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August 23, 2002

Transaction Analysis

August 19-21, 2002

by Christina Kahrl

IN THIS ISSUE
American League
National League
ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Placed RHP Aaron Sele on the 15-day DL (partially torn rotator cuff); recalled LHP Mark Lukasiewicz from Salt Lake. [8/21]

Naturally, buzzwords like "torn," and "rotator cuff" are passports to instant ghost status on a roster. The early mousetalk from Squeaky Goebbels is that everything's going to be just daffy ducky, and Aaron Sele will only miss two to three weeks, at which point he will return to the rotation. That, and London will be bombed into submission. Cooler heads--Mike Scioscia among them--don't think things will work out quite that well.

Fortunately, skipping past the expense of having Sele around, he was the fifth-best starter in the Angels' rotation, so it isn't like they just lost Jarrod Washburn. The obvious outcome, between losing Sele and promoting a lefty spot reliever like Mark Lukasiewicz, is that Scott Schoeneweis should be returning to the rotation. That's not all bad, since Schoeneweis had arguably outpitched Sele anyway; his Support Neutral Value-Added is lower, but he contributed five quality starts out of fifteen, versus Sele's eleven (counting one blown in the eighth inning) in 25 starts. The main point is that it's merely an exchange in the fifth slot, which is another way of saying John Lackey has been a godsend.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Traded RHP P.J. Bevis to the Mets as the PTBNL to complete the Mark Little trade. [8/20]

Placed LHP Greg Swindell on the 15-day DL (strained back); recalled LHP Eddie Oropesa from Tuscon; optioned C-R Rod Barajas to Tuscon; recalled INF-B Alex Cintron from Tuscon. [8/21]

As roster tweaking goes, this is interesting in the same way that being able to recite twentieth century Bulgarian czars is interesting: it's a non sequitur that you cough up at a bad party out of desperation, not desire, to keep the silence from getting deafening. Similarly, the Snakes' last five roster spots are trivia with which to annoy thoughtful friends, and bemuse Diamondback opponents. Losing Flounder Swindell sort of hurts, since he's been moderately effective the few times he's pitched over the last seven weeks or so, while Eddie Oropesa hasn't really been effective anywhere outside of Larry Bowa's fantasy life in the last two seasons. But bringing up Alex Cintron and ending the "competition" between the Snakes' lousy pair of backup catchers is a moderately good thing, since it allows them to keep Jay Bell buried on the bench, while using Cintron as the main utility infielder up the middle until Craig Counsell comes back. Picking between Rod Barajas' tepid power and Chad Moeller's all-around perkiness isn't a real choice, it's a lifeless passion play before praying for Damian Miller's continued good health.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Jared Fernandez to Louisville; placed RHP John Riedling on the 15-day DL (strained groin). [8/19]

Recalled RHPs Chris Reitsma and Luke Hudson from Louisville; named OF-R Raul Gonzalez as the first of two PTBNLs from the Estes deal. [8/20]

So there you have it, the latest permutation of the Reds' rotation of the we(e/a)k. For those keeping score, that means we're down to hired guns Shawn Estes, Scuffy Moehler, and Ryan Dempster (one quality start and one blown quality start in eight for the Reds), Jimmy Haynes, and now this week's fresh meat: a returning Chris Reitsma. Jared Fernandez apparently made the mistake of outpitching Dempster and Haynes, so he's out. For now. Blink, and he'll be back, or maybe Bob Boone will go with seven starters. See, once you slip out of contention, you get back to being goofy, and that's Boone's natural environment.

Reitsma didn't set the International League on ear with his three starts in Louisville, giving up ten runs in 21 IP. But the Reds are hard-up for help, especially with Elmer Dessens not getting better as quickly as they'd like. Fortunately, Dessens should be able to start next week, but at this rate, the Reds may be ten games out and dead in the water by then.

The happier news is that Luke Hudson will get a look-see in a relief role. He can pump low-90s gas, and as an ex-starter, he should be fine in a long relief role. He struggled as a starter with the Riverbatwings, but like a healthy John Riedling or Scott Williamson, he could become a significant asset in the bullpen. He's also managed to pelt sixteen hitters at the plate, which will impress... well, Bury'em Bruce Kison, I guess.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Placed 2B-R Ricky Gutierrez on the 15-day DL (strained neck), retroactive to 8/15; purchased the contract of INF-R Greg LaRocca from Buffalo; transferred RHP Bob Wickman from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Ryan Drese to Buffalo; recalled RHP Ricardo Rodriguez from Buffalo. [8/20]

The bad news is that Ricky Gutierrez is not only done, he might be done, as in forever. He may require surgery that will keep him out for at least three-to-six months. The question is if this injury was sustained at the end of last season, how he passed the Indians' physical. Signing him for the money they're paying him wasn't a good idea in the first place, but now it's a godsend for Gutierrez and something you hope the Indians got insurance on.

In Gutierrez' absence, the Tribe gets to spend serious time evaluating John McDonald. This might seriously improve their interior defense, but they'll only get a sharp reminder of something they should have known three years ago: he won't hit. They could take a look at another one of their classic Bisons, Greg LaRocca. Like Bill Selby before him, he's got an established track record of hitting in Triple-A, coming up after hitting .293/.402/.432 (equal to a .273 Equivalent Average in the majors). Unfortunately, they probably need to clone him, because he can't play both second and third. Selby hasn't hit much in spotty playing time, and Travis Fryman is simply marking the days until it all comes to an end. And since they're committed to taking a long look at McDonald, LaRocca can look forward to service time and not much else.

As for the decision to finally put Ryan Drese out of the club's misery, it's overdue. He's clambered up to being the sixth-worst starter by Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral metrics. The Tribe is moving into a youth movement in the rotation: behind Danys Baez and C.C. Sabathia, they're starting Jason Phillips and Jake Westbrook, which makes sense. All four are better prospects than Drese, who posted only six quality starts in 24. Overall, it's progress from goofing around with the individual death rides of Charles Nagy, Jaret Wright, and Dave Burba. The part I find troubling is the decision to propel Ricardo Rodriguez into the rotation already. He's got a whopping six starts in Triple-A. Unfortunately, the Indians are short of alternatives above A-ball. They really are down to rushing Rodriguez, sticking with Drese, or running with one of George Romero's living undead yester-vets.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Placed RHP A.J. Burnett on the 15-day DL (injured elbow); recalled RHP Blaine Neal from Calgary. [8/19]

There's already been a lot of bandwidth appropriately shed on the subject of Jeff Torborg, Doofus, and his role in slagging A.J. Burnett to inspire dozens, no, perhaps hundreds of season ticket holders with the sacrifice. Torborg was a management tool in the uses and abuses of White Sox starters back in the day, so he slipped pretty easily into the "gosh, I don't know what happened" script. The shame is that this is one of those rare situations (for him) where he may actually believe every word. I could rail about how he deserves to be fired, but what's the point? Barring a fan riot where they throw Jeff Loria, David Samson, Torborg, and Torborg's henchmen Ozzie Guillen and Demon into an Olympic-sized pool loaded with barracuda, there's no point in singling out just one villain.

The question is what happens from here? The Fish will be bumping Carl Pavano into the rotation after he's given them some reasonable quality time mopping up in the pen. I've always held out hope that Pavano could finally turn things around, and now is as good a time as any. On this team, he may get to do it and then flame out before many notice.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Activated CF-R Brian Hunter from the DL; optioned OF-R Jason Lane to New Orleans. [8/20]

The horror of the Astros' outfield situation is that the return of Brian Hunter might shake up both of their non-Berkman outfield slots. Both Richard Hidalgo and Daryle Ward are struggling terribly, not hitting in The Ballpark To Be Named Later, and not on the road either, and the Astros have to be in win-now mode to keep up with the Cardinals. Just as Jimy Williams fell into making Geoff Blum and Jose Vizcaino almost-everyday players, there's a very real chance that Brian Hunter and Orlando Merced could win even larger shares of playing time. Now sure, maybe Williams could mix and match and create some effective platoons, similar to the semi-platoon he's created between Blum and Adam Everett in the left side of the infield, with Vizcaino playing every day. But giving Brian Hunter more playing time will only make you ask yourself what you were thinking, sort of like an after-action report on what happened after ordering that ninth pint. Hunter doesn't hit lefties better than any righthanders, randomly selected bipeds, or Moties for the Pournelle/Niven classic, The Mote in God's Eye. His real role should remain pinch-running, defensive substitutions, and bringing something to the dugout from the clubhouse real fast. The pity is that by sending down Jason Lane, they're sticking with thirteen hitters. As a result, they don't have someone to platoon with Orlando Merced if they did decide to sit Ward down.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Activated RHP Tony Armas Jr. from the DL. [8/19]

Tony Armas Jr. comes back to reclaim his fifth slot in the rotation. He'll need to pitch well to keep it. In four starts in Armas' absence, Britt Reames made two quality starts and a serviceable start, only getting knocked around once (by the Cardinals). A starter who gives his team a shot at a win three times out of four is valuable. By contrast, before going onto the DL, Armas made one quality start in five, and he just got lit up by the Rockies (in Coors, of course). Fortunately for Armas, the Expos are back to irrelevance, unless the fight for second place in the National League's weakest division quickens your pulse. So Armas can rely on his status as an outstanding young talent to keep his slot. Since the other four starters are all doing well, this is the best way for them to use the rotation slot anyway. And if, coincidentally, it gives Armas and Frank Robinson a chance to iron out their minor peccadillo, so much the better.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Placed RHP Mariano Rivera on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 8/16; recalled RHP Mike Thurman from his hotel room. [8/19]

The Yankees have been here already, and while the news appears to be bad, this is what they brought Steve Karsay in for, isn't it? Karsay plus Mike Stanton might not come into the game looking like the grim reaper in pinstripes, but they've been two of the game's most effective relievers over the last couple of seasons, so it isn't like the Yankees are hurting for quality relief help. Ramiro Mendoza has also outpitched Rivera this summer, giving the Yankees a solid trio, so if Rivera doesn't pitch again, they'll have the horses for the last three innings of a tight game.

In back of those three, you've got the Yankees' sixth through eighth starters from their Overpreparation Plan: Jeff Weaver, Sterling Hitchcock, and Mike Thurman (again). For those of you--and you're probably all in Oregon--counting this sort of thing, Thurman has been up and down three times in the last month, so the amount of time he's actually spent in Ohio as opposed to in transit or in pinstripes during that time makes for an interesting question.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Acquired OF-R Raul Gonzalez from the Reds as the first of two PTBNLs from the Estes deal; acquired RHP P.J. Bevis from the Diamondbacks to complete the Mark Little trade. [8/20]

Optioned INF-R Marcos Scutaro to Norfolk; added Gonzalez to the active roster. [8/21]

The Mets' organization needs depth, and if nothing else, they just added some. Apparently the Mets couldn't wait for the minor league free agent market to add Raul Gonzalez, but that's okay, considering he's one of the minor league vets who's already earned his shot. He's having another nice season in Triple-A, hitting .333/.416/.495, which translates to a nifty .283 Equivalent Average in the major leagues. A classic tweener, he'd make an outstanding fourth outfielder, but on the Mets he's arguably the best they've got right now. He'll be 29 before the year is out, so it isn't like he's a long-term answer, but since they're locked into Jeromy Burnitz through 2003 and Roger Cedeno through 2005, he can at least be a cheap and effective alternative to them for the immediate future.

P.J. Bevis was pitching very effectively in El Paso, posting a 2.83 ERA while allowing only 50 hits in 63.2 IP, with a 62-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's another success story in their experimentation with sidearm deliveries, and since he can also dial up heat in the low 90s, he might become a nifty little steal for the Mets of 2003 and beyond. Considering they're already spiraling out of contention, getting Bevis for a fourth outfielder is another nice little pickup for Steve Phillips.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Agreed to a four-year contract with C-R Mike Lieberthal. [8/19]

The deal is for $23.5 million, so it ain't cheap. The question is why you would sign it now? Lieberthal is 30, he's not having the sort of season that tells you he's going to be the next Carlton Fisk and be a great catcher in his thirties, and he's missed significant time to injuries in three of the previous four seasons. Pudge Rodriguez will be a free agent this winter, and while he might get an eight-figure contract, that would be a bad investment at the price. He hasn't come close to reproducing his peak season (at age 27) in 1999 in any of the last three. Admittedly, position scarcity and Johnny "I will make you forget Bo Diaz" Estrada are pretty good reasons to want to re-up Lieberthal, but at this price, it won't be any easier to afford a quality replacement for Scott Rolen.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Added RHP Ismael Valdes to the active roster; optioned LHP John Halama to Tacoma. [8/20]

Well, obviously Mr. Halama isn't too happy about this, now that he's earned the official Brett Tomko Gift Basket of fruits, cheeses, and a tasty selection of summer sausages for his contributions to this summer's edition of your Seattle Mariners. If you were Halama, you'd be cranky too. He's being bumped for Ismael Valdes while James Baldwin goes a-whistling to work? That's hardly fair, but you know the score. He had an option. Ryan Franklin should as well, so it seems strange that Halama got bumped when he's outpitched both of them, both as a starter and as a reliever, but maybe he refused to endorse a local caffeinated beverage or something.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of LHP C.J. Nitkowski from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Reynaldo Garcia to Oklahoma. [8/19]

Activated OF-L Todd Hollandsworth from the DL; optioned 1B/OF-R Jason Hart to Oklahoma. [8/20]

Todd Hollandsworth refused to go on a rehab assignment, forcing the Rangers to reactivate him right now this instant. Given that this is Hollandsworth's opportunity to make a first and perhaps only impression, the Rangers really should have considered suggesting the anatomically impossible, suspending him, and then waiting for the slow wheels of justice to grind until October before getting to an arbitrator, at which point Hollandsworth would have gone without his rehab stint and getting any at-bats to help feather his impending free agency. With their season over and corner outfielders who need to be looked at coming out of their ears, Hollandsworth owes the Rangers for the at-bats he might get more than the Rangers need to invest them in him.

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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