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August 15, 1999

Transaction Analysis

August 9-13

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Gave RHP Jack McDowell his unconditional release; purchased the contract of LHP Lou Pote from Edmonton. [8/9]

Placed 1B/OF Darin Erstad on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/11 (strained knee ligament); recalled INF Andy Sheets from Edmonton. [8/13]

After going 0-4 in four starts, it looks like Black Jack has forgotten how to win after all this time--not that pitching for a team with a lousy offense didn't do anything to jog his memory. In his absence, the Angels can pick between Mike Fyhrie and Pote for the fifth spot in the rotation. Pote's been pretty good for the Trappers this year, logging a 4.50 ERA. He punched out 118 batters in 150 innings pitched, while allowing 171 hits (19 homeruns) and 41 walks. Like Fyhrie, he's a minor-league vet who can do more to help a team than a broken-down McDowell. Losing Erstad mercifully puts his offensive woes to an end for the time being, while giving the Angels the opportunity to play Todd Greene more regularly. On the other hand, Sheets' return can only get in the way of playing Trent Durrington; as long as they have Durrington up, he should be getting four or five starts a week, because there's nothing Sheets or Jeff Huson could do to suddenly convince anyone they're somebody else.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned RHP Erik Sabel to Tucson; activated RHP Darren Holmes from the 15-day DL. [8/11]

And I was just getting to warm up to Sabel's nifty forkball. With Matt Mantei bruised and battered from taking a liner off of his foot, getting Holmes back is good news, assuming his back woes are more than just behind him. With Gregg Olson nabbing a couple of saves so far, and armed with Greg Swindell and Bobby Chouinard doing good work in middle relief, the D-backs' pen has gone from a problem to a pretty good outfit, not that that's going to bring Brad Penny back.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Optioned C Pascual Matos to Richmond; purchased the contract of 3B Howard Battle from Richmond; transferred C Javy Lopez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/11]

Battle stumbles into a weeks' worth of major league service time, thanks to the unfortunate decision to demote Randall Simon. Battle was having a nice season at Richmond (.293/.338/.523, with 21 homeruns), but he's 27 and has little defensive value. On a team with a great top-to-bottom lineup, you could afford to carry Battle, but with as many light-hitting regulars as the Braves boast, he'll be back in Richmond soon enough.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Recalled RHP Kip Wells from Birmingham (Double-A); optioned INF Liu Rodriguez to Birmingham; after the first game of Friday's double-header, optioned Wells back to Birmingham; activated OF Darrin Jackson from the DL. [8/13]

Although Wells again flashed three good pitches (curve, slider, and fastball) and notched his second win in as many starts, and despite threats that the Sox may be putting him in to the rotation to stay sometime soon, they sent him back down for now. The dilemma for the Sox is whether they can finally get Jaime Navarro into a Rangers uniform (although with Esteban Loaiza pitching well, their sense of need is probably gone). At this point, Navarro's contract is a sunk cost, and he's only impeding the team's improvement from here on out. Taking the hit to team payroll may not be much fun next year, but the added wins and playing time to invest in someone useful should make it much easier to take. The Sox are reluctant to give up on James Baldwin or John Snyder just yet, which means only one spot in the rotation should be fair game from here on out.

The decision to bring up Rodriguez in the first place was strange; as disappointing as Mike Caruso has been, Rodriguez is a second baseman who can't really play short, and it isn't as if he could spot Greg Norton at third either. Ray Durham doesn't need to come out very often, so while Jerry Manuel wants another infielder on the bench, long-term the Sox are stuck with the dilemmas of whether or not Paul Konerko should take up third base again, or where Carlos Lee's going to end up playing. Because Mario Valdez and Brian Simmons, and eventually Aaron Rowand, are going to force their way into the first-base and left-field pictures, the Sox have some tough choices to make as far as who's going to be important to the team in the future.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed RHP Jaret Wright on the 15-day DL (upper back, shoulder, coming back too soon); activated LHP Tom Martin from the DL; designated LHP Chris Haney and RHP Jeff Tam for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP David Riske from Buffalo. [8/9]

Activated CF Kenny Lofton from the DL; optioned 3B Russell Branyan to Buffalo; outrighted LHP Chris Haney to Buffalo; signed INF Jeff Manto to a minor-league contract. [8/13]

There's something really wrong in Cleveland, and my bet is that it's pitching coach Phil Regan. For the second time this year, an Indians starter pitched without telling anyone about an aching shoulder, and for the second time, it put that starter on the DL (Gooden did it before Wright did). You can blame the players for being irresponsible, but when you and I know that Wright and Gooden have physical problems but Regan claims he didn't, something seems amiss.

That puts the Indians in the situation to take a gamble, one that I don't begrudge them: Steve Karsay's going into the rotation. Having failed to acquire a top starter so far, the Tribe needs to get quality innings at the front end of a game from somebody. On this team, Karsay's the best bet they have. Despite his previous trip to the DL, he hasn't hurt his arm this year, and while we all know Mike Hargrove doesn't fret over pitch counts with Bartolo Colon, he's making the right noises about being careful with Karsay. If Karsay can put in nine starts or so without hurting his arm, he could be the #2 starter in the playoffs behind Colon, which might be what they need to have a fighting chance against the Yankees. Is it desperate? Sure. Is Karsay a great bet to hurt himself? Definitely, but Karsay's health record is such that he could blow out his elbow tomorrow picking up a suitcase. If the Tribe wants to take their best shot at winning the World Series this year without trading for a top-notch starter, they're going to have to take a risk like this.

As for the other moves, Branyan didn't have Hargrove's confidence, so don't be surprised when Jeff Manto comes up and nabs Jolbert Cabrera's roster spot in a few days. Calling up Riske to take Karsay's place in the pen is no loss. Riske has great movement on his fastball, and has been inspired this year between Akron and Buffalo: a 1.36 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 46.1 IP, with only 19 hits (one homerun) and 18 walks allowed. That's nineteen hits, and I don't care if you're only being used as a closer and have only one pitch, that's Zimmerman territory as far as dominating the opposition.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Traded CF Brian McRae to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL; recalled OF Edgard Clemente from Colorado Springs. [8/9]

Who'da thunk the Rockies would engage in an out-and-out salary dump? McRae wasn't going to do them any good anyways, and they will get to spend the time taking a few looks at Clemente and Jeff Barry. Unfortunately, Clemente still wasn't hitting especially well at Colorado Springs (.304/.355/.575 in the thin air), and still doesn't understand what it means when the umpire calls something other than a strike. The danger is that the Rox will get too excited about either Clemente or Barry, and write them in for next year. Seeing as how they haven't even really noticed how bad Dante Bichette has been this year, I wouldn't be too optimistic.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed OF Richard Hidalgo on the 15-day DL (inflamed knee); recalled LF Lance Berkman from New Orleans. [8/13]

Rats, more reasons to use the organization's outstanding depth. Resting up Hidalgo's knee, not to mention bringing his terrible slump at the plate to an end, are both good ideas, while creating playing time for Berkman in left should help the offense. If Berkman shines over the next couple of weeks, the Astros can happily drop Derek Bell to his platoon mate once Moises Alou is back and up to full strength.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated RHPs Terry Mathews and Jeff Montgomery from the DL; optioned RHPs Brian Barber and Ken Ray to Omaha. [8/9]

Traded LHP Jeremy Jackson to the Mets for RHP Derek Wallace. [8/13]

On the Royals, this is improvement, because they get to replace guys with ERAs of 9.64 and 8.74 with guys with ERAs of 4.38 and 7.45. Yippee! Mathews was actually a stalwart in middle relief earlier this season, so his return will at least staunch the bleeding in the sixth and seventh innings. Whether Montgomery and Scott Service can take things from there, or just make Tony Muser's hair fall out or his ulcers bleed, well, that's a whole different kettle of fish. Trading for Wallace is an interesting little move; Jackson is years away from being a prospect (if ever), although Wallace apparently doesn't have the command of his stuff that he used to have, this is a good low-risk investment. Heck, we're not talking Don Wengert here.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Optioned LHP Jeff Kubenka to Albuquerque; recalled RHP Mike Judd from Albuquerque. [8/11]

Activated 2B Eric Young off of the DL; optioned RHP Matt Herges to Albuquerque. [8/13]

Judd had what's called a decent start these days, giving up four runs in less than seven innings against the light-scoring Expos, so he gets to be the fifth starter for another start or two. He was not pitching well in Albuquerque, even if you take note of the PCL bandbox effect: a 6.67 ERA, not to mention 90 runs allowed in 110.2 IP, with 132 hits (22 homeruns), but a nice ratio of 122 strikeouts to 47 walks. You might argue he was playing down to the level of his team, because the Dukes are a bad offensive team (10th out of 16 in the PCL), and they aren't a good defensive squad. Basically, given that the alternatives are Carlos Perez or Jamie Arnold, it's just as well that they give the spot to Judd to give them some experience with him before camp next year.

Eric Young's return is good news. As much as he's being flogged for what he isn't, he is a step up from Craig Counsell or Jose Vizcaino.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Fired manager Phil Garner; named hitting coach Jim Lefebvre interim manager; announced the resignation of GM Sal Bando, while shuttling back to a role as special assistant to club president Wendy Selig-Prieb. [8/12]

Signed RHP Jason Bere to a minor-league contract. [8/13]

Bando recommending his own axing (as well as that of Garner) is an uncommon thing in this day and age. Like the twin whackings of Harry Dalton and Tom Trebelhorn after 1991, it's just as well that the Brewers take their time to start over. The question is who will they choose to bring in. In Bando's absence, Chicken Stanley's been given the responsibilities of the GM role, and while years of mediocrity might demand radical solutions, I won't be surprised if Stanley or Cecil Cooper gets to run the show this winter. As for a new manager, like the White Sox' decision to hire Jerry Manuel (what with Jerry Reinsdorf chairing the committee on minority hiring for MLB), I won't be surprised to see the Brewers give minorities serious consideration for the job. There would be something perversely fit if Don Baylor got the job, in that Baylor bitched the loudest about Phil Garner's hiring in the first place, despite his having done almost nothing to earn consideration for a managerial job himself at the time. More likely is that the Brewers first try to coax Paul Molitor into some sort of role, while giving Davey Lopes or Chris Chambliss a well-earned opportunity on the field.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Activated LHP Mark Redman from the DL, and optioned him to Salt Lake. [8/10]

This begs the question of why they called him up in the first place, if they just wanted to keep Benj Sampson or Dan Perkins in the fifth spot. Hopefully, Redman will only be down for a brief tune-up before reclaiming the last spot in the rotation. The alternative is that the Twins don't know what they're doing.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed SS Orlando Cabrera on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); purchased the contract of INF Geoff Blum from Ottawa. [8/9]

Activated RHP Miguel Batista from the DL; optioned RHP J.D. Smart to Ottawa. [8/10]

Optioned RHP Guillermo Mota to Ottawa; recalled, and after the first game of Friday's double-header, returned, RHP Mike Johnson from and to Ottawa; purchased the contract of RHP Scott Strickland from Ottawa. [8/13]

Cabrera's out for close to a month after finally heating up at the plate in the previous week. In his stead is one of my greatest sources of embarassment from last year's book, Geoff Blum. Flash back to mid-December, when I made the decision to drop Blum from BP 1999. Now I feel really lousy about that decision (worse than I do about cutting Tim Spehr, for example, because we should all already know as much as we need to know about Tim Spehr), because he's somebody you should have gotten to know about before now. In an organization in love with "teaching" situational hitting, Blum's a switch-hitting middle infielder who settles for getting on base and pasting an occassional extra-base hit. At Ottawa this year, he was hitting .265/.350/.437, with ten homeruns. At 26, he won't ever be a star, but he's close to ideal as far as utilitymen go: some pop, a switch-hitter, a solid bunter, able to contribute by drawing a walk, and even swipe a base now and again. Because he has use, he may end up getting most of the playing time over Mike Mordecai at short, and by then, he'll have earned Mordecai's job in 2000.

The rest of the roster shuffling is based on the Friday-Sunday double-headers against the Rockies. It should tell you everything you need to know about Batista's future role with the club that despite five games in three days, he won't get a start.

NEW YORK METS

Placed RHP Rick Reed on the 15-day DL (strained ligament - hand); recalled RHP Dan Murray from Norfolk. [8/9]

Claimed RHP Jeff Tam off of waivers from the Indians; optioned RHP Dan Murray to Norfolk. [8/11]

Traded RHP Derek Wallace to the Royals for LHP Jeremy Jackson. [8/13]

Losing Reed isn't good news for the Mets, since it keeps Masato Yoshii in the rotation. That means more games where the Mets' pen may not come in soon enough to give the offense the time to catch up.

Fortunately, claiming Tam is a nice enough move to compensate. A sturdy soft-tosser, between Tam and Pat Mahomes, the Mets have two decent middle men to bring in early and get the game to the sixth inning and the primo foursome of setup men to Armando Benitez: righties Billy Taylor and Turk Wendell, and lefties Dennis Cook and Chuck McElroy. I've had my doubts about some seven-man bullpens, but Valentine seems to have a handle on how to run this one. Fortunately or not, it seems a prime ingredient is a couple of starters (like Yoshii or Orel Hershiser) who get tired by the fifth inning.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated RHP Jeff Nelson from the DL, optioned RHP Dan Naulty to Columbus. [8/11]

Nelson has struggled in his outings since coming off of the DL, so he may not have healed up entirely. Naulty's recent struggles only clinched that he's not going to make the playoff roster if Nelson can do any better than roll the ball to home plate.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHP Curt Schilling on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/8 (shoulder inflammation); recalled LHP Anthony Shumaker from Scranton Wilkes-Barre. [8/13]

Looks like the Phillies have run out of excuses, and Schilling's damaged goods. Worst case scenario, at least he hasn't had a career like Mario Soto's, where he got to be the ace of a team that never mattered. Best case, he comes back before Labor Day and the Phillies get to play spoiler in September. Don't tell me, you weren't one of the people who harbored greater ambitions for this team than that?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated 2B/SS Mike Benjamin from the DL; designated 3B/OF Freddy Garcia for assignment; activated OF Turner Ward from the DL, and unconditionally released him. [8/11]

Garcia probably won't attract any more attention on the waiver wire than George Arias did, even if the Cubs could use either of them. Turner Ward isn't especially different from the same-named guy that they gave a two-year contract to, so while it's interesting that they've decided to eat the last eight weeks' worth of paychecks, we're still talking about the team that gave him that contract, not to mention to Meares multi-year atrocity.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed 2B Quilvio Veras on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/8 (strained quadriceps); purchased contract of C Wiklenman Gonzalez from Las Vegas. [8/13]

The nicest thing about the bad news of losing Veras is that it gives the team another way to keep Damian Jackson playing. With Chris Gomez' return, that was becoming a problem. Of course, signing Carlos Baerga at the tail end of his four-year run of worthlessness was an added complication.

Now that Phil Nevin's getting a full-time trial as the team's third baseman of the future, and since the trades of both Jim Leyritz and Greg Myers, the Pads needed to add someone else to back up Ben Davis, and baseball's first Wiklenman is the answer. Gonzalez has been around the organization for years after starting out with the Brewers, even getting passed up by Davis two years ago, but he's still only 25, and broke through this year at Mobile before getting even hotter at Las Vegas. He isn't a bad catcher either, so he won't be a bad caddy for Davis. Maybe he can ask Bochy how it felt backing up Terry Kennedy for years.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled C Doug Mirabelli from Fresno; optioned 3B Edwards Guzman to Fresno. [8/10]

This is sort of a strange little move, in that the Mayne/Servais platoon has been productive by it's own lights. Mayne's hit .311/.380/.430, while Servais has hit .272/.331/.399. Of course, seeing what the D-Rays turned Joe Oliver into, maybe Brian Sabean thinks he can turn Servais around for a baseball player too. Mirabelli clearly will be an improvement, offering more power and moving Mayne into a handy caddy role, but the Giants need more than this to help their offense or their chances of passing the Snakes.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated 2B Miguel Cairo from the DL; optioned RHP Mickey Callaway to Durham. [8/11]

Cairo's return isn't going to help the D-Rays' defense, since it pushed Tony Graffanino to shortstop. Life would just be easier if Wade Boggs would call it quits.

As for Callaway's demotion, his ERA is higher than Wade Boggs'--you could say he earned it.

TEXAS RANGERS

Recalled RHP Ryan Glynn from Oklahoma; optioned LHP Doug Davis to Oklahoma. [8/10]

Glynn's only back because of Friday's double-header, since Esteban Loaiza should have his teeth sunk into the fourth or fifth spot from here on out. On the other hand, if John Burkett scuffles...

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed INF Craig Grebeck on the 15-day DL (foot); recalled SS Chris Woodward from Syracuse. [8/9]

Acquired CF Brian McRae from the Rockies for a PTBNL. [8/9]

Placed 1B David Segui on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/7 (fractured bone - hand). [8/10]

Had to cope with CF Curtis Goodwin's decision to disappear/retire; recalled RHP Peter Munro and 3B Casey Blake from Syracuse; placed 3B Willis Otanez on the 15-day DL (strained forearm). [8/12]

Ugh, what a mess. As an A's fan, I can thank my lucky stars that the Jays don't seem to understand, as Joe Sheehan put it, that the additive property doesn't work in baseball: three crummy centerfielders doesn't add up to one adequate one. Heck, even Curtis Goodwin understands that, and nobly chose discretion over the valor of sitting behind both Brian McRae and the execrable Jacob Brumfield.

That isn't to say all's lost. Best-case scenarios for the Blue Jays with McRae in the fold and Segui down are that Willie Greene finally gets to DH for a couple of weeks at a time, while you hope that McRae was pulling a Tony Fernandez-style "get me out of New York" tank job. Worst case is that Brumfield DHs, McRae continues to suck, and the Jays wonder why they never got better despite being so active.

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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