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September 25, 1998

Transaction Analysis

September 16-25

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Recalled C Ben Molina from Vancouver. [9/17]

Purchased C Chad Kreuter from the White Sox. [9/18]

Placed C Charlie O'Brien on the 60-day DL (broken thumb). [9/18]

With Phil Nevin's sprained ankle and O'Brien's season over, the Angels scrambled to fill in behind the plate, and the Sox were nice enough to oblige. Of course, as we now know, it really didn't matter, except to tell everybody Bill Bavasi gets antsy at crunch time.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated OF Danny Bautista from the DL. [9/17]

Bautista's return is important, since he's Klesko's platoon-mate and defensive caddy. Even so, that doesn't guarantee first-round starts against Sterling Hitchcock, Terry Mulholland, or Shawn Estes or Kirk Rueter (depending on how this weekend's NL wildcard fun plays out). Because Ice Williams has done his usual lefty-mashing and outstanding defensive work, Bobby Cox can elect to start Michael Tucker along with Williams and Andruw Jones, and keep Klesko and Bautista on the bench for pinch-hitting duties. Unlike prior seasons, the Braves made no effort to play at carrying a third catcher, which is courtesy of the great years both Javy Lopez and Eddie Perez have had.

BOSTON RED SOX

Recalled RHP Robinson Checo and CF Michael Coleman from Pawtucket; recalled RHPs Jin Ho Cho and Rafael Betancourt and 2B Jim Chamblee from Trenton of the Eastern League (AA). [9/22]

Cho and Checo are still outstanding pitching prospects, but they'll have to wait for next year's camp for serious shots at the rotation, in the expectation that Avery and Schourek will be elsewhere. Chamblee struggled to make contact in the Eastern League--the toughest AA league for a young hitter--but he still managed to hit for power and draw a healthy number of walks. With the mighty Mike Benjamin going into '99 as the incumbent, the Sox could choose to go in any one of a number of directions at second, either by finally committing to Donnie Sadler, or taking a long look at Chamblee, or looking at dark horses like Arqui Pozo or Lou Merloni, or by resuscitating Mark Lemke or recycyling Benjamin. Since this is Dan Duquette's team, choose any of the above each day, change your mind in alternate hours, shake, stir, scramble, confuse.

CHICAGO CUBS

Belatedly signed 1998 first-rounder OF Corey Patterson.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Sold C Chad Kreuter to the Angels. [9/18]

Recalled CF Brian Simmons from Calgary. [9/20]

Two good things for the Sox. Kreuter's a free agent in the offseason, and it's likely they'll give re-signing him some thought. In the meantime, it gave them the final ten days of the season to look at Mark Johnson behind the plate. That's if they're smart, because there's no reason to prefer Roberto Machado over Johnson, offensively or defensively. They may elect to just skip signing a veteran catcher altogether, but letting Johnson learn from a veteran backstop, instead of having Machado around, is probably the best combination.

As for the Simmons callup, this highlights the interesting situation the Sox find themselves in for next year's outfield. Mike Cameron is going to have to fight for his playing time, and Simmons is a good defender and a useful offensive player. Magglio Ordonez has had a nice little season, and the Sox are finally admitting to themselves that Jeff Abbott is a hitting machine. Should the Dodgers acknowledge the extra money they're already paying Gary Sheffield (or if anyone else signs a bigger contract), Albert Belle's a free agent. What to do in this situation? Throw into the mix that Mario Valdez had a nice little season as Calgary's first baseman, that Robin Ventura is a free agent, and that the Sox have three good third basemen in their system in Olmedo Saenz, Carlos Lee, and Joe Crede, and about the only conclusion you can come to right now is that Wil Cordero's out of a job and that Greg Norton should not be considered anything more than a utility infielder. The most important thing is to get used to the idea that letting Ventura walk to keep Belle around is for the best. After that, the Sox need to stop thinking that Ordonez' spot in right is safe. Although he had a good season, there's nothing about him that earns him consideration above Cameron, Abbott, or Simmons.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated 1B Jim Thome from the DL. [9/16]

Released Large Person Cecil Fielder. [9/18]

Recalled OF Alex Ramirez and purchased the contract of LHP Jason Jacome from Buffalo; activated LHP Tom Martin from the DL. [9/19]

Recalled LHP Eddie Priest from Buffalo. [9/21]

Fielder ended up being a waste of time, although we don't hear his agent bleating about how unfair this latest cut is when his client has no chance of out-hitting Richie Sexson, ever. The key here is what this might mean for the Indians in the offseason. John Hart did an outstanding job of moving Marquis Grissom before the Indians had to pay off the majority of his multiyear contract, and the challenge for this winter is to do the same with David Justice, to create more playing time for Sexson.

DETROIT TIGERS

Recalled C Rob Fick and OF Gabe Kapler from Jacksonville (AA). [9/19]

If the Tigers are serious about making themselves better in '99, they'll have to skip token public relations moves like signing Luis Gonzalez or Bip Roberts, and abandon their commitment to Brian Hunter. What then? Play Kapler in left, and find a way to get Fick behind the plate. The Tigers have the pieces to make themselves a very good team, but they're in the same boat as the Pirates: they have to move beyond the gateway players that helped make them a fun surprise in '97, and start playing their promising young players rather than devote entire seasons of service time to placeholding veterans.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Recalled RHP Brian Sikorski from New Orleans. [9/16]

Should this Sunday's game against the Cubs be meaningless, don't be surprised if he either gets the start or works long relief. Sikorski struggled badly after a midseason callup to New Orleans, so he isn't well-positioned to mount a push for the fifth starter's job, even if Chris Holt or Scott Elarton don't end up competing for it.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Purchased the contract of C/3B Mike Barrett from Harrisburg (AA). [9/18]

Barrett has drawn a reasonable amount of attraction as a prospect, and if the Expos do end up non-tendering Shane Andrews to hand Barrett the hot corner, that isn't a bad thing. Andrews or Barrett, the burning question is: where the Expos ever play a hitter who doesn't hit .270/.310, assuming they ever produce one? Rondell White doesn't get on base very well, so they can look forward to a lineup that has Vlad Guerrero, five men (Guerrero, Fullmer, Cabrera, Barrett, White) with dandy batting averages and rotten OBPs, a nice catching duo in Chris Widger and Bob Henley who nevertheless aren't major offensive assets, and a left fielder to be named later. The hope is that it will be Pete Bergeron, but it's no sure thing that he'll be ready for the majors by Opening Day '99.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Annouced that OF Ruben Amaro will retire to become the assistant GM, effective at the end of the season. [9/18]

According to my Phanatical Phillies Phan Phriend Jeff Hildebrand, Amaro was effectively on the roster to keep Bobby Abreu company this year. Like sending Gregg Jefferies away, it shows they're getting a bit more serious about next year's team.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated LHP Terrell Wade from the DL; transferred OF Dave Martinez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/17]

Recalled LHP Mike Duvall, 3B Scott McClain, and OF Kerry Robinson from Durham. [9/19]

Recalled RHP Dave Eiland and LHP Brad Pennington from Durham; placed RHP Rolando Arrojo on the 60-day DL, and transferred RHP Jason Johnson from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/21]

Claimed C Julio Mosquera on waivers from the Blue Jays; designated LHP Matt Ruebel for assignment. [9/23]

Since only three rotation spots are set for next year, Wade will be given a start or two to symbolize his early bid for a spot in next year's rotation. The other name to note is Duvall, who should claim the job as the main lefty in the pen next year. Kerry Robinson is probably out of luck as far as ever becoming a regular. Randy Winn skipped past him to claim the centerfield job, and the organzation has its fascination with Quinton McCracken to overcome. If they're struggling to come to terms with the idea that Bubba Trammell should be playing every day, Robinson doesn't stand a chance.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed C Guillermo Quiroz; outrighted RHP Joe Young to Knoxville (AA). [9/23]

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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