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March 15, 2000

Transaction Analysis

March 7-13

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Assigned OFs Darren Blakely, Nathan Haynes and Juan Tolentino and IF Brian Oliver to their minor-league camp. [3/8]

No surprises here, as the Angels demote two of their latest Norm Hutchins clones (Blakely and Tolentino), and the lone prospect they got from the A's in the Oliveras/Velarde deal. Haynes may yet grow up to be more like Gary Pettis than Kerwin Moore, but that's not the kind of player-development scenario that's going to get the Angels out of the basement.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Traded 3B/OF Freddy Garcia to the Reds for RHP Dennis Russo. [3/13]

Not a bad turnaround, in that the Braves get a live 20-year-old arm in exchange for a waiver claim they made last September. The most important feature of the deal is that the Braves needed the space on the 40-man roster. While they'll have another spot when they put John Smoltz on the 60-day DL, the fact is the Braves already have their preferences for who's going to be on the Opening Day roster.

Chances are that at least one NRI, Bobby Bonilla, is going to make it, with Brian Hunter and Trenidad Hubbard hoping to crack the roster because of Wally Joyner's injury. Whether or not George Lombard makes the team will impact these two (sadly, neither Ozzie Guillen nor Keith Lockhart have comparable concerns). The Braves do have an added roster advantage in that they don't have to carry a backup outfielder who can play center field because all three starting outfielders can handle the position. The most you can say is that at least it's a better group than most recent Brave benches have been.

BOSTON RED SOX

Assigned RHP Willie Adams to their minor-league camp. [3/11]

"Welcome to Pawtucket, America's city of splendor, and only a short ride from even more interesting places. In 1853, the City Council declared Pawtucket a whale-free zone, so please leave yours in the car or at home."

CHICAGO CUBS

Assigned LHP Dave Zancanaro, RHP Kerry Lacy, Cs Mike Amrhein and Pat Cline and IFs Chris Petersen and Brandon Wilson to their minor-league camp. [3/10]

Amrhein and Petersen got demoted to live mannequin duty against Kerry Wood. When they did almost nothing against him in terms of putting the ball in play, this was breathlessly reported as a sign of progress for Wood. As if...

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Assigned RHPs Rob Purvis, Jason Stumm and Danny Wright to their minor-league camp. [3/7]

Signed LHP Jim Parque to a three-year contract. [3/10]

The interesting thing is that by all accounts, Parque got good money in the deal. I think the Sox were wise to do it now. His horrible peformance down the stretch has a convincing physical excuse (he was pitching with a bad thumb), and he's been relatively durable while not carrying a heavy workload. He's someone they ought to be able to get value from during the life of the contract, and a very reasonable gamble.

What will be really interesting is to see how many teams are similarly confident in their ability to evaluate player performance to identify who is going to be good and needs to be inked for good money now in anticipation of that, and which teams are going to continue to take their lumps in arbitration or arbitration-induced contracts.

CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned CF Mike Frank, 1B Ron Wright and RHP Elmer Dessens to Louisville; assigned RHPs Pat Flury and Larry Luebbers, Cs Mike Hubbard and David Toth, IFs Mike Bell, Brandon Cromer and Brandon Larson and OFs Pat Watkins, Adam Dunn and Brady Clark to their minor-league camp. [3/9]

Acquired 3B/OF Freddy Garcia from the Braves for RHP Dennis Russo; announced that Rule 5 pick LHP Adrian Burnside cleared waivers and was sold back to the Dodgers. [3/13]

Many of these demotions could and should have been expected. There's some surprise that Dessens was sent down this soon, but the current leader for the fifth rotation spot, Mark Portugal, won't hold the job, and the leading alternative, Osvaldo Fernandez, is no less of a bad choice. Dessens shold be able to get his turn at some point. So, for that matter, may Luebbers.

The real surprise is that the Reds bothered to nab Freddy Garcia for the 40-man roster when he may have been back on waivers in a few weeks. It makes even less sense when you consider that the Reds are already carrying two utilitymen of dubious value in Chris Stynes and Mark Lewis, not to mention burning a 40-man spot on a punchless pinch-hitter like Hal Morris. In almost every non-Griffey way, the Reds don't look to be a better offensive team than they were last year. Clogging the roster with low-OBP, underpowered sluggers with no defensive value doesn't seem like a plan, unless you want to camouflage Dante Bichette by giving the roster an un-Mile High Fonzie flavor.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Optioned RHPs Danys Baez and Willie Martinez and 1B Danny Peoples to Buffalo; optioned RHP J.D Brammer to Akron (Double-A); re-assigned RHPs Kane Davis, Roy Padilla and Paul Rigdon, LHP C.C. Sabathia and Cs Heath Hayes and Kevin Liddle to their minor-league camp; released RHP Brian Barber. [3/13]

The Baez project takes an appropriate back seat while the Tribe sorts out how much progress Jaret Wright might make with a solid pitching coach like Dick Pole instead of someone living off of his laurels like Phil Regan, or the by-now-infamous Mark Wiley. I guess the aspect of the demotion that bugs me is that they'll still be burning spring-training innings against major-league or near-major-league competition on broken-down old men like Mark Langston and Bobby Witt.

DETROIT TIGERS

Traded C Gregg Zaun to the Royals for a PTBNL or cash. [3/7]

Acquired OF Wendell Magee Jr. from the Phillies for LHP Bobby Sismondo. [3/9]

Released RHP Mike Oquist; optioned RHP Victor Santos to Toledo; optioned RHPs Shane Heams and Kris Keller to Jacksonville (Double-A); re-assigned LHP Adam Pettyjohn, RHPs Anthony Chavez, Edgar Ramos, Danny Rios and Doug Walls to their minor-league camp; claimed UT Shane Halter off waivers from the Mets. [3/13]

A strange combination of moves for the Tigers. Moving Zaun obviously creates a great opportunity for Rob Fick to actually back up Brad Ausmus at catcher. That may not be entirely good news, in that it might cost Fick PAs that he would have gotten at DH. It's safe to assume that Ausmus is going to get a majority of the playing time behind the plate. Armed with a regular catcher, most managers prefer to keep their backup catcher moldering on the bench, just in case something bad happens to the starter. Will Phil Garner be comfortable enough to let Fick DH a few times a week, with no backup catcher on the bench? There are a couple of potential solutions. Maybe they'll nab somebody to be a third catcher close to Opening Day.

They'd have the roster space if they could make Gregg Jefferies disappear, but for the money he's making, they may just as well ask him to learn how to be the emergency catcher. Even then, better to dump Jefferies and eat the money if it makes space for a catcher that gives Garner the flexibility to get Fick a well-deserved 400 PAs. On the other hand, deleting Zaun definitely creates space to carry Magee, who may get a lot of playing time in center field considering Juan Encarnacion's obvious defensive shortcomings. Given that the Tigers' Opening Day roster is currently saddled with at least three players of dubious utility in any phase of the game (Jefferies, Luis Polonia and Karim Garcia) but especially defense, Halter is probably guaranteed a roster spot because of his ability to stand around at seven different positions.

I guess it's nice to see they're confident enough in the alternatives that they don't absolutely have to put Mike Oquist to work, but given how many teams are looking for an adequate fifth starter, don't be surprised if Okie shows up on a roster near you.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Acquired C Gregg Zaun from the Tigers for a PTBNL or cash; designated RHP David Lundquist for assignment. [3/7]

Announced that RHP David Lundquist cleared waivers and was assigned to their minor-league camp; reassigned RHPs Jamie Bluma, Matt Burch, Jay Gehrke, Kyle Snyder and C Jeremy Hill to their minor-league camp; released RHP Carl Dale. [3/11]

If Herk has a short-term goal, it ought to be to trade any catcher he has to anybody who wants one for a player the 2001 or 2002 Royals can use, preferably a shortstop. After all, consider who he's got around: Zaun, Sal Fasano, Brian Johnson and even Jorge Fabregas. None of them is that special, or even significant upgrades on journeymen like Chad Kreuter and Tim Spehr. Their redundancy is a small cache from which a smart GM might be able to convert one or two into prospects he might eventually use. Whichever two the 2000 Royals use now aren't going to make that much of a difference offensively.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Renewed 3B Adrian Beltre for 2000. [3/11]

Reacquired Rule 5 draftee LHP Adrian Burnside from the Reds. [3/13]

Like this is going to help their negotiating position as they try to keep Beltre. "What was our counteroffer to Boras?" "I showed him, I just faxed him a photocopy of my kiester, Mr. Daly!" "I have to admire your attention to detail, Simpkins. You even signed the cover letter."

MONTREAL EXPOS

Assigned RHPs Bryan Hebson, Michel Laplante and Yovanny Lara to their minor-league camp. [3 13]

Just sending away the NRIs before Felipe Alou has to start getting serious about who's going to crack the rotation. With Mike Thurman hurting and both Antonio Armas and Ted Lilly out of the running, the only real issue is whether or not Miguel Batista worms his way into the rotation past Jeremy Powell, and not even that seems too likely.

NEW YORK METS

Waived UT Shane Halter irrevocably and unconditionally. [3/9]

Optioned RHPs Grant Roberts, Paul Wilson, Eric Cammack and Lariel Gonzalez to Norfolk; optioned RHPs Lesli Brea and Dicky Gonzalez and OFs Alex Escobar and Juan LeBron to Binghamton (Double-A); re-assigned LHPs Jim Baron and Brian Shouse, RHP Paul Wagner, Cs Alan Probst and Jason Phillips and SS/3B Orlando Miller to their minor-league camp; signed RHP Rene Arocha to a minor-league contract. [3/13]

What I'm interested in probably isn't among the big issues on this team. Will Bobby Valentine be smart enough to platoon Derek Bell with Jon Nunnally? He'll probably do it faster than you can say "Bobby Bo Blows". Will they find a way to make Todd Zeile go away? Who cares?

No, I'm really excited about which neato retread will pitch better at Norfolk, Paul Wagner or Rene Arocha. And will either of them get a clean shot at bumping either (or both) Bobby Jones? Score this another reason why the Mets can't get too happy over John Smoltz's bad news. Their rotation is already bad, and it isn't like they've got a Bruce Chen to spare. Heck, Terry Mulholland would probably be the Mets' third starter.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Waived RHP Jeff Juden outright; assigned RHPs Mike Buddie, Todd Noel and Jay Tessmer, Cs Michel Hernandez and Victor Valencia, 3B Donny Leon and OF Willy Mo Pena to their minor-league camp. [3/7]

It's a lonely job, feeling sorry for Jeff Juden, but if expansion is supposed to bring opportunities to dubious pitchers, why isn't Juden in the majors? OK, besides the general perception that he isn't the easiest hombre to get along with? If I'm the Angels, I'm bringing in Juden and Mike Oquist. Anything to spare the fans the indignity of another go-round with Tim Belcher.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the only big news among these demotions is that they're really impressed with Todd Noel, which doesn't excuse the Cubs for throwing him away, or the Marlins for repeating the crime.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Assigned LHP Will Brunson, RHPs Bryan Corey and Frank Lankford, and C Chris Norton to their minor-league camp. [3/10]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Traded OF Wendell Magee Jr. to the Tigers for LHP Bobby Sismondo. [3/9]

Assigned C Andy Dominique, IFs P.J. Forbes and Carlos Duncan, Nepotista Pete Rose Jr., 1B/OF Gene Schall, OFs Josue Perez and Reggie Taylor and LHPs Brian Looney and Jason Brester to their minor-league camp. [3/11]

Assigned SS Jimmy Rollins, RHP Doug Nickle, LHP Anthony Shumaker and C Johnny Estrada to their minor-league camp; optioned RHP Manuel Barrios to Scranton. [3/13]

If there's a surprise here, it's that the Phillies decided to pull the plug on Magee. You might optimistically interpret this as a sign that Pat Burrell is going to make the team, but I'm thinking even that's premature. Bobby Abreu, Doug Glanville, Ron Gant and Rob Ducey are all under contract, and utilityman Kevin Sefcik has considerable outfield experience. If I was a Phillies fan, I'd be more frightened that moving Magee heralds a bench loaded with all of the team's middle-infield options, and that Terry Francona isn't going to realize that his team won't contend with Marlon Anderson and Desi Relaford pulling down lots of playing time and PAs. Roster pressures are such that he can't carry enough pinch-hitters to cover for both of them and their potential substitutes.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Assigned RHPs Alex Pena, Mike Gonzalez and Danilo Leon, LHP Travis Baptist, C Yamid Haad, 3B Rico Washington, 3B Jarrod Patterson and OFs Alexander Hernandez, Adam Hyzdu and Ray Montgomery to their minor-league camp. [3/9]

No shockers among this list of cuts, although I guess it's a shame to see the Jarrod Patterson campaign for third base come to such an abrupt end. For all of the noise made over Aramis Ramirez's defensive shortcomings at the hot corner, keep in mind this is the team that made do with Ed Sprague, and there's literally no aspect of fielding at which Ramirez could be worse.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed 3B Fernando Tatis to a four-year contract, with a club option for 2004. [3/12]

An outstanding move by Walt Jocketty, capping what was a steal of a deal in the first place. Tatis will be the best player on the team over the life of the contract. For the team's offense, the variables are going to be whether or not Tony LaRussa screws J.D. Drew, whether or not Mark McGwire stays healthy and whether or not Ray Lankford can be the same hitter while his knees slowly fade away.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Assigned IFs Jed Hansen and Kevin Nicholson, OFs Peter Tucci and Ethan Faggett, RHPs Luis Andujar, Jayson Durocher, Adam Eaton, Domingo Guzman, Oscar Henriquez, Rodrigo Lopez, Jason Middlebrook, Eric Moody and Wascar Serrano and LHPs Kevin Walker and Derek Root to their minor-league camp. [3/13]

For a team that nobody expects to be any good, there are some good pickings in these demotions. If I needed bullpen help, I wouldn't mind having Andujar or Henriquez around to call up, and Eaton and Serrano are a nifty pair of prospects. Sure, it doesn't look like it'll be a good year, but there are some things for Pad people to like.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned OF Shane Monahan, LHP Sean Spencer and RHP Dennis Stark to Tacoma; assigned OFs Mike Murphy, Chad Alexander, Mike Neill, RHP Ryan Franklin and LHP Damaso Marte to their minor-league camp. [3/13]

You have to hand it to that crafty Pat Gillick: by signing Mike Neill to a minor-league contract, he effectively guaranteed that one of last year's Pan Am heroes was a lock for the Olympic squad in Sydney. Too clever by half, of course, since Neill is a better ballplayer than someone like Brian Hunter, and less than one-tenth as expensive.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Waived OF Danny Clyburn; assigned QB Kenny Kelly, 3B Jared Sandberg, IF Eddy de los Santos, Cs John Marzano, Neil Garcia and Toby Hall, and RHPs Jason Standridge, Alex Santos, Todd Belitz, Cedrick Bowers, Travis Harper and Reggie Harris to their minor-league camp. [3/8]

Again, an unsurprising list of cuts. Marzano chose to sign in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paisan or not, the Devil Rays still can't bring themselves to deal Mike Difelice, and even then, they hauled in Mike Figga as a potential backup to John Flaherty. Like the Royals, Chuck LaMar has stockpiled guys a cut below mediocre, and needs to peddle them for something. LaMar probably has this figured out, since he did manage to turn a couple of months of Joe Oliver's not-very-valuable time into maybe-something/somebody Jose Guillen. Difelice's value will never be higher, and some teams (especially the Cardinals) could desperately use him.

TEXAS RANGERS

Assigned RHPs Jonathan Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Matt Miller and David Elder, LHPs Corey Lee and Juan Moreno, 3B Jason Grabowski, Cs Reed Secrist and Luis Taveras, IF Carlos Pena and OF Pedro Valdes to their minor-league camp. [3/13]

The only bummer on this list is Pedro Valdes, who probably shouldn't have re-upped with the Rangers. Sure, how could he expect to get passed in Johnny Oates's mind by someone like Jason McDonald? But he's put in the time and they obviously don't value him much, and he's still capable of starting for some major-league teams (the Padres and Mariners come to mind).

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Assigned IF Luis Lopez and RHP Mike Romano to their minor-league camp. [3/9]

Optioned RHPs John Sneed and Gary Glover and IF Mike Young to Syracuse, and RHPs Pasqual Coco and Leo Estrella and C Josh Phelps to Knoxville (Double-A); assigned OF Chad Mottola to their minor-league camp. [3/12]

Speaking of minor-league veterans choosing the wrong place and time.... Mottola comes off the best year of his career and signs with the Blue Jays? With Jose Cruz Jr. in place and Vernon Wells on the way up? Do you really want to have your future depend on people who can't sort out how useless Jacob Brumfield is? People who traded for Curtis Goodwin? And you're telling me that a man's membership in the union is dependent on these sorts of judgments? Strange days indeed.

You've undoubtedly already heard of them, but both Sneed and Glover need to be remembered. Because of Jim Fregosi's pattern of pushing his starters hard, chances are both of them will end up making their major-league debuts (debuts of any reasonable length, that is; Glover did pitch an inning for the Jays in 1999) this year. The Jays have pitching talent, but it's going to be a damned shame if Fregosi manages to out-Dallas Dallas Green.

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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