There was a lot of action today in baseball, with a couple of guys changing jerseys, and a couple of guys who found themselves with no jersey at all.
First up is future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who was Designated For Assignment by the Red Sox. It is pretty safe to say that last night's game against the Yankees was the final nail in the coffin (3.1 IP, 8 ER), meaning that Smoltz ended his Red Sox career with 40 innings pitched and 37 earned runs, good for a 8.32 ERA. I think he was bad enough that we do not even need to delve into the more advanced pitching statistics. This leaves the Red Sox with four healthy, reliable starters; Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Brad Penny, and Clay Bucholz. Remember earlier in the year when baseball writers were clamouring for the Red Sox to trade Penny because they had so much starting pitching? That is why you do not listen to sports writers. The return of Tim Wakefield will give the Red Sox a solid if unspectacular rotation that will carry them into the post-season.
The Minnesota Twins made a rare big name (but not big talent) acquisition today, adding Carl Pavano to their roster and sending a Player To Be Named Later to the Indians. The Twins find themselves only 5.5 games behind division leading Detroit, but they also have to leap-frog the White Sox to get at the Tigers. Considering that the two teams above them added Jarrod Washburn and Jake Peavy, two pitchers far more talented than Pavano, it is hard to see this move paying off for the Twins. Pavano has a 5.37 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, but a fairly respectable 6.30 K/9 and 1.65 BB/9 With these types of underlying numbers, it is not unfathomable that Pavano could pitch a couple of solid games down the stretch. However, it will be a big case of too little, too late.
In a move that was long overdue, the Oakland Athletics kicked Jason Giambi and his .193 batting average to the curb. His standard numbers were down across the board, and his LD% was down, GB% was up, and HR/FB dropped a full 7%. While the whole tainted slugger returning to his former small-market team angle was cute for a couple of days, Giambi and the A's quickly faded into obscurity with the third worst record in the American League. At this point of the season, there was no point wasting another 200 AB's on Giambi, so it looks like 26 year old Tommy Everidge will take the majority of swings at first base for the A's for the rest of the year.
And finally, my favourite move of the day. The Tampa Bay Rays acquired catcher Gregg Zaun from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for cash and a player to be named later. Let's start with the Orioles. Before the season, the Orioles were in the market for a catcher who could shoulder the load until number one prospect Matt Wieters could be called up, and then back-up the young catcher and act as a mentor. Gregg Zaun was the perfect man for that role, and signed for $2 MM. Now that August has come and the Orioles are in the familiar cellar, they want Wieters to play as many innings as possible, making Zaun expendable. However, they were smart enough to not just let him walk in the off-season ($0.5 MM buyout), but instead turned him into an asset by flipping him to the Rays.
The Rays on the other hand, were in dire need of a proven catcher to take some at-bats away from Dioner Navarro, who has been nothing short of awful this year. After a breakout campaign last year in which he had a .757 OPS and .330 wOBA, he has stumbled to the tune of .588 and .256 in those categories. He is struggling particularly against right-handed pitching, lugging around a .190 batting average and .505 OPS. Zaun, however, has hit righties well for a catcher with a .775 OPS. He should take a lot of AB's away from Navarro, and is still and effective catcher defensively. The Rays will need this to make up ground on the division leading Yankees and Wild Card leading Red Sox.
So there you have it, a busy day in baseball today. Two third place teams made additions for their playoff pushes, while a future Hall of Famer might have thrown his last pitch, and another member of the Steroid Era might be finished.