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June 17, 1999

Transaction Analysis

June 11-15

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Purchased the contracts of OFs Mike Colangelo and Matt Luke from Edmonton; optioned 1B Chris Pritchett to Edmonton; designated UT Tim Unroe for assignment; transferred RHP Pep Harris from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/12]

To add to this mess, as you should already know, Colangelo promptly got injured in his first game in an outfield collision, adding another casualty to an especially unfortunate season for the Halos. But the worst aspect of this is how it plays out in terms of who plays where: Erstad goes back to first, and the worst offensive team in the league doesn't really help itself, unless you're happy to see a minor league vet like Unroe get the boot. The root of the problem is Mo Vaughn's bad ankle, but to have Erstad playing first while also enduring the worst slump of his career puts the team in the ugly position of having to choose between Orlando Palmeiro or Reggie Williams (or Pritchett, if they wanted to put Erstad back in the outfield). Given those choices, there's no really good answer, since it's understood that the team already has to endure an outfield that has Todd Greene and Garret Anderson playing out of position. The central component to the team's offensive problems is its inability to get on base. In his very brief professional playing time (he debuted in '98, and has had injury problems all along), Colangelo has shown good on-base ability, and could also push Anderson back into an outfield corner, but he's already out until July. Although Luke pasted five homeruns in six games at Edmonton, he isn't going to add much.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Acquired LHP Dan Plesac from the Blue Jays for SS Tony Batista and RHP John Frascatore; recalled INF Edwin Diaz from Tucson. [6/12]

A triumph of situational mania and the inertia of veterandom. No, Plesac hasn't pitched well this season. Yes, Andy Fox probably isn't a major-league shortstop. Yes, a lefty situational specialist shouldn't be as important to a team as getting adequate play at shortstop. The curious aspect of this deal is that it really shows the Diamondbacks at their worst: fixated on famous people, rather than concentrating on finding who can do the job. Plesac's resume is his greatest asset, and while I think he can still be a handy part of a major-league pen, is it worth giving up a middle infielder with a future and a useful middle reliever for the guy you might get to use against Barry Bonds and Larry Walker a couple of times? This move might make sense if the Diamondbacks had a great alternative at short available to them, but Danny Klassen still has a lot to prove. They might even end up making Jay Bell and Andy Fox trade positions. This move might make sense if it was going to make the difference between them and the Giants, but it won't. The Diamondbacks already have a good situational lefty in Greg Swindell. Getting a second one should normally be a matter of shaking the bushes for someone you can use. Isn't that what scouts are for? Or are the D-backs just making this kind of decision because of an addiction to situational data, and out of obedience to present-day trends in pen usage? This isn't even really defensible as a stretch-drive move, because there are still months to go, and the Giants are only just now getting Bonds back. There is some silver lining, though, in that it does mean that Buck Showalter is going to have to use rookie righties Vlad Nunez and Byung-Hyun Kim, and that's better than last year's setup duo of Willie Banks and Aaron Small.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed RHP Bret Saberhagen on the 15-day DL (lacerated foot); recalled RHP Kirk Bullinger from Pawtucket; voided the assignment of RHP Juan Pena to Pawtucket, and returned him to the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/5 (sore shoulder). [6/12]

Placed RHP Tom Gordon on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/12 (elbow); recalled RHP Jin Ho Cho from Pawtucket. [6/14]

Designated RHP Jim Corsi for assignment; recalled RHP Bob Wolcott from Pawtucket. [6/15]

As always, Saberhagen is going to have his problems, so at least the Red Sox are reasonably well-prepared. Cho steps into a rotation still saddled with Pat Rapp and Mark Portugal, after getting off to a good start with the PawSox. Cho ran up a 7-1 record with a 3.41 ERA, allowing 61 hits and 19 walks in 71.1 innings, while punching out 58. Corsi was struggling (but will nevertheless probably show up as a Cardinal in the near future), while Bullinger has run off 16 saves this year between Trenton and Pawtucket. Losing Gordon in itself shouldn't do that much damage, although the Sox aren't the kind of offensive powerhouse that can afford to give up runs late in games. While I've been pulling for Wolcott to get an opportunity for awhile, he wasn't pitching as effectively in Pawtucket as his 2.94 ERA would have you think, since he'd allowed 33 runs in 67.1 IP. Interestingly enough, although great control is his game, he's plunked six men in 67.1 innings. An acolyte of Bruce the Butcher Kison, perhaps?

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed CF Lance Johnson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/10 (abdominal strain); activated C Sandy Martinez from the DL; purchased the contract of LHP Doug Creek from Iowa; optioned OF Roosevelt Brown to Iowa. [6/14]

Losing Johnson might not sound like much. He's only putting up a limp .332 OBP, he's getting slow going to the gaps, and he's usually firing off two-hoppers to the cutoff man when he really lets loose with his gun. But when the alternative is Curtis Goodwin, you can see why Jim Riggleman is kicking around playing the Bull Elephant outfield of Sammy Sosa in center, Glenallen Hill in right, and Henry Rodriguez in left. The Cubs are already a bad defensive team, so why not go for the gusto and put your best available lineup on the field? Okay, so it didn't work for the Blue Jays in '98, but the '98 Jays were an even worse defensive team, with a worse rotation. The Cubs are going to need all sorts of crazy things to happen to make the Astros sweat, so why not try to do it as offensively as possible?

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed C Brian Johnson on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled C Jason LaRue from Indianapolis. [6/14]

The knee injury is expected to keep Johnson out for longer than just a couple of weeks, which should give LaRue a nice stretch of time to make an impression on Jack McKeon. Once the July 31 deadline rolls around, and if LaRue does anything to impress, the Reds can feel more comfortable about trading Eddie Taubensee or Johnson to a contender if they're out of the running by then. On the other hand, LaRue wasn't dominating at Indy, hitting only .249/.297/.398 in his first extended shot at Triple-A.

DETROIT TIGERS

Claimed OF Pat Lennon off of waivers from the Blue Jays, and assigned him to Toledo. [6/13]

Guess who inherits Bob Hamelin's roster spot? Guess who's also more deserving of Gregg Jefferies' contract than Gregg Jefferies?

FLORIDA MARLINS

Purchased the contract of OF Danny Bautista from Calgary; designated 2B Craig Counsell for assignment. [6/11]

Traded 2B Craig Counsell to the Dodgers for a PTBNL. [6/15]

Sometimes Dave Dombrowski does things which can only make you shake your head. Originally, he gave up a semi-adequate pitcher (Mark Hutton) to get Counsell. World Series heroics aside, Craig Counsell is the type of player you'll always find available as a minor-league free agent or lying on the scrap pile. So when Luis Castillo was finally ready to push Counsell aside, what did Dombrowski do? Hope to get something as good as or better than Mark Hutton. Of course by this time, his peers have wised up, at least as far as Counsell is concerned. The Marlins will be lucky to get a handy A-baller from the Dodgers for him. In the meantime, Danny Bautista will inherit Bruce Aven's role of spot starts and some right-handed pinch-hitting duties, now that Aven has earned a bigger chunk of playing time.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Optioned LHP Alvin Morman to Omaha; recalled INF Jed Hansen from Omaha. [6/12]

Recalled LHP Tim Byrdak from Omaha; optioned INF Jed Hansen to Omaha. [6/15]

Duke-itis seems to be spreading, because this was as silly a little move as they get. If Rey Sanchez was sore and had to miss a start, why then are both Steve Scarsone or Scott Leius on the roster if they can't handle a spot start at short? Okay, so Byrdak has a superficially impressive 1.42 ERA at Omaha, but that's because of a bundle of unearned runs he's allowed; counting all runs, he's allowing over 3.5 runs per nine. Alvin Morman isn't anything too special, but he has been a useful lefty specialist now and again, and there doesn't seem to be any compelling reason to prefer Byrdak over Morman (or vice versa).

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Purchased the contract of OF Brent Cookson from Albuquerque; designated INF Chance Sanford for assignment. [6/11]

Acquired 2B Craig Counsell from the Marlins for a PTBNL; designated OF Brent Cookson for assignment; outrighted INF Chance Sanford outright to Albuquerque. [6/15]

The Dodgers' bench has been weak all year, so I thought it was a great little move for them to promote a good hitter like Cookson. Sure, he was playing in the PCL bandboxes to hit .335/.421/.740 with 18 homeruns in 55 games, but Cookson's been a consistently good hitter over his career, and although they've already improved by bringing in Trent Hubbard, Cookson's still a much better hitter than either Counsell or Tripp Cromer. Since the Dodgers are already carrying a short bench because of a twelve-man pitching staff, you'd think they'd want to get maximum production out of the position players they do have.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Sold LHP Rick DeHart to the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese League. [6/11]

Does DeHart get a press conference where he talks about his pride in becoming a garbage fish?

NEW YORK METS

Activated RHP Greg McMichael off of the DL; optioned UT Melvin Mora to Norfolk. [6/11]

In itself, McMichael's return is a good thing, but at some point, the Mets are going to have to confront their wastage of roster spots. Because of the Bonilla situation, they're already effectively going with twelve pitchers and twelve position players. One of the pitchers is mop-up scrub Pat Mahomes, and one of the others is mop-up scrub Allen Watson. One of the position players is Rey Ordonez, but at least he's the only regular the Mets really need to pinch-hit for.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Claimed LHP Jason Brester off of waivers from the Rockies, and assigned him to Reading (Double-A); transferred C Tom Prince from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/14]

A nice grab off of the waiver wire. Okay, so Brester's been pasted at Carolina (2-6, 5.76 ERA, 71 hits and 26 walks in 59.1 IP, with 44 Ks), but there hasn't been much talk about his past elbow problems this year, he's a lefty who can throw 90, and the Phillies need as much free talent as they can snag.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed RHP Andy Ashby on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/7 (back strain); recalled RHP Carlos Almanzar from Las Vegas. [6/13]

The hope here is that Ashby's strained back only keeps him out for two starts. The interesting adaptation is the decision to have Brian Boehringer make a couple of starts in his absence. Fortunately for the Pads, the off-day on the 21st means that Ashby won't have to hurry back before the end of the month if they don't want him to, because the Pads can keep their other four starters starting on four days' rest in every game up to June 28th.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed RHP Rafael Carmona on the 15-day DL (strained tricep); recalled RHP Aaron Scheffer from Tacoma. [6/13]

Recalled RHP Melvin Bunch from Tacoma; designated RHP Mac Suzuki for assignment. [6/15]

Maybe it's just me, but after Carmona allowed 27 baserunners in 11.1 IP, while striking out nobody, it doesn't look like he was given time to properly heal up or rehab. Scheffer gets to be this week's rookie flavor of the moment. Despite a gaudy ERA at Triple-A, on the year he's given up over 3.6 runs per nine (not good for a reliever), and he doesn't throw all that hard. Still, he's healthy, so he has to be a step up from feeding Carmona to the vultures. Cutting loose Suzuki is long overdue; he should go unclaimed, which should leave Woody Woodward with plenty of egg on his face for keeping him around out of fear of losing him on waivers. If they choose to keep Bunch around this time, they shouldn't regret it: in 50.2 IP, he'd allowed only 45 hits and 17 walks, posting a 3.91 ERA, while striking out 46. With Frankie Rodriguez and John Halama already bolstering the rotation, they can save their better middle relievers (Paniagua, and potentially Scheffer and Bunch) for long relief duty when Jeff Fassero decides to start another of his local souvenir showers.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Outrighted CF Terrell Lowery to Durham; recalled DH Bubba Trammell from Durham. [6/14]

The D-Rays have gotten things half-right: they realize that Paul Sorrento isn't really a good outfielder. Unfortunately, the alternatives were limited to letting another infielder (Herb Perry) stumble around out there, or calling up a bad outfielder like Bubba Trammell, or giving Lowery a bunch of playing time. I'm happy to see Trammell get an opportunity, even though he wasn't killing the ball at Durham (.269/.317/.446), but if they D-Rays are going to carp about their defense in left instead of big issues like "Randy Winn isn't getting better," they aren't really helping themselves.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed CF Tom Goodwin on the 15-day DL (torn hip flexor); recalled CF Ruben Mateo from Oklahoma. [6/12]

While the Mariners and the A's seem to be improving their pitching staffs, and while the Rangers desperately need to improve theirs, the Rangers actually did the most to improve themselves by finally making the long-anticipated switch from Goodwin to Mateo. Mateo was tearing up the PCL, smacking 17 homeruns while hitting .340/.389/.605. Sure, he needs to improve his command of the strike zone, but he's replacing Tom Goodwin, not Rusty Greer. I don't think there's a point at which you can have too much offense, and when the Rangers are wrestling with how much better their rotation might be with Esteban Loaiza in it, they'll need to take their improvements where they can get them.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Acquired SS Tony Batista and RHP John Frascatore from the Diamondbacks for LHP Dan Plesac. [6/11]

Placed RHP Chris Carpenter on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/3 (elbow inflammation); designated C/UT Mark Dalesandro for assignment; optioned SS Chris Woodward to Syracuse. [6/13]

Activated RHP Paul Quantrill and DH Geronimo Berroa from the DL; designated DH Dave Hollins for assignment. [6/15]

The Jays have been one of this season's busiest teams, but for all of that activity, they haven't really helped themselves much. They tossed Tom Evans away to make room for a light-hitting DH (Hollins) and they've sort of brainlessly shuffled through Kevin Witt, Willie Greene, Jacob Brumfield, Pat Kelly, Willis Otanez, Pat Lennon, and Berroa, without really taking into account who has the ability to contribute. They're still wasting roster space on Brumfield, Otanez, and Mike Matheny. But the payoff here is that by getting Paul Spoljaric for Robert Person, the Jays had a spare lefty in the pen, and they just snagged a very good offensive middle infielder in Batista, while dumping Plesac's salary. Because Alex Gonzalez recently won't be back until late July at the earliest, the Jays won't get to ask themselves which of Gonzalez, Batista, and Homer Bush gets to start for awhile. Bush is the least-useful of the bunch, but the Jays don't seem to have figured that out yet. They may have finally stumbled into a new-and-improved DH situation; a Willie Greene-Berroa platoon could be very productive, and Greene should also get some spot duty at third for Tony Fernandez. Losing Carpenter givens them a temporary way to get Joey Hamilton back into the rotation. The bigger debate, should Carpenter not bounce back quickly, is going to be about whether Jim Fregosi should get the blame for Carpenter's breakdown, or whether he was overused by Tim Johnson last year.

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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