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May 16, 1999

Transaction Analysis

May 10-14

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed OF Tim Salmon on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/4 (sprained wrist). [5/11]

Recalled OF Reggie Williams from Edmonton. [5/12]

Salmon's out five weeks, and with Mo Vaughn saying he doesn't feel light-footed enough to play first base, and with the organization's consistent unwillingness to call up and play Chris Pritchett, that probably means a whole lot of Darin Erstad at first, Todd Greene on the bench and more of Orlando Palmeiro and even Williams regularly in the outfield. I'm not really sympathetic to this team's ills: they're making a bad situation worse, but Bavasi will get off scot-free by whining about "if only so many guys didn't get hurt."

The problem? Ask yourself about the professional acumen of someone who places his faith in Jim Edmonds' long-term health, let alone Jack McDowell's. At the end of the day, the best the Magic Kingdom is going to have to offer is a figleaf.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Activated 3B Cal Ripken from the DL; optioned 1B Calvin Pickering to Rochester. [5/13]

They called up Pickering, but as bad as they are, they didn't play somebody who should be a critical part of any good Oriole team in the next five years. Ripken is facing a pack of wolves howling for his retirement, and he's had one good year since the strike of '94. He can choose to do nothing about any of that, or he can pull a Wayne Gretzky and bow out when he says he wants to, or he can bail out a la Mike Schmidt because he confronts his own shortcomings.

In terms of what matters on the field, the Orioles are better off sorting out whether or not Willis Otanez has a future, but doing anything to offend the Iron Man could end up hurting Angelos' credit rating for his next winter shopping spree.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Tom Gordon from the DL. [5/10]

As expected, and mercifully ending the flirtation with having Kip Gross close.

CHICAGO CUBS

Signed OF Brent Bowers to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to West Tennessee (Double-A). [5/11]

Another of the Jays' infamous posse of outfield non-prospects from the late '80s and early '90s, and a good yardstick for how hard up the Cubs are.

CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned 3B Aaron Boone to Indianapolis; purchased the contract of LHP Ron Villone from Indianapolis. [5/12]

You could randomly choose a third baseman from among Boone, Mark Lewis and Chris Stynes, and end up dissatisfied pretty easily. I say go for the gusto, dump defense and return Dmitri Young to one of his minor league positions.

As for calling up Villone, this brings the Reds to eleven pitchers. Whatever his strengths and weaknesses as a manager, Jack McKeon is not a man of the '90s, and seems relatively willing to let his lefty relievers pitch complete innings, or even mutiple innings, the cantakerous old rebel. Villone can't ask for a better opportunity to flash his dominating heat; he was torching the International League, allowing nine hits (and 13 walks) in 19 innings, striking out 23 and posting a 1.42 ERA.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RHP Paul Shuey from the DL; optioned RHP Paul Wagner to Buffalo. [5/11]

Activated LHP Riccardo Rincon from the DL; optioned RHP Rich DeLucia to Buffalo. [5/14]

The Indians retain 12 pitchers, so carrying three left-handed relievers when two of them are one-out artist Paul Assenmacher and charity case Mark Langston isn't really that big of a deal. The 13th position player, Jolbert Cabrera, is barely playing, and Mike Hargrove doesn't exactly have to pinch-hit much, so Langston gets to be this year's Homer Bush, the guy who gets to be happy he's got so many great teammates. I don't begrudge Langston that any more than I did Bush; he's had a great career, putting together a winning record despite pitching for some lousy Mariner and Angel teams. The Indians can probably afford to carry what's left of him more easily than the Padres could last year.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Optioned RHP John Thomson to Colorado Springs; recalled LF Derrick Gibson from Colorado Springs. [5/13]

Well, my hat's off to Don Baylor, because I doubt things would have worked out this way if he and his staff were still running things. In short, Jim Leyland is turning out to be a menace on Planet Coors. He hasn't figured out the ballpark, he's going out of his way to antagonize some players, and between the Columbine cancellations and the snowouts that left his rotation a shambles, you'd think he would cut somebody with Thomson's track record some slack. Instead, he's grandstanding for geniusdom. When Thomson comes back and pitches well, causation will instantly be inferred by the adulating masses, and the idea that the Rox could have just stood by one of their best starting pitchers will be conveniently ignored.

The oft-touted Gibson has continued to struggle at Triple-A, so I expect this callup will last only as long as it has to.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated INF Jason Wood from the DL; optioned RHP Nelson Cruz to Toledo; announced that RHP Mel Rojas cleared waivers and has elected to become a free agent. [5/11]

Wood's around to be the team utility man, and even after Deivi Cruz and Dean Palmer are 100%, I expect he'll stick around as the sixth infielder.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired LHP Luis Arroyo from the Blue Jays for future considerations, and assigned him to Calgary. [5/12]

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed RHP Doug Henry on the 15-day DL (bone spurs - elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Jeff McCurry from New Orleans. [5/10]

Doug Henry could be out for as long as two months, but fortunately Jay Powell's beginning to come around, and it looks like Brian Williams is going to be another testament to the Hunsicker/Dierker/Purpurra management trio's ability to scrape the gunk off of some discarded body and make him useful. The Astros are going to take advantage of several off-days to demote Chris Holt to the pen, giving them the opportunity to find out if he'll be more useful there. That could force an interesting choice between Holt and Scott Elarton for the fifth spot in the rotation by month's end. I won't be surprised if the Astros choose the conservative route, and simply return Holt to the rotation.

McCurry's nothing special, but a month ago, I'd have said the same thing about Brian Williams. It's the Astrodome, the team knows what it's doing, and the Astros can score.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Optioned RHP Steve Falteisek to Louisville; recalled 2B Ron Belliard from Louisville. [5/11]

Placed 2B Fernando Vina on the 15-day DL. [5/13]

Vina waited two days to cover his suspension before going on the DL. In the meantime, that gives the Brewers two-plus weeks to see if Ronnie Belliard can knock their socks off. If he does, after Vina demonstrates good health for a suitable period of time the trade rumors should heat up again. Belliard was not hitting well at Louisville, just .251/.331/.306, tossing in 12 steals.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed 3B Shane Andrews on the 15-day DL (bulging disc - back). [5/12] Recalled LHP Ted Lilly from Ottawa. [5/14]

With essentially everyone at Ottawa struggling, les Expos could afford to shrug off losing Andrews. For now, it means Michael Barrett gets comfortable at third base. It might mean Brad Fullmer breathes slightly easier for a few weeks, but the organization is extremely disenchanted with him, so it isn't hard to envision a callup for Fernando Seguignol (currently at .241/.311/.454), or something feeble like a return engagement from Ryan McGuire (.263/.372/.360).

For now, Lilly's in the bullpen, but Mike Thurman is just about ready to surrender his rotation slot. Once Lilly gets his feet wet, he may finally get the fifth starter's job by June. At Ottawa, he was doing reasonably well, with one problem: six home runs allowed in 35 2/3 innings. Otherwise, he'd racked up a 3-2 record with a 3.03 ERA, allowing 33 hits and 11 walks, striking out 33.

NEW JERSEY JACKALS (Northern League)

Re-signed "Hit Prince" Pete Rose, Jr. [5/12]

Rarely has a bloodline and a team name been better wed.

NEW YORK METS

Designated RHP Josias Manzanillo for assignment; recalled OF Terrell Long from Norfolk; added C Ryan Bennett to the 40-man roster. [5/10]

Placed Out/E9 Bobby Bonilla on the 15-day DL (bruised knee); purchased the contract of OF Benny Agbayani from Norfolk; designated C Ryan Bennett for assignment. [5/11]

Announced that RHP Josias Manzanillo and C Ryan Bennett cleared waivers. [5/12]

Optioned OF Terrell Long to Norfolk. [5/14]

For all of this reshuffling, the Mets are basically better off. Bonilla's looking so done the fork is rusting, and parsing out the playing time in his and Henderson's absences to Roger Cedeno, Jermaine Allensworth and Hawaii's own Benny Agbayani, not to mention Mike Kinkade, should basically be an improvement. Who's coming up for the last roster spot? Would you believe Pat Mahomes?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed SS Pat Meares (damaged tendon - hand) and LHP Jason Christiansen (retroactive to 5/7) on the 15-day DL; recalled SS Abraham Nunez from Nashville [5/12]

Meares is potentially out until August, depending on whether or not he elects to have surgery. As if they didn't need another reminder of how misguided signing him , then giving him a four-year extension, was. In theory, this should give Warren Morris a clear opportunity to play every day, which along with Brian Giles and Jason Kendall is about as good as it gets for the Bucs these days. That's in theory. I won't be surprised in the least to see Mike Benjamin end up playing every day, with Nunez getting some time in at shortstop (at Morris' expense, with Benjamin shifting back to second base).

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Recalled RHP Clint Sodowsky from Memphis; optioned RHP Mike Busby to Memphis. [5/10]

An interchangeable cannon-fodder move for the LaRussians, although Sodowsky could end up profiting from the rotation problems and get to start a few games, at least when he isn't mopping up other people's debacles.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled RHP Brett Hinchliffe from Tacoma; optioned LHP Sean Spencer to Tacoma. [5/11]

Well, at least the demotions are getting dressed up in a more touchy-feely way than Piniella's used to. Spencer was praised, told to work on his changeup, and sent away after two outings. Hinchliffe got lit up, and may or may not get to stay in the rotation, depending on whether or not the Mariners really have any deep commitment to the four-man rotation they've been talking up of late. I'm not buying it, not as long as one of the four is Mac Suzuki.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Albie Lopez on the 15-day DL (strained oblique muscle); activated INF Aaron Ledesma from the DL. [5/12]

Placed RHP Jim Mecir on the 15-day DL (broken elbow); optioned RHP Eddie Gaillard to Durham; recalled LHPs Tony Saunders and Al Newman from Durham. [5/13]

Mass injuries to the bullpen have changed the Rays' circumstances considerably. Esteban Yan is back into the pen to cover for Lopez' absence and Mecir's season-ending stumble. Al Newman will provide wild excitement as the team's second lefty behind Scott Aldred. Working in Durham, he hadn't been dominating (20 hits in 20.2 IP, 3.92 ERA). Saunders' punitive demotion came to a quick end and rightfully so. Bryan Rekar is stuck in the pen as the team's backup mopup man behind Rick White, so it isn't like the Rays aren't prepared for the kind of season they're going to end up having.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Activated 2B Homer Bush and INF Craig Grebeck from the DL; optioned INF Norberto Martin and C Kevin Brown to Syracuse. [5/14]

The Jays choose not to help themselves. Mike Matheny's one of the game's worst backstops, and his offensive skills are eminently replaceable. As for the return of the team's first and second choices for starting second basemen, now that Pat Kelly's looking reasonably dangerous, and with Alex Gonzalez finally hitting well enough to have Joe Sheehan saying "I told you he'd break out one of these years," Grebeck will have to settle for his well-worn utility role, while Bush can go back to his well-worn last-man-on-the-bench, pinch-run-for-Mike-Matheny role. Of course, once Dave Hollins and Geronimo Berroa heal, there will be some interesting (and potentially damaging) choices to make.

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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