Derrick Tuskan/Icon SMI
It's not often two surefire first-ballot Hall of Famers get traded on the same day. But that's what happened Thursday, when Manny Ramirez got shipped to the Dodgers and Ken Griffey Jr. was sent to the White Sox. In Griffey's case, it was simply a bad team (the Reds) purging itself of some money. In Manny's case, it was a good team (the Red Sox) purging itself of a knucklehead. But those weren't the only purges Thursday.
The Nationals couldn't find takers for any of their overpriced, under-talented players at the deadline, so late Thursday night, they brought the executioner's ax into the clubhouse and lopped off the heads of two underachievers. Felipe Lopez and Paul Lo Duca? Don't let the door hit you in the backside on your way out.
Now, it's hard to be overly critical of these cuts, considering Lopez was hitting .231 with a .303 on-base percentage and Lo Duca was hitting .230 with a .301 OBP, and both players were due to be free agents at the end of '08. (No, the criticism comes from the Nationals having had these players in the first place.) But it's shocking to see how far the fantasy fortunes of these two guys have fallen. Three seasons ago, Lopez hit 23 homers and drove in 85 runs while stealing 15 bases, and two years ago, he stole 44. Heck, even last year, he wasn't without fantasy value -- he nabbed 24 despite hitting just .245. (This year, Lopez has four steals and has been caught stealing five times.) Two seasons ago, Lo Duca was a .318 hitter, and back in 2001, he hit .320 with 25 homers and 90 runs batted in. Now each guy is looking for work.
The Nationals decided to take this opportunity to get even younger, activating Elijah Dukes and calling up the recently acquired Alberto Gonzalez. The Washington Post also reports that recently acquired Emilio Bonifacio is expected to be recalled Friday, which will mean another roster move. With Dmitri Young out indefinitely because of complications from his diabetes, the Post asserts that Ronnie Belliard likely will take over first base most nights, while Bonifacio will play second. Dukes will replace Willie Harris as the starter in left field, although for now, Harris is expected to still get four or five starts per week moving around the outfield.
Bonifacio hit .314 in Triple-A this year, and while some scouts reportedly soured on him while he was with the Diamondbacks, Washington GM Jim Bowden thinks he is a solid major league regular, and in NL-only leagues, it might be worth the add to find out. In 175 big league at-bats this season, Dukes has hit .263 with six homers, 20 runs batted in and 10 steals, and most importantly, he hasn't inappropriately displayed his fiery temper. He, too, is worth an add for speed-needy fantasy clubs, say, for instance, those clubs that were relying on Lopez.
Omar Infante, Braves
Playing in place of the injured Chipper Jones, Infante went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs to help beat the Cardinals. Since July 23, Infante is hitting .378 with a couple of homers and seven RBIs. He has raised his average 25 points in that short period of time.
Dave Bush, Brewers
At least Bush maintained his low WHIP as he allowed just five hits and a walk over 7 1/3 innings. However, he allowed seven runs (six earned) during that time as he gave up three homers to the Cubs, including two to Jim Edmonds, one a grand slam.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Twins are considering releasing Livan Hernandez so they can bring up Francisco Liriano. For the moment, it's speculation, but apparently, it could happen soon. According to the Star-Tribune, Liriano has been pulled from his scheduled start Friday at Triple-A Rochester. Brian McCann was cleared to take batting practice after suffering a concussion in a home-plate collision earlier this week. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he could be available to pinch hit tomorrow. Doctors recommend Tommy John surgery for Tim Hudson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but Hudson is going to try to throw this weekend anyway. He figures if he needs the surgery, he'll be out for all of the '09 season anyway, so he's going to try to pitch through the pain. Khalil Greene joined the Kevin Brown Memorial Dunce Team on Wednesday night after punching a storage cabinet and fracturing his hand. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Greene is doubtful to return to the Padres this season. He was hitting .213 with 10 homers, 35 RBIs and 100 strikeouts. The Blue Jays announced Dustin McGowan underwent surgery on his frayed labrum and his rotator cuff didn't need any surgical repair. The team thinks and hopes McGowan will be ready for spring training. Chuck James will return to the Atlanta rotation Friday; it will be his first major league appearance since mid-May. An MRI on Todd Jones's ailing shoulder showed inflammation but no structural damage, according to the Detroit Free Press. Major League Baseball suspended Daniel Cabrera six games and Edwar Ramirez three games for throwing at batters in this week's games. Cabrera hit Alex Rodriguez on Tuesday, and Ramirez tried to hit Kevin Millar on Wednesday but zipped a fastball behind Millar's head.
"Usually, at least in recent years, it has been a bunch of little names and smaller pieces who have been traded in the scorching days of late July. Not this year. This year, those little names got trampled by the stampede of the glitterati -- especially on deadline day itself, when, aside from the Griffey and Manny world blockbusters, just about nothing happened."
-- Jayson Stark Full story
"In mixed fantasy leagues, unfortunately, this probably represents a decrease in Ramirez's value. He moves from Fenway Park and its short left-field porch to Dodger Stadium, which is baseball's worst home run park so far in 2008, according to ESPN.com's Park Factor. And of course, he's moving from a lineup that featured his co-masher, David Ortiz, to an inconsistent Dodgers offense of which he will be expected to be the centerpiece."
-- Christopher Harris Fantasy trade spin
• The A's activated Frank Thomas from the DL and are likely to reinstall him as their regular designated hitter. Jack Cust is likely to get into the mix for at-bats in the outfield, which could cut down on playing time for guys like Ryan Sweeney and Emil Brown. Eric Patterson already has been sent back to Triple-A.
• Two of the players Pittsburgh got for Jason Bay are expected to be in the Pirates' lineup as soon as Friday night. Andy LaRoche will be called to the big club and start at third base for the foreseeable future, and Brandon Moss will be the team's left fielder, replacing Bay. Both guys are worth looks in NL-only leagues. Meanwhile, the Pirates designated Chris Duffy for assignment.
• Trevor Crowe, the Indians' first-round pick in 2005 and an outfield prospect once considered on par with Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a homer from each side of the plate for Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday night and drove in six runs. Crowe was promoted to Buffalo just a couple of weeks ago and is hitting .324.
• The Yankees and the Nationals swapped minor leaguers, with Washington sending Jhonny Nunez to the Yanks and New York sending Alberto Gonzalez to the Nats. Gonzalez was the Yankees' only true defensive backup at shortstop, meaning they must believe in Wilson Betemit (or that Derek Jeter is indestructible), but Gonzalez is a pretty underwhelming player, while Nunez is a high-upside 22-year-old who has struck out 90 in 89 minor league innings this year. He could be a big league reliever in a few years.