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August 17, 1999

Transaction Analysis

August 14-16, 1999

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Ken Hill on the 15-day DL (strained groin, strained abdominal muscle, tendinitis/knee, plain old broken-downedness). [8/15]

Recalled LHP Jarrod Washburn from Edmonton. [8/16]

The Angels' rotation has been exactly the debacle it was supposed to be all season. Now that they've mercifully put Ken Hill on the shelf and Black Jack in the killing jar, they need to sit Tim Belcher down for the remainder of the season so that they can get serious about looking at some of the "maybe" pitchers for next year's staff.

That means calling up Washburn and putting him into the rotation, where he belonged from the get-go after last year's good work. In an injury-plagued season, he still managed a 4.73 ERA in the PCL, with 55 strikeouts in 59 innings, allowing 50 hits and 17 walks. It means Ramon Ortiz will be called up and start on Thursday. It's probably worthwhile to take a look at Mike Fyhrie, not because he'll grow up to be Greg Maddux, but because the experience will give the Angels something to draw on if they decide to keep him around as their fifth starter. At least. It could give him value as a throw-in in one of the deals they're going to have to make this winter.

Belcher has no value. He's a paycheck, and whether the team pays him to pitch and bitch or vacation for the duration, the only thing of value the team can get from him is his playing time, given to someone more deserving or relevant to the organization's future.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed 1B Travis Lee on the 15-day DL (torn ligaments/ankle). [8/15]

Recalled OF Rob Ryan from Tucson. [8/16]

Lee had already lost his job to the platoon of Erubiel Durazo and Greg Colbrunn, which raises an interesting question: are young first basemen the guys you really want to invest in, long-term? A team should always be able to find a solid bat to pencil in at first, which leads us to rightly doubt the wisdom of the Giants for giving J.T. Snow oodles of cash, and warn the Phillies against similarly rewarding Rico Brogna.

The Brewers adopted a completely different approach with John Jaha, going year-to-year with him until finally deciding his bad wheels weren't worth a multi-year contract. For them, it was a worthwhile decision, no matter how well he's subsequently played for the A's; there was no guarantee he'd perform if given lots of money for lots of years. Given his track record, he could have broken his foot or blown out his knee at any point, and the Brewers knew it.

The difference between John Jaha (or Snow or Brogna) and Travis Lee is that Jaha was old coming up and was under his team's control until he was eligible for free agency, while Lee was signed as a free agent because of a draft screwup. The D'backs had to pay for Lee in direct competition with other clubs. It was a calculated risk at the time, and should still pay off in that Lee ought to have a good major league career. Like several recent players with limited experience above A-ball before cracking the majors (Jon Nunnally and Mike Caruso come to mind), Lee has struggled in his second season in the majors. He's still only 24, but he also may be trade bait by next spring if Durazo breaks through in his absence.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated C Scott Hatteberg from the DL; designated C Lenny Webster for assignment. [8/16]

It isn't easy being Lenny. When the reason for your professional existence is to be Scott Erickson's personal catcher, and the team that has Scott Erickson doesn't want you, it had better be you and not Gregg Zaun hitting called shots.

The Hatteberg/Varitek combo was an asset behind the plate last year, and the experience Varitek has gotten in Hatteberg's absence should profit the Sox by eliminating the straight platoon. Jimy Williams can mix and match them as he sees fit, which will strengthen the bottom third of the lineup.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Acquired 2B/3B Carlos Baerga from the Padres for a PTBNL or cash; optioned UT Jolbert Cabrera to Buffalo; transferred OF Jacob Cruz from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/16]

The Indians are claiming that Baerga is "not just here for a warm fuzzy; he's here to help us win" The Braves said the same thing about picking up Terry Pendleton two years ago. This move is just as misguided, representing the deliberate selection of a worst-case scenario because it's familiar.

Until Travis Fryman heals, and with nothing at stake but playing time and experience, the Tribe flubbed their chance to help themselves by either playing Jeff Manto or giving Russell Branyan a clean shot at six or seven weeks of major league playing time. Already having made the mistake of bringing in Wil Cordero to crowd out Richie Sexson at DH--only to have Sexson worm his way back into the lineup--the Indians appear to be desperately afraid of letting talented ballplayers earn spots on the postseason roster over retreads like the Beeg Belly. Either John Hart wants to make a point, as he did with Kenny Lofton, or he's going to have to tell us it wasn't so bad, because he didn't inhale.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed RHP Mike DeJean on the 15-day DL (tendinitis/elbow, mercy); recalled RHP John Thomson from Colorado Springs. [8/14]

Thomson gets a reprieve, in that he might get the next seven weeks to reclaim something from a season mostly lost to injuries and Jim Leyland's whims.

You have to hope DeJean's season is at an end. Even by Coors standards, an ERA of 8.05, with 12 home runs allowed in 53 2/3 innings, is grisly. Of course, like Thomson and most of the bullpen, DeJean might have been better off with someone else running the pitching staff....

DETROIT TIGERS

Placed LHP Justin Thompson on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Matt Anderson from Toledo. [8/16]

Early on, the Tigers are saying Thompson's shoulder isn't so bad that he'll have to be shut down for the year, but this bears watching closely. Thompson's shoulder has been a source of concern during his entire career, and if they run him out there for competitiveness' sake, they could get burned. The Tigers can't even claim to be playing for pride at this point, while Randy Smith has ludicrously pronounced this season a massive fluke.

Meanwhile, Anderson didn't sort himself out in Toledo, getting plastered for a 6.40 ERA while allowing 31 walks, 32 hits and nine home runs in 38 innings. In short, he's no Francisco Cordero.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Activated C Tony Eusebio from the DL; designated C Randy Knorr forassignment. [8/15]

Activated 3B Ken Caminiti from the DL; optioned INF Russ Johnson to New Orleans. [8/16]

Caminiti's return comes just as Derek Bell will be hitting the DL, maintaining the team's quota of lineup regulars lost to the DL (four or five, depending on how you look at it). While performance approaching last year's might be too much to expect from Caminiti, as long as he outhits Bell--easy enough--it's a net gain for the team offense. Similarly, it isn't that Eusebio is a great offensive player, but a .340 OBP is a nice thing to have at the bottom of the order. His absences have given Paul Bako opportunity to earn a bigger chunk of the playing time, adding a lefty bat with even better patience (.358 OBP).

Demoting Johnson seemed unjust given that he finally got to show that he deserves a major league job, but he's coming back in Bell's place.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Released RHP Terry Mathews and LHP Matt Whisenant; added RHP Derek Wallace to the active roster; recalled RHP Chris Fussell from Omaha. [8/14]

This year's horrendous bullpen experience coule be an excellent example of negative reinforcement, in that Tony Muser probably now believes in the interchangeability of relievers. It's a good thing to believe, even if he got there by foul rather than fair means.

Both Mathews and Whisenant can be helpful, but the Royals have a responsibility to their own future. Putting Fussell into long relief right now should give him the sort of experience which will help his bid to win a spot in the rotation next year, while Wallace will get a chance to show whether he'll ever be more than another New York newspaper puff piece.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed RHP Steve Woodard on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/12 (fractured wrist). [8/14]

Activated RHP Cal Eldred from the DL. [8/15]

Woodard broke his left, non-pitching, wrist almost a month ago, but leave it to Phil Garner to have him try to pitch through it. It got so bad that Woodard had to pace around the mound after every few pitches to wait for the pain to subside.He was also complaining that the umpires weren't rubbing up the balls well enough, something he obviously couldn't do himself. Putting him on the DL is a sign of progress, in that there was nothing to be gained from having the anchor of next year's rotation pitch hurt to help this team finish fifth.

If you'd have told me four months ago that three members of the Brewers' Opening Day rotation would be there in mid-August, and that Woodard wouldn't one of them, I'd have thought things would be even worse than they are. On the plus side, Kyle Peterson's looking pretty good, and Hideo Nomo has been a useful addition. Cal Eldred doesn't have much to offer, which is why I hope Jim Lefebvre gives Rocky Coppinger a few starts down the stretch, or that Allen Levrault gets a September cuppajoe.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Purchased the contract of RHP Shayne Bennett from Ottawa; optioned RHP Scott Strickland to Ottawa; post-game, optioned Bennett to Ottawa; recalled RHP Tony Armas Jr. from Harrisburg (Double-A).

Just the tail end of the Columbine tragedy-induced stretch of five games in three days. Armas acquitted himself well in his spot start on Monday against the Giants, and will probably come back up in September. He's been effective as Harrisburg's ace this year, posting a 2.52 ERA whie allowing a mere 103 hits in 132 innings. His fastball's picking up velocity as he grows (it's at 93 now), and he's still learning a slider to go with his good curve and changeup. Once he arrives to stay, it won't be long before he's the staff ace.

Jim Beattie's tenure as GM has been frustrating in several ways, but 2000 should feature an Expos rotation with five solid young starters.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed UT Tony Phillips on the 15-day DL (broken leg); activated 3B/1B Olmedo Saenz from the DL. [8/16]

The A's lose their leadoff man for the remainder of the season, leading to all sorts of "momentum shift" blather from the media. For Phillips, this has to be galling, in that this was first, and probably only, shot at being a regular on a team in the playoffs. That's if the A's make it, which was far from a sure thing with or without Phillips.

Right now, he's talking retirement, and the game will be poorer for his absence. The term "scrappy" is almost always slapped on media-friendly, dirty-uniformed white guys, but is any player more of a scrapper than Phillips?

As much as he's has been pivotal in adding good old-fashioned aggression to baseball on the East Bay this year, his flexibility has been a double-edged sword, in that he's a serious defensive liability at second base or center field. As Kevin Appier quickly pointed out, Ryan Christenson has his merits, in that he's willing to work the count and take a walk, while playing a good defensive center field. It's rumored that the A's are shopping for a platoon mate for Christenson, either Rich Becker or Stan Javier. Chad Curtis has also been brought up, since he's distressed property with Darryl Strawberry's comeback on the way.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Traded 2B/3B Carlos Baerga to the Indians for a PTBNL or cash; placed RHP Brian Boehringer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/14 (strained rotator cuff); recalled RHP Stan Spencer and UT David Newhan from Las Vegas. [8/16]

The argument already rages over whether or not Boehringer was going to burn out as a starter, but it's hard to dismiss how much more valuable he was in that role. One surgery later, he should still end up a much richer man for the experience at some point. In his absence, the Pads will take the last few weeks to decide whether Stan Spencer will get to stay on the 40-man roster or not. If he drops his shot at the rotation again, he'll be gone and Buddy Carlyle will have a job to compete for.

As for dumping Baerga, good riddance. He's less valuable than Dave Magadan or Ed Giovanola, and Newhan is a useful utility man in that he can stand in at second base or third base, play the outfield, and out-hit Baerga. It isn't expected that the PTBNL is going to be anyone of note, but if it ends up being someone who can help Rancho Cucamonga contend in the California League next year, that's more useful to this organization than Carlos Baerga.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled RHP Joe Nathan from Fresno; optioned RHP Julian Tavarez to Fresno. [8/16]

Nathan should be up, and in the rotation, to stay. The Giants' chances of catching the Snakes are getting more and more unrealistic, which on one level takes the pressure off, at least according to conventional wisdom. Overall, finally getting Mark Gardner out of the rotation can only help their slim chances.

Nathan's still going to need to improve his breaking stuff, and sadly Dick Pole isn't the Giants' pitching coach these days, but better that they try to win a game or two and develop Nathan simultaneously.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed UT John Mabry on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/14 (fractured kneecap); recalled 1B/OF Ryan Jackson from Tacoma. [8/15]

It says volumes about the Mariners' organization that when John Mabry went down for the season, they had a John Mabry clone handy. If Mabry played in the PCL this season, he'd probably hit pretty close to Jackson's .308/.360/.438. Maybe a bit more power, but Tacoma has one of the better pitchers' parks in the league. Neither of them have any business playing first base regularly, so you could say the Mariners have a bit of a problem.

TEXAS RANGERS

Recalled RHP Danny Kolb from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Ryan Glynn to Oklahoma. [8/14]

The usual Okie City shuffle. Next up: Doug Davis. Heck, as long as they're flushing a roster spot on spot mop-up duty, why not drag Nolan Ryan's kid out of retirement? Wait...there's gotta be a pitcher named Bubba somewhere, right?

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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