball pitcher though, and ZiPS has him posting a 4.12 FIP from here on out, so he's likely to get another shot someone soon. Pitchers that can throw 96 MPH and get ground balls tend to get lots of chances like that, if you know what I mean. Replacing him on Arizona's roster was Billy Buckner, who's now Arizona's fifth starter, who ZiPS projects to finish with a 4.35 FIP, which is rather solid. Not sure why Buckner took so long to get to the desert.
Sizemore, Beckett, Niese, Caridad to DL
I know these moves don't have any guys changing locations, but they're still rather noteworthy. Grady Sizemore has been off all season, and he's fallen off his pedestal as an elite center fielder. Interestingly, Trevor Crowe is expected to get most of the at-bats in center, rather than top prospect Michael Brantley. Beckett's trip to the DL isn't surprising either given his struggles, but Boston probably isn't too psyched that they just gave him $68M. Niese was one of the few guys pitching well for the Mets, so his loss hurts, now the Mets are turning to Hisanori Takahashi and R.A. Dickey to make starts. And Caridad lasted about a week off the DL before going right back on it. He was supposed to be another possible solution to the Cubs' set-up man issues, but he's never been healthy enough to do that. If he does get healthy, I think he could emerge as a pretty good reliever. The best part of these moves though? With Dickey entering the Mets' rotation and Tim Wakefield replacing Beckett in Boston's rotation, that's TWO knuckleballers who are back to starting in the big leagues in the past few days.