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August 31, 1998

Transaction Analysis

August 25-30

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Acquired LF/1B Gregg Jefferies from the Phillies for a PTBNL; activated RHP Ken Hill from the DL; optioned RHP Steve Sparks to Midland (AA); recalled RHP Jeff Schmidt from and placed him on the 15-day DL (shoulder); transferred RHP Mike Freehill from the 15- to the 60-day DL; selected INF Gar Vallone from Midland and placed him on the 15-day DL (torn quadricep); transferred Schmidt from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/28]

Optioned outfielder Reggie Williams to Midland (AA). [8/29]

Is this overcompensation? After the Rangers' multiple deadline pickups, and with nagging injury problems stalking all three core offensive players (Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds, and Darin Erstad), Bill Bavasi must have felt compelled to bring in somebody, and in this case, anybody. Jefferies has been a pricey, light-hitting defensive embarassment for years. What's particularly unfortunate about getting him is that he isn't that helpful, even if any of the Angels' core players go down, because he's only around to swipe playing time from better players: Todd Greene, or the fun low-budget platoon of minor league vets Orlando Palmeiro and Reggie Williams.

The returns of Hill and Jack McDowell underline how ill-considered acquisition of Jeff Juden was, because to make room for Hill, they bumped Sparks. Sparks has only been their most reliable starter behind Chuck Finley, but Bill Bavasi's stretch-drive pickups have been a bizarre combination of a temporary but justified faith in Angels' prospects (Todd Greene, Troy Glaus) and ill-considered veteran pickups (Juden, Jefferies, Charlie O'Brien, Mike Fetters).

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed OF Danny Bautista on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/25 (partially torn mcl - knee); recalled 3B Wes Helms from Richmond. [8/27]

Losing Bautista should mean starts against lefties for Michael Tucker (and to a lesser extent, Ryan Klesko). Going into the postseason, that isn't really a bad thing: Bautista isn't a very dangerous threat to any pitchers, and opposing managers will continue to test Bobby Cox' mettle when it comes to whether or not he'll pull his big lefty bats against some left-handed middle reliever.

On that score, Helms may be able to help some. Chipper Jones has improved against lefties as the season progressed (up to .317/.396/.434 compared to .316/.413/.604 vs. RHPs), and he has experience playing in the outfield. Helms was slugging over .500 against lefties at Richmond, although he still needs to work on his fielding.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed 3B Willis Otanez on the 15-day DL (fractured wrist); recalled OF Danny Clyburn from Rochester. [8/28]

Calling up Clyburn is probably the move they should have made in the first place, considering they called up Otanez to play in the outfield to add some right-handed punch, and he promptly broke his wrist playing out of position. Clyburn has been battling injuries much of the season after opening some eyes in spring training, but he's still managed to hit .286/.358/.488 at Rochester. In terms of Orioles' history, he could end up helping in the sort of roles that Gary Roenicke, Dan Ford, or Merv Rettenmund enjoyed: more than just a right-handed half of a platoon, but less than a regular.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed CF Damon Buford on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/27 (rib cage strain); recalled OF Keith Mitchell from Pawtucket. [8/28]

Losing Buford again isn't really that critical a blow to the Sox; with Darrens Lewis and Bragg, they have pretty good outfield defense, and with the addition of Mike Stanley, their lineup against lefties isn't quite as fragile. Keith Mitchell will get a small chance to stake a claim to a postseason roster spot as a pinch-hitting option, but that's dependent both on how well he plays and how quickly Reggie Jefferson and/or Midre Cummings recover from their injuries.

CHICAGO CUBS

Acquired RHP Mike Morgan from Minnesota for a PTBNL and cash. [8/25]

Added Morgan to the active roster; placed SS Jeff Blauser on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/25 (elbow). [8/27]

Is this really that good of a move? On the con side, Morgan has only logged a single start in the past month, and was on a 50-pitch limit in that start. On the pro side, bringing him in will only cost someone who isn't supposed to be on the 40-man roster, gets Don Wengert out of the rotation, and Morgan has considerable experience as a reliever should the Cubs actually make the postseason. That's significant: fifth starters don't start once the postseason rolls around, and the Cubs' bullpen problems have become critical.

Jeff Blauser had some pointed observations about the media in relation to his elbow woes. His elbow hasn't been right all season, but only recently became public. Nevertheless, he's silently endured endless criticism from local fans and commentators, with the usual complaints being about how he wasn't playing well because he had big money. He didn't complain about his injury, or the way in which he's been jerked up and down the lineup, or the way he's been criticized. He only noted that folks tend to make value judgments based on whether or not you're having a bad year, and that that isn't quite right. Even with all these problems, he still put up a good OBP, and that's a hell of a lot more valuable than anything Manny Alexander is ever going to do. The Cubs hope that a bit of rest will have him ready to play in the final weeks of the season and into the postseason, should they get that far.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Purchased the contract of RHP Mike Heathcott from Calgary; placed RHP Keith Foulke on the 15-day DL (impinged and inflamed rotator cuff). [8/28]

Recalled RHP Carlos Castillo from Calgary; optioned RHP Mike Heathcott to Calgary. [8/29]

Optioned LHP Tom Fordham to Calgary. [8/31]

Basic roster shuffling involving Friday's doubleheader. Keith Foulke has been pitching with a shoulder spur all season, but its expected that he'll be 100% for next year after surgery. Even so, for the Sox the important product of that is that there will be questions about his endurance. At least initially, that should mean a return to the bullpen. Getting Foulke healthy and into the rotation would be a major piece of a potentially respectable rotation for '99, so this is bad news. I'm disappointed that they've sent Fordham down so quickly; its rumored that they'll be calling up Jim Abbott, and that does absolutely nothing in terms of improving the team or sorting through their options for '99, and it keeps Fordham from getting more time to work with Nardi Contreras, who's being credited with the turnarounds of James Baldwin, Scott Eyre, and Jim Parque.

CINCINNATI REDS

Transferred RHP Stan Belinda from the 15- to the 60-day DL; activated CF Mike Frank from the DL, and optioned him to Chattanooga (AA). [8/25]

Extended the contract of manager Jack McKeon through 1999. [8/27]

Some sensible Reds fans are rightfully unhappy about McKeon's return, and for good reason. He's participated in the decisions to cast Jon Nunnally aside, I'm not impressed with how they've handled Konerko so far, and I'm baffled by the decision to call up Mike Frank at all this season. Perhaps the most troubling thing is McKeon's unnecessarily combative/demanding relationship with Brett Tomko. On the other hand, he kept faith in Gabe White all season, but he's also kept faith in Scott Sullivan and Mike Remlinger, so whether his patience is a virtue or not deserves to be called into question.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Recalled LHP Jim Poole and 2B/SS Enrique Wilson from Buffalo; optioned RHP Steve Karsay to Buffalo; designated INF Torey Lovullo for assignment. [8/25]

Why call up Lovullo at all? Why insult Enrique Wilson on his way out of town? The moral to the story is that John Hart's Indians frustrate the hell out of me sometimes, whether in things like this, or the Grissom signing, or the Justice signing, or the Fryman signing, or Omar Vizquel's contract. Pleasing me has to be the last thing on the agenda, and the Indians always seem to find a way to muddle through, but playing Enrique Wilson regularly was the answer in April and is still the answer to this day. Hargrove's griping about his "offensive profile" or whatever, when Wilson would be batting ninth anyways, is just silly.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed SS Edgar Renteria on the 15-day DL (contusion - knee); recalled SS Alex Gonzalez from Charlotte; purchased the contract of C Randy Knorr from Charlotte; transferred 2B Craig Counsell from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. [8/25]

Optioned RHP Andy Larkin to Charlotte; activated RHP Eric Ludwick from the DL. [8/28]

The Marlins will get to continue to be a team that exists for evaluation purposes alone, as the injury to Renteria now has them using Charlotte's infield combo of wunderkinder Gonzalez and Luis Castillo. I'm not really high on either of them, Gonzalez for his crippling lack of plate discipline and Castillo for his almost total inability to get the ball out of the infield. In Redmond's absence, one of my personal demons, Randy Knorr, will get to platoon with Greg Zaun, a combination which may inspire a decision to look at Ramon Castro as soon as September.

Ludwick is back up after his third dance on the DL, but he's going to remain in the bullpen for now. This season has been a long and grisly tale of woe for him, so here's hoping he can get something out of this season in its last month.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed OF Pete Incaviglia on the 15-day DL (sprained shoulder); purchased the contract of 1B/OF J.R. Phillips from New Orleans. [8/25]

Placed LHP Trever Miller on the 15-day DL (tendinitis - knee); recalled C Mitch Meluskey from New Orleans. [8/30]

Having Phillips on the roster before the 31st just broadens their options in making out their postseason roster, should Jack Howell's wrist not heal in time. Having Meluskey up is a potential stroke of genius when the time rolls around to making out the postseason roster. Meluskey was having an MVP-calibre season for New Orleans, hitting .356/.469/.590 (with 17 HRs and 85 walks) while showing improved footwork behind the plate. He has a very good opportunity to force Brad Ausmus into a job-sharing arrangement for next season (similar to but better than the Girardi/Posada situation for the Yankees).

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated RHP Brian Bevil from the DL; purchased the contract of LHP Allen McDill from Omaha; optioned RHP Jose Santiago to Omaha; placed RHP Bart Evans on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); transferred OF Shane Mack from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/28]

Placed C Sal Fasano on the 15-day DL (hamstring); purchased the contract of C Hector Ortiz from Omaha; transferred RHP Hipolito Pichardo from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/30]

Fasano has almost certainly earned a place in the majors for years to come after flashing a good glove and almost enough offense to deserve comparisons to Scott Servais or Mike Matheny. Jorge Fabregas can eat his dust. Yee-ha! Who said life at the bottom of the totem pole can't be fun? At any rate, like their other "losses," this one lets the Royals finally take an extended look at Mike Sweeney behind the plate, which is what they should have been spending most of the year doing in the first place.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Purchased the contract of RHP Kirk Bullinger from Ottawa; optioned RHP Jeremy Powell to Harrisburg (AA). [8/30]

Powell struggled terribly after a good debut against the Cubs, but with rosters due to expand, he'll probably come back up shortly. Bullinger, like his older brother, doesn't throw particularly hard, but he has good control, so his chances to do more for les Expos than Shayne Bennett are pretty good.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded RHP Mike Morgan to the Cubs for a PTBNL and cash. [8/25]

Recalled LHP Travis Baptist from Salt Lake City. [8/26]

Dumping Morgan now is sort of a disappointment, in that the idea to sign him in the first place was to have him as a chit to swap for prospects during somebody else's stretch drive. Sure enough, they traded him, but Morgan's injuries prevented him from commanding much in return. On the plus side, Frankie Rodriguez will get to keep his rotation spot, while Dan Serafini's notably better performance as a reliever makes him a good bet to slide into Flounder Swindell's role in the pen as a lefty long man.

NEW YORK METS

Activated C Tim Spehr from the DL, and outrighted him to Norfolk. [8/27]

Placed C/"LF" Todd Hundley on the 15-day DL (elbow irritation); recalled C Todd Pratt from Norfolk. [8/28]

In the midst of Hundley's misfortunes, what has me sniggering is Bobby Valentine's straight-faced claims that a platoon of Lenny Harris and Jermaine Allensworth makes for a good leftfielder. If Butch Huskey finally does heal up, the point will be relatively moot, but in the meantime, using that duo isn't a real sign of strength down the stretch.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Optioned RHP Ryan Bradley to Columbus; purchased the contract of RHP Jay Tessmer from Columbus; designated 1B Ivan Cruz for assignment. [8/26]

Tessmer's submariner success has been trumpeted for awhile, which is a nice way of saying he probably won't end up like most minor league closers and evaporate in direct sunlight. In 70 innings between Norwich and Columbus, he'd allowed only 61 hits and 15 walks and 75 Ks, logging a 1.03 ERA and 35 saves. With injuries to so many of the Yankees' right-handed relievers, it still isn't going to be very easy for a Tessmer or a Mike Buddie to claim that last roster spot for the postseason. Either Hideki Irabu or Orlando Hernandez will be in the pen along with Mariano Rivera, Ramiro Mendoza, Graeme Lloyd, and Mike Stanton. If the Yankees go with ten pitchers (and they should), that leaves one spot, and if either Jeff Nelson or Darren Holmes heal up, it's theirs.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Traded LF/1B Gregg Jefferies to the Angels for a PTBNL; recalled OF Wendell Magee Jr. from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/28]

The best possible thing about this is that the Phillies save a little more than a sixth of his salary in the final year of his disastrous contract. Magee will get the first chance to enter a claim on left for next year. That the Phillies have to end up giving the last five weeks to him is a disappointment. Hitting 24 homers and 30 doubles may sound pretty good, except that it came on over 550 plate appearances. Yes, he'll be an improvement over Jefferies, but the shame here is that Billy McMillon is hitting for more power and showing much better plate discipline, but he seems to be buried. Well, things could be worse; they could be goofing off with Midre Cummings or something.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed LHP Mark Langston on the 15-day DL (strained rib cage); purchased the contract of RHP Stan Spencer from Las Vegas. [8/25]

How do playoff teams improve? Throwing veteran carcasses over the side is usually a good place to start, and Langston has been especially awful this year (although he's considered a lock for the postseason roster). What about Matt Clement? Kevin Towers just preferred to go with the 29-year old rookie. Spencer's career is a long story about the kind of fun we can have with orthopedic surgery. A sandwich pick after the first round in '90 for the Expos out of Stanford, Spencer lost that year to a cracked rib, had to have his elbow rebuilt in '92, after which the Marlins took a flyer on him, only to see him miss '96 with a separated shoulder. The Pads signed him as a minor league free agent in '97. In this, his first full season, only nine years after he was drafted, he's been amazing for Vegas: 12-6, a 3.93 ERA, allowing only 120 hits and 42 walks in 137.1 IP, racking up 136 strikeouts. He throws a normal four-pitch assortment out of a slow delivery, but the kicker is that during his pre-inning warmups, sometimes he likes to go through his delivery without the ball. He's eligible for the postseason roster, so given the choice between him or Scott Sanders or Brian Boehringer or Mark Langston, I don't care how much people might like Langston, he hasn't earned the consideration.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled LHP David Holdridge and UT Charles Gipson from Tacoma; optioned RHP Bob Wells to Peoria (R), and RHP Ken Cloude to Everett (A). [8/30]

The Mariners always liked to take advantage of the callup deadline to reshuffle their roster slightly to look forward to the playoffs, but now that the postseason is an unreachable goal, it seems somewhat insulting that after subjecting Cloude to Piniella most of the year, they yank him around just now, when it won't do much good.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated RHP Eddie Gaillard from the DL, and optioned him to Durham. [8/25]

Activated RHP Albie Lopez from the DL; placed LHP Ramon Tatis on the 15-day DL (tendinitis - elbow). [8/26]

Placed SS Kevin Stocker on the 60-day DL (fractured hand); recalled INF Dave Silvestri from Durham. [8/30]

Albie Lopez has been one of the keys to the team's bullpen this year, and with Roberto Hernandez still struggling and Esteban Yan in a tailspin, what relief the D-Rays can hope for will have to come from Lopez and Jim Mecir. Stocker's season is mercifully (if painfully) ended early. It will be interesting to see if he loses his job in his absence to Aaron Ledesma. As is, one of my old faves, Dave Silvestri, deserves every opportunity to get Ledesma's old job as the utility infielder, but keep in mind I've been singing Silvestri's praises since the Yankees stole him from Houston in a deal for Orlando Miller.

TEXAS RANGERS

Claimed LHP Greg Cadaret off waivers from Anaheim. [8/25]

Optioned OF Warren Newson to Oklahoma City. [8/26]

Optioned RHP Al Levine to Savannah (A); purchsaed the contract of LHP Tony Fossas from Oklahoma City. [8/30]

Why bring in both Cadaret and Fossas? Fossas' junk doesn't even have enough wiggle left to frighten even the most timid left-handed batter, and the Rangers could use either the Deacon (as a pinch-hitter) or Levine (as a mopup man) more than they need two more lefties in the pen.

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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