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June 27, 1999

Transaction Analysis

June 22-25

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Re-signed manager Terry Collins to a contract extension; activated SS Gary Disarcina from the DL; designated UT Tim Unroe for assignment. [6/22]

Disney rallies around its man, but it isn't like they can't afford to eat the contract should they finally realize that Collins is part of the problem. It's been interesting to see how the local media has supported Collins (running an expensive last-place team picked by some to win its division), and ripped into Davey Johnson (running an expensive almost-last-place team picked by some to win its division). The critical ingredient in the coverage has been, as it always is, personalities, not who's done what or how well they've done it. The coverage is irrelevant, except in how it can help create perceptions: if Disney thinks Collins is an asset because the local beat writers think he's swell, then they're using the wrong criteria to evaluate their manager.

As for DiSarcina's return, there's already speculation that he's come back too soon. If he's 100%, he'll give them a small situational advantage at the bottom of the order, and he'll give them more consistent play afield. It won't be enough to make the league's worst offense noticeably better.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled LHP Nick Bierbrodt from El Paso (Double-A) and RHP Vicente Padilla from Tucson; designated LHP Ed Vosberg and RHP Dan Carlson for assignment. [6/24]

A very interesting development, and a good sign that the D'backs have taken their cue from their success with rookies Byung-Hyun Kim and Vladimir Nunez: talent is important. Dan Carlson deserves a break, but Ed Vosberg is Tony Fossas without the throwaway lines or highlight-reel home runs. Bierbrodt was pitching pretty well as a starter in one of the toughest minor-league ballparks, El Paso: a 4.62 ERA, 78 hits in 76 innings pitched, only three home runs allowed. Unlike Vosberg, he can function as a long reliever. Padilla is a control artist, having allowed only four walks in 25 2/3 innings at Tucson. Like Bierbrodt, he'll give the team a long reliever to potentially bridge games in which the starter gets knocked out early. That's only a notion, because Buck Showalter likes to leave his starters out there, so Bierbrodt and Padilla can basically hope for the old cuppajoe until Todd Stottlemyre and Flounder Swindell heal.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed C Javy Lopez on the 15-day DL (strained knee); recalled C Pascual Matos from Richmond. [6/23]

This is a loss the Braves cannot afford. Lopez has been having another outstanding season (.321/.380/.560), while Eddie Perez has lapsed back to his level of ability after last year's fluke (currently at .217/.242/.261). Matos is a non-entity, which reflects a major organizational problem. The Braves are screwed if they lose almost any regular, because there's no position players currently above A-ball who are likely to contribute at the major league level. Losing Lopez highlights this problem, but losing Chipper Jones or Brian Jordan or Andruw Jones would be just as devastating. Will John Schuerholz go out and find some patches, or will he stand by bad investments like Otis Nixon and Ozzie Guillen?

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Optioned RHP Rocky Coppinger to Rochester; recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Rochester. [6/25]

You know Ray Miller is riding high when he gets to revel in his favorite demotion, sending Rocky away. Unfortunately, the league has cancelled the transaction, putting off Ray's personal petty pleaures. As long as the team sticks with Jason Johnson in the rotation, Coppinger would probably be better off getting starts at Rochester. Molina could have helped, because he was continuing to have a good year, posting a 1.75 ERA while punching out 31 batters in 25 2/3 innings. Right-handed relief has been a problem for the Orioles, and isn't going to get better as long as they're relying on Ricky Bones.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Bret Saberhagen from the DL; optioned RHP Kirk Bullinger to Pawtucket; claimed LHP Travis Baptist off of waivers from the Twins and optioned him to Pawtucket. [6/23]

Portugal's been pitching well lately, so this means that at long last Pat Rapp is getting bumped from the rotation, until Sabes either has another post-party accident or hurts his fragile arm. This means they're basically set for the time being with their best-case rotation: Pedro Martinez, Saberhagen, Portugal, Brian Rose and Jin Ho Cho. If everyone stays healthy and pitching at about the same level, that creates an interesting dilemma once Ramon Martinez is healthy. Portugal's the obvious bump, but for the money he's making, do the Red Sox make that move?

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed RHP Terry Adams on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/19 (groin strain); activated RHP Matt Karchner from the DL. [6/24]

Adams is re-injured. Jeremi Gonzalez gets re-injured, after complaining that the club mishandled his initial surgery last summer, only to get fricaseed for his honesty by Jim Riggleman and a collection of Chicago Tribune lackeys. Add this to Rod Beck's complaint that the Cubs screwed around with his back and elbow problems this spring, and the Kerry Wood blowout, and you've got what looks like a major problem. While you probably can't make a claim that everything is clearly the fault of Riggleman or Ed Lynch or Andy MacPhail, the Cubs clearly have a recent history of trying to rush people back too soon or mishandling their rehabilitation. How much of this is the product of the unrealistic expectations of contention this year?

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated OF Mark Whiten from the DL; optioned OF Alex Ramirez to Buffalo. [6/24]

Activated 3B Travis Fryman from the DL; optioned OF Jacob Cruz to Buffalo. [6/25]

A case in which money equals inertia. Cruz whacked three home runs in ten games, and would be a solid regular in an outfield corner on many teams. But Mark Whiten's making guaranteed money, so whatever Cruz did was only enough to demonstrate he's going to be a critical part of another good Bisons lineup. Hopefully Cruz did enough to prick up somebody else's interest, should the Indians make that long-anticipated stretch-drive trade for a pitcher.

DETROIT TIGERS

Placed Pool King Gregg Jefferies on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/21 (elbow, bat sprain, something); recalled INF Jose Macias from Toledo. [6/24]

It isn't just any DH who can make the claim that he could raise his batting average as much as 100 points, and nevertheless remain the worst DH in the league. And given that Randy Smith named just about everyone else he picked up over the winter a team captain, we hope Jefferies is granted at least a lieutenantcy. Maybe Team Corporal. Hall Monitor?

As completely useless as Jefferies has been, adding Macias automatically improves Larry Parrish's roster. Macias isn't much of a hitter, but having him around lets Parrish pinch-hit for Deivi Cruz without subsequently having to ask an unwilling Damion Easley to play shortstop.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Activated PH Jack Howell from the DL; recalled RHP Jose Cabrera from New Orleans; optioned 1B/LF Daryle Ward and RHP Jeff McCurry to New Orleans. [6/24]

The Astros took advantage of interleague play to get Ward some major league at-bats, but now that they're back into divisional play, they let Ward go back to regular playing time at New Orleans, while Howell will pinch-hit for the big league club. I'd be happier for if they kept Ward around to play some left field, because there isn't much left for him to prove in the minors. They'll probably settle for making him eligible for the postseason roster by bringing him up at the end of August.

Adding Cabrera for McCurry is an upgrade. Cabrera was having a good year as a spot starter and middle reliever, posting a 2.98 ERA while stiking out 30 in 39 1/3 innings, allowing 29 hits, 11 walks, and just three home runs. He throws pretty hard, and should be a useful long reliever and 11th man on the staff.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Claimed RHP Mac Suzuki off of waivers from the Mets. [6/22]

Optioned LHP Tim Byrdak to Omaha. [6/23]

Placed RHP Jose Santiago on the 15-day DL (sore trapezius); optioned INF Steve Scarsone to Omaha; recalled INF Jed Hansen and LHP Tim Byrdak from Omaha. [6/25]

Herk Robinson has earned flak for years of missteps, but this year he has availed himself of the free talent he can snag on the waiver wire. I'm not a big Suzuki booster, but chances are anyone who's escaped Lou Piniella's clutches is going to get better. Suzuki does throw hard, and the patience (or as Rany puts it, stubbornness) that Tony Muser has shown with Jay Witasick, with whom the Royals went through two rough months before he began pitching well, could be a road map for how Suzuki would start adjusting to the majors. At least initially, Suzuki will be in the pen, after which the Royals will decide whether he'll replace Witasick or Chris Fussell in the rotation.

Losing Santiago may look like it's going to hurt, since he has the best ERA of any Royals reliever, but he's been Dwayne Henryesque in his ability to plate inherited runners. Definitely not the best way to make friends in the clubhouse.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Optioned RHP Rob Radlosky to Salt Lake. [6/24]

Activated RHP Hector Carrasco from the DL. [6/25]

As the Pioneer Press figured out, Radlosky was giving up a home run about every twenty pitches. Calling him up seemed like a strange decision in the first place, but Tom Kelly isn't helping by not doing a good job of using all twelve of his pitchers. Gary Rath's been on the roster for almost a month, and hasn't gotten to ten innings yet.

Carrasco's return may let him claim the setup job, allowing Kelly to reserve Bob Wells for a role in which he comes in with runners aboard, where he's had some success. Yes, even though it doesn't matter, the Twins are splicing roles just as if it did, with guys you wouldn't normally think of using in these ways.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed 3B Michael Barrett on the 15-day DL (sprained shoulder); recalled 1B Brad Fullmer and purchased the contract of RHP Mel Rojas from from Ottawa; optioned RHP J.D. Smart to Ottawa. [6/25]

Barrett was bottoming out in a terrible slump, perhaps caused by Alou's constant flip-flopping of him between third base and catcher. Now that he's down after a collision at home plate, Shane Andrews should get most of the playing time at the hot corner. Fullmer should get some playing time at first base after having a nice .286/.356/.597 stint at Ottawa, but sadly enough, the Expos need Ryan McGuire's OBP more than what Fullmer has to offer. The team's offensive needs are so broad that they'll also get to see what Fernando Seguignol is going to do with regular playing time in left.

Basically, the Expos need to sort through their alternatives now, while Rondell White is down and before Peter Bergeron comes up, to figure out who's going to be the team's regular first baseman by season's end: Seguignol or Fullmer?

Mel Rojas is back? Ick. As much as he's an old Alou favorite, and as many recoveries have happened in Montreal, this is one I'm really skeptical about. Rojas was pitching badly at Ottawa (5.14 ERA, 37 baserunners in 21 innings), and he's been tateriffic and wild long enough that he can't simply say "it's a weight problem" any more.

NEW YORK METS

Recalled INF Melvin Mora from Norfolk; optioned RHP Jason Isringhausen to Norfolk; recalled RHP Octavio Dotel from Norfolk; placed (and lost to the Royals) RHP Mac Suzuki on waivers. [6/22]

At long last, Dotel is up. It's easy to say he's going to have a better career than any of the Young Guns; a dozen quality starts would top the whole Dallas-ruined group. At Norfolk, he had a relatively high ERA (4.00) despite allowing only 49 hits in 65 1/3 innings, while striking out 84 and walking 32. He's stepping right into the rotation in Izzy's spot, and he could be the team's best starter in short order. Add that to the possibility that Al Leiter and Rick Reed get back to where they were last year, and you can see why the Mets think they've still got a chance to snag at least the wild-card spot. That isn't to say I think it's going to happen, but I can see Steve Phillips' thinking.

As for losing Suzuki, why did they bother trading for him in the first place? They needed the cash from the waiver claim? Like the Mariners didn't, after Safecostoverrungate.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Recalled OF Ricky Ledee from Columbus; optioned OF Tony Tarasco to Columbus. [6/24]

Ledee didn't hit that well in Columbus (.252/.346/.435). Shane Spencer hasn't hit well in yet another week-long audition for the left field job. Tony Tarasco didn't show much in his few starts. All of these guys have something to offer, but none of them are going to look good if you only give them a half-dozen starts to "win" the job. The constant state of weekly panics isn't helping; it never does. Brian Cashman needs to act responsibly and give somebody the job for a month or two, not just for a few games, before deciding whether a reshuffle is necessary.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Purchased the contract of RHP Chad Harville from Vancouver; optioned RHP Brett Laxton to Vancouver. [6/22]

Activated OF Eric Stuckenschneider from the DL, and outrighted him to Midland (Double-A). [6/24]

Harville is a pint-sized flamethrower, pure and simple. He throws consistently in the high 90s, and punched out 52 batters in 35 1/3 innings between the Texas League and the PCL. He should be the man who eventually swipes the closer's job from Billy Taylor, but for the time being, he'll get the opportunity to win the setup role, which will push T.J. Mathews into the middle-relief role that Tim Worrell has flubbed so badly.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed SS Desi Relaford on the 15-day DL (torn ligament - wrist); recalled RHP Cliff Politte from Reading (Double-A). [6/23]

Announced RHP Tyler Green has cleared waivers, and been outrighted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/24]

Calling up Politte should be a signal that the Phillies are finally tiring of giving Robert Person his wish and letting him start. Person's been lousy, and Politte has been adequate in the Eastern League: 3-6 with a 3.87 ERA, 75 hits and 24 walks in 74 1/3 innings pitched, while striking out 72. He was rushed by the Cardinals last year, and needed his first extended trial at Double-A, which he seems to have profited from.

In Relaford's absence, Alex Arias will get the lion's share of playing time at shortstop, which won't hurt them too much offensively. The question is who will caddy for Arias. Will Kevin Sefcik finally get back to playing some infield? Or will David Doster get a spot start or two?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Optioned RF Jose Guillen to Nashville; purchased the contract of 1B Ivan Cruz from Nashville; transferred INF Doug Strange from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/24]

Jose Guillen may be symbolic of the organization's almost total rejection of the products of its farm system. His failure to develop, or even noticeably improve in any aspect of the game, hasn't done him or his coaches any credit. Calling up Cruz is a great day for minor league veterans everywhere. He was killing minor league pitching again, pounding 23 home runs while hitting .338/.375/.704. It might be fun if they put Cruz in at first, to move Kevin Young to right field. Of course, that would be a tacit acknowledgement that Brant Brown's not very useful, which they should have know before they traded for him.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed UT Shawon Dunston on the 15-day DL (strained ribcage); placed RHP Curtis King on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/21 (strained shoulder); activated INF David Howard from the DL; recalled RHP Garrett Stephenson from Memphis. [6/23]

Losing Dunston is particularly rough for LaRussa's lineup because he'd been the team's patch at every position on the field and in the lineup. He was hitting an incredible .361/.378/.557, with a passel of clutch pinch-hits, and had generally been an outstanding utility man. Replacing him with free-agent signee David Howard is even more unfortunate. It only gets worse when you consider that this really reduced the team to even more playing time for the collection of beef jerky and baling wire wearing Willie McGee's uniform.

Stephenson's back from his rehab work; it will be interesting to see if he's going to overcome the reputation for abrasiveness that he earned with the Phillies last year, because we all know how patient and understanding Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan can be. Given the mess the entire pitching staff has become, Stephenson might get to start, might get to relieve, and will probably end up doing both. In the rotation, neither Juan Acevedo or Kent Mercker have done much to inspire confidence, while Jose Jimenez has saved himself some grief with last night's no-hitter.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed C/1B Jim Leyritz on the 15-day DL (broken hand); recalled C Ben Davis from Las Vegas. [6/23]

Placed RF Tony Gwynn on the 15-day DL (strained calf); activated RHP Andy Ashby from the DL. [6/24]

Activated 1B Wally Joyner from the DL; optioned RHP Carlos Almanzar to Las Vegas. [6/25]

The Pads are on a hot streak of sorts, so losing Gwynn is at least slightly compensated for by Joyner's return. The lineup desperately needs anyone capable of getting on base, and Joyner's nothing if not patient.

Ashby's return highlights the fact that the team's rotation is becoming a strength. Brian Boehringer earned the right to keep starting, which means that Heath Murray got bumped to the bullpen despite putting together a credible performance as the fifth starter. Ben Davis coming up now is probably slightly ahead of schedule, but he was beginning to hit well at Las Vegas (.308/.384/.512). His glovework remains outstanding. The "problem"? Does he get to play? The Padres have a relative wealth of catchers, even with King Leyritz on the DL. Greg Myers has value in trade, and Phil Nevin is a handy utility man. If Davis is ready right now, they're all out of jobs, and Kevin Towers will have catchers that some contenders--Indians, Braves--could really use down the stretch. It should be fun to see how this plays out.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed OF Armando Rios on the 15-day DL (torn rotator cuff); recalled OF Calvin Murray from Fresno. [6/22]

First and second opinions concurred: Rios has a tear in his rotator cuff, and it should be a while before we see him back. Highly-touted draft flop Calvin Murray is up by accident, since he'll almost certainly go back down once Ellis Burks gets activated.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated RHP Paul Abbott from the DL; optioned RHP Aaron Scheffer to Tacoma. [6/25]

"Thanks kid, and get the hell out of here." Scheffer's saviordom ends up lasting even less time than Steve Gajkowski's did last year. What kind of organization gets itself all worked up about how a minor-league veteran mediocrity like Paul Abbott is going to help turn things around? Since we know such a team exists, and won't contend with that kind of taste, the really important question is: Will that team trade for the Jaime Navarros or Mike Oquists of the world? Woody Woodward's phone ought to be jumping...

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated RHP Dave Eiland from the DL; optioned LHP Alan Newman to Durham. [6/23]

Eiland will reclaim his spot in the rotation, and should stick around until at least the All-Star break, when Rolando Arrojo is supposed to be healthy.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed CF Ruben Mateo on the 15-day DL (pulled groin); recalled CF Scarborough Green from Oklahoma. [6/23]

That big sigh of relief was Tom Goodwin. Mateo's injury prevents him from getting an extended audition for Goodwin's job, which means that Mateo will go through the inevitable rehab assignment, and probably won't have a shot at putting on a major league uniform for at least a month. Goodwin should be back and playing every day long before then, at which point the Rangers will have to decide if they want to make the change down the stretch, or if they're afraid of putting Mateo into that kind of situation. The chance is still there for Mateo to be the Rangers' version of Andruw Jones '96 in the postseason. In the meantime, Scarborough Green's up as a defensive replacement for Roberto Kelly until Goodwin's ready.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed CF Jose Cruz on the 15-day DL (fractured finger); purchased the contract of OF Rob Butler from Knoxville (Double-A); transferred SS Alex Gonzalez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/24]

How dangerous is little ball? Well, Cruz got injured while trying to bunt, and now the Blue Jays wish they were so lucky as to have somebody like Scarborough Green around. It's bad enough that the payoffs for a successful bunt are ludicrously puny, but when it carries a penalty like this....

In Cruz' absence, they're going to miss his bat (.225/.352/.421, with 47 walks), but who would have thought they were going to miss his glove? The guy the Blue Jays are playing in his absence is old Cito Gaston fave Jacob Brumfield, who is not a top notch glove and doesn't hit well enough to deserve a crack as the lefty-mashing half of a corner platoon. Rob Butler was mauling people at Double-A, but 19 walks in 282 plate appearances isn't very productive, and he isn't fast or a power hitter. His chief strength is that he's probably better than Jacob Brumfield, but not so good as to give the Jays a legitimate center fielder. We may see Shannon Stewart get some playing time in center, rag arm or no rag arm.

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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