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August 25, 1999

Transaction Analysis

August 20-23

by Christina Kahrl

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed RHP Rudy Seanez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/21 (stress fracture/elbow); recalled RHP Dave Cortes from Richmond. [8/23]

Losing Seanez is an extremely hard blow to the Braves at this late date, especially since he may not return. While his infamous back isn't the source of his troubles this time, "Traction Action" has been a resurrection story that is a credit to the organization and, of course, Leo Mazzone. This year, Seanez was one of the NL's ten best right-handed relievers (eighth according to Mike Wolverton's most recent RRE report).

In his absence, expect Mike Remlinger to step out of a situational role and Kevin McGlinchy to take on a greater share of eighth-inning duties. That will also mean more work for Russ Springer and Bruce Chen in middle relief.

Cortes could be handy, mostly because he's shown outstanding control in his four minor league seasons, and because the Braves understand what you can do with no-names, retreads and castoffs in a major league bullpen.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Recalled RHP Doug Linton from Rochester; released RHP Ricky Bones. [8/20]

Placed 1B Will Clark on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/14 (elbow inflammation); purchased the contract of PH Derrick May from Rochester. [8/21]

Bones is still looking pretty done, with the only difference between him and fellow Brew Crew '92 rotation regular Jaime Navarro being a large, multi-year, guaranteed contract.

On that subject, the Orioles have a mixed blessing with Will Clark's latest absence. He's probably done for the year, and his elbow will require surgery. The shocker here is that rather than hand the playing time to Cal Pickering, the Orioles are content to let nepotista Derrick May ring up some service time. After all, Jeff Conine's doing a good job of impersonating a regular first baseman, so who cares what tomorrow brings? This is even more mystifying in that Rochester is stumbling to a grisly finish, so it isn't like Pickering's presence is required to make people happy on the shores of Lake Ontario.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed RHP Bret Saberhagen on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/18 (sore shoulder); activated CF Damon Buford from the DL; recalled RHP Tomokazu Ohka from Pawtucket; optioned RHP Brian Rose to Pawtucket. [8/23]

The Red Sox lose two-fifths of their rotation, which leaves them with Pedro and the Four Desperadoes (Rapp, Wakefield, Portugal and the just-acquired Kent Mercker). Rose's tremendous ineffectiveness since the All-Star break has been widely commented upon, and Saberhagen was born to break down. Since Jin Ho Cho didn't break through this year, the Duke's men will have to ride veteran mediocrity as far as they can.

Ohka continued to build on his minor league success (his ERA at Pawtucket still hasn't risen over 2.00), and happily he seems bound for middle relief. The challenge will be to see if he or John Wasdin can adequately replace Derek Lowe in the tight-game, long-relief role, now that Lowe's being reserved for closer situations. At least the Sox can take comfort in Rich Garces' good work of late, because he seems to be the best available candidate for setup work.

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned RHP Kyle Farnsworth to Iowa; activated CF Lance Johnson from the DL. [8/21]

Farnsworth has been shipped back and forth and bumped from rotation to pen often enough to serve as a classic illustration of how you don't treat a young starter. He has had some measure of succcess in the pen, while being one of the most consistently awful starters in the league. The answer seems obvious.

Johnson's return might be nice for him, in that he can get a crack at doing something to help his impending free agency, but it's bad news for the Cubs. Between One Dog and Mickey Morandini, the Cubs are stuck with two .320 OBP stiffs of dubious defensive value at the top of the order. Letting Chad Meyers play every day at either second base or center field is the best thing they can do under the circumstances, but the inadequacy of both veterans is reinforcing their indecisiveness over where Meyers will eventually wind up. With an eye towards next year, I'd leave Meyers at second.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Announced the resignation of GM Bob Gebhard. [8/20]

Received RHP Pat Lynch from the Blue Jays to complete the Brian McRae trade. [8/23]

Gebhard's reign comes crashing down, and for good reason. Colorado's player development hasn't been the worst around, but this is the organization that for years has been banking on Derrick Gibson's future while shelling out top dollar for people like Dante Bichette. If Gebhard never figured out the ballpark, he deserved the axe. If he did, and couldn't bring himself to make someone like Bichette go away, then he deserved it even more. As a GM, he's required to exercise some leadership, and if he couldn't cut the thin-air fat at the expense of some popularity, he was never going to help this club.

One of the more disappointing notes in the organization's history has been its claims to work on developing pitching. It hasn't matched up with the disappointing results, ones made to look even worse by Coors. John Thomson gave them a tremendous year last season, and he still managed to get dumped on by his new manager.

Part of the problem has been that the Colorado Springs-to-Coors conduit doesn't work. Getting pitchers used to mile-high shellackings hasn't produced the Coors-proof pitcher. It will be interesting to see if Gary Hughes or whoever else fills Gebhard's shoes will try to shuffle affiliations, as well as finally accounting for the overwhelming park effects when evaluating players.

Nevertheless, the organization still has a pretty good eye for young arms, Snagging Lynch (a Canadian) from Toronto after they've been developing him for the past four years has to hurt the Jays.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated DH Gregg Jefferies from the DL; optioned DH Gabe Alvarez to Toledo. [8/20]

Well, I've kicked Gregg Jefferies often enough in this space, so let's talk about what he hasn't done. He hasn't been seen cat juggling. To my knowledge, he's never handed out hand grenades on Halloween. He's never gone after his pool boy with a bat, and he probably calls his mother more often than I do. Hell, he's so swell, give that boy a multi-million multi-year contract! America needs its model citizens! Maybe he can double as a poster child for corporate welfare: "We signed him. Feel our pain. Finance our stadium."

FLORIDA MARLINS

Recalled LHP Vic Darensbourg from Calgary; optioned LHP Jesus Sanchez to Calgary. [8/21]

Darensbourg had a nice multiple-outing flirtation with success in the PCL in which he punched out 12 batters in 11 2/3 innings while walking no one. Still, Sanchez has been better in relief this year (after an ugly two months in the rotation), though they both should have decent futures. Perhaps if John Boles gets away from shoe-horning either of them into the lefty situational role, he'll get better work out of them.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Recalled RHP Matt Herges from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Jamie Arnold to Albuquerque. [8/22]

This is what frustrated teams do. They flip-flop on who gets to be their mop-up guy to remind everyone else that the axe can fall on anyone. Not that Raul Mondesi's going to suddenly get better. Perhaps a threat to make him a Devil Ray would work....

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated RF Jeromy Burnitz and C Bobby Hughes from the DL; outrighted RHP Reggie Harris and UT Brian Banks to Louisville; received RHP Carl Dale from the Athletics as the PTBNL in the Rich Becker trade. [8/20]

Burnitz's absence was probably the straw that broke the camel's back in creating the circumstances that led to the firing of the Bando/Garner management duo. If Jose Rosado doesn't break Burnitz' wrist with a pitch, maybe the Brewers don't go into the tank in August, continue to play .500 ball (which is progress) and have the same old situation to look forward to next year. Okay, so the interdependencies of these events are a stretch, but Burnitz's injury is probably the third-most important event in franchise history in recent years, behind securing Miller Park and acquiring Burnitz in the first place.

Demoting Banks seems a bit odd, in that he can play baseball, while Charlie Greene can only catch. Bobby Hughes promptly re-injured himself, leaving Greene as Dave Nilsson's only caddy, and that isn't happiness.

Neither is settling for Carl Dale from the A's. Maybe the Brewers have gotten so used to trolling for other people's castoff pitchers of late that they've forgotten this team has other needs. Dale's got a nice sinking fastball, and has finally had some measure of success as a reliever this year (3.48 ERA for Vancouver, no home runs allowed), but how unique are 26-year-old minor league vets with one good pitch?

MINNESOTA TWINS

Optioned LHP Benj Sampson to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Jason Ryan from Salt Lake. [8/20]

Demoting anyone with an ERA over 8.00 seems like a pretty good operating philosophy, even in today's offense-oriented game, so Sampson (8.11 ERA) earned his trip to Mormon country. Recalling Ryan seems dubious at best. Yes, he's one of the guys they got for Rick Aguilera, but it's a bit of a stretch to call him a good prospect. After a hot start at West Tennessee for the Cubs (1.41 ERA, 5-0) in his third stint at Double-A, he got smacked around in New Britain (4.80 ERA), and smacked around in Salt Lake City (5.14 ERA). Is that really progress?

Since coming to the Twins' organization, Ryan's numbers aren't inspiring: a 4.97 ERA, 105 hits and 14 home runs allowed in 105 innings, and 48 walks to go with 76 strikeouts. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball. He is still young at 23, and he might turn out to be useful someday, but he's hardly earned a shot at the fifth spot ahead of Mark Redman, whose demotion after one start looks even stranger now than it did at the time.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed 3B Eric Chavez on the 15-day DL (torn plantar fascia/foot); recalled OF Jason McDonald from Midland (Double-A). [8/21]

Chavez is saying he'll be healed up in two weeks' time, which is good news for the A's. He's been one of their hottest hitters since the All-Star break, and while they're heavy on left-handed power and have a good replacement in Olmedo Saenz, they can't afford to be without Chavez for long in their bid for the wild-card.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Activated RHP Steve Montgomery from the DL; designated LHP Jim Poole for assignment; signed C Mike Lieberthal to a multi-year contract extension. [8/20]

Purchased contract of RHP Joe Grahe from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned LHP Anthony Shumaker to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/23]

I'm getting to the point where I really enjoy some of the shenanigans in the Phillies' pen. They've lost Yorkis Perez and they're cutting loose Jim Poole, so they've lost both of the lefties they opened the season with. Is that trouble? Hardly, because they snagged Scott Aldred and have a healthy Billy Brewer aboard. Okay, that doesn't sound inspiring, but the Phillies seem to have a handle on the idea that they don't have to go out and get somebody like John Hudek or Tony Fossas to get useful relief work.

The returns of Grahe and Montgomery give them a seven-man pen until the roster expansion on September 1. They won't need their fifth man until the last day of the month, and if Schilling isn't healthy by then, they can always toss Steve Schrenk into the fray. I like what they're doing, even if the no-name nature of the pen has made Terry Francona reluctant to trust it in tight spots, leading to blown leads by tired starters, or the less-than-ideal situation of relievers coming in with two or three men aboard.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed LHP Pete Schourek on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation); placed RHP Todd Ritchie on the 15-day DL (tendinitis/rotator cuff); activated LHPs Chris Peters and Jason Christiansen from the DL. [8/21]

Losing Ritchie is a setback, while losing Schourek is a godsend. Their simultaneous trips to the DL highlight an interesting dilemma for the organization: their taste in free agents is crap, while their ability to do something with young or unknown pitchers like Ritchie, Peters, Jason Schmidt, Kris Benson and Jimmy Anderson deserves a lot of credit. The Gene Lamont/Pete Vuckovich combo has been exceptional at pitcher development.

If the Pirates want their small market blues song to be taken seriously, they'll need to retain their ability to develop pitchers while ditching Cam Bonifay's freedom of choice when it comes to bringing in veteran mediocrities.

In the absence of Schourek and Ritchie, Peters and Anderson will enter the rotation behind Francisco Cordova, Schmidt and Benson. Christiansen hurt himself again almost immediately, so he won't be reclaiming his spot in the pen again any time soon.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Recalled 2B/SS/LF Adam Kennedy from Memphis; optioned 2B/SS Placido Polanco to Memphis. [8/20]

Purchased the contract of LHP Rick Ankiel from Memphis; optioned RHP Rick Heiserman to Memphis. [8/23]

Here it is, the penultimate moment, a moment as fraught with horror and possibility as any you could imagine since the last time a Byzantine emperor handed over one of his daughters to some barbarian warlord. Ankiel's future should not have to depend on whether Tony LaRussa has learned anything from experience, but it will have to.

I'd agree with the proposition that Ankiel doesn't have much left to learn in the minors: a 2.35 ERA between Arkansas and Memphis, a mere 98 hits allowed in 137 2/3 innings and 194 strikeouts all look pretty good to me. The curve and change are dandy, and his fastball has movement and life. The Cardinals are making the right happy noises about how they'll take care of him, how they know little can be gained from working him hard now. They may even follow up on it...this year. The fear should be whether LaRussa takes the kid gloves off next year, thinking Ankiel's been broken in and is ready for some rougher handling. If so, look forward to the sorry spectacle of adding Ankiel's arm to those of Matt Morris and Alan Benes in the gruesome "Limb Lane" exhibit that will be shuttling between Busch Stadium and the Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago in a few years.

Kennedy's callup isn't fraught with as many dangers. At Memphis, he hit well enough (.327/.378/.490, with ten home runs and 20 stolen bases) for a middle infielder. The problem is that he may not be a middle infielder. While Joe McEwing is only adequate with the glove at second, Kennedy apparently isn't much better.

The Cardinals have already experimented with moving Kennedy to left field. I suppose that makes sense when the alternatives are Willie McGee or Thomas Howard, but that isn't the point. Neither McEwing or Kennedy do a good job of taking a free pass, and while both of them are useful players with solid futures, the lineup that has both of them as regulars is going to have to make up a lot of ground offensively to compensate for their low OBPs.

The Cards aren't quite in the same boat as the Cubs as far as settling for adequacy from their non-superstars; Fernando Tatis' development has been phenomenal, while Ray Lankford and J.D. Drew give them the right pair of lefties to go with Mark McGwire and Tatis. But they desperately need improvement at the top of the order, and while Edgar Renteria can improve, they're also going to have to count on either McEwing or Kennedy up top, and Super Joe has slid back to being Average Joe.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated 2B Quilvio Veras from the DL; optioned UT David Newhan to Las Vegas. [8/23]

Quilvio's return is probably going to end up corresponding to a return to .500 baseball for the Pads. Their problems in the leadoff spot (more appropriately, "hole") have been thoroughly documented, and Veras' always dandy .371 OBP should paper over them.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Activated 2B Jeff Kent off the DL; placed INF Ramon E. Martinez on the 15-day DL (strained groin). [8/21]

This would have been a lot nicer if it had never had to happen in the first place, but it does help the Giants with their "injuries" excuse for why they flopped as badly as they have.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated DH Jose Canseco from the DL; placed INF David Lamb on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/14 (strained back).

Canseco is back in time to fend off Fred McGriff's challenge for the franchise single-season home-run record. That's about all that matters for the Recordball-obsessed organization. If there was a team that was going to let Minnie Minoso add another decade to his list of decades-played-in, it's the D-Rays.

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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