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April 22, 1999

Transaction Analysis

April 15-20

by Christina Kahrl

ATLANTA BRAVES

Traded RHP Mark Wohlers to the Reds for RHP John Hudek; optioned RHP Mike Cather to Richmond. [4/16]

Activated LHP Mike Remlinger from the DL; optioned LHP Derrin Ebert to Richmond. [4/18]

I'm no big fan of Hudek's, but since Wohlers may never be the same, this isn't a bad way to make Wohlers somebody else's problem. Hudek is basically of the same ilk as Russ Springer: an adequate reliever when he's going good, but not really somebody you should rely on too heavily. Remlinger's return just adds another name to the hopper for who might get to close for the Braves for a week or two. The way things are going, the first guy to convert back-to-back save opportunities will almost certainly get a shot at a third. What's really important is to keep in mind that none of it really matters: the Braves wouldn't win so many more games if only they had Troy Percival. Keep that in mind, and apply that lesson to other teams. Closers are created or anointed by their managers, but logging saves are bookkeepers' notations, not a stat that describes a skill. Troy Percival or Trevor Hoffman are good pitchers because they can blow a batter out of the box, not because they can log saves. The Braves have pitchers with skill in their pen, and they'll be fine.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed 3B Cal Ripken Jr. on the 15-day DL (back); recalled INF Jesse Garcia from Rochester; placed 1B Will Clark on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/18 (fractured thumb). [4/20]

Neither of these items are really bad news for the Orioles in themselves. Having blown the money on Clark, and having to carry the slow bat of the Iron Icon, expectations should have already been low. The really bad news is that they can't capitalize on the playing time Clark's absence creates, because Cal Pickering's aching shoulder has him idling at Rochester. This team was already bad, but if they were playing Pickering and Willis Otanez, they'd at least have a shot at being bad-but-improving. Instead, they'll probably goof off with Jeff Conine at first, which leaves them with one of the weakest 1B/LF pairings in the American League.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed C Scott Hatteberg on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation). [4/15]

Recalled C Creighton Gubanich from Pawtucket; activated 1B Reggie Jefferson from the DL; optioned 1B Brian Daubach to Pawtucket. [4/16]

Placed RHP Tom Gordon on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled RHP Brian Rose from Pawtucket. [4/18]

Optioned RHP Brian Rose to Pawtucket; recalled RHP Juan Pena from Pawtucket; optioned Pena to Pawtucket. [4/19]

Losing Hatteberg is a small blow, but easily compensated for. In his absence, Jason Varitek gets to play every day, and it should let the long-deserving Gubanich finally make his major league debut. The Rose-to-Pena-to-(probably Tim Harrikkala) shuffle was all part of Harrikala's being used by the Paw Sox on Saturday, while the Sox kept their bullpen stocked in the meantime. It didn't really cost them anything in terms of options, but it seems like an inane way to handle a roster spot.

CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired RHP Mark Wohlers from the Braves for RHP John Hudek; placed Wohlers on the 15-day DL (acute Blassitis). [4/16]

Purchased the contract of RHP Rick Greene from Indianapolis. [4/18]

Purchased the contract of C Guillermo Garcia from the Marlins, and assigned him to Chattanooga (AA). [4/20]

The Reds were going to have to create a roster spot for Denny Neagle at some point, and trading Hudek does that. The Braves are footing the bill for the Reds' flyer on Wohlers, so if he gets straightened out, they got something for very little. I'm not extremely optimistic that Wohlers can be straightened out, but if all it costs was another wild mediocre reliever, it didn't cost much. Greene will probably get sent down today, but the Reds won't keep only ten pitchers forever, especially when they're dragging Jason Bere's carcass in the rotation as some sort of trophy. I figure between Mark Sweeney and Michael Tucker, somebody's going to end up on somebody else's team by May.

The small potatoes masterstroke here is snagging Garcia back from the Marlins. They basically got a hard-throwing reliever in Manny Barrios for less than two weeks of Guillermo Garcia's not-very-valuable time. You don't need me to tell you that's a steal, and another small feather in Jim Bowden's cap, coming at the still-well-regarded Dave Dombrowski's expense.

DETROIT TIGERS

Acquired RHPs Dave Mlicki and Mel Rojas and cash from the Dodgers for RHPs Robinson Checo and Apostol Garcia and LHP Rick Roberts. [4/16]

Optioned RHP Beiker Graterol to Toledo; designated RHP Felipe Lira for assignment. [4/17]

The Tigers are still gunning for second place in the AL Central. There really isn't any long-term payoff to adding an adequate fifth starter like Mlicki, and Mel Rojas will be even more of a disaster in Tiger Stadium than he's been everywhere else of late. On the other hand, they didn't really give up that much. It's too early to say much about Roberts. Apostol Garcia has been bad in his brief career, and Checo was wire fodder. The move basically broadcasts the same plaintive cry the Tigers have broadcast all winter: they want to be better, even if they aren't really helping themselves in any meaningful long-term way.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Outrighted RHP Eric Ludwick to Calgary. [4/17]

Between Alex Fernandez' shoulder woes, and Dennis Springer and Kirt Ojala's problems, I won't be surprised to see Ludwick resurface in a bid for the rotation spot he won last year, only to lose to repeated freak injuries.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Acquired RHPs Robinson Checo and Apostol Garcia and LHP Rick Roberts from the Tigers for RHPs Dave Mlicki and Mel Rojas and cash; assigned Garcia and Roberts to the minors; activated RHP Antonio Osuna from the DL. [4/16]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jamie Arnold from Albuquerque; designated C Rick Wilkins for assignment. [4/20]

The Dodgers have made moves that range from the odd to the unfortunate, but this trade wasn't one of them, in itself. Mlicki and Rojas aren't really that useful or significant in themselves, while Checo could end up being a decent long reliever. The interesting math is that the value of Bobby Bonilla went from Mel Rojas (ie, worthless) to some odds and ends. That seems about right.

Cutting Wilkins loose is basically an affirmation that they're confident that Todd Hundley won't have any major problems with his shoulder from here on out. Calling up Arnold seems strange; he's not a prospect, the Dodgers aren't a team that needs to carry 12 pitchers, and after Dave Hansen, they're thin on the bench for useful hitters.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed LHP Bill Pulsipher on the 15-day DL (sore back); purchased the contract of RHP Steve Falteisek from Louisville. [4/19]

As expected, Brewers starting pitchers should end up dropping like flies, and Pulsipher's only the first to fall. In his place, Cal Eldred is expected to be activated from the DL. Now that the wild ex-suspect is out of the way, my bet is that Jim Abbott is the next to go down (career-ending ineffectiveness), although Scott Karl isn't doing anything to convince anyone he's healthy. How desperate is the situation? Phil Garner's wrestling with using the shuttle system that Tony LaRussa tried with the A's, where he uses his starting pitchers for three or four innings each every three days. LaRussa didn't stick with it. Although Garner's working with some horrible alternatives, and as much as it might limit the bad things you can expect from a Jim Abbott, if Garner sticks to it, it would severely undermine Steve Woodard's value to the club. The other down side is that it allows someone like Abbott to pitch more frequently, creating souvenirs every three days instead of every five. I don't expect too many opposing teams will gripe about that.

NEW YORK METS

Optioned OF Terrence Long to Norfolk; recalled C Vance Wilson from Norfolk. [4/16]

No major news here. Piazza looks to be back before the end of the month, and in the meantime Todd Pratt is once again demonstrating he's a useful baseball player. Vance Wilson will be back in Norfolk in no time.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated LHP Andy Pettitte from the DL; placed 3B Scott Brosius on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/14 (sprained ankle). [4/17]

Wow, Clay Bellinger's name up in lights. Whodathunk it? For all of the attention paid to the much-vaunted pitching staff or the Irabu situation, the real story is that the Yankees are having their problems offensively. None of the three leftfield candidates are doing much, and with Brosius gone, the Yankees add a weak hitter at third. Sure, it's too early to mean much, but add that to the early struggles of Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada, and you've got the beginnings of a problem.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed RHP Francisco Cordova on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/11 (shoulder inflammation); purchased the contract of RHP Jim Dougherty from Nasvhille; transferred LHP Jeff Tabaka from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/16]

Transferred RHP Javier Martinez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Todd Ritchie from Nashville; optioned RF Jose Guillen to Nashville. [4/18]

So Guillen goes back down after being the big "A-ball to the majors" story of 1997. He's being scapegoated to a certain extent, because the same men who rushed him are the same men blaming him for his recent lapses in the field and on the basepaths. The biggest problem by far, of course, has been Guillen's lack of significant progress as a hitter. He could still end up having a career. In his absence, the Bucs are slowly working Brant Brown out of centerfield, which is just as well, since he can't really play the position. That in turn means more playing time for Turner Ward and Adrian Brown. With the decision to keep Chad Hermansen in center field in Triple-A, don't be surprised if Hermansen comes up at gets a shot at the job by August. Cordova's shoulder isn't supposed to be serious, and they say they're erring on the side of caution. In the meantime, I was surprised to see Ritchie returned to the starting role he struggled with in the minors, but he's added some breaking stuff to the straight fastball that used to be his only weapon. Who's to say he won't be an adequate fourth or fifth starter?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated UT David Howard from the DL; optioned SS Luis Ordaz to Memphis. [4/19]

There's a lot of bluster about the Cardinals' "strong" bench lately, not to mention how Howard's return makes it stronger. It's even being said with a straight face. Shawon Dunston is positionless and doesn't get on base. Willie McGee is postionless, and doesn't get on base. David Howard can play every position on the field, and doesn't get on base. Alberto Castillo has a hard time hitting his weight. This is what passes for a strong bench these days?

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated C/UT Phil Nevin from the DL; designated INF Carlos Garcia for assignment. [4/16]

Garcia can't hit or play third, two qualities the Padres needed from their 13th position player. Nevin's ability to catch, or play third or left, gives Bruce Bochy considerable flexibility, but I have to wonder if the best move might not be to give Damian Jackson some playing time at the hot corner. As is, the Padres are eventually going to have to make a choice between Jackson and Chris Gomez at short, and giving Jackson the opportunity to play every day could prod them towards trading Gomez, should anyone besides the Padres actually want him.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed RHP Mark Gardner on the 15-day DL (shoulder "discomfort"); recalled OF Armando Rios from Fresno. [4/17]

Placed LF Barry Bonds on the 15-day DL (elbow and triceps surgery); recalled RHP Joe Nathan from Shreveport (AA). [4/20]

Losing Bonds after already losing Bill Mueller? That's one way to rip the guts out of a team's offense. With Bonds gone for two months, Dusty Baker will get to spread Bonds's playing time among Stan Javier, F.P. Santangelo, and Rios, which isn't the end of the world in itself. It isn't Bonds' ability to get on base the Giants can't replace, it's his power. Losing Gardner creates a second chance for Joe Nathan after he failed to beat out Chris Brock for a job in camp. Every team in the division has a blend of strengths and warts, so I wouldn't give up on the Giants just yet.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Assigned LHP Norm Charlton to Durham; activated OF Rich Butler from the DL and optioned him to Durham. [4/16]

Well, if Charlton wants a shot at John Franco's "saves for a left-hander" record, he's in the right organization. It may even only take him twenty years or so.

TEXAS RANGERS

Assigned DH Mike Simms to Oklahoma on a rehab assignment. [4/17]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed RHP Joey Hamilton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/14 (shoulder impingement); recalled RHP Nerio Rodriguez from Syracuse. [4/16]

Placed D"H" Dave Hollins on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/18; recalled OF Anthony Sanders from Syracuse. [4/20]

Losing Hamilton for any length of time doesn't significantly alter the team's solid shot at postseason play. In his absence, the Jays will work Roy Halladay into the rotation, and if Hamilton bounces back soon enough, the Jays may be able to move aside Pat Hentgen if he's still struggling. Losing manager's pet Dave Hollins only helps the lineup, since it creates playing time for the guys who should have been the team's DHs in the first place: a platoon of Willie Greene and Geronimo Berroa. Now if they could come up with a second baseman and a way to make Mike Matheny go away, they'll be in great shape to push the Yankees and stay ahead of the Red Sox for the next five-plus months.

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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