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June 24, 1998

Transaction Analysis

June 19-21

by Keith Law

ATLANTA BRAVES

Optioned pitcher Mark Wohlers to Gulf Coast League Braves (Rookie League). [6/20]

Wohlers requested this demotion so he could straighten out his mechanics; although he's limited batters to a .217 average, he's walked 18 in 16 innings after walking 38 in 69.1 innings last year and 21 in 77.1 innings in 1996. Kerry Ligtenberg, Denny Martinez, and perhaps Mike Cather will share closer duties in the interim, although a trade for Mark Leiter is now grist in the rumor mill.

BOSTON RED SOX

Signed pitcher Joshua Hancock and catcher Anthony Caridi, both 1998 draft picks: signed the following non-drafted free agents: pitchers Mark Cisar, Christopher Donohoo, Robert Slomkowski and Christopher Zallie. [6/19]

CHICAGO CUBS

Purchased the contract of pitcher Dave Stevens from Iowa of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned outfielder Derrick White to Iowa; transferred outfielder Lance Johnson from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. [6/20]

Optioned pitcher Kevin Foster to Iowa of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); purchased the contract of outfielder Pedro Valdes from Iowa. [6/21]

The Cubs effectively swapped Foster out for Stevens and White out for Valdes. Valdes is at least young enough to have a future, and was running a .998 OPS repeating AAA, so this is clearly a move in the right direction. He could see playing time at the expense of Oh! Henry, who continues to show exactly why the Expos couldn't get squat for him in trade. Stevens had pitched quite well at Iowa, but more importantly, is a short reliever who once wore the tag of closer (and wore it poorly), whereas Foster is a 7th starter on this team, and not a great one.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Recalled pitcher Bob Howry from Calgary of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); released pitcher Tony Castillo. [6/21]

Bevington's left-handed lackey couldn't get anyone out this year, and aged specialists have little place on a team that's not contending. Unfortunately, Howry, acquired in the Alvarez/Hernandez dump last July, is 24 with an unimpressive resume, and isn't up for much more than mop-up work.

CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned outfielders Pat Watkins and Tony Tarasco to Indianapolis of the International League (AAA); designated pitcher David Weathers for assignment; promoted catcher James Davis from Chattanooga of the Southern League (AA) to Indianapolis. [6/19]

These moves balanced the roster after the recall of Mike Frank, Sean Casey, and Steve Parris last Thursday. Any move that brings Casey up is probably a good one, and he certainly has more to do with the future of this team than Watkins or Tarasco. Frank isn't really a great hitter, despite the .341 average in 88 AAA at bats - his OBA/SLG of .389/.386 don't exactly scream "prospect." Still, McKeon has said he'll start every day in centerfield. Weathers' replacement-level Tub of Goo II act finally wore thin, and Parris will fill the swing role quite capably, as his surgically repaired shoulder appears to have him back in his '94-'95 form ... not spectacular, but better than the gory prospect of more David Weathers.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Sold outfielder Matt Luke to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations. [6/20]

A waste of roster-shuffling, and certainly nothing to help the Dodgers' outfield woes, particularly if this sends Cedeno to the bench. As for the Indians, one wonders why the recently IPO'd club needs more cash. Perhaps they're going to reupholster the luxury box furniture with mink.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed outfielder Larry Walker on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 18th, with soreness in his right elbow; recalled outfielder Jeff Barry from Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League; moved pitcher Mark Thompson from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. [6/19]

Jeff Barry? Granted, Derrick Gibson hasn't impressed (.297/.352/.447) in Colorado Springs, and Clemente has been awful (.247/.322/.447), but what is the point of bringing up Barry? Barry is 28, hasn't appeared in the majors in 3 years, and his .288/.375/.489 isn't all that much better than Gibson's performance. It's high time the Rockies realized they're out of it for '98 and started working toward '99 and beyond. Granted, it's difficult when your AAA team is populated by guys like Barry, Nelson Liriano, and DJ Boston, but it's better to spend a lost season finding out if your "prospects" like Gibson are going to be part of your future than to spend it giving playing time to has-beens and never-wases.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Signed the following 1998 draft picks: pitchers Ryan Harber, David Noyce, Paul McCurtain, Eric Jupe, John Seaman, David Campos and Kevin Olsen; shortstops Derek Wathan, Terrence Smalls and Frank Niles; first baseman David Callahan; third baseman Heath Honeycutt, catchers Matthew Frick and Julio Rivas; and outfielders Matt Padgett, Willy Hill and Randy Rigsby. [6/19]

HOUSTON ASTROS

Recalled pitcher Scott Elarton from New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) and optioned outfielder Ray Montgomery to New Orleans. [6/19]

Elarton scuffled a bit at New Orleans this year, with an ERA of 4.01 and 41 walks in 92 innings (with 100 Ks). Still, with Holt and Garcia out for the year, there's no reason to wait around for guys like Sean Bergman to turn back into pumpkins, and Elarton's recall sooner rather than later probably won't have a huge impact on whether the Astros go to the playoffs or not.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Placed pitcher Ramon Martinez on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 14th, with cartilage tear in his right rotator cuff; recalled catcher Paul LoDuca from Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); agreed to terms with outfielder Bubba Crosby, their 1998 first-round draft pick; designated infielder Thomas Howard for assignment; [6/19]

Placed infielder Bobby Bonilla on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 17th, with an intestinal infection; recalled pitcher Will Brunson from Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [6/20]

Fired manager Bill Russell and general manager Fred Claire; named Glenn Hoffman manager and Tommy Lasorda interim general manager. [6/21]

You'd think the apocalypse was upon LA for all the distress over the loss of Ramon, and while he had been pitching better than he had in the last five years, the team was sunk with or without him. Besides, they knew about the injury last year, so why is this any surprise at all? Reyes likely returns to the rotation, although Mike Judd or Gary Rath could see time when Reyes himself blows out. Bonilla hasn't been any sort of offensive or defensive contributor, and if his absence means more PT for Konerko and Cedeno, then the loss of Bonilla could be a net gain for LA in the long term. As for the management shakeup, putting Lasorda in charge of player moves adds little benefit to the club, since he was partly responsible for building the lousy offense on the field now. Getting Russell out may help Ismael Valdes, with whom he feuded early and often. Rumors that Piazza may return now that il paesano is in the GM's chair and Russell is gone seem out of place; with Johnson entrenched behind the plate and either Karros or Konerko at first next year, where would Piazza play?

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Purchased the contract of pitcher Travis Smith from Louisville of the International League (AAA); optioned outfielder Geoff Jenkins to Louisville. [6/20]

The run of injuries in the Brewers' rotation takes an unfortunate toll on Jenkins, who had performed quite well in his stint in the majors. Management has surely taken notice, which means that Jaha is gone after the season. Bronswell Patrick will move into the rotation in the meantime, putting Smith in the pen.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Signed pitcher Peter Fisher, their 1998 fourth-round draft pick. [6/19]

Placed designated hitter Paul Molitor on the 15-day disabled list with a broken rib; purchased the contract of first baseman Scott Stahoviak from Salt Lake of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [6/21]

Tom "Piniella Lite" Kelly strikes again, choosing the decrepit, useless veteran (Stahoviak) over the player in whom the organization has real stock (Corey Koskie, slugging .532 with actual Plate Discipline (tm)). If Stahoviak scuffles, Koskie may still get the call before Molitor's return in about six weeks.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Outrighted pitcher Jason Baker to Harrisburg of the Eastern League (AA); purchased the contract of pitcher Shawn Boskie from Ottawa of the International League (AAA). [6/19]

Yes, Boskie pitched well against Atlanta. Don't expect it to last, as he wasn't nearly as solid in AAA this year. If he actually stays hot, they'd be wise to trade him to a contender for anything resembling a prospect, congratulating themselves on a successful investment in a penny-stock pitcher.

NEW YORK METS

Signed outfielder Ruben Sierra to a minor-league contract. [6/20]

Solid insurance in case Huskey needs knee surgery before the season's out. [howls of derisive laughter]

NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated shortstop Derek Jeter from the disabled list; optioned outfielder Shane Spencer to Columbus of the International League (AAA). [6/19]

...mercifully sending Luis Sojo back to the bench.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated infielder Archi Cianfrocco from the disabled list; optioned outfielder James Mouton to Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [6/19]

Acquired catcher Jim Leyritz and minor-league outfielder Ethan Faggett from the Boston Red Sox for pitchers Carlos Reyes and Dario Veras and catcher Mandy Romero; recalled pitcher Will Cunnane from Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [6/21]

Leyritz should be thrilled, going from reserve status in Boston to reserve status in San Diego. I'd guess he'll go about three weeks before requesting another trade. Boston did well to get anything for Leyritz, since the entire free world knew he wanted out, but the fact is that the Pads didn't give up much beyond one useful short reliever (Veras). Cunnane's control seemed, well, under control in his brief stay at Las Vegas, so there's reason to hope he'll be more helpful this time around.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled pitcher Russ Ortiz and infielder Ramon Martinez from Fresno of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); sent infielder Jeff Ball and outfielder Jacob Cruz to Fresno. [6/20]

More roster shuffling without purpose. They won't sit Snow, regardless of how poorly he plays, so Cruz has to rot in AAA waiting for Javier or Hamilton to drop from some injury or other. The irony of having Orel Hersheiser and Ramon Martinez on the Giants' active roster is rich.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed outfielder Ron Gant on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring; purchased the contract of outfielder Shawn Gilbert from Memphis of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); signed outfielder Tim Lemon, their 1998 second-round draft pick, and assigned him to Johnson City of the Appalachian League (Rookie). [6/21]

This is the same hamstring that has bothered Gant on and off since 1995 - before he signed the gaudy 5-year deal with the Cards - and while I'd like to say it serves them right for ignoring it, the fact is that they're not much worse off without Gant (.213/.304/.463). John Mabry (.273/.344/.407) and Gary Gaetti (.261/.350/.438) are expected to see more playing as a result of the injury. Gilbert was acquired in the blockbuster Wayne Kirby trade, and will fill the unhappy role of backup to backup David Howard.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated catcher John Flaherty from the 15-day disabled list; optioned catcher Tim Spehr to Durham of the International League. [6/20]

TEXAS RANGERS

Purchased the contract of pitcher Todd Van Poppel from Oklahoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); assigned catcher Rick Wrona outright to Oklahoma. [6/20]

After all the hemming and hawing about whether to call TVP up, and all the claims about how he'd turned himself around, he got the tar kicked out of him in his first outing - something Bobby Witt could have provided with much less fanfare. I doubt he'll pitch that poorly going forward, but it should be evident that he's not the savior for the Rangers' beleaguered staff. If he can be a dependable 6-inning guy at the back of the rotation, that should be enough to make everyone happy.

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