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April 22, 2002

Transaction Analysis

April 21-22, 2002

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

 

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Placed RHP Jason Marquis on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/15 (shoulder tendinitis); recalled LHP Jung Bong from Greenville (Double-A). [4/22]

Jeff Torborg excepted, teams seem pretty quick on the draw as far as placing pitchers on the DL these days. That's probably a good thing, but it does put the Braves in the uncomfortable position of hauling up another one of the organization's best young arms from Greenville. It was John Ennis earlier this month, and now Jung Bong is up for an emergency start or two. Bong is just one of a group of good young pitchers in the organization, so his selection seems driven more by who is and who isn't on the 40-man roster, and who was available to face Curt Schilling last night.

Generally speaking, I don't mind the idea of giving Bong a brief trial. Why bother trying to get cute and find a way to haul up somebody like Doug Linton from Richmond? It only appears to be an issue for two starts, last night and on the coming Sunday, after which Jason Marquis can be brought back for the first weekend of May. Since Marquis's latest MRI didn't indicate anything unusual, he should be good to go at that point; if it is anything more serious, even then, it isn't like you'd really want to turn to Linton. At that point, you'd probably go shopping.

 

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of 1B-R Earl Snyder from Buffalo; designated UT-R Wil Cordero for assignment. [4/22]

Some things are harsh, and some things are dated, and some things are both. These things don't always happen at the time to any one person, group, or thing, of course, but they can both occur.

For example, something like Joy Division or the Beastie Boys seemed pretty harsh at first blush, but seems pretty dated these days. Woody Allen was pretty much always dated if not downright tired, because you know somebody just like him, and that guy just annoys the bejeezuz out of you. Skunk Anansie is just harsh, and probably always will be. Was Corvette Summer ever cool? Hell, no, it was dated from the moment of its powder-snortled inspiration, undeserving of it's eventual destiny as the 3-5 a.m. staple on That '70s Network. The B-52s? Never harsh, always dated, but that's part of their shtick, and it worked. The smug nihilism of Repo Man will always be harsh, but I can't imagine it ever being dated, because somebody somewhere will always be 20 and angry. Heck, as a result of that epic, Emilio Estevez is the Claudell Washington of B movies, giving us his peak performance at an unusually early age, and then spending the rest of his life blighting a Cinemax channel that seems to be exclusively devoted to movies featuring Martin Sheen's children.

Which brings me to Wil Cordero, because he also ought to be considered overdone with extra justice. There isn't anything harsh enough to say about him, and he's been dated since at least 1995. To put it another way, if you were the producer of a new Scott Baio vehicle, would you keep spending money beyond the initial investment/mistake, or eat the cost and bury that sucker so deep they can store nuclear waste with it? At this rate, Cordero can probably be a Red Sox or a Met in another three years. He won't have a position, but I'm sure we'll be told that he's tan, rested, and ready, with a new appreciation for all sorts of things that involve getting paid. That might work for some, but I think we're better off keeping the shovel handy.

This is all a long-winded way of congratulating the Tribe and Mark Shapiro for undoing one of John Hart's last ugly mistakes. Cordero has no position and marginal offensive value. On a team with a lineup where you might only use Cordero to pinch-hit for Eddie Perez, that's a waste of a roster spot.

Earl Snyder came over as part of the Roberto Alomar trade, and while he won't make it look any better, as 36th-round picks out of the University of Hartford go, he's a king. Although he's about to turn 26 and isn't really a top prospect, he's also not just some right-handed-hitting slug. He looked good in brief trials at third base last year, and he's played some in the outfield corners. He's gotten better in the minors. Snyder is exactly the sort of guy who should be getting a job at Wil Cordero's expense, and he might potentially make a better platoon partner with Russ Branyan in the lineup than Cordero was ever going to be.

 

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Julio Santana from Toledo; activated 2B/SS-R Damian Jackson from the DL; placed C-B Mitch Meluskey on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/21 (lower back pain); designated LHP Matt Perisho for assignment; optioned LF-R Craig Monroe to Toledo; recalled C-R Brandon Inge from Toledo. [4/22]

Some of this is just roster reshuffling to make a point that things are changing, and some of this is acknowledging that a few of Phil Garner's ideas from spring training aren't panning out. Nate Cornejo isn't working out as the fifth starter, and while I suspect that Julio Santana will get smoked by any lineup with four or five left-handed bats in it, it's better to let Cornejo work and learn in Toledo than make him a punching bag on a bad team.

Having Damian Jackson back should create some pressure, either to have Shane Halter move off of shortstop, or to stop the insanity with Oscar Salazar and Jose Macias playing much too often. Regardless of whether Mitch Meluskey's back or arm is that big of an issue, the Tigers weren't happy carrying him and Mike Rivera and going without a catch-and-throw guy. Now, I'm one of those cynics who thinks Brandon Inge is about as much of a prospect as Pauly Shore, a good backup catcher in the making with a 5% shot at turning out to be the next Joe Girardi, so marooning him in the backup catcher's job now doesn't seem like a bad idea if you're worried about Rivera's glovework. The problem is that Inge isn't exactly a reliable receiver yet. He has outstanding physical gifts, he's nimble and strong-armed back there, but he's still relatively wild and rough around the edges.

 

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Brad Lidge from New Orleans; optioned SS-R Adam Everett to New Orleans. [4/21]

Half-assed commitments are always the worst kind. If you don't have the strength of your convictions after less than a month, what's the point of having opinions in the first place?

Fewer than 50 at-bats doesn't really tell you anything more than spring-training stats do, but at least Adam Everett was drawing a few walks and fielding well. Hauling in an extra reliever you may or may not use (and Brad Lidge--if healthy for the first time in four years--should admittedly turn out to be a very useful thing indeed) to hand the shortstop job back to Julio Lugo or a Lugo/Jose Vizcaino job-sharing arrangement is about as been-there, done-that as it gets. It isn't a bad thing, in that Lugo/Vizcaino is an adequate enough holding pattern until something better comes along, but there was reason to think Everett could have been that something better.

If Everett isn't going to get a full shot now, he may as well never get one. Within the organization, one of Tommy Whiteman or Chris Burke should start moving into view in the shortstop picture by the end of 2003. If the Astros want to see if Everett is ever going to turn into something, they've probably got the next two seasons, no more than that.

Lugo has his uses, but he's a temporary solution at best, while Vizcaino is the defensive replacement for somebody like Lugo. Craig Biggio's range doesn't seem to have survived his knee injury, and given the questionable state of the team's outfield defense, you would think the Astros might make some allowances for getting a glove on the field. It isn't like Lugo is Hubie Brooks or Howard Johnson or even a 1987 Luis Aguayo. He's useful, but not a clearly better player than Everett. I'm surprised by this turn of events, but it is the natural outcome of a stocking your bench with veterans with guaranteed contracts like Vizcaino, Orlando Merced, Speedy Hunter, and Geoff Blum.

 

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Orber Moreno to Omaha; purchased the contract of RHP Bryan Rekar from Omaha; optioned OF-R Brandon Berger to Omaha. [4/21]

While I suppose it's all well and good that the Royals could afford to demote Brandon Berger because he had an option, and while it's fine by me to have Bryan Rekar up and in the rotation under the circumstances, this is just plain old bad news. I mean, Nate Field has an option, too, so why wasn't he sent down?

In part, the problem is the web of commitments. First, there's the decision to carry Rule 5 pick Miguel Asencio. Sure, that'll be ugly for awhile, but at least it represents a commitment to a future that might not involve any more Doug Henrys. So who else would you cut to get to keep Berger around? Donnie Sadler's an easy target, but he's also the backup shortstop. The real problem is the combined commitment to have Sadler and Dave McCarty and Luis Alicea, all at once. See, McCarty covers first base, Alicea second base and third base, and Sadler second and shortstop. It all sort of makes sense, because you've got the whole infield covered. Unfortunately, it means carrying three marginal (or worse) hitters, and locking up three of the 13 roster spots you can commit to position players as long as your 25th man is a Rule 5 pick you're afraid to use.

The Royals would be better off with Jed Hansen and Brandon Berger and whichever one of those three guys makes for the best last man on the bench. Hansen is a better hitter than Alicea is, and he can play all four infield positions; if Carlos Febles breaks down again, the Royals would be better off playing Hansen. Berger gives the Royals a right-handed power bat they ought to rotate in at the expense of the mighty Michael Tucker or Chuck Knoblauch, let alone McCarty. I guess the point will be moot in a week to ten days, whenever Mark Quinn returns, but they should have played Berger while they had him around.

If there's good news, it's that Allard Baird was right to make Orber Moreno the guy on the spot in terms of outrighting him. Moreno was once a talented young pitcher with great velocity. While he's not a rag-arm these days, he's lost most of the last three years to injuries, he's a reliever, and he's hurt again. For every few temporarily successful Matt Manteis, there are a lot of Orber Morenos. There isn't a lot of risk of losing him, assuming he even ever makes it back to the majors.

 

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Placed LHP Andy Pettitte on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/16 (strained forearm); recalled LHP Randy Choate from Columbus. [4/21]

The Yankees' virtually absurd depth in their rotation makes it pretty easy to accept that they don't have Andy Pettitte for a couple of weeks or so. Ted Lilly gets to come back into the rotation, in no small part because of the convenient continued absence of Sterling Hitchcock, and with El Duque performing well and Jumbo Wells the picture of big beefy health, the rotation is in good shape. Lilly won't really have a chance to win a job so much as try to cement a claim on being the sixth starter, also known as the first alternative just in case of situations exactly like this. The less we see of Hitchcock, the better things have to be going.

The real question is whether Randy Choate is going to be able to settle in or not. The Yankees don't really need a situational lefty. Mike Stanton is simply a great reliever in any circumstance, and if Lilly's in the pen because everyone else is healthy or still a Yankee, that's not a bad thing. Those two plus the trio of right-handers (Mariano Rivera, Steve Karsay, and Ramiro Mendoza) create only one extra job in the pen, and Choate is going to have to fend off the obvious utility of having a right-hander who can toss long innings in a blowout (like Adrian Hernandez) by showing something in the few opportunities he's going to get in the weeks to come.

 

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Activated 1B-L Mo Vaughn from the DL; designated OF-L Tony Tarasco for assignment. [4/21]

Mo Vaughn's return couldn't come soon enough. However low or pessimistic my expectations are for what he's going to do this year, the three-headed monster of Mark Johnson, John Valentin, and Joe McEwing didn't put many runs on the board. Vaughn may not be what he once was, but he should still be able to produce MLB-average offense for a first baseman, and the Mets can use that. Tony Tarasco's role as the walk-and-slug pinch-hitter disappears with Johnson pushed back into the role, with an assist from Timo Perez's recent welter of slap-happy singletastic action.

 

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Sold CF-R Calvin Murray to the Rangers. [4/22]

Damon Minor and Jason Schmidt are both due to come off of the DL this week, so the Giants need roster spots first and foremost, and Brian Sabean had to do something.

Between Calvin Murray and Tsuyoshi Shinjo, the Giants had one too many good-glove right-handed-hitting center fielders hanging around, and Marvin Benard has barely managed to get any playing time as a result. Shinjo is always going to need somebody--like Benard--who can hit better than he does to split the time in center, so finding a way to get Benard into the mix might be a good thing.

But if they don't play Benard now that Murray is a Ranger, that means that given a choice between Murray, who was good enough to force his way out of the platoon role last year, or the Benard/Murray double-action (lefty-righty and offense-defense) platoon that has worked pretty well at times the last couple of years, or the lightest hitter of the lot, they seem to be picking the guy who offers the most...marketing cachet. This division should be tight enough to be unforgiving, so here's hoping that the Giants don't suffer the consequences of pursuing some niche promotions. The bottom line would be enriched by winning more than by a Shinjo/Hello Kitty cross-marketing opportunity.

 

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Purchased CF-R Calvin Murray from the Giants. [4/22]

Calvin Murray isn't a great player, but this is a great pickup as far as getting a good temp in place to fulfill an immediate need, and without giving up anything besides money. Between Carl Everett's girth, Gabe Kapler's predictable and ongoing trouble with a variety of muscle strains and pulls, and Jason Romano's need for regular playing time somewhere else for when he is ready, the Rangers definitely needed somebody who can just step in, play a good center field, and contribute offensively more than free talent hacks like Tom Goodwin or Damon Buford or worse. Murray is no spring chicken--he'll be 31 at the end of July--but he's a fine temporary solution, and the price is right, presuming that the Rangers start pushing some of their DL'd pitchers from the 15- to the 60-day DL to make space on the 40-man roster.

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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Transaction Analysis: ... (04/24)
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The Daily Prospectus: ... (04/23)

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