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May 8, 1998

Transaction Analysis

May 5-7

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled C Damian Miller from Tucson; optioned LHP Ricky Pickett to Tucson. [5/6]

An interesting development. To add a third catcher (who isn't decisively better than Fabregas or Stinnett), they dump their lone lefty reliever after barely using him. It might mean that they'll be trading for a new fifth starter after Daal's inauspicious debut in the rotation, so that he can return to the pen. Regardless, the key feature here is that they're vaccilating at catcher, which means they're casting around for unproductive ways to feel they're doing something about being bad.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed SS Ozzie Guillen; designated INF Ray Holbert for assignment. [5/6]

To rephrase the Ozzeroo, he's worse than 90% of the people who play shortstop in professional baseball. Ray Holbert is part of that 90%. Although you can take the "make your manager comfortable by adding a veteran" argument to a point, adding Guillen is well beyond a credible alternative. He isn't a useful everyday player, and with Weiss batting leadoff, the tactical benefit of the double-switch involving Guillen is tenuous. He has no defensive value, he's one of the worst bunters you'll see among people who feel obligated to try, and he's all kojones on the basepaths. Those are his strong points, since his bat isn't worth mentioning. To call Ozzie a fraud is, at this point, an insult to frauds.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Rich Garces from the DL; optioned RHP Robinson Checo to Pawtucket. [5/7]

This move comes in conjunction with the announcement that Butch Henry is done for the season, and the product is that the Sox have decided to move Johnny Wasdin into the rotation. As a solution within this season and within the organization, its the best choice if the Sox are serious about their post-season chances. Wasdin can pitch, and probably has Bob Cluck out of his system by now, and Garces can just as easily produce good innings as a middle reliever as Wasdin has been able to. The only thing they need to get their best pitching staff together now is to send the Eck off to his date with Cooperstown.

CHICAGO CUBS

Traded LHP Ben VanRyn to San Diego for RHP Don Wengert. [5/5]

You have three good left-handed relievers. One of them makes the league minimum (VanRyn), one of them has just come off of an injury but has been solid for years (Patterson), and one of them can be a useful fifth starter (Mulholland). What do you do? If you're the Cubs, you ignore the opportunity to trade one of the veterans for something you can use (a major league catcher, for instance, or even one from the Diamondbacks), or you can trade VanRyn for the new Tanyon Sturtze. In another week or so, they'll still have no centerfielder on the roster, and they'll be optioning Wengert to make room for Lance Johnson once he heals, and Wengert won't really help Iowa too much. Pissing away assets isn't something the Cubs can afford to do, but they are getting good at it.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Acquired RHP Mike Zolecki from Colorado Rockies for RHP Brian Woods. [5/5]

CINCINNATI REDS

Designated RHP Todd Williams for assignment; activated 1B Sean Casey from the DL. [5/5]

Activated OF Melvin Nieves from the DL; placed RHP Marc Kroon on the 15-day DL (tendinitis); optioned RHP Todd Williams to Indianapolis, rather than designate him for assignment. [5/7]

Casey takes over at first, making Jack McKeon's "Perez is my first baseman" stance last only slightly longer than you can say, "Chris Pittaro." Nieves will basically be restricted to pinch-hitting, and since the team already has a stack of good alternatives in front of him, even for that, he'll be riding pine plenty. Losing Kroon won't hurt, if he's even injured (tendinitis in his non-throwing shoulder? C'mon, make up a better one than that... ). However, this does leave the Reds in the bizarre situation of carrying 10 pitchers, just like teams used to do. I'm usually an advocate of carrying fewer pitchers than teams usually do, but with David Weathers in the rotation, I think we can safely expect a callup in the next few days.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed LHP Alvin Morman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/4 (groin strain); placed DH Geronimo Berroa on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/3 (torn plantar fascia - right foot); recalled RHP Jason Rakers from Akron (AA). [5/5]

Signed RF Mark Whiten for the season. [5/6]

Morman shouldn't be gone too long, which is good since he was just beginning to pitch well. Rakers will mop up for the time being, until somebody else heals (Doc Gooden, Morman, or eventually Paul Shuey). Whiten inherits Berroa's role as Brian Giles' platoon mate, which he's well-suited for, not to mention that he can actually play the outfield, unlike the Chief.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Acquired RHP Brian Woods from the White Sox for RHP Mike Zolecki. [5/5]

Activated RHP Kevin Ritz from the DL; placed RHP Mark Thompson on the DL. [5/7]

I suppose if I was a Rockies fan, I could breathe a sigh of relief that Thompson won't be doing his Dave Telgheder impressions for awhile, but it isn't clear that Ritz is healthy yet. He threw poorly during his rehab, to the point that some folks may not even notice the difference between the two.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Optioned RHP Manuel Barrios to Charlotte. [5/6]

Purchased the contract of LHP Chris Hammond from Charlotte; transferred RHP Eric Ludwick from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/7]

Hammond immediately entered the rotation, and despite getting smacked around in Charlotte (4.82 ERA), he did well enough last night against the Dodgers. For a fifth starter while they rebuild, they could do worse.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Optioned LHP John Halama to New Orleans. [5/6]

The other shoe for this move will drop on Saturday, when its expected that Pete Schourek will be activated to start. This is sort of unfortunate, in that Halama was just starting to get his bearings and pitch well, but with Sean Bergman battling arm woes and being Sean Bergman, Halama may return within the month.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated 1B/LF Jeff Conine from the DL; optioned RHP Danny Rios to Omaha. [5/5]

Placed RHP Hipolito Pichardo on the 15-day DL (cracked callus on thumb); recalled LHP Jamie Walker from Omaha. [5/6]

Conine's return means that at least they won't be asking Hal Morris to stumble around the outfield anymore, although it kills off Ernie Young's playing time (not a major problem). Pichardo's injury may have killed off his return to the rotation once and for all, sort of like their flirtation with a four-man rotation that died at the first sign of trouble. Saying that Herk Robinson is farting around might be giving him too much credit. Walker wasn't pitching particularly well as a starter in Omaha (50 baserunners in 32 innings), but he's expected to pitch in relief for the Royals. In Pichardo's absence, they've announced that Jose Rosado will return to the rotation; my two cents is that his five weeks in the bullpen isn't enough to undo his exposure to Bob Boone, and that they should have gone with Jim Pittsley.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed RHP Jose Mercedes on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff); recalled LHP Brad Woodall from Louisville. [5/5]

Acquired RHP Dane Johnson from Toronto for future considerations, and assigned him to Louisville. [5/7]

Mercedes basically hurt himself by the 7th inning of his start on April 29th, thought he could tough it out, got shellacked even worse, and decided he might finally mention it to somebody. I won't take Garner to task for this being an example of rough usage: Mercedes generally racks up low pitch counts, and hasn't been asked to regularly work on short rest or anything. Woodall should be joining the bullpen, while Steve Woodard will take Mercedes' rotation slot. If anything, its an improvement for the Brewers. Acquiring Johnson gives Louisville a closer in the wake of Greg Mullins' troubles there.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Activated C Bob Henley from the DL, and optioned him to Ottawa. [5/5]

NEW YORK METS

Placed C Tim Spehr on the 15-day DL (broken wrist); recalled C Todd Pratt from Norfolk. [5/5]

Placed UT Craig Paquette on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); recalled OF Preston Wilson from Norfolk. [5/7]

Overall, a good set of moves, with Pratt's addition being a major upgrade. It took a collision at home to finally get the Mets away from their unfortunate fascination with Spehr, and since they're already carrying Alberto Castillo, they need Pratt's offense. Wilson will only be up for a four-day trip, as its expected that he'll go back to Norfolk when Bernard Gilkey gets activated on Monday or so. As always, he's still no prospect, although its nice that he had a good debut (3 hits) with his old man coaching first.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Optioned RHP Garrett Stephenson to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/5]

Here's organizational politics for you: to take Stephenson's spot for one start (ie, until Mark Portugal gets activated next week), the Phillies had to call somebody up. Calvin Maduro's been rocked, and Randy Wolf only just got to Scranton. Given the choice between Ryan Nye and Carlton Loewer, the Phillies have decided to give the start to Nye. Loewer, represented and inspired by Scott Boras (probably not so coincidentally the agent for J.D. Drew), protested loudly. Loewer has a semi-legitimate beef: he's definitely outpitched Nye. However, it is only one start, and Boras' decision to blow this into another confrontation with the organization doesn't seem to best represent Loewer's interests if its merely a ploy to make any accommodation with Drew impossible. If so, its certainly unfortunate for Loewer.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Recalled RF Manny Martinez from Nashville; placed OF/1B Mark Smith on the 15-day DL (muscle strain). [5/5]

Martinez is up basically to eat a roster spot. None of the regular outfielders will sit for him, Turner Ward is the first outfielder off the bench, and at Nashville, everyone else was important or needs to play everyday. They might have called up Adrian Brown, but that's splitting hairs. Smith, of course, has been playing hurt for most of the season, and finally accepted that he wasn't doing the team any good sticking around.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed 3B Ken Caminiti on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/2 (muscle strain); transferred LHP Ed Vosberg from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of 1B Eddie Williams from the Las Vegas. [5/5]

Traded RHP Don Wengert to the Cubs for LHP Ben VanRyn. [5/5]

Acquired RHP Scott Sanders and an undisclosed amount of cash from Detroit for a PTBNL; assigned Sanders to Las Vegas. [5/6]

All season, the Padres have been concerned with getting a LH reliever. Imagine their good fortune that somebody not only had one to spare, but only wanted a raggedy mopup man in return. This ought to be one of the best deals of the season. Purchasing Sanders is another one: at little cost to themselves, they get a pitcher they've seen succeed, who apparently doesn't have anything wrong with him, and who may just need time away from the DH league to straighten himself out. And lastly? Well, okay, its hard to get as enthusiastic about another spin with Eddie Williams, the greatest Las Vegas Star, but he'll be a fine platoon mate for Wally Joyner, which in turn permits Bochy to shift Cianfrocco to third, splitting up the playing time in Caminiti's absence among him, Ed Giovanola, and Andy Sheets. That isn't a bad group to mix and match from for a couple of weeks, and if Caminiti is out longer than that, they can resort to calling up George Arias, so again, there isn't really a downside. Not a bad week at the office, Mr. Towers.

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated RHP Xavier Hernandez from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Al Levine to Oklahoma. [5/5]

Placed OF Roberto Kelly on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/26 (hamstring pull); recalled RHP Al Levine from Oklahoma. [5/7]

Speculation that Kelly's placement on the DL is just to paper over a temporary bullpen shortage is wrong: Kelly is hurt, otherwise you'd just send Mike Simms away for a few days.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Activated INF Craig Grebeck from the DL; optioned LHP Steve Sinclair to Syracuse. [5/5]

Activated RHP Kelvim Escobar from the DL; optioned RHP Carlos Almanzar to Syracuse. [5/6]

Traded RHP Dane Johnson to Milwaukee for future considerations. [5/7]

The Jays go back to carrying three second basemen with Grebeck's return; of course, why they brought Fernandez in (or Pat Kelly) is an open question, since he's doing nothing well, especially in the field, where he's been misplaying the deuce. The Jays need all the offense they can get, but they're spending roster space and time on a strange constellation of players, with too many DHs and secondbasemen, not enough outfielders, and nobody to spot for a decaying Ed Sprague at third. If the Jays want to push Boston and New York, they'll have to straighten this nonsense out first.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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