Nationals pull plug on Guzman, acquire Cruz
Aug. 30: The Nationals remain in the National League wild-card race despite the lowest-scoring offense in the majors, and they're desperate for runs. So desperate in fact, that they attempted to bolster their lineup Tuesday by picking up Deivi Cruz from the Giants in a deal for minor league right-hander Ben Cox.
The 32-year-old Cruz is no huge threat at the plate, but he'll be an upgrade over shortstop Cristian Guzman, who will take a .196 average and a .514 OPS to the bench. Cruz is a contact hitter with decent pop for a middle infielder, but his impatience can be exploited easily and he rarely draws walks. He's stocky and doesn't run as well or cover as much defensive ground as most middle infielders. Playing in a reserve role for San Francisco, he hit .268/.301/.397 with five homers and 19 RBI in 81 games this year. He's making $800,000 and will become a free agent at season's end. Cruz is a lifetime .269/.293/.390 hitter with 70 homers and 463 RBI in 1,214 games.
Cox, 23, signed as a 19th-round pick out of Lamar in 2004. He's a power pitcher who can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and backs it up with a low-80s slider, though his command tends to waver. In 42 games at low Class A Savannah this year, he went 4-4, 3.00 with six saves. He had a 51-33 strikeout-walk ratio in 63 innings, with opponents batting .234 with six homers against him.
In a second trade Tuesday, the Giants sent Jason Christiansen (whom they designated for assignment Friday) to the Angels for journeyman left-hander Dusty Bergman and right-hander Ronnie Ray, who's in low Class A for the third straight season.
Cubs trade another OF: Hollandsworth to Braves
Aug. 30: Having come to the realization that they won't advance to the postseason, the Cubs have begun looking to the future. For the second time in four days, Chicago traded an outfielder headed for free agency to a playoff contender. On Monday, Todd Hollandsworth went to the Braves for minor-league right-handers Angelo Burrows and Todd Blackford. That deal came on the heels of another that sent Matt Lawton to the Yankees.
Hollandsworth, 32, doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but he's a useful fourth outfielder because his tools are average across the board. The Cubs had used him as their semi-regular left fielder in 2005, and he responded by hitting .254/.301/.388 with five homers and 35 RBI in 107 games. He's expected to serve as a pinch-hitter and an insurance policy for Atlanta. Hollandsworth signed a one-year deal worth $900,000 as a free agent last offseason. He's a career .276/.333/.442 hitter with 90 homers and 365 RBI in 1,004 games.
Burrows, 25, signed as a ninth-round pick out of a Miami high school in 1999 -- as an outfielder. He converted to pitching in 2004 and projects as a possible setup man. He has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 93 mph and has developed a solid changeup. His slider lags behind his other two pitches. Burrows has gone 4-3, 3.32 in 30 games this year between low Class A Rome and high Class A Myrtle Beach. He has a 40-19 strikeout-walk ratio in 41 innings, while opponents have batted .234 with one homer against him.
Blackford, 20, was a 13th-round pick from an Indiana high school last year. He throws in the low 90s and has shown a feel for a changeup, but he needs to tighten up his slurvy slider. He went 5-3, 3.17 in 12 starts at Rookie-level Danville this year, with a 30-22 K-BB ratio in 60 innings. He allowed a .219 opponent average and two homers.
Phillies add Tucker to bench for stretch drive
Aug. 27: The National League wild card-leading Phillies made a move to bolster their bench on Saturday, picking up Michael Tucker from the Giants in exchange for minor league righthander Kelvin Pichardo. San Francisco also included $50,000 toward the remainder of Tucker's 2005 salary.
Tucker, 34, can back up all three outfield spots and serve as a lefty pinch-hitter for the Phillies. He doesn't hit for much of an average, but he does offer decent pop and patience at the plate. He runs well and covers a solid amount of ground defensively, though his arm is mediocre. In 102 games for San Francisco this year, he batted .240/.317/.372 with five homers and 33 RBIs. He's making $2 million this season as his two-year, $3.5 million contract expires. He's a lifetime .257/.339/.426 hitter with 124 homers, 519 RBIs and 112 steals in 1,360 games.
Pichardo, 19, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2003. He has a live arm and spent his second straight season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. In 2005, he went 3-2, 4.17 in 10 games (nine starts). He had a 37-3 strikeout-walk ratio in 54 innings, while GCL hitters batted .273 with four homers against him.
Lawton on move again, this time to Yanks
Aug. 26: Matt Lawton should be used to getting traded by now. Friday marked the third time in eight months that he has changed addresses, as the Yankees acquired him from the Cubs for short-season right-hander Justin Berg.
The Indians sent Lawton to the Pirates in December for Arthur Rhodes, and Pittsburgh swapped him to Chicago in July for Jody Gerut. New York plans on playing Lawton in left field and shifting Hideki Matsui to center.
Lawton is having a typical Matt Lawton season, batting .268/.366/.412 with 11 homers, 49 RBI and 17 steals in 120 games, though he had slumped in his four weeks with the Cubs. A two-time all-star, Lawton has solid power, speed and plate discipline. He has slipped defensively after knee and shoulder surgeries in recent years. A pending free agent, Lawton is making $7.25 million in 2005, the final season in a four-year, $27 million contract, and the Yankees will assume the remaining $1.47 million of his salary this year. In 1,302 career games, he has batted .269/.369/.420 with 136 homers, 626 RBI and 164 steals.
The Yankees drafted the 21-year-old Berg in the 43rd round out of Indian Hills (Iowa) CC in 2003 and signed him as a draft-and-follow after he spent a year at Triton (Ill.) JC. His best pitch is a low-90s sinker that he delivers from a low three-quarters arm slot. He also has a decent slider and is working on a changeup. In 15 games (nine starts) at Staten Island, Berg went 6-2, 3.53 with a 52-20 strikeout-walk ratio in 59 innings. Opponents hit .226 with three homers against him.