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May 27, 1999

Transaction Analysis

May 22-24

by Keith Law

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned infielder Hanley Frias to Tucson of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Bobby Chouinard from Tucson. [5/22]

Given the innings the D'backs normally get from their rotation, you wonder if they have any real use for an extra pitcher, much less one of Chouinard's dubious qualifications. That said, they also ride their infielders hard, and don't really have anough extra ABs for Andy Fox, much less Frias.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Recalled pitcher Bruce Chen from Richmond of the International League (AAA); placed pitcher John Hudek on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 15, with a blister on the middle finger of his right hand. [5/21]

Smoltz' injury hurts less than it might, thanks to the presence of Bruce Chen. The Braves can now afford to audition Chen and Odalis Perez while Smoltz recovers, assuming his injury isn't serious. As for Hudek, the blister story is probably transactionspeak for "oops, should've asked for Dennys Reyes."

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Optioned pitcher Gabe Molina to Rochester of the International League; recalled pitcher Rocky Coppinger from Rochester. [5/21]

The Coppinger games appear to be a continuing tug-of-war between Ray "I still work here" Miller and the front office, with the latter holding the upper hand right now. It's all quite comical when you consider that they're wasting their energy on the fifth starter slot when two of their front four have ERAs over 5.50.

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned pitcher Ray King to Iowa of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/22]

Acquired pitchers Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs from the Minnesota Twins for pitchers Jason Ryan and Kyle Lohse. [5/21]

Activated outfielder Glenallen Hill from the 15-day disabled list; optioned outfielder Bo Porter to Iowa of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/23]

A mixed bag. Aguilera's certainly an adequate short reliever. While he's not clearly better than, say, Terry Adams, he's probably a better health risk and isn't wildly expensive. The Cubs also didn't give up anything terrific in the deal. However, unless Aguilera has been taking those irritating Nike commercials to heart, he doesn't solve the Cubs' main problem: scoring runs. Acquiring a top closer where no internal candidate exists might be worth a win or two over the course of a season, but when that win is #81 instead of #91, it won't stoke Wild Card Fever.

Hill's return will only obscure the Cubs' offensive woes. When he's on, he's capable of convincing people he's a real hitter; when he's off, his defensive ineptitude makes him one of the game's biggest liabilities.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed pitchers Jason Stovall and Mark Buerhle and catcher Mark Cochrane. [5/21]

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed pitcher Denny Neagle on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 20, with tendinitis in his left shoulder. [5/24]

You would think Jim Bowden would have been smarter than this. If a guy's shoulder is sore in November, it was probably sore in September. Yet Bowden persists in exonerating the Braves, at least in public, when it appears he was sold at least one damaged good (Rob Bell also missed time this April with shoulder soreness). The sad ramification here is that Jason Bere will remain in the rotation until he implodes, unless Jack McKeon launches another one of his public tirades--usually practiced on Brett Tomko--and has him run out of town on a rail.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed infielder Kurt Abbott on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin; designated pitcher David Wainhouse for assignment; purchased the contract of infielders Chris Petersen and J.R. Phillips from Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); moved pitcher Kevin Ritz to the 60-day disabled list. [5/23]

Placed infielder Mike Lansing on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain, retroactive to May 21. [5/24]

Lots of piddling around to little effect. Abbott was scuffling anyway, and while he might be a better offensive option than Neifi Perez, calling up Petersen (.260/.311/.358) only serves to illuminate how barren the Rockies' minor leagues are at the plate. As for Phillips, he was predictably smacking the ball a long way (14 home runs) in Colorado Springs. That is, when he hit it at all (43 strikeouts, all in 153 at-bats).

Over at second base, Lenny Harris gets the call to fill in for Mike Lansing, which ignores the fact that Harris was originally moved off second due to poor defense.

DETROIT TIGERS

Recalled pitcher Wil Brunson from Toledo of the International League (AAA); optioned infielder Jose Macias to Toledo. [5/21]

FLORIDA MARLINS

Purchased the contract of outfielder Kevin Millar from Calgary of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned outfielder Todd Dunwoody to Calgary. [5/21]

Assigned catcher Jeff Bailey to Kane County of the Midwest League (A); transferred catcher Matt Frick and infielder Terrance Smalls to Brevard County of the Florida State League (A). [5/23]

Giving Dunwoody a chance to reacquaint himself with the strike zone at Triple-A is probably the best course of action, and Derrek Lee should follow him down to Calgary this week. Millar has been ready for the majors offensively for about two years now, and will surprise people if he gets regular playing time at first base or in left field.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed third baseman Ken Caminiti on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf; recalled infielder Daryle Ward from New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/22]

A bizarre choice, in that Ward can't play third base. Perhaps this is a prelude to a trade. The Astros might let Ward pinch-hit a bit and start a game or two at first base over the next few weeks, hope he gets hot, and then move him. The Astros had already brought up half their Triple-A infield, so Ward isn't necessarily a bad callup, just an odd one unless they're going to play him.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

First baseman Jeff King announced his retirement. [5/23]

Recalled pitcher Orber Moreno from Omaha of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/24]

A gracious departure for someone who could easily have hung on to collect his last million and a half, and a wonderful present to Royals' fans giddy with their early-season success. The main question now is who gets the open hitting spot long-term. Ideally, it's Jeremy Giambi, who could DH with Mike Sweeney at first base. In the meantime, the Royals have recalled closer-of-the-future Orber Moreno, a fireballer who should give shudders to rotogeeks who bid themselves silly over Jose Santiago.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Claimed pitcher Jim Pittsley off waivers from the Kansas City Royals. [5/21]

Optioned pitcher Steve Falteisek to Louisville of the International League (AAA). [5/24]

I suppose if there is one team in the majors that Pittsley could help, it's the Brewers, who seem to lose a starting pitcher every 22 minutes. That said, there is little reason to expect Pittsley's scarred arm will ever produce any major-league quality performances.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Sent outfielder Chris Latham outright to Salt Lake of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Travis Miller from Salt Lake; purchased the contract of pitcher Gary Rath from Salt Lake. [5/21]

Placed pitcher Eddie Guardado on the 15-day disabled list; announced they will purchase the contract of pitcher Rob Radlosky from Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) on Tuesday.

Latham probably blew his last shot at major-league playing time by simply not hitting at all this season, although that's really no loss for the Twins. The name to watch here is Rath: although he was never considered a top prospect, he has pitched well in the PCL for more than two years, and could be an Omar Daal-type surprise if the Twins are patient and give him time in the rotation.

The Aguilera trade is bringing some criticism for the scant bounty the Twins got in return, but bear in mind that they weren't dealing from strength: Aggy could veto any deal and he isn't among the game's elite relievers. This could work out beautifully for the Twins if they work Mike Trombley into the closer role for the next 10 weeks and swap him out at the deadline for more prospects. Guardado would have been in line for a few saves with Aggy gone, but that's just arbitration leverage down the toilet now that he's on the DL.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Traded catcher John Pachot to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named; signed catcher Robert Machado to a contract with Ottawa of the International League (AAA); activated second baseman Trace Coquillette off the disabled list at Ottawa. [5/21]

Released pitcher Jose Bautista from Ottawa of the International League (AAA). [5/23]

NEW YORK METS

Activated outfielder Rickey Henderson off the 15-day disabled list and optioned infielder Mike Kinkade to Norfolk of the International League (AAA); signed pitcher Matt Ruebel to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Binghamton of the Eastern League (AA). [5/22]

Recalled pitcher Jason Isringhausen from Norfolk of the International League (AAA); placed pitcher Bobby Jones on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, with a right shoulder strain. [5/23]

With Henderson back, the Mets have their best outfield playing now--Henderson, McRae, Cedeno--unless you want to put Pratt in left field and suffer the defensive lapses. If the Mets really keep Henderson/Cedeno/Olerud/Piazza at the top of their lineup, Piazza could set some serious RBI marks down the stretch, and the Mets will score a ton of runs.

Jones' injury was actually somewhat minor, but the Mets had to clear a roster spot for Isringhausen in the rotation shuffle predicated by Leiter's knee soreness and Jones' shoulder strain. So they DLed Jones, skipping two of his starts. Given his propensity to break down around 190 innings, this could be the best thing for him come September.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated pitcher Roger Clemens from the 15-day disabled list; optioned pitcher Todd Erdos to Columbus of the International League (AAA). [5/21]

Clemens looked strong in his first start back; the Yanks hope that his hamstring healed, but the rest might also have helped his heavily-used arm. Erdos was just a victim of numbers; all the Yanks' right-handed relievers are either pitching well (Grimsley, Naulty) or aren't going anywhere (Mendoza, Nelson).

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled outfielder Ryan Christenson from Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned outfielder Jason McDonald to Vancouver. [5/22]

Christenson had been scorching the ball at Edmonton, hitting .344 with a .440 OBP, so the A's might get more men on base for Ben Grieve to strand. Seriously, Christenson's the center fielder you want to develop if you're the A's, so this is the right move all around.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Promoted outfielder Aaron Royster and pitcher Blas Cedeno to Reading of the Eastern League (AA); placed pitcher Jeff Brantley on the 15-day disabled list with a torn Labrum in his right shoulder; recalled pitcher Steve Montgomery from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League (AAA).

Brantley finally had to admit his season was over; his first comeback with Cincinnati was a great one, but this time around the shoulder may be too damaged to allow a return. He'll try again next spring, natch.

In his absence, Gomes will get the first stab at the closer's job, with Poole getting some lefty-specialist saves here and there. Montgomery is the hottest pitcher in the bullpen by virtue of a few scoreless innings in his two cups of coffee, but his minor-league numbers suggest nothing more than cannon fodder.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned pitcher Clint Sodowsky to Memphis of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Rick Heiserman from Memphis. [5/23]

Heiserman's 6.14 ERA at Triple-A belies adequate peripherals: six walks and 22 strikeouts in 22 innings, but with 26 hits allowed. Bryan Eversgerd would have been a better choice, but few are those permitted to question Tony LaRussa, Genius.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed outfielder Tony Gwynn on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf; recalled outfielder Mike Darr from Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/22]

A few commentators have pointed out that all three 3000-hit chasers have hit the DL this year and joked (I hope they were joking) that it's some sort of curse. Should we be surprised? These guys are old: one has bad knees, one a bad back and one a gut the size of Tijuana. Only Gwynn is any sort of productive hitter now, so you can at least excuse his presence, but at some point the chase for a magical and yet meaningless individual threshold has to take a back seat to winning the game.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated third baseman Wade Boggs from the 15-day disabled list; optioned outfielder Randy Winn to Durham of the International League (AAA). [5/21]

Activated pitcher Julio Santana from the 15-day disabled list; optioned pitcher Alan Newman to Durham of the International League (AAA); loaned outfielder Brooks Kieschnick to the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/24]

The slow march to 3000 -- which resembles the annual AARP 0.5K race -- resumes, although you wonder if Boggs is really a better choice than Herbert Perry at this point. Winn certainly had his chance, and while his power was up (.388 SLG), his on-base skills remained nonexistent (.315 OBP).

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated shortstop Royce Clayton from the 15-day disabled list; optioned shortstop Kelly Dransfeldt to Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/21]

Remarkably quick recovery, although Clayton's shaky showing in the field since his return makes it seem like he rushed back.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Activated designated hitter Dave Hollins from the 15-day disabled list; optioned infielder-outfielder Kevin Witt to Syracuse of the International League (AAA); purchased the contract of outfielder Patrick Lennon from Syracuse; announced outfielder Willie Greene has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Syracuse. [5/21]

Placed shortstop Alex Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 17, with a sore right shoulder; activated pitcher Joey Hamilton from the 15-day disabled list. [5/24]

Twenty-nine teams passed on Greene? Astounding, given the poor left-field and third-base solutions around baseball today. Perhaps he can obliterate Triple-A pitching enough to remind people of the breakthrough season he had in 1997. As for Lennon, he'll likely remain a right-handed pinch-hitter and occasional DH, and will mash the ball when given the opportunity. Why you need him and Geronimo Berroa is something only Gord Ash understands.

Gonzalez is out for at least a month, assuming he doesn't have the surgery, which means more Homer Bush out-making fun for Blue Jay fans, as well as horrid defense. Hamilton's return could push Kelvim Escobar into the closer role should he want it, with Roy Halladay the best bet to return to the pen if Escobar declines to leave the rotation. This could all be irrelevant if Hamilton, who pitched horribly on rehab (12.1 IP, 5.11 ERA, 22 baserunners allowed), winds up back on the shelf in the next few weeks, or if Billy Koch continues to pitch well.

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