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July 17, 1998

Transaction Analysis

July 13-16

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Activated LHP Allen Watson from the DL; optioned OF Damon Mashore to Vancouver. [7/13]

Watson was promptly deposited into the bullpen, and if you pricked up your ears from the stands, you'd undoubtedly hear him kvetching about it. You might think that his near-supersonic ERA ought to shut him up (7.17, 7.27, 7.37? Nah, "just" 6.91 at the moment). With Steve Sparks and Jarrod Washburn being surprisingly effective, and with Omar Olivares and Jason Dickson struggling, it isn't like the Angels rotation won't have an opening again in another couple of weeks. Why draw attention to yourself as a clubhouse bolshevik while the team's in first?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Announced that 1B/OF Mike Robertson cleared waivers, and outrighted him to Tucson; activated SS Hanley Frias was from the DL and optioned him to Tucson. [7/14]

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated PH/OF Curtis Pride from the DL; optioned 1B Randall Simon to Richmond. [7/14]

Recalled RHP Mark Wohlers from Richmond; optioned RHP Mike Cather to Richmond. [7/16]

Wohlers' return highlights a growing pressure on the Braves' roster: who will be the 11th pitcher? Currently, you have to expect the presence of Kerry Ligtenberg, Russ Springer, John Rocker, Wohlers if he rebounds, probably Rudy Seanez, and ... who? Do they want a second lefty in the pen to go with Rocker, and fill in the self-inflicted wound when they chose to hand Alan Embree to the D-Backs? There's speculation that they're interested in picking up Jason Christianson from the Pirates, but they've also got Pedro Borbon rehabbing at Richmond. That brings the Braves to the decision of who to move for that second lefty, and that brings us to El Presidente. Dennis Martinez may have some dubious value as an ex-famous person or even as an emergency fill-in for John Smoltz if Smoltz gets hurt again, but come the postseason, do you carry your fifth starter/swing-man even assuming Smoltz is hurt in October? The decision to keep Martinez over Cather is already a stretch, and clearly neither are as helpful as either Embree or Brian Edmondson. It isn't often that you see the Braves losing players with value, but the decision to give Dennis Martinez a piece of history is getting expensive.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed LHP Arthur Rhodes on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5 (elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Joel Bennett from Rochester. [7/13]

Rhodes complained of overuse and getting warmed up too frequently, but also keep in mind that he wasn't carrying a crushing workload in-game: he wasn't on a pace to appear in more than 60 games or to pitch more than 100 innings as a reliever before he went down. Bennett's got the cachet of being 10-0 at Rochester, and although he has some solid peripherals (3.64 ERA, 99 hits in 101.1 IP, with 37 walks and 99 Ks), he's the most likely pitcher to get shipped back to Rochester when either Jimmy Key or Scott Kamieniecki come back for the Orioles' promotional re-enactment of the Charge of the Light Brigade in August.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed 1B Reggie Jefferson on the 15-day DL (strained back); recalled OF Keith Mitchell from Pawtucket; transferred 2B Mark Lemke from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/15]

Activated RHP Rich Garces from the DL; optioned RHP Dario Veras to Pawtucket. [7/16]

Two interesting moves. First, Garces' return is fun because it highlights the lack of space for Dennis Eckersley should he ever get reactivated. Who loses his spot for the Eck? Tom Gordon, Jim Corsi, and Ron Mahay should all be pretty safe. Garces and Carlos Reyes are both better pitchers than the aging pistollero, and I doubt Derek Lowe would be taken out of his long relief/spot starter role for him either. Come the postseason, I won't be surprised to see the Eck take the place of the fifth starter (especially if Cho struggles), but that's a pity-roster move.

As for losing Reggie Jefferson, as much as that may warm the cockles of Peter Gammons' heart because of his repetitive accusations that Reggie isn't "clutch" or something, its unfortunately going to hurt worse than it should for the two weeks he's gone. Whereas Keith Mitchell has been and continues to be the '90s posterchild for that old Bill James concept, the Ken Phelps All-Star team, he won't get to play in Jefferson's absence because Jimy Williams seems inclined to plug Midre Cummings into Jefferson's half of the platoon job with Billy Ashley. That's defensible if you think keeping Cummings on the roster as a reserve outfielder is a worthwhile goal, but both Mitchell and Ashley are better offensive players than Cummings, and Cummings' defensive "skills" aren't exactly the stuff of legend. We're talking about picking your DH, and Cummings isn't a good choice, but he seems to be the one they're going to pick. It doesn't matter much in terms of finishing behind the Yankees, but it doesn't help as far as maintaining a lead for the wildcard.

CHICAGO CUBS

Re-signed CF Terrell Lowery to a minor-league contract with Iowa. [7/13]

Activated CF Lance Johnson from the DL; optioned 2B/3B Jason Hardtke to Iowa; designated OF/1B Derrick White for assignment. [7/14]

Johnson's return from his hand injury has several doctors saying several things: that he's fine, that he needs surgery, that he needs more rest. Once Brant Brown returns, one hopes the point is moot and that they simply plug Brown and Sosa in every day, while they platoon Hank Rodriguez and Matt Mieske in left. Unfortunately, that would entail Riggleman backing down on his public pledge to play all of his outfielders. That statement was a silly overcommitment to Johnson and to Glenallen Hill, neither of whom deserves that kind of commitment. Although Riggleman is known for criticizing media coverage of the Cubs, this is a good occasion to point out that there'd be less to criticize if he didn't say something this dumb.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed RHP Luis Andujar to a minor-league contract with Calgary. [7/13]

Granted RHP Jason Bere his unconditional release. [7/16]

Andujar may wind up in black pretty quickly: he was pitching extremely well as a reliever in Syracuse, and the Sox pen isn't exactly the Nasty Boys. If he shows anything at all, it may even give the Sox the flexibility to finally move Keith Foulke into the rotation.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Announced the retirement of UT Rex Hudler. [7/15]

Adios to the Wonder Dog. I still regret not driving down to Busch to get a "Wonder Dog" t-shirt back in '91.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated 2B/SS Billy Ripken from the DL; optioned RHP Denny Harriger to Toledo. [7/13]

Announced RHP Denny Harriger cleared waivers, and outrighted him to Toledo. [7/14]

Released C Joe Oliver; recalled C Raul Casanova from Toledo. [7/15]

Ripken's return was a good thing, because it finally gave the Tigers a utility infielder again. Although Joe Randa was notionally the utility infielder after the callup of Gabe Alvarez, nobody was going to run Randa out to short, and pinch-hitting for Deivi Cruz isn't something you can do without. Releasing Oliver was overdue: he was never going to be a part of any potentially good Tigers team in the next year or two, and with the emergence of Paul Bako and the resurgence of Casanova at Toledo (.267/.367/.447, with rave reviews for his glovework), Oliver's feeble hitting on a weak offensive club came to the organization's attention. He'll probably catch on with a contender as a third catcher.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Placed 2B Eric Young on the 15-day DL (strained quad); recalled OF Treni Hubbard from Albuquerque. [7/13]

Losing Young means the Dodgers lack their doubleplay combo of Jose Vizcaino and Young. Although Glenn Hofman claims to be impressed by how much they haven't missed Vizcaino (because of Juan Castro's good glovework), that's also a reflection on Vizcaino's uselessness. Losing Young, however, costs them, because it brings Wilton Guerrero into the lineup regularly, and that hurts both in terms of men on base and defensively. As much as the Dodgers would like to pretend that they can clamber back into contention, doing it with four offensive zeroes (Charles Johnson, Guerrero, Castro, and the pitcher) doesn't make it particularly likely.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated C Mike Matheny from the DL; optioned C/UT Brian Banks to Louisville. [7/13]

Bobby Hughes will be fortunate to ever get his OBP over .300, but he hit enough to force his way into job-sharing with Matheny. That's a little like saying that Mario Mendoza could beat out Ray Oyler on most days, but nevertheless, for the Brewers, less of Matheny is an improvement.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Activated RHP Mike Morgan from the DL. [7/13]

Activated DH Paul Molitor from the DL; optioned UT Jon Shave to Salt Lake City. [7/15]

Morgan's return brings to the fore rumors that Bob Tewksbury will get traded in the next two weeks, which would leave Dan Serafini in the rotation. Molitor's return has little to recommend it beyond two things: sentiment for Molly, and getting Brent Gates out of the lineup in the roster ripple that returns Ron Coomer to third on most days so that Molitor can DH and David Ortiz can play first. That'll certainly help the Twins' mighty drive to hold onto second place for the rest of the season.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Activated OF Robert Perez from the DL; optioned 2B/3B Jose Vidro to Ottawa. [7/14]

Placed UT F.P. Santangelo on the 15-day DL (knee). [7/16]

I suspect that Santangelo's departure means Vidro's return (or possibly Mike Mordecai), because otherwise they're shorthanded in the infield. In the meanwhile, the Expos will finally get Ryan McGuire some plate appearances as a semi-regular leftfielder, and in the long run, finding out if he can hit enough to stick around is more important than seeing how many times Santangelo can get plunked by pitches in an everyday role.

NEW YORK METS

Activated UT Matt Franco from the DL; optioned OF Benny Agbayani to Norfolk. [7/14]

Franco's return will undoubtedly free up Bobby Valentine a bit as far as his perpetual shuffling and pinch-hitting goes.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Purchased the contract of 2B Pat Kelly from Toronto. [7/16]

Kelly was having an outstanding season in Syracuse: .280/.375/.550, with 17 HRs and 18 stolen bases. As Tony LaRussa will shortly be telling us, he's a "fearless panther" or "fighting bobcat" when it comes to turning the deuce. He also makes an outstanding platoon mate for Delino DeShields should they retain DeShields once he returns in the next three weeks. At the least, he's a dandy fill-in until DeShields comes back. Now, as much as I'm singing Kelly's praises, I also think he was acquired at the right price: cash, instead of talent. Kelly is a good example of the free talent any GM can pick up in any given season, and this year is a good argument for why minor league veterans ought to have greater freedom to move to organizations where they're needed. The Jays didn't need Kelly and never did, but the Cardnals do need him now, and it was good of Gord Ash to let Walt Jocketty get him cheaply. Expect either Luis Ordaz or Placido Polanco to be sent down to make room for Kelly on Friday.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed RHP Julian Tavarez on the 15-day DL (back strain); recalled RHP Russ Ortiz from Fresno. [7/13]

Although Tavarez has been enjoying a fine season so far, plenty of folks are expecting his arm to fall off any day now, so it might be better for the Giants to see Ortiz get a shot at some regular rotation work (or even a spot start for Mark Gardner or Danny Darwin) rather than watch Dusty's drones get dusted as they wear out. The "good" spin to put on Tavarez is that it isn't an arm injury. The bad spin is "not yet." Overall, losing Tavarez is nowhere as critical as losing Steve Reed.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Sold 2B Pat Kelly to the Cardinals. [7/16]

This is a move that really cost the Jays. Although Kelly had an outstanding season for Syracuse, signing him this winter was one of three offseason signings of second basemen, which in turn cost the Jays roster space and talent.

Over the winter, they brought in Tony Fernandez, and he's disappointed them with his glovework. They also signed Craig Grebeck, not a bad move. They also signed Pat Kelly. They also re-signed last year's starter at Syracuse, Jeff Patzke, as a minor league free agent. Patzke is a good little player in his own right, and he was a worthwhile option for the major league job entering this spring. However, these multiple signings and the unwillingness to cut any of the others led to the Jays' unfortunate decision to send Patzke all the way down to the Florida State League, which was bad for both the organization and Patzke. Patzke was then subsequently dumped in a trade to the Pirates for lefty Mike Halperin, which was their way of finally cutting Patzke loose. Now Ash has cash, a crummy minor league lefty, no Patzke, no Kelly, and no answer to who's going to start at second next year. (Santiago Henry is a non-prospect, and Mike Peeples isn't coming along very well, but eventually Brent Abernathy or Joe Lawrence could be the answer.)

Patzke would have been the best low-cost choice for the next couple of years, and the chances that he could be an effective major league hitter and second baseman are pretty good, but instead Toronto is talking about getting Mark Grudzielanek from the Expos, and that wouldn't help as much as Patzke or playing Grebeck regularly, and Grudz will cost talent to go out and get. In short, the Jays had an opportunity to do something with their second base situation for a couple of years, and instead, they've played for time while shedding answers, playing time, and money. These aren't crucial mistakes, but they could have been easily avoided if the Jays had given this some thought, as opposed to signing everyone in sight willy-nilly.

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:  Joe Kelly,  A's,  The Who,  Kelly Johnson,  Year Of The Injury,  Quad-a

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