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April 25, 2003

Transaction Analysis

April 21-23, 2003

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Placed RHP Kevin Appier on the 15-day DL (strained flexor), retroactive to 4/20; activated 2B-L Adam Kennedy from the 15-day DL; recalled OF-B Jeff DaVanon from Salt Lake; optioned 2B-B Chone Figgins to Salt Lake. [4/22]

Placed RHP Francisco Rodriguez on the bereavement list; recalled LHP Rich Rodriguez from Salt Lake and RHP Derrick Turnbow from Arkansas (Double-A); optioned OF-R Julio Ramirez to Salt Lake. [4/23]

Derrick Turnbow... David Holdridge... Angels, Phillies... my mind works mainly on mnemonics (okay, that, and coffee, Guiness or Stoli, depending on mood), memories that recall memories which summon up unfortunate cross-references that ultimately mean nothing to anyone save me. I'm sure somebody wiser than I would immediately cite this as a data storage and compression issue, but as a result, some lines get blurred, and I think of Derrick Turnbow and David Holdridge and Lance Parrish and the really cute co-worker I was coveting at the time when the Holdridge-Parrish deal was made, and our mutual friend we worked with who was a Phillies fan, and tooling around in that really cool white K-car with 'University of Chicago Physical Plant' stenciled on the side, a time in life devoted to drinking and depravity and rollicking good fun that never did lead to any indictments, and none too surprisingly, I start thinking nice things about Derrick Turnbow that have nothing whatsoever to do with Derrick Turnbow. Okay, forgive me my stumbling through memory lane in my limitless capacity for self-indulgence, and let's skip ahead to the wisdom of Joe Friday, and get to just the facts.

The largest question is how long they'll be without Kevin Appier. Scot Shields is apparently going to be tabbed for Ape's missed start this weekend, and then the Angels won't need a fifth starter again until next Saturday, May 3, which is still before Appier can be reactivated (as if, with the game in Toronto, he'd asked to be), but theoretically, it could be in time for F-Rod ("The Immaculately Postseason-Eligible") to come back from his bereavement stint. Or they could turn to Scott Schoeneweis, which would please him to no end. Replacing Appier is less the problem than how they'll paper over their now-shallow pen. Troy Percival hasn't been particularly effective, Shields will have to start, Schoeneweis has struggled, Mickey Callaway is already in the rotation, so they're really down to Brendan Donnelly and Ben Weber in terms of relievers that Mike Scioscia can comfortably turn to for the time being. As much as you can tell anything from 14 innings, Turnbow was doing well as the main setup man to closer Joel Peralta in Arkansas, but Turnbow has that mid-90s velocity that floats everybody's boats, so he'll get a serious look for the time being.

The other moves boil down to undoing an idiosyncatic bit of roster goofery. Initially, the reasons given for choosing Julio Ramirez for the Opening Day roster over Jeff DaVanon were defense and speed. At the end of the day, the need for a switch-hitter with some offensive value on the bench, and who wasn't such a bad corner outfielder himself, outweighed the infrequency with which Scioscia find himself ever taking advantage of Ramirez's purported assets.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Andrew Good from Tucson; optioned RHP John Patterson to Tucson. [4/17]

Placed LHP Randy Johnson on the 15-day DL (sprained knee), retroactive to 4/12; recalled RHP Brandon Webb from Tucson; signed LHP Greg Swindell to a minor league contract. [4/21]

Panic is like a brussels sprout; it doesn't smell good, and you wish it upon others. But can you blame the Snakes? They're in last place, and after their decision to be conservative with the Big Unit's back, and Curt Schilling's appendectomy, they're in a tough spot. So why not turn to John Patterson? Why call up Aaron Good? Because of one bad start? Now they both have one bad start under their belts. And now a start for Brandon Webb too? Yet Randy Johnson's supposed to be back on Sunday, and Schilling will pitch at the beginning of next week, so... so they managed to fill two rotation slots with three of their best young pitchers, without giving any of them a second look-see? What kind of usage pattern is that? Certainly not one conducive to getting a sense on who they should turn to if anybody breaks down for any length of time. Hopefully, the Snakes already have confidence in which one they want to keep, but given the current roster scramble, they could just as easily be flying by the seat of their pants. Admittedly, Byung-Hyun Kim's swollen ankle complicated things a bit this past week, but one of these three should be given more than a start to earn the fifth slot in the rotation, which is still wide-open.

Complicating the issue is that all three have earned their opportunities. As a former college pitcher out of the University of Kentucky, Webb might be the most reliable of the bunch, but he's also not positioned to get a second start before Johnson and Schilling are ready. Patterson has the most big league experience and arguably the most up-side, and you would think he'd already earned his turn. A former high school pitcher drafted in 1998, Good is more than two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Since making a full recovery, he's become a nifty control pitcher for somebody who won't turn 24 until September. Although he doesn't have great velocity, somebody who can post a 5-1 strikeout to walk ratio while also giving up less than a hit per inning in El Paso knows a thing or two about pitching. It's a nice problem to have, picking between them, but the Snakes have to make a choice and stick with it for a few swings through the rotation, wherever they are in the standings.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Placed OF-R Marty Cordova on the 15-day DL (bone chips - elbow); recalled 1B/3B-R Jose Leon from Ottawa. [4/23]

What's more disappointing--the idea that the Orioles are paying Marty Cordova money that somebody like Kevin Witt or Fernando Seguignol might kill for, or that replacing him with Jose Leon will mean squat in terms of results, or that this is supposed to be the major league team that services two major league markets?

"Colin, get the Ambassador from the Republic of Korea on the horn, I want to catch a ballgame."
"The Ambassador says he can see better in his own country, and he's washing his hair tonight, Mr. President."
"Shee-oot. Hrm, can we fly him to Texas?"
"I'm not sure that's a good idea, aren't you and Mr. McLane supposed to avoid being seen speaking with each other in public?"
"Did we have an extra spoonful of smart-ass with our corn flakes this morning, General?"

On a more serious level, this probably just helps the Orioles, because they get an infield reserve for the corners that they otherwise lacked.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Optioned C-R Josh Paul to Charlotte; recalled LHP David Sanders from Charlotte. [4/23]

A tough week for third catchers, what with Raul Chavez, Josh Paul, and Jason Phillips all going down. So who still has a third catcher? The Twins (Matt LeCroy), Angels (Shawn Wooten) and Jays (Jayson Werth) have people who do other things than catch, so that's not what I mean. I mean, which teams are still making the mistake of carrying three people who do nothing but catch? I suppose it depends on what you think Todd Greene is, but the Rangers are using him as a catcher more than anything else, so that isn't quite the same thing; it isn't like he's like Mike Kinkade or Tyler Houston, someone who could notionally put on the pads if you asked. So let's count the Rangers, and who else, then? The Braves have Johnny Estrada, and the Marlins have Ramon Castro. The Brewers don't have any catchers worth mentioning, so you could argue it all evens out, and there are 60 people in the major leagues who you can call "catcher" and not "catcher, slash, something else too." I think this calls for a memo to Czar Bud to have Ramon Castro and Henry Blanco assigned to the Brewers forthwith, with a million-dollar fine on anyone who complains about it. It's all in the best interests of the game, obviously.

But the Sox were on the spot for that most galling of roster choices: third catcher, or twelfth pitcher? They'd slowly come to the realization that third catchers never play (which means they accrue service time without playing, which might actually help depress salaries... perhaps Bud will determine that's in the best interests of the game), and they've already got two effective lefty relievers in Kelly Wunsch and Damaso Marte. So they... brought up a third lefty for the pen anyway, I guess to make up for the two struggling veteran right-handers (purported super closer Billy Koch, and former super closer Flash Gordon). To their credit, Sanders has had a nifty career in the organization as a lefty relief prospect (if there is such an animal), flashing good velocity and a slider with bite. He looked good in Arizona last fall, and had a good camp, so why not? If Jerry Manuel can bring himself to let some or all three of them pitch outside of situational usage patterns, it might not be such a bad thing to carry three talented lefty relievers. It isn't like the three of them have to worry about facing the Sox's righty-heavy lineup, and teams like the Mariners or A's or Yankees or Red Sox or Twins might not enjoy facing an opponent with that much lefty quality in the pen.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Announced RHP Josias Manzanillo and LHP Jimmy Anderson accepted assignments to Louisville; claimed LHP Eric Cyr off of waivers from the Angels and optioned him to Chattanooga (Double-A). [4/23]

Here's the advantage to cleaning out space on the 40-man, you get to make a random snag off of waivers. Eric Cyr is still a bit of a risk, since he's had to have surgery on his elbow twice in the last three years, but there aren't a lot of lefties who throw hard lurking on waivers, and better to take the flyer and see what you get.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Designated OF-B Chris Latham for assignment; recalled UT-R Charles Gipson from Columbus. [4/21]

Placed RHP Antonio Osuna on the 15-day DL (strained groin); purchased the contract of RHP Al Reyes from Columbus; transferred RHP Jon Lieber from the 15- to 60-day DL. [4/23]

Antonio Osuna, on the DL? What's next, death? Taxes? Death taxes? To be fair, they're already short Mariano Rivera and Steve Karsay, and once they get Rivera back in another couple of weeks and Karsay by (perhaps) sometime in June, it probably won't be too soon, because how long can the non-Pettite portion of the rotation go undefeated? Of course that assumes you take the Red Sox seriously. I mean, it's statistically within the realm of possibility, right? If it wasn't, folks in Massachussetts would chant 'Devils suck!' at moments of public euphoria and PTA meetings and whatnot, right? In the meantime, Al Reyes is a completely serviceable journeyman who could luck into a playoff roster spot with a few well-timed good outings over the next couple of weeks, which would only be the most important thing that ever happened to him in a career otherwise wasted in places like Milwaukee. He's always been a bit homer-prone, but that's in part because he can get predictable about trying to finish people off with his changeup. As his PECOTA card hints, he's worth taking a chance on, so he isn't your average roster filler.

Replacing Chris Latham with Charles Gipson is a strange move of discretion, if you ask me. Although Latham is about to sign with Yomiuri for good money, the Yankees could use him, lacking as they do a reliable backup to Bernie Williams for center field. Gipson has next to no value as a hitter and isn't really an alternative in center if anything happened to Williams, but to his credit, he can inspire teary-eyed memories of Clay Bellinger.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Placed RHP David Cone on the 15-day DL (strained hip) and OF-L Jeromy Burnitz on the 15-day DL (broken bone - hand); recalled UT-R Joe McEwing and RHP Pat Strange from Norfolk; purchased the contract of OF-R Raul Gonzalez from Norfolk; optioned C-R Jason Phillips and RHP Pat Strange to Norfolk; designated RHP Heath Bell for assignment; activated RHP Pedro Astacio from the 15-day DL. [4/23]

What's more amusing, the notion that Jae Seo's job was 'saved' by the injury to David Cone, or the suggestion that moving Roger Cedeno to right is a good thing? Whose career is more over, Cedeno's or Cone's? Although it might be news to Roger Angell, Cone's career ended during the Clinton presidency, minus a Sean-Connery-in-worst-film-ever-made star turn (Highlander 2, for those of you keeping score at home) in the dullest World Series of my lifetime in 2000.

Burnitz is going to be out four to six weeks with his broken hand, which is all the more unfortunate since, on the basis of his modest good start, it looked like he might have been the team's first good-hitting outfielder the Mets have had since Benny Agbayani at least, and arguably since Cedeno and Rickey Henderson manned the corners in 1999. It was probably too much to expect that he was going to keep it up, but even if it meant that he was going to have a modest comeback, it would still make him the best contributor from the trio of himself, Cedeno, and Mo Vaughn. I guess there's some solace that Roberto Alomar is getting on base at a good clip, but with the Mets the worst offensive team in baseball outside of the Pirates and the incomparable Tigers, an outfield employing the Timo-Shinjo platoon in one spot and Cedeno in another isn't going to help.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Activated RHP Jim Mecir from the 15-day DL; designated LHP Micah Bowie for assignment. [4/23]

This is just the first part of what might become a problem. See, Micah Bowie was a marked man, not merely because of his own lackluster performance, but because Rich Harden's slowly hoving his way into view as far as the big league picture, and that means John Halama would get bumped into the pen. Since they're only carrying eleven pitchers, and don't have the space for a twelfth, somebody's gotta go whenever somebody comes onto this staff, especially with Rule 5er Mike Neu barely getting any time at all. Jim Mecir may well have been rushed back, but at this rate, he might also never be quite right again, since weight problems and knee problems seem to interact in a way that eventually create arm problems. He might end up being the guy who returns to the DL once Harden is ready, or Neu could come down with whatever the excuse injury of the moment might be for Rule 5 players this week. Scrofula, anyone? French monarchs are in pretty short supply these days, he might have to hit the 60-day DL until MLB can get one crowned.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed INF-R Placido Polanco on the 15-day DL (finger), retroactive to 4/16; recalled 2B/3B-L Chase Utley from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/23]

Wisely, the Phillies are taking the opportunity to let Chase Utley play every day against right-handed pitching. The question is whether Nick Punto or Tomas Perez will get the at-bats against lefties, but if Utley has a good week before Polanco's ready to be reactivated, the Phillies will have a nice problem on their hands. They could convert Polanco to the semi-regular utility infielder, and keep Utley to start against right-handed pitchers three or four times per week, and demote Nick Punto or cut Tomas Perez. I don't see cutting Perez as fitting within Bowa's or Wade's M.O. with veteran players, and Utley does still have options to burn. More likely, the Phillies will send Utley back after a week good or bad, and have a little more reason to bring him back once Polanco cools off or Utley keeps pasting the ball in Scranton. Eventually, Chacido Putley might be one hell of a platoon, but it remains to be seen if the Phillies will have the stones to phase it in while they're in the middle of their best shot at contention since 1993.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Placed RHP Josh Fogg on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled RHP Brian Meadows from Nashville. [4/22]

Okay, losing Josh Fogg isn't good news, but it also isn't a major arm injury, and the Pirates have a perfectly qualified journeyman ready to step into the rotation in Salomon Torres. I probably talk about the '84 Pirates more than anybody in their right mind should, but as a model for a team that had a nifty rotation which was wasted on a team with a collection of inoffensive puds in the lineup, it certainly bears a similarity to a Giles-less Pirates lineup. Kris Benson looks healed up, Kip Wells is doing fine, and Jeff Suppan has been one of the winter's best bargains. Jeff D'Amico hasn't broken down yet, but to be extra-frosty, he will, and Torres will have had the opportunity to inherit his job in the meantime. Fogg's supposed to miss at least three starts, which gives Torres a nice window of opportunity to re-fire his spring battle with D'Amico. Regardless, as long as the Pirates aren't scoring runs, there will be a lot of frustration in terms of pitchers earning wins, both for the men themselves, and for fantasy leaguers. It's sort of a shame, since this team was already good enough to win 75 games. With a little bit of offense, they'd be able to run with the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros deep into the season. If Jason Kendall really does rebound, and Aramis Ramirez follows, things could get interesting.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on the bereavement list; purchased the contract of RHP Luis Estrella from Fresno. [4/23]

Does anyone else remember the controversies from 2001, when Bernie Williams wasn't allowed to be taken off of the active roster during his father's illness, while Dennis Cook was 'for personal reasons'? It isn't often that I have much sympathy for the Yankees, but that was a pretty clear double-standard, and it appears that a product of the new CBA is the new 'bereavement list.' I'd consider this progress on a couple of levels. First, it eliminates discretion from MLB's offices, almost invariably a good thing. Second, by creating a set rule (almost certainly at the player's behest), there's less chance of abuse by the teams themselves, or at least no moreso than they already abuse the DL for certain players or types of players. And there's the obvious good will of allowing a player to deal with family tragedies in a way that doesn't have him worry about whether or not the team's going to get cranky for looking after the ones he loves.

In Schmidt's absence, there's some speculation that Jerome Williams will get a spot start this weekend, but there are few pens as well-prepared for an emergency start as that of the Giants. Joe Nathan, Jim Brower, Scott Eyre, and Chad Zerbe have all started at point or another during their careers, so if Felipe Alou just wanted to go with a 'pen start' and give a couple of them three-inning days to cover Schmidt's absence, that could work, as long as they're not left too short-handed for Jesse Foppert's second start on Sunday.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Placed RHP Kazuhiro Sasaki on the 15-day DL (strained back). [4/23]

There's nothing really pithy for me to add to a situation where the Mariners are doing the obvious. They plan on handing the save opportunities to both Arthur Lee Rhodes and Jeff Nelson, not reserving either for the role, and basically just going with the situation. In other words, trying to win games instead of giving the team saves generator saves to generate.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Placed DH-L Ben Grieve on the 15-day DL (thumb infection) and OF-R Damian Rolls on the 15-day DL (fractured thumb); purchased the contract of 3B-R Chris Truby from Durham; designated RHP Luis De Los Santos for assignment. [4/23]

There's something really troubling here, with the initial story that Grieve will be out three to six weeks, and the Rays seeming very tight-lipped about the matter. It needs to be said that an infection in a major joint like the thumb that standard regimens of antibiotics hasn't killed is potentially career-threatening. If nothing works, a hitter without a functioning thumb just doesn't seem like a likely comeback success. Basically, let's hope that Grieve recuperates fully from his latest surgery, and doesn't have to end his career on the note of being a faded Ray. Rolls is more straightforward, in that he's gone for three months, at which point his career as a Ray or his space on the 40-man roster might be in trouble, but he'll land somewhere.

In the twin absences of Grieve and Rolls, there's playing time to dole out. The big winner seems to be Terry Shumpert, who will get a lot of the playing time that was going to go to Rolls in right field as George Lombard's platoon partner. That'll only last until Travis Lee is reactivated at the beginning of next week. That's when Aubrey Huff will move back to right or DH, with either Lombard or Al Martin losing at-bats as a result. Beyond that dirty little lineup challenge, with Damion Easley's continued slumpery, there's a chance here for Chris Truby to win a major portion of the third base job. It would probably be the best short-term solution, but the organization doesn't really have a long-term solution at third base.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Optioned OF-R Reed Johnson to Syracuse; recalled OF/C-R Jayson Werth from Syracuse. [4/21]

Everyone's happy. Jayson Werth was apparently promised his recall once he was fully rehabbed and ready, Carlos Tosca still really wanted to have a third body on the roster who could catch in an emergency because of his concern that neither Tom Wilson or Greg Myers were everyday players, and Werth will get to platoon with Frank Catalanotto in right field, so he won't go to seed waiting for those emergency catching situations. It will make for some strange lineup juggling late in games if Werth has to move to catcher from right because Tosca pinch-hit for his starting catcher, and then had to again, but as long as he's tactically flexible enough to play Werth and not be afraid to pull the trigger on these sorts of maneuvers, it's actually sort of cool. Ideally, they'd have the space on the roster for a fifth outfielder, but until Mike Bordick retires or the Jays get longer outings from their pitchers and come down from twelve, there wasn't the space to carry Reed Johnson.

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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