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July 2, 2003

Transaction Analysis

June 26-30, 2003

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Placed 1B-L Brad Fullmer on the 15-day DL (ruptured knee); recalled 2B/OF-B Chone Figgins from Salt Lake. [6/27]

While this is what you would officially refer to as bad news, because Fullmer has had an outstanding season, it also highlights that while they've lost Fullmer, and America's favorite tyke, David Eckstein, is scuffling, the offense is really doing pretty well all around. I mean, even Bengie Molina's contributing effectively, and nobody beyond Eckstein is really having what you might call a bad season. Fullmer's platoon partner, Shawn Wooten, has been rolling right along at the plate (.323/.382/.485), and while he loses some power against right-handed pitching, might be adequate as a fill-in, having hit .351 (but slugging .427) against them from 2000 to the present. But that's overlooking Jeff DaVanon, who, while he'll never keep slugging in the high .500s, can probably get around in right better than Tim Salmon on most days, meaning Salmon could get a few days off with the leather. (Although Salmon hasn't hit well DHing this year, that wasn't true in previous seasons, so it isn't like we've got a 'Reggie can't DH' problem in the offing.) So all in all, as long as the reaction to Fullmer's absence doesn't involve more playing time for Eric Owens, it's hardly crippling, because they've got a bench they've learned to rely upon. And if that means Owens has to play fisties with Figgins for those pinch-running assignments, at least everyone else who should have some dignity does still have it, right?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Placed SS-L Tony Womack on the 15-day DL and activated 3B-R Shea Hillenbrand from the 15-day DL. [6/28]

Whereas the Angels take a hit and will have to do some reshuffling to adapt, and probably will, losing Tony Womack really doesn't hurt the Snakes in any way beyond whatever charity of the moment loses a bit of a payout from whatever corporation to be named later signed on to shell out money for every sack stolen by on-base slithering. In short, presumably innocent and presumably good people are hurt by this, assuming the Snakes sold the rights to everything ("This cracked bat replacement brought to you by Naked Arizona"), but not the Diamondbacks on the field. Losing Womack undoubtedly bends some people out of shape, but in terms of their lineup and defense, they're better off with Alex Cintron at short, and with Hillenbrand back, they can stop futzing around with playing him all over the diamond and let him settle in at his primary position. That in turn lets them stick with Matt Kata and even The Beeg Burrito at second until Junior Spivey is ready to come back off of the DL. Not even Robby Hammock is SOL just yet, since he can platoon with David Dellucci in right until the Snakes have to confront the more problematic decision of what to do with Danny Bautista and Quinton McCracken once Bautista's healthy enough to play again. It's a nice problem to have, and with the Snakes back in the race without the Big Two, a tribute to how the organization has built itself up considerably more subtly than many, ourselves included, gave them credit for over the years.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Activated RHP Roberto Hernandez from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Jason Marquis to Richmond. [6/27]

Marquis only pitched in three games, all blowouts, so he didn't have much of an opportunity to make much of a difference, one way or another. In contrast, Roberto Hernandez will almost certainly not be reserved for blowouts alone, a decision the Braves have had reason to regret time and again in their brief association with the former closer, but one that the size of his paycheck will force them to revisit until they finally adapt to his limitations. Hernandez hasn't been more than filler since he was a Devil Ray. Basically, having Hernandez back can't mean anything good in the standings, beyond the possibility that he'll take innings that might have been wasted on people who you want to use in high-leverage situations… exactly the role they had Marquis in, in other words, and for less in terms of expectations or treasure.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Placed RHP Willis Roberts on the 15-day DL (sparined elbow); transferred 2B-R Jerry Hairston from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Hector Carrasco from Ottawa. [6/29]

Having become a bullpen asset last season, you have to hope that Roberts will fully recover in good time, but given that the Orioles have a less-than-exemplary reputation for how they've handled player injuries in the past, there's no way we should expect anything one way or another, in terms of the injury, it's length, or when he'll be back. It's to the organization's credit that they turned Roberts from a journeyman into a key component of their late inning corps, and hopefully they'll handle the injury in a way that is a credit to the organization. As for his replacement, well, again, if Willis Roberts can go from nothing to something, perhaps even a known commodity like Hector Carrasco might yet have some value in him. In Ottawa, he'd posted a 2.22 ERA, allowed only 32 hits and 18 unintentional walks in 44.2 IP, and struck out 47. With seven wild pitches, he's still got the control issues that he never really fixed, but I wouldn't lump a Carrasco comeback with the continuing fascination with B.J. Surhoff.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Placed 1B/OF-L Jeremy Giambi on the 15-day DL (shoulder bursitis); purchased the contract of OF-R Gabe Kapler from Portland (Double-A). [6/28]

Designated RHP Rudy Seanez for assignment. [6/29]

Jeremy Giambi's shoulder rose to the occasion, letting the Sox retain both of their utility men while adding Kapler to their outfield corner and DH mix. You can probably count on Kapler getting most of the playing time in right field against opposing lefty starters, since Trot Nixon is still having his problems against southpaws. But Kapler will also spot for David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez as needed, giving the Sox a nice blend in terms of handedness. The real dilemma, should October enter the picture, is making sure they can carry a hopefully healthy Giambi as well, giving them a lefty bat they could use off of he bench. I suspect the Sox have the good sense to know you don't need more than ten pitchers on-staff for your postseason roster.

As for Traction Action's designation, apparently insurers prohibited the Sox carrying both Seanez and Chad Fox on the roster at the same time, and Fox is about to come off of the DL, so better not to risk the wrath of the actuaries. Besides, Seanez had allowed runs to score in six of his nine games. The Sox pen is still functioning as much as it has through the contributions of Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, and Brandon Lyon, with everyone else really struggling. Hence the alacrity with which they've decided to slap Byung-Hyun Kim into the pen. See, having made off-season noise about their purity of intent to do things their way in relief, and then seeing it blow up in their face, it's more important to 'fix' the pen problem than it is to acknowledge that they've got problems in the rotation as well. If the starters struggle, that's their fault, after all.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Announced that C-R Josh Paul cleared waivers and refused an outright assignment to Charlotte, becoming a free agent. [6/26]

After so much time, how do you expect Josh Paul to take that? He put in the time, got sweet-talked into a few raised expectations, and he keeps getting dumped for the old bag behind the plate. And now Kenny Williams has this hot new Latin model, and he's getting everything Jose Paul was ever promised or led to believe would someday be his, and you're right, the time has come to stop believing the promises, pack your bags, and take a walk on the wire. Heck, he's fast for a catcher, and he can catch. If he or his agent know who Scott Hemond was, it's time to place a call to the Cardinals.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Juan Cruz from Iowa; optioned 2B-B Bobby Hill to Iowa. [6/26]

Optioned RHP Todd Wellemeyer to Iowa; activated 1B-L Hee Seop Choi from the 15-day DL. [6/29]

The good news is that as soon as he came off of the DL, Hee Seop Choi went straight back into the lineup. That's as it should be; in his absence, Eric Karros posted his usual struggles against right-handed forms of life, and the Cubs offense sputtered on choked on various Dustyisms even more than usual. Now that Choi's back, the Cubs get a bat on the bench in Karros who at least might exploit a pitching change, not that Troy O'Leary's going to make the other guy bring in a lefty.

What's more perplexing here is the reshuffling in the pen. Wellemeyer was virtually set up to fail, even before the humiliation of the six-run tenth inning against the Brewers that cost a contending ballclub an important game. He didn't pitch for almost two weeks at the start of the month, then got handed some start-length mop-up assignments and a few gigs in-between. Considering Juan Cruz's stuggles in the past, I wouldn't hold out a whole lot of hope that he's going to be used any more consistently or be put in a situation where he'll do much better.

Then there's the pointless call-up of Bobby Hill, to what end no one can adequately explain. In ten days with the club, he didn't get a single start, either at third (as threatened) or second. There isn't really much good to say about this: if he wasn't going to play, he shouldn't have been up, and if he was supposed to play, who's in charge here? The manager who ran your 27-homer run power source out of town, because he didn't like the cut of his jib?

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Designated LHP Jimmy Anderson for assignment; activated RHP John Riedling from the 15-day DL. [6/27]

Placed LHP Kent Mercker on the 15-day DL (sprained back), retroactive to 6/25. [6/28]

Recalled OF-R Steve Smitherman from Chattanooga (Double-A). [6/29]

The big move here is that the Reds are going with a four-man rotation, having finally been forced into the appropriate conclusion that yes, starts spent on a fifth starter when you don't have five are, in fact, a bad idea. It might perhaps seem strange, when Danny Graves has one quality start in the last month, but the four alternatives to the front four that the Reds have used have combined in their 25 starts to go 4-12 while allowing 8.49 Runs Allowed (RA) per nine (or a stunning 112 runs in 118.2 IP). This RA-RA Gang (Riedling, Anderson, Reitsma, and Austin) are exactly the sorts you don't go out of your way to start, merely to adhere to the fashions of the time, so it's just as well that the Reds are finally going to give the four-man rotation a two-week spin. Will it work? Two weeks isn't enough to tell anybody anything conclusive, but if it works initially, it might give the Reds a shorter list of roster problems to tackle by the end of the month, which is important if they want to identify and fix problems and give contention a shot.

Superficially less explicable is the decision to call up Steve Smitherman. For starters, he lacks a great nickname: Noochie? No. Poochie? No. Tookie? Don't we wish. No, all Smitherman has done is hit (.318/.399/.569 in his Double-A debut this year), which is great, except that he'll get no chance to do that here. Or is Bob Boone's next flashback tactical or operational innovation going to be a return to Dick Williams' various attempts in the '70s to avoid letting weak middle infielders hit at all by pinch-hitting for them as often as possible? Between Juan Castro, Aaron Boone, and Ray Olmedo, Boone can pinch-hit for his second basemen at least twice in-game. Of course, it would help if he actually had the hitting talent on the bench to make it work, which helps sort things out a big. That's because the big league bench is already saddled with Wily Mo Pena and Reggie Taylor, neither of whom serve any real purpose. So having Smitherman as well as a disgruntled Jose Guillen (and either Sean Casey or Adam Dunn on the days Boone wants to regruntle Guillen) makes some small amount of sense, not that it helps the Reds make Guillen happy or get them a middle infield.

The other thing having Smitherman around reflects is the understanding that they don't have to carry an eight man bullpen, just because they're going with a four-man rotation, and that they're better off with the extra bat, especially since the starters will be on a shorter leash, getting pinch-hit for earlier in-game.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Activated RHP Ricardo Rodriguez from the 15-day DL. [6/26]

Recalled C-B Victor Martinez from Buffalo; optioned C-B Josh Bard to Buffalo. [6/27]

Recalled LHP Cliff Lee from Buffalo; optioned RHP Jake Westbrook to Buffalo. [6/29]

The Indians will be slipping into their own future more and more as the season goes on, but the particularly nice bits here are twofold. First, they got to take a look at Cliff Lee in the double-header against the Royals, and he looked great, although again, it was the Royals. With Ricardo Rodriguez also back and looking healthy, and adding that to the great work they're getting out of Billy Traber and Jason Davis, the Indian rotation of the future is looking very near, with Brian Anderson cast in the Bud Black role from the '84 Royals, if you want to be particularly optimistic. This has been one of the main stories worth following in Cleveland all season, and it's turning out even better even earlier than expected, what with Jason Bere's fortuitous departure.

The other nice turn was that they finally thought better of their fascination with Josh Bard's persona, and moved back to the more reliable goodness of Victor Martinez's bat. Martinez was clobbering the International League, hitting .328/.395/.474, good for a .267 Equivalent Average in the majors. Given that Bard was struggling to get his OBP anywhere close to .300, it's just as well that the make the move, continue to use Tim Laker as the useful/obligatory veteran backstop to help out with the young staff, and look forward to the day when they'll be able to carry Bard's glove and noted moxie as an important component on their bench, or potentially in trade to anyone disappointed with the odds and Inges of the world.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Optioned RHP Scott Elarton to Colorado Springs; recalled C/1B/OF-R Ben Petrick from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of RHP Matt Miller from Colorado Springs; designated RHP Todd Jones for assignment; outrighted INF-R Brent Butler to Colorado Springs. [6/27]

We touched on Scott Elarton's doom last week, which leaves the pair of more interesting elements, the return of Ben Petrick and the reappearance of The Other Matt Miller (not the lefty). Petrick doesn't seem to be coming up into any particular role, and he didn't exactly tear the cover off of the ball in Colorado Springs, coming back up after hitting .2273/.330/.536. He seems to be doomed to continue the outfield experiment, although frankly it looks like the Rockies just don't know what to do with him, they just expect he'll be handier as a bench bat than one utility infielder too many.

As for the arrival of The Other Matt Miller (not the lefty), this is the Matt Miller who entered the Rangers organization after dominating the Big South League after playing college ball at Delta State. Yes, these things and places really existed, just like the Rangers' farm system. Anyway, Miller's never struggled anywhere, pitching effectively in the Rangers' chain, then for the Padres as Portland's closer in 2001, then for the A's, and now with Rox. As a Sky Sock, Miller has been an effective setup man for closer Brad Clontz (so that's where he went), giving up only 48 baserunners in 43.1 IP, striking out 51 and allowing only 2.91 runs per nine. He's no spring chicken to be getting his first real shot at big league action at 31, but you can add him to the pantheon of never-say-die types who make it despite having to break in through the indy league route.

As for Tod Jones, I don't really think his sparkly car-carrying closer rep is entirely gone, and if Rod Beck can launch a comeback after a little old elbow surgery, I'm sure that somebody's going to give Jones the benefit of the Mile High doubt and take a look at him. The Cardinals, Padres, or Red Sox, for example. He'd make a great Ranger. Heck, I suspect even the Royals might take him seriously. It's been an awful year for relief pitching, so expect everyone to get recycled.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Activated 1B-L Carlos Pena from the 15-day DL; optioned SS-R Omar Infante to Toledo. [6/27]

Purchased the contract of RHP Chris Mears from Toledo; optioned RHP Franklyn German to Toledo; activated OF-B Gene Kingsale from the 15-day DL, and designated him for assignment. [6/29]

The big news is that it's good to get Carlos Pena back, since it might help the offense get that much better. The Tigers have already benefited by seeing Eric Munson finally start hitting like he can, and with Dmitri Young earning his stripes as their undoubted All-Star, that's as many as three more hitters than it looked like they had at the end of April. With Pena back at first base, it looks like they're going to put Young back out in left, push Kevin Witt from first to DH, and platoon Witt with Craig Monroe (with Young moving to DH against lefties). That still leaves Andres Torres learning to fail by watching the likes of Alex Sanchez in the everyday lineup, but it still resembles improvement. Heck, they even picked correctly between their options at short, picking Ramon Santiago over Infante. Not that either of them are going to turn into A-Rod and the Other Three in terms of performance, but Santiago's got a big more sock, and Infante's speed remains as much a non-positive as Sanchez's for as long as he fails to reach base.

It's always a little bit of a surprise to see a Canadian pitcher slip through minor league free agency and not get flirted with a bit more seriously by the Canadian teams, but Chris Mears signed up with the Tigers after putting in his time in the Mariners organization, that after having a nice 2002 season as a swingman in San Antonio. He's not a prospect as much as another survivor, so this is exactly the right sort of place for him to wash up and reach the beach.

Finally, in terms of yesterday's bright ideas gone wrong, certainly somebody feels more comfortable sending Gene Kingsale off now that there's no way the Padres can look good in the deal, having already discarded Mike Rivera. This really looks like a trade nobody won, sort of like the Dickie Noles for Dickie Noles deal back in the day. As for Franklyn German, his control issues clearly drove Alan Trammell to distraction, so it's more of a young Shuey issue than a Brad King career path sort of concern. The question is whether the Tigers are the right organization in which anybody can iron out their problems, a question that can only be answered through patience and time, from both the organization and its fans. German's a relatively unique talent, and while saying he could be the next Armando Benitez wouldn't be considered a compliment in some quarters, it's a test for both himself and for the organization to set him aright. While relief help isn't that hard to find if you know how to look, there's nothing wrong with exploiting great physical talent in the pen, and German's mix of splitters and pure gas should work somewhere someday.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Placed RHP Kevin Olsen on the 15-day DL (concussion); recalled RHP Nate Bump from Albuquerque. [6/28]

Here's hoping Olsen makes a full recovery from that shot to the head, so that he can bounce back and do some good work. Nate Bump comes up after doing decent work in Albuquerque this year, building on last year's hope that he might wind up having a career after all. While the PCL isn't the bloodbath on the mound that it used to be, a 4.43 ERA isn't a bad mark, and he's managed to allow just over a hit per inning pitched (89 in 85.2) and a 52-23 strikeout to walk ratio (for the curious, my perspective is that IBBs are the manager's call, and not the player's talent, so why blame the guy?). At any rate, this is Bump's chance to claim a bullpen job for himself, no different than Olsen, or Allen Levrault or Blaine Neal for that matter.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Placed 2B-R Jeff Kent on the 15-day DL (tendinitis - wrist), retroactive to 6/19; recalled INF-R Dave Matranga from New Orleans. [6/27]

Purchased the contract of LHP Mike Gallo from New Orleans, optioned LHP Nate Bland to New Orleans; transfered RHP Scuffy Moehler from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/28]

In another division under other circumstances, I might be inclined to think that the loss of a player like Jeff Kent would have severe repercussions. In the NL Central, it's almost an opportunity to eventually improve. There's little chance that the Cubs or Cardinals are suddenly going to pick up steam: the Cubs offense is still stalled, and the Cardinals are in a state of perpetual decay. So losing Kent isn't enough to propel the Astros out of the race, because the race will stay with them wherever they are. If anything, by losing Kent for a couple of weeks, they get to play Morgan Ensberg on a daily basis while Geoff Blum fills in at second, and that could finally be the break Ensberg needs to really escape the restraints of the role in which Jimy Williams has shackled him. And as utility infielders go, Dave Matranga's pretty handy in a Blumian sort of way, getting on base well enough, showing some power and a little bit of speed. Like Blum, Matranga's not really capable of handling short for an extended period of time, but with Adam Everett pulling his weight at the plate, once Kent's ready to return, Matranga deserves to stick ahead of Eric Bruntlett.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Placed 1B-R Mike Sweeney on the 15-day DL (tight back), retroactive to 6/19; recalled 2B-R Brent Abernathy and LHP Les Walrond from Omaha; optioned RHP Ryan Bukvich to Omaha. [6/26]

Well, they're in first, so it's all golden, right? Actually, losing Mike Sweeney is probably the well-timed excuse should the Royals slip out of contention right now, but given that the AL Central is as tight as the NL Central despite having a more obvious favorite, as long as the Royals flirt with 85 wins, they're never going to be really out of it. Heck, going into the All-Star break, they get the Tigers and the Rangers for seven of their final ten games, so they shouldn't go into a tailspin. Besides, Sweeney's injury isn't considered terribly serious.

The greater misfortune is that losing Sweeney comes at a time when Dee Brown is already on the DL, meaning he won't get any of the at-bats that just came free, which will instead get spent on Michael Tucker and Aaron Guiel. They're fine temps, but it would be nice for the Royals to get another chance at seeing whether Brown has a future here or not, or if he's just a three-dimensional warning to Ken Harvey of what the future can look like.

Meanwhile, the leftyless pen came to an end as soon was Walrond's ten days in the minors were up, so the Royals will give him another shot at a slice of Jerry Don Gleaton's fame.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Dave Burba from Indianapolis; optioned RHP Ruben Quevedo to Indianapolis. [6/27]

The horror of this situation is that it is possible to argue that Dave Burba might even be an improvement on Ruben Quevedo, if only because it would be hard to get any worse. But even then, Burba was allowing runs at a 5.33 per nine, so he's not exactly ready for big league competition as much as he's used to it. But as embarrassing as Quevedo could look, it's worth noting that he gave the Brewers five quality starts (counting one blown in the seventh) in eight total starts, so it wasn't like he was taking his team out of games every time out. And c'mon, it's Dave Burba. What's he going to do, avenge his '97 at a fish boil?

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Tim Drew from Edmonton. [6/26]

Well, I guess you have to have 25 players on the active roster, and Drew's on the 40-man, so you gotta do it, right? This is basically a reflection on how contemptible the Expos' situation is. They need pitching, but they don't really have it to spare in their own organization, especially since the 40-man is choking with scouty projects like Drew. So even though he's given up 70 runs in 78 IP, even though he still doesn't have command, control, significant velocity, or anything that really makes him a prospect beyond his being limber enough to avoid whiplash, here he is. Similar to having to fill out the roster with Anthony Ferrari earlier, it's an indication of how slender Omar Minaya's hand really is.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Recalled LHP Brandon Claussen from Columbus; optioned RHP Jason Anderson to Columbus. [6/28]

Will Carroll has already touched upon how remarkable Claussen's comeback from surgery has been, but it's also worth slapping some of the numbers up for you to see: in 62.1 IP across ten starts between Tampa and Columbus, Claussen has allowed 39 hits and posted an incredible 53-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's allowed only 1.73 runs per nine. If that's what he's doing when he's supposed to be readjusting to the new elbow, we could get silly and entertain visions of a truly Gibsonian future (Bob, not William) once he's fully recovered, right? Setting aside such foolery for the moment, it's worth remembering that Claussen's biggest test will be whether or not Joe Torre stumbles into finding a way to put him to work. It was nice to see him carve up the enfeebled Mets, but he's not one of gray and famous Joe's familiar with, and heaven forfend if the Yankees might recognize that Claussen's handier to have around than the likes of the immortal Sterling Hitchcock.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Designated INF-R Marco Scutaro for assignment. [6/26]

Recalled OF-R Raul Gonzalez from Norfolk; optioned OF-R Tsuyoshi Shinjo to Norfolk. [6/28]

Recalled LHP Jaime Cerda from Norfolk; optioned RHP Jeremy Griffiths to Norfolk. [6/29]

While the Royals and the Devil Rays flirt with a leftyless life in the pen, the Mets now have four lefties in their pen, not counting the disabled Mike Stanton: Cerda, Pedro Feliciano, John Franco, and Graeme Lloyd. This was a bad idea last winter, since the objective by trying to collect so many lefty relievers is to have something to deal, and, perhaps predictably, Phillips never did get around to dealing. This was like winters past, where he'd launch irrelevant mini-runs on all sorts of fungible talent. So now Jim Duquette has stuff, and while there's no way he'll peddle Franco, and little chance they'll get much for Feliciano, and with Stanton probably out beyond any hope of dealing him by the trading deadline, that really means the Mets have Cerda for cashless contenders, and Lloyd for those who like their prosciutto a bit older.

Oh, and the team got better thanks to the absenting of another bad Phillips idea, with Shinjo going to a level he might even hit at. With the latest commitment to Timo Perez, that should mean Cliff Floyd and Jeromy Burnitz in the corners, with Perez in center most days, Roger Cedeno spotting for all three, and Raul Gonzalez getting a lot of pinch-hitting work. That's not all bad, but it's still a Cedeno too many in the mix.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Released 1B-R Kevin Young. [6/28]

Recalled C-R Humberto Cota from Nasvhille. [6/29]

Kudos to Dave Littlefield for simultaneously Operation Shutdown-ing Kevin Young at long last, while finally placing a backup catcher on the roster, allowing Craig Wilson to start getting into the regular lineup rotation. As long as Randall Simon is out, the Pirates' choices at first base are continued futzing with Carlos Rivera, or trying to showcase Matt Stairs to somebody with a randomly-generated A-ball pitcher to be named later burning a hole in their pocket. Or maybe, just maybe, they could get around to playing Wilson, somebody who might be part of the team's future, or at worst might turn into something worth peddling for something more than that obligatory 'live arm.' At any rate, now that Cota's on the bench, the Pirates have a warm body who knows how to don the tools of ignorance, setting Lloyd McClendon's mind at ease, and hopefully freeing it to the possibilities that can come from playing Wilson.

As for Young, weep not. He's been a godawful hitter for four years, even setting aside his status as one of the last surviving members of the endangered species, Bonifaysis Ludicrus Chuckulum, better known as the Monongahela Golden Turkey. He's going to make a great Cardinal.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Optioned OF-L Kerry Robinson to Memphis; recalled RHP Jimmy Journell from Memphis. [6/27]

Placed RHP Kiko Calero on the 15-day DL (ruptured tendon, knee); recalled OF-L Kerry Robinson from Memphis. [6/29]

Here's a bitter pill. Calero was one of the prizes of the past winter's minor league free agent market, finally got his opportunity, and had made the most of it, earning a place as the team's only consistent middle reliever. The Cardinals have enough problems with their pitching staff that the last thing they needed was for one of their very few rays of sunshine on the staff this season. The fact that it comes of the heels of the persistent (and as Will Carroll suggests, potentially cascading) health woes of Matt Morris, I guess the nicest thing to say under the circumstances is that the NL Central remains as fertile with runaway powerhouses as a Kia factory.

As a result, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see Jimmy Journell sucked into the vacuum, even if only briefly. Although he flopped in the early going in Memphis's rotation, he's done well in relief for the last couple of months, and he's still got the good velocity and sharp slider that makes him a prospect, even if one trailed by a whispering campaign about his potential for injury. Although the Cardinals have no intention of keeping him up this time around, he could make a fine replacement for Calero. Given his stuff, a relief role might not just suit him, it would allow Walt Jocketty to cross one more item off of his wish list for this summer's shopping season.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Activated 1B-R Greg Colbrunn from the 15-day DL; optioned INF-B Luis Ugueto to San Antonio (Double-A). [6/28]

Having Greg Colbrunn back is all well and good, but it doesn't really address the team's only actual offensive holes, in left field and at third base. Mark McLemore isn't having a good season, Jeff Cirillo is into the third year of that portion of your career that could usually count on putting you in the proud purple, teal, and copper of the Aged Snakes, and Randy Winn, for all of the noise surrounding him from last year's trade deadline onwards, is really just Randy Winn, the guy who never hit like he did in 2002 before or since. These aren't deadly problems, considering the lineup is firing just fine on six cylinders (seven when Ben Davis plays). Heck, Carlos Guillen's turned into a nifty little contributor at the plate, the sort of guy at short that we all noticed before A-Rod and the non-Rod trinity arrived in the game. As much as you can say that the team with the league's best record has a problem, the Mariners have a problem, exacerbated by the lack of depth. Tacoma has nothing to offer at either third or left, and elsewhere, Chris Snelling's still damaged, and the Justin Leone's 26 and not really someone you expect to see Pat Gillick call up, even if he is hitting .298/.404/.557 in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, getting Colbrunn back just sort of highlights the problem, which will matter more in September and October. What's a contender doing shuffling through bench help like Pat Borders, or last year's passing Rule 5 fancy? I suspect selling 'Ugueto' merchandise in the stadium store is just so much less cool than 'Bloomquist' jerseys, but is that really going to help? Either way? Hopefully, Pat Gillick will haul in something extra by the end of the month, but the odds of that actually happening aren't particularly good.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Re-purchased the contract of RHP Carlos Reyes from Durham; designated LHP Mike Venafro for assignment. [6/26]

The nice thing about Lou Piniella is that he's the hatchet-burying type, usually in whoever happens to be in his way as he curses his team for spoiling his golden (and we do mean golden) years. But given that he's assumed some sort of latter-day infallibility, and refuses to accept his less than Midean touch with the dross he generally gets to work with hereabouts, players suffer from the caprices of one of the game's great tantrum artists. So even though Mike Venafro hadn't really done all that badly, certainly not by organizational standards, doing badly in a game against the Yankees and thereby creating that many more acid molecules to bubble into Mount Piniella's ever-burbling caldera of spite, bringing upon himself the unreasoning anger of the mountain. Hit one lefty and walk another against the boss's old team? Die, die, die! Scum! Don't you know the neighbors moved down here from the Bronx, and the old lady and I will never hear the end of it! So of course you haul back that nice Carlos Reyes, because he's mostly harmless, he'll take a beating or two, creating a new wash of righteous, extreme justice that makes the pain of day-to-day existence in a self-inflicted Tropicana exile seem almost bearable.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Placed LHP Aaron Fultz on the 15-day DL (bruised shoulder), retroactive to 6/23; purchased the contract of LHP Ron Mahay from Oklahoma; transferred 1B/3B-R Herbert Perry from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/26]

On the one hand, you'd like to think that this might represent a big break for Ron Mahay, but let's be honest, he was given clean shots at jobs in both Oakland and Chicago, and didn't do much with either opportunity. He's still got the stigma of being one of the players that the owners exploited and the union failed to protect in 1995, and Buck Showalter's got a bad side that is easy to get onto, and hard to get off of. Mahay's 32, and even though he's a lefty, does anyone expect him to get more than this, the dribs and drabs of desperation call-ups? I certainly tip my cap to his desire to keep playing, given the odds against his ever really escaping the bus leagues.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Activated 3B-L Eric Hinske from the 15-day DL; optioned UT-L Howie Clark to Syracuse. [6/26]

Placed RHP Cliff Politte on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); placed RHP Juan Acevedo on the bereavement list; recalled RHP Mike Smith from Syracuse; re-purchased the contract of LHP Jason Kershner from Syracuse. [6/29]

Well, to answer whether Clark had a chance at sticking around with Hinske's return, obviously the answer turned out to be 'no,' with the Jays sticking with a dozen pitchers in the meantime. Given how unsettled the pen is at the moment, with only Jeff Tam, Trever Miller, and Rule 5 godsend Aquilino Lopez left from Opening Day, that's somewhat understandable. It might seem strange that they're keeping Mike Smith around with so little intent to use him, but how many more Mark Hendrickson starts when he doesn't get out of the third inning can any pen put up with?

I suppose somewhere in the fantasy world there's much gnashing of teeth over the departure of Cliff Politte to the DL, but that's small beer. Tanyon Sturtze has been valuable since he joined the pen, Lopez has been the team's best reliever, and Scott Service is doing exactly as well as the team expected him to. Miller's been an asset, so while the Jays have fallen into a bullpen by committee of sorts, it isn't as if it's all bad and desperate. Sure, they may have to turn to Kershner in a high-leverage at-bat, or they might have to put Tam on the spot, but it isn't as if the Jays have lost a critical cog in their bid to contend.

More important by far is getting Hinske back in the lineup, presumably at full strength. If he starts kicking into this lineup what he was able to give them last year, then on top of getting Shannon Stewart back, the Jays might be even more of the offensive powerhouse they need to be to out-maim whoever they're playing. If they get their pen problems ironed out in the meantime, there's no reason they can't make both Boston and New York sweat into September.

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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