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July 7, 1998

Transaction Analysis

July 1-6

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned RHP Jeff Suppan to Tucson. [7/3]

Recalled 2B Danny Klassen from Tucson. [7/4]

The lot of fifth starters in general is to get shipped off when roster pressures mount, and Suppan is no exception. Omar Daal may be ready to come off the DL by the end of the break, and the D-backs won't need a fifth starter until the beginning of next week regardless. That gives them ample time to let Klassen stake his claim to the D-backs' job at second, which reduces Andy Fox and Tony Batista to utilitymen (good things), and Andy Stankiewicz cashing paychecks in exchange for lots of free time (even better). Klassen was one of the D-backs' best grabs in the Expansion Draft, and he'll probably be starting for them long after the Brewers wonder what they ever saw in Fernando Vina.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed RHP Rich Garces on the 15-day DL (elbow); recalled RHP Dario Veras from Pawtucket. [7/1]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jin Ho Cho from Trenton (AA); optioned RHP John Wasdin to Pawtucket. [7/4]

With Martinez, Saberhagen, and Wakefield keeping the front half of the rotation steady, Dan Duquette can afford to experiment with the bottom of the rotation. Need to get Steve Avery on track? Diddle around. Brian Rose isn't ready? Diddle around. Butch Henry's hurt again? Didd... never mind. Because the Sox have a wealth of good alternatives, they can keep futzing around until something special comes around, and that special something may be Cho. If you haven't seen him pitch (even before Saturday's nationally televised game), do so. It may seem innocuous that something as simple as a heavily segmented or sequential delivery can foul up hitters so thoroughly, and it probably won't work as well his second time around the league, but he could mount a fun run over the next couple of weeks. A simplistic observation would be that he's Nomo without the acrobatic corkscrewing or pogo-hopping routines in his delivery.

CHICAGO CUBS

Claimed DH Glenallen Hill on waivers from Seattle; designated CF Terrell Lowery for assignment. [7/6]

Well, there it is: a contending major league team without a centerfielder on its 40-man roster. It isn't just that Hill is besides the point on a team that has Mieske: Riggleman may have more faith in Hill than Mieske, and thus might actually use him as a platoon mate for Hank Rodriguez. It's that Hill is an awful defender and a crummy bench option on a team that needs people on base and fewer outfield miscommunications than happen when you're playing infielders in center and DHs in left. Terrell Lowery and Matt Mieske are better players and potentially more important players, while Glenallen Hill is merely a step up from a team that sees nothing wrong with using Manny Alexander as a DH during interleague play.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Placed RHP Matt Karchner on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/24 (muscle strain); purchased the contract of LHP Bryan Ward from Birmingham (AA). [7/2]

As you can see from the back-dating, Karchner's absence has already been a fact of life for almost two weeks. His injury problems will always follow him around. This isn't a situation like Danny Cox or Duane Ward, where if he's healthy he can be outstanding. Karchner will almost never be healthy, sort of like a latter-day Bob James. In terms of relative importance, he's much less important to the Sox' fortunes than Billy Simas or Keith Foulke. Ward is your prototypical starter-to-reliever success story: a struggling starter in the Marlins' chain with reasonable velocity for a lefty and good control, he could wind up being an asset for the Sox. He also sports two of the biggest sideburns since Ambrose Burnside.

CINCINNATI REDS

Announced that RHP Scott Klingenbeck cleared waivers and designated him for assignment; Klingenbeck subsequently refused assignment, making him a free agent. [7/2]

Traded UT Lenny Harris to the Mets for RHP John Hudek. [7/3]

Acquired LF/1B Paul Konerko and LHP Dennis Reyes from Los Angeles for RHP Jeff Shaw; optioned Reyes to Indianapolis. [7/4]

Okay, superficially, the Shaw trade is a major coup, but it comes with several repercussions.

First off, the players acquired aren't without risk: Konerko may be positionless, and it may be tough for them to sort out who gets kept between Dmitri Young, Sean Casey, and Konerko. If you wanted a dandy softball team, you play all three (Casey at first, Young in the outfield, and Konerko at third), which would be entertaining, if nothing else. Also keep in mind that expectations for Konerko's offensive potential are extremely high, and possibly unrealistic. Reyes is one of the biggest injury risks in the game today. Even so, one potential superstar hitter and one potential rotation regular make a fine swap for a journeyman-to-closer with a less-than-market price tag.

But that brings me to the second problem with this deal: if Jim Bowden thinks he can trade off hometown charm in Cincinnati to wangle low-ball deals from local players, why endanger that gambit by turning it into a sales feature when you decide to trade that player off? If you're Brett Tomko, do you take a multi-year deal from the Reds now at below-market value just to avoid arbitration, only to get rewarded for that by getting traded to somewhere you didn't want to sign with? Bowden's love of the deal may well blow up in his face, because the Reds may have priced themselves out of the "Cleveland" gambit of signing players with limited negotiating potential to multi-year deals because the Reds subsequently fail to keep their part of the bargain. The risk would then be that you become Montreal or Minnesota, where you don't get value for potential free agent stars, and wind up with other people's third-tier prospects. That isn't a future you want to cultivate.

In Shaw's absence, the closer's job will basically belong to Danny Graves, with Hudek getting a chance to blow a couple, and Skippy Belinda entering the mix once he returns from the DL. The change of closers should mean almost nothing to the Reds in terms of wins or losses as a team... Is it just me, or does Klingenbeck have serious chutzpah? He's irritated nearly every organization he's pitched for, which helps to explain his frequent moves above and beyond the fact that he's lousy.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed UT Rex Hudler to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Buffalo. [7/2]

Unconditionally released C Ron Karkovice from Buffalo. [7/6]

Man, and here I was thinking the Wonder Dog ought to get his freebie ride to the postseason, a la Ozzie Guillen. Call it a career achievement award sort of thing. Anybody want to give Jim Rice a contract, so he can get one last crack at a ring? Robin Yount's supposed to be very good in a clubhouse, and he's probably as useful as Hudler is nowadays...

COLORADO ROCKIES

Sent RHP Mike Saipe and INF Jason Bates to Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of RHP David Wainhouse; released INF Brian Richardson. [7/2]

Activated RF Larry Walker from the DL. [7/3]

Another fifth-starter dodge entering the All-Star break. Of course, choosing between Saipe and the wrong Bobby Jones isn't an easy call to make. Walker's return means no more Barry vs. Goodwin sweepstakes, which in turn brings back the grisly outfield constellation that has Burks in center.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Traded RHP Jay Powell and C Scott Makarewicz to Houston for C Ramon Castro. [7/5]

Powell's value was almost certainly down because of his struggles this season, but with Gregg Zaun deeper in the tank than Shamu, and John Roskos convincing everyone he can't catch, adding a catching prospect wasn't a bad target. Castro was the Astros' first-round pick out of Puerto Rico in '94, and at 22 is finally developing as an offensive player (.256/.324/.435 in his first season at AA), and there's little question that he may be one of the best defensive catchers in professional baseball. Since right-handed relievers really do grow on trees, getting a prospect like Castro was a nice addition any way you care to look at it.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Activated LHP Mike Hampton from the DL; designated RHP Reggie Harris for assignment. [7/4]

Acquired RHP Jay Powell and C Scott Makarewicz from Florida for C Ramon Castro. [7/5]

Hampton's return and getting Powell from the Astros probably means a return to AAA for Scott Elarton, which would be unfortunate. I thought it was a nice move to keep Elarton over Harris. The need for a better right-handed reliever than Bob Scanlan was obvious, so getting Powell for Castro wasn't a bad move, especially since Mitch Meluskey has probably squeezed Castro out of entering the major league picture for the Astros any time soon. Powell may well snap back to previous form with the Astrodome and Dierker in his favor. But there are other concerns: it would probably be foolhardy to count on Jose Lima, Sean Bergman, and Pete Schourek, and in the bullpen, you have three effective lefties in Billy Wagner, C.J. Nitkowski, and Trever Miller. Why not whack Mike Magnante, the scuffling veteran lefty hack, so that you can keep Elarton in long relief at the major league level? If Elarton's still around, you can promptly slot him back into the rotation once one of Dierker's resurrected wonders falters, and/or he can become a key player as a reliever. I guess I can't see a downside in a world without Mike Magnante.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Optioned LHP Dennis Reyes to San Bernadino (A); recalled C Paul LoDuca from Albuquerque. [7/2]

Traded 1B/LF Paul Konerko and LHP Dennis Reyes to Cincinnati for RHP Jeff Shaw. [7/4]

Recalled INF Alex Cora from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Manuel Barrios to Albuquerque. [7/4]

In a world where Dan Duquette plays Russian roulette with his last four or five roster spots just to keep himself busy, it's hard to avoid the temptation, no, the thrill of making big decisions every day. Once you get on a transaction high, you have to keep scoring to keep enjoying the rush. You also do it to avoid that inevitable crash when reality reminds you that none of this matters. I guess I'm surprised the Pastaman can still find a vein at his age, because bringing in Jeff Shaw has absolutely nothing to do with making the Blue Man Group competitive this year: almost nothing could, and Antonio Osuna is the better choice to close for the Dodgers now and into the future. Is it to placate season ticket holders? What, they're conscious? Isn't that what offseason signings are for? Trading Konerko hurts because it may also represent a newfound interest in keeping Eric Karros around for years to come, and that's bad news. They're talking about moving Bobby Bonilla out to left to make room for Beltre, which still leaves Roger Cedeno screwed out of a job when the real equation ought to be a choice between Bonilla and Karros. They won't get better, because they don't know how to get better. With Lasorda's input and a high-market confusion between form and substance when it comes to making this team competitive, the Dodgers won't be worth what Murdoch paid for them for very long at all.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated RHP Chad Fox from the 15-day DL; optioned LF Geoff Jenkins to Louisville. [7/1]

Jenkins has been stone cold, although whether that's because of a lack of playing time or whether he's having trouble adjusting is an open question. With Nilsson and Jaha around for the rest of the year, he'll have to wait until '98 for a real shot at an everyday job. With Fox' return, Phil Garner now has Bob Wickman closing, with Mike Myers and Fox to set him up, and Al Reyes and Bronswell Patrick holding down the middle relief chores. All of this means Doug Jones ought to be asking the Braves for a postseason freebie seat next to El Presidente and Ozzie Guillen.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Outrighted 1B Scott Stahoviak to Salt Lake. [7/5]

The other shoe should drop on Thursday, when the Twins will probably reactivate David Ortiz from the DL. If this is goodbye, I'm sorry to see Stahoviak go, even if he doesn't really merit a job.

NEW YORK METS

Placed UT Matt Franco on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/29 (fractured toe); recalled OF Benny Agbayani from Norfolk. [7/1]

Traded RHP John Hudek to Cincinnati for UT Lenny Harris. [7/3]

Is Lenny Harris Bip Roberts Lite, or is Bip Roberts Lenny Harris Lite? Why doesn't Jerry Springer ever deal with important issues like this?

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed DH Matt Stairs to a two-year contract extension through 2000, with a club option for 2001. [7/1]

Interesting, since the perception was immediately that Stairs received less than market value, and some teams do covet him badly.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Activated RHP Ricky Bottalico from the DL; designated RHP Toby Borland for assignment. [7/1]

Optioned C Bobby Estalella to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/5]

With Bottalico back, we may finally see the Mark Leiter trade rumors finally go somewhere, although Leiter's success ought to suggest that trading Bottalico once he shows he's healthy to let any Mark, Wayne, or Harry close won't hurt the Phils any, and may bring a good prospect in return.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed 3B/2B Doug Strange on the 15-day DL (ankle); activated LHP Jeff Tabaka from the DL. [7/2]

Okay, even though the Bucs almost never pull Ramirez or Womack from a game, going with one utility infielder (Polcovich) when Womack doesn't do anything to help win ballgames and Collier still hasn't shaken his dramatic defensive limitations seems sort of questionable.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated LHP Kent Mercker from the DL; recalled C Eli Marrero from Memphis; optioned RHP Brady Raggio to Memphis, and designated UT Shawn Gilbert for assignment. [7/1]

Placed INF David Howard on the 15-day DL (sprained shoulder); recalled 2B Placido Polanco from Memphis. [7/3]

With Mercker's return now and Matt Morris expected back by the weekend, the Cardinals will almost have a major league rotation again: Todd Stottlemyre, Morris, Juan Acevedo, Mercker, and one of Kent Bottenfield, Mark Petkovsek, and Manny Aybar. Scratch that - that's still bad news. I wouldn't bet on Morris being his old self down the stretch any more than I'd bet Donovan Osborne will ever start thirty games again. Marrero's callup simply reminds everybody that the commitment to Pagnozzi was ill-considered then, now, and into the future, even if Marrero hadn't had his run-in with cancer. All in all, the Cardinals' roster is looking more and more loaded with irrelevant junk: having both Polanco and Luis Ordaz up is at best a pair of auditions for the Mike Gallego roster spot, since neither is good enough to forestall Brent Butler in the future or beat out Royce Clayton now.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Optioned RHP Will Cunnane to Las Vegas. [7/5]

The expectation is that Scott Sanders will come up in his place.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled SS Wilson Delgado from Fresno; optioned RHP Russ Ortiz to Fresno. [7/4]

A reasonably good prospect who almost kept Rey Sanchez off the roster this spring, Delgado is basically up to help paper over Rich Aurilia's various hurts until after the break. Losing both Kent and Aurilia, one of the league's better offensive middle infield combos, certainly hasn't helped the Giants keep up with the Pad people.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Designated 2B Jeff Huson for assignment; recalled OF Ricky Cradle from Tacoma. [7/1]

Recalled C Raul Chavez from Tacoma; optioned RHP Ken Cloude to Tacoma. [7/2]

Now that the Mariners have lost Glenallen Hill to waivers, Cradle's up to play some left, along with fellow-ex-Blue Jay outfield scrub Rob Ducey. As fouled up as Cloude has been, he'll be back once they need a fifth starter again by the beginning of next week. I suppose it says something about how bad not only the Mariners but their entire organization is when they can't even give the scrub time to their homegrown crud like Shane Monahan or Charles Gipson, instead dragging in Rico Rossy or Cradle. Hell, as long as they're handing out service time, why not add surviving Negro Leaguers? Or veterans not covered by the combined agreement? Of course, it may be a mixed blessing to subjugate anyone to Mt. Piniella's self-serving eruptions.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Jason Johnson on the 15-day DL (stiff lower back); recalled LHP Matt Ruebel from Durham. [7/4]

Activated LHP Wilson Alvarez and RHP Bryan Rekar from the DL; optioned RHP Dennis Springer and LHP Matt Reubel to Durham. [7/6]

Springer was pitching badly, even for him, which eliminates one contestant from this year's Brian Kingman sweepstakes in the rush (or is that Glendon Rusch?) to lose 20. With Alvarez going to head of the line, Rekar will apparently become the fifth starter du jour, and may be a nice "I survived Planet Coors" comeback story.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed UT Tony Phillips to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Syracuse. [7/1]

It is said that each of us can create our own personal hell, but apparently some of us don't have to wait to get there. Enter Tony Phillips, reunited with Syracuse's manager, Terry Bevington. The Jays are claiming they're bringing Phillips in to play to outfield, which makes exactly no sense whatsoever. He won't help their problematic outfield defense, and if he plays, Shannon Stewart probably sits, which doesn't really improve their lineup, certainly not enough to compensate for the hi-jinks of an outfield of Phillips, Green, and Canseco. The best thing you can say about it is that it would probably kill off the playing time being wasted on Felipe Crespo and Juan Samuel in the outfield. If they're fibbing and plan on letting Phillips get a good chunk of time in the infield, that's fine, except that won't be a defensive improvement on Tony Fernandez if he plays second, and he's probably not physically capable of doing it and remaining healthy. It would also probably box out Tom Evans if Fernandez then ended up playing third ahead of Sprague. They could leave Fernandez at second, and run Phillips out at third, although Phillips is as brutal as Sprague at the hot corner, so that's half-assed patchwork. The Jays are a team that's weak offensively and defensively, and although Phillips will obviously help leading off, he doesn't eradicate Sprague or help in the field, two things that Evans is eminently qualified to do.

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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