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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Indians - DFAed Johnson

Cleveland Indians - Designated P Jason Johnson for assignment.

This is what should have happened this winter:

Cleveland Indians - Purchased the contract of P Jeremy Sowers.

This is what did:

Cleveland Indians - Signed P Jason Johnson to a 1-year contract worth $4 million.

While I generally like Mark Shapiro, this move puzzled me from the start.  The Indians had their first-round pick out of Vanderbilt blowing through the minors and a rotation spot wide open.  A lot of teams, if not giving the job to them outright, would at least tell their hot prospect that they’d compete for the job in the spring with some other invites.  The Indians, confoundingly, decided to go another route, signing Jason Johnson to the $4 million deal and giving Sowers all of 2 starts to win a job that he couldn’t possibly win before sending him to minor-league camp.  Johnson, of course, did nothing in the spring training to show that he deserved the job, but while Johnson’s helping keep the Indians in 4th place with his 5.96 ERA, Jeremy Sowers has been wasting his time in Buffalo.

The Tigers had a similar decision to make this offseason with Justin Verlander.  While they didn’t give Verlander a job in the rotation on a silver platter, they did leave open a chance for him to grab the opportunity in the spring.  He was a little wild, but they found their boy and stuck him in the rotation and now they have a ROY candidate (the last Tiger to win was Lou Whitaker in 1978).

Now, I don’t expect Sowers to jump in and pitch as well as Verlander has, but I’m a big believer in giving your top prospects opportunities to excel.  The Tigers have done that with Verlander and again, while I generally like Indians management, they have not given Sowers the same space to step up.

Dan Szymborski Posted: June 20, 2006 at 11:00 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: June 21, 2006 at 12:25 AM (#2070126)
As awesome as Sowers has been at every stop along the way, I'm more than a little concerned about his strikeout rate. (50 K in 92.1 IP coming into this evening's start, presumably his last in the minors.)

Obviously, his HR rate is insanely great - 1 HR allowed all season - but he allows a whole lot more balls in play than I'd like to see from a top prospect. Still, he can't help but be an improvement on Johnson.

I'm also excited to see what Joe Inglett can do with a big-league job...he might just be as good a ballplayer as Ronnie Belliard right now. This may be his audition for next year's starting second base position.
   2. Matthew Rich Posted: June 21, 2006 at 12:33 AM (#2070142)
I'm keeping my expectations re: Sowers low as well, Dan, although I have to say I've been very, very impressed with Carmona and he didn't strike anybody out in AAA either. Much as it hurts to say it though, this move is not about this year. I won't even begin to speculate on what next year's rotation will look like though -- IMO, there's not a single guy in it who's guaranteed to be pitching here next season, and that includes CC.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: June 21, 2006 at 10:24 AM (#2070548)
I don't know that you can ever say it's a BAD idea to keep a kid pitcher in the minors another couple months. And the Indians also kept his arb clock from starting which they'll appreciate when he's not a super 2 following 2008.

Just curious, if Verlander hadn't been ready, what options did the Tigers have? Something better than Johnson?
   4. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 12:19 PM (#2070559)

Just curious, if Verlander hadn't been ready, what options did the Tigers have? Something better than Johnson?

IIRC, Wil Ledezma was Plan B, followed by Grilli and Colon.
   5. Matt in Toledo Posted: June 21, 2006 at 12:53 PM (#2070565)
Ledezma, Grilli and Colon were supposedly the other candidates (and to a lesser extent, Zumaya and Tata) but I think Colon was the front runner. Ledezma would have been the fourth lefty in the rotation behind the gambler, Maroth and Robertson and I think that worked against him. Nobody writing about the Tigers in the spring gave him much of a chance to make the rotation.
   6. . . . . . . . . . . Posted: June 21, 2006 at 01:01 PM (#2070569)
It should be pointed out that if Johnsons experiences even partial regressionto his career averages in BABIP and HR/F, he's a completely reasonable 4th or 5th starter for a good team, and a 3rd starter for a bad one. He's not that much different from Chien-Ming Wang.

I hope the Yankees pick him up.
   7. Cheer and boo and raise a hullabaloo Posted: July 05, 2006 at 02:27 AM (#2087678)
If you see this, Dan, do you know how ZiPS projects Sowers now, incorporating this season's minor league stats?

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