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May 23, 1999

Transaction Analysis

May 19-21

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Purchased contract of C Steve Decker from Edmonton; recalled 1B Chris Pritchett from Edmonton; optioned OF Reggie Williams to Edmonton; designated INF Dave Silvestri for asssignment. [5/18]

An interesting pair of callups. First off, it means that Bavasi and Collins belatedly realized that Dave Silvestri doesn't add much value over Andy Sheets. Second, they're obviously feeling the need to carry three catchers now that Todd Greene will be playing quite a bit of in the outfield in Tim Salmon's absence. As badly as Charlie O'Brien has played in limited duty, Decker may have another slender opportunity to add some service time. Lastly, calling up Pritchett gives them the opportunity to do something to help this pitching staff: play Pritchett at first, move Darin Erstad to center field and get Garret Anderson into one of the corners instead of people like Tim Unroe. It isn't that I expect Pritchett to turn into an offensive powerhouse, but he won't hurt the offense by replacing Orlando Palmeiro or Unroe in the lineup, and getting Erstad back into the outfield can help cover the gaps for a pitching staff that already has more than its share of problems.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed RHP Todd Stottlemyre on the 15-day DL (partially-torn rotator cuff); recalled LHP Brian Anderson from Tucson. [5/20]

The Toad has thrown a ton of innings around a few injuries, with very little actual rehab time, so the idea that he may finally have a season-ending--and potentially career-threatening--shoulder blowout isn't that surprising. Of course, the Diamondbacks may not feel too great about that, but at least they can feel good about not trading Brian Anderson for a closer.

What Stottlemyre's situation highlights is a potential conflict between a player's long-term interests and an organization's desire to accomplish short-term objectives, often within the span of certain big-money contracts. Stottlemyre may or may not have been well-served by getting some time off after being abused in 1996, but by then, the expectation was that he was a horse and he was making the big bucks, so he'd better take the ball. And being healthy enough to pitch, the Toad was happy to oblige. In a sense it worked, in that whatever happens he'll be cashing checks from Jerry Colangelo. For his career, I suppose it depends on whether you think Stottlemyre could somehow improve on what he's done so far. At any rate, losing the Toad--possibly for only six weeks, but probably for the year--gives the D-backs a handy excuse when the time comes to account for why a very expensive team didn't win anything.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Optioned RHP Scott Kamieniecki to Rochester; recalled RHP Jason Johnson from Rochester. [5/18]

Again, I'm not weeping for Kammy. Despite a chronically weak arm, he managed to snooker Peter Angelos into a multi-year deal. The Polish Prince was already a bad bet to have a great career, so I hope he's happy with his agent. As for what this means for the Orioles, having already snagged Johnson for Danny Clyburn, it seems fine to give him a crack at the rotation. He, Sidney Ponson and eventually/possibly Rocky Coppinger should get the opportunity to be part of the next good Orioles team, which is more than you can say for Scott Erickson, Juan Guzman or Kamieniecki.

BOSTON RED SOX

Returned C Scott Hatteberg on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled C Mandy Romero from Pawtucket. [5/18]

Placed RHP Kip Gross on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (broken bone in his hand, or tater-induced whiplash); recalled RHP Brian Rose from Pawtucket. [5/19]

Placed RHP Juan Pena on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/15 (shoulder tightness); recalled RHP Tim Harikkala from Pawtucket; transferred RHP Ramon Martinez from the 15- to 60-day DL. [5/20]

Several convenient "accidents" combined with a bad break for Pena. Gross' broken finger supposedly happened a month ago, but you can't tell me that Gross ineffectiveness, capped by Carlos Delgado's big blow on Sunday, didn't play a part. Hatteberg's return to the DL coincides with Jason Varitek's bat heating up. With the Sox needing all the offense they can get, calling up Romero instead of Creighton Gubanich doesn't seem to help. The conclusion to draw is just that Varitek will catch regularly.

As for losing Pena after his hot start, Brian Rose ended up giving the team an excellent emergency start against the Yankees, and once Pena heals (by Memorial Day), the Red Sox should have another reason to send Pat Rapp away.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Assigned CF McKay Christensen to Birmingham (Double-A); recalled RHP Chad Bradford from Nashville. [5/18]

The horrifying aspect of this is that the Sox are handing the left-handed half of the center-field platoon to Chris Singleton. If the Sox wanted to be serious at all about posting an above-.500 record, they wouldn't bother. Yes, Christensen isn't ready, and yes, I generally like to see good minor leaguers get shots at jobs. Unfortunately, Singleton isn't a good minor leaguer. He's a bad minor-league veteran who's managed to strike Jerry Manuel's fancy. At least Sox fans can take heart in submariner Bradford's return, even if it means a return to a twelve-man staff. Bradford had pitched well in Nashville, and the rotation struggled badly against the Indians. With David Lundquist struggling, Bradford may get to stick around once the Sox go back down to 11 pitchers.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed RHP Rod Beck on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (bone spurs - elbow); recalled LHP Ray King from Iowa. [5/18]

Bad back, bad pitching, now a bad elbow...it's looking like Beck is going to need major surgery and may be done for the year. That isn't the end of the world. The Cubs have wised up and are using Scott Sanders in the pen, Terry Adams looks healthy, Felix Heredia's pitching relatively well, and most importantly, the pen will pitch less now that the rotation is healthy.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Recalled RHP Mark Brownson from Colorado Springs; optioned LF Derrick Gibson to Colorado Springs. [5/18]

Optioned LHP Roberto Ramirez to Colorado Springs; recalled RHP David Lee from Carolina (Double-A). [5/20]

As expected, Gibson's stay was short, as the team called up Brownson to move back to 12 pitchers. He doesn't do enough different things to make him valuable on a team carrying just four bench players, as opposed to the six or seven ways a Chris Sexton can be mediocre. He'll be up and down a few more times. Brownson pitched well Tuesday, although nothing like his 1998 debut.

Ramirez' demotion was Jim Leyland's overreaction to his ugly performance in the third quarter of Wednesday's 36-run CoorsFest. Leyland seems determined to run his roster is a willy-nilly fashion, making moves based less on a long-term plan and more on who's ticked him off most recently. Of course, he is a "genius", so how can you complain?

HOUSTON ASTROS

Agreed to a contract extension with INF Bill Spiers for 2000 with a club option for 2001. [5/20]

A nice reward for someone who is probably the best bench player in baseball, and an absolute bargain compared to the comparable deals people like Mike Benjamin have.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Recalled OF Trenidad Hubbard and C Angel Pena from Albuquerque; placed RHP Antonio Osuna on the 15-day DL (elbow soreness); optioned C Paul LoDuca to Albuquerque. [5/18]

Placed INF Jose Vizcaino on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (strained hamstring); transferred INF Alex Cora from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Doug Bochtler from the Blue Jays. [5/19]

The Dodger pitching staff is starting to look like a train wreck, with Carlos Perez unable to get into the sixth inning, Jeff Shaw becoming homer-prone, and now the loss for two months of their best reliever. Osuna gamely tried to pitch through pain, but he's lost 5-7 MPH off his fastball and couldn't be used on consecutive days. He should be back in July.

More interesting is the promotion of Pena. Despite Todd Hundley's offensive improvement in May, he's still can't throw anyone out or hit left-handers, while Pena is capable of doing both. It will be interesting to see just how much time Pena gets, especially if he contributes a little with the bat and the pitchers begin to notice how not every ambulatory runner on first base ends up in scoring position. The Dodgers absolutely need Hundley's left-handed bat in the lineup.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Optioned LHP Rafael Roque to Louisville; recalled LHP Horacio Estrada from Louisville. [5/20]

Another soft-tossing Brewer lefty bites the dust, leaving just Scott Karl and Steve Woodard left standing from the Opening Day rotation. Well, sort of, as Jim Abbott looks to be the immediate beneficiary here, getting the start Thursday against the Mets. With an off-day Monday, look for Phil Garner to delay a decision on who starts in the #5 slot next for as long as possible.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated RHP Jeff Nelson from the DL; designated LHP Tony Fossas for assignment; recalled RHP Todd Erdos from Columbus; optioned RHP Jay Tessmer to Columbus. [5/20]

A massive upgrade for the champs, although not the solution to their real problem: scoring runs. Fossas' career may finally be over, having let lefties go three-for-five with a grand slam off him. The Erdos-for-Tessmer move is a case of the right decision for the wrong reason, as Tessmer is being punished for allowing too many extra runs in games that had gotten away. Erdos wasn't pitching that well at Columbus (5.21) but was being used in part as a starter. Left alone in the pen, he can be a contributor.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated RHP Francisco Cordova from the DL; optioned CF Adrian Brown to Nashville. [5/19]

Cordova's extended rehab was a good bit of caution from the organization, and getting Jose Silva out of the rotation will only help as far as the Bucs accomplishing some neat goal like 80 wins. On the other hand, sending Brown down after deciding to move Brian Giles to center field seems odd. This Brown can play center, and with the outfield Gene Lamont is putting on the field, this team is going to need to use its defensive replacements. Unfortunately, they're caught in a numbers game: too many guaranteed contracts (like Turner Ward) or shlubs without options (like Freddy Garcia).

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed OF J.D. Drew on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/16 (strained quad); purchased the contract of OF Thomas Howard from Memphis. [5/20]

While this will no doubt bring joy to the "Drew is a spoiled child" crowd, it's poor timing for the outfielder, who was shaking off his poor start and really hitting in May (.400/.500). His low average masks what is a fairly good year so far, with walks, power and defense. After two weeks out of sight, he may get come back and explode on the league.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Optioned RHP Stan Spencer to Las Vegas; recalled LHP Heath Murray from Las Vegas. [5/19]

Placed 1B Wally Joyner on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (chipped clavicle). [5/20]

Spencer wasn't pitching well and Murray was, so it's a flip of C prospects for the obvious reasons. Murray's got a bit more upside, as a "crafty left-hander" approaching the magical age of 30, while Spencer has the age without the label. Hey, the Padres got their park, so they can afford to be less-than-judicious about who they hand out jobs to.

The loss of Joyner isn't much of one, as the team can rotate Phil Nevin, Jim Leyritz, Dave Magadan and John Vanderwal at the cold corner while using better defensive players in left field and behind the plate. It does exacerbate their right-handedness a bit, but hey, nobody can take the stadium away.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed OF Raul Ibanez on the 15-day DL (conveniently pinched nerve); recalled RHP Rafael Carmona from Tacoma. [5/18]

Placed RF Jay Buhner on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled UT Charles Gipson from Tacoma. [5/19]

A partial solution to the problem of too many outfielders, Ibanez was nice enough to mention that gosh-darn twinge he'd been feeling and ask that, gee, shouldn't I go on the DL for a couple of weeks until it heals up? Carmona drew the short straw at Tacoma, and gets to feel Lou's Tough Love for a few weeks. No longer a prospect, and past the point of being valuable to the organization, he's probably going to stick around in Seattle for a while.

Buhner's injury gives the team a chance to continue showcasing Butch Huskey for a deal. His 15 minutes of competence are about up, so Woody would be well-served to package him to anyone--the Angels are interested--who'll take him, and fast.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned DH Kevin Witt to Syracuse; purchased the contract of OF Patrick Lennon from Syracuse. [5/20]

Hollins will be activated on Friday, so is Lennon's callup a sign that Brumfield's about to go away? Or Berroa? How many right-handed DHs does one team need? The bad thing that could happen here is Willie Greene's demise, as he's hitting a buck-fifty and has been buried by Tony Fernandez's resurgence.

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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