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April 26, 2000

Transaction Analysis

April 20-23, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated RHP Matt Mantei off of the DL; designated RHP Darren Holmes for assignment. [4/21]

Darren Holmes is almost certain to be claimed by a team like the Cubs or Astros, so it will be interesting to see if the Snakes pull off a trade while they can. Mantei's absence didn't hurt the team, which is just one of those things to remember a year or two from now when they could really use a Nunez or two, or Brad Penny.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Recalled RHP Jason Johnson from Rochester; optioned RHP Al Reyes to Rochester. [4/20]

So what exactly does spring training accomplish again? Jason Johnson was supposed to be in the rotation from the get-go, but he had a lousy camp. He didn't seem particularly repentant about it, and down he went. Did demoting him inspire his hot start for Rochester? Maybe, maybe not. Causation is slippery, but you can count on a few graybeards talking about how this proves that Mike Hargrove makes people work for what they get, or that he respects the game. The Human Rain Delay, respecting the game? Maybe it's just me, but his little gimmick between pitches when he played was the ultimate expression of self-absorbtion.

Now sure, monkeying around with Calvin Maduro and Jose Mercedes didn't cripple them in the early going, but we're talking about two very undistinguished retreads, and Johnson's coming off of a good year with the big-league club. What did the little psychodrama of sending Johnson down in the first place really accomplish?

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Claimed DH Herbert Perry off of waivers from the Devil Rays. [4/21]

Activated Perry; optioned CF McKay Christensen to Charlotte. [4/23]

Claiming Herb Perry makes some sense. Two infield starters (Jose Valentin and Greg Norton) need platoon mates and barring cloning, Craig Wilson can only take one of their places. But Perry can't really play third base, which means the team is making a couple of tradeoffs in carrying him.

First, they're carrying a notional infield platoonmate over carrying a defensive replacement for Carlos Lee in left field (Christensen would normally go into center field, with Chris Singleton moving to left). I can sort of buy that, because Singleton, Lee and Magglio Ordonez are going to get the vast majority of the playing time in the outfield anyway. But the other ripple effect is the question of whether it's worth putting Perry's bat into the lineup over Jeff Abbott's against left-handed pitching, and I don't really buy into that.

In addition to pretending Perry can handle third base, the Sox are claiming he'll get time in the outfield; this is because they're the same team that's pretending that Jeff Liefer can play a position, and because they're still carrying 12 pitchers.

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed SS Barry Larkin on the 15-day DL; recalled SS/2B Gookie Dawkins from Chattanooga (Double-A). [4/22]

I was decisively not in the camp of people who thought Ken Griffey Jr.'s arrival was going to guarantee an improvement over last year. There were some obvious reasons for concern (a dubious starter or two, Fonzie Bichette), and sadly, Barry Larkin had to be counted among them. Last year, he gave the team his second consecutive full season, and that's not something you can bank on at this stage of his career. A move to third base or one of the outfield corners still looks like a good idea, and will look even better as Fonzie becomes more and more of an obviously bad idea.

Because my expectations for the Reds this year are low, a two-week cameo for Dawkins is a nice little project for them to keep busy with for the time being.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Acquired LF Scott Hunter from the Expos for CF Daniel McKinley. [4/20]

A strange swap: Scott Hunter has been waiver bait for a couple of years, while Daniel McKinley is an adequate regular for some full-season affiliates. Maybe John Hart's trying to soften Jim Beattie up for his big pitch for Ugueth Urbina.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Purchased the contract of RHP Kevin Jarvis from Colorado Springs; placed RHP Rolando Arrojo on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [4/21]

Activated OF Jeffrey Hammonds from the DL; designated 1B/3B Jeff Manto for assignment. [4/22]

For those of you who fret about "expansion pitching," there are plenty of people like Rick Reed and Gil Heredia and maybe even Omar Daal who would be languishing in lesser roles or the International League without expansion. Of course, you can always come back with, "oh yeah, what about Kevin Jarvis?" And I'd have to admit that you've got me there. I can no more explain Jarvis than I can explain Tanyon Sturtze or Cookies Pisciotta. I can't explain them; they don't even have those infamous Four-A credentials that currently get slapped on people like Bob Wolcott.

Facing the need for a spot starter, the Rox should have saved themselves the roster spot and let Gabe White go out there for four or five innings. There's just something fundamentally wrong about Jarvis getting another shot while someone like Jeff Manto gets bumped again.

Hammonds's return is cause for joy for lots of rotoheads, but the man's still got one knee without cartilage. He's going to have to be really lucky to ever get 500 at-bats.

DETROIT TIGERS

Recalled RHP Dave Borkowski from Toledo; placed RHP Scuffy Moehler on the 15-day DL (emergency appendectomy). [4/22]

Bad things happen to bad teams; it becomes part of their charm. And when Juan Go walks away, leaving Randy Smith alone in a room with a suddenly very angry pizza baron, the story might even have a happy ending. Sort of like the moment in Aliens when Paul Reiser as the corporate lackey finally gets what he deserves for his thoughtless commitment to his job. Watch out for the Meat Lover's specials in Motor City in October: you never know what the secret ingredient might be.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed 2B Luis Castillo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/16 (lower back strain); recalled 2B/SS Pablo Ozuna from Portland (Double-A). [4/22]

Ozuna was bound for a callup at some point, if only to observe the rule that anybody traded for a major-leaguer shows up with the team that traded for him, someday. He was pushed up from low-A ball to Double-A in his first year with the Fish and struggled. Now he's being bumped up faster than expected again, and while I still haven't given up on him at the tender age of 21, calling him up to replace Castillo may have the unfortunate side effect of solidifying the organization's commitment to move Ozuna to second base.

The best thing about this situation is that Ozuna might have a chance to outshine Alex Gonzalez, which wouldn't be too tough. The not-so-distant future would be better with Ozuna and Luis Castillo up the middle, with Gonzalez peddled for outfielders who can hit.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Activated RHP Scott Elarton from the DL; optioned CF Glen Barker to New Orleans. [4/22]

Less than a month into the season, and the Astros have sorted out their catching situation, gotten one of their good young shortstops onto the big league roster and, with Elarton's return, gotten their rotation up to full strength. I expected a slow start, but the major remaining issues are shoring up the pen and getting Tim Bogar on the bench. We'll see whether they do it or not, but Gerry Hunsicker is one of the game's better GMs when it comes to attacking a problem. It'll be interesting to see how quickly they do something.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Acquired CF Daniel McKinley from the Indians for LF Scott Hunter; optioned RHP Jeremy Powell to Ottawa; recalled 1B/3B Andy Tracy from Ottawa. [4/20]

Not a bad little trade for the Expos: Scott Hunter is a free-swinger nabbed off of waivers from the Mets last spring, while Daniel McKinley has some value as a regular center fielder for one of their affiliates. Chances are he'll get to fill in at Harrisburg pretty quickly.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Powell's demotion just means Mike Thurman will be up for his next turn. Andy Tracy may not get that much of a chance to stick, although he might bounce Trace Coquilette off the roster with a nice pinch-hit or two.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed SS Miguel Tejada to a four-year contract. [4/21]

Four years, more than $11 million and a quick tar-and-feathering incident for his two agents for spacing on their client's interests during negotiations. Either that, or a nod to Beane for cleverly undermining their not-unreasonable belief that Tejada would eventually have won big in arbitration.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Claimed 1B Brian Hunter off of waivers from the Braves; designated SS Tomas Perez for assignment. [4/21]

Sure, Rico Brogna could use a platoon mate, but you know Brian Hunter isn't happy about this. Sure, he gets major-league service time, but there went his shot at postseason play. Maybe Don Fehr doesn't see the problem, but what's the real payoff for getting to play in an ugly stadium for a team shooting for third place? Getting to listen to Terry Francona's uniquely smarmy anecdotes about "When I managed Michael Jordan..."?

If he's smart, Hunter will say something appropriately offensive about the Daughters of the American Revolution being a bunch of snotty elitist busybodies, get himself cut and get back to the organization that wanted him all along. Just think, a Braves team featuring Hunter after that, John Rocker, tomahawk-chopping fans, Ted Turner...who else could they offend and how? Some snooty furriners would undoubtedly say that then they'd really be America's Team.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated C Carlos Hernandez from the DL; optioned OF Mike Darr to Las Vegas. [4/22]

While Ben Davis didn't do much to inspire keeping him around during his brief return to the majors, the early-season scenarios haven't looked too good in terms of trying to swap Carlos Hernandez for stuff. Kevin Towers's best possible mark, Walt Jocketty's Cardinals, are already getting some good play out of Eli Marrero, and Mike Matheny is doing a breathtaking impersonation of a good major-league hitter. Towers will have to wait for Matheny's inevitable crash, or a major breakdown by someone like Sandy Alomar Jr. or Darrin Fletcher, if he wants to really cash in.

There's always the chance that something really wacky could happen, like the Pads hanging around .500 deep enough into the season that Towers turns Davis into a slugging outfielder. It isn't that likely, but the Dodgers and Snakes aren't going to run very far ahead of the pack.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed LHP Jamie Moyer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/15 (strained shoulder); purchased the contract of RHP Brett Tomko from Tacoma; released OF Shane Monahan. [4/21]

Placed RHP Freddy Garcia (bursitis - knee) and OF/1B John Mabry on the 15-day DL; recalled 2B/SS Carlos Hernandez and RHP Kevin Hodges from Tacoma. [4/22]

Losing both Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer would cripple most teams, but most teams don't have Brett Tomko hanging out in Triple-A or a prospect as good as Ryan Anderson on the horizon.

What losing Garcia and Moyer really does is put a simmering Mt. Piniella on the spot. Will he erupt over Tomko's refusal to crease beans with the pill on command? Can he coexist with a rotation of wee pals like Gil Meche and, soon, Anderson? Or will he bust it up as quickly as he's burned and buried his previous Mariners' staffs, or Jack Armstrong and Tom Browning, or the 1988 Yankees team he took from second to fifth in a month?

He'll always get to blame the injuries, and he's never had to live with serious second-guessing, but a good team and a good manager wouldn't lose pace with this kind of replacement quality. More likely, Pat Gillick will inherit the bitter legacy of Woody Woodward: it has to be somebody other than the manager.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed 2B/3B Frank Catalanotto on the 15-day DL (pulled groin); recalled 3B Mike Lamb from Oklahoma. [4/22]

Frank Catalanotto's absence is a severe handicap to Johnny Oates's handling of his bench, robbing him of the opportunity to break out of his habit of running his lineup Ralph Houk-style and letting his bench rot. Tom Evans hasn't gotten off to a blistering start, which doesn't help his chances of fending off Mike Lamb's second attack on his nonexistent job security.

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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