We lead off the transaction analysis this week with a riddle: What happens when you hit a fellow MajorÂ League player in the head with a mid-90s fastball during Spring Training? You get demoted to the
freakinâ€™ Minors, duh.
There was little surprise on Sunday when Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Alex Cobb was optioned toÂ Minor League camp (and not because he sent Nolan Reimold to the hospital). And while the demotion
came quite early into the spring festivities, itâ€™s one that makes sense.
With the talent and depth in the Raysâ€™ pitching staff, there just arenâ€™t enough innings to go around rightÂ now. Behind James Shields and David Price are three young studs in Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and
Wade Davis (who Patrick DiCaprio bet me would have a better 2011 season than Hellickson â€“ and kids,Â thatâ€™s why you never take advice from bald guys). While Davis is the only one in the group who isnâ€™tÂ necessarily guaranteed innings this year, heâ€™s still a promising pitcher who showed improvement down
the stretch and is ready for a 200-inning season.
So where does that leave Cobb? First remember that when he was called up for a second go-around inÂ late July of last season, the Rays were rocking a six-man rotation for a little while (Cobb, Shields, Price,Â Hellickson, Davis and Jeff Niemann). So itâ€™s not totally unthinkable that at some point, they could do thatÂ again. But assuming they donâ€™t, itâ€™s probably going to take a horrendous season from Davis or an injuryÂ to one of the others before Cobb gets his chance.
Sure, there are probably 25 Major League teams who could use him in the rotation right now, and itâ€™sÂ not that he isnâ€™t ready. He proved last year that heâ€™s capable of competing against big league hitters,Â striking out 37 in 52 2/3 innings with a 3.42 ERA. So itâ€™s all just a matter of time.
Oh, and before he had season-ending surgery to repair a blood clot in his rib, he was on pace for aboutÂ 160 innings, a steady, Rays-like increase from the year before. Is he ready to toss 180 innings this year?Â Maybe not. But at some point a Rays starting pitcher will get injured and Cobb will be the first to get aÂ shot, so I can only imagine theyâ€™ll take it slow with him at Triple-A to keep his body ready when needed.Â My prediction? Eighty-five innings in the minors, 70 in the majors. In other words â€“ probably worth aÂ buck in an AL-only league draft or, better yet, a reserve pick, but heâ€™ll have some value.
There hasnâ€™t been a ton going on in the world of transactions, but the Oakland Aâ€™s officially put ScottÂ Sizemore on the 60-day disabled list last week, and while it was originally thought of as an opportunityÂ for Josh Donaldson (a catcher until two weeks ago), Eric Sogard is becoming an interesting option.Â Sogard is hitting .379 with two homers and three doubles in 29 Spring Training at-bats. Heâ€™s also walkedÂ four times to three strikeouts, stealing a pair of bases.
Meanwhile, Donaldson is hitting .290 with one double and one homer. Heâ€™s also struck out nineÂ times. Sogard has the clear advantage defensively, since Donaldson has only played third base in theÂ Dominican League prior to this. Heâ€™s a former first-round draft pick with the Cubs and has shown decentÂ power in the minors, but heâ€™s averaged just .252 over two Triple-A seasons.Â Sogard, a former second-round pick, doesnâ€™t have the power but heâ€™s averaged .298 with a .387 OBPÂ two seasons at Triple-A, and he also steals 10-15 bags a year.
The only problem is that Sogard is a lefty and Donaldson is a righty, so thereâ€™s a very real chance thisÂ could turn into a platoon situation (yuck).Â Sogard is probably the one you want either way. Itâ€™d be tough to see the Aâ€™s handing third base over to aÂ converted catcher who struggles to get on base, but weâ€™ve seen crazier things.
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