Sox Release Lugo; Lowell Returns to Boston

Mike Lowell was ready to play, Clay Buchholz was needed to start – and Julio Lugo, making $9 million a year, wasn’t playing as well as Nick Green.  So, the Boston Red Sox dispatched Aaron Bates to AAA to make room for Buchholz, and – making room for Lowell – designated Lugo for assignment.  [ESPN]

Boston had been trying to trade Lugo, but Lugo hadn’t been able to stay healthy over the last two years and leg injuries appeared to have sapped his defensive range.  Nobody was willing to take on Lugo’s salary, and now someone can have him for the league minimum.

What are you getting for your Julio Lugo dollar?

Well – comments about Lugo’s diminished range are legit; he’s lost more than a step.

In 2005 with Tampa Bay, Lugo would have been my pick to win the Gold Glove.  (They gave it to Derek Jeter because he’s, well, Derek Jeter.)  The average shortstop made about 4.43 plays per nine innings – without adjustments, Lugo was at 4.82, and when you account for the flyball nature of his staff, grades out at 5.07.   (Jeter, before adjustments, was 4.58, but with a groundball staff, the adjusted rate was 4.41 or an edge below average.)  That means for every 800 balls in play, Lugo made 18 plays that the average shortsop (Jeter in 2005) didn’t – saving his team some 43 runs over the course of the season.   (By the way, Nick Green was on the Rays with Lugo in 2005, and there’s no question that Lugo was a better player and Nick Green wasn’t helping the Rays any.)

Heading to 2006, not only was Lugo still ahead of most shortstops (he was still six plays better than the average SS), he was hitting over .300 and getting on base at a .373 clip.  So, LA hoisted him from Tampa for a couple of prospects (who, by the way, never really panned out).  Lugo didn’ t hit as well in LA and they bounced him all over the infield – playing well at three positions – for the last two months of the year.

In December, 2006, Lugo signed a four-year, $36 million dollar deal with the Red Sox.  In his only full season with Boston, 2007, Lugo was a significant improvement over Edgar Renteria, but was now slowed by quad injuries.  His range was almost exactly league average, and going 0 – 33 early in the season contributed to batting .237 and being a well below league average hitter.  Hitting .280 with some walks, speed, and a little power and displaying great range is worth $9 million.  Hitting under .240 with little power and being ordinary at short isn’t going to cut it.  While his bat came back a little in 2008, now his range was below average (-6), and he’s still not a league average hitter.  This year, a knee injury didn’t help when Jed Lowrie got injured – and Nick Green played his way onto the team.  Lugo played his way to a demotion.

As we see Lugo in 2009, we see someone who is, at best, a utility option.    When healthy, he’s not an embarrassing backup – but he’s no longer the type of player who is going to lead you to championships.  With all the Mets injuries, he’s better than Argenis Reyes and maybe better than Angel Berroa – and Lugo has played second, third, and the outfield (Omar Minaya, are you listening?).  If not the Mets, somebody is going to give him a AAA contract, maybe bring him to the bigs.  But, if you get a Julio Lugo baseball card in the 2011 Topps Baseball Card set, it will be a surprise.  He’ll be 34 when the season is over, and I don’t see him playing after he turns 35.

Puma Derailed By Calf; Cubs Sign Ryan to Minor League Deal

Houston first basemen Lance Berkman left last night’s game in the eighth inning with a calf strain.  He’s listed as day-to-day, but Berkman admitted the calf had been bothering him for a while.  [MLB]

Lacking “organizational depth” (Piniella’s term) in left-handed relievers, the Chicago Cubs signed former Toronto closer B.J. Ryan to a minor league deal.  Ryan will report to the Cubs’ Arizona training complex and if all goes well, head to AAA Iowa for seasoning.  [ESPN]

The Braves look forward to the return of Javier Vasquez, and think Mike Gonzalez is still a couple of days away from returning to the mound.  Gonzalez is struggling with elbow inflammation.  [MLB]

Texas and St. Louis are contenders in the Roy Halliday sweepstakes.  Personally, I’m not sure that Toronto should deal their ace away – it’s hard to find guys like Halliday, no matter how many prospects or players you might get.  Only one team has ever really turned this to their favor – Cleveland’s trading Bartolo Colon netted them Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips (since traded).  [MLB]

Boston is willing to eat shortstop Julio Lugo’s salary, and is looking for takers in a trade according to Ken Rosenthal.  The oft-injured shortstop has a year and a half left on a $9 million per season contract.  [FoxSports]

No news is bad news – the Mets remain unsure about the return of too many players.  The longer Reyes, Maine, Delgado, and Beltran remain on the DL, the worse my prediction that the Mets would win the NL East looks…  [MLB]

By the way, if you like tragedies, read Cliff Corcoran’s opinion on why the Cubs are miserable failures so far in 2009.  [SI.com]

Five more minor leaguers out of the Dominican Republic were suspended for steroid use.  Anybody surprised?  [ESPN]

Hurry Back!  Padre ace Jake Peavy lost his boot and is throwing a little.  Rehab begins now that Peavy got a clean bill of health from team doctors…  Milwaukee starter Dave Bush continues to struggle in his rehab, having suffered a torn triceps.  LA’s Cory Wade heads to the DL with a right shoulder strain.  Atlanta’s Jo-Jo Reyes gets a rehab stint in Gwinnett.

Welcome Back!  The Royals activated Alex Gordon and newly acquired shorstop Yuniesky Betancourt from the DL.  (I missed this trade while vacationing…  The Royals sent cash and a couple of players to Seattle to fill a gap at short.  Danny Cortes is a fireballer with control issues joining his third organization.  Just 22, he might benefit by becoming a reliever.  The other guy, Derrick Saito, is a Hawaiian reliever who was drafted out of Cal Poly.  He has skills and could make the Mariners happy in 2011.  Seattle filled the organization gap by signing Alex Cintron to a minor league deal.).  The Royals need a shot in the arm, and this could help immensely.  Colorado welcomes back reliever Manny Corpas.

Others coming back to the majors?  Blake DeWitt (Dodgers), Josh Whitesell (D-backs), Angel Berroa (Mets), Alexi Casilla (Twins), Garrett Mock (Nationals), Wesley Wright (Astros).

Others heading in the wrong direction?  Mett Belisle (Giants) and Tony Pena (Royals) were designated for assignment.  The Mets dispatched Argenis Reyes back to the minors.

Marlins Need a Closer; Mattingly Backs Manny

2009 hasn’t been easy for Florida closer Matt Lindstrom.  First, he strains his rotator cuff while pitching for the US in the World Baseball Classic.  Then, he struggles in his return to the Marlins.  Now, Lindstrom has been placed on the DL with a sprained elbow.  It hasn’t affected his velocity, which regularly approaches 100 MPH, but Lindstrom says he feels it when he throws a breaking ball.  Early estimates suggest he’ll be out six weeks.

Leo Nunez, if he hadn’t tweaked an ankle in the Yankees series, would be the next in line for saves, but to be honest, it could be a bullpen by committee for now in Florida.

Dave Hyde, who is a good columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, says it’s time for the Marlins to open up the checkbook and get a closer who can help keep the Marlins in the race.

Joining the roster will be Ontario Canada’s Chris Leroux, a decent propsect who got a cup of coffee earlier in the year.  Leroux is a sleeper prospect, a seventh round pick out of Winthrop University, who has had some success at A+ Jupiter and AA Jacksonville.  I think he’s a bit overmatched at this level, though – and won’t be put in the pressure situations.

Reason #2 That the Reds are in Fourth Place

Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez had a second MRI, which showed that inflammation hadn’t yet left his elbow.  This means that any plans the Reds had in getting Volquez on a throwing program will be halted.  Volquez went on the DL with a sore back in May, came back to throw a single inning on June first, and hasn’t pitched since then.  Without Volquez, and without Joey Votto, the Reds slid from a contending position in May to under .500 and fading as June ends.  The Reds have Votto back, and hope to have Volquez back by the end of July.

The Line Still Says “TBA”

C.C. Sabathia says his bullpen session went well and he’s looking forward to pitching on Friday as scheduled.  Meanwhile, the Yankees haven’t formally announced Sabathia as the starter.

Only a Matter of Time

Speaking of the Yankees, GM Brian Cashman flew to New York to see his struggling Yankees, only to see them struggle some more.  Then, in the sixth, Joe Girardi got fired (up) over a bad call, got tossed, and the Yankees erupted for an 8 – 4 win.  The game featured a rare at bat for Mariano Rivera, who flew out with the bases loaded to end the eighth.  Cashman says that Girardi’s job is not in jeopardy.

Yet.

Webb Reviews Options

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Arizona ace Brandon Webb may not pitch in 2009, and now comes word that an MRI suggests that surgery is the next option for his ailing right shoulder.  Webb has tried rest and strengthening to no avail, so is looking for a second opinion before going under the knife.

When Mattingly Hurt His Back, They Removed his Backbone

Don Mattingly told Dan Patrick that he believes Manny Ramirez should still go into the Hall of Fame despite having been caught using PEDs.  Mattingly said, “He’s put up numbers for way too long.”

Of course he did, Don.  He was using.  Way to stick to the company line.

But He Still Leads the AL 3B All-Star Voting…

Evan Longoria continues to fight a sore left hamstring, leaving last night’s win over the Phillies in the seventh inning.  He doesn’t expect to miss any time, but just thought that the tightness required a little ice and rest.

What I’ll be Watching…

I don’t know about you, but I will find a way to watch John Smoltz’s return to baseball.  It’ll be odd to watch him in a Red Sox uniform, and who knows what kind of stuff he’ll have, but I always liked watching him pitch.

Cleveland Looks for Relief

Two trades yesterday, both involving the Cleveland Indians.  The Indians dealt Michael Aubrey, their top pick out of Tulsa in 2003, to Baltimore for a player to be named later.  At various times, Aubrey was a top prospect, but too many injuries later, he’s lost track of what looked like a promising career.  Aubrey makes contact, doesn’t walk too much, has a little power – just not enough to oust Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and others from the first base slot.

The Indians also acquired Jose Veras from the Yankees for cash.  Veras is at best a tolerable middle reliever, but really isn’t destined for heavy lifting even out of the Cleveland pen, which lately has had a habit of making closers look really, really bad.

Welcome back! 

Yankee 3B Cody Ransom, originally asked to replace A-Rod, but instead joined him on the DL.  (Angel Berroa was designated for assignment, and will either be back at AAA or could be signed by another team looking for a utility infielder.)  Also, Twin OF Denard Span.

Hurry back! 

A’s Josh Outman, DL with a sprained elbow.  Yankee Xavier Nady gets a rehab assignment with Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

Afterthoughts…

Kip Wells lost his job in Washington – which means unless he develops a knuckleball, his career may likely be over.  He was designated for assignment.  I wonder if someone will sign him, or if he’ll take a trip to AAA.

I saw a headline that says the Mets called up Reyes from Buffalo, and thought my fantasy roster would need a change – but it was infielder Argenis Reyes, a stop-gap utlily infielder.