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May 19, 1999

Transaction Analysis

May 15-18

by Christina Kahrl

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed RHP John Smoltz on the 15-day DL (swollen elbow); activated RHP Russ Springer from the DL; recalled 1B Randall Simon from Richmond; optioned C Pascual Matos to Richmond. [5/17]

Maybe it's just because the Braves exude a certain confidence that they know what they're doing, or maybe it's that they're the major league team with the luxury of calling up Bruce Chen. They're saying Smoltz will only miss two starts, and wouldn't have to miss any if this was August or September: they're just taking a precaution early on. Smoltz wasn't entirely happy, but unlike similar situations (like the Cubs' caution with Jon Lieber and his broken cheekbone), it didn't lead to rancor. Everyone seems comfortable with the idea that the sky won't fall and the Braves will still win.

Chen's been dominant in the International League, leading the loop in strikeouts (53) while posting a 2.30 ERA and allowing just 38 hits and 13 walks in 47 innings. He'll be called up in a few days for a two-start audition (starting on Sunday) to try to unseat Odalis Perez and potentially carve a place for himself in a post- Maddux/Glavine rotation. Springer's rehab went exceptionally well, as he put up a 1.17 ERA at Richmond, allowing just 10 baserunners in 15 1/3 innings.

As for Simon's return: with Otis Nixon's collapse, the interesting possibility here is that it gives Bobby Cox the opportunity to start Simon at first base and send Ryan Klesko back out to left field. As bad as Klesko's glovework is in left, it would allow him to retain his admittedly slender grasp on his ability to play there, while giving Cox greater flexibility come the postseason. While Simon isn't a great prospect, he's certainly more dangerous than Otis Nixon, and too much playing time for Gerald Williams could lead to an even worse offensive situation.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed C Lenny Webster on the 15-day DL (strained tendon - ankle); purchased the contract of C Tommy Davis from Rochester. [5/14]

Optioned RHP Doug Linton to Rochester; recalled LHP Doug Johns from Rochester. [5/15]

Webster hasn't been playing much now that Charles Johnson has shaken off an epic slump, but it will be sort of entertaining to see if Scott Erickson lets CJ catch his games, or if he asks for the organizational soldier, Davis. A converted first baseman and ex-first round pick, Davis' calling card is his hitting: he was off to a .234/.289/.355 start at Rochester. That isn't atypical for him.

What's really mystifying is why Doug Johns got the call after allowing 20 runs in 29 2/3 innings as a Red Wing. Why reshuffle the deck chairs when the ship's already going under? Rocky Coppinger, by contrast, has a 2.49 ERA at Rochester, allowing 27 baserunners in 25 1/3 innings with 32 Ks. Ray Miller can't work with Coppinger? Well, Coppinger may be a dubious prospect, he's still more important to the Orioles than the manager.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed C Sandy Martinez on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled OF Roosevelt Brown from West Tennessee (Double-A). [5/15]

At long last, the Cubs are finally out from under carrying three catchers, right at the point when it almost made sense to have them all. With Tyler Houston doing his finest impersonation of the Washington Monument at the hot corner, he won't be catching much. Even though Santiago is going to catch 80% of the games, if they're going to use Houston elsewhere, they may need that third catcher. The other side of the coin is that it gives Jim Riggleman more flexibility with his roster. I'd buy that, if the Cubs were stocking those last few roster spots with something they'd use, like a deadly pinch-hitter or a great center fielder to substitute for rag-armed Lance Johnson late in games. Instead, the Cubs have called up two young outfielders in Brown and Bo Porter, who along with Curtis Goodwin aren't going to play. On a team already carrying two hurting utility infielders (Jeff Blauser and Manny Alexander), that adds up to a bench that isn't exactly rich with power or speed or patience to use for any tactical situation.

CINCINNATI REDS

Recalled RHP Brett Tomko from Indianapolis; optioned PH Mark Sweeney to Indianapolis. [5/16]

The fun in this fracas is that Tomko's unrepentant, the Reds are unrepentant and no one is happy. After pitching a near-shutout on Sunday, you'd think he'd be a lock for the rotation for at least another start. But with Jack McKeon offended by the brainy Tomko's defiance, and with the organizational fat in the fire over Jason Bere, there's a big opportunity for the organization to spite itself just to show Tomko who's boss.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed C Sandy Alomar on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/11 (knee); purchased the contract of C Chris Turner from Buffalo; transferred OF Mark Whiten from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/17]

This year's medical miracle is called "hyalgan," the goop that keeps getting injected into Sandy Alomar's knee that doesn't seem to be doing the trick. So the critical role of hitting ninth for the Indians will be Einar Diaz's to lose while he catches every day. Regardless of whether or not Alomar heals enough to play regularly during the course of the season, or whether the Indians end up trading for a veteran catcher if he can't, letting Diaz play every day to get a good idea of his merits is the small silver lining.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed RHP Archie Corbin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/16 with (sore elbow); optioned RHP Raffy Medina to Calgary. [5/17]

Recalled LHP Brent Billingsley from Calgary; activated RHP Alex Fernandez from the DL. [5/18]

The Marlins have been extremely patient with Fernandez, even if he hasn't. With his return, Dennis Springer is out of the rotation again, but with the way things have been so far, he's pretty likely to return once Livan falls apart or if Jesus Sanchez is a casualty. I'm at a loss for why Billingsley earned the callup. He was getting pasted in the PCL (68 baserunners in 38 2/3 IP, a 5.82 ERA), his control seems to be going rather than coming and he doesn't throw hard. The best explanation is that he gives the Fish a second lefty in the pen, where John Boles has already shot himself in the foot by restricting Vic Darensbourg to a situational role.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated OF Jeremy Giambi from the DL, and optioned him to Omaha; designated RHP Jim Pittsley for assignment; recalled RHP Chris Fussell from Omaha. [5/15]

Unless the Royals get lucky and somehow find a taker for Jeff King, they're stuck. Mike Sweeney is finally getting the clean shot he's been ready for for about two years, but unfortunately it's as the DH and not the team's backstop. With Jermaine Dye being marginally useful and Jeff King's paycheck getting him into the lineup, that leaves Giambi in Omaha.

Giving up on Pittsley is overdue, and Fussell has an excellent chance to stick and give the Royals a reliable fourth or fifth starter for the next year or two. If his commmand of a four-pitch assortment improves, he could grow into more than that.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Placed C Terry Steinbach on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/13 (sprained knee); recalled C A.J. Pierzynski from Salt Lake. [5/16]

Steinbach's injury only hurts the Twins' opportunities to peddle him. Pierzynski has a reasonable argument to have been his caddy over Javy Valentin, but so does George Williams, and the Twins don't seem entirely certain if they want to be young or as good as they can be and young.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned 1B Brad Fullmer to Ottawa; recalled 1B/OF Ryan McGuire from Ottawa. [5/16]

Signed RHP Mel Rojas to a minor-league contract. [5/17]

If you're a mediocre first-base prospect and your glove doesn't get nice press clippings a la J.T. Snow, you don't deserve that many opportunities. Just as they're goofing around with Manny Martinez in center pending Peter Bergeron's arrival, les Expos will goof around with Orlando Merced and McGuire until they decide to call up either Fernando Seguignol or Jon Tucker. In the meantime, they're going to keep struggling to stay ahead of the Marlins. That may be bad enough to finally kill off their latest bid to remain in Canada.

NEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of RHP Pat Mahomes from Norfolk; transferred OF Jay Payton from the 15- to the 60-day DL; announced that RHP Josias Manzanillo cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Norfolk. [5/14]

Signed RHP Xavier Hernandez to a minor-league contract. [5/15]

Activated RHP Jeff Tam from the 15-day DL, and assigned him to Norfolk. [5/16]

Another Japanese League veteran comes to play for Bobby Valentine. I'm not enthusiastic: Mahomes coughed up six long-balls 38 2/3 innings for Norfolk, so he seems like the same Pat Mahomes that gave Twins fans night sweats. But hey, we are only talking about the Mets' mop-up man.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Activated RHP Jeff Brantley from the DL; designated RHP Ken Ryan for assignment. [5/15]

This may be a sort of last hurrah, where Brantley decides to pitch with what's left and hopes he can log one more season. I'm not optimistic, but given that surgery may well end his career anyway, we can admire his courage. Now if only his sacrifices were for a team that really had a chance...

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Recalled RF Jose Guillen from Nashville. [5/14]

Signed INF Dale Sveum to a minor-league contract. [5/17]

Guillen's return and Al Martin's recent hot streak have chased Brant Brown to the bench. Given that Brown's not a great player and doesn't seem to have made any adjustments in learning to play the outfield, that isn't the end of the world...as long as you forget Jon Lieber ever existed.

It seems unlikely that Guillen is going to improve that dramatically. He still needs to learn to take a pitch, he's got a lot of work to do in the outfield, and even with a lot of work, he may not end up being an above-average corner outfielder.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed RHP Heathcliff Slocumb to a minor-league contract. [5/15]

As bad as Slocumb has been, it isn't a hopeless gamble to take the time to find out how much of it was Lou Piniella's fault.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Activated 3B Bill Mueller from the DL; optioned INF Ramon Martinez to Fresno. [5/17]

With the Giants in a dogfight for the NL West, the return of one of the league's most underrated players is an obvious boon. Of course, Mueller's return also sends Charlie Hayes back to the reserve role he's much better qualified for, so the Giants' bench also gets reinforced.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated SS Alex Rodriguez from the DL; optioned INF Domingo Cedeno to Tacoma. [5/14]

Recalled RHP Ryan Franklin from Tacoma; placed RHP Eric Weaver on the 15-day DL (bone spurs - elbow). [5/15]

Recalled LHP Jordan Zimmerman from New Haven (Double-A); optioned RHP Brett Hinchliffe to Tacoma. [5/16]

A-Rod's return isn't really going to resolve what's beginning to shape up as a hopeless mess on the pitching staff. Franklin brings adequate control, which might be nice as a change of pace from Mac Suzuki, but isn't enough. But they need bodies, so he's up.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Mariners should give Piniella a leave of absence, so that they can concentrate on getting something out of their pitchers so that they can become useful major league pitchers. In the meantime, they're only wasting another critical year of A-Rod, Griffey Jr., and Edgar Martinez. Their situation is appalling: trading Ryan Anderson and Gil Meche to get the kind of major league pitching they'd need to contend should be unacceptable, but they've also only got one more year with the A-Rod/Griffey combo. To lose that without winning anything will only help return the organization to that circle of hell known as the Cottier Era.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated 2B Miguel Cairo from the DL; optioned INF Bobby Smith to Durham. [5/17]

Chuck La Mar's Braves connection has officially turned bad, not that that should surprise you greatly. All three of the ex-Braves taken in the Expansion Draft flopped, and Mike Kelly flopped. Hey, at least they've got Miguel Cairo.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed RHP Esteban Loaiza on the 15-day DL (broken hand); recalled RHP Ryan Glynn from Oklahoma. [5/16]

The interesting development here is whether or not Glynn will get a crack at John Burkett's rotation slot. Burkett has been worse than bad, and Loaiza's accident with a "car door" takes him out of the picture. Of course, the Rangers are also counting on Mike Morgan to stay healthy and give them five innings every fifth day, which may be too much to ask of him. The best case is that Glynn can learn a thing or two from someone like Morgan. The worst case is that the Rangers' rotation collapses because of injuries and inexperience, and the early good work from their bullpen turns sour when Johnny Oates has to call on Jeff Zimmerman far too often.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  Glynn Davis,  Ryan Franklin,  A-rod,  The Call-up

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