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July 24, 1998

Transaction Analysis

July 21-23

by Christina Kahrl

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Purchased the contract of 2B/3B P.J. Forbes from Rochester; designated RHP Joel Bennett for assignment. [7/21]

Traded OF/1B Joe Carter to San Francisco for RHP Darin Blood. [7/23]

Good news for the Orioles has been pretty infrequent, so its news when they pull off one addition and one bit of addition-by-subtraction. Sending Joe Carter away is their outstanding good fortune. First, it creates playing time for significantly better offensive and defensive players (Rich Becker, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Harold Baines when he returns, and yes, Baines is a better defensive player if only because no one pretends he can still play the field). Then, as a reward for that upgrade, they get a borderline pitching prospect in Blood for it. Blood hasn't been dominating since the California League in '96, but he's a starter with a four-pitch assortment and decent control who's managed to put up adequate ERAs in the Texas League and the PCL (4.66 at Fresno). Meanwhile, the Orioles also add P.J. Forbes, which is a nice gesture for the 30 year old minor league vet. He's having what might be the best year of his career at Rochester, pelting 34 doubles while hitting .312/.361/.468. It doesn't mean much to mention he's a more dangerous hitter than anyone else on the left side of the Orioles' infield, or to mention that he won't get much playing time.

BOSTON RED SOX

Recalled RHP John Wasdin from Pawtucket; placed RHP Jim Corsi on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/18 (stiff neck, jammed thumb). [7/22]

Wasdin came up to take his shot at the fifth spot in the rotation, and gave the Red Sox a decent outing. Its now up to them to just leave him alone in the slot, or continue the Jin Ho Cho experiment, instead of fooling around with both, either, or neither so that they can piddle around with Derek Lowe or Robinson Checo for two weeks. Unless the Sox start making a commitment to one starter or another, they run the risk of not having anyone ready should (or more likely, when) Bret Saberhagen get hurt. In the meantime, losing Corsi weakens the Sox pen considerably, and may create an opening for the Eck to finally return (not a good thing).

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned OF Matt Mieske to Iowa; recalled RHP Rodney Myers from Iowa. [7/22]

Mieske has basically been moved because of two factors: today's doubleheader against the Mets means that Don Wengert will take another tateriffic crack at starting a ballgame, and with Lance Johnson healthy and Glenallen Hill on the roster, the Cubs think there isn't room for all of them. You might argue that Hill makes Mieske superfluous, except that Mieske is the better defender and the better hitter against lefties, so he's the better platoon mate for Henry Rodriguez. The point is essentially moot, since Mieske will be brought back shortly. But there are additional sources of misfortune: why let yourself be in a situation where Wengert has to start (in other words, why did lose Amaury Telemaco? why promote and demote Kennie Steenstra? why not start Rodney Myers?)? And why is third catcher Sandy Martinez' spot on the roster sacred? The Cubs keep claiming he's a young "work in progress," but he had more major league catching experience than Tyler Houston coming into this season. Martinez is out of options, but pity the team so desperate that it would need to enter a waiver claim on him if the Cubs ever wise up. Rod Myers was enduring his usual struggles as a mediocre AAA swingman, and his control (his one asset last year) is slipping.

CINCINNATI REDS

Signed RHP Pete Harnisch to a two-year contract with a team option for 2001; signed RHP Jason Bere to a minor-league contract. [7/21]

I think the major message being sent with giving Harnisch a multi-year deal that prevents him from being traded this year is that it also formally signifies that Barry Larkin is off the trade market. As for signing Bere, he won't even be the Reds' best ex-White Sox wunderkind in the organization, since Rod Bolton is doing some good work for Indy. But hey, they wasted almost three months on Dave Weathers, so don't be surprised when they pick Bere over Bolton.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed LHP Jim Poole to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Buffalo. [7/22]

Traded UT Shawon Dunston, RHP Jose Mesa, and LHP Alvin Morman to San Francisco for RHP Steve Reed and RF Jacob Cruz. [7/23]

Traded RHP Eric Plunk to Milwaukee for RHP Doug Jones. [7/23]

Recalled LF/1B Richie Sexson and LHP Ron Villone from Buffalo. [7/23]

Small market, big market, none of that matters when you're just smarter than your peers. I'm speaking about the trade with the Giants, since the Jones-Plunk swap is basically an exchange of problem relievers who've lost their jobs (even so, Jones' 15 homeruns in 54 IP is frightening). Reed isn't just the best player in the deal, if that's your standard of success in trades; he's one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball this year, and over the past five. When he's on, his sidearm to three-quarters delivery and good heat just nukes right-handed batters. For that, the Indians gave up roster garbage, gained roster space for two good young players in Villone and Sexson, and didn't even have to hurt Buffalo's chances in the International League, because the Bisons get Cruz to replace Sexson and Poole to replace Villone. How often do you see a trade that improves your depth and quality at both the major league and minor league levels simultaneously? John Hart didn't even have to give up Enrique Wilson or Brian Giles or Russ Branyan or Sexson to make his team better. The Giants didn't just get the shaft: they got a postcard with a picture of the shaft signed "Love ya, Johnny."

DETROIT TIGERS

Placed C Raul Casanova on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/21 (hamstring); optioned RHP A.J. Sager to Toledo; recalled 2B/3B Frank Catalanotto from Toledo; purchased the contract of C Joe Siddall from Toledo. [7/23]

It seems like Casanova is just snakebit, because this was supposed to be his opportunity to claim half of the major league job. Now Paul Bako gets to solidify his hold on it. Meanwhile, Frank Catalanotto will hopefully get some regular playing time between second, third, and DH.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed RHP Eric Ludwick on the 15-day DL (hand); recalled RHP Andy Larkin from Charlotte. [7/23]

Speaking of bad luck, Ludwick is on the DL again for his third non-pitching injury this season. Larkin will slide into the rotation again, leading to the usual fireworks, since he's already run up a not-unusual-for-him 5.86 ERA at Charlotte. Where's Ed Yarnall? Struggling and pitching in relief in Charlotte, and at best just being hidden away from Jim Leyland.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated 3B Terry Pendleton from the DL; optioned INF Shane Halter to Omaha. [7/21]

Shane Halter was sent down for not doing "the little things" after he blew a bunt. When does Terry Pendleton get cut for not doing "the big things," like playing baseball well?

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Traded RHP Jim Bruske to San Diego for RHP Widd Workman, and assigned Workman to San Bernardino (A-ball); recalled RHP Mike Judd from Albuquerque. [7/23]

The Dodgers are being semi-sensible for once, in that Bruske isn't a major asset (but then Workman isn't a prospect), but making room for one of their best pitching prospects in Judd makes good sense. Initially, he'll get most of his work in middle relief, which is probably for the best given his struggles at Albuquerque (a superficially nice-looking 4.56 ERA glosses over 62 runs and 17 homeruns allowed in 94.2 IP).

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Traded RHP Doug Jones to Cleveland for RHP Eric Plunk; activated RHP Paul Wagner from the DL; optioned RHP Bronswell Patrick to Louisville. [7/23]

Plunk's battled a variety of injuries over the season, so he has some excuses for his ineffectiveness, whereas Jones' palmball had simply been figured out by his league for the fifth time in his career. His fastball still has good movement, so he may yet recapture his previous success. Patrick didn't deserve the demotion, but he has options while Dave Weathers doesn't, and after pitching in Wednesday's double-header and with another one on tap for Friday, the Brewers needed a body to toss on the mound. Enter, and shortly thereafter exit, Wagner.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Placed RHP Mike Morgan on the 15-day DL (abdominal strain); recalled RHP Frank Rodriguez from Salt Lake. [7/21]

Frankie (or F-Rod, pronounced "fraud," to disgruntled fantasy league types) will once again resume his spot in the rotation, and probably Tom Kelly's doghouse. With both Morgan and Bob Tewksbury on the DL, don't be surprised if the Twins fall out of second place in the AL Central. Rodriguez didn't embarass himself in the PCL, going 5-7 with a 4.67 ERA, allowing only 97 hits in 96.1 IP, 9 HRs, and a nice 79:35 K:BB ratio. This is probably his last clean shot at a rotation spot with the Twins.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned 2B/SS Ray Holbert to Ottawa; recalled RHP Jeremy Powell from Harrisburg (AA). [7/23]

Powell looked pretty good on Thursday against the Cubs, freezing them with his sweeping curve and solid control. He deserves to be up to stay, having shown significantly improved control in his first year at AA. Holbert wound up being the demotion of desperation, since the Expos had initially wanted to designate Darond Stovall for assignment, only to learn that a player cannot be designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for a minor league player, but instead only for the reactivation of an injured player. Stovall instead had to go through waivers, which he cleared, and he'll be sent off to make room for Mike Thurman's start in tonight's double-header. That means the centerfield job is all Terry Jones', which should do wonders for the Expos' drive for better draft position.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed RHP Rich Loiselle on the 15-day DL (back strain). [7/22]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jeff McCurry from Nashville; transferred RHP Marc Wilkins from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/23]

Closer cachet or no, Loiselle won't be missed. He's been a terror with men on base... to Gene Lamont, and blowing a third of your save opportunities isn't a skill most people need to cultivate. The resulting shakeup of the bullpen ought to leave Ricardo Rincon in sole possession of the closer's job, with Mike Williams and Jason Christiansen being his primary setup men. That's surprising for both of them: many expect Christiansen to be elsewhere in a week, while Williams is the same guy who the Phillies kicked around for years.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed RHP Juan Acevedo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/18 (strained elbow); recalled RHP Curtis King from Memphis. [7/22]

Losing Acevedo might be a serious misfortune for the Cardinals push to remain on the fringes of the wild card race. Six weeks of good work had made him their second-best starting pitcher, and in his place, the always-flammable Bobby Witt will start until Donovan Osborne's groin has a good week. King may get a crack at some saves once Rick Croushore goes back to being a pumpkin, which just means that a bad situation will continue to get worse.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Traded RHP Widd Workman to Los Angeles for RHP Jim Bruske; optioned LHP Roberto Ramirez to Las Vegas. [7/23]

With Brian Boehringer struggling badly, and Ramirez turning out to be a major disappointment, the Pads were right to try to strengthen their pen slightly. They're familiar with Bruske, he's pitching about like he should (3.48 ERA), and they got him for the right price. A nice bit of roster tweaking.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Acquired OF/1B Joe Carter from Baltimore for RHP Darin Blood; acquired RHP Jose Mesa, LHP Alvin Morman, and UT Shawon Dunston from Cleveland Indians for RHP Steve Reed and RF Jacob Cruz. [7/23]

Placed C Brian Johnson on the 15-day DL; recalled C Doug Mirabelli from Fresno [7/23]

Well, it took longer than expected, but everyone can send in those "you're an idiot" letters to the Brian Sabean now. Carter isn't merely worthless; that's an insult to worthless things, like the rupia, a politician's campaign promise, or asteroid movies. An outfielder with no range hitting .247/.297/.424 in a tater haven like Camden Yards is just another way of saying "washed-up," and he's probably going to chase Stan Javier to the bench, when Javier's the better player. But that was the bounty of Mr. Sabean's "good" deal. The trade with the Indians is astonishingly bad. Dunston has no position, and even less offensive value than Carter. Mesa may pitch better now that he's away from disgruntled Indians fans, but it isn't like he's going to ever get back to his amazing '95 season. That year is the only reason you can even mention him at the same time as Steve Reed, because Reed is having a great season in what's turning out to be a great career. Mesa's hittable, and he's been hittable for three years. Alvin Morman? You give up one of the best relief pitchers in baseball for somebody who used to be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, and your best minor league outfield prospect above the California League, and you get what's left of Shawon Dunston and the Tribe's fourth-best lefty reliever?

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed C Dan Wilson on the 15-day DL (torn ligaments - ankle); recalled C Raul Chavez from Tacoma. [7/21]

Wilson has been suffering through a miserable season (.254/.307/.394), and now it looks like he'll miss August for his troubles. In the meantime, Mt. Piniella's paisan' John Marzano will do most of the catching, and that's never been a good idea.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed OF Dave Martinez on the 15-day DL; recalled OF Rich Butler from Durham. [7/22]

Martinez is looking like one of the major free agent busts of the season, hitting a miserable .256/.334/.320. For a corner outfielder, that's downright Joe Carteresque. What's going to happen in his absence? The D-Rays would be best off with giving Bubba Trammell and Rich Butler as many at-bats as possible, but instead don't be shocked to consistently see them run the three centerfielders out there: Quinton McCracken, Randy Winn, and Mike Kelly. At some point, you'd have to expect even Larry Rothschild and Chuck LaMar to notice that doesn't help the worst offense in the major leagues, but they're invested in each of the three of them, and having to bench, demote, and suitably reward McCracken or Kelly for their ineffectiveness would be a public admission of error, and we won't see that.

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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