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August 10, 1999

Transaction Analysis

August 6-8, 1999

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Purchased the contract of 2B Trent Durrington from Erie (Double-A); optioned INF Andy Sheets to Edmonton; released C Charlie O'Brien outright. [8/6]

Activated RHP Tim Belcher from the DL; optioned C Steve Decker to Edmonton. [8/7]

Well, hand it to the Angels. They aren't going to just give the fans a warmed-over Jeff Huson. They probably saw that Fox In the Zone feature on Dave Nilsson, and decided that what they needed was a nice Aussie with merchandising potential. Better yet, an Aussie knockoff on their own ill-fated Justin Baughman! Genius, I tell you! Dial me up some Kangaroo Beanie Babies, and this team will yet have some sort of success, yessireebob.

Durrington's a blazer (59 steals in 75 attempts), but in his repeat year at Double-A he's hardly been dominant with the bat (.288/.379/.381). It is the Eastern League, and he is only just about to turn 24...and c'mon, he's not Jeff Huson. Taking a two-month look-see isn't the worst possible thing in the world. The worst possible thing in the world now sits at the end of the bench, wearing Jeff Huson's uniform.

Tim Belcher is back, and the nicest things you can say are that he'll continue to fulfill his prophecy about how easy it is to score runs these days (while he's pitching, anyway), while being a much, much better pitcher than Jeff Huson.

Steve Decker needed to be shipped off to the Edmonton gulag for not only outplaying a nice guy like Matt Walbeck, but completely embarrassing Jeff Huson by hitting the ball hard, getting on base and being good at other baseball-related activities.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Announced that C Eddie Perez dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension by the NL; recalled C Pascual Matos from Richmond; optioned 1B Randall Simon to Richmond. [8/7]

Simon loses his platoon job at first base for four days because John Schuerholz won't stare at himself in the mirror and say, "damn, Ozzie Guillen is absolutely worthless". If he can't bring himself to cut loose his third-string shortstop, maybe the Braves should re-evaluate how important it is to keep Bruce Chen in the pen for mop-up duty. As long as the Braves are stuck with a 24-man roster for four days, they could do a much better job of minimizing the damage than sending Simon down.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed CF Damon Buford on the 15-day DL (abdominal strain); activated RHP John Wasdin from the DL. [8/7]

Scratch one bottom-of-the-barrel center fielder. The interesting development here is that the Red Sox have made the wise choice, and decided against just handing the job to Darren Lewis. They're taking a look at Donnie Sadler in center field. After enjoying a few good months at Pawtucket (.291/.361/.424), Sadler's a much better choice to play regularly, while Lewis can be put to use as Sadler's defensive replacement and a pinch-runner.

With Martinez is limited to five or six innings, Saberhagen's durability an open question and Pat Rapp and Mark Portugal being who they are, an extra long reliever isn't a bad thing at all, even if it does mean the Sox are up to twelve pitchers.

CHICAGO CUBS

Recalled 2B/CF Chad Meyers and purchased the contract of LHP Andrew Lorraine from Iowa; placed (and lost) CF Curtis Goodwin on waivers; optioned LHP Ray King to Iowa. [8/6]

Forced to make a couple of moves by a doubleheader and Curtis Goodwin's persistent crumminess, the Cubs end up helping themselves out. Andrew Lorraine finally got that big break he's needed to move from solid Triple-A rotation regular to major-league fifth starter. He's had a better track record than Dan Serafini, and Kyle Farnsworth needs to enjoy some measure of success in the bullpen before he'll be ready for any sort of consistency as a starter.

This year at Iowa, Lorraine was being his sturdy self: a 3.71 ERA, with 149 hits and 16 home runs allowed in 143 innings pitched, and a 96-to-43 K/BB ratio. While he isn't going to continue having major successes like last Friday's three-hit shutout, he's only just about to turn 27. If Jamie Moyer can turn it around, I could see where Lorraine can, too.

As for calling up Chad Meyers, he should finally answer the Cubs' age-old leadoff problem. Between Double-A and Triple-A this year, he hit .317/.414/.436, taking 55 walks in 481 plate appearances while swiping 39 bases in 53 attempts. The question is where he'll play, both now and into the future. After a week-long refresher at Iowa, he's going back to his college position in the outfield. With the Cubs and their thunder-footed outfield, that means he's going to center. Whether they're giving up on the attempt to turn him into a second baseman is an open question, probably to be determined by whether or not Mickey Morandini re-signs.

If Morandini does return, and assuming Mark Grace does as well, that gives the Cubs only two positions where they can do anything to help their weak offense: third base and catcher. The best hope Cubs fans can take from that is that with such a short laundry list, their team might actually get something better than Benito Santiago or Gary Gaetti. Getting a good player at either position? Hey, let's not get greedy...

CHICAGO CUBS

Purchased the contract of LHP Jesus Pena from Birmingham (Double-A). [8/6]

Pena brings the Sox to twelve pitchers, but as long as Scott Eyre's following in Bryan Ward's footsteps as far as "contributions", that may not last. Keep in mind, however, that the Sox are already having problems making playing time for Brian Simmons and Liu Rodriguez. The point is basically mooted by the need to bring up another starter for Friday night's doubleheader against the Rangers. It's expected that Kip Wells will get the call, for at least a one-start return engagement.

Pena's a fun pitcher to watch by reputation, animated about the outs he logs, while dialing up heat into the low 90s. He was having a good year at Birmingham, putting up a 2.37 ERA while striking out 49 batters in 45 2/3 innings, allowing 49 baserunners. He's the closest thing to a left-handed setup guy in the organization, so he's a good bet to stick.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed CF Kenny Lofton on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring) and OF Jacob Cruz on the 15-day DL (torn ligament - thumb); recalled UT Jolbert Cabrera, and purchased the contract of CF Dave Roberts from Buffalo. [8/7]

Lofton's strained hamstring can use the rest, so while the Tribe can kvetch about their walking wounded, the fact of the matter is nobody else is going to mount a challenge, and they have several solid fill-ins.

Unfortunately, their best choice for Lofton's replacement was Cruz, who's lost for the year and has to hope for a Bruce Aven-like resurrection next season. In both of their absences, the Tribe will hand center field over to a platoon of career minor-leaguer Dave Roberts and utility man Cabrera. At Buffalo this year, Roberts misplaced the stroke that caught people's eyes last year during a hot first half at Akron, having settled down to hit .267/.346/.371 with 39 steals in 42 attempts. Again, as long as Lofton heals in two weeks, there's no real cause for concern. The Sox are scuffling, and the fistfight over who gets to finish third is being won by the Twins. Nobody's going to sneak up on the Tribe if they have another two-week stretch in which they win six or seven games.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Activated UT Kurt Abbott from the DL; optioned UT Chris Sexton to Colorado Springs. [8/7]

Manager's pet Abbott will go straight back into the lineup as the semi-regular second baseman. Lenny Harris has that pinch-hitting record to keep chasing, and Terry Shumpert has been much too effective to be allowed to continue to play.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Recalled CF Todd Dunwoody from Calgary; optioned PH Tim Hyers to Calgary. [8/7]

With Preston Wilson and Bruce Aven battling injuries, the Fish needed someone who could actually play the outfield once in a while. If you're a Dunwoody fan, you might have hoped that the demotion would do him some good, but his stint in Calgary didn't help: he hit only .272/.304/.504, while drawing a mere 10 walks in 260 plate appearances. In other words, he isn't going to run Wilson off, but he will get to time-share a spot start or two every week with Danny Bautista.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Activated RHP Sean Bergman from the DL; optioned RHP Jose Cabrera to New Orleans. [8/6]

A call-up forced by Friday's doubleheader against the Cubs, in which Bergman managed to re-convince everyone that Chris Holt, bad luck notwithstanding, should still be the fifth starter. The important question is whether Bergman can help the team as a middle reliever more than Cabrera, which I doubt.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed 2B/SS Jorge Velandia on the 15-day DL (ankle); activated RHP Tim Worrell from the DL. [8/8]

After all my railing about Jeff Huson, I suppose it shouldn't surprise anyone to find out that Jorge Velandia hurt himself swinging the bat, something he's equally ill-equipped to do. The A's will have a tougher choice ahead of them in a week, when they'll want to reactivate Olmedo Saenz. Then the question will be whether they'll bump a twelfth pitcher (Mike Oquist? A demotion for Jimmy Haynes? Worrell?), or option Scott Spiezio or Jason McDonald out of town.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHP Steve Montgomery on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/3 (strained groin); purchased the contract of LHP Billy Brewer from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/7]

Losing Montgomery gives the Phillies an interest crew of desperadoes in the bullpen of three righties and three lefties. The portsiders are all rehabbed retreads: Brewer, fighting his way back from blowing his arm out last year, plus greybeards Scott Aldred and Jim Poole. The righties have one guy you'd call a prospect in proto-closer Wayne Gomes, one of the league's best scrapheap pickups in Amaury Telemaco, and the definitive Triple-A veteran in Steve Schrenk.

It's not a great pen, but it isn't a major problem either. It's an interesting collection of guys--even without counting retreads Montgomery or Joe Grahe--who turn represent an object lesson in how easy it can be to cobble together an adequate pen.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHP Larry Luebbers to Memphis; recalled RHP Garrett Stephenson from Memphis. [8/6]

Stephenson came up to pitch as a result of last weekend's doubleheader, and after giving up one run to the Pirates, is probably the Cards' #2 starter for at least another two weeks. Luebbers is another one of those Triple-A vets who managed to crack the bigs this year instead of the expansion year, and given how awful Kent Mercker has been, probably deserves to stick around after four serviceable (as opposed to good) starts.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled 3B Edwards Guzman from Fresno; optioned RHP Joe Nathan to Fresno. [8/6]

Guzman isn't really up to play or anything, while Nathan could probably do the team some good out of the pen. Heck, even Calvin Murray or Chris Canizaro would be better to have around at the end of the bench as long as Jeff Kent is down and Ellis Burks has two bad knees.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned OF Shane Monahan to Tacoma; recalled RHP Todd Williams from Tacoma. [8/7]

In keeping with Mt. Piniella's latest diktat (bullpens must have veterans, and rotations must have rookies), Williams is up after a brief one-game stay at Tacoma. This followed a stint on Team USA in the Pan Am games, which followed another season as Indianapolis' closer. Outside of the Pan Am Games, Williams has a 4.91 ERA, an eye-catching--if you're Piniella--25 saves, and he's old enough to have wrestled with problems like what to do with unwanted ear hair. Best yet, if he flops, Piniella has plausible deniability, because who could actually win anything with a guy like Todd Williams?

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated LHP Wilson Alvarez from the DL; optioned OF Rich Butler and RHP Bryan Rekar to Durham; recalled RF Jose Guillen from Durham. [8/8]

Guillen managed to pop three home runs in nine games for Durham, so he's your D-Rays right fielder, just like that. If he's supposed to have sorted himself out already and shed his Pirates baggage, color me doubtful. He's going to end up swiping playing time from somebody who can put some runs on the board, like Bubba Trammell, which doesn't make me any more impressed by the move.

With Alvarez's return to the rotation, the Devil Fish now have a rotation of one guy with a future (Ryan Rupe) and four guys who can give him all sorts of advice (Alvarez, Rolando Arrojo, Bobby Witt and Dave Eiland). Okay, so Eiland's tips on where to eat and sleep in International League cities might not be what the kid needs.

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated CF Tom Goodwin from the DL. [8/6]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Claimed CF Curtis Goodwin off waivers from the Cubs; optioned CF Jose Cruz, Jr. to Syracuse. [8/6]

Sometimes a team's capacity for stupidity cannot cease to amaze. Curtis Goodwin might play a baseball player on TV, but neither he nor Jacob Brumfield even remotely resembles a useful fourth outfielder, let alone a regular center field platoon. Acknowledging that, Gord Ash picked up Brian McRae on Monday, but that's just picking up a bad, hurt center fielder, when they already had a useful major league player on their hands in Cruz.

Everyone's bitching about the strikeouts and the .228 batting average, but Cruz is a guy who can do a decent job in the field, has poked 11 home runs, taken 54 walks and even swiped 11 bases in 14 attempts. Is that an All-Star? No. Is that less than what the Jays wanted? Certainly. Is it useful? A far sight more than anything this team's going to get out of two scrubs and Brian McRae.

That cheering you hear is coming from Dan Duquette and Billy Beane. As long as the Jays keep finding ways to hurt themselves, they'll run out of season before they figure out they could have played .600 ball and snagged the wild card in the last two months.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  A's,  The Who,  Triple-A,  Rookies Of The Year,  The Call-up,  Call-up

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