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June 1, 1998

Transaction Analysis

May 27-31

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed C Jorge Fabregas on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); recalled RF Karim Garcia from Tucson. [5/31]

With Kelly Stinnett and Damian Miller around, the D-backs have two better catchers than Fabregas, healthy or not, so they're not in bad shape. In turn, they're taking the roster spot and making a silk purse out of a sow's ear: Garcia regrouped in Tucson (.311/.393/.670, with 10 HRs in 122 PA) after his abysmal start in Arizona, and neither Brent Brede or Yamil Benitez are doing enough to hold a regular job in RF.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed C Javy Lopez to a three-year contract extension. [5/27]

Recalled RHP Rudy Seanez from Richmond; designated RHP Brian Edmondson for assignment. [5/30]

Lopez may never get due recognition right now, while he's in the best part of his career. That's unfortunate, but it probably saved the Braves a buck or two. Dumping Edmondson isn't really the result of anything he's done or failed to do as a mopup man as much as it reflects the Braves' newfound fascination with Seanez. "Traction Action" Rudy has consistently wowed organizations with his blazing fastball, his perpetual wildness, and his ability to hurt his back before anyone untangles whether he's a diamond in the rough or zirconium. Of all the organizations to sort this out, the Braves may be the one that finally does it. He was typically gaseous at Richmond, striking out 33 in 21 IP, while uncharacteristically walking only 7.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Voided the option of RHP Nerio Rodriguez, and placed him on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/26 (tendinitis). [5/28]

Placed RHP Scott Kamieniecki on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/23 (stiff neck); purchased the contract of RHP Richie Lewis from Rochester. [5/30]

Lewis was close to being out of baseball after the Tigers, A's, and Phillies all gave up on him quickly enough in the past two years, but the ever-desperate Orioles gave him a contract to pitch in Rochester alongside other ill-starred pitchers (Doug Johns, Steve Ontiveros, and Jim Converse). He actually did something to remind everybody that he could pitch: 41 IP, 27 hits, 11 BB, and 48 K, posting a 3.73 ERA. The key here was that he returned to the rotation. He was a good (if wild) starter coming up through the Orioles' chain in the early '90s, and got snagged in the expansion draft by the Marlins. The Marlins, sensibly enough, broke him in as a middle reliever, where he was successful for a stretch. But once he struggled with his control, his ability to start was forgotten, and nobody gave him the opportunity to go back to it. The Orioles did this year, mostly because their farm system continues to be pathetically shallow. He's no one for fantasy leaguers to get excited about, but it is going to be interesting to see if he can make something of this opportunity.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated SS Nomar Garciaparra from the DL; optioned RHP Joe Hudson and SS Keith Johns to Pawtucket; recalled LHP Brian Barkley from Pawtucket. [5/28]

Obviously, Nomar's return should help the scuffling offense. The interesting question here is what Duquette plans to do with Barkley: will he remain in the pen as another lefty to go with Ron Mahay? Or will he enter the rotation for either Steve Avery or Derek Lowe? He was doing well in the PawSox rotation (2.87 ERA, 52 hits and 15 BB in 59.2 IP), but he's very young, and was knocked around in the Eastern League last year. The Sox aren't helping themselves if they keep diddling with a new solution every week, but the Duke can't help himself.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed UT Tyler Houston on the 15-day DL (hamstring); optioned 3B Kevin Orie to Iowa; recalled RHP Justin Speier and OF/1B Derrick White from Iowa. [5/27]

Recalled CF Terrell Lowery from Iowa; optioned RHP Justin Speier to Iowa. [5/29]

Kevin Orie's down, for good reason. Hitting instructor Jeff Pentland has tinkered with his swing, trying to get Orie to hit for more power, but Orie has suffered injuries to both wrists, and his bat speed is noticeably slower. Maybe he'll go back to aiming for contact at Iowa, because expectations that he could grow up to be the next Santo are bound to be disappointed, and trying to make him into Keith Moreland is simply misguided. You can call it a nice gesture that the Cubs called up Chris Speier's son to make his major league debut, except the gesture still means that the Cubs are blowing player options and talent (notably Amaury Telemaco) to goof off with the bottom one or two roster spots. Calling up Lowery is long overdue, since he finally gives the Cubs someone who can actually cover ground in center to sub for Brant Brown. His chance to work this into a platoon situation is very limited, and is heavily dependent on what happens with Lance Johnson's continued health woes. Derrick White is up essentially as a reward for his hot start at Iowa (.367/.449/.663, 12 homeruns), but its nice to see him get some time after his promising career in the Expos' chain at the beginning of the decade was derailed by injuries (his) and bad judgement (of others).

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed RHP Kevin Ritz on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/18 (shoulder weakness); purchased the contract of RHP David Wainhouse from Colorado Springs. [5/27]

Ritz' absence will not be a setback for the rotation. He's not close to being ready to pitch regularly in a major league rotation, and he has essentially gone back to rehab his bad wing. In the meantime, Bobby M. Jones will give the Rox their first lefty starter since Lance Painter's attempts in '94. A good month would make him the best LH starter in franchise history, since the options are Painter, Bruce Ruffin's 12 starts in the inaugural season, or Butch Henry's 2-8 run (also in '93).

DETROIT TIGERS

Recalled CF Kimera Bartee from Toledo; activated INF Billy Ripken from the DL; activated C Raul Casanova from the DL and optioned him to Toledo; optioned RHP Greg Keagle to Toledo; placed UT Bip Roberts on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/26 (hamstring). [5/28]

Placed LHP Roberto Duran on the 15-day DL (foot inflammation); recalled RHP Dean Crow from Toledo. [5/29]

Activated OF Trey Beamon from the DL and optioned him to Toledo; designated 2B Richard Almanzar for assignment. [5/30]

A busy bit of shuffling for los Tigres. Casanova will be better off getting his act together in Toledo while playing every day, especially since Paul Bako has turned out to be a handy caddy to Joe Oliver for the time being. Any situation that involves less of Bip Roberts is going to help them score runs. The shuffling involving the rotation is the bigger news: Keagle and Tim Worrell are out of it, while A.J. Sager and Bryce Florie are in. Keagle goes down because he has options, not because he hasn't pitched better than Sager or Frank Castillo, while the organization gets a deserved black eye for having signed Castillo (or Roberts, or Luis Gonzalez). The loyalty to Sager is a bit silly, sort of like a smaller copy of the team's fascination with Doug Brocail, but like almost everybody, he has a past connection to Randy Smith, so he takes his lickings. Dean Crow racked up 10 saves in Toledo, and may carve a niche in middle relief; he's certainly a better prospect than, say, Steve Gajkowski. Do not mistake that for saying that he'd do well if he was in Seattle, and subject to Piniella's tender mercies.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Outrighted RHP Blaine Mull to Portland (AA). [5/29]

Activated RHP Antonio Alfonseca from the DL; optioned RHP Andy Larkin to Charlotte. [5/31]

No surprises here; Larkin flubbed his first opportunity, and Ryan Dempster will get the shot at the 5th starter's slot behind Livan Hernandez, Jesus Sanchez, Brian Meadows, and Joe Fontenot.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Optioned 1B/LF Daryle Ward to New Orleans. [5/27]

Activated 1B Jeff Bagwell off the DL. [5/29]

Placed CF Richard Hidalgo on the 15-day DL (shoulder separation); recalled CF Ray Montgomery from New Orleans. [5/30]

The Astros managed to go 9-7 in Bagwell's absence. The most interesting adaptation in his absence was the decision to finally elevate Moises Alou to the cleanup slot. There's alot of good statistical analysis that can demonstrate that lineup selection (after you've identified your starting players) doesn't make much of a difference in terms of runs scored over the course of a season. Nevertheless, I have a hard time shaking the notion that batting Billy Spiers or Sean Berry cleanup with Biggio and Bagwell aboard is really all that helpful. Hidalgo's violent collision with an outfield wall has me wondering (as always) if the SportsCenter phenomenon isn't getting a bit out of hand. I'm in favor of agressiveness in the field, but is it really very helpful when it winds up leaving you battered, senseless, and hurt? Montgomery is a good offensive player who deserves a crack at major league playing time somewhere, having lost his a couple of chances to injuries, but with Everett's hot start, he won't get a big opportunity to do much more than claim a bench spot.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Recalled LHP Dan Serafini from Salt Lake. [5/27]

Activated CF Otis Nixon from the 15-day DL; optioned CF Chris Latham to Salt Lake. [5/29]

Latham wasn't given a serious trial in Nixon's absence, as the Twins decided to rough it and have Matt Lawton play alot of center. Having sent Latham away, they're back to starting Denny Hocking in the outfield. That's a good way to tell people you're not taking this season or its results very seriously, but then how else would you explain Brent Gates?

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed RHP Marc Valdes on the 15-day DL (tendinitis); activated RHP Dustin Hermanson from the DL. [5/30]

Hermanson is goint to get worked back into the rotation slowly, at the expense of either Miguel Batista or Trey Moore, each of whom should get at least one more turn to help Felipe Alou make his choice. I expect that they've already committed themselves to Javier Vazquez through thick and thin.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Recalled RHP Todd Erdos from Columbus; designated RHP Willie Banks for assignment. [5/28]

Banks did a good job of putting his career back together again in Columbus last year, but he was a complete flop as a garbageman for the Yankees in '98, coughing up 32 baserunners and 4 taters in 14.1 IP. He's probably better off just trying to build on last year in some desperate team's rotation (say, the Marlins). Erdos has turned out to be a nice snag from the D-backs (along with Marty Janzen for Andy Fox), having racked up 11 saves with a 2.72 ERA at Columbus, striking out 30 in 22.2 IP. If he only has to pitch better than Banks, he can pre-punch his postseason invite.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Optioned INF Mark Bellhorn to Edmonton; recalled SS Miguel Tejada from Huntsville (AA). [5/30]

Bellhorn's chances with A's are almost up, while Tejada's also in a similar "now-or-never" mode for the next year or two. For both men, the problem is Huntsville's left side of the infield. Eric Chavez will be the A's 3B, and Tejada has Jose Ortiz breathing down his neck. Its safe to say that Kurt Abbott's days as a regular shortstop are decisively over, so Tejada gets his chance. Bellhorn has no such luck, since the A's are satisfied with Dave Magadan and Mike Blowers at third for '97. That may not last all season if the A's find someone requiring veteran help, but in two months Chavez may be tearing through the PCL.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Outrighted LHP Greg Whiteman to Clearwater (A). [5/27]

Designated RHP Matt Whiteside for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Toby Borland from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/30]

When you're the garbageman on the staff, you have to help yourself somehow; Whiteside did not, allowing inherited runners to score while coughing up 6 homeruns in 18 innings. Borland, at least, had his best year as a Phillie recently ('96).

St. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed RHP Mike Busby on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/25 (elbow); placed SS David Howard on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/24 (shoulder sprain); recalled RHP Rich Croushore and SS Luis Ordaz from Memphis. [5/27

Predictably, Busby got hurt when tried as a starter, but that isn't really Tony LaRussa's fault (unlike Matt Morris or Alan Benes). Busby has always been fragile, and to an extent, it was only a matter of time. Given how desperate the Cards are for pitching, I can't blame TLR for trying. For the time being, they'll continue to toss Stottlemyre, Petkovsek, Mercker, and then Acevedo or Sean Lowe for the next week or so. At least Petkovsek has started to pitch effectively, giving the Red Birds two useful starters. Ordaz won't get much of an opportunity to earn a role, since he's the least talented shortstop in an organization deep in them, and TLR is probably going to try to honor his promise to David Howard to get him "Gallego time."

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Optioned 1B Eddie Williams to Las Vegas. [5/31]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed LHP Wilson Alvarez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/21 (tendinitis); activated 3B Bobby Smith from the DL. [5/28]

Voided the option of RHP Eddie Gaillard and placed him on the 15-day DL (elbow). [5/30]

Purchased the contract of RHP Rick White from Durham; optioned 3B Scott McClain to Durham. [5/31]

This is the same Rick White who scragged his arm with the Pirates in '95, and was brought in last year as a rehab job. With Alvarez out, the D-Rays are going to shuffle their fifth starter options, shuffling between White and lefties Matt Ruebel and (possibly) Scott Aldred. Smith's return made it easy to move McClain, and as mentioned before, Larry Rothschild doesn't use his bench much, so he usually doesn't get caught short-handed on his bench. Sure, we can kvetch that with two crummy catchers, he might carry a third so that he could pinch-hit for them more freely, rather than carry a 12th pitcher, but that would be besides the point: Rothschild doesn't PH much in the first place, so why expect him to?

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Claimed LHP Ben VanRyn on waivers from San Diego; designated 1B Ryan Jones of Knoxville (AA) for assignment. [5/29]

Optioned RHP Kelvim Escobar to Syracuse; activated LHP Ben VanRyn. [5/31]

Tim Johnson has been thoroughly LaRussian in his observance of bullpen management and constant pursuit of the platoon advantage, no matter what the score, so bringing in a third lefty reliever isn't really a surprise. Its a small surprise that they didn't just bring Canuck Steve Sinclair back, but VanRyn was handily available, while there's almost no chance another organization is going to want to claim Ryan Jones.

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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