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June 19, 1998

Transaction Analysis

June 12-18

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Ken Hill on the 15-day DL (elbow - bone spurs); purchased the contract of C Ben Molina from Midland (AA). [6/12]

Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Sparks from Vancouver; optioned C Ben Molina to Midland (AA); outrighted 2B Carlos Garcia to Vancouver. [6/15]

The chicanery involved was getting a backup catcher to cover for Phil Nevin during his suspension in the short span of time between Hill's placement on the DL and Sparks' callup to take his place. Molina wasn't up long enough to get cream with his cup of coffee. Sparks is the knuckleball pitcher who was probably Phil Garner's most dramatically overused starter since he slagged Cal Eldred: in '95, he frequently started on short rest, even pitching on two days' rest once. This, along with Leyland's overuse of Wakefield in '93, should serve as a reminder that knuckleball pitchers are not injury-free automatons. If he's left alone, Sparks is quite capable of posting adequate numbers for a fifth starter. Even so, with Hill out for at least a month and a half, don't be surprised if the Angels trade for a starter. Omar Olivares will not continue to put up an ERA under 3.00, and while I expect Jarrod Washburn to be a major league pitcher, I don't expect him to keep his ERA under 3.00 either. Their bouts with going back towards their career norms is going to reinforce the impression that they'll need a starter, which an Allen Watson return from the DL will do nothing to change. The Rangers are changing their rotation for the better, which means there will be considerable pressure to go shopping for the Halos.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned RHP Bob Wolcott to Tucson; recalled RHP Bobby Chouinard from Tucson. [6/13]

A disappointing chain of events here: despite his outstanding success as a reliever this year, the D-Backs want to move Amaury Telemaco into the rotation, which is probably premature. To replace him in the pen, they're going with Chouinard, who can politely be described as a non-entity. Wolcott is a reasonably solid prospect, and gave Arizona one outstanding start (against Oakland) and one bad one (against Anaheim) before being sent down. I'd take a longer look at Wolcott and leave their best reliever in the pen, with the eventual goal of moving Telemaco back into the rotation.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Claimed CF Rich Becker off waivers from the Mets; designated OF Jesus Tavarez for assignment. [6/16]

Activated RHP Terry Mathews from the DL; optioned LHP Radhames Dykhoff to Bowie (AA). [6/17]

Not much has gone right for the O's, but getting Becker for nothing more than Pete Angelos' money is a bargain. Given that he's basically replacing Tony Tarasco on the roster, this is an upgrade that makes up for releasing Tarasco. Although Becker struggled while being used spottily by Bobby Valentine, he's still a useful fielder with a good eye at the plate. We're not talking Lenny Dykstra here, but he can be a more important part of an improved Orioles team than Hammonds, Surhoff, or Carter.

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed RHP Stan Belinda on the 15-day DL (spinal cord inflammation); activated RHP Marc Kroon from the DL. [6/12]

Optioned OF Jon Nunnally to Indianapolis; recalled OF Tony Tarasco from Indianapolis. [6/15]

Acquired LHP Rick Krivda from Cleveland for LHP Eddie Priest and OF Christian Rojas. [6/16]

Designated RHP Marc Kroon for assignment. [6/17]

Announced that Nepotista Pete Rose Jr. refused a minor-league assignment from Indianapolis to Chattanooga (AA) and was granted his unconditional release. [6/18]

The Reds are pretty disappointed in themselves, and for good reason. First, what's important: Stan Belinda's health. Because of his age, the chances are slim that it's actually MS, but initial diagnosis in this case can't rule it out pending test results, which can only frighten the hell out of everybody involved in the meantime. Here's a prayer that the percentages work out as they should, in his favor.

Although Jon Nunnally wasn't hitting for the power they were spoiled with during last season, he was still showing a good eye; it seems premature to demote him, but he has options and nobody seems willing to take Reggie Sanders just yet. Tarasco isn't a bad alternative, but it may be tough for him to thrive in the same role with sporadic playing time. What's amusing is that it reunites him with another great ex-prospect/teammate from their days in the Braves chain, Mel Nieves. What's going on with picking up Krivda? Essentially, he's competing with two men on the Reds: Gabe White, a very similar LHP, for a role as a spot starter and long reliever, or Scott Klingenbeck, for the fifth spot in the rotation. I fail to see how trading Priest (an admittedly mediocre prospect, but still a prospect) for staff filler makes much sense. This isn't meant as a slight on Krivda: he can pitch well at the major league level. He was also about to go onto waivers. Unless something is wrong with Priest (a la Curt Lyons '97?), it seems strange to give him up this easily.

Don't be surprised in the least when Randy Smith claims, signs, or swipes Kroon for the Tigers. He shouldn't be able to resist another of "his" guys...

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RHP Paul Shuey from the DL; designated OF Matt Luke for assignment. [6/15]

Traded LHP Rick Krivda to Cincinnati for LHP Eddie Priest and OF Christian Rojas. [6/16]

Signed INF Jeff Manto to a contract with Buffalo; activated SS Enrique Wilson from the 60-day DL and optioned him to Buffalo. [6/16]

The Indians continue to suffer an embarassment of riches in the bullpen, as Shuey is now back at full speed. It seems strange to add him now, since the Indians are probably over-rested because of a rash of rainouts, and because tactically it leaves them short-handed on the bench.

DETROIT TIGERS

Announced that INF Jeff Manto refused assignment to Toledo, and instead opted for free agency. [6/13]

Purchased the contract of RHP Denny Harriger from Toledo; designated RHP A.J. Sager for assignment; activated UT Bip Roberts from the DL; optioned 2B/3B Frank Catalanotto to Toledo. [6/15]

Announced RHP A.J. Sager has cleared waivers and accepted assignment to Toledo. [6/18]

Perhaps nothing is more touching than seeing an organization publicly agonize over having to get a pitcher like A.J. Sager off the roster, what with that 7.60 ERA and all. At least it made it easy for him to agree to go to Toledo, because what other organization would have its manager and general manager go through such public hosannas to bid farewell to a stiff? The neverending Bip Roberts problem claims another casualty: there is nothing that Bip Roberts does better than Frank Catalanotto, but he does cash a bigger check. Harriger will enter the rotation for the time being, behind Justin Thompson, Brian Moehler, Seth Greisinger, and Bryce Florie. Although he's been a consistently useful starter in the minors, history or player evaluation is rarely kind to short right-handed pitchers nowadays, so he's basically pitching for the chance to get a long-term job held by guys like A.J. Sager or Doug Brocail.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed LHP Mike Hampton on the 15-day DL (groin strain); purchased the contract of RHP Reggie Harris from New Orleans; transferred RHP Chris Holt from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/16]

The saga of Reggie Harris is an interesting one, given his slow movement through the Red Sox' chain, the Rule V draft and his experience with the A's, injuries, semi-retirement, a comeback, and still pitching about as well as Heathcliff Slocumb on his (Slocumb's) good days. He might be the answer to the Astros' shortage of RH relievers, but they could have elected to bring Mike Grzanich back up. Hampton's absence should spell bad news under most circumstances: it seems hard to expect Jose Lima and Sean Bergman to continue to pitch this well. But they're expected to call up Scott Elarton to start this weekend, and that may be the best thing that could happen under the circumstances. After a slow start, Elarton has been very strong at New Orleans, going 9-4 while striking out 100 in 92 innings, with 71 hits and 41 walks (4.01 ERA). With John Halama also pitching well in the Big Easy (2.89 ERA, 7-1), the Astros are in the happy situation where they have several strong alternatives that in turn will be supported by a strong offense and a manager who's turning out good results with everyone he's tried.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed Team Trophy Terry Pendleton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/11 (strained rib cage); recalled RHP Bart Evans from Omaha. [6/14]

Purchased the contract of RHP Ricky Bones from Omaha; placed LHP Jamie Walker on the 15-day DL (tendinitis). [6/16]

It just doesn't matter. There's no point to any of this. That's baseball in powder blue (and to take a cranky Andy Rooney turn: why not bring back the powder blue road unis? That's how I'll always remember the Royals, and that's the way it ought to be).

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed C Mike Matheny on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/15 (oblique muscle strain); recalled UT Brian Banks from Louisville. [6/16]

Matheny's hot start was followed by his usual performance, so its hard to find a way to say that a guy hitting .253/.300/.354 is going to be missed. Banks isn't really that much of a catcher, so the majority of the playing time will go to Bobby Hughes (.235/.316/.471). It may be just enough to let the Brewers start easing Matheny out of the starting job, but it says something about the Brewers that its taken them three years to get to this point.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed RHP Mike Maddux on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/6 (elbow); recalled RHP Mike Johnson from Ottawa. [6/12]

Optioned RHP Mike Johnson to Ottawa. [6/16]

Purchased the contract of RHP Shawn Boskie from Ottawa. [6/17]

Johnson's just lucky, I guess. He was rested and ready, again, for another emergency pasting, but its Boskie who will take the rotation spot behind Carlos Perez, Carl Pavano, Dustin Hermanson, and Javier Vazquez. That means that Miguel Batista will remain in the pen, which is probably for the best.

NEW YORK METS

Optioned RHP Brad Clontz to Norfolk; purchased the contract of OF Benny Agbayani from Norfolk. [6/16]

Clontz is of dubious value, even in the best of times, but it seems strange that the Mets retained him, cut Richie Becker, only to call up organizational soldier Agbayani to be a reserve outfielder. Its nice to see Agbayani catch a break in his third season at Norfolk, and as a fourth or fifth OF, he's an asset because of his broad range of skills: okay power, good plate judgment, adequate defense, good speed.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Optioned RHP Jay Witasick to Edmonton. [6/14]

Recalled UT Jack Voigt from Edmonton. [6/16]

Placed 2B Scott Spiezio on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/15 (torn cartilage - knee); recalled C Izzy Molina from Edmonton. [6/17]

Acquired RHP Ara Petrosian from Colorado to complete the Kurt Abbott deal. [6/18]

Well, Mark Bellhorn sacrificed some virgin toads or something, because here's his window of opportunity for a job with the A's. Of course, he needs to find a way to convince Art Howe to stop playing Raffy Bournigal now that Spiezio's gone, and that may require a new sacrifice. Molina's callup is to cover for Mike Macfarlane's bad back for a few days, until the A's find out if either Dave Magadan or Jason McDonald will be able to rejoin the team soon. I'm frustrated that they've sent down Witasick instead of moving Aaron Small or dumping Mike Fetters, but that's my gripe.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Activated LHP Yorkis Perez from the DL; optioned LHP Robert Dodd to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/17]

As has been widely reported, Dodd's demotion followed his first major league win. He's probably more likely to be a part of this team's future than Darrin Winston or Perez, but he's also less experienced and pitching for the organization that keeps Billy Brewer around, so he'll have to wait his turn for a full shot.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed RHP Jose Silva on the 60-day DL (fractured right arm); purchased the contract of RHP Mike Williams from Nashville. [6/17]

Silva's snakebit. Between the car accident and now a broken arm, he has to be extremely frustrated. He's been oustanding as the Bucs' fifth starter this season, going 6-3 with a 3.44 ERA; in his absence, Esteban Loaiza will return to the rotation, while Williams will be the #2 righty in the pen. What this really means is that both Kris Benson and Jimmy Anderson have struggled at Nashville to the point that the Pirates couldn't bring either up just yet.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled RF Jacob Cruz from Fresno; optioned CF Alex Diaz to Fresno. [6/16]

Dusty's saying that Cruz will get to play, but we'll have to see. At the worst, he may bet used as much as Diaz was, which is too much of Diaz, and not enough of Cruz. The decision to sign both Darryl Hamilton and Stan Javier looms large as a bad bit of roster management.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated OF Rich Butler from the DL; optioned LHP Matt Ruebel to Durham. [6/15]

Getting hurt was bad for Butler beyond the obvious reasons, because it opened up an opportunity for Chuck LaMar's favorite player, Mike Kelly, and also for Randy Winn, who's been very effective. It will be hard for Butler to work his way back into the outfield rotation, since Dave Martinez plays every day, and Quinton McCracken is being touted as the best player on the team.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed LHP Darren Oliver on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/11 (shoulder strain); purchased the contract of C Rick Wrona from Oklahoma. [6/13]

Recalled LHP Matt Perisho from Oklahoma; designated RHP Bobby Witt for assignment. [6/16]

Activated SS Kevin Elster from the DL; optioned INF Scott Sheldon to Oklahoma. [6/17]

After losing their lead over the Angels, its nice to see that the Rangers weren't afraid to shake things up by dumping Witt. As we anticipated, both Perisho and Todd Van Poppel will be up and in the rotation, although which one sticks is an open question that depends on whether or not Oliver comes back quickly. I expect Perisho to go back down at first, if only because he has options. In the meantime, they brought up Wrona to cover for a few off days for Pudge Rodriguez; I'd expect him to go back down to make room for Van Poppel over the weekend.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned OF Jose Cruz Jr. to Syracuse. [6/13]

Activated C Darrin Fletcher from the DL. [6/14]

Released RHP Erik Hanson. [6/16]

Purchased the contract of RHP Dave Stieb from Syracuse; placed C Kevin Brown on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/13 (back spasms). [6/18]

Do the Blue Jays know what they're doing? No, but that's because they don't really have a plan for anything in the first place. They're surprised that they don't have playing time for Cruz after bringing in both Jose Canseco and Mike Stanley. They're wondering why Ed Sprague is still just Ed Sprague. They're genuinely surprised that Tony Fernandez isn't helpful. Demoting Cruz will make almost no difference to the team on the field now, and although it may do him some good right now, if they had simply put him in the field and played him every day in the first place, they probably wouldn't have this problem now. Instead, they'll let veteran mediocrity hoard playing time on a team going nowhere, making this another wasted year of Roger Clemens' time. Even Cito could do that.

Stieb was pitching extremely well for a man who hasn't played professionally since '93. In nine starts at Syracuse, he'd tossed 66 IP and two complete games, posting a 2.73 ERA, and allowing only 44 hits and 17 walks. Is his comeback improbable? Sure. But he's a fascinating player in so many ways: his adjustment period in the mid-80s when he went from dominating to mediocre to dominating was interesting to watch, and if he can pull that trick off again, he's a marvel regardless of how effective he is.

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:  Mike Witt,  Back,  The Who,  Rotation,  Bad Start,  The Call-up

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