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June 19, 1999

Transaction Analysis

June 16-18

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed CF Mike Colangelo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/14 (torn thumb ligament); announced that INF Tim Unroe cleared waivers, and selected his contract back from Edmonton; transferred CF Jim Edmonds from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/16]

The only surprise is that Colangelo was hurt worse than expected in his collision with Reggie Williams, and the Angels are still mired in the ugly situation of having either Reggie Williams or Orlando Palmeiro in the everyday lineup.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed LHP Greg Swindell on the 15-day DL (rib cage); purchased the contract of LHP Ed Vosberg from Tucson. [6/16]

Not just any farm system can offer a 37 year old replacement to your 34 year old lefty setup man--not that either Vosberg or Swindell can make 37 year old Dan Plesac feel like a spring chicken. Couldn't the Diamondbacks have found a more useful minor league free agent in the off-season? Tucson only has minor league vets Joey Eischen and John Cummings, and Vosberg's outpitched both of them in his few weeks with Tucson since being cut by the Padres (ten baserunners in 11.1 IP, 18 Ks). At least Buck Showalter will still have his two lefties in the pen.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Acquired 2B Jose Cepeda from the Royals for RHP Marc Pisciotta. [6/18]

Cepeda isn't a prospect (he's going on 25, and has yet to get out of A-ball), but Pisciotta is no prize either.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed 2B Jeff Frye on the 15-day DL (sore knee); recalled INF Lou Merloni from Pawtucket; activated LHP Brian Barkley from the DL, and optioned him to Sarasota. [6/17]

If anything, this is a slight improvement for the Red Sox. Frye can't really play a position other than second, and his offensive skill is an adequate ability to get on base. Merloni can do that plus offer slightly more sock, so he'll be a more than adequate replacement.

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed RHP Jason Bere on the 15-day DL (elbow, suckiness, insert excuse du jour here); recalled RHP Rick Greene from Indianapolis. [6/17]

The legend of Don Gullett takes a hit, but the real problem was that Bere just wasn't a project worth trying, and certainly not for the money that Jim Bowden elected to spend on him. The results? A 6.85 ERA, and 56 hits and 40 walks in 43.1 innings. Bere's ability to come back was taken for granted; Gullett has been anointed as some sort of miracle man, which inspired some pretty ludicrous expectations, the worst of which was Selig mouthpiece/MLB "historian" Jerome Holtzman's comparison of Bere to Christy Mathewson. This is still actually true: both men are hominids who lived on the North American continent during the 20th century. Rickey Greene has been pitching well at Indy, logging 8 saves. The dilemma for the Reds is what they want to do with their rotation. The Villone experiment doesn't seem likely to survive July, which means the Reds may have to give serious thought to picking up someone like Tom Candiotti, even with his 6.35 ERA and 11 homeruns allowed in 56.2 IP.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed 3B Travis Fryman on the 15-day DL (lower back spasms); recalled OF Alex Ramirez from Buffalo. [6/16]

Activated LHP Mark Langston from the DL; designated RHP Dave Stevens for assignment. [6/17]

Claimed RHP Jeff Tam off of waivers from the Mets; signed RHP Paul Menhart to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Buffalo. [6/18]

Fryman's back problems are relatively old news, and the team seems comfortable with the idea of letting Jeff Manto and Enrique Wilson hold down the job in his absence. Where's überprospect Russ Branyan, you might ask? Still flashing tremendous power, but struggling with the Mendoza line and striking out in almost half of his at-bats. As much as I don't fret about strikeouts for a player, when a guy's striking out half the time, even I get concerned that there's something wrong.

The callup for Alex Ramirez is essentially just to get some platoon PAs with David Justice or Jacob Cruz. He was doing his usual high average, good power, and poor strikezone judgment mix at Buffalo (.308/.344/.496). As for claiming Jeff Tam or dumping Dave Stevens, the decision to carry twelve pitchers keeps the shuffle going, as the Indians sort of indolently sort through guys like these or Rich DeLucia or Paul Wagner. Langston's presence effectively reduces the last place in the pen to a celebrity roster spot, since he wasn't fooling people at Buffalo, and he isn't going to fool many more in the majors.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Acquired RHP Marc Pisciotta from the Braves for 2B Jose Cepeda. [6/18]

Cepeda had no future with the organization now that Carlos Febles has the job pinned down for several years to come, and the danger here is that the Royals are so desperate for relief help that they might call for Pisciotta. "Cookies" has been pitching badly at Richmond, racking up a 6.06 ERA while still struggling with control problems. If the Royals are really this hard up (and if Orber Moreno does end up going onto the DL), they're almost certainly better off taking a spin with Dario Veras, or taking a look-see at Ken Ray or Lance Carter.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated SS Jose Valentin from the DL; optioned INF Lou Collier to Louisville. [6/16]

This doesn't really help the Brewers too much. Valentin has his strengths (good power vs. RHPs, good glovework at short), but any playing time he gets cuts into the playing time of two better players (Mark Loretta, Ronnie Belliard), as well as chasing a good utility infielder to Louisville. They could choose to reinvestigate the idea of moving Valentin to center, especially since Marquis Grissom is hurtling down the back slope of his career. About the only other offensive improvement the Brewers could make easily enough would be to give Richie Barker the rest of the year at first, now that the Berry signing looks like a failed temporary solution. Even so, these issues take a back seat to the more fundamental problem that they're using Cal Eldred and Jim Abbott.

NEW YORK METS

Acquired RHP Mac Suzuki and a PTBNL from the Mariners for LHP Allen Watson and cash. [6/18]

Let me get this straight: you sign a bad journeyman like Watson in the hope he'll pitch well. If he does, you can keep him around, or maybe trade him to some desperate team for something you can use. But the Mets get almost 40 useful innings out of Watson, and turn him into... a guy who makes Pat Mahomes feel he's better than somebody else? Masato Yoshii's road roommate? Somebody who'll make George Steinbrenner so jealous that he forces Brian Cashman to call up Katsuhiro Maeda in a Big Apple battle of Japanese scrubs? Okay, like almost any pitcher, Suzuki will improve now that he isn't subject to Mt. Piniella's whims, fits, tantrums, and eruptions. But he's been bad in the minors, bad in the majors, and there's little reason to believe that he won't keep that up as a Met. The only up-side to this deal is that the PTBNL might turn out to be somebody else under 30 that Lou Piniella can't use.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Announced that RHP Tom Candiotti cleared waivers and has been given his unconditional release. [6/16]

Recalled RHP Brett Laxton from Vancouver; optioned 2B Scott Spiezio to Vancouver. [6/18]

Laxton seems to have gotten a hold on the control problems that beset him last year (29 walks in 69.2 IP, with a 3.75 ERA despite only 2 HRs allowed), and with Jimmy Haynes, Mike Oquist, and Gil Heredia all in danger of losing their jobs in the rotation, a few good outings in long relief could be enough to get him a shot at a start or two. As for Spiezio, with Tony Phillips (and his defensive caddy, Jorge Velandia) swiping his playing time at second, his future with the organization is effectively dead. The future for the organization at second might be Jose Ortiz, or more likely Esteban German, who might be the fastest player in baseball, not to mention a guy who knows how to get on base.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed LHP Lance Painter on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/14 (shoulder strain); recalled RHP Curtis King from Memphis; activated OF J.D. Drew from the DL, and optioned him to Memphis. [6/17]

I'm just shocked to discover that yet another adequate Cardinals reliever, in this case Lance Painter, got bumped into the rotation, only to hurt himself. Boy, good thing that the Cardinals have the twin towers of geniusdom in Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan from keeping that sort of thing from happening more often than once or twice a year... In Painter's absence, the Cardinals will have to tread very carefully. They could elect to move Manny Aybar or Kent Mercker into the rotation, or they could take their chances and call up Rick Ankiel. The dangers to Ankiel if he's entrusted to LaRussa and Duncan are potentially devastating, but in the short term, he could be the difference between having a shot at the wild-card or feeling good about finishing up somewhere around .500. The decision to demote Drew gives no hint; if the Cardinals really believe they're better off running Willie McGee or Thomas Howard out there, then they aren't giving much thought to how much better they can be by August if they just let Drew take his lumps right now.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated RF Reggie Sanders from the DL; optioned CF Gary Matthews Jr. to Las Vegas. [6/18]

The interesting problem for the Padres with Sanders' return is whether or not it will lead to less playing time for Ruben Rivera. Rivera has struggled all season long, and if they put Sanders in center when he's up to it, they can take advantage of John Vander Wal's hitting. Instead, they seem caught up on getting Eric Owens playing time, so they've identified the opportunity, but have missed out on who they should be giving it to. As famed as Vander Wal is as a pinch-hitter, his offensive skills are good enough to have him start against RHPs. As desperate as the Pads are for offense, the benefits of scoring more runs over potentially having a dangerous weapon late in the game seem obvious.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled C Doug Mirabelli from Fresno; placed C Scott Servais on the 15-day DL (dislocated thumb). [6/17]

Not really a setback for the Giants. Servais is no longer a defensive asset, and while he's still a useful backup, Mirabelli's a better hitter. He was off to a good start at Fresno (.346/.429/.561 with 10 homeruns), and should be more than up to handling platooning chores with Brent Mayne.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Acquired LHP Allen Watson and cash from the Mets for RHP Mac Suzuki and a PTBNL. [6/18]

So does Watson go into the rotation for... Mel Bunch? Assuming Jeff Fassero stays out of the rotation? Frankie Rodriguez and John Halama have pitched well enough to be rotation regulars, and Jamie Moyer and Freddy Garcia shouldn't be in any danger from anyone other than their manager. Suzuki's no loss, but Watson's been a bad pitcher under better managers than Lou Piniella, and isn't a great bet to thrive now in any role. The danger for the Mariners is that the PTBNL might be someone who can play baseball. The best that can be said is that maybe Woody Woodward got the cash in the form of some of these neat new quarters in a mad quest to corner the market on the really neat ones from New Jersey. Okay, that's a bit unfair; Woody deserves a good amount of credit for getting anything for Suzuki in the first place, and if the PTBNL is only somebody like Charles Gipson, this is an okay little deal for the Mariners.

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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