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June 5, 1999

Transaction Analysis

May 29-June 4

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed C Charlie O'Brien on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/3 (partially torn ligament - foot); recalled OF Reggie Williams from Edmonton. [6/4]

With O'Brien gone and Todd Greene's shoulder giving him some problems, this may be present a chance for Steve Decker to stick around and do some catching.If Greene goes behind the plate on the days Walbeck isn't catching, someone like Reggie Williams can play. Overall, not really something the Angels needed to put up with, even with O'Brien off to as bad a start as he was.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated RHP John Smoltz from the DL; optioned LHP Bruce Chen to Richmond. [6/1]

Their need to be cautious with their best starter satisfied, Smoltz returns with the Braves still in first place, and with the added benefit that Chen got the experience of two more major league starts without hurting himself or them. Chen's demotion isn't really a setback; He'll take his regular turn in Richmond's rotation, and wait for Odalis Perez to pitch his way out of the Braves' rotation, or for someone else to break down. The miseries are Chen's alone, since the Braves can afford to be comfortable with the idea that their #6 starter is a better guy to have out there than many team's #3s.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Traded OF Lyle Mouton to the Brewers for DH Todd Dunn. [6/1]

Claimed C Mike Figga off waivers from the Yankees. [6/3]

"Quick boys! Angelos wants to blame us for everything that's gone wrong! Look busy! Do something! Anything!" Figga will be a slight improvement on Tommy Davis as the team's second-choice second-stringer for as long as Lenny Webster's among the wounded, and that may just be the sort of thing that sends the Devil Rays a message that the O's mean business when it comes to gunning for fourth place. Yessir, them "big market" behemoths sure do have everyone licked.

BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired RHP Rob Stanifer from the Marlins for LHP Brian Partenheimer; assigned Stanifer to Trenton (Double-A). [5/31]

Activated RHP Bret Saberhagen from the DL; optioned RHP Tim Harikkala to Pawtucket. [6/1]

Saberhagen's return coincides with Pena's rehab and Brian Rose's success, which sort of takes the pressure off the Duke to do something if Mark Portugal decides to hang 'em up. Sadly, there's still room in the rotation for Pat Rapp, but hopefully Jin Ho Cho or even Bob Wolcott will get to change that shortly.

CHICAGO CUBS

Activated RHP Jeremi Gonzalez from the DL, and optioned him to Iowa. [5/31]

Because the Cubs' rotation is putting up some excellent numbers, they can afford to let Gonzalez work his way back under their original timetable--August--instead of the one that become possible because of his remarkably accelerated rehab and recovery. If Kyle Farnsworth falls on his face his second time through the league, or if Jim Riggleman decides to bump Terry Mulholland back into the pen, the Cubs will have the luxury of calling up Gonzalez once he's recovered some durability and command.

CINCINNATI REDS

Sent RHP Stan Belinda to Indianapolis on a rehabilitation assignment. [6/3]

Released 2B Carlos Baerga. [6/4]

Taking the analyst's beanie off my noggin for the moment, here's hoping that Skippy fights off tendinitis and MS and comes back up for the Reds soon. As for Baerga, do the people who keep singing his praises, or crediting every GM who picks him up, want to come clean? He's done. Get used to it.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Purchased the contract of RHP Dave Stevens from Buffalo; designated RHP Rich DeLucia for assignment. [5/30]

"Hey Duke, what you do with your spare time? I mean, things are going pretty well: the big league team's looking good, my latest scouting director has the draft well in hand, so I can't fire him for at least another three months, and I just don't know how I'm going to fill the time. What do you do?"

"John, c'mon, that's easy. When I've run out of things to do, I always figure I can whack somebody in the bullpen. It makes people think you're decisive, and frightens the fringe guys."

"Are you sure it's okay?"

"It's fun, I tell you. All I have to do is stick my head in the clubhouse and say 'waive who?', and next thing you know, Brian Daubach's saying he'd be happy to wash my car. There are definite perks to creating a climate of unabashed fear."

"Well, if you say so. Delores, tell DeLucia he's gone! Phone Buffalo and tell Stevens he's got two innings to prove he's got what it takes, or he's roadkill!" [pause] "You're right, Dan, that was fun. I'll have to do this again!"

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed 3B Kevin Orie on the DL, retroactive to 5/23 (pulled groin); recalled 3B Mike Lowell from Calgary. [5/29]

Optioned 1B Derrek Lee to Calgary; recalled PH Tim Hyers from Calgary. [5/30]

Activated RHP Archie Corbin from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Brian Billingsley to Calgary. [6/1]

Returned RHP Archie Corbin to the 15-day DL (muscle strain); recalled RHP Rafael Medina from Calgary. [6/2]

I'm not unhappy with what the Marlins are doing. Todd Dunwoody and Derrek Lee have played like crap, so giving an outspoken minor league vet like Kevin Millar his first serious shot at a job, or deciding you can take a long look at Preston Wilson's mix of intriguing assets and debilitating weaknesses, are ways of telling a young team that improvement is expected. Mark Kotsay should probably be taking note.

Orie's injury conveniently makes space for the beginning of Lowell's Marlins career, but what I haven't figured out is why some people are arguing for moving Orie to keep them both in the lineup. Orie's an outstanding glove at third base and an adequate offensive player for the position; if he isn't playing third, the rest of what he does isn't enough to help, relative to what other teams in the league are putting at first base or left field or in the middle of their batting orders. Amusingly, the Cubs could still use a guy who can play third base, but that could lead to a potentially disastrous reunion with hitting coach Jeff Pentland.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Placed OF Todd Hollandsworth on the 15-day DL (strained oblique muscle); placed SS Mark Grudzielanek on the 15-day DL (fractured hand); activated 2B/SS Jose Vizcaino from the DL; purchased the contract of 3B Chance Sanford from Albuquerque. [6/4]

This is definitely a mixed bag. Losing Grudz and replacing him with Vizcaino isn't going to do anything for a weak Dodgers lineup, but it will help defensively, because Vizcaino can actually play short. The odd decision is that by losing their fourth outfielder, Hollandsworth, they're carrying only one backup outfielder (Trenidad Hubbard), who hits right-handed, just like both starting corner outfielders. Chance Sanford's upside at this point is that he might out-hit Tripp Cromer, but neither one is a pinch-hitter you want to call on. Considering they're still carrying both Mike Maddux and Doug Bochtler as the 11th and 12th pitchers, either or both of Kevin Malone and Davey Johnson don't seem to be putting the best possible team together from the pieces at hand.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Optioned INF Lou Collier to Louisville; recalled LHP Rafael Roque from Louisville. [5/29]

Traded DH Todd Dunn to the Orioles for OF Lyle Mouton. [6/1]

Collier hadn't done anything as the team's utility man to earn a demotion, but with twelve pitchers, roster space is tight. Esepcially while the Brewers let Ron Belliard try to win Fernando Vina's job in front of them, instead of from Louisville.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Activated C Terry Steinbach from the DL; optioned C A.J. Pierzynski to Salt Lake. [5/29]

Placed SS Cristian Guzman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/27 (strained hamstring); recalled 2B/SS Cleatus Davidson from New Britain of the Eastern League (Double-A). [5/29]

Returned C Terry Steinbach to the DL; recalled C A.J. Pierzynski from Salt Lake. [6/1]

Addition by subtraction? Guzman's absence forces Denny Hocking into the lineup as the regular shortstop, which in turn should cut down on Tom Kelly's whimsical desires to use him everywhere else. This creates playing time for a wide variety of players, all of whom are better hitters than Guzman or Hocking. Not counting Brent Gates. Okay, so I'm trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and still winding up with a one-eared pig.

There's little positive to say about Steinbach's absence. A.J. Pierzynski won't get much playing time, the Twins don't seem interested in reaping the short-term offensive gains they could get by calling up George Williams, it's far too soon to start talking about Matt LeCroy, and Javy Valentin looks about as dangerous as an overripe melon.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned LHP Ted Lilly to Ottawa. [5/31]

Activated 3B/1B Shane Andrews from the DL. [6/1]

Lilly didn't get an opportunity to do much, but Mike Thurman isn't doing anything to help himself keep a rotation spot, so I expect Lilly will be back after a brief Ottawa tuneup. Andrews will get to play in Felipe Alou's constant position shuffle, as Michael Barrett's flip-flops between third base and catcher will let Andrews flip-flop between a platoon with Ryan McGuire at first base and some time at third, except on those days that Mike Mordecai has to be in the lineup.

NEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of UT Melvin Mora from Norfolk; optioned OF Jermaine Allensworth to Norfolk; transferred RHP Greg McMichael from the 15- to 60-day DL, retroactive to 4/5. [5/30]

Activated DH Bobby Bonilla from the DL; optioned LHP Rigo Beltran to Norfolk. [5/31]

There's something going on here in terms of the Mets not really getting to keep or play their best team. Yes, Allensworth's offensive skills seem cut from the same cloth as those of Roger Cedeno or Brian McRae, only less so, but why should anyone have to lose playing time to the continuing professional existence of Bobby Bonilla?

NEW YORK YANKEES

Claimed LHP Greg McCarthy off waivers from the Mariners and added him to the 40-man roster. [5/29]

Purchased the contract of LHP Greg McCarthy from Columbus; optioned INF Clay Bellinger to Columbus. [5/31]

Recalled RHP Todd Erdos and INF Clay Bellinger from Columbus; placed RHP Jeff Nelson on the 15-day DL (inflammation - elbow); optioned LHP Greg McCarthy to Columbus. [6/4]

The Yankees' lineup basically has seven men playing every day, the catching platoon, and a few bodies to run out to left field. With Jeff Nelson's health woes on top of long-term concerns about the arms of Andy Pettitte and David Cone, the Yankees can afford twelve pitchers. All of which makes the decision to demote McCarthy, leaving them with one left-handed reliever going into a series against John Olerud and Robin Ventura, more perplexing.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated LHP Jason Christiansen from the 15-day DL; placed LHP Chris Peters on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/24 (shoulder inflammation). [5/29]

Peters' unavailability leaves the Bucs with the unappetizing choice of Pete Schourek or Jose Silva for their fifth starter. Silva has the role now, and Schourek seems to consistently run out of steam by the fifth inning. Of course, using the same logic that guided the decision to sign Schourek in the first place, or give Mike Williams a multi-year contract, any guy who gets hot for a few weeks in any role might expect Christmas to come early for him.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Sent 1B Joe Dusan to the Blue Jays to complete an earlier trade. [6/3]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Activated RHP Julian Tavarez from the DL; optioned RHP Joe Nathan to Fresno. [6/1]

With Nen, Embree and Johnstone all pitching well out of the pen, the Giants can probably afford to let Nathan get some starts in Fresno until they decide if they have to do something about Mark Gardner or Shawn Estes. The danger here is if Dusty decides to return Tavarez to an important role in middle relief, when he's given good indications that mop-up duty is all he's suited for. That may hurt in a few weeks, because if the Giants are still putting up with the struggles of Gardner and Estes, Dusty will have to dip into his pen even more regularly than he's inclined to do in the first place. Getting into the bullpen early will give Tavarez and Felix Rodriguez more opportunities to hurt the Giants in their latest "surprise" drive for the divisional title.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned UT Charles Gipson to Tacoma; activated OF Raul Ibanez from the DL; promoted RHP Gil Meche from New Haven (Double-A) to Tacoma. [6/3]

Now that Buhner's out for perhaps another month, by bringing Ibanez back the Mariners have a backup OF platoon of Ibanez and Matt Mieske to caddy for the current OF platoon of John Mabry and Butch Huskey. The best case would involve benching Brian Hunter altogether, because he's not going to put more runs on the board than a Ibanez/Mieske platoon.

Meanwhile, Meche's march to the majors continues, and given the Mariners' desperation, he may be up by the All-Star break. Indeed, promoting him to Tacoma will only endanger him by bringing him to Mt. Piniella's attention.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed LHP Tony Saunders on the 60-day DL (broken humerus); recalled RHP Dave Eiland from Durham. [5/29]

The only thing to say about Saunders here is to offer condolences. The best I can do here is wish him a full, speedy recovery, because no one deserves this sort of thing.

It's kind of fun to remember that Dave Eiland came up the same year Bobby Witt got his ERA below 4.00 for the first time, and now, eleven years later, he may be the better bet to do it again. He'll get a brief opportunity to stick in the rotation, essentially battling for one of the last two slots with Julio Santana and Bryan Rekar, behind a front three of survivors Wilson Alvarez, Ryan Rupe and Witt.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed RHP Mike Morgan on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/24 (inflamed leg); recalled RHP Danny Kolb from Oklahoma. [6/2]

This is an interesting move, in that Morgan's injury isn't supposed to keep him from pitching in his next scheduled start on June 8th.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Claimed 3B Willis Otanez off waivers from the Orioles. [5/28]

Optioned RHP Peter Munro to Syracuse. [5/29]

Activated C Darrin Fletcher from the DL; optioned C/UT Mark Dalesandro to Syracuse. [6/1]

Received 1B Joe Dusan from the Padres to complete an earlier trade. [6/3]

If anyone really believes the Jays know what they're doing, I'd love to hear from you. Otanez isn't a better player than Willie Greene, but effective immediately, he's the third baseman while Tony Fernandez aches and Greene copes with banishment. Otanez has a slim chance to be a half-decent temp at third, but he's also nowhere near guys like Tom Evans or Greene, let alone someone like Scott McClain.

So now the Jays' roster has no shortstop, no adequate fourth outfielder, three designated hitters (David Hollins, Jacob Brumfield and Patrick Lennon--none as good as Kevin Witt), and Munro gets caught in a numbers game because nobody wants to confront Pat Hentgen's decline. I wouldn't be pleased, even if I didn't already believe they should be doing a better job pushing for the wild-card berth.

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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