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July 24, 2002

Transaction Analysis

July 15-21, 2002

by Christina Kahrl

 

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

 

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Placed RHP Troy Percival on the 15-day DL (foot infection), retroactive to 7/11; recalled RHP Matt Wise from Salt Lake. [7/15]

Placed C-R Bengie Molina on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled C-R Jose Molina from Salt Lake. [7/17]

Optioned RHP Matt Wise to Salt Lake; activated RHP Al Levine from the DL. [7/19]

The Angels are riding high, but should (or when) they falter, I worry about the inevitability of people identifying the losses of Troy Percival and Bengie Molina as the events that ruined everything. For general consumption, it looks like a great excuse; after all, the catcher is supposed to be a guiding force for the pitching staff, while the closer is supposed to engender an overwhelming sense of confidence about what will happen when you lead after eight innings. Maybe these things are so, and maybe they're not--there isn't much to support the arguments beyond anecdotal evidence, and the human memory is sufficiently plastic that anecdotes tend to make great entertainment but poor evidence.

As a practical matter, Jose Molina's performance at Salt Lake translates into only a slight (.213 versus .225) drop-off from his brother's work, so the loss of Bengie isn't going to kill the Angels. The Angels have the third-best bullpen in the AL, and they aren't that high because of any one pitcher, but because of their depth. Losing Percival hurts, but no more than losing Dennis Cook did; losing an effective third of your bullpen should hurt. Nevertheless, they're getting good work out of Ben Weber and Scot Shields and Lou Pote, none of whom will be winning any postseason antacid tchotchkes. Al Levine, if healthy, can be a tremendous asset. Brendan Donnelly is doing well since his recall. So in short, losing Molina and Percival shouldn't be debilitating.

The bullpen's depth illustrates one of the fun things about this team, which is that it has gotten solid contributions from so many players. That's not quite the same thing as depth. The most indispensable players the Angels have are Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz, but if they lost almost any regular other than Molina, they'd have a hard time replacing him. The point is that in losing Percival and Molina, they lost talent in places where they could scare up viable alternatives.

 

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of C-R Chad Moeller from Tucson; designated OF-R Jose Guillen for assignment. [7/15]

Placed RHP Rick Helling on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 7/16; placed PH-R Greg Colbrunn on the 15-day DL (strained calf), retroactive to 7/18; activated IF-R Jay Bell from the 60-day DL; recalled RHP John Patterson from Tucson; designated RHP Erik Sabel for assignment. [7/19]

This might be about as reasonable a course of action as the Snakes can follow given the slim pickings they've got on the farm. Beyond Damian Miller, the Snakes have nothing behind the plate. Rod Barajas isn't a prospect, and he's never going to develop into something more than a randomly-generated catch-and-throw second stringer. Chad Moeller isn't a whole lot better than Barajas, but at this point, familiarity has probably bred a large measure of contempt.

John Patterson's overdue arrival in the big-league rotation comes on the heels of his posting a 4.71 ERA for the Sidewinders. That doesn't sound so great, but he's been giving up about a hit and inning while posting a 71-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 80 1/3 innings. He's now in his second year after Tommy John surgery, he seems to have his command back, he's throwing hard and his curve is snapping. He could well be a key stretch addition for the Snakes on a couple of levels. While Rick Helling is missing, Patterson could earn a slot as the de facto #3 starter. Once Helling returns, Patterson could force Miguel Batista back into a job-sharing arrangement with Brian Anderson in the #5 slot. That's a potentially nifty improvement down the stretch, and it can yield better rewards in the postseason, with Batista plugged into a bullpen short of reliable help in general, and lacking anyone who can toss multiple innings in particular.

What these two moves give the Snakes is some important direct experience with their internal options before they have to enter the frenzy of the trading deadline with a particular absolute must-have problem to be resolved. While they could have helped themselves a little more simply by signing Adam Melhuse when they had the chance, the Patterson call-up creates the happy possibility that they'll wind up with an improved bullpen and rotation.

 

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Activated IF-R Mark DeRosa from the DL; designated 2B/SS-R Jesse Garcia for assignment; activated 2B-R Marcus Giles from the DL, and optioned him to Richmond. [7/17]

Getting Mark DeRosa back is good news, but it comes in conjunction with the monumentally stupid decision to not keep Marcus Giles up and playing now that he's healthy. As much credit as the Braves have earned on the strength of their accomplishments as an organization, they need to come to terms with the fact that Vinny Castilla is done. Not rare, not carpaccio, not half-baked, but cinderized to extra crunchy. The only regular third baseman doing worse than Castilla this year is Aramis Ramirez, who has been playing hurt much of the season, and who still has a future that Castilla so clearly lacks.

Why does that matter if he isn't playing second base? Look, the Braves have an amusing collection of first basemen and they're hauling Castilla's carcass-come-lately in their lineup, as a sort of overdone gesture, keeping candles in the window for Sid Bream and Terry Pendleton and memories of getting by with leftovers in years past. DeRosa can only play one position at a time. Given that the Braves can't count on eternal contention, and that they could use some offensive help if they want to run with every other contending team in the National League, why not take advantage of their lead in the standings and experiment with DeRosa at third base and Giles at second? Castilla didn't earn his place in the lineup, it was handed to him, and he's gone out of his way to hand it back. John Schuerholz ought to take him up on the offer and get a better bat in the lineup.

 

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of UT-L Howie Clark from Rochester; designated 1B/OF-L Ryan McGuire for assignment. [7/15] Placed SS-R Mike Bordick on the 15-day DL (fractured kneecap). [7/16]

Recalled OF-R Luis Matos from Bowie (Double-A). [7/17]

Losing Mike Bordick seems to have upset those concerned with trying to finish the season at .500, but let's keep this in perspective. Melvin Mora is a better shortstop than he is an outfielder, and Chris Singleton is a good center fielder. The differences offensively between Bordick's contributions and Singleton's don't add up to a game in the standings over the month or so that Bordick will be out.

Like losing David Segui or Jeff Conine, losses aren't losses when you're replacing mediocrities with people who will be at least mediocre. Jay Gibbons, Marty Cordova and Gary Matthews Jr. couldn't all be playing (and doing a better job of putting runs on the board) if Segui or Conine were healthy and playing every day, so I don't see a lot of reason to get bent out of shape worrying about how they'll do in Bordick's absence. Defensively, they're better, and offensively, they're not replacing one of the Trinity, or Miguel Tejada or Omar Vizquel or David Eckstein or Jose Valentin or somebody with a future or...oh, you get the point.

Putting Howie Clark in an Orioles uniform is several seasons overdue, but better now than never. He should have been called up in 1999 after Will Clark broke down, but the Orioles instead brought Derrick May back to the majors, apparently for no better reason than that May had managed to fill his uniform on several conspicuous occasions. There's very little Clark won't do, having played everywhere on the diamond, but nowadays, he can play first base or second base as well as some outfield. He's a dangerous offensive player for a utilityman, and a solid choice to be last man on the bench. At 28, he may yet carve out a career for himself, a la Shane Halter or Keith Lockhart.

 

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Activated RHP Rolando Arrojo from the DL; placed LHP Alan Embree on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation). [7/15]

Activated RHP Dustin Hermanson from the DL; optioned IF-B Bry Nelson to Pawtucket. [7/20]

I've belabored this point in the past, so let me just reiterate that it's good news that Dustin Hermanson is up and in the bullpen, instead of being handed his rotation slot back. Sure, Frank Castillo doesn't deserve a lot of benefit of the doubt at this point, and Rolando Arrojo could implode all over again. Tim Wakefield is available to patch at least one of those leaks.

The question is whether the Red Sox can live without Alan Embree, because they're left with only Chris Haney for left-handed relief help in the meantime, and they're generally short of quality relief help at the moment. They're carrying both Willie Banks and Wayne Gomes as mop-up right-handers on top of trying to get Hermanson back into form, while enduring Uggy Urbina's convincing recent impersonations of a Molotov cocktail. As a result of all of these problems, Haney has been overworked of late, and that's a great way to burn him out before the Sox ever field their best potential pen, with Haney getting help from Embree and Hermanson and Rich Garces once they're all fully back in action.

 

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Placed C-R Joe Girardi on the 15-day DL (strained rib cage); purchased the contract of C-R Mike Mahoney from Iowa; granted C/UT-B Adam Melhuse his release, at his request. [7/17]

I normally wouldn't believe it's anything more than a theoretical possibility, but the Cubs managed it: they put Joe Girardi on the DL, and lost talent doing in doing so. This has nothing to do with Joltless Joe's slender contributions, of course. The problem was that in electing to promote catch-and-throw guy Mike Mahoney over Adam Melhuse, they offended Melhuse, who immediately demanded his release.

I wouldn't hold the Cubs' collective feet to the fire too much over this. Todd Hundley can use a backup who's a better receiver than he is, and Mahoney is that. Melhuse is not considered to be a great catcher (although he might be a viable alternative to Hundley himself; unfortunately, Hundley's contract is a Chicago fixture as permanent as a Daley). So the Cubs made a defensible choice, and Melhuse just as defensibly was miffed, because Mahoney is about as dangerous as Luxembourg, whereas Melhuse can hit. So he asked for his release, and the Cubs generously granted it. This all makes sense, if unfortunately they are related products of decisions that don't--like signing Joe Girardi in the first place.

 

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Placed RHP Joey Hamilton on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/8. [7/17]

Recalled OF-B Brady Clark from Louisville. [7/19]

Brady Clark should have been back sooner, either as soon as Ken Griffey Jr. returned to the DL or once Juan Encarnacion was turned into a teal warrior. Raul Gonzalez and Reggie Taylor aren't good fourth outfielders, and with both of the Reds' initial options for the job in center field off of the roster, Clark should have been here sooner to cover the slot in the lineup.

 

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Dave Elder from Buffalo; optioned RHP Chad Paronto to Buffalo. [7/15]

Activated RHP David Riske from the DL; optioned RHP Dave Elder to Buffalo. [7/17]

Traded LHP Chuck Finley to the Cardinals for 1B/OF-R Luis Garcia and a PTBNL. [7/19]

Placed 3B-R Travis Fryman on the 15-day DL (shoulder); optioned RHPs Jason Phillips and David Riske to Buffalo; activated RHPs Jaret Wright and Charles Nagy from the DL; recalled RHP Sean DePaula and 1B/3B-R Earl Snyder from Buffalo. [7/20]

Luis Garcia has only hit .266/.335/.442 at Double-A New Haven, a step down for him in what is a repeat engagement with the Eastern League--while adjusting to a move from first base to the outfield--so that had better be some PTBNL. Sadly, since it has to come from the Cardinals organization, the odds are pretty long that the Indians will get something they can use. In short, for an organization that needs talent, this deal didn't bring anything even remotely resembling the swag that came over in the Colon deal.

To make matters worse, the Indians even have to eat some of Finley's contract on top of getting little in the way of talent, because the Cardinals, well, you know, I guess they need a break. but still, that's not the sort of hitting a hitting prospect is supposed to contribute.

From here on out, the Tribe is running extended spring training, because if they were a little more serious about themselves, they'd have kept Jason Phillips up. Instead, they'll give Charles Nagy a final spin, and they'll let Jaret Wright prove he's still damaged goods, all to make sure they're completely dead and the team sunk before they go back to looking at someone like Phillips. After all, the damned kid might help make things better. They'll give serious playing time to prospects like Ben Broussard and minor-league veterans like Earl Snyder and Bill Selby. They'll dither over whether Chris Magruder is a prospect or merely a nice fourth outfielder. They'll try to showcase John McDonald to an essentially indifferent world, while coming to grips with the fact that signing Ricky Gutierrez was an enormous mistake. If Mark Shapiro has any capacity for self-reflection in considering what happened to his second-base situation, he can ask himself where Marcos Scutaro is.

 

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Activated UT-B Greg Norton from the DL; optioned 1B-L Ross Gload to Colorado Springs; claimed LHP Randy Flores off of waivers from the Rangers; released RHP Chuck Smith. [7/18]

Signed C/UT-B Adam Melhuse to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Colorado Springs. [7/19]

Mostly minor stuff here. Adam Melhuse was hitting .292/.370/.469 at Iowa, and has played some first base, third base and the outfield beyond catching. He is what he has been for several years, an outstanding choice for a bench player on a roster with a good regular catcher. The Rockies aren't that team, but with a good catch-and-throw backup (like Gary Bennett), Melhuse could turn into a useful semi-regular.

Greg Norton may not be an improvement on Ross Gload in terms of handling pinch-hitting duties, but Gload can really only play first base, while Norton can play anywhere in the infield and duck and cover in the outfield. Taken together, it's interesting to think on the points Rany Jazayerli has made, and wonder what could happen if Dan O'Dowd's latest flight of fancy was to build a roster with the goal of scoring absolutely every run he possibly could.

 

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Jose Paniagua to Toledo; recalled LHP Jamie Walker from Toledo. [7/19]

Although this notionally helps in that Jamie Walker's recall means that the Tigers have a situational lefty in the pen again, replacing one demonstrably bad pitcher with another is the state into which the Tigers slipped long ago. This won't really make them better or worse. There's no reason to believe Walker will suddenly become the next Buddy Groom, certainly no more than you might believe that Jose Paniagua could be useful on a team that knew what it was doing.

Who knew that it would take decades to exorcise the ghost of Bo Schembechler? Certainly Randy Smith was no help, but when the Tigers are more concerned with Dave Dombrowski having to apologize for stating the obvious about some of Smith's indefensible long-term contract choices, I doubt that even Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids could set things aright in the Motor City. If the team is more concerned with group hugs and self-esteem, they're never going to get over their collectively disgraceful past and present. This is a franchise that needs to admit their ineptitude--and not in a kitschy-Cubbie sort of way--and then deal with it instead of apologizing for how it hurts people's feelings.

 

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Activated RHP Josh Beckett from the DL. [7/16]

Outrighted LHP Nate Teut to Calgary. [7/17]

Transferred SS-R Alex Gonzalez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; activated LHP Benito Baez from the 60-day DL and optioned him to Portland (Double-A). [7/20]

Now that the Marlins don't matter in their master's minds, it will be interesting to see if they finish ahead of the Expos just to spite them. Certainly getting Josh Beckett back is a good thing. I wouldn't be against them finishing second, not that it matters who finishes second in the NL East. But it will make Omar Minaya look bad while giving some small satisfaction to Jeff Loria--does he enjoy any other kind?--and the Mets could very easily crater after they deal any of their veterans.

 

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Activated RHP T.J. Mathews from the DL; optioned RHP Scott Linebrink to New Orleans. [7/17]

Recalled RHP Kirk Saarloos from New Orleans; optioned RHP Jim Mann to Round Rock (Double-A). [7/20]

They're still in the high grass, but the Astros are starting to show some teeth, if only because the Cardinals and Reds have managed to bring the pack back to them as much as the Astros have mounted a big push.

Things should get even more interesting in the weeks to come. The Astros are taking a swing through the weak NL East at the same time that their rotation is shaping up pretty nicely. Beyond Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller, they've gotten great work out of Nelson Cruz and Peter Munro, just when Carlos Hernandez got hurt and Tim Redding faltered. Prior to reactivating Dave Mlicki, they're taking another peek at Kirk Saarloos. Given that they've probably seen all of the good stuff that they're going to get out of Mlicki, they should be hoping that Saarloos builds on his victory against the Cubs. If he does, then that hopefully creates some question as to who gets replaced by Mlicki: Saarloos or Cruz? Betting on a change-up artist like Cruz to last would be foolhardy, but this is the team that's stubbornly making do with getting less from Craig Biggio and Daryle Ward and Geoff Blum.

 

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Cory Bailey to Omaha. [7/18]

Activated LF-R Chuck Knoblauch from the DL; recalled RHP Jeff Austin from Omaha; optioned OF-R Brandon Berger and RHP Runelvys Hernandez to Omaha. [7/20]

Allard Baird is smart enough to know that he should learn from other GMs. Unfortunately, he seems to be learning from John Hart, because there's no reason to employ Chuck Knoblauch at Brandon Berger's expense. What is Knobby going to do? Set a new franchise record for consecutive steals? How about settling for becoming useful? You may as well keep waiting for the Royals to get good work out of Keith Miller. The shame of it is that Berger was even beginning to hit, and instead of taking anything from that, the Royals would rather stick their fans with the stale promises of December. It may not cost them their pointless quest for second place, but it won't help them field a better ballclub.

 

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Placed IF-R Jeff Reboulet on the 15-day DL (strained back); purchased the contract of UT-R Mike Kinkade from Las Vegas. [7/21]

Mike Kinkade comes back to the majors after hitting .341/.433/.575 in the Pacific Coast League. He's played the outfield and infield corners and he can catch, sort of, so the Dodgers are swapping an extra utility infielder they were barely using for a great weapon off of the bench. Kinkade is even a good complement to Dave Hansen, giving the Dodgers an excellent righty/lefty pinch-hitting combo. Of course, there is the still-lingering open question of why Hansen is on the bench; a Hansen/Kinkade platoon at first base would put at least as many runs on the board as Eric Karros does. To his credit, Dan Evans appears to know this, but nobody's going to take Karros when he's due to receive $8 million in 2003 and either a $1 million buyout or another $9 million in 2004.

 

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Placed LHP Jose Rodriguez on the 15-day DL (elbow); recalled RHP Kevin Frederick from Edmonton. [7/15]

Activated RHP Joe Mays from the DL; optioned RHP Juan Rincon to Edmonton. [7/20]

Kevin Frederick was the closer at Edmonton, and despite a 4.73 ERA, had pitched reasonably well, allowing 55 hits in 45 2/3 innings while posting a 41-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's not really a prospect as much as a demonstration that beyond a certain level of quality, relief pitching is pretty fungible. After all, what about Grant Balfour?

The Twins have the talent to keep re-stocking their pen as much as is needed. That isn't the problem. Instead, the Twins have the more interesting dilemma of what to do about their rotation. Getting Joe Mays back is a good thing, and breaking him in against a weak lineup like the Tigers was a nice touch. Now that Eric Milton has rattled off five good starts in a row, the Twins are in an amusingly similar situation to the Yankees: the point isn't whether or not the rotation has pitched all that well over the entire season, so much as whether or not the talented starters that they have on hand are primed to do good work in October. If the Twins do have their big three of Milton and Mays and Brad Radke firing on all cylinders by September, I wouldn't bet on Bud Selig's "evidence" of competitive imbalance getting any extra padding in October. I have to think that would be almost as embarrassing as his Congressional testimony.

 

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Claimed RHP Ryan Jamison off of waivers from the Astros and optioned him to Binghamton (Double-A). [7/18]

Placed UT-R Joe McEwing on the 15-day DL (strained rib cage), retroactive to 7/14; recalled IF-R Marcos Scutaro from Norfolk. [7/19]

Optioned LHP Mike Bacsik to Norfolk; recalled RHP Jae Weong Seo from Norfolk. [7/21]

Marcos Scutaro arrives, again, after hitting well, again, this time to the tune of .330/.386/.505. This year, he's played some third base and shortstop without doing infamously badly at it. He's long deserved to break into the show to stay, and this might be his first serious opportunity, with Roberto Alomar on the block and the Mets hard up for any kind of offensive help. Even after Joe McEwing returns, the Mets would be well-served to consider keeping Scutaro around while sending John Valentin to some team looking for veteranness off the bench.

Mike Bacsik loses his roster spot to the returning Steve Trachsel, but his two good starts in three increases the chance that the Mets will move Shawn Estes or Jeff D'Amico by next Wednesday, freeing a rotation spot for the left-hander.

 

 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Acquired LHP Chuck Finley from the Indians for 1B/OF-R Luis Garcia and a PTBNL. [7/19]

Optioned LHP Bud Smith to Memphis; added Finley to the active roster. [7/20]

There's no dignity in pity. By its nature, pity runs the risk of being mistaken for condescension and contempt, at least up to the point that you notice that you're being pitied by someone who is not a peer, just somebody amiable and desperate enough to feel pain beyond his own, and just enough of a sucker to want to try to make you feel better on the off chance that it makes him feel better about himself.

Not that I think Walt Jocketty is overly worried about any of that. He just dumped a marginal hitting prospect to land a solid left-handed starter, and that's a pretty sweet deal for an old team with a rotation slot to fill living on borrowed time. Better yet, he did it without actually having a prospect to deal. Rather than develop one of his own, he rented somebody else's: Luis Garcia was essentially flipped from the Red Sox after being the chit received for Dustin Hermanson this past winter. Effectively winding up with Finley for Hermanson is a steal that would have been a steal at any point in the last three years. While Finley has been unfairly labeled as uncompetitive or whatever over the years, he was tremendous down the stretch in each of the last two years, both times pitching in pennant races. So even more than they could have expected from Woody Williams last year, the Cards are getting somebody who has done outstanding work in Septembers past.

The timing is perfect. Bud Smith has struggled and Andy Benes has actually had to be resurrected. With a rotation that, come August, should be fronted by Matt Morris, Finley, and Williams, with Jason Simontacchi and either Bud or Travis Smith in the fifth slot, the Cardinals might be good enough to hold off the Reds. It doesn't add up to a great postseason rotation, any more than you should expect a team punting runs at first base or third base or catcher to do well, but there's still a week to go, and perhaps Jocketty will patch his other holes as easily as he did this one.

 

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Placed C-R Wiki Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (hip flexor), retroactive to 7/18; purchased the contract of C-R Wil Nieves from Portland. [7/20]

Outrighted RHP Rodney Myers to Portland; purchased the contract of RHP Brandon Villafuerte from Portland. [7/21]

The Padres have been so decisively disappointing in so many ways this year that I think I'm going to donate the time I'd normally spend wringing my hands and wondering what more could possibly go wrong with them on something else equally important to the outcome of the NL West. I'd like to focus on something that has just as much opportunity to be an enormous disappointment, yet nevertheless beguiles my sense of curiosity.

Yes, I am speaking of the much-anticipated debut of...the Anna Nicole Smith Show. While I doubt that the show will singlehandedly derail western civilization as we know it, I'm holding out the hope that it puts a nice dent in our collective sense of progress. Some people watch NASCAR for the crashes, and I generally don't appreciate that kind of morbid curiosity. But I know I'm not just speaking for myself when I say that this is one wreck I don't want to miss, and I'll be watching for the wipeout. My only question is at what point I get to sing "God Bless America,"? I'm sure the sponsors will tell me.

Seriously, I do plan on watching. Show of hands, who's with me?

 

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Aaron Fultz to Fresno; purchased the contract of LHP Troy Brohawn from Fresno. [7/17]

Troy Brohawn was doing pretty well in Fresno, whereas Aaron Fultz was among the least effective relievers in the majors. As exchanges go, this one sort of makes sense. However, although Brohawn has the World Series ring and the assortment of junk you'd think might make for a reasonably effective situational lefty, he wasn't a success in the role for last year's Snakes. Fortunately, Chad Zerbe has been extremely effective this year, so Brohawn is at most the second lefty in the pen, pending whatever latest pickups come in on Brian Sabean's latest shopping trip.

 

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Activated RHP Ryan Franklin from the DL; optioned RHP Julio Mateo to Tacoma. [7/15]

Is this important, or is it just more noise to distract from the more basic question, will the Mariners try and help themselves, or will they just sit on their hands and hope that some other stuff happens to the Angels and A's?

So for the moment, Ryan Franklin is the fifth starter, and to James Baldwin's credit, he has had only one decisively bad start since mid-May. The Mariners' collective problem is that beyond getting Jeff Cirillo out of the lineup, there aren't a whole lot of changes that easily suggest themselves. Maybe they trade for a left fielder and move Mark McLemore to third base; that would be easier than trying to make Ed Wade's day by nabbing Scott Rolen.

 

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Returned RHP Ryan Rupe on the 15-day DL (tendinitis - knee); recalled RHP Brandon Backe from Orlando (Double-A). [7/16]

Placed LHP Wilson Alvarez on the 15-day DL (elbow tendinitis). [7/17]

Purchased the contract of RHP Luis de los Santos from Durham. [7/18]

Optioned IF-L Jason Smith to Durham; designated LHP Doug Creek and 1B-R Dave McCarty for assignment; recalled OF-L Carl Crawford, IF-R Andy Sheets and RHP Victor Zambrano from Durham. [7/20]

Talk about contrasts. Brandon Backe throws in the mid-90s, and has no other reason to be here. As a swingman in Orlando, he'd given up 58 runs in 92 1.3 innings and wasn't fooling that many people, posting a meager 45-to-36 strikeout to walk ratio (along with nine wild pitches and five hit batters). He's a converted position player, however, and the D-Rays haven't had one of those in a while. If he goes a week without allowing a run, gear up for his bobblehead day.

Meanwhile, as a comebacker trying to bounce back from his injury-shortened career as a prospect in the Yankees' chain, Luis de los Santos was pitching as a swingman at Durham and had been extremely effective, logging a 6-1 record and posting a 2.30 ERA while allowing just 73 hits and 13 walks in 86 innings. In a season that has seen a lot of minor-league journeymen and organizational soldiers do good work in the majors, De Los Santos earned a break.

The more impressive development is the decision to bring up Carl Crawford. If it was anybody but the Devil Rays, it might mean something, but Crawford's coming up with holes in his game. It's worth noting that in hitting .297/.335/.456 for Durham, he drew all of 15 unintentional walks in 378 plate appearances. While he's just about to turn 21 and is normally the sort of guy you ought to be excited about, just remember that he's playing for the Devil Rays, and that they have yet to find a young player's career they couldn't retard.

This does sort of represent a commitment to youth in that they're going to play Crawford in left field and Jared Sandberg at third and Toby Hall behind the plate, and those are all notionally future good D-Rays.

How long ago was it that the Rays were offering Doug Creek for a million bucks, anyway? The amazing thing is that there are enough teams hard up for lefty help that there should be a scramble for his services now that there's no tribute to make to Vince Naimoli.

 

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Placed RHP Hideki Irabu on the 15-day DL (blood clots - lungs), retroactive to 7/13; returned OF-L Rusty Greer to the 15-day DL (back and hip pain), retroactive to 7/12; recalled RHP Joaquin Benoit from Charlotte (A ball) and RHP Rob Bell from Tulsa (Double-A); announced that UT-0 Donnie Sadler cleared waivers and was offered an assignment with Oklahoma. [7/15]

Activated OF-R Gabe Kapler and RHP Danny Kolb from the DL; optioned RHP Joaquin Benoit to Oklahoma; designated LHP Randy Flores for assignment. [7/16]

Recalled RHP Aaron Myette from Oklahoma; purchased the contract of RHP Reynaldo Garcia from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Colby Lewis to Oklahoma; outrighted RHP Anthony Telford to Oklahoma. [7/19]

There's a lot of sadness here, and not just on Hideki Irabu's behalf. I keep hoping he'll find a role in which he can stick, and the closer's job would have been nice as well as illustrative. Now it looks like he's out for the season, and I can't help but feel sorry for him.

The larger, overarching sense of sadness here is that the Rangers can't let themselves get better or try to build towards 2003. Indeed, they're stuck shuffling through a pro forma exercise of showing that the veterans can't play. Carl Everett? Rusty Greer? Ruben Rivera? Gabe Kapler? What's the point of playing them? Frank Catalanotto, Kevin Mench, Ryan Ludwick, Jason Romano...those are the guys who might inspire some measure of hope and faith in the Rangers and what they might be able to build around Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro. Play the oldsters to showcase them? They're all too expensive, now and into 2003 and beyond, for what they offer their prospective employers, and who would want people like Everett or Rivera in the first place?

More noisome is the continued random reshuffling on the pitching staff. Joaquin Benoit...fifth starter, or simply jerked around? Aaron Myette, up or down? Rob Bell? And next week? Dave Burba, in or out of the rotation, and if he's in the bullpen, why is he still here? Why is Reynaldo Garcia up at all? He was pitching as a swingman, giving up 40 runs in 79 innings between Tulsa and Oklahoma, while coughing up a dozen gopher balls. Is that somebody who should be up, especially when he has to be added to the 40-man to get him here? If the Rangers are going to dump any of their veterans for talent, they're going to need spaces on the 40-man roster. Why fill a slot with a player who doesn't really belong yet, and who you might have to subsequently risk trying to pass through waivers? On each individual day, I'm sure John Hart has answers. The problem is that they have the shelf life of a mayfly, if that, and they don't answer what the Rangers need to be doing in three days, a week, next month, or next year. This is action as a form of self-validation to show that Tom Hicks' money is at work. This is not progress.

 

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Optioned SS-B Felipe Lopez to Syracuse; purchased the contract of OF-L DeWayne Wise from Tennessee (Double-A). [7/18]

Activated RHP Luke Prokopec from the DL; optioned RHP Brian Bowles to Syracuse. [7/20]

While the decision to demote Felipe Lopez seems shocking at first glance, the move serves a dual purpose. First, Lopez clearly isn't making progress offensively. The Jays are aware of his shortcomings, but the question is whether Lopez is listening to what they're telling him. By demoting him, the organization puts the onus on him: he can either start paying attention, he can devolve into the next Rey Quinones or Mike Caruso, or he can mark time in Syracuse until he gets to be somebody else's problem.

In the same vein, J.P. Ricciardi is sorting out what everybody on his 40-man roster does, and whether it has value going forward. DeWayne Wise was a 2000 Rule 5 pick, and this year he's finally doing something to inspire some hope, hitting .297/.350/.471 for the Smokies. Hitting was always Wise's weakest tool--he can fly in the outfield, he can run and he can bunt. The Jays have an immediate need for a fourth outfielder in the wake of trading Raul Mondesi, so the next two months-plus gives Wise a chance to stick. It also gives the Jays a chance to see whether or not they want to keep Wise on the 40-man, and whether they can make progress on his most obvious shortcoming, plate discipline. He's drawn just 24 unintentional walks in 380 PAs. If Wise makes progress with direct instruction from hitting coach Mike Barnett, they'll have something worth keeping. If he doesn't, they'll have a better idea of where he ranks in terms of designing their 40-man roster for 2003.

Meanwhile, in Lopez's absence, the Jays can make do with Chris Woodward and Dave Berg to handle shortstop. They're adequate temps, and if Lopez is wasting his development time, the Jays are better off making due with people willing to put in the time.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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