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September 3, 1999

Transaction Analysis

August 28-31, 1999

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Released OF Reggie Williams outright. [8/31]

There are some teams for which Williams would be perfect, as a right-handed-hitting outfielder with a broad, if not deep, set of skills. For a few months, the Angels were even that team, but with everyone getting healthy, there's not even enough playing time for Todd Greene, much less Williams.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Acquired PH/UT Lenny Harris from the Rockies for INF Belvani Martinez; placed UT Andy Fox on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/28 (strained ribs); purchased the contract of OF Turner Ward from Tucson, and placed him on the 15-day DL (tendinitis/knee). [8/31]

The D'backs have been an interesting team in more ways than one. Sure, we all know they spent money, and that's handy if you're one of those money-equals-talent, small-markets-are-doomed, head-in-the-sand types. What's more interesting to me is that they have the right players starting, but in the wrong batting order slots and at the wrong positions.

Andy Fox is a very useful player, but the one thing he cannot do on an everyday basis is be a major league shortstop. But as last year, and his entire minor league career, demonstrated, he can get on base and handle any number of positions in a utility role. Tony Womack, by comparison, was a shortstop most of his professional life, but he's never been a good leadoff hitter, never really took to converting to second base at the major league level, and as right fielders go, he's no asset.

So wouldn't it make sense to have Fox lead off and play right field, and have Womack play shortstop and bat eighth? Sure it would, although the payoffs probably wouldn't be that big. But Fox would be less likely to hurt himself; now he's hurt, and the D'backs will miss him.

Adding Lenny Harris is great, if you're Lenny Harris and like getting those playoff checks.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed C Jorge Fabregas; optioned RHP Dave Cortes to Jamestown (A-ball); designated RHP Mike Cather for assignment. [8/31]

Fabregas gets to go where Jerry Willard and Francisco Cabrera have gone before: third catcher on a team that always wants a third catcher on its postseason roster. Unlike Willard or Cabrera, Fabregas has no value as a pinch-hitter, so in a short series, he's a waste of a roster spot.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed RHP Jim Corsi on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/25 (strained hamstring); recalled CF Eugene Kingsale from Rochester. [8/28]

Acquired LHP Jimmy Hamilton from the Indians as the PTBNL in the Harold Baines trade. [8/31]

Placing Corsi back on the DL gets the Birds back to "only" 12 pitchers. Consider that the dozen includes the Doubly Doug Duo of Johns and Linton sharing the fifth spot in the rotation. Ray Miller, pick your poison. They've got three situational lefties. They've got Scott Kamieniecki. They'll even have Mike Fetters soon. As long as you aren't Rocky Coppinger or Heathcliff Slocumb, the O's will make room for you.

Kingsale's finally up, and while he's had a decent offensive season as measured on the Cuyler scale (.309/.361/.387), it's unlikely that he's going to get a good shot to be much more than Brady Anderson's Legs.

Hamilton isn't much of a prospect yet: there's more bad Brad Pennington here than Arthur Rhodes. Between Akron and Buffalo, he's given up 51 walks in 55 2/3 innings, with 52 strikeouts and almost six runs allowed per nine innings.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed 3B John Valentin on the 15-day DL (tendinitis/knee); recalled 3B Wilton Veras and C Shea Hillenbrand from Trenton (Double-A); placed Hillenbrand on the 15-day DL (overt postseason roster maneuvering); acquired RHP Rod Beck from the Cubs in exchange for LHP Mark Guthrie and a PTBNL. [8/31]

Valentin's persistent knee problems spell trouble for the Sox. Despite a flashly stint earlier this season, Veras is coming off of a decidedly mediocre year at Trenton (.281/.318/.407). The other option on the roster is Donnie Sadler, which means the Sox potentially have two gaping holes in the lineup (third base and center field), on top of the worst-hitting outfield int he league. That won't help this team down the stretch, or in the postseason if they get there.

But shouldn't Sox fans buck up? After all, the Duke is on the case, and has brought in somebody a lot better than... the Eck? Jeff Reardon? Al Nipper? Never mind that Beck has had elbow woes, back woes and gut woes this year. His fastball has no bite and less movement. The best the Sox can hope for is that opposing batters hit the ball so hard off the Green Monster that it ricochets back into the infield for a mere single.

Worse yet, Beck's under contract for a lot more than chump change for next year. No matter how desperate the Sox were, they could have helped themselves by calling up Rafael Betancourt, counting on Rich Garces and leaving Derek Lowe in the closer's role.

CHICAGO CUBS

Traded RHP Rod Beck to the Red Sox for LHP Mark Guthrie and a PTBNL; traded C/3B Tyler Houston to the Indians for RHP Richard Negrette; purchased contract of C Jose Molina from Iowa. [8/31]

The good news is that the Cubs are out from under Beck's contract for next year, freeing up even more money for a big bid for several good men. The bad news is that the Cubs have yet another one of Andy MacPhail's ex-Twinkies (what is Les Straker up to these days?) to kick around. However, the really happy news is that the PTBNL is going to be third baseman Cole Liniak.

The more troubling concern here is that the Cubs have demonstrated how very thin-skinned they can be. Houston had barked back at Jim Riggleman lately, and Beck was notoriously frank and honest about the team with the local media. WGN-TV simply doesn't put up with that sort of thing; it might hurt ratings on the Sammy Show.

Negrette has been god-awful and wild this year (6.13 ERA, 49 hits and 47 walks in 47 innings), but as I'm sure you could guess, he throws really hard; some claim he can dial his fastball up to 97 mph. Maybe, just maybe, he grows up to be John Hudek.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Placed LHP Scott Eyre on the 15-day DL (impingement/rotator cuff); recalled 2B Liu Rodriguez from Birmingham (Double-A). [8/31]

Rodriguez' return is mostly to cover for Ray Durham's strained hammy for a couple of nights, but Eyre is really hurt, and it may be very serious for him.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Acquired C/3B Tyler Houston from the Cubs for RHP Richard Negrette; activated RHP Dwight Gooden from the DL; optioned LHP Tom Martin to Buffalo; purchased the contracts of LHP Jim Poole from Akron (Double-A) and RHP Sean DePaula from Buffalo; placed RHP Jason Rakers on the 60-day DL (groin pull), and RHP David Riske on the 15-day DL (strained oblique). [8/31]

John Hart's keeping himself busy. Offensively, Houston is about as useful as Carlos Baerga, except he can catch, which is bad news for Jesse Levis if he was hoping to go to the postseason. Sandy Alomar's knee is still kind of wonky (at last report, he can only throw with pain, needs extra lubricant injections in the joint and is talking about new procedures to re-grow the cartilage), which probably means Houston is going to get to the postseason again.

Gooden's return still leaves Chris Haney in the fifth rotation slot, while Poole's callup to be the third situational lefty doesn't seem all that helpful. On the other hand, Paul Assenmacher is looking done, while Ricky Rincon is still struggling, so Poole might be the team's best portsider right now.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Traded PH/UT Lenny Harris to the Diamondbacks for INF Belvani Martinez; recalled UT Chris Sexton from Colorado Springs. [8/31]

Harris wasn't exactly an inspired pickup in the first place, so it isn't such a bad thing to move him out of town. Sexton gives them everything Lenny did and then some, save the cachet of a pursuit of the career pinch-hits record, for those of you who just can't let the memory of guys like Dusty Rhodes or Thad Bosley go.

Martinez has been hitting well in High Desert, proving only that he is a fully-functional biped, but he is 21 and playing second base regularly while showing decent power and good speed. That's a good deal for the Rox.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Optioned LHP Brent Billingsley to Calgary; recalled RHP A.J. Burnett from Portland (Double-A). [8/28]

Burnett is up to be in the rotation for the remainder of the season, so the Marlins will have about nine starts to chew over and see if the whiz kid should get a shot at next year's rotation. Dennis Springer is being banished to the pen in the meantime, which is okay unless you want the Fish to finish ahead of the Expos. If you really aspire to such lofty goals, pulling the plug on Brian Meadows wouldn't be such a bad idea.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Acquired OF Stan Javier from the Giants for RHP Joe Messman; activated OF Alex Diaz from the DL; unconditionally released Diaz and RHP Sean Bergman; recalled RHP Jose Cabrera from New Orleans; designated OF Ryan Thompson for assignment. [8/31]

With Moises Alou's comeback already stillborn, and with Carl Everett hurting again, you could understand why Gerry Hunsicker had to do something. Javier can handle center field or either corner, and while he's been stonger against left-handed pitching this year, he's all-around adequate, which is about what the Astros needed.

Assuming Everett can come back and play soon, that gives them a solid five-outfielder rotation of Everett, Javier, Lance Berkman, Matt Mieske and Daryle Ward. Best yet, there's no Derek Bell in there.

Bergman's outright release wasn't necessarily earned, but it is a reflection of the Astros' need for quality right-handed relief pitching, which Cabrera is more likely to provide. Bergman won't have to worry; he'll undoubtedly get recycled.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed C David Nilsson on the 15-day DL (fractured thumb); purchased the contract of C/UT Brian Banks from Louisville. [8/30]

Nilsson is out for at least three weeks, or essentially the rest of the year, since there won't be any minor leagues still going on for him to get any rehab work in before returning to the Brewers for a farewell engagement. He can look forward to a lucrative winter, since it looks more and more like his bid to play for Australia in the Olympics was simply a successful ploy to get a year shaved off of his contract with the Brewers and gain free agency this year.

In his absence, and with Bobby Hughes still hurting, Brian Banks should get a month to himself, unless nostalgia for Mike Matheny gets Charlie Greene into the lineup.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Recalled RHP Scott Strickland from Ottawa; optioned RHP Javier Vazquez to Vermont (A-ball). [8/30]

This isn't really a demotion for Vazquez, since the New York-Penn League's season will end this week so he won't have to spend ten days down. He won't miss a start. In the meantime, the Expos get to have Strickland in the pen for a couple of days between Vazquez's starts.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Recalled 1B Eduardo Perez, C Marcus Jensen, and RHP Mark Thompson from Memphis. [8/31]

An early reporting of the Cardinals' roster expansion callups. Jensen may get a bunch of playing time behind the plate after his good showing in the PCL and at the Pan Am Games, and even moreso because Alberto Castillo and Eli Marrero have been pathetic.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Received cash from the Indians to complete the Carlos Baerga deal. [8/30]

Them's real greenbacks, yessir. Redeemable for food or beer at any place that specializes in food or beer. And other places, too. For Carlos Baerga, you have to say the price was right.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Traded OF Stan Javier to the Astros for RHP Joe Messman; recalled OF Calvin Murray from Fresno. [8/31]

With the Giants technically not out of it yet, you might think they wouldn't want to make a move. But Javier was basically rotting on the bench now that Marvin Benard isn't platooning any longer, and it isn't likely his absence would be the difference if the Giants do mount a bid to catch the Snakes.

Besides, they need to see if Calvin Murray is ever going to be a useful fourth outfielder. At Fresno this year, he finally had the sort of season people hoped for, hitting .334/.489/.542 with 23 home runs, 63 extra-base hits and 42 steals. Okay, so he's old for the league, and it is the PCL. Still, the Giants need to see if they should keep him or let him walk after this year.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled RHP Ken Cloude from Tacoma; optioned LHP Steve Sinclair to Tacoma. [8/30]

Get Cloude away from Lou Piniella, and he still looks like the top-notch pitching prospect he is. In six starts at Tacoma, he was 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA, allowing only 34 baserunners in 38 2/3 innings, along with 33 strikeouts. Will he finally be given the opprotunity to do what he can do?

Bringing him back in conjunction with sending Jeff Fassero away gives the M's a rotation of Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, John Halama, Gil Meche and Cloude. That's four good young pitchers and one really consistent underappreciated veteran with outstanding control. If there's any interest in keeping that rotation together for next year, they need Piniella in a straightjacket or unemployed, before he can do any more damage to Garcia and Meche.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Purchased the contract of CF Vernon Wells from Syracuse; optioned 3B Casey Blake to St. Catherine's (A-ball); waived DH Geronimo Berroa. [8/30]

Claimed C Pat Borders off of waivers from the Indians; recalled RHP John Hudek from Syracuse; transferred INF Craig Grebeck and OF Rob Butler from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/31]

If there's one really good reason why the Jays shouldn't hold their breath waiting for Jose Cruz Jr. to turn his career around, it's Vernon Wells. While I'm impressed that Gord Ash is willing to give Wells his first break in the midst of a wild-card push, I'm still a bit concerned.

Wells has played well at both Knoxville and Syracuse since opening at Dunedin, he's got less than 60 games above A ball to his credit, and the track record of guys coming up out of A ball that fast isn't good. Nevertheless, Wells can fly on the bases and in the field, has good power, and basically can do everything better than Brian McRae or Jacob Brumfield.

There's still the question of why Cruz isn't around as the team's fourth outfielder instead of either of those guys, but the Jays have been looking for ways to keep themselves out of the race all year. You might have to chalk this up as yet another element of Ash's season-long version of Russian Roulette...playing with five full chambers.

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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