With John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Junichi Tazawa, Dan Wheeler, and Bobby Jenks all on the disabled list, it was only a matter of time before the front office decided to make a few moves to add some depth to the pitching staff.
Kevin Millwood Signs Minor League Deal
According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the Red Sox and veteran starting pitcher Kevin Millwood have agreed to terms on a minor league deal.
As most of us remember, Millwood spent much of the offseason searching for a one year $5M contract. Shockingly, after producing a 4-16 record with a 5.10 ERA for the Orioles during his age-35 season, no team was willing to offer him anything more than a minor league deal. Imagine that! With scant few options, on March 25th, he finally ended his holdout and agreed to a minor league contract with the Yankees that allowed him to opt out if he wasn’t with the club by May 1st. After pitching poorly in his three starts between AA Trenton and AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Millwood had little shot of being promoted. Promptly, he opted out of his deal on May 1st.
Millwood’s signing should be viewed as nothing more than a depth/fall back option should the Red Sox have another starter go down with injury. In recent years, Millwood has exhibited falling strikeout rates, rising walk rates, and greater fly ball tendencies. In other words, his performance has regressed to the point where he may not be even a replacement level quality pitcher anymore. To add further insult to injury, he did little to change anyone’s expectations during his limited time working his way back through the Yankee system. At this point in his career, he’s nothing more than an emergency spot starter who probably falls lower than Felix Doubront on the current depth chart.
Red Sox Trade for Morales; DFA Okajima
According to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, the Red Sox have completed a trade that will send a player to be named later (or future cash considerations) to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for left-handed relief pitcher Franklin Morales. In an effort to clear up a spot on the 40-man roster for Morales, the Red Sox designated struggling lefty Hideki Okajima for assignment.
Morales joins the Red Sox as a 25 year old pitcher with loads of potential, and tons of control issues. Originally tapped as a potential closer or top tier set-up man, Morales’s inability to consistently throw strikes has lowered him on the depth chart to either a low leverage middle reliever or mop up guy for most serious contenders. That’s unlikely to change with the Red Sox—at least for the time being. Considering his age and stuff, there’s always going to be hope he can harness his potential and become an effective pitcher. Unfortunately his four-plus year track record does little to quell any concerns about his future.
One thing that I haven’t heard discussed much is the possibility of Morales moving into the rotation. He came up through the Rockies system as a starting pitcher, and made two starts for them during their 2007 postseason run. With Lackey and Dice-K on the DL, we can’t rule this out as a possibility. Still, considering his control issues, it seems rather remote.
As for Okajima, I’m not sure where either he or the Red Sox go from here in terms of their partnership. At the very least, the Red Sox have ten days to decide whether they want to trade him, release him, or put him on waivers. My guess is they cut him loose for good this time. While he was very effective early in his Red Sox career, he’s become increasingly inconsistent and less effective overall. To make matters worse, his performance against lefties has deteriorated to the point where he probably would not be effective even as a LOOGY.
If Okajima has pitched his last game for the Red Sox, he can leave Boston knowing he’s had a productive career. His career marks currently stand at 17-8 with a 3.11 ERA (3.86 FIP), a 215/86 K/BB ratio, 3.4 fWAR, and a World Series ring.
UPDATE: I apologize for omitting this initially, but the Red Sox made a few more moves last night. According to mlb.com, the Red Sox activated
SS Marco Scutaro RP Dan Wheeler from the 15-day disabled list, and called up IF Drew Sutton. RP Michael Bowden and SS Jose Iglesias have been optioned to AAA Pawtucket.