Roster-setting day makes minor moves the theme

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Friday was the last day for teams to add prospects to the 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 draft. That resulted in plenty of minor moves of interest mostly to geeks like me:
*The Red Sox claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers from the Mariners.
Manuel, 26, was the return from the Reds for Wladimir Balentien this summer. He had a 1.25 ERA and a 103/18 K/BB ratio in 86 2/3 innings while spending most of 2008 in Double-A and a 2.88 ERA and a 49/16 K/BB ratio in 65 2/3 innings for two Triple-A teams last season. Still, no one takes him very seriously because he’s primarily a high-80s guy and his slider doesn’t have a whole lot of break. He deserves an extended chance, but he’ll be a long shot to make the Red Sox out of spring training.
*The White Sox added former shortstop Sergio Santos to their 40-man roster.
Working as a reliever for the first time, Santos, the Diamondbacks’ first-round pick in 2002, had an 8.16 ERA and a 30/20 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings in four minor league stops last season. He’s currently at 6.14 with a 20/10 K/BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Obviously, the White Sox see some promise here. What makes this especially interesting, though, is that, as far as I can tell, Santos is out of options, having used them all up during his time as an infield prospect.
That means he’ll have to clear waivers if the White Sox want to send him down at the end of the spring. In theory, they would have had a better chance of keeping him had they declined to protect him now, since if he went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft, he wouldn’t have had to go on waivers next spring.
*The Orioles claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Reds.
It’s hard to believe the Orioles could find room for another standard-issue No. 3 catcher on their 40-man, but not Steve Johnson, the second prospect they acquired along with Josh Bell from the Dodgers for George Sherrill. Johnson went 12-7 with a 3.41 ERA and a 154/62 K/BB ratio in 145 1/3 IP between Single-A and Double-A last season, but he’ll be available to everyone in the Rule 5 draft.
Tatum is a fine defender, but he brings absolutely nothing to the table from an offensive standpoint. He’s minor league-contract material.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.