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June 12, 1998

Transaction Analysis

June 8-11

by Christina Kahrl

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Acquired RHP Pete Smith from San Diego for RHP Eric Estes; designated RHP Richie Lewis for assignment. [6/9]

When he's going good, Pete Smith has a lot in common with Scott Kamieniecki: adequacy. He'll enter to Orioles rotation, moving Sid Ponson back to the bullpen. That still won't be enough to really shore up this team or resolve its offensive, defensive, or bullpen problems, but Estes isn't a great prospect. Its a nice, slight improvement, which, given how shallow the Orioles farm system is, may be as good as it gets before they have to sell off the geezers and start over.

CHICAGO CUBS

Activated RHP Kevin Foster from the DL; optioned RHP Kennie Steenstra to Iowa; activated OF Robin Jennings from the DL, and optioned him to Iowa; optioned LHP Earl Byrne and INF Tim Unroe from Iowa to West Tennessee (AA). [6/9]

Foster finally enters the pen, three weeks since they've cut loose Telemaco to make room for him. Is he a more useful pitcher than Telemaco? Not particularly. The organization is congratulating itself for having "seven starting pitchers," but Foster and Mulholland aren't much better than most people's fifth starters, and Mark Clark has been smacked around for much of the season. That "strength" hasn't really translated into an effective bullpen, either.

CINCINNATI REDS

Announced that RHP Curt Lyons of Chattanooga (AA) was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to 6/10. [6/11]

Just a mention, since it's a good cautionary example of how quickly one of the game's best pitching prospects of two years ago may have to be sent to the glue factory. Lyons left the game cradling his arm in just his third start with the Lookouts, and his career may be over.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Claimed OF Matt Luke off of waivers from Los Angeles. [6/8]

Added OF Matt Luke to the 25-man roster; designated LHP Rick Krivda for assignment. [6/9]

I tend to rail on teams that keep twelve pitchers, but this might be a situation where the Indians didn't help themselves any. Luke is an infinitely replaceable journeyman who's only real notable skill note is that he bats lefty. He had a nice start with the Dodgers (.286/.313/.494) which is basically in line with his career averages in the minors (.271/.330/.457), but is that worth giving up a useful left-handed pitcher? Krivda, despite his usual wildness, put up a 3.24 ERA, and would be a fine fill-in for the rotation if Ogea and Gooden don't get straightened out, whereas Luke is, at best, another warm body to shuffle through left field until Brian Giles comes back. If Giles were out for longer, then the Tribe could resolve their LF situation internally with better options, like Jimmy Sexson or Alex Ramirez. If Ogea keeps going down or Gooden struggles, what are the Indians going to do? Turn to Jason Jacome? Or give up talent to get somebody else? Basically, the Tribe just cost themselves talent to enter a waiver claim on a replaceable player.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Acquired INF Kurt Abbott from Oakland for a PTBNL and cash; designated RHP Dave Wainhouse for assignment. [6/9]

The Rockies' level of tolerance for the struggles of both Neifi Perez and Mike Lansing is obviously been used up. Although they didn't give much up to get Abbott, he's enough of a defensive liability that putting him in for either won't merit whatever limited offensive gains they think they'll get from him. As if Rox hurlers needed this sort of "help"...

DETROIT TIGERS

Signed 1998 draft pick SS Keith Law. [6/9]

Sheesh, you'd think the Tiggers would draft some really famous stathead as long as they were picking one, but Keith's young, and has outstanding tools: projectable sarcasm, fundamentally sound diction, and a high potential up-side.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed RHP Lee Smith to a minor-league contract and assigned him to New Orleans. [6/8]

I'm as big a fan of what Larry Dierker can do with pitchers as anyone, but in Lee Smith, we're talking about somebody not even Felipe Alou could turn around (in '97). The Astros are reasonably concerned about the right-handed relief situation, but I'd take a long look at Mike Grzanich or break Scott Elarton in as a middle reliever before I'd go fiddling around with shufflin' Lee Arthur Smith.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed LHP Chris Haney on the 15-day DL (hamstring); recalled LHP Jamie Walker from Omaha. [6/8]

Haney has been a disaster as he tries to pitch himself back into shape (7.45 ERA, 67 hits and 10 HRs in 48.1 IP), so having him out of the rotation isn't bad news. Although the Royals initially anticipated returning Hipolito Pichardo to the rotation, he's gotten his teasing bout of effectiveness out of the way already, and has gone back to getting hammered. That probably means that Walker will step into the rotation; at Omaha, he's put a 2.70 ERA, but allowed 57 hits in 46.2 IP, while walking 11 and striking out 21. In other words, he isn't a good bet to hold onto the slot.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated 1B John Jaha from the DL; outrighted UT Eric Owens to Louisville. [6/8]

Jaha's return puts the Brewers in a bit of a fix as far as how to distribute playing time between Dave Nilsson, Geoff Jenkins, and Jaha between first and left. Clearly, this is a better problem to have than choosing between Marc Newfield and Darin Jackson, but it does leave them with only one reserve infielder in Mark Loretta to back up at short, third, or second. In this situation, Jaha will not get to play every day, which means he'll probably ask for a trade and/or head elsewhere after this season as a free agent.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed LHP Trey Moore on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/7 (tendinitis). [6/10]

Activated RHP Marc Valdes off the DL. [6/11]

Overall, Moore was making progress: he was settling down as far as his control, but was still hittable. In his absence, Miguel Batista will return to the rotation as the fifth starter, with Valdes taking his spot as long reliever out of the pen.

NEW YORK METS

Traded UT Shawn Gilbert and a PTBNL to St. Louis for OF Wayne Kirby; designated CF Rich Becker for assignment. [6/10]

Either they're going to get something good for Becker, or they've made a serious mistake. Despite his .190 average, Becker was getting on base (.331) and slugging (.360) almost as well as Brian McRae. There is nothing that Wayne Kirby does better than Rich Becker, so why make this tradeoff? To put the fear of god into somebody? Who? John Olerud? Leaving yourself with Brian McRae as your only option in center simply isn't a good move.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Recalled OF Shane Spencer from Columbus; assigned RHP Scott Brow to Columbus. [6/9]

Placed CF Bernie Williams on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled OF Ricky Ledee from Columbus. [6/11]

You can thank the perils of the running game to Bernie's latest injury, and here's hoping the Yankees show a bit more sense about letting him run in the future. Williams isn't really a great basestealer or even a good percentage basestealer, and what he does at the plate and in the field is considerably more important than the occasional tactical advantage of swiping an extra base. Fortunately, the Yanks have Chad Curtis ready, as always, to fill in at center, and they'll get to broaden their selection among LF and DH beyond Strawberry and Raines to include Ledee (.291/.381/.545, 13 HRs at Columbus) and Spencer (.298/.380/.559 at Columbus). They may fall off that .760+ pace for winning percentage, but not enough for even the second-place Red Sox to notice.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Traded INF Kurt Abbott to Colorado for cash and a PTBNL; recalled INF Mark Bellhorn from Edmonton. [6/9]

As Gary points out in today's Prospect Focus, Bellhorn has about six weeks to make a lasting impression, or he won't get to in green and gold. Obviously, Tejada is now the everyday shortstop, which gives the A's four rookie regulars (Tejada, Grieve, Christenson, and Hinch), with Eric Chavez in the pipe, and Ramon Hernandez in case they tire of Hinch. Spiezio and McDonald broke in last year. That's progress, folks.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Recalled RHP Carlton Loewer from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned RHP Mike Grace to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/9]

An ex-first round pick, Loewer can finally shelve his griping for a callup. He's finally earned the shot: at Scranton, he put up a 2.87 ERA, allowing 89 hits in 94 innings with only 22 walks and 69 strikeouts. He was 7-3, and allowed only 5 balls to leave the yard. He'll immediately step into the rotation in Grace's spot. Expectations are high, but excessive. It's reasonable to expect him to be better than Tyler Green. This is another way of saying he can be the second-best starter in their rotation, not that that's a tremendous accomplishment when the competition is Mark Portugal, Green, and Matt Beech. Expectations were also high for Grace, who finally had consecutive healthy months, only to pitch badly (5.65 ERA, with baserunners a'plenty).

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Traded OF Wayne Kirby to the Mets for UT Shawn Gilbert and a PTBNL. [6/9]

Activated UT David Howard from the DL; optioned SS Luis Ordaz to Memphis. [6/9]

I guess it's interesting to wonder who the PTBNL will be, but the deal doesn't do much for the Cardinals or Memphis. David Howard's return may put Tony LaRussa at ease in his bench usage.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Traded RHP Pete Smith to Baltimore for RHP Eric Estes. [6/9]

Signed OF Mike Devereaux to a minor league contract; purchased the contract of LHP Roberto Ramirez from Las Vegas. [6/9]

Ramirez is the semi-mysterious Mexican League veteran that the Pads spent months agonizing about whether to sign or not. Working in Las Vegas' pen, he only logged twelve innings, but managed 16 strikeouts; he was the ace of the Mexico City Reds team that lost to Monterrey in the '96 championships. Trading Smith was probably premature: do the Pads really want to count on the rubber bands and duct tape holding Mark Langston's left arm on? He'd given them about what you could expect in ten games: a 4.78 ERA, some useful starts. Unless they're intending to work Ramirez into the rotation or to bring up Matt Clement this season, they're going to have to worry about pitching as long as Joey Hamilton continues to struggle.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed 2B Jeff Kent on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); purchased the contract of 1B Jeff Ball from Fresno. [6/10]

Well, this should make for interesting argument about the effect of "replacement level" players. Rey Sanchez' entire career has been devoted to replacing better offensive middle infielders, and now he'll have to take on Kent's playing time. He's no asset as a regular, which is why the Giants are making noises about moving Bill Mueller to second to get Charlie Hayes into the lineup. That's probably an even worse idea than having to play Rey Sanchez, since Hayes isn't a very good regular, and because Mueller would be at risk playing second. Given how critical his hitting in the top of the order has been to the Giants, they can scarcely afford to lose another important offensive player to a takeout slide. In the meantime, Jeff Ball will probably get some spot duty at first against lefties.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated RF Jay Buhner from the DL; optioned 1B/OF Dave McCarty to Tacoma. [6/11]

Buhner pushed his rehab more quickly than anyone expected, and he's been rather frank that he won't be able to go all out in the outfield. Watching the Rangers and Angels pull further ahead while barely fighting off Oakland for the cellar, the Mariners are desperately trying to build Rome in a day, and it isn't going to make things much better.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Designated RHP Erik Hanson for assignment; recalled RHP Luis Andujar from Syracuse. [6/10]

Announced that LHP Ben VanRyn cleared waivers, and outrighted him to Syracuse; outrighted C Dave Morgan to Dunedin (A). [6/11]

Well, it isn't really a surprise that Hanson's been cut loose, and given his salary, he's probably going to wind up on waivers. Carpenter will remain the fifth starter, and Robert Person inherits Carpenter's long relief role. Andujar has been enjoying success as the closer at Syracuse (29 baserunners in 34 IP), and he's going to get the opportunity to become Randy Myers' top setup man. He's throwing with better velocity than he did in '95-'96, when he drew attention as a Sox prospect, and his elbow woes may not come to the fore now that he's a reliever. Overall, this means the Jays are coming to terms with certain realities: Paul Quantrill isn't a great guy to bring in with men on base, and Bill Risley has problems pitching on consecutive days. Since both Almanzar and Escobar have flopped in their trials this season, bringing in Andujar seems like a good idea.

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

Related Content:  A's,  Luke Scott,  Mark Grace,  The Who,  Rotation,  Luke Jackson

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