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August 26, 1998

Transaction Analysis

August 19-24

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Activated 1B/OF Darin Erstad from the DL; optioned 1B Chris Pritchett to Vancouver. [8/19]

Activated INF Paco Martin from the DL; placed INF Craig Shipley on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/20 (strained hamstring). [8/21]

Pritchett's brief appearance was a nice reminder that the minor leagues, even in systems like the Angels', have people who can do more to help a club than Cecil Fielder. Otherwise, the typical merry-go-round for the Angels: Erstad in, and probably Jim Edmonds out and onto the DL in a couple of days. If Troy Glaus adjusts in another couple of weeks, and if they stick with both him and Todd Greene, it may not matter who's down.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled RHPs Clint Sodowsky and Ben Ford from Tucson; optioned SS Hanley Frias and RHP Bob Wolcott to Tucson. [8/20]

Purchased the contract of LHP Chris Michalak from Tucson; optioned RHP Ben Ford to Tucson. [8/21]

Placed RHP Bobby Chouinard on the 15-day DL (muscle strain); recalled RHP Ben Ford from Tucson. [8/22]

Ugh. So the D-backs will take a spin with Sodowsky as their fifth starter, and they've brought up Ben Ford a bit too soon. Ford coughed up 41 runs in 68.1 IP; that isn't much to brag about, without considering his problems controlling his plus fastball. At this point, he still has more in common with Mark Acre than Todd Worrell. Michalak will get a crack at lefty spot duty; despite getting knocked around the PCL, he's allowed only one long ball to lefties this year.

The D-backs have had several success stories in terms of resurrecting journeymen pitchers or letting people other people gave up on break through: Omar Daal, Amaury Telemaco, Willie Banks, perhaps even Aaron Small. What does that say about expansion pitching? Aren't these the "minor league hacks" we're supposed to complain don't belong. Okay, so that whole line of thinking has been demonstrated to be a red herring, time and again. Bobby Chouinard is another example, although to a significantly lesser extent: he's been setting up and sitting down righties well with a limited assortment, and has probably shown he belongs in a big league uniform as much as Clint Sodowsky. What he proves, and what the success the D-backs have had this year in building a pitching staff, or that the D-rays had in building a good bullpen, or that the Rockies had in building a great pen, or the '93 Marlins did in building a solid pitching staff, is that any team can shake loose some pitching talent, if they're willing to take the time and effort to find it.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Recalled RHP Mark Wohlers from Richmond and placed him on the 15-day DL; returned him to Richmond for a rehab assignment; activated RHP Russ Springer from the DL; optioned LHP Adam Butler to Richmond. [8/21]

The unhappy saga of Mark Wohlers stumbles in a new direction, but at least the Braves get Springer back. I'm not really against having and using Springer as much as I'm disappointed it took giving up Embree to get him, and as long as the Braves insist on keeping Norm Charlton or El Presidente around, they need every major league pitcher they can get.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed LHP Jesse Orosco and INF Jeff Reboulet to new contracts through 2000. [8/20]

Placed RHP Scott Kamieniecki on the 15-day DL (bulging disk); purchased the contract of 3B Willis Otanez from Rochester. [8/22]

Losing the Kamieniecki isn't really a problem; this is just one of those years, like '95 or '96, that the Polish Prince just can't be counted on to contribute much. In his absence, the Orioles may avail themselves of the opportunity to mix and match Pete Smith and Doug Johns in the fifth spot, since the return of Arthur Rhodes has already bolstered their middle relief. In his absence, the O's add... somebody who'd be a great platoon mate for Willie Greene at third base. Otanez has had an outstanding season at Rochester, pasting 27 taters and driving in 100 runs while hitting .285/.343/.511. Before the elbow injury that held him back in previous seasons, he was even a solid glove at third. For the O's he may get DH at-bats vs. lefties, if they keep him around for any length of time.

CHICAGO CUBS

Signed 3B Gary Gaetti, and added him to the active roster; optioned SS Jose Nieves to Iowa. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Terry Adams to Iowa; recalled RHP Rodney Myers from Iowa. [8/23]

Like so much of what the Cubs have done this year, moves both good and bad. I won't argue that they needed to do something about Terry Adams, but the mistake is that they waited until now, effectively removing him from their playoff roster because he can't be recalled before the August 31 deadline. That in itself isn't crippling. Should the Cubs win the wildcard, most of their postseason pitching would be done by their four good starters and a bullpen of Beck, Karchner, Mulholland, Heredia, and Stevens, so the guy who benefits the most from this is Dave Stevens. Whether they carry a tenth pitcher at all is academic at this point. But getting Terry Adams back to where he was in April and May is important, and letting things get as bad as they have is another symptom of a generally mismanaged and chaotic bullpen situation. Who's to blame for the bullpen? More appropriately, who isn't? From the players to the coaches to the manager to the general manager, all deserve credit.

Picking up Gaetti is handy for a number of reasons. First, he's an adequate veteran insurance policy in case Jose Hernandez gets injured. Second, if the Cubs choose to bench Mickey Morandini against a tough lefty, they can shift Hernandez to second and play Gaetti at the hot corner. Third, they can play somebody other than Manny Alexander when they get frustrated with Jeff Blauser, again playing Gaetti at third and shifting Hernandez to short.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Optioned RHP Carlos Castillo to Calgary; recalled LHP Tom Fordham from Calgary; agreed to a two-year extension of the player development contract with Birmingham (AA), through 2000. [8/19]

Fordham came up for an emergency start in place of James Baldwin (hamstring), and will get to stick around now that Jaime Navarro has finally been pulled from the rotation. When he was sent down, his mechanics were a mess. His stuff has so much movement already that he was barely capable of throwing strikes. A return to AAA and a refresher on regular starting work didn't make him less wild (26 walks in 51.2 IP), but it has him back around the plate. His opportunity to make the rotation for '99 is now or never.

Sending down Carlos Castillo is a tough break for him, but he'll enter Calgary's rotation. He took the demotion hard, but there really weren't many other options, unless you want to argue the Sox should just start eating Navarro's contract now. The other important aspect of the demotion is that the Sox were promptly accused of demoting Castillo to dodge making him eligible for arbitration, reminiscent of similar situations from years past involving Jack McDowell and Wilson Alvarez. They may have, but it doesn't seem as likely as it did in those cases. The key here is that the Sox lack the credibility to be taken at their word, and that's something that's always going to plague a Reinsdorf operation.

Finally, the agreement with Birmingham has to be considered progress, if only because it shows that the Sox aren't going to repeat the mistake that lost them their affiliation with Nashville, and has their AAA team stuck in Calgary. The Sox have been frequent losers in affiliation shuffles in the minors, so it's nice to see them on the ball this time around.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Extended the contract of manager Mike Hargrove through 2000, with a club option for 2001. [8/21]

So Hart and Hargrove get to grit their teeth, smile for the cameras, and keep working together.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Optioned OF/1B Derrick White to Colorado Springs; recalled OF Angel Echevarria from Colorado Springs. [8/22]

White didn't get a fair shot, and the Rox apparently want to look at whether Echevarria is a handy fill-in in the OF corners. At 26, he still hasn't figured out the strike zone, racking up 14 walks and 15 HRs in 324 PA.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated RHP Doug Brocail from the DL; optioned RHP Dean Crow to Toledo. [8/24]

Brocail has been the Tigers' most effective setup man all season, so bringing him back is clearly a boon on a team where Brian Powell and Frank Castillo have a hard time getting through five innings. The more difficult call is why send Crow down? After putting up a 3.79 ERA, he hasn't exactly been ineffective, while A.J. Sager has been next to worthless.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Recalled RHP Rafael Medina from Charlotte. [8/19]

Medina pitched relatively well in AAA while recuperating from his latest injury, winning four of six decisions and posting a 3.90 ERA. He'll be in the rotation for the remainder of the season, for as long as he can stand (or as long as he can stand slagmeister Jim Leyland). Even if he struggles, it's a step up from watching Andy Larkin get smacked around.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed 1B Jeff King on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/16 (sore back), and INF Scott Leius on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/14 (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of RHP Brian Barber from Omaha; activated 1B/OF Jeff Conine from the DL. [8/19]

Placed RHP Hipolito Pichardo on the 15-day DL (strained ligament - elbow); recalled RHP Jose "Poxy" Santiago from Wichita (AA). [8/21]

For all of these casualties, you'd think the Royals were in trouble. If anything, these losses are opportunities to move on from some of the more serious Herk snafus. Okay, sure, they could replace King with Conine, and it wouldn't help them or hurt them. Impressions are a funny thing: Conine's perceived as struggling, while King's supposed to be doing fine, but Conine's hitting .259/.318/.439, while King's hitting .278/.325/.458. Hitting like that, either one of them is a weak offensive player for first. Hal Morris isn't the answer, so what to do? The best idea would be to just play Larry Sutton every day, to see if he's going to be a '99 Royal, while making space in the outfield for Jeremy Giambi, Carlos Beltran, and possibly Mark Quinn.

Similarly, Pichardo's season-ending injury ought to be interpreted as an opportunity to do some good. The sick fascination with Pichardo has hopefully played itself out, and the Royals' unrealistic expectations that they had something special in him have been squelched. Sadly, Chris Haney is going to step into the rotation for the time being. I don't begrudge them taking a chance on Brian Barber, but I would like to see them give Jim Pittsley the opportunity to keep this from being a lost season by getting him out of the bullpen. Kevin Appier should be up for a few starts, which means the Royals should take the opportunity to start looking at whether Pittsley and Barber are options for '99, instead of running Haney out there.

Jose Santiago will get some work in the pen; although he throws hard, he hasn't mastered setting hitters up, so he hasn't run up many strikeouts while logging 20 saves in Wichita.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Optioned LHP Travis Miller to Salt Lake. [8/21]

Activated RHP Bob Tewksbury from the DL. [8/22]

Now that Tewksbury and Mike Morgan are both healthy and back in the rotation, Frankie Rodriguez returns to the bullpen as a long reliever after giving the Twins a couple of good starts. Not that I'm wishing anyone gets injured, but I hope the Twins get the opportunity to run Frankie out for a few more starts in September. Even if Tom Kelly has had his fill of him, it's probably the only way they can turn him into a valuable commodity in trade during the offseason. Not that anyone's excited about it, but with their Opening Day rotation back in place, the Twins can restart their big push to finish second in the AL Central.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Optioned RHP Mike Buddie to Columbus; recalled RHP Ryan Bradley from Columbus; transferred RHP Jeff Nelson from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/21]

Traded OF Shea Morenz and RHP Ray Ricken to the Padres for RHPs Jim Bruske and Brad Kaufman. [8/23]

Placed RHP Joe Borowski on the 15-day DL (cervical strain); recalled RHP Mike Buddie from Columbus. [8/24]

Apparently nothing, and nobody, is going to crowd into Mike Buddie's date with destiny as the least memorable member of the great '98 Yankees. Meanwhile, how do you think Jim Bruske feels? After slaving away in the PCL for much of the last eight years, this is hitting paydirt. I'm sure we're all eagerly awaiting the opportunity to watch his post-game interviews with Jim Gray about how he felt pitching mop-up against his ex-teammates in the World Series...

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Selected the contract of RHP Gil Heredia from Edmonton; optioned OF Jason McDonald to Edmonton. [8/22]

Heredia has basically come back from the dead, and has shown outstanding control while pitching in Edmonton's rotation, walking only 18 men in 144.2 innings. He's a junk man, but the whole Mike Oquist thing isn't exactly working out very well, so Heredia may get a chance to stick around after one good start. My question is why send down Jason McDonald? What does he do worse than Bip Roberts? Like Roberts, he's got experience in the infield and in the outfield. Unlike Roberts, he can still actually use his glove. He's the better hitter, and Roberts is being publicly taunted by almost everyone affiliated with the Tigers for being a waste of space. What's the payoff for keeping the Bipster in green and gold?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated OF Turner Ward from the DL; outrighted OF Mark Smith to Nashville. [8/20]

Placed RHP Jon Lieber on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/21; recalled LHP Sean Lawrence from Nashville; signed LHP Ricardo Rincon to a two-year contract extension through 2000. [8/24]

Lieber's season has been outstanding despite his misleading 8-13 record, but for whatever reason, he's managed to avoid much mention for anything other than his health woes. In his place, Sean Lawrence will start for a couple of weeks, until either Lieber's back or Jose Silva is ready to return. However, I don't think anyone should take Todd Van Poppel's slot for granted, so Lawrence may earn a shot at next year's rotation with a good outing or two.

Although Mark Smith has come back considerably from his miserable start, and is the star of one of the great moments of the Bucs' '97 season, there really isn't much to separate him from people like Turner Ward or a minor league vet like Manny Martinez. They're all nice guys to have around as your fourth or fifth outfielder, and they've all been miscast as regulars at some point in the past couple of years. Outfielders who can contribute offensively have to be considered a big offseason priority for Cam Bonifay.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Recalled RHP Manny Aybar from Memphis; optioned RHP Rich Croushore to Memphis. [8/21]

Purchased the contract of LHP Bryan Eversgerd from Memphis; optioned RHP Manny Aybar to Memphis. [8/22]

Some doubleheader-related shenanigans. I'm sure some fantasy types are writhing over Croushore's demotion, but he's come further along this season than most had any reason to expect, and he may yet carve out a major league career for himself. Right-handed screwball pitchers are a rare breed, and it seems to take awhile for anyone to take them seriously (case in point: Jim Mecir). Croushore will come back when the rosters expand.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Recalled 3B George Arias from Las Vegas; optioned OF James Mouton to Las Vegas. [8/22]

Traded RHPs Jim Bruske and Brad Kaufman to the Yankees for OF Shea Morenz and RHP Ray Ricken. [8/23]

Arias is up to audition for a postseason roster spot, as well as to give Ken Caminiti a day off or two per week. Although he's had a monster season in the thin air at Las Vegas (.308/.362/.652, 36 HR, 117 RBI), we're talking about a guy who drew 35 walks in 472 PA this year. That isn't healthy, and neither are inflated expectations based on what he's done in the PCL this year, at 26, in his third year at AAA.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled RHP Jose Paniagua from Tacoma; optioned LHP David Holdridge to Tacoma; designated RHP Felipe Lira for assignment. [8/19]

Holdridge got all of two games to show his wares, half as many as the much-ballyhooed Bob Gajkowski did. We've said nice things about Paniagua in the past, and we won't stop here: he's been outstanding as a reliever in Tacoma, posting a 2.77 ERA while allowing only 2 taters in 66.1 IP. But what's the point of singing his praises? Mt. Piniella won't know what to do with him, and will thunder and bellow when he hasn't struck out four men per inning in his first couple of outings, and demote him. What's bad about this move is that it may cost them Lira, who would be a sweet pickup for some pitching-hungry team short a major league starter (like, say, the Cubs).

TEXAS RANGERS

Signed LHP Tony Fossas to a contract with Oklahoma City. [8/19]

It would be in really bad taste to say anything here about explosions, Tony Fossas, and Oklahoma City. Insert your own punchline, laugh on your own time, don't ask, and don't tell.

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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