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April 28, 1999

Transaction Analysis

April 21-26

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Activated 1B Mo Vaughn from the DL; optioned 1B Chris Pritchett to Edmonton. [4/22]

The only serious problem with this move is that Vaughn is restricted to DHing, which leaves the Angels stuck with Erstad at first base instead of center field, and Garret Anderson in center instead of in left. The Big Mo's return isn't going to solve the Angels' problems. This is beginning to look like a team the Singing Cowboy would have been proud of: expensive and bad.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Recalled RHP Rocky Coppinger from Rochester. [4/22]

In Angelosology, this is another sign that Ray Miller's influence is on the wane. Miller has been inflexibly anti-Coppinger since 1996, and if Rocky's up, you can take that to mean that Ray's input is being ignored. As for Rocky, I've been hopeful about his ability to contribute, but coming in to work for a bad team with a manager who doesn't want you around is hardly the best situation in which to try to reclaim a spot in the rotation.

BOSTON RED SOX

Optioned INF Lou Merloni to Pawtucket. [4/25]

Recalled 1B/OF Brian Daubach from Pawtucket. [4/26]

As is so often the case with the Duke's moves, this makes perfect sense on paper. The Sox need a bat more than they need a third-string second baseman, and Daubach could end up being the best-hitting outfielder the Sox have (okay, faint praise). But this is essentially the ripple effect of the unfortunate decision to give a multi-year contract to Jeff Frye. While Frye who although he has his uses, is hardly the kind of player you can't easily and freely replace with organizational soldiers like Merloni. What's the real problem? Sending Merloni down has irked his bestest bud, Nomar Garciaparra. In the wake of the defections of Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens is exactly the sort of thing that isn't worth the difference between Merloni and Frye, and may well be worth eating the remainder of Frye's contract or peddling him.

Of course, Frye's value on the trade market is minimal, since there's a flood of handy second basemen around, which reinforces the initial problem: there was no good reason to give Jeff Frye a long-term contract in the first place. There are dozens of guys who can play a little second base, will play anywhere else they're asked to and get on base at an adequate clip. Paying them more than the minimum is a luxury few teams should choose to afford, and giving them multi-year deals is even more unfortunate. When it has the added bonus of alienating your team's star, you've crossed over from luxury to short-sighted gluttony.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed RHP Kevin Tapani on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/13 (shoulder tightness); recalled RHP Richie Barker from Iowa. [4/22]

Released RHP Hideo Nomo. [4/23]

The Cubs lose Tapani under mysterious circumstances (did he really hurt the shoulder in the middle of an at-bat, and if so, why did he finish the at-bat, let alone stay in the game?), but they expect he'll be back later this week. They cut Nomo loose after deciding that they wanted him to start for Iowa twice more before calling him up, while he was sick of the cornfields. There's been a lot of talk that Nomo's tipping his curveball, and he's still trying to regain his velocity. Whichever team takes him on is going to have to sort those things out, if there's anything to be recovered.

I'm thinking Nomo goofed in this situation; as Ed Lynch pointed out, any team that signs him is going to want him to pitch in their minors for a start or two, so why not stick with the Cubs? So the team's pitching problems take a turn for the worse, which means Terry Mulholland is back in the rotation. That isn't the worst thing in the world, because my pet theory is that the Cubs are better off eventually bumping Scott Sanders into the pen at some point while leaving Mulholland in the rotation. Mulholland is a better bet to give them a good number of quality starts, while Sanders has had consistent problems getting through lineups the second time around. Sanders has flashed his old fastball, so why not use him as the team's primary setup man?

CINCINNATI REDS

Activated LHP Denny Neagle from the DL; optioned RHP Rick Greene to Indianapolis. [4/21]

As expected, which means the Reds are almost to their best potential rotation: Pete Harnisch, Neagle, Brett Tomko, Dennis Reyes and Steve Avery. They've almost given up on Jason Bere, about six months too late.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Traded RHP Jerry Spradlin to the Giants for OF Dan McKinley and a PTBNL; recalled RHP Jason Rakers from Buffalo; signed RHP Steve Reed to a two-year contract extension. [4/23]

Purchased the contract of RHP Rich DeLucia from Buffalo; optioned RHP Jason Rakers to Buffalo. [4/24]

They got tired of Spradlin pretty quickly, which is alright in itself, but they're still going to be left with a decision whenever Ricky Rincon heals up. Paul Assenmacher and Mark Langston are both looking like broken-down old men, and DeLucia is big boomtastic fun for opposing hitters. Paul Shuey hurts himself every other week, which means the Tribe is going to have to continue to lean heavily on Reed and Steve Karsay. With that list of problems, keeping Rakers around might have been a better idea than letting DeLucia add some service time. Reed's new contract is for two years and $3.6M. Not bad for a guy his parent organization (the Giants) gave up twice for nothing of value.

DETROIT TIGERS

Signed 2B Damion Easley to a four-year contract extension through 2004. [4/22]

As nice as this is for Damion, it also means Frank Catalanotto is screwed, and his shot at being much more than a pinch-hitter and spot starter at second and third is basically nil. Since he has the potential to be one of the best-hitting second basemen in the league, thats especially unfortunate.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Optioned RHP Raffy Medina to Calgary. [4/26]

Medina is being sent down to make way for Alex Fernandez' return from the DL.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed C Mitch Meluskey on the 15-day DL (throwing shoulder "laxity"; purchased the contract of C Paul Bako from New Orleans. [4/26]

Meluskey's got something similar to a rugby-playing friend of mine: his right shoulder keeps popping out of place. The Astros are hoping it'll heal up with two or three weeks of rest, but they're basically resigned to the notion that Meluskey is going to require surgery at some point. If Meluskey plays through it this year, he'll continue to have problems swinging the bat from the right side of the plate, which would restrict him to platoon duty with Tony Eusebio.

In the meantime, the 'Stros can congratulate themselves on the wisdom of snagging Paul Bako in the Ausmus trade, since Bako still makes a handy enough caddy for Eusebio. Overall, this is bad news to go with the further bad news that Lance Berkman may not play until June because of a bum shoulder, keeping him from pushing his way into the left field situation any time soon.

On the one hand, the Astros are deep and can live with a few injuries; on the other, they probably didn't think they'd have to avail themselves of the several handy replacements they have at hand. The real shame is that Meluskey could have had a shot at the Rookie of the Year award. Even if he plays through this injury, that isn't going to happen now.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Recalled RHP Terry Mathews from Omaha; outrighted RHP Brian Barber to Omaha. [4/21]

Placed 1B Jeff King on the 15-day DL (sore back); purchased the contract of LHP Alvin Morman from Omaha. [4/23]

Barber lost his rotation spot quickly enough, handing it over to waiver refugee Jay Witasick. In the wake of the news that organizational bete noir Hipolito Pichardo isn't going to do anything to hurt the team this year (like pitch), this is improvement. Consider the horrifying alternatives, but if you get to Don Wengert, you've gone too far.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Returned RHP Antonio Osuna to the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/18 (bone spur - elbow); recalled LHP Jeff Kubenka from Albuquerque. [4/21]

Activated OF Todd Hollandsworth from the DL; optioned RHP Robinson Checo to Albuquerque. [4/23]

Signed RHP Mike Maddux to a minor-league contract. [4/25]

The Dodgers' weak bench got reinforced, but not in any way that I'd interpret as improvement. Hollandsworth's existence should be devoted to reminding everyone who voted him the Rookie of the Year that they need to evaluate their own competence before casting their next ballot. Calling up Kubenka gives the Dodgers three lefties in the pen, but that isn't a handicap. Kubenka has been effective against everyone in his minor league career, while Onan Masaoka was a starter in the minors, and should be familiar with pitching to right-handed batters. The real problem is their right-handed relievers. Robinson Checo flopped in a brief trial, they're carrying Jamie Arnold around, and Osuna's elbow problems don't look like they're going to go away without surgery. Alan Mills isn't really a top-notch righty setup man for Jeff Shaw, so you can see why they signed the elder Maddux.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed RHP Chad Fox on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); activated RHP Cal Eldred from the DL. [4/21]

Eldred's return and a light schedule have bumped Jim Abbott from the rotation, but since Abbott is guaranteed money, it's unlikely that the Brewers will cut their losses. Abbott's failure was pretty predictable, so you won't find me sharing a bitter mug of small market blues with Sal Bando for throwing the cash away in the first place. Losing Fox hurts, just because he can fun to watch, gassing guys at the plate, but the Brewers have two other solid righty setup men in Al Reyes and Eric Plunk, and this isn't the kind of thing that will keep the Brewers from being their mediocre selves.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Transferred RHP Hector Carrasco from the 15- to the 60-day DL; claimed RHP Jack Cressend off of waivers from the Red Sox, and optioned him to New Britain (AA). [4/22]

There's some small hope that Carrasco may be back in time for September, but it's hardly a consideration that has the Twins deeply concerned.

NEW YORK METS

Activated C Mike Piazza from the 15-day DL; optioned C Vance Wilson to Norfolk. [4/25]

Not a bad little situation: the Mets replaced one of the hottest-hitting catchers in baseball (Todd Pratt) with the best-hitting catcher in the game.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Announced that DH Darryl Strawberry will be placed on administrative leave by order of MLB. [4/24]

That resolves the left field situation: Chad Curtis, Shane Spencer, and Ricky Ledee have the fight to themselves, and may the best man win. I have plenty of sympathy for Steinbrenner: Strawberry gulled him as well as the media. I hope he can get his act together for his sake and for that of his wife, but if I'm running a baseball team, I wouldn't answer his agent's calls. The "administrative leave" action is disappointing, in that it's a temporary BS solution that will only end up offending the union. Strawberry needs help, and the owners and the union need to be there to give it to him, instead of assuming their scripted positions of "punish the druggie" vs. "he has a right to play."

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed RHP Kevin Jarvis on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/19 (blood clot in the index finger of his non-pitching hand); recalled RHP Brad Rigby from Vancouver. [4/22]

Released OF Marc Newfield from Vancouver. [4/23]

That seems like a pretty lame excuse for an injury for Jarvis, but I'm not a doctor. I'll just say I'm glad to have Rigby on the roster instead of Jarvis and leave it at that.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated RHP Jose Silva and SS Pat Meares off the the 15-day DL; outrighted RHP Jim Dougherty to Nashville; optioned SS Abraham Nunez to Nashville. [4/23]

Drat that Nunez! He had the nerve to embarrass the organization by reminding people he has a better future than either Mike Benjamin or Pat Meares! We can't have that, no sir! Back to Nashville! We're spending money nowadays, and we can't have young players playing well when the paying audience wants Mike Benjamin.

Silva's return means Chris Peters will remain in the pen, while Todd Ritchie will have to earn a spot with the team during the remaining week or so of Francisco Cordova's absence.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated CF Ray Lankford from the DL; returned UT David Howard on the DL. [4/24]

Lankford's still hobbling, but he can bat, and when the pinch-hitting alternatives are guys like Dunston and McGee, the Cards need all the help they can get.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed RHP Carlos Almanzar on the 15-day DL (back strain); recalled LHP Ed Vosberg from Las Vegas. [4/24]

As much as I think Almanzar has some value as a middle reliever, this is probably for the best. The Pads have four right-handed starters, and four useful right-handed setup men in their bullpen. Adding a lefty one-out specialist like Vosberg should give Bruce Bochy a little more tactical flexibility.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Acquired RHP Jerry Spradlin from the Indians for OF Dan McKinley and a PTBNL; optioned RHP Miguel Del Toro to Fresno. [4/23]

Sometimes Brian Sabean makes a nifty little move, and sometimes he's giving up too much. Spradlin is really just your run-of-the-mill right-handed reliever, while McKinley is a pretty good-looking outfield prospect. Del Toro gets a punitive demotion, but the bullet was really meant for Julian Tavarez.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed LHP Jamie Moyer to a two-year contract extension. [4/23]

Maybe this gives Moyer enhanced trade value, but with Woody Woodward having to make the deal, and Lou Piniella having to use whatever they get, is there any reason to have faith in that idea?

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Acquired SS Bolivar Volquez from the Baltimore Orioles to complete the Danny Clyburn trade. [4/22]

Activated DH Paul Sorrento off of the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Mike Duvall to Durham. [4/23]

Placed 2B Miguel Cairo on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Norm Charlton from Durham. [4/24]

See Chuck's team make moves. Move, team, move. See people who were good five or sometimes six years ago play. Play, team, play. Words cannot convey how very little faith I have that the Devil Rays are going to add up to much this year. If they stay lucky, they may even finish ahead of the Orioles at year's end. The only thing that should happen as a result of these moves is that Bobby Smith will get some playing time at second, which should keep his bat fresh while he waits for Wade Boggs to get his 3,000th hit, which the way things are going, may have to wait until next year.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed RHP John Burkett on the 15-day DL (shoulder tightness); recalled LHP Mike Venafro from Oklahoma. [4/22]

Burkett's absence opened a brief window of opportunity for Esteban Loaiza in the rotation, but the schedule and Mike Morgan's success took it away again. The nice thing about the Rangers' situation is that with a deep pen and a strong lineup, they can afford to be patient with Rick Helling and Mark Clark.

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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