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July 14, 1999

Transaction Analysis

July 6-11, 1999

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Optioned OF/C Todd Greene to Edmonton; purchased the contract of UT Tim Unroe from Edmonton; transferred RHP Jason Dickson from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/6]

When a guy like Greene--who fields like a DH--sees his OBP drop to .276, I suppose even the Angels have to get frustrated with him. With Tim Salmon gearing up for a return, and with Jim Edmonds perhaps five or six weeks away, there wasn't going to be much playing time for Greene anyway.

What's strange about the move is what it leaves the Angels with: three utility infielders (Andy Sheets, Jeff Huson and Tim Unroe), three catchers (Matt Walbeck, Bret Hemphill and Steve Decker) and Reggie Williams and Orlando Palmeiro playing a whole lot of outfield. Until Salmon returns, some of the aforementioned guys get Greene's ABs. That, friends, is just one way to make a bad offense worse.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated RHP Gregg Olson from the DL; optioned RHP Vicente Padilla to Tucson. [7/8]

Acquired RHP Matt Mantei from the Marlins for RHPs Vladimir Nunez and Brad Penny and a PTBNL; transferred RHP Todd Stottlemyre from the 15- to the 60-day DL; optioned CF Dante Powell to Tucson; purchased the contract of RHP Erik Sabel from Tucson. [7/9]

We'll leave the frying for later, in the Marlins' section. I guess the nicest thing you can say about the trade is that Buck Showalter now has a very interesting closer comination. Normally, when we think of platoons, we think of lefty-righty advantages. But with Olson and his still-good curve, and Mantei and his blistering heat, will Showalter pick and choose his moments for each, in what would be a really unconventional closer platoon? I don't think he will, but the opportunity is there.

Calling up Sabel seems a bit strange, even if it is only for middle relief: he wasn't pitching all that well, having given up 30 runs in 59 innings this year at El Paso and Tucson.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Picked up the option on 3B Cal Ripken's contract for 2000. [7/9]

Maybe I'm being melodramatic, but this sort move sort of sums of the '90s for me. Ripken's being paid for who he is, or more appropriately, who he was. He's going to be paid an awful lot of money for it, sort of like Sylvester Stallone in any flick he gets his mug into, and with about the same level of usefulness.

The measure of the wealth he's accumulated in this decade puts to shame any notions of the '80s being the decade of greed. Why is it the organization has to make the sacrifice in this situation? Okay, maybe I'm being silly to complain about how Peter Angelos spends his money, but Ripken's been below average for most of the decade, and while that may be good enough for politicians or insurance companies, it chaws my hide to see it be sufficient for ballplayers.

Assuming that the Angelos coffers are not the proverbial horn of plenty, never to be emptied, every extra dollar spent on avoiding a possible confrontation with Cal is that much money not spent on fixing this team's various problems.

BOSTON RED SOX

Recalled RHP Rich Garces from Pawtucket; designated RHP Bob Wolcott for assignment. [7/10]

Activated 3B John Valentin from the DL; designated UT Chad Fonville for assignment. [7/11]

Wolcott didn't get much of an opportunity, posting an 8.10 ERA in four mopup outings. Given the state of pitching today, you'd think somebody would claim him.

The interesting dilemma here is whether John Valentin really gets all of his playing time back from Wilton Veras, or even Lou Merloni. The Sox are already saddled with the weak offensive contributions of Damon Buford, Darren Lewis and Jason Varitek, and Valentin has struggled terribly this year. If the Sox didn't also have some other problems--how do you keep Mark Portugal around when he can only pitch well against the Devil Rays? If you just leave Pat Rapp out in the sun, will he evaporate and go away?--they might take the time to address a lineup that desperately needs improving, especially with the Jays slowly regrouping from their early-season bout with the sillies.

Garces is back for another spin, and while he has put up a nice 3.25 at Pawtucket, the five home runs allowed in 27 2/3 innings should be reason for fear.

CHICAGO CUBS

Signed C Jeff Reed for the remainder of the season, with a club option for 2000; optioned RHP Rodney Myers to Iowa. [7/8]

The Cubs make a few tacit acknowledgements here. First, Benito Santiago has been a disaster; second, Tyler Houston really is going to play third base for the rest of the year, as threatened; and third, the end of Sandy Martinez' career as a Cub is on the horizon.

It's very unlikely that the Cubs will carry three catchers--four if you count Houston--and Lance Johnson is supposed to be activated at the end of the week. So Martinez will be exposed to waivers, and to the shock of the Cubs' front office, will almost certainly go unclaimed. He isn't inexperienced, he's almost 27 and he's bad, not much of which has changed for several years.

Demoting Myers may be a mistake, not because he has pitched well--he hasn't--but because it leaves the Cubs with the following bullpen: an injury-prone Matt Karchner, a recuperating Terry Adams, a highly flammable Rick Aguilera, and just one right-hander who you might leave out there for two innings, Scott Sanders. Add that to two situational lefties (Felix Heredia and Ray King), and that's a bullpen that basically demands that that starters get into the seventh every night.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Optioned RHP Pat Daneker to Birmingham (Double-A). [7/9]

Recalled LHP Todd Rizzo from Charlotte. [7/10]

Daneker isn't really being demoted, just being sent back to make a start during the All-Star break before being recalled.

What's interesting is that by promoting Rizzo, the Sox are basically running a competition for two spots in the bullpen among Rizzo, Scott Eyre and Bryan Ward. Rizzo is probably the best bet to stick, since he's shown some effectiveness at retiring left-handers at Charlotte this year (.161 average, no home runs allowed), but his wildness can be daunting, especially with runners aboard.

The hidden possibility here is that with James Baldwin scuffling along with a 6.62 ERA, Eyre or even Ward might get a crack at a start or two. For whatever reason--and he's provided several--Ron Schueler seems reluctant to call up Kevin Beirne or Carlos Castillo to take a spot in the rotation, and Tom Fordham has been flattened at Triple-A this year. So should the Sox decide to bump Baldwin back to the pen--since they can't send him to the minors--Eyre could get a look.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Optioned RHP Dave Wainhouse to Colorado Springs; recalled LHP Mike Porzio from Colorado Springs. [7/9]

Wainhouse flopped again, but this time the call came for the Rox to get that second left-hander that Jim Leyland has been coveting. What's sort of silly is that Porzio is wild (30 walks in 42 2/3 innings, to go with a 3.38 ERA, 44 hits allowed and 33 strikeouts), a situational relief role is a terrible way to break somebody in. It's already a waste of Chuck McElroy to keep him in the role, but asking a rookie to do it is even more short-sighted.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated DH Gregg Jefferies from the DL; optioned RHP Willis Roberts to Toledo. [7/6]

Fired pitching coach Rick Adair, and named Dan Warthen pitching coach. [7/9]

Like a sack of cats a farmer's tossed into the lake, the Tigers start tearing each other up. Well, maybe not. Warthen is another one of Randy Smith's Pad people, so Adair's probably being fired just to make way for a favorite more than he's being canned because this team expects better from Air Blair.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired RHPs Vladimir Nunez and Brad Penny and a PTBNL from the Diamondbacks for RHP Matt Mantei. [7/9]

This basically makes up for the Mike Lowell trade over the winter, in which Dave Dombrowski gave up three good arms for a guy not much better than the third baseman he already had, Kevin Orie. It's also a great move because of the payoff it represents: in exchange for nurturing Mantei through several injuries after making him a Rule 5 pick for in 1995, and with less than 100 good major league innings under his belt, Dombrowski converted him into two good pitching prospects and potentially a third.

"Good" actually understates the case. Penny is the real prize, and would have been worth Mantei straight up. Despite pitching in El Paso--one of the worst places to pitch on the North American continent--he's put up a 4.70 ERA, allowing just nine home runs in 90 innings, while showing good stuff and control (25 walks, 100 strikeouts). Moving to Portland, he should thrive. Nunez has a great fastball and a good slider, which should make him a better reliever for years to come than Mantei will be, plus he's a Cuban, which helps the Marlins keep that local flavor.

So the both of them, plus a PTBNL? Clearly, the mania that saves describe talent is a triumph for the stats-over-sense argument that seems to rule the roost nowadays. That all sorts of people can succeed in relief seems besides the point: whether it's Mantei or Dan Plesac or Matt Karchner or Ricky Rincon, teams will give up too much for too little. And while it ought to encourage teams to convert anyone who runs up a few saves (Mike Williams, for example) into useful prospects, it would be hard to match or even approach the payoff of a deal like this. As dumb as this was for the Snakes, and as smart as it was for the Fish, masterstrokes like this just don't come along every day.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Purchased the contract of C Randy Knorr from New Orleans; optioned RHP Jose Cabrera to New Orleans. [7/6]

Placed RHP Joe Slusarski on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled RHP Jose Cabrera from New Orleans. [7/9]

Placed SS Ricky Gutierrez on the 15-day DL (fractured hamate); recalled INF Russ Johnson from New Orleans. [7/10]

The litany of injuries great and small continues. Tony Eusebio is hurting, so Knorr comes up to platoon with Paul Bako for a week. Slusarski's comeback gets nipped in the bud, so as quickly as he left, Jose Cabrera returns. He still has a good fastball, and may yet turn into a middle-relief surprise.

Gutierrez going down again means Russ Johnson comes back again. This also isn't a setback per se, since Tim Bogar can field the position and Johnson is a handy on-base machine. What happens when Ken Caminiti returns? Probably just a demotion for Knorr, since Eusebio will have had over a week to rest.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Designated RHPs Don Wengert and Marc Pisciotta for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Dan Reichert from Omaha; recalled RHP Ken Ray from Omaha. [7/9]

I guess one of the small satisfactions of having awful pitchers in the first place is that you can cut them without regrets. That the Royals would ignore many years' worth of results that should have spelled out that neither Wengert nor Cookies are major league pitchers isn't to their credit, but it isn't as if using them cost them a shot at the wild card.

Reichert's been very effective in Omaha (9-2, 3.71 ERA, 92 hits, 50 walks and 123 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings) and will step directly into the rotation. That should bump Mac Suzuki into the bullpen. Ken Ray hasn't been too special this year; in 50 innings between Wichita and Omaha, he's given up 52 hits, 16 walks, 30 runs and eight longballs. But he's got 15 saves, and that looks pretty good compared to spending another minute on Wengert or Pisciotta.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed RHP Cal Eldred on the 15-day DL (strained forearm). [7/9]

Recalled INF Lou Collier from Louisville. [7/10]

This is almost a mercy move, in that it will hopefully encourage Eldred to accept a rehab assignment. The Brewers aren't happy that he's refusing to adapt to life without velocity, now that his fastball is a memory left behind on a surgeon's table. With the Brewers' pen working well, they didn't need him to hang around and pitch mopup.

Collier will only pinch-hit for as long as the team keeps him around, but his future is more dependent on how soon Sal Bando can get Fernando Vina onto someone else's roster than anything else.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed CF Manny Martinez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/9 (sprained thumb); recalled OF Chris Stowers from Ottawa. [7/10]

Placed 1B/LF Fernando Seguignol on the 15-day DL (strained quad); activated C/3B Michael Barrett from the DL; optioned 3B Jose Fernandez to Ottawa; recalled 1B/DH Brad Fullmer from Ottawa. [7/11]

Like Shane Andrews before him, Fullmer gets a chance to escape the doghouse. And like Shane Andrews before him, don't bet against his going right back into it.

As much as Manny Martinez may not be a great player, he's leaps and bounds better than Terry Jones or Chris Stowers. Still, with a .307 OBP and a .396 SLG, it isn't like Martinez is irreplaceable. With him or without him, the problem remains the same: Fullmer doesn't get on base, Barrett doesn't get on base, Jones never gets on base, Wil (Little Poison) Guerrero doesn't get on base and neither does Orlando Cabrera...there's sort of a trend here.

NEW YORK METS

Optioned RHP Octavio Dotel to Norfolk; recalled DH Mike Kinkade from Norfolk. [7/8]

Dotel's only going back to Norfolk to make a start because of the All-Star break, a decision treated as organizational genius by some, but it isn't exactly revolutionary, or even unique (see the White Sox and Pat Daneker above, for one example).

Kinkade's only up to ride pine while the Mets use the DH in some upcoming interleague games.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Optioned RHP Todd Erdos to Columbus; purchased the contract of LHP Ed Yarnall from Columbus. [7/11]

Erdos can pitch, but the Yankees have a specific need--left-handed relief--and Yarnall has been devastating to lefties this year. At Columbus this year, left-handed batter have gone 20-for-100 with 43 strikeouts and only five walks, with just one home run. Of course, his overall numbers are good as well: 10-3, 3.29 ERA, 92 hits, 45 walks and 113 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings, just three home runs allowed.

If Andy Pettitte continues to struggle, and should Yarnall succeed in middle relief, there may be a switch down the stretch. The hope is that Torre won't use Yarnall as a situational lefty, instead letting him get his innings to gain experience and confidence, after which they can turn Pettite into a Cub or an Angel or whatever. The fact that the Yankees got a guy who should end up being an above-average major league starter, plus two other pitchers, for an average third baseman they weren't going to use (Mike Lowell) makes it all the sweeter if you're one of those smug Pinstripe-lovers.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Acquired INF Domingo Cedeno was acquired from the Mariners for INF Jose Flores; optioned RHP Cliff Politte to Reading (Double-A); designated RHP Joel Bennett for assignment. [7/7]

This is a strange little deal. Cedeno can hit a little for a utility infielder, but so could Flores, and neither's fielding is going--to borrow a phrase from Chicago Mayor Daley--"to be accoladed so much they get 'laxed on dat". Is the difference between an adequate major league utility infielder and an adequate Triple-A shortstop really such that the Phillies needed to go out and make this deal, versus just calling up Flores? The Phillies' two utility infielders, David Doster and Kevin Jordan, don't really play much shortstop, so why not call up Flores to be Alex Arias' caddy?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated RHP Mike Williams from the DL; optioned LHP Jimmy Anderson to Nashville; purchased the contract of C Chris Tremie from Nashville; transferred RHP Rich Loiselle from the 15- to the 60-day DL; optioned C Yamid Haad to Altoona (Double-A). [7/8]

The Pirates lost out on the bidding for Jeff Reed, which left them calling up the infamously non-dangerous Tremie. That means lots and lots of playing time for Keith Osik.

Meanwhile, RIch Loiselle's out for the year after reconstructive elbow surgery; like John Ericks before him, he's come and gone, exciting roto sensibilities but little else. This year's flavor is Mike Williams, and two years from now, will probably be Jose Silva. None of it will make much of a difference in terms of winning or losing, but it will make for a neat parlor game of "Pirates' closers since Kent Tekulve".

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned LHP Mike Mohler to Memphis; recalled RHP Mike Busby from Memphis. [7/2]

Activated UT Shawon Dunston from the DL; optioned RHP Mike Busby to Memphis. [7/9]

I never thought I'd see the day when a team needed Shawon Dunston back because he's an outfielder, but the Cardinals are that team, especially with more madcap Thomas Howard antics than I can regale you with on a family-oriented Web page.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Acquired RHP Isabel Giron from the Blue Jays for SS Juan Melo. [7/8]

Talk about your nifty little steals. Giron's had his problems this year, but he's a young pitching prospect (21) with good velocity who's still learning to pitch. Juan Melo's a great glove who couldn't hit a cantaloupe with a tennis racket, although he'd be happy to take his hacks trying.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Activated C Scott Servais from the DL; optioned C Doug Mirabelli to Fresno. [7/9]

One of those subtraction-by-addition deals, because Mirabelli's a better hitter than Servais at this point, and probably a better catcher too, now that Servais' mobility is almost gone.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed LHP Jordan Zimmerman on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); recalled RHP Gil Meche from Tacoma. [7/6]

Traded INF Domingo Cedeno to the Phillies for INF Jose Flores. [7/7]

One of the most bizarre things about baseball today is the existence--mostly theoretical--of Gene Budig. Now, maybe I have this overly romantic notion about what a league president is supposed to do. Perhaps I am being unfair in my expectation that the league president should review roster moves to verify their validity. Certainly Budig was happy to tackle the Orioles a couple of weeks ago when they wanted to call up Gabe Molina, but that's probably more of the "get Angelos" spirit that motivates some people in baseball today.

Jordan Zimmerman's "injury" strikes me as one of the more outlandish phony DL moves I've seen in awhile. The convenient excuse is that he sprained his ankle during an altercation with a suitcase in his hotel room at 4 a.m.-an incident sure to be featured on Fox's next "When Luggage Attacks!"--thus making room for Gil Meche, who was already guaranteed a callup to start that day's game. While announcing this fortuitous accident, the Mariners happily chirped about how great this would be for Zimmerman, because he'd get a couple of weeks to work with the major league pitching coach on his breaking stuff before having to try it out live.

Maybe I'm overly suspicious, but I smell a rat, because this just seems far too convenient. Maybe if the AL had a real league president, as opposed to the Gene "I'll shorten any suspension" Budig, a team would get in trouble for pulling this sort of stunt. It might even encourage Lou Piniella to grow up and start using the people he has wisely, as opposed to trying to expand the roster to make room for 16 pitchers, all of them alternately loathed or abused.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Released RHP Roger Bailey from their minors; activated RHP Mickey Callaway and LHP Mike Duvall from the DL, and assigned them to Durham. [7/6]

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated CF Ruben Mateo from the DL; optioned RHP Ryan Glynn to Oklahoma. [7/9]

Another demotion for a rotation starter because of the All-Star break, although Glynn may not get his job back, as the Rangers may instead hand it to Esteban Loaiza. The Rangers are mum on the subject of who's going to get to be their fifth starter next Monday, but given the money they're paying Mark Clark to be on the DL, I doubt a deal's in the works.

Meanwhile, Mateo gets his crack at the center field job; I have little doubt that if they continue to struggle, the kid will get blamed by this veteran team, which will lead to a campaign to get Tom Goodwin back ASAP.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Acquired SS Juan Melo from the Padres for RHP Isabel Giron. [7/8]

Activated CF Jose Cruz from the DL; placed DH Geronimo Berroa on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/30 (pulled oblique). [7/9]

The Blue Jays managed to survive Jacob Brumfield's feeble contributions, and even picked up a couple of games on the Red Sox. There are other good signs: Jim Fregosi has finally stumbled onto the idea that was obvious in March, that Willie Greene really ought to be his DH, and the bullpen is stronger now than it was at season's start with the additions of Billy Koch and Paul Spoljaric. Tony Batista's an improvement on the ill-fated Alex Gonzalez, so the Jays should be well-poised to take the lead in the wild-card race.

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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