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August 11, 1998

Transaction Analysis

August 6-10

by Christina Kahrl

First of all, we appreciate the responses on the change in format. Since the changes we made last report were not popular, we'll try one more thing to replace those italics. As before, you can let us know what you think of this installment's format at bpadmin@baseballprospectus.com. Thanks for your patience.

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Acquired RHP Jeff Juden from Milwaukee for a PTBNL and cash. [8/7]

Placed 2B Paco Martin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/6 (strained neck). [8/9]

Placed 1B/OF Darin Erstad on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/4 (strained hamstring); placed 1B/3B Dave Hollins on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation); recalled 1B Chris Pritchett from Vancouver; purchased the contract of OF Reggie Williams from Vancouver; designated 1B/3B Frank Bolick and OF Damon Mashore for assignment. [8/10]

Acquired RHP Mike Fetters from Oakland for a PTBNL and cash. [8/10]

Ours not to reason why, ours just to Disneyfy. What kind of Disney gloss can you possibly put on Juden, one of the game's great characters? Why even go out and get him in the first place? With the Brewers, he'd gone deeply into the tank, losing his last six in a row. His overall numbers are ghastly: a 5.53 ERA, 149 hits and 66 free passes in 138.1 IP. Okay, so he's a ready-made pitcher for the Angels, minus the actual exposure to the quick-slagging ways of Terry Collins. So I ask again, why get him? He isn't someone you want in the rotation over their internal options: Finley isn't going anywhere, they're sticking with Olivares and Dickson so far, and Steve Sparks has been a nice surprise. So Juden will be starting ahead of Jarrod Washburn, which is a mistake, and someone's going to get bumped for Jack McDowell by next week, and someone else is probably going to get bumped for Ken Hill in another week or two. And I haven't even had to mention Allen Watson, not that he deserves much more than that. Trying to collect as many guys who are all about 10% worse than league average may win you some sort of booby prize, but that's about it.

It seems uncanny that no sooner did the Angels cut loose Cecil-san, than they suddenly seem to need him for another two weeks or so. That isn't what I really think: if losing two ineffective hitters like Fielder and Hollins squelches the Angels' drive for the AL West, then they weren't doing something right in the first place. Losing Erstad is another matter altogether, but if, in his absence, that forces the Angels to just run Todd Greene out there everyday, so much the better for them. Pritchett actually has every chance to be more of an asset than Fielder or Hollins, but the real problem for the Angels is whether or not Tim Salmon can make it for the next six or seven weeks.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated 1B Travis Lee from the DL; recalled RHP Bob Wolcott from Tucson; optioned 2B Danny Klassen to Tucson; outrighted RHP Barry Manuel to Tucson. [8/9]

Lee's return means that the productive Andy Fox/Tony Batista combo will shift over to second for a few weeks, while Klassen gets a refresher at shortstop so that the D-backs can evaluate whether they want to shift Jay Bell to second by next spring. I'm certain that's exactly what they thought they were going to do with Bell from the start... oops. As things stand now, the Fox/Batista platoon is one of their best regulars, so whatever combinations they cook up ought to start taking that into account, instead of worrying about accomodating Matt Williams or Bell. Memo to Mr. Colangelo: Steinbrenner was big enough to pay Steve Kemp to go away, and the White Sox are probably still mailing checks to Julio Cruz. Consider those examples lessons.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed RHP Russ Springer on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Adam Butler from Richmond. [8/6]

Well, that worked out well, didn't it? Now that they decided to add a second lefty to the pen, Alan Embree sure would look handy, wouldn't he? In all fairness, Butler has pitched effectively in Richmond's pen, showing improved control and command (23 BBs and 79 Ks in 89.2 IP). If they're as patient with him as they have been with El Presidente, they'll be better for it.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed RHP Doug Drabek on the 15-day DL (hamstring or career-ending ineffectiveness); purchased the contract of RHP Bobby Munoz from Rochester; designated RHP Billy Percibal for assignment. [8/8]

Traded OF Jeffrey Hammonds to Cincinnati for UT Willie Greene. [8/10]

Finally sending Hammonds away isn't really a bad thing for the Orioles, since it makes Rich Becker the primary alternative to Brady Anderson in center, and Hammonds was never going to live up to the mistaken observation that he'd be "the new Rickey Henderson." In the meantime, Greene will... well, not play much third base. As much as I like this deal from the Orioles perspective, or think it's a good move if they're anticipating losing Harold Baines to retirement or Raffy Palmeiro to free agency, I just don't see the Angelos family settling for the heavily underrated (not to mention relatively inexpensive) Greene as their starting DH or first baseman next year.

I've been picking on baseball's nicest bad pitcher enough for this month, so I'll pull the punch here.

BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired LHP Pete Schourek from Houston for cash. [8/6]

Activated RHP Jim Corsi from the DL; placed RHP Rich Garces on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/3 (bone chips - elbow). [8/6]

Designated OF Keith Mitchell for assignment; assigned DH Bill Ashley and LHP David West to Pawtucket. [8/7]

The Sox haven't made their choice as far as their fourth and fifth starter slots will shake down now that they have Schourek aboard. John Wasdin is coming off of a shellacking, while Steve Avery is basically still in his post-Braves, "show me the Ken Dayley money," phase. Not that Schourek is an improvement: you're talking about a starter with serious problems going more than 80 pitches or beyond the fifth inning, who put up a 4.50 ERA in the Astrodome en route to Fenway, and who hasn't shown control of the quickly-spent junk he's been getting by with. Is this a stretch drive pickup, or another way for Dan Duquette to find affirmation?

CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned RHP Todd Williams to Indianapolis. [8/9]

Acquired OF Jeffrey Hammonds from Baltimore for UT Willie Greene. [8/10]

Why trade Willie Greene? Why get Reggie Sanders Lite for him? Hammonds doesn't do anything for the Reds that they don't already have alternatives to: he gets hurt about as often as Sanders, and neither of them is the ideal centerfielder on a team that has people like Dmitri Young or Mel Nieves haunting the corners. Hammonds will probably get first crack at the CF job for '99, but he's older than Greene, and nowhere near as good or consistent an offensive player, and I wouldn't bet that he's really that much better than just running Pat Watkins out there. Jim Bowden usually gets credit for being sharper than most of his peers, but like his moves involving Deion Sanders or Ruben Sierra, this move will probably end up in the "boners" drawer.

The Williams move is in anticipation of activating Jason Bere. Bere's combative agent, Tommy Tanzer, is crowing about Bere's curveball, which is another way of saying his out-pitch fastball is still on the DL.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Purchased the contract of 1B/3B Jeff Manto from Buffalo; optioned 1B/LF Richie Sexson to Buffalo; placed RHP Chad Ogea on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/30 (tendinitis), voiding his option to Buffalo on 7/31. [8/7]

Placed 1B Jim Thome on the 15-day DL (broken hand); recalled LF/1B Richie Sexson from Buffalo. [8/8]

Thome's greatness and importance to the Indians gets you to thinking goofy sometimes. "Boy, this is really going to hurt the Indians," I think to myself. "Why, that, and... a fifteen-game winning streak for the Twins, and we've got ourselves a race... " He's expected to be healthy in time for a refresher with two weeks to go in the regular season. I for one hope the Indians go with Manto (17 HRs in 206 PAs in Buffalo) and Sexson for the next five weeks, rather than fulfilling the rumored snarfing of Cecil-san from the Angels.

DETROIT TIGERS

Placed RHP Doug Brocail on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/6 (strained elbow); recalled RHP A.J. Sager from Toledo. [8/9]

Brocail has quietly had an outstanding season as the Tigers' top setup man (2.96 ERA), so losing him isn't going to help a low-scoring team preserve its few slender leads.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Claimed RHP Manuel Barrios off waivers from the Dodgers, and optioned him to Charlotte. [8/10]

Not a week can go by without the Pastaman shedding talent, and the Marlins' deal for Piazza just got that much less expensive for them.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed SS Orlando Miller to a minor league deal, and assigned him to New Orleans. [8/6]

Traded LHP Pete Schourek to Boston for cash. [8/6]

Activated LHP Billy Wagner from the DL. [8/7]

Optioned LHP C.J. Nitkowski to New Orleans; purchased the contract of DH/OF Pete Incaviglia from New Orleans. [8/9]

The only surprise here is that Nitkowski got sent down, but that was a question of options. Although Trever Miller has essentially been used as a junkman all season, while Nitkowski gets used to hold close leads, Miller is out of options. Given my druthers, I'd have handed Mike Magnante his walking papers, and made the issue moot. The Astros got back to 14 position players by adding Inky, who's had a fun couple of months in the Big Easy, thwacking 23 homeruns in 71 games while hitting .333/.421/.640. If he shows that can still flick lefty junk into the seats from time to time, he'll be in a three-legged race with Dave Clark and a recuperating Jack Howell for the last two roster spots on the postseason roster.

Will they miss Schourek? Right now, they have several better options shold either Lima or Bergman turn into pumpkins: Elarton, Nitkowski, or even taking a look-see at Brian Sikorski. Best yet, if things break right, they could even get to see Schourek in the World Series.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed OF Shane Mack on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/31 (protruding cervical disc); recalled LHP Tim Byrdak from Omaha. [8/7]

Traded CF Jermaine Allensworth to the Mets for a PTBNL. [8/10]

On a team that chose to play three first basemen in the outfield (Jeff Conine, Hal Morris, and Larry Sutton) for extended periods of time, Mack was a DH-come-defensive replacement, so there shouldn't be any surprise that the Royals are going to have to bring in a real outfielder in a few days. The expectation is that the Royals are about to call up Carlos Beltran, and sending Allensworth away makes that seem more possible.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Traded RHP Jeff Juden to Anaheim for cash and a PTBNL; recalled UT Brian Banks from Louisville. [8/7]

Interesting that Phil Garner finally tired of Juden to the point that he's going to put both Bronswell Patrick and Bill Pulsipher into his rotation for a turn or two.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Purchased the contract of RHP Todd Ritchie from Salt Lake; optioned CF Chris Latham to Salt Lake. [8/8]

Ritchie's return was kind of a fun example of wasted commitments. He only made the Twins last year to avoid going through waivers... only to demonstrate that the Twins probably could use the space on the 40-man roster in better ways. Sure enough, when they outrighted him this April, nobody claimed him for themselves, despite all the talk about his good fastball. Now he's back up after giving up 38 runs in 58 innings in the Buzz bullpen, so don't get your hopes up.

NEW YORK METS

Claimed CF Jermaine Allensworth off waivers from Kansas City for a PTBNL; designated OF Benny Agbayani for assignment. [8/10]

This is supposed to be the first part of a three-way deal involving the D-backs, so we'll see how it shakes down. I don't see the Mets as having helped themselves, since I'd still rather have Richie Becker around.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Traded UT Jack Voigt to Texas for a PTBNL. [8/9]

Traded RHP Mike Fetters to Anaheim for a PTBNL and cash. [8/10]

Trash in, trash out. You can only hope that Blowers, Roberts, and Sprague get to be part of a trend...

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Optioned RHP Mike Welch to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and recalled RHP Mike Grace from SWB. [8/9]

Welch proved that you can be too bad, even for the Phillies. So they're taking another spin with Mike Grace, even though he was getting knocked around in AAA (a 5.04 ERA, vs. his mark of 5.65 in the majors), because the alternatives are the usual cast of grisly suspects: Grace, Garret Stephenson (giving up a homerun ever four innings or so, even if his mouthiness hadn't gotten him into trouble), Calvin Maduro, a recently scuffling Randy Wolf, and Ryan Nye.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated LHP Donovan Osborne from the DL; designated 3B Gary Gaetti for assignment. [8/8]

Acquired OF Mark Little from Texas to complete the Oliver-Stottlemyre trade. [8/9]

Activated 2B Delino DeShields from the DL; optioned RHP Curtis King to Memphis. [8/10]

Osborne enters the rotation, essentially bumping Bobby Witt until his congenitally funky groin springs another gasket. Getting DeShields back sends Pat Kelly to the bench, but it will be interesting to see if LaRussa still gives Kelly starts vs. lefties. Little isn't a prospect, but he could be a dandy fourth OF and pinch-hitter, taking over for Willie McGee next year.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Acquired LHP Randy Myers from Toronto for C Brian Loyd and a PTBNL. [8/6]

Optioned RHP Jim Bruske to Las Vegas. [8/7]

There's been a lot of spin put on this deal, but keep two things in mind: Myers has been pretty bad this season (44 hits in 42.1 IP, 19 BBs), and he's under contract through '00. His defense? He's got that Jeff Reardon joie de vivre or something, that makes him a "closer." I'm not buying that, but I can accept he's a better lefty setup option than Ben VanRyn or Roberto Ramirez, particularly because Bruce Bochy will have more patience with a known quantity like Myers.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Activated C Brian Johnson and RHP Julian Tavarez from the DL; placed LHP Alvin Morman on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); optioned C Doug Mirabelli to Fresno. [8/7]

Tavarez' return might curb Dusty's use of the one-man wrecking ball, Jose Mesa. It may get him to put down the whip and stop trying to flog success out of Mark Gardner and Danny Darwin. All sorts of nice things could happen, but that doesn't mean they will.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled 1B Raul Ibanez from Tacoma; optioned UT Charles Gipson to Tacoma. [8/7]

Its been a lost season for Ibanez for much of the year, between injuries, struggles, and non-serious callups (like this one). At best, he'll get a few starts until David Segui heals up, but he really won't get a crack at the three- or four-headed LF situation.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed DH Lee Stevens on the 15-day DL (muscle strain); purchased the contract of OF Warren Newson from Oklahoma. [8/8]

Acquired OF Jack Voigt from Oakland for a PTBNL, and assigned him to Oklahoma. [8/9]

Swapping Newson for Stevens doesn't really change anything for the Rangers, although on a visceral level it seems tough since Stevens was getting hot. In Stevens' absence, Newson could earn most of the DH time against RH starters, although he'll be competing with whether or not Oates decides to DH Gonzo on any given day, and/or to give Roberto Kelly or Mike Simms some extra playing time. None of these are bad choices, which just goes around to Oates' strong use of the bench this season.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Traded LHP Randy Myers to San Diego for C Brian Loyd and a PTBNL. [8/6]

Recalled LHP Steve Sinclair from Syracuse. [8/7]

Assigned RHP Robert Person to Syracuse; recalled SS Tomas Perez from Syracuse. [8/8]

So the Blue Jays save money, and sort of acknowledge that anybody has "closer's stuff" if he can just pitch in the first place. They're sending Person down to work on being a closer for a week or two. Meanwhile, their "closer of the future," Kelvim Escobar, is their fifth starter du jour. If he's good at it, he may get to be their closer of the future again. The Jays do several strange things with their young talent, and these are small examples, but the big issue remains that spending oodles of cash for a big-name closer is almost always a bad investment.

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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