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April 30, 1999

Transaction Analysis

April 26-30

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned CF Dante Powell to Tucson; recalled INF Hanley Frias from Tucson. [4/26]

With Tony Womack healthy and "sizzling", the Diamondbacks' outfield was already crowded. It isn't as if Powell was going to do much more than play as a defensive substitute. Meanwhile, Frias gives the team a viable middle infield backup in case they pinch-hit for Tony Batista. Although Frias is a switch-hitter, he isn't dangerous enough to menace right-handed starters who have problems with lefties, or to force Batista to the bench for any extended period of time.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed RHP Matt Karchner on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/26 (groin strain); activated RHP Kurt Miller off of the DL. [4/27]

Placed RHP Jon Lieber on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/21 (sinus/eyesocket microfractures); recalled RHP Kyle Farnsworth from Iowa. [4/29]

Losing Karchner is no loss, while losing Lieber is just another example of organizational caution. Lieber could pitch, but there's a concern that if he did, the tiny fractures in his face caused by last week's batting practice accident wouldn't heal properly. With Farnsworth flashing a nifty forkball in yesterday's game against the Marlins as part of a solid four-pitch assortment, the Cubs are about to move from a situation in which pitching has been a problem, to one in which pitching could turn into a strength.

Kevin Tapani should return for a start on Saturday, which could give them a rotation of Steve Trachsel, Tapani, Jon Lieber (due back next week), Terry Mulholland and Farnsworth. Jeremi Gonzalez may be back before the end of May, which gives them the option of demoting Farnsworth or shuttling Mulholland back to the bullpen. In the pen, Terry Adams may be back within the next week, which in a best-case scenario would give them Rod Beck, Adams, Felix Heredia, Scott Sanders; one of Richie Barker, Rod Myers or Kurt Miller; and either Brad Woodall or Dan Serafini.

It may not play out that neatly (the Cubs would finally have to finally take Sanders out of the rotation), but that's considerably better than having Woodall and Sanders in the rotation. Enough for dramatic improvement? Not as long as they don't do anything about their offense, which has been the team's real problem all along.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Activated CF Brian Simmons off of the DL, and optioned him to Charlotte. [4/28]

Nothing too stylish here. Simmons is going to have to reclaim a major league job by having a hot streak in Triple-A, while the Sox evaluate which outfielder is going to lose his job. McKay Christensen has tightened his grip on the job in center field, and Darrin Jackson will get kept around in his senior statesman role. So for Simmons to get promoted, the Sox will have to demote one of four players: Jeff Abbott, Paul Konerko, Jeff Liefer, or Chris Singleton.

Singleton is probably the obvious choice, but if Simmons comes up, playing time will get tight. Liefer has done nothing with his shots at spot duty in the cleanup slot. Konerko is struggling to make contact, and is among the league leaders in GIDPs. Abbott is just showing signs of coming out of his season-opening slump. Given that they're all having problems, let's just say I won't be surprised if it's Konerko or Liefer who go down, which means more playing time at first for Frank Thomas. The Sox can rationalize the decision by saying whoever goes down can use the everyday at-bats at Charlotte.

Simmons is probably only a nice fourth or fifth outfielder in the first place, while the Sox desperately need Konerko's power in the lineup. I'd keep Liefer around to pinch-hit for the catchers, and send Singleton away.

CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned RHP Brett Tomko to Indianapolis. [4/29]

Recalled RHP Steve Parris from Indianapolis. [4/30]

Talk about your punitive demotions. Jack McKeon has never really cared for Brett Tomko from day one, and Tomko and pitching coach Don Gullett don't see eye to eye on the subject of pitching. So Tomko gets sent down after an especially lousy start against the Phillies, while the Reds keep Jason Bere around. Of course, Bere is a "project" with an oversized guaranteed contract, and surrounded by people who will get oodles of credit if he shows any signs of life. Meanwhile, Tomko is being typecast as the stubborn aan disappointing prospect. McKeon and Gullett are only human, just like the rest of us, and vent their frustrations where they have an option to spare. Parris is a nice enough fifth starter, and should be in the rotation to stay, or for as long as his oft-injured arm keeps him available.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed RHP Paul Shuey on the 15-day DL retroactive to 4/26 (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of RHP Paul Wagner from Buffalo; transferred LHP Tom Martin from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/28]

Activated RF Jacob Cruz off of the DL, and optioned him to Buffalo. [4/29]

Ugh, first we get to see the final coming of Jason Grimsley, and now Paul Wagner's back, too? Shuey's fragility will be a dandy excuse for his legions of defenders when he doesn't grow up to be the best reliever in baseball, as has been so repetitively and frequently predicted.

DETROIT TIGERS

Traded CF Brian Hunter to the Mariners for two players to be named later. [4/28]

Recalled OF Gabe Kapler from Toledo. [4/29]

Here's a move you have to love. Dumping Hunter for anything is worthwhile, and given Woody Woodward's track record, the Tigers might end up with one of the few players of value in the Mariners' farm system. Then there's the whole "addition by subtraction" angle, because adding Kapler to the outfield and the lineup may lead to the move of Bobby Higginson to full-time leadoff hitter, which will be beneficial for the entire lineup. If los Tigres could have found a way to include Gregg Jefferies in the deal (creating playing time for long-suffering Frank Catalanotto) they might have even had a team good enough to make that all-important push for second place in the AL Central.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Activated OF/1B Cliff Floyd and RHP Alex Fernandez from the 15-day DL; optioned PH Tim Hyers to Calgary. [4/27]

Floyd's knee still isn't 100%, while it isn't really clear that Fernandez was hurt in the first place. But the team needs Floyd's power and Fernandez' long-term health, so they're being cautious with Alex and bold with Cliff.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed SS Ricky Gutierrez on the 15-day DL (fractured hand); recalled INF Russ Johnson from New Orleans. [4/27]

Another sad note in the litany of bad things happening to good organizations and people. Gutierrez's window of opportunity in the major leagues is essentially the here and the now. Long-term, the shortstop job for the Astros belongs to Julio Lugo, perhaps as soon as next year. In Gutierrez' absence (until early or mid-June), the Astros won't really be hurt on the field. Tim Bogar is a solid glove man. Russ Johnson is an OBP machine who's been ready for the major leagues for about two years, and this is his big opportunity to kick off a big league career as the new Craig Grebeck. I wouldn't be surprised if Billy Spiers gets a spot start or two at short. The loser here is Gutierrez because of his narrow window of opportunity.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed RHP Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract. [4/29]

Placed LHP Valerio De Los Santos on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/20 (strained back); recalled LHP Horacio Estrada from Louisville. [4/30]

Nomo will get one start at Huntsville this weekend, and then join the Brewers' rotation. Who does he bump? Probably nobody, as he's going to take the slot that Jim Abbott recently fumbled. The Brewers are talking bravely, with pitching coach Bill Campbell claiming there's nothing really that wrong with Nomo mechanically that he needs to worry about. In other words, they don't think he's tipping his curveball, which is what several other people have been saying recently. Whether he is or isn't, it would be hard for him to pitch worse than Abbott or Bill Pulsipher. The more amusing aspect of this is the culture shock Nomo's media retinue may experience hanging out in Milwaukee. I suspect weisswurst and kassler rippchen lose something served tempura-style.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Activated LHP Steve Kline from the DL; optioned LHP Rick DeHart to Ottawa. [4/27]

Once again, DeHart did nothing to help his chances of sticking as anyone's token lefty in another brief trial with the Expos. Meanwhile, Felipe Alou's bullpen is at full strength. Going into three series against strong offensive teams (Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros), the Expos will need all the help they can get.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Placed RHP Roger Clemens on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of LHP Tony Fossas from Columbus; activated 3B Scott Brosius from the DL; optioned OF Shane Spencer to Columbus. [4/29]

The Yankees are initially saying none of this is very serious, and that there's no problem. I'm not so sure. Clemens was worked harder during the last three years than at any time since the late '80s, and he's been ineffective in the early going this year, at least by his own stratospheric standards. Meanwhile, Brosius' return gives the Yankees a handy enough excuse to lop off another one of the heads of the left field hydra, leaving only Chad Curtis and Ricky Ledee. I expect Spencer to return by June, after the Yankees decide they don't need to keep carrying third catcher Mike Figga on the roster.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Activated C Bobby Estalella off of the DL, and optioned him to Scranton. [4/28]

Placed RHP Jeff Brantley on the 15-day DL (shoulder blowout); purchased the contract of RHP Steve Montgomery from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Brantley's probably gone for the year, and if the Phillies don't have contingency plans in place for something like this, they don't know what they're doing. Although Brantley's a never-say-die type, this may be it for him. At least initially, the Phillies will probably alternate Wayne Gomes and Ken Ryan in the closer's slot until somebody looks good. The Steve Montgomery called up is the ex-Cardinal closer "prospect" who was traded to the A's. He's a warm body. Estalella will have to wait (and play every day in lovely Scranton, again) until the Phillies decide who to keep between him and Mike Lieberthal.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed SS Pat Meares to a four-year contract extension through 2003. [4/30]

PITTSBURGH (BP), January 18, 2002: The state of Pennsylvania has decided to sue Kevin McClatchy and the Pittsburgh Pirates out of existence for failing to provide a major league team for the state-financed ballpark in downtown Pittsburgh. Says Jimmy Wannamaker, age 10, "The only way I'd watch the Pirates is if I was grounded, and Dad tied me to the couch or something. And loaded me up on Jolt Cola. And threatened to beat the dog if I didn't." Angry residents of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area are already in no mood to hear McClatchy's excuses, having tarred-and-feathered the left side of "big market" infield. McClatchy is said to be in hiding somewhere in the Monongahela Valley, but issued a statement claiming he really did have the best of intentions.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed UT Felipe Crespo to a minor-league deal. [4/29]

Considering that the Giants are currently carrying around luminaries like Ramon E. Martinez and Edwards Guzman, they may end up using Crespo on the major league roster. He's still a useful offensive player and can start at second, third, right or left easily enough. He's only 26.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Purchased the contract of 2B/SS Raffy Bournigal from the Rangers; activated RHP Mark Leiter off the DL; sent RHP Mel Bunch and SS Giomar Guevara to Tacoma. [4/27]

Acquired CF Brian Hunter from the Tigers for two PTBNL; optioned RHP Brett Hinchliffe to Tacoma. [4/28]

So by acquiring Hunter, the Mariners bring in the worst leadoff hitter in baseball to start for them in left, replacing a adequate platoon of John Mabry and Butch Huskey. The situation is eerily similar to what happened in 1995, when the Mariners replaced an adequate platoon of Warren Newson and Rich Amaral with the execrable bombthrower himself, Vince Coleman.

What's really ridiculous is that it means the Mariners are carrying three backup left fielders, not to mention the two roster spots being spent on players out of options (Raul Ibanez and Mac Suzuki). The sad commentary offered in defense of the move? The Mariners claim they need Hunter's speed in the lineup. Sure, if they're running a roto team, steals are nice. This being real baseball, players who put runs on the board are nicer.

In Hinchliffe's absence, the Mariners will mess around with both Suzuki and Ken Cloude in the fifth rotation spot, until they've both been given just enough opportunity to fail. By that time, the season will have become irrelevant to most Mariner fans.

Bournigal isn't a good player, but he is an adequate shortstop, something better than both Domingo Cedeno or the ludicrously weak-armed Guevara. In another three weeks, the point will be made moot by Alex Rodriguez' return. As for Mark Leiter's return, he's going to pitch hurt, which may be an appropriate offering to the spirit of Mount Piniella, but isn't much good for a baseball team.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated LHP Wilson Alvarez off of the DL; optioned LHP Norm Charlton to Durham. [4/29]

Now that Alvarez is back, the tough call for the Devil Rays is whether to bump Bryan Rekar out of the rotation, or give him a shot to beat out Julio Santana for the fifth spot. Santana's improving of late, so my guess is that Rekar loses his spot in the rotation until somebody else goes down.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Recalled LHP Steve Sinclair from Syracuse; optioned OF Anthony Sanders to Syracuse. [4/27]

Optioned RHP Nerio Rodriguez to Syracuse; recalled DH Kevin Witt from Syracuse.

With two right-handed rookies already working in long relief, there really wasn't much point in keeping Rodriguez around to back up Tom Davey and Peter Munro. But to carry three situational lefties, having Sinclair around to back up Dan Plesac and Graeme Lloyd? Calling up Witt doesn't make much sense. He won't get that much time at DH with Willie Greene and Geronimo Berroa on the roster, he can't play any position well, and the Jays are only carrying their three regular outfielders. Keeping Sanders as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, while letting Witt get in regular playing time at Syracuse, would probably have made more sense.

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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